A Conversation with Brant Bjork of Vista Chino

Brant_Bjork photo by rama wiki imageKYUSS.  It’s a name that deserves to be capitalized.  In the late ‘80s a group of teenagers in California’s Palm Desert area started jamming under the name Katzenjammer and, a few short years later, they emerged as Kyuss, a band that changed everything.  Over the course of four albums–Wretch (1991), Blues for the Red Sun (’92), Welcome to Sky Valley (’94), and …As the Circus Leaves Town (’95)Kyuss created the modern era’s stoner rock–heavy riffs underlaid with an even heavier groove;  a heavy metal band that wasn’t really heavy metal at all. Their records were Black Sabbath with sexxx appeal and psychedelia that was as menacing as it was uplifting.

In Rock and the Pop Narcotic, his exhaustive and exhausting tome about the nature of rock music, author (and former SST employee) Joe Carducci says the following of the desert rock legends:

“How a band from the desert comes up with a sound this stinkin’ marshy is one for the sages.  Everything here comes at you out of a rumbling melting detuned maelstrom and it takes awhile to get over the vertigo and hear the distinct musical sensibilities acting upon the sounds” (p405).

I didn’t hear the group until I picked up Welcome to Sky Valley in the early-2000s.  I was in college and had nothing, if not a shitload of broadband internet.  I remember scrolling through web forums and Angelfire record review sites, finding every single reference to Kyuss drenched in reverence and mythology.  The band’s early live shows-–shows that happened in the middle of the night, in the middle of the desert, with amps powered by gasoline generators–were lionized by fans who all seemed to have come on board like I did, five to ten years too late, and well after Kyuss had already broken up.  It sorta made sense to me.  I mean, these were some heavy, heavy records imbued with menacing soul and not ready for prime-time lasciviousness.  What more do you want as a man?  How couldn’t this have caught the world on fire?

But it also seemed strange, this worship.  Not because the band wasn’t hot shit (they were), but because, for all their grandeur and down-tuned guitar jams, I always felt like they were simply guys who just happened to do something great.  See, more than anything else, Kyuss had personality.  There was a sense of excitement and approachability that came through in each and every one of the songs.  To me, the real genius of Kyuss wasn’t Sky Valley’s passionate and smoldering “Demon Cleaner,” it was that a minute-long poop joke closed that fucking record out.

In 2010, a full decade-and-a-half after the group disbanded, founding members, John Garcia (lead vocals) and Brant Bjork (drums) came together under the name of Kyuss Lives!  The project saw them undertaking US and International tours, revisiting their Kyuss tunes alongside Belgian guitarist, Bruno Fevery (bass duties on various legs were handled by former Kyuss members, Nick Oliveri or Scott Reeder, and, sometimes, by Yawning Man bassist, Billy Cordell).   In the spring of 2012, ex-Kyuss guitarist (and current Queens of the Stone Age mainman) Josh Homme and Reeder filed suit against Garcia, Bjork, and Fevery over the use of the name Kyuss, and, late last year, the band released a statement that they would heretofore be known live and on record as “Vista Chino.”

Vista Chino’s debut album, Peace is out now and the band is about to embark on a month-long U.S. tour, beginning tomorrow, Sept. 6th.   About two weeks ago, I called band’s drummer/composer/lyricist/producer, Brant Bjork and talked to him about the legacy of his former group, his process as a musician, and the new record.   He was super cool and I was super nervous (probably because I’d never done an interview before!).  Here’s our conversation…


photo by Joe Gall

VISTA CHINO (L to R) –  Bruno Fevery, Jon Garcia, Brant Bjork, and Mike Dean

So you guys just got back from Europe?

Yeah, we did a handful of festivals and a handful of headlining shows.  We just got back about a week-and-a-half ago and it was great; it was real smooth.

This was the first time that you guys played a lot of the newer songs live, right?

Yeah, this was the first tour where we were showcasing a lot of the new material.   We’re actually doing side one of the record every night, so it’s quite a bit of new material for an audience that is unfamiliar with it and hasn’t heard the record.  The fans responded really well, they loved it, and all the shows were super rad.  It was a good time.

And you guys played at Metallica’s Orion Festival about a month or so ago.  How did that come about?  When did they contact you to do that?

Well, we did the Soundwave Festival down in Australia and the Metallica guys would come out and watch the show and stuff.  And I actually talked to Lars the last day we were in Australia.  He mentioned the Orion Festival and mentioned that it’d be great if we were able to get on it, and things just worked out.  That was a positive experience for sure, man.

I first heard you from your playing on King of the Road on the Fu Manchu record from 2000.  I think what you brought to that band and those records was pretty phenomenal.  Your playing had a lot of personality and a lot of style, and I thought was really impressive, really fun, and infectious.

Awesome.  Well, I appreciate that.  “Fun” is the key word there.  All about having a good time and having fun.

You still have a relationship with those guys?

Yeah, of course.  I mean, I don’t see them or talk to them quite as much as I used to, ‘cause we’re all busy with our projects and our families and stuff, but I love Fu Manchu, always have and always will.  I love the guys; I always wish them the best and, when I see them, it’s always great, man.

Have you been using any of [Fu Manchu bassist] Brad Davis’ fuzz pedals at all?

I haven’t.  I know Brad’s been at that for awhile.  I hear good things about it, but I personally have not experienced the Brad Davis fuzz.  [note: they’re hot pedals!  I have one of Brad’s Creepyface fuzzes and I shoehorned this question in with the hopes I that could bro it up with Brant over guitar tones.]

Fu Manchu [L to R] - Scott Hill, Bjork, Bob Balch, & Brad Davis

Fu Manchu [L to R] – Scott Hill, Bjork, Bob Balch, & Brad Davis

I wanted to ask you a little bit about some songwriting approaches that you have.  You’ve been involved with so many projects for the last 20-25 years, with Kyuss and Fu Manchu and all the five or six solo records and everything else you’ve done.  Do you feel like the songwriting process is different for each different band?

Yeah.  I mean, every project is a whole different approach, a whole different experience, and of course, from time to time, can be a whole different beast.  You just gotta roll with it.  I’m an artist, first and foremost, and I’m a musician second, so I’m creative out of necessity.  Creativity is how I navigate through this world and music just happens to be that medium in which I express and share my creativity with the public.  So, when songs are born, sometimes they fall off trees and, sometimes, I gotta get a shovel and dig real deep.  Both processes are an experience that’s really rewarding and, sometimes, when you gotta build a song and really wrestle with it and confront the dragon, sometimes, those are even more rewarding than ones that just fall out onto your plate in the morning, you know?  With each project, it depends.  [With] a lot of my solo material, I’m celebrating a love of all kinds of music that I listen to, whether it be jazz, or funk, or blues, or reggae, or even hip-hop. With Kyuss, or even Fu Manchu, I’m recognized as a drummer in rock music, but it just kinda happens that I play rock music in those particular bands.  That’s not necessarily the music I listen to all the time. I probably listen to rock music the least, to be honest.  It’s guitar-based music and sometimes it’s fun to open up those songwriting channels with the guitar.  You gotta keep an open mind, and it’s all about tapping into those sources where you got that raw emotion and use those tools to communicate.  You never know what you’re going to find.

If you come up with a riff or a melody or something, do you feel like you save it for a certain project over another?  Like, “Oh, I’m gonna put this on another Operators record,” or instead, bring this to the Vista Chino writing sessions?

Yeah, of course.  Absolutely.  I’m sure it’s different for the generation nowadays, but when I was growing up, I grew up on records, on long playing records.  Side One/Side Two, bodies of work, records that had a purpose and sometimes even a concept.  I’ve got a lot of songs and a lot of riffs.  I’ve got a lot of ideas, hundreds of ideas, and part of the fun and part of the creative process is compiling them onto one specific body of work.  Sometimes, I’ll go into the studio–like with The Operators, I went into the studio for that particular session with like 9 or 10 songs and I scrapped them all the first night and rewrote the entire record, which is what we have now with [that record].  So it all depends, man.  It all depends.

With some of these groups, you’ve been primarily credited as a drummer, but since you play guitar and bass, did you play any guitar, or did you come in with chord progressions?

I got an acoustic guitar when I was about 13, so I’ve been playing guitar a long time and that’s where I developed my songwriting skills, as far as riffs and arranging.  So, in Kyuss, I was definitely bringing songs that were born from a guitar.  And, on into Fu Manchu, too; I was writing a lot of that material from a guitar, as well.

I went back and I listened to some of the older stuff, especially on Wretch, and it’s really kind of amazing.  I mean you guys were all really young when you did that record, right?

Oh yeah, we were all real young.

Seventeen, 18 years old, somewhere around there?

Probably more like 15 or 16.

KYUSS [clockwise from left] - Oliveri, Garcia, Bjork, and Homme

KYUSS [clockwise from left] – Oliveri, Garcia, Bjork, and Homme

No kidding!  I mean, I know you might be tired of talking about it, since it was 25 years ago, but it’s pretty amazing to hear it now and to hear guys that are so young, who have such a defined, confident, and self-assured sound.  When you hear those songs, or when you’re going back to relearn some of the old stuff, what do you hear when you hear a record like that, or when you think about those songs?

Every band and every artist in general, you gotta start somewhere and, for us, Wretch was the beginning.  That was the beginning of us recording and becoming recording artists.  In the desert where we grew up, there wasn’t anything to do, so music was very important to us and, [it’s] much like [how] a lot of people in Southern California grow up on the coast and so surfing is natural to them.  It’s something they do and they’re kind of born in the water, so to speak, and so, for us, we don’t have surf culture.  We have desert culture, a culture [that’s a little] like nothingness, so music… music is very important to us.  A lot of my friends play an instrument and have a very, very intense, vicious, and soul-searching kind of approach.  When we played live, there was no thought of ever becoming a recording artist.  It was mostly about, well, it was only about, performing live and being a band that rocked.  Performing for our friends and people at the desert and at parties, we honed that skill and nurtured that skill at an early age.  That’s what caught the attention of certain people who took us into the studio and introduced us to the art of recording.  We’d messed around with 4-tracks and shit just to help develop songs and arrange, but we were in a state-of-the-art (for that time) studio.  Wretch is clearly that, the sound of a young band in the studio with people who don’t really know what to do with us.  They just wanted to capture it.  It doesn’t quite represent exactly what we sounded like live, but I think what Wretch succeeds at is capturing the spirit and the energy of what we were doing at that particular time.  That youthful energy.

Is it ever embarrassing when you hear it?  Like, when you see photos of yourself from high school or junior high and you cringe a little bit?  You ever get any kind of those feelings with some of the earlier stuff?

Well, I mean, it’s all in perspective, man.  We were young kids.  I don’t know too many 16 year olds that were breaking that kind of shit off.  Recording, having a career, being an artist is all about putting your stuff out there.  There’s a popular saying that goes, right now, “What it is, is what it is.”  I appreciate it for what it is and I don’t expect much more.

I was thinking a lot recently, since I heard about this new record, and I started thinking of Kyuss and your other projects as having part of that SST sense of family or tradition.  Kind of the idea of a band that wasn’t [necessarily] isolated, but one that was very much tied to a region and also kind of region-less:  something kind of similar to all the classic SST bands like Minutemen or The Meat Puppets.  Do you see any parallels between what you were doing and what some of the earlier underground bands of that era were doing and accomplishing?

I think there’s some direct parallels and I think there’s some indirect parallels.  I mean, first and foremost, SST was an influence on the entire desert punk rock scene.  Black Flag and the Minutemen, Saccharine Trust, these were bands that were championed in the desert early on, as was the SST philosophy and culture.  In a lot of ways, we were kind of like a satellite of SST, kind of an extension.  A lot of those bands came up and played, a lot of those musicians are familiar to us and fans of a lot of our desert music.  I’m actually friends and I know a lot of the musicians that were part of the SST movement and I’ve jammed with a lot of those guys.  They [SST] were a response to the Hollywood punk rock and the sophisticated kind of art movement of Hollywood.  SST kind of represented a suburban beach community radical reaction to that.  The desert was even a more rural extension of that, a more raw extension being that we were out in the middle of nowhere.  There’s a small, tight community in the desert, we all knew each other, everybody knew who was who and who was doing what, but what I think the difference was, was that SST was a community that worked a lot together.  [There was] a lot of bands, a lot of creativity there, a lot of camaraderie.  In the desert, we didn’t have any of that, really.  Kyuss just happened to be the band that broke out and got a deal, but we certainly weren’t pioneers of anything and we weren’t spearheading any kind of movement.  Across the Rive,r which consisted of Mario Lalli (Yawning) and Scott Reeder and Alfredo Hernandez (Yawing Man, Kyuss), ironically enough, were supposed to have signed a deal with SST in the mid-80s and it just didn’t happen, for whatever reason.  But there is definitely a connection.
[note: Kyuss covered Across the River’s “N.O.” on Welcome to Sky Valley.]

Do you still live out there now [in Palm Desert]?

I don’t; I live in Venice now, but my wife and I have a house in Joshua Tree, so we frequent the desert quite often.

So, for folks who don’t know, how far is Palm Desert from Los Angeles?

It’s about a two-and-a-half hour drive from LA to Palm Desert.

Kyuss Lives! [L-R] - Fevery, Bjork, Garcia, and Oliveri

Kyuss Lives! [L-R] – Fevery, Bjork, Garcia, and Oliveri

Okay, so when you started the Kyuss Lives! project and the tour, about a-year-and-a-half ago, did you guys have any plans or goals about what the band was going to be, or what you wanted to accomplish?

Not, not really.  It was a very, very natural evolution.  I had got word that John (Garcia) had put a band together in Europe and was gonna go out and start Garcia Plays Kyuss, and I thought that was a great, great move on John’s part.  He called me up about two weeks after I heard the news, and asked me if I would be his support act with my solo band, and I said, of course.  We went out there and did two-and-a-half weeks in Europe and I opened the shows.  And, eventually, I would get on stage and play drums on a couple songs, and we just had a blast.  It was just a real positive, great experience and, by the time we got home, John called me and said, “Hey man, come over to my house, let’s talk.”  I said, “All right,” and came over, and he said, “Hey, that was rewarding, but I really want to get the band back together,” and we discussed it.  We discussed the details of literally doing that, and we both knew that, you know, Josh, over the years, had kind of pridefully boasted to the public that he had no interest in ever returning to Kyuss.  John suggested that we use Bruno Fevery–ask him to play guitar.  I was familiar with Bruno, obviously from Garcia Plays Kyuss, and I thought he did an amazing job of performing Kyuss songs live, but I had no idea really, what kind of musician he was as an individual.  And we decided to pull Nick (Oliveri) in.  John and I both agreed that Nick kind of represented the purest essence that state of Kyuss was and, the first day we got together and jammed and, within two minutes of jamming with Bruno, I definitely felt an immediate musical connection with him.  He had a nice swing and a nice groove and he played a lot of blues.  I just knew that he was a force and a professional.  That first day, we didn’t know what we were going to do ultimately, but we knew we wanted to record a new record.  We felt that we had found a new guitar player and we wanted to take on the challenge of creating fresh music with a new guitar player.  So, we just went out touring and the thing snowballed and took us right up to creating a new record.  We just rolled with it.

When’d you start writing for this record?

We started writing in January of 2012.  We finished our tour cycle for Kyuss Lives! and then, we had just kinda worked out our schedules and worked out a timeline.  And, of course, I’m sure we were just kind of all working out ideas and compiling riffs in our heads and at home, and it just came together.

Bruno is Belgian, so he’s overseas.  Did you guys send demos through the internet, or did you try to write most of it together and through jams and things like that?

I knew early on that the key to recording a new record was going to be having a writing chemistry with Bruno.   Back in the Kyuss days, my writing partner was Josh, and so we bounced ideas and songs and collaborated off each other.  So, I knew I had to develop that with Bruno and, to do that, we had to fly him out to the desert.  Bruno’d just hang out in the desert with me and we would just jam and talk and drink and philosophize about what we wanted to create and how we wanted to create it.  And, you know, we just developed a partnership, a creative partnership and we’d bring certain riffs and sometimes we’d create shit right on the spot.  We developed a really, really, very strong natural chemistry, and it was very effective.  And we just started rolling tape, man.  Went for it.

I like a lot of the stuff that he plays on the record, a lot of the stuff that’s a little spacier, the more jam parts of the songs.  It’s really impressive.  I mean, for whatever reason, I didn’t really expect as much of that, the more extended parts of the tunes.  I really dig a lot of it.

You guys recorded Peace at your studio?

Yeah, I built an all-analog studio on my property out in Joshua Tree and, literally, was building the studio as we were writing.  It was an adventure, it was a very, very rewarding adventure.

When did you start engineering and everything?  Just in general, when did you start learning and being involved with that?

Oh, I have an engineer.  I don’t have any room in my head for that stuff.  I did produce the record, but that’s coming from more of a creative perspective.  Maybe a little bit on the technical side, a little bit of mic placement, but it’s mostly coming from just my ears.  I didn’t feel it was necessary to [learn to] turn knobs.  I have some really good engineers and they handled all the technicalities and they did a great job, man.  They really understood what I wanted to accomplish as a production and they did it.  We accomplished what we were trying to go for, man; it was awesome.

There’s something about the record that I like; it’s still a heavy rock record but there’s something that’s kind of…mellow.  It’s not overly bombastic or anything.  It sounds really honest, and it really sounds like the four of you playing together.  Before you started recording, did you have any kind of intention on how you what you wanted the album to sound like?

Yeah, of course.  There’s a limit to how much time you have in the studio and that’s part of what makes the recording arts challenging and fun and, sometimes, difficult.  You don’t have an eternity to express your idea when the tape’s rolling.  You ultimately want to go in with some broad idea, a concept.  You know, a lot of times, you stray from that concept; a lot of times, you keep your eyes on the prize and you stay the course.  I had a very specific idea for what I wanted to accomplish with this record from a production point of view.  You kind of articulated it right now, and that makes me happy that I can tell that your ears understood what was going on and [what] it ultimately is.  Like I said before, I don’t listen to a whole lot of rock music, and, if I do, I listen to stuff mostly from the ‘60s and ‘70s.  I listen to mostly jazz and blues and, like, with this record, I wanted to capture [something] kind of like Thelonious Monk meets Muddy Waters.  I got two mics on the drums and the actual room sound.  There’s not a lot of compression on the record, at all.  We did all the compression in the mastering, so it’s a real organic record.  It is a very honest record.  I wasn’t looking to make a real fancy, explosive rock record.  Those records don’t really appeal to me; I think they kind of miss the feminine essence of those records that Hendrix and Zeppelin, and even blues artists like Lightnin’ Hopkins, [had].  I like those records.  A lot of people call it lo-fi but, to me, it’s just a classic sound; a lot of air in the record and a lot of feel–you can really focus on the feel–so that’s what we aimed to achieve and we captured it.  I’m really pretty stoked on it.

vista-chino-peace

It’s definitely cool.  You know, I feel like, just because of you and John being involved and Nick too, there’s definitely the potential for a lot of pressure, especially from, not just fans, but the internet [community].  But I really like that it sounds like guys playing and there’s no sense of obligation with any of it; it doesn’t sound like you did the record for any other reason than you wanted to.  That’s one thing I hear when I listen to it [and] it’s the same vibe I hear when I listen to your solo records.

We’re musicians.  We’re not entertainers, you know?  We’re not rock stars.  I don’t have anything against entertainers and I don’t have anything against rock stars, but we’re musicians and we create music for the love of creating music and for the love of expression.  And also for the necessary need to express ourselves and searching our souls in this fucking crazy world man.  That’s what it always was.  That’s what it was back in the day with Kyuss.  We’re playing music for ourselves, we’re not necessarily playing music for the people or trying to live up to expectations.  We live up to our expectations.  We play the music that we want to play.  I know there’s a lot of Kyuss fans these days and I appreciate that they appreciate the music.  A lot of those fans are new to this kind of music and a lot of them aren’t.  A lot of people don’t always remember that Kyuss wasn’t a band that was totally embraced at the beginning.  It took years for people to understand what those records were all about; those were organic records, and this is an organic record.  Kyuss was as much a spirit and a vibe as it was a sound and a song.  That’s just what this was all about.  I know fans have expectations and I know fans, especially with a band like Kyuss.  There’s a cult following and there’s a tremendous amount of fear attached to that, but we’re not afraid.  We’re not afraid of what Kyuss was or what Kyuss is, or could be.  Music’s where we don’t have fear.  We just move forward and we follow our heart and souls.  We’re true to ourselves and we make real music and that’s what this record is.

There’s been so much mystique built up over the last 20 years since Kyuss broke up.  Is it strange to confront that?  To have die-hard fans and to have people that know you as kind of a mythological figure rather than just Brant Bjork?

It’s always a trippy experience.   As I said, I don’t see myself as a rock star or an entertainer, so I don’t really get off on the fact that people get off on it.  For me, it’s a life.  I’m just a dude who’s trying to make my way through this life like everybody else.  Music just happens to be my work–and it is work–and the fact that people enjoy it and support what I do is great, but if people stop buying my music, I’m still gonna make music.  After 20 years, people getting into Kyuss?  There’s elements of that, that makes a lot of sense, and there’s elements of that, that are just kind of abstract and trippy.  Sometimes, I get fans that really feel like they understand Kyuss.  They kind of romanticize Kyuss; they brought Kyuss into their life on a very intimate level to the point where they kind of boldly think they can tell me what Kyuss is, or what it should be.  And I just find that kind of interesting, that they’re intoxicated by the band so much that they would take such a bold relationship with it.  But that’s just part of the process of releasing your art into the world.  I mean, once it goes out into the world, it’s no longer just mine, it’s everybody’s and they have their own relationship with it and their own opinion of it, but I have my own relationship with Kyuss and it’s okay.  We can all appreciate it for different reasons.

So who plays bass on the record, does Nick play on the record?

Nick plays on the majority of the tracks.  I play on 2 or 3 tracks and Mike Dean came in and played on one too.

Okay, so how’d you guys hook up with Mike Dean (founding member of Corrosion of Conformity and currently Vista Chino’s touring bassist)?

Nick came back to the band and tracked the record, and we were all set to go to Australia, and then, Nick just kinda got himself into some personal trouble again and wasn’t able to go.  At that point, I was really frustrated with bass players.  Bass players had just really complicated my life.  I kinda said, “You know what man, I’m just gonna shoot for the moon.”  One of my favorite rock bass players is Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity.  I grew up listening to COC.  I always loved Mike Dean’s style and his approach to the instrument, and I’ve known him for years.  I figured, “I’ll just give him a call and see what happens,” and we’ve been rocking ever since.  In a lot of ways, it was a match made in rock heaven.  He fell right into it.  He’s a great guy, he’s a wonderful musician.  The chemistry onstage is really, really grooving, and we’re all on the same page spiritually, and it’s a real pleasure to play with Mike.  So right now, it ain’t broken, so we don’t have any plans of fixing it.  We’re just gonna ride this out.

So he’s doing this whole tour and, just kinda, whatever happens from there?

Yeah, yeah.  We’re all committed to supporting the record for this year.  We’ll finish the tour cycle and see where we’re at.

I think Mike was a really great choice.  I’ve really liked the Corrosion stuff they’ve been doing the last couple years as a three-piece.  It’s kind of the same vibe, I feel like it’s the same thing where it’s some guys who wanted to get together and play.  I’m excited to hear the new record.  I know they have a new record that they’re working on right now?

Yeah, Mike’s working on a new COC record right now.  I’ve heard some of it and it sounds great, of course, and we certainly don’t want to interfere with COC’s ability to make their radical music.  So, right now, it’s a juggling act with time schedules.  So far, everything’s been jibing, so we’re just gonna keep plugging away and get some great music out there, man.

There’s like, so many ways that we can listen to music now: online, CDs and vinyl, but when you were sequencing the record and putting it together, did you have any idea about how you wanted people to absorb the songs?  How you wanted people to hear it and on what format?

I kind of selfishly create my music for the way I want to hear it.  I’m obviously representing the band and I speak for everyone involved, because we’re all on that same trip; we’re all guys that grew up listening to records–side one, side two.  And so, we chose all these songs as a body of work and, for us, it’s all about having that body of work flow and have a sonic consistency.  That’s how I like to listen to music.  I enjoy my iPod and I’ll bounce around from track to track, but when I put on Are You Experienced? by Hendrix, I like to listen to the whole thing.  I like the way it tells a story, you know?

You mentioned that you listen to a lot of jazz and blues, but what do you find is influencing you most right now?

Right now, I’m listening to a lot of hip-hop.  I’ve always dabbled in the world of hip-hop.  I’ve always been very particular in the artists that I enjoy and I focus on, but right now I’m listening to a lot of Mos Def and Jay-Z and stuff, and just really listening to their production styles and getting lost in that world of music at the moment.

I always wonder, with guys that are professional musicians, how much time and energy they have to listen to other people’s work.  Do you still feel like you can sit back with newer records and newer bands and going to see shows?

It is tough as you get older, there’s only so many hours.  When you’re 16, you can smoke a joint, sit on the bed and listen to records all day, but I got a wife and kids and I’m busy.  I got a lot of shit going on and I just don’t have that kind of leisure time.  And it is ironic, being that I’m a professional musician, but I do make the time.  I’m just very specific about what I want to invest that time in.  Musically speaking,  I’m not too up on contemporary music or even rock music.  I’ll listen to a classic rock record every once in a while; a lot of times, I’m just studying production.  I’ll go back to late ‘60s rock, or a lot of the early ‘70s stuff, but like I said, nowadays, I just, kinda, more, follow my mood.  I like to relax and listen to a lot of jazz.  In the morning, I like to get that energy flowing and I’ll throw on some Jay-Z, some Cypress Hill, or some Mos Def and get that half-hour little jolt of energy going, get a little groove in my step.  I’ll do a lot of listening on the road when I got the down time, and I can get into production, and I study a lot of records.

You have a pretty deep catalog of stuff that you’ve played on.  Do you have anything else that you’d recommend to folks who only know you from one or two of your records?  Anything else they should check out. or anything that you’re really proud of or feel like represents you as an artist?

I’m proud of the majority, if not all, the work I’ve ever done.  I’m a soul musician and I always give 100% of my sou,l and that’s h,e only way I know how to do it.  I’m really proud of my solo work.  I really enjoy my solo work, because it is my most intimate music, and I think that, if someone wanted to really understand the Brant Bjork energy, in terms of being a musician, I would point them to my solo work first.

via BrantBjork.com

via BrantBjork.com

Yeah, I’d heard some of your earlier solo records in the past, but just in the last couple days, I heard some of the more recent ones that you did, and I was really impressed.  I really liked hearing you play guitar and I liked the early/mid’70s vibe that was on there.  It’s neat to hear that.  …  So, obviously, you have a big tour starting.  When was the last time you toured the US?  Before Kyuss Lives!, had it been awhile since you’d been on a national tour?

As a solo artist, I stopped touring in 2007.  I just couldn’t financially afford it anymore.  Europe was a market where I was able to get ahead and reinvest the money in my band and my production and stuff.  To come home ahead and then do the States…I was kinda going nowhere at light speed.  Unfortunately, I just kinda had to neglect the US market, which is a shame, because I really enjoy playing the US market.  I got some fans that are really into the music and I’m really appreciative of their support, but in the end, sometimes it does boil down to economics.  When Kyuss Lives! went out in 2011, it was exciting, exciting to be back in the States and get out there and perform.  We had a great time and I’m looking forward to getting back out here in a couple weeks.

Any cities you’re looking forward to hitting or that you haven’t been to in awhile?

Chicago’s great.  Philadelphia.  New York’s always fun.  I always like to get on the East Coast.

Do you have any other projects that are in the pipeline or down the road?

I’m gonna release a new record, a solo record, before the end of the year.  It’s an instrumental record, it’s a record called Jacuzzi and it’s kind of a record that’s directly celebrating more of my jazz and funk and breakbeat roots and stuff like that.  It’s a fun record, I really enjoy it.  There’s a band called Black Pussy that I produced and we’ll be releasing that before the end of the year, as well, and I hope to get in the studio and start working with a desert band by the name of War Drum.  I’ll hopefully be with them by the end of the year, as well, so there’s a lot going on.

Is that Jacuzzi record all you?  No guest stars or anything?

It’s all me, and I recorded it about three years ago in my house out in the desert, so it’s got a nice vibe and it’s a stoney record, for sure.

Rad.  Are you releasing it yourself?

Yeah, I’m gonna relaunch Low Desert Punk and that’ll be my first release.

Well, I look forward to checking it out.  Anything else you want to add?

Well, I know Vista Chino is a band that was kind of, unfortunately, born of conflict, but I just want people to know that where there’s conflict, there’s always love and there’s always fear.  I know a lot of people out there fear what Vista Chino is and what we do and I know that there are a lot of people out there who don’t fear us.  Vista Chino is for the people that don’t fear, man, that’s what it’s about.  The people that fear it, that’s okay too. They can be afraid, they can not participate, they can hate and be negative, but it’s just not for them.

Well, perfect.  I think that sums it up just fine.  I look forward to seeing you when you’re here in a couple of weeks.  I’m definitely looking forward to seeing the songs live.  I think they’ll all translate really well.  Thanks for staying on the phone with me for close to an hour and take care, brother.

No prob, man.



Win a pair of tickets & meet and greet with Vista Chino during their Sept. 10th Seattle stop through our giveaway HERE.

Vista Chino’s new album Peace is out now.
If you live in the United States, you can buy it in all sorts of formats and packages here.
Check it out here, if you live overseas.


North American Tourdates:

September 6 – Calgary, AB @ Flames Central
September 7 – Edmonton, AB @ Starlite Ballroom
September 9 – Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom

September 10 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
September 11 – Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
September 12 – San Francisco, CA @ Slims
September 13 – Los Angeles, CA @ Echoplex
September 14 – Anaheim, CA @ House of Blues
September 16 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
September 18 – Minneapolis, MN @ Fine Line Music Café
September 19 – Chicago, IL @ Metro
September 20 – Pontiac, MI @ Crofoot Ballroom
September 21 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Theater
September 23 – Montreal, QC @ Corona Theater
September 24 – Quebec, QC @ Dagobert
September 25 – Ottawa, ON @ Ritual Night Club
September 26 – New York, NY @ Bowery Ballroom
september 27 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
September 28 – Columbus, OH @ Alrosa Villa

Devon Booth

Devon hangs out in Seattle. He writes about "music" on The Heavy Duty, "movies" on The Highland Cinema, and tumblrs videos of people playing songs on their webcams on Bedroom Covers.

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