Review & Full Stream: Nick Oliveri, N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on October 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


[Click play above to stream Nick Oliveri’s N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 in its entirety. CD/LP out Oct. 20 via Heavy Psych Sounds.]

As he informs in screaming fashion on the penultimate “Country as Fuck,” Nick Oliveri is here to drink, fuck, and fight. Would anyone expect less? That song is by a group called Plan B fronted by Oliveri and featuring guitarist Steve Soto, drummer and Joey Castillo, and guitarist Troy van Leeuwen — the latter two former Oliveri bandmates in Queens of the Stone Age — and it’s one of six cuts, each by a different group featuring Oliveri, included on N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3, the third installment of a Heavy Psych Sounds-backed series of “lost,” previously unreleased or otherwise hard to chase down tracks from the former Kyuss bassist.

Of course, Oliveri‘s alias identities include being the frontman of Mondo Generator, his own Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable solo band, his Death Acoustic solo work, performing with Dwarves, a stint in Kyuss Lives!/Vista Chino, bassist in BloodclotBl’astSvetlanas, on and on. His reputation for drug-fueled riotousness precedes him — 2011 police standoff, rifle, prison, amphetamines; easy to recall — and sure enough, N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 tears un-P.C. ass through its 17-minute stretch, blasting off punker violence as it goes with Oliveri‘s recognizable throat-searing shouts and unmatched attitude serving as the factors to tie it all together. He may or may not actually be country as fuck, but he certainly makes the above-noted mission statement sound like a genuine expression of intent.

Cohorts and accomplices are a big part of the appeal on N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 as well. Oliveri joins Melissa Auf der Maur (Hole, Smashing Pumpkins) in her Hand of Doom solo Black Sabbath covers project for a take on “The Mob Rules” that seems to revel in how far from the Dio-fronted original version it is, while also reminding of how propulsive that original actually was. Dwarves and a side-project for Dwarves guitarist He Who Cannot Be Named both show up, the former with second cut “Luv is Fiction,” which finds Oliveri on vocals under his own name while also playing bass under the guise of Rex Everything. The esteemed Josh Freese (Suicidal Tendencies, Ween, A Perfect Circle, Guns ‘n’ Roses, indeed Dwarves, among many others) may or may not be playing drums on “Luv is Fiction,” which together with He Who Cannot Be Named‘s “Medication,” comprise just about the most outwardly accessible inclusions on the record.

When Dwarves is as close as you get to “audience friendly,” you know some shit is going down. And fair enough. So much of Oliveri‘s sonic personality is based around being unhinged, the wild man, etc., it only seems fair that even as “Luv is Fiction” moves into semi-spoken verses, it should still serve as a reminder of the edge and sense of danger that Queens of the Stone Age have arguably been missing for the last 12-plus years, and by the time they come around, “Country as Fuck” and “The Mob Rules” at the end only underscore the point of the kind of torrent Oliveri can bring to a piece of material and still hold it together to the degree he does, which, naturally, varies.

nick oliveri

And now that the lead has been thoroughly buried, N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 features two seeming exclusives of particular note. The first is opener “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw,” a cover of Rose Tattoo‘s 1978 single by the Oliveri-fronted Royale Daemons, a project idea kicked around a few years back that featured Joey Castillo on drums and Scott “Wino” Weinrich (The ObsessedSaint VitusSpirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, and so on) on guitar. The notion of an Oliveri/Wino collaboration was enough to turn heads in that trio’s direction with the sheer announcement of its existence, but apart from a show or two, this recording and one featured on the previous installment of this series earlier this year, so far as I know nothing else has come of it, and as “Rock ‘n’ Roll Outlaw” has never been previously released, it’s definitely something special for N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3.

Same could be said of side B leadoff “Kyuss Dies,” by a trio incarnation of Kyuss Lives! without vocalist John Garcia that consists just of Oliveri, drummer Brant Bjork and guitarist Bruno Fevery, on which Oliveri essentially tells the tale in punker fashion of the lawsuit that brought that project to an end and saw the birth of Vista Chino, which of course also led to the departure of Oliveri from the group. Over a raw and fuzzy recording, Oliveri intones “Here come the suits and ties/Kyuss dies,” while brazenly declaring, “So long my friends/I’m gone.” So he would be, but it’s worth noting that “Kyuss Dies” is the only studio recording ever made public under the moniker of Kyuss Lives! — it’s also the longest track here at 3:42 — so is something of a historical footnote in the timeline of that group as well, which would seem to have been shortlived and more or less doomed from the outset.

As with any such interplay of characterization and persona, it’s hard to separate fact from fiction when it comes to seeing Oliveri as the one-man wrecking crew he’s reputed to be, but along with his screams, his scathing vision of what punk rock should do, he’s also someone who can craft a landmark hook, and even “Kyuss Dies,” which sounds like a studio tossoff jam, is maddeningly catchy, to say nothing of “Luv is Fiction” or “Country as Fuck.” These things he seems to take with him wherever he goes, and if N.O. Hits at All, Vol. 3 continues to prove anything, it’s that the dude gets around.

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Here’s a Bio I Wrote for Brant Bjork

Posted in Features on March 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

At this point in what might be generously called my ‘career,’ I’ve written biographies for the likes of Neurosis, Electric Citizen, Kings Destroy, Gary Arce of Yawning Man, Alunah, Mondo Drag, Conan, Egypt, Lo-Pan, Wo Fat, Alexander von Wieding, and countless others when one considers things like festival announcements and press releases and other such and sundries I’ve put together. It’s extra work, but I enjoy it. For one thing, it’s nice to be thought of and asked. For another, it’s a chance to cross an editorial boundary and directly help an artist tell their own story, as opposed to trying to stand back and analyze it from as much distance as possible, as one might with a standard review. What does this person want to say about who and where they are creatively, and how can I bring that out in words?

I’ve posted numerous bios I’ve written here before, but it was a singular honor to be asked to compose a biography for Brant Bjork ahead of what looks to be a busy 2017 for him, between his Desert Generator fest (info here), recently-announced US tour (dates here), and the inevitable further activity that will surface as he continues to support last year’s excellent Tao of the Devil (review here) on Napalm Records. The chance to explore what might be desert rock’s most pivotal singular legacy — really, when you look at his raw discography, it’s staggering — was an opportunity to be relished, and having turned it over and gotten approval for a finished draft, I thought I’d share it with you.

A moment of self-indulgence on my part, probably, but I thank you as always for the allowance and for reading. If you have any thoughts on it, any and all comments are welcome.

It starts after the picture:

brant bjork

Brant Bjork Bio 2017

With Tao of the Devil, Brant Bjork reconfirms his position as the Godfather of Desert Groove. Across sprawling jams and classic rockers, the multi-instrumentalist frontman celebrates the other, the self and the Californian landscape he calls home, following 2014’s Black Power Flower – his first album for Napalm Records – with an even more resounding execution of memorable songcraft and inimitable, heavy vibe. In the company of The Low Desert Punk Band, he brings to bear the fruits of one of rock and roll’s most storied careers and, as he always does, pushes forward in ongoing, seemingly unstoppable growth.

Brant Bjork has spent over a quarter-century at the epicenter of Californian desert rock. From cutting his teeth alongside Fatso Jetson’s Mario Lalli in hardcore punkers De-Con to drumming and composing on Kyuss’ landmark early albums, to propelling the seminal fuzz of Fu Manchu from 1994-2001 while producing other bands, putting together offshoot projects like Ché, embarking on his solo career as a singer, guitarist and bandleader, founding his own record label and more, his history is a winding narrative of relentless, unflinching creativity.

For someone so outwardly laid back, he’s never really taken a break. And while Bjork has shown different sides of himself on albums like his funk-laden 1999 solo debut, Jalamanta, the mellow Local Angel (2004), 2007’s mostly-acoustic Tres Dias, and heavier rockers Somera Sól (2007), Gods & Goddesses (2010) and the two most recent outings with The Low Desert Punk Band, he’s maintained a natural representation of himself in his material, whether that’s coming across in the Thin Lizzy-isms of the faux-full-band 2002 release Brant Bjork and the Operators (actually just Bjork playing mostly by himself) or the weedy, in-the-jam-room spirit of “Dave’s War” from Tao of the Devil. When you’re listening to Brant Bjork, you know it, because there’s no one else who sounds quite like him.

That fact and years of hard touring have positioned Brant Bjork as an ambassador for the Southern California desert and the musical movement birthed there in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. As underground interest has surged in recent years, Bjork has been a pivotal figurehead, realigning with his former Kyuss bandmate John Garcia to drum and write in Kyuss Lives!/Vista Chino, celebrating and building on that legacy while giving a new generation of fans the chance to see it happen in real-time.

Having told his story in films like Kate McCabe’s Sabbia (2006) and the documentaries Such Hawks Such Hounds (2008) and Lo Sound Desert (2015), he’s represented desert rock at home and abroad with no less honesty than that which he poured into the music helping to create it. The same impulse led to the founding of his Desert Generator in 2016, an annual festival held in Pioneertown, CA, with an international reach capturing the intimacy and timeless aura of the desert culture, including music, a van show in conjunction with Rolling Heavy magazine, the Stoned & Dusted pre-show in the wilderness, and an evolution that looks to continue into the foreseeable future.

Bjork’s work, with any project, has always had a rebellious sensibility. He’s always walked his own path. But more, his career through Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Ché, Vista Chino, and his crucial solo work has been about freedom through rock and roll, attained by the truest representation of the person and the place as art. This, along with a whole lot of groove, is what has helped Brant Bjork define desert rock as a worldwide phenomenon, and whatever comes next, it is what will continue to make him its most indispensable practitioner.

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Nick Oliveri Announces Acoustic European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

nick oliveri

As he continues to support the solo album Leave Me Alone (streamed here) released under the moniker of Nick Oliveri and the Uncontrollable, the persistently raucous Oliveri is set to embark in July on a month-plus of European touring, acoustic style. This incarnation of the former Kyuss/Queens of the Stone Age bassist — whose resumé also includes The Dwarves, his own Mondo Generator and a slew of contributions to others, up to and including Vista Chino — is dubbed Death Acoustic after a 2009 album of the same name (review here), and Oliveri will begin the tour with a slot at the Stoned from the Underground festival in Erfurt, Germany.

Still not sure what’s up with Oliveri‘s rumored collaboration with Wino in Royale Daemons, but when and if I hear of anything in that regard I’ll let you know. In the meantime, the PR wire brought this announcement:

nick oliveri leave me alone

Nick Oliveri embark on summer acoustic tour across Europe in support of his new album Leave Me Alone, dates and festival appearances announced.

Nick Oliveri is one of the most dexterous and versatile journeyman musicians in the underground rock scene. His work with such bands as Kyuss, Queens Of The Stone Age and Mondo Generator has made him an iconic figure in the heavy music scene while his persona as long time Dwarves bassist Rex Everything and current bass playing duties with newly reformed hardcore act Bl’ast have anchored him as a force to be reckoned with in the punk/hardcore realm. His songwriting has appeared in landmark albums such as Wretch and Blues For The Red Sun (Kyuss) and Rated R and Songs For The Deaf (Queens Of The Stone Age).

His body of work and catalog is vast and respectable with contributions to such artists as Turbonegro, Eagles Of Death Metal, Mark Lanegan Band, Winnebago Deal, Rollins Band, Masters of Reality and the legendary Desert Sessions recordings.

From July till mid August, Nick will be travelling across the Old World on a special acoustic tour in support of his latest release entitled Leave Me Alone that was recorded by his new project and debut solo effort (he literally played every instrument on the album, minus some guest appearances) called Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable. The tour kicks off in Erfurt (Germany) at the long running Stoned From The Underground festival alongside the likes of Electric Wizard, his old friend John Garcia, Radio Moscow and Danava and concludes August 16th at Leperfest (Belgium) where he’ll share the stage with hardcore icons Sick Of It All, doom pioneers Pentagram, and cult-like Brujeria.

He’s coined the name of his acoustic tours as “Death Acoustic” tours and they’ve always been an intimate experience with him and his fans, where he ‘s known to interact with the audience directly in the middle and between songs throughout the his sets, take requests and invite the whole audiences to get involved with the set, rowdy or not!

Full list of dates:

July 10th: Stoned From The Underground Festival (Erfurt, GER)
July 11th: Panic Room (Essen, GER)
July 12th: Fleece (Bristol, UK)
July 13th: Gypsy Rose (Dublin, UK)
July 14th: Voodoo (Bellfast, UK)
July 15th: Audio (Glasgow, UK)
July 16th: Portland Arms (Cambridge, UK)
July 17th: The Corporation (Sheffield, UK)
July 18th: The Boston Music Room (London, UK)
July 19th: Moon Club (Cardiff, UK)
July 20th: Glazart (Paris, France)
July 21st: Le Ferrailleur (Nantes, France)
July 22nd: TBC
July 23rd: Raindogs (Savona, Italy)
July 24th: Sunride Festival (Pesaro, Italy)
July 25th: Zara Spiaggia Bar (Pescara, Italy)
July 26th: Nano Verde (Follonica, Italy)
July 27th: Festa Dell’ Unita (Canonica, Italy)
July 28th: Freak Out Club (Bologna, Italy)
July 29th: Parco Della Musica (Padova, Italy)
July 30th: Vintage Industrial Bar (Zagreb, Croatia)
August 1st: Viper Room (Vienna, Austria)
August 3rd: Backstage (Munich, GER)
August 4th: Rockhouse (Salzburg, Austria)
August 5th: Jagerklause (Berlin, GER)
August 6th: Ostpol (Dresden, GER)
August 7th: La Casa (Cottbus, GER)
August 8th: TBA (Bucarest, Romania)
August 9th: Chez Heinz (Hannover, GER)
August 10th: Hafenklang (Hamburg, GER)
August 11th: DB’s (Utrecht, NL)
August 12th: Gebr De Nobel (Leiden, NL)
August 13th: De Pul (Uden, NL)
August 14th: The Lane (Oostburg, NL)
August 15th: De Hip (Deventer, NL)
August 16th: Leperfest (Leper, Belgium)

Leave Me Alone by Nick Oliveri’s Uncontrollable is out now on both regular LP/CD and collectible leather sleeve LP through Schnitzel Records and is available for streaming at the link here.

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Nick Oliveri, “Green Machine/Another Love Song/Outlaw Scumfuc/Won’t Let Go” Acoustic

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Interview with John Garcia: An Emphasis on Creation

Posted in Features on August 8th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

In talking to John Garcia about his self-titled solo debut, the one thing that seemed to keep coming across was a central appreciation for the process of creation, the actual making of the album. It couldn’t have been easy to put together. Released by Napalm last month, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) utilizes just one drummer, Tom Brayton, and of course just one singer, but a slew of guitarists and bassists, among them members of Garcia‘s own past outfits, including Slo Burn and Hermano, whose guitarist, Dave Angstrom, was also an essential part of the creative process. The songs come from decades of demos and penned-out pieces stuffed in a cardboard box in Garcia‘s closet, and after talking about a solo project for years, it’s fitting it should come together around material he’s lived with this whole time.

Likely I don’t need to rattle off the list of bands for which Garcia has served as frontman, but I will anyway because it’s fun: KyussSlo BurnUnidaHermano, as well as countless guest spots live and recorded. He was one of two Kyuss members whose tenure spanned the entire length of the band, and no less essential to crafting their influence on desert rock than was guitarist Josh Homme or fellow Kyuss songwriter Brant Bjork, with whom Garcia reunited for last year’s Vista Chino full-length outing, Peace (review here), which, like John Garcia, was recorded at Thunder Underground Studios in the California desert with producer Harper Hug. His voice is like an unmistakable signature — a gritty, stomach-tightened soul that bursts from a subdued croon at a syllable’s notice — but on the album, it’s as much about the songwriting itself as what Garcia is doing vocally, and both impress.

And with an assortment of players involved, John Garcia also manages to sound cohesive and fluid from front to back, opener “My Mind” starting the record with one of its grandest hooks and setting the stage for a progression varied but never derailed, even as the fast-rolling “All These Walls” gives way to acoustic closer “Her Bullets Energy,” which is distinguished by a guest appearance by The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. For someone who’s long-since cast his legacy in stone with his vocal style and not his songwriting, it’s a particularly bold venture, but Garcia thrives on the new ground, and if his passion in realizing this material is anything to go by, a second solo outing may not be far off. He gives some hints in that regard as well.

For fans of Vista Chino, they’ll find that band on hold while Garcia and Bjork pursue their solo outfits and Mike Dean returns to C.O.C., who are also touring and have an album out. Garcia has put together a live group with whom he’ll tour much of the next year, including guitarist Ehren Groban of War Drum, and bassist Mike Pygmie and drummer Greg Saenz of desert-dwellers You Know Who. In the interview that follows, Garcia talks about transitioning out of Vista Chino and forming this new band, as well as assembling the songs and players for the record, his time in the studio and the prospect of touring a set spanning his illustrious career.

Full Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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John Garcia, John Garcia: The Time was Right

Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Over the last two-plus decades, John Garcia‘s voice has set the standard for the sound of the California desert. His work in genre-progenitors Kyuss speaks for itself — loudly, and with much fuzz — and subsequent outfits UnidaSlo BurnHermano and more guest appearances than one can count have kept his presence steady in the international underground he played an essential role in forging, and his first solo outing, John Garcia, arrives via Napalm Records following a run with the semi-Kyuss reunion outfit Vista Chino, which ultimately brought together Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork with guitarist Bruno Fevery and Corrosion of Conformity bassist Mike Dean to tour the world in support of their 2013 outing, Peace (review here), after a couple years prior on the road as Kyuss Lives!, that project born out of Garcia‘s own Garcia Plays Kyuss, which launched at the 2010 Roadburn festival. In some ways, the album John Garcia is an extension of Vista Chino, particularly in terms of Garcia‘s performance and in terms of the production. An 11-track/45-minute full-length, material was culled from years of Garcia‘s own tapes, freshly arranged by the singer with some input by Hermano guitarist Dave Angstrom, and brought to bear by producer Harper Hug at Thunder Underground, the same studio where Peace was recorded. However, since some of the source material for these songs is older, and because there are a variety of players appearing throughout, from The DoorsRobbie Krieger on acoustic-led closer “Her Bullets Energy” to Danko JonesAngstrom himself, Nick Oliveri and The Dwarves‘ Mark Diamond and Tom Brayton, there’s also no shortage of diversity in the sound.

That being the case, John Garcia ran a pretty hefty risk in the making of coming across disjointed, but the consistency in the production and of course the focus element of Garcia‘s voice tie tracks together neatly, the album opening with its biggest chorus in “My Mind,” a track that immediately casts the wide-open spaces in which the rest of the songs will take place. Those familiar with his work will hear shades of various Garcia-fronted bands throughout the album, from the Slo Burn-style rush of later cut “Saddleback” to the Vista Chino-esque bounce of “Rolling Stoned,” a cover of Canadian trio Black Mastiff which undercuts some of its laid-back vibe with the opening lyrical threat, “If you leave me, I will kill you.” Nonetheless, “Rolling Stoned” follows “My Mind” as part of a strong opening salvo that continues through “Flower” and “The Blvd” and “5,000 Miles” to proffer memorable hooks, compressed but warm tones and an engaging presence from Garcia, who departs from the post-lawsuit bitterness that comprised much of the thematic of the Vista Chino offering to tell more of a story, as on “The Blvd” or the following “5,000 Miles,” which resounds as a classic coming-home song set to a particularly effective riff, somewhat more open than the first four cuts, but still largely consistent in pace and quality. Truth be told, though the mood changes somewhat along the way, there really isn’t a point where John Garcia falls into clunker-ism. And neither should there be. This project was years in the making and even more years in the discussing, and with Garcia‘s experience in the studio and on stage, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that if something wasn’t working toward the benefit of the album, it would be discarded. Over repeat listens, John Garcia begins to give that impression — not of being a confessional, exactly, in the way that some “solo albums” are, but of being carefully constructed selections chosen to represent this singer and his songwriting process.

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John Garcia Reveals Album Art and Release Dates for Solo Debut

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

The PR wire doesn’t take long in confirming the release dates for former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Hermano, etc., and current Vista Chino and Unida frontman John Garcia‘s forthcoming solo debut. Napalm Records will have the disc out in Europe at the end of July and North America/Australia early in August, and along with that little calendar-worthy nugget, the cover for the album, which is self-titled, has also been revealed, with a touch of ram to go with the desert landscape. Looks pretty good from where I sit.

A Garcia solo-project is something that’s been sort of hinted and bandied about for probably over a decade. As early as 1998, a John Garcia solo track called “To Believe” appeared on the Welcome to MeteorCity compilation (discussed here) that served as that label’s introduction, and while obviously there’s nothing to say it would be at all representative of what might show up on the album John Garcia some 16 years later, it goes to show how long this idea has been in the works. Last I heard, Garcia was looking to tour the project as well, which opens up interesting prospects for who might show up in his solo band. Not sure on the level of involvement of The DoorsRobby Krieger, if he plays guitar on the whole album or just one song, but he hardly seems like a bad cat to have around.

Here’s how it is:

JOHN GARCIA Unveils Release Dates & Album Artwork From His Upcoming Solo Release!

Long seethed in the rumor mill of the stoner rock community, but now it’s official: On August 1st 2014 in USA/CAN & August 8th 2014 in Australia/New Zealand the highly expected solo album John Garcia by JOHN GARCIA (Ex-KYUSS, VISTA CHINO) is set to be released via Napalm Records. A few weeks ago the Desert Rock mastermind unveiled the news about his solo debut and also that the phenomenal musician Robby Krieger (THE DOORS) plays guitar on the album.

Release Dates:
Europe: 25.07
Australia/New Zealand: 01.08
USA/CAN 05.08

For More Info Visit:

John Garcia, “To Believe” (1998)

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Friday Full-Length: Kyuss, Welcome to Sky Valley

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 21st, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Kyuss, Welcome to Sky Valley (1994)

Yeah, I know. It’s technically self-titled. But you know, sometimes majority rule renames a record. The White Album was self-titled too, and I consider Welcome to Sky Valley no less pivotal in the influence it’s had in the two decades since its release — the 20th anniversary is June 28, wanna have a party? — bands around the world picking up the elements of what would become desert rock largely in this album’s wake. Kyuss‘ legacy is ongoing in Vista Chino and Queens of the Stone Age and all the groups who’ve taken cues from these tracks, presented in three distinct movements (plus a goofy “bonus” cut), but Welcome to Sky Valley, like any monument, is cast in stone.

Seems like overkill to rant about how great it is. If you’d like more, it’s in the Canon of Heavy, and was voted number one on the list of the Best Stoner Rock Records of All Time in the poll taken here a little while back. I feel like there are very few things that can be universally agreed upon, and Welcome to Sky Valley is one of them. If you’re on this site, reading this sentence, even if you don’t actually press play and listen to the thing, on some level you can probably get into it. At least that’s the hope.

So, today was my last day as editor of The Aquarian, which if you didn’t know was the last dayjob from which I hadn’t been laid off. I’m now completely unemployed.

The last couple days I’ve spent applying for different jobs, editor gigs, corporate gigs, one or two public sector deals. Nothing back yet, obviously, but I hear that’s how it goes. It’s been a pretty downer week, to be honest. My boss told me he wanted to talk on Monday and then blew me off until Tuesday. That’s right. I got blown off from getting fired. Imagine how little what you do means when that happens. All of a sudden I was Milton from Office Space. Except he still got a paycheck.

Welcome to Sky Valley is the blanket I’ve pulled over my head. At least it’s warm. I also thought I was getting pinkeye last night, though that seems to have abated.

Things are lookin’ up!

Like I said the last time I lost a job, I don’t know what the future holds for me, this site or anything else. If anyone knows of any professional opportunities, my resumé is here. I’m open to anything.

Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork

Posted in Questionnaire on January 6th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Brant Bjork is the godfather of desert rock. As drummer and co-songwriter in Kyuss, he anchored some of the thickest and most influential grooves the world has ever known. Landmark albums like 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun and 1994’s Welcome to Sky Valley are not only genre staples, but have become the measure by which the bulk of the desert-influenced heavy is measured. Ceaselessly creative, Bjork joined Fu Manchu, whose 1994 debut he co-produced, for their The Action is Go, Eatin’ Dust, King of the Road and California Crossing albums between 1997 and 2001, also putting out the cult hit Sounds of Liberation with the short-lived Ché trio in 2000 and in that same period embarking on a solo career that to-date has resulted in 10 albums, 1999’s debut, Jalamanta, setting the course with what would become a signature blend of funk, soul, punk and heavy rock.

Bjork joined former Kyuss bandmates John Garcia and Nick Oliveri in Kyuss Lives! in late 2010, and after a lawsuit and name change (more on that in this interview), Vista Chino emerged to release one of 2013’s best albums in the form of Peace (review here) on Napalm Records, the touring cycle for which will take the lineup of Bjork, Garcia, guitarist Bruno Fevery and bassist Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) to Australia’s Big Day Out this month. A funk-influenced instrumental solo album, Jakoozi, was also mixed last summer and is expected for a 2014 release.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork

How did you come to do what you do?

I was born with a genuine love of music. Growing up, discovering The Ramones and punk rock in general, gave me the courage to try playing music myself. It turned out I had some natural talent as well as a strong conviction to continue doing the thing I love most.

Describe your first musical memory.

When I was a little kid, I had this Fisher Price record player that my mom gave me, along with a stack of 45s. One day I went through the stack and picked one because of the attractive orange and yellow label. It was the Capitol Records label and it was a Beatles 45. It had “Help” on side 1 and “I’m Down” on the B-side. I put it on and John Lennon began to scream “help!” at me through the tiny little speaker. It scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know music could, would or even should sound like that.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

September 18, 1987. It was the first real concert outside of the desert I ever saw. The Ramones, in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium, I was 14 years old. It was also Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday that night and to make things super rad, my first son, Swan, was born on September 18, 2010!

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

I always had a firm belief that The Stooges, the MC5 and The Ramones were the most radical bands of their time and they were releasing the best and most influential records of their time as well. This belief was tested after I bought and listened to the release of Death’s record, For the Whole World to See… a record that was recorded in 1974 but shelved until its release in 2009. This record is so good; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s almost hard to imagine what might have happened to rock and roll music, or even music in general had this record came out and the band had evolved. Unbelievable.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

For me, there is no destination for an artist. I would define artistic progression as a journey of experiencing your life as one of creativity. If you’re a genuine artist I think it simply leads to more art.

How do you define success?

To me, success is the result of looking at your current life situation and not having to wonder how the hell you got there.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

While on tour last month, I battled some boredom by watching the Star Wars sequel, Attack of the Clones. Holy moly. Super bummer. George Lucas should be ashamed of himself. And I thought Return of the Jedi was bad.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

Even though I’m a musician and music is a part of my daily life, I find myself spending a lot of my time thinking about stories. About five years ago I started studying and practicing screenplay writing. I write a lot when I’m on tour… so much time on planes and buses, etc. I have a dream of creating and finishing a rad screenplay and having it picked up for a feature movie. I wouldn’t mind directing the movie as well but you know…. one dream at a time.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

A night without the kids and a nice romantic dinner with my wife at our favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Monica.

Vista Chino, “Sweet Remain” official video

Brant Bjork’s website

Vista Chino on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

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