Next weekend, April 9, the first Desert Generator festival will be held. Put together by Rolling Heavy magazine, Allnight Allnight and Brant Bjork himself, it brings groups from the desert and beyond to Pappy and Harriet’s Saloon in Pioneertown, California, to play on an outdoor stage in the tradition of the parties held in the middle of nowhere (also the center of everywhere) of yore that helped shape the Palm Desert scene and thus American heavy rock as a whole. In addition to a van show and camp-out, the lineup is Red Fang, Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Acid King, Golden Void and Ecstatic Vision.
Sounds like weirdo heaven? Yeah, it just might be. For Bjork, it’s another manifestation of the commitment to a desert art scene that has seen him become one of its most recognizable ambassadors. As the drummer for Kyuss, he played those parties alongside the likes of Yawning Man and Fatso Jetson, and across his solo material and even up to Black Power Flower (review here), the 2014 debut from Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he’s remained a defining feature of what the rest of the world has come to think of as the sound of that place, of that desert. His work is inseparable from that.
It makes sense in that way that Desert Generator should both exist and should take its name from the by-now-legendary parties that gave Bjork and many others their start, since in its very concept, the one-day fest feeds into and expands on that tradition much as Bjork‘s work has done with desert rock as a whole. From his years in Kyuss and Fu Manchu and his earliest solo work with the Jalamanta album on Man’s Ruin, through time with Brant Bjork and the Bros. on tour in the US and abroad and continuing through the forthcoming Tao of the Devil LP that will complete his current contract with Napalm Records, he’s been far more relentless than the laid back vibe of so much of his output might suggest.
But of course, that’s part of the atmosphere Bjork and his compatriots are hoping will play into the goings down at Desert Generator. In the interview that follows, the godfather of desert groove talks about the origins of this perhaps-inaugural festival, how it all came together with the bands involved and the legacy it’s working from. He also looks forward, not only to the Tao of the Devil release and potential European touring, but to revisiting his substantial back catalog and other projects in the offing.
Complete Q&A follows the jump. Please enjoy:
Well, going back to the beginning, a friend of mine, he basically just hit me to this van club, or organization I should say, here in Los Angeles, Rolling Heavy. And he got me a couple of issues of the magazine. I really dug it. And around that time I was getting ready to do Coachella last year, and my friend ended up introducing me to the Rolling Heavy guys and they gave me some shirts and stuff. And I started sporting the shirt around. And it just kind of manifested itself and turned into me hanging out, sitting down with the Rolling Heavy guys and them saying “hey, what if we teamed up for an event?” And I thought, that’s kind of a no brainer. And that’s kind of how it started. Then we just kind of sat down and said, “what would be really rad?” And this is what we came up with.
What is Pioneertown like? Have you seen the venue and where the show is going to be held?
Yeah, of course. I mean the venue is a big part of the event. And the venue is a very, very, how do you put it? It’s a real, real cool destination out in the desert. It’s an old roadhouse. It’s an old biker roadhouse that’s been around for many years and over the years it’s kind of developed into what is now: really a destination for a lot of bands to go play and get a taste of the desert experience. It’s about 15 miles from Joshua Tree. And I’m very familiar with the venue. I’ve been playing there for many years. I’m dear friends with the people that own it. And it’s a really exciting place. It’s got a lot of vibe. A lot of history. And so, for this kind of music and for custom vans and bikes and this kind of culture, it’s such a no brainer. It’s a total turnkey event. So it’s all part of the package.
How involved were you with picking the bands?
To be honest, I wasn’t super-involved. That was to be perfectly honest, that was more Rolling Heavy’s direction. I had some ideas, but you know, as the years roll on, I actually start to just kind of take a back seat when it comes to certain things because I’m just so out of it. I don’t know what’s necessarily what’s hip and cool anymore. So it’s like, I’m just kind of learning to follow other people’s leads who are more attuned with what’s happening.
You got Acid King, though.
Yeah, of course, Lori I’ve known for years. Acid King I’ve known for many years. Acid King is great. And I know the Red Fang guys a little bit, we’ve rubbed shoulders a little bit over the years at various festivals and shows and stuff, so I know that they are a cool band. So I think it will be a lineup of bands that will appeal to a wide variety of freaks within the scene.
It seems like it’s more than just desert bands. You mentioned you’ve got Red Fang coming down, Ecstatic Vision from Philly. Immediately it’s got more of a reach than just the desert.
Yeah, well I mean, the desert has become kind of a trip to itself. And it goes without saying that the desert doesn’t just spawn all the rock bands to the scene. It never did. So it was never our intention to make it just a desert thing. It happens to be in the desert and that’s definitely a part of what it is. And obviously with myself involved, I’ll bring the desert with me and represent my desert roots. But that’s not all that it is. We are really just celebrating rock and the rock movement that I think is growing all around the country and the world. I mean, that’s what really it represents.
It seems like with the van show and the bands playing outside, you’ve really tapped into a lot of the laid back aspect of the culture.
That’s part of what it is, it’s a lifestyle, really. I think this is what’s been going on for many, many years with this scene. This rock scene. I think it’s so obvious sometimes that it’s easy to miss the point of it all. The point of it all is, it’s just an alternative lifestyle. It’s people that aren’t really too excited about the modern entities of the world and where pop culture is at. They’re really into dedicating their time, energy and their money into relics of the past and the old school, if you will. That involves car culture, it involves style, dress codes, music, production, intentions and partying / drugs (laughs). I think that all of that is part of this culture and it’s all about the old world, man. In a new, fresh way.
Obviously there’s your history playing desert generator shows and the legacy of that tying into it too, it’s very interesting that more than 20 years after that happened to have it become this.
Yeah, well I think it’s very poetic and natural. I think it makes a whole lot of good sense. When we were kids doing it out in the desert, we were doing it for the exact same reasons. It was an alternative to what was available to us, in just the day-to-day mundane. We wanted more and we wanted an alternative and we decided to just create it for ourselves, and that involved people and music and art and partying. That’s what it was all about. Here we are 20 years later and we clearly want the same thing (laughs). It’s perfectly fine, man, we’re all young spirits, I guess. It’s all good.
A little more professional this time around, I’d imagine, in making it happen.
Yeah, which is all good for me because back in the day it could get rough. That’s for sure.
Are you going to be doing more touring this year with the Low Desert Punk Band?
We’ll definitely be getting out there and doing some shows. We’ve got some offers to go back to Europe when the new record comes out, which will be in June or July. We’ll go back to Europe and hit our markets over there, and we’re looking to do some shows maybe here on the West Coast in the summer. We’ll be getting out there. To be perfectly honest, I’m definitely starting to wind down as far as getting out and touring hard like I used to. I’ve got a family now, my boys are getting older and I want to be closer to home. So I’m probably going to be shifting and focusing more on recording and getting involved with more projects and different recordings and releases and stuff, get back to my back catalog. Reorganize my brand and my back catalog, start reissuing stuff. So I probably won’t be touring quite as hard as I used to in the past, but I’ll still be getting out there.
You did the tour with C.O.C., last fall.
How was that? Was that part of the winding down process?
That was my last real good solid push, certainly in the American market. On stage, it was unbelievably great. C.O.C. were awesome as usual, the lineup was incredible. All the bands had a blast. The crowds, the fans, the turnouts were insane. It was amazing. It was five weeks, and we’re not 22 years old anymore, so it was tough, man. I’m not gonna lie. It was tough. But we had a blast and I don’t see us going out and doing five weeks in the States anytime soon. We certainly had a good time doing it. I’m glad we did it.
Has the new album been recorded yet?
Oh yeah, the record has been recorded and it’s already been delivered.
Yeah, it’s my last record with Napalm, just in terms of contractual obligations. There’s no telling what we’ll do in the future, but this is the last one. The record is called Tao of the Devil. It’s good, we’re really stoked on it. It should be coming out like, June or July.
Who is playing on the record?
It’s the Low Desert Punk Band, which is Bubba DuPree on Guitar. Dave [Dinsmore] on bass, and my new old drummer, he’s been with us about a year and a half now: Ryan Güt on drums.
Can you give me some hint to where the direction is going from the last record?
It’s much different than the first Low Desert Punk Band record, Black Power Flower. It’s a lot different. Bubba and I did some collaboration, we wrote a handful of songs together. Bubba and I really focused on the production, we had a concept. We wanted to go with a, not lo-fi, but definitely not a hi-fi sound. So we kind of left it nice and raw. Seven tracks on the vinyl, then we have a bonus track for the CD, which is an edited down 14-minute kind of organized jam.
Then we re-recorded “Lazy Bones” and “Automatic Fantastic” and “Freaks of Nature” because this band in particular has a very unique take on those tracks that I really dig and I wanted to document those because I have a feeling we probably won’t be doing them forever. I did those and those will get a separate release within a 10″ which will come with the vinyl in a box set kind of thing. I don’t know, the label has some fancy ideas.
You mentioned before reissuing the back catalog and this point you certainly have a back catalog to reissue. But this being the last record to come through Napalm, do you have any clue where or how that’s going to happen? Are you going to do that yourself? Are you going to sign with another label?
I don’t know. That’s a good question and I don’t know as of yet. I have a couple of different options that I’m looking at, but that’s at the top of the list of things for myself and my manager to discuss and figure out what we want to do this year. But like I said, we are excited to regroup the whole output and relaunch it and revisit it and maybe remix some stuff. We’ll be definitely getting involved with the back catalog.
In the meantime, what can you tell me about Bunny Racket? Is that album done?
Bunny Racket, as far as I know, is done. That’s a friend of mine, Andy Walker from Australia who I’ve known for years. He’s a real talent and he contacted me a few years ago with this idea. He wanted to do a rock record for children. He asked me to be involved, I said sure, so I carved out some time and played some drums and produced the record. We also recorded that in my studio out in the desert last year. Then Andy is just making moves and slowly getting the whole concept out there as best he can. I don’t know when and how he’s planning to release the record, I’ll have to ask him about that. But it’s really cool, he’s a real talent. He’s got some cool songs and it’s great, I think kids will really dig it. Adults too, actually. It’s a fun record.
Whatever happened with Jakoozi?
You know, Jakoozi represents a lot of recordings that I have. Which is to say, I have a lot of recordings that are just sitting on the shelf that I had slated to release and about the time I was going to start organize that was about the time we all got back together with Kyuss. That whole adventure sidetracked me and up until now, I’ve been consumed with putting out new music and haven’t been able to go back. Going back, like we just spoke of, reorganizing and re-releasing stuff from the back catalog. Jakoozi is one of a handful of recordings that’s at the top of the list to be release. And signing a deal with Napalm, that only impedes my ability to release other stuff while I was working with Napalm. Now that this is all taken care of, Jakoozi will finally see the light for sure.
And is Desert Generator going to be an annual thing?
I don’t know. There was talk of it being annual, but I think the only thing you can do is do one and see how it turns out. The ticket sales are really good right now, there’s a lot of good vibes and anticipation so let’s just see how this one plays out and if it’s the success that we all expect and hope it to be, than I don’t see any reason why we wouldn’t do it again and again.