Wednesday 17 August 2016

Music For The People - An Interview with BRANT BJORK

Brant Bjork is perhaps one of the most distinctive artists within the Desert/Stoner Rock scene over the last 30 years or so. Rising to prominence with Stoner Metal legends РKyuss. Since then Brant has played drums for fellow Stoner Rock legends РFu Manchu. Ch̩ and Vista Chino.

Though it's his solo work that's endured Brant Bjork even further to the Desert/Stoner Rock generation. Brant released his last album back in 2014 with Brant Bjork and The Low Desert Punk Band. Black Flower Power was that album and it was acclaimed by fans and critics alike for being one of Brant's best record in years.

Fast forward two years later and Brant is back with Tao Of The Devil. A more classic 70s sounding album compared to Black Flower Power. Don't worry though as Brant has still included his trademark style of Desert/Stoner Rock riffs. The Low Desert Punks moniker may not be seen
but their presence is still felt on the new album.

I was given the chance to talk to Brant Bjork recently and this is what we talked about....

Hi Brant. Thanks for doing this interview. How things with you. Congrats on the new album. Tao Of The Devil.

Things are good. Things are fine. Thank you.

Such a great record. Very different to Black Flower Power. What can people expect from that record

To me it's just a Rock and Roll record you know. We shifted gears a little bit. Bubba DuPree co-produced the album along with myself. We kind of wanted to get the guitars sounding a specific way and wanted the overall recording to have an old school kind of sound and vibe. I think we achieved that.

It's very lo-fi, bluesy compared to your last record. Was that the plan to release something different.

Yeah, we definitely tapped into our more bluesy influences.

Did you do anything different recording this album compared to the last album.

The recording process was a bit similar to the last record. We recorded in my studio out in the desert. We did basic tracks and I've got some vintage recording gear as I wanted to capture the live performance and record the sound that's coming from our amps. From the guitars and drums. I like to capture all that onto vintage gear.

So we have a nice organic foundation that we have to work from and build upon. Once that's established I don't mind bringing in computers and using them as efficient tools to kind of mix, overdub and do vocals for stuff like that. So we combined the old ways with the new ways.

We're always in pursuit in creating a record that sounds natural and organic.

Why did you call the album Tao Of The Devil. Any specific meaning.

That's just a way of expressing of how sometimes we feel or believe or unpleasant, can be very necessary in our evolution in life. I don't know how to express that more specifically. It's just my way of saying - “Everything serves a purpose!”

I thought you would release this with The Low Desert Punk Band name attached but it's coming out under your name only.

Couple of years back when I returned to my solo work and assembled a band. I kind of decided to use the moniker of Low Desert Punk Band to describe the 3 guys and myself collectively got together with. That would have been Dave Dinsmore – Bass, Tony Tornay – Drums and Bubba DuPree – Guitar. Tony and myself grew up together in the desert and we would have fell into the categorization of Low Desert Punks.

We were kind of having fun and thought that would be a fun way of carrying the spirit of that and my return doing solo work. Now we have kind evolved from that initial musical idea. Even though Dave and Bubba are part of the band, we have a new drummer – Ryan Goode. Well the old-new drummer if you will. Upon finalising this record and and the creative process and doing quite a few shows together with this line-up, we felt the band, myself and management thought the Low Desert Punk band was unnecessary and to release it under my own name.

The artwork as with your albums are always fucking cool. And this is no different. Who designed the artwork and what made you go with that design.

I think conceptually, I worked together with good friends of mine who are very gifted artists. Alex who goes under the name of AXIS. He created the logo and designed the entire cover. He did a fantastic job and he's a very respected artist in Los Angeles.

All the photos were taking by a very close friend of mine, whose a very accomplished artist by the name of Carl Hann. The three of us put our stuff together and that's what we came up with. We are all very proud how it turned out.

It's very 70s influenced with the backdrop and the logo.

The 70s were such a great decade and I have a nostalgic relationship with that decade for many reasons mainly for Rock and Roll. The 70s were a beautiful time for Rock and Roll. It's hard not to be inspired by that decade.

The album has quite a distinctive 70s vibe and influence especially compared to your previous albums. Was that the plan for this record. To honour your musical influences from that decade.

Yeah. There's an element to my artistry and I can say I speak for Bubba as well. We just a share a love for the old-school Rock and the way it was recorded. We're not anti-modern rock. We just feel that we're both influenced and motivated by preserving an art-form. We don't want a particular style and approach to things to be lost. We're young enough to be able to contribute to today's music but old enough to know what the 60s, 70s & 80s had to offer.

We take the responsibility that we are trying to preserve what is important for today's generation. So they can get into Rock and Roll music.

This is your last contracted album for Napalm Records. Are you open to working with Napalm again. Or you looking for new challenges.

Both. I'm open to working with Napalm again. I'm open to releasing to music to new avenues. I'm very grateful that Napalm wanted to assist me in putting music out there. We don't see eye to eye on everything but that's OK. In the end we get the music out there and that's what it's all about.

There's definitely pros and cons on releasing music on your own label. Right now myself and my management will be looking at all the cards on the table and which one we want to play.

We haven't decided yet.

I've read recently you're planning on re-issuing your previous albums. Can you tell me a little more about that. What albums are you planning on re-doing.

I kind of reached a point in my career as a solo artist where I've got quite a few records under my belt. I planned to keep making records. It's about time I look back at my catalogue and see if there's some titles that might deserve to be re-released and celebrated again.

Or maybe a compilation record or a best-of record if you will.

Really. Can you tell people more about that.

Yeah. There's a couple of concepts that my manager and I are looking at. All of them revolve them celebrating the past releases. We'll see what we will come up with.

You're going on tour soon in Europe. You looking forward to that as you don't tour as much now.

I am. I'm really looking forward to the European Tour in the fall and promoting/playing the new record. The dates look good. The routing looks good. There's already some good vibes around the release.

I'm anticipating a really good tour. The band and I are excited in getting back to work, getting a set of songs together and starting rehearsing. We're excited.

Are there plans for you to do US dates in the future.

Right now, we only have a couple of dates. Looking to confirm that will kind of act as warm-up dates for the European Tour. We are looking to play Los Angeles and San Francisco. Nothing has been officially confirmed but it's in the works.

I'm sure we'll book some more American dates in 2017 to celebrate the new record as well.

Earlier this year you were involved in presenting a festival – Desert Generator. How did you become involved with that.

That was fantastic. That was an amazing experience. I got involved with that through my manager – Ryan Jones. His close friends are involved in the custom van culture. Ryan is also involved in the music business and it was a coming together of like minded cultures and people. Vans, Custom Cars and Rock & Roll.

Desert culture plays a big part and we kind of combined it all through a festival. Some friends of mine have a very cool bar/road house out in the desert where they have live music and good vibes. It was the perfect place to have a Custom Van/Rock Show. Everyone was out in the desert and out under the stars. It was amazing.

It's going to be an annual thing we are preparing to do this again in Spring 2017.

For me personally, I had a vision 25 years ago, I thought music I was involved with and finding a way to create a scene if you will. It took me about 25 years to see that vision to come to a reality. I'm a patient man and it became reality.

You had a killer line up with yourself, Red Fang and Ecstatic Vision.

The line-up was fantastic. It couldn't have been a better line-up. It really was an awesome line-up. The festival was a real hit. A lot of that success is down to Ryan (Brant's Manager), he picked the line-up and did a great job. Ryan is very intuitive. He had some good ideas. Everyone did their part. It really came off.

You said it's going to be an annual festival. Will that create more work for you personally or will you leave to management to sort out.

No, I'm happy to be involved. The United States is an entirely different machine as opposed to Europe and the UK. You've got to treat it as such. You've got to do it in it's own way. What works for Europe and UK doesn't always work in the US.

That's something I've been trying to wrap my head round for many years now. I think with Desert Generator, we are finally starting to tap into something that works for the American market. We are going to continue going with that.

Moving onto a different medium, there have been two documentaries released this year – Desert Age and Lo Sound Desert – where you featured on both movies. Have you seen both films yet and did you have an enjoyable experience being interviewed for both of them.

I did. I saw both films. I thought they were both done very well. I commend the directors of both films for committing to the subject and releasing their films. That's always respectable. I happened to enjoy Desert Age more. That's not to say I think it's a better film.

I thought there was some remarks and some things that people said in the Lo Sound Desert video that felt like heavy criticism relating to Kyuss. I know these guys very well as we grew up together in the scene. I thought some of their comments were critical, negative and unnecessary. I also felt the Director who made the film, edited the film and the way he put the film together kind of shed a negative light on Kyuss that I thought was very unnecessary.

I don't really know why people I know well would want to discredit a band that opened a lot of doors for people. I think it might be just in my opinion, good old fashioned jealousy or perhaps envious. I don't know what it really is but the thing that's really embarrassing is when it cuts to their bands, they sound very much like Kyuss.

The whole thing is a bit odd and strange to me. I don't know why the stuff was included into the film. That's the reason why I enjoy Desert Age more as it had a more appropriate storyline and it had a positive vibration throughout the film.

Does it still surprise you that Kyuss split over 20 years ago and the legacy is still growing and growing.

I'm very grateful that I got to experience things with Kyuss. It's hard to express sometimes as Kyuss was a huge part of my life as a young kid. It actually was the catalyst for setting me on a path that led to me where I am now and I'm forever grateful for that.

The fact that people still enjoy the music and celebrate it and that's awesome. I'm come to the conclusion that we as musicians, create music and we all have many reasons and motivations for pursing the art of music.

I've realised after all these years with the music that I've created and contributed that the music is not really for me. Your own music isn't for you. It's for other people. Sometimes I don't understand the music that I create or write. I don't understand why people like it or dislike it. Or even why they celebrate it on certain levels.

It can be an exhausting thing to try and wrap your head around it all. The bottom line is none of us knew what we were doing in the moment or what kind of effect would it have on ourselves and other people. We just created music.



I'm very lucky that people want what I create.

Well Brant thanks for doing this interview. All the best with the new album. It's a killer record.

Thank you so much.

Words by Steve Howe and Brant Bjork

Thanks to Mona and Andy at Napalm Records for arranging this interview. Especially Mona who re-arranged this interview as I experienced major technical difficulties with the first interview that I carried out with Brant. I want to thank Brant for taking the time out for doing both interviews with myself.

Tao Of The Devil will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via Napalm Records from Sept 30th 2016.