Friday 13 January 2017

Speaking In Tongues - An Interview With John Garcia

John Garcia is perhaps one of the most distinctive voices from the Desert/Stoner Rock era. John has had an action-packed career fronting some of the most iconic Stoner Rock bands such as Kyuss, Unida, Slo-Burn, Hermano and Vista Chino.

John is about to release his stunning new album – The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues. A very different affair to his acclaimed 2014 debut album. The new album is an Acoustic Record where the mood is very relaxed and chilled out. Very different compared to John's legendary musical output.

John has also reformed Slo-Burn for some European Festival Dates later this year. I was given the chance to interview John Garcia recently and he provided me with a very cool and honest interview which you can read below....

Hi John. Thanks for doing the interview. How are things with you today.

I'm doing OK. Just trying to keep it altogether on a Sunday morning.

So we are here to discuss the new album – The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues. Such a great record and very different to your self titled album. What can people expect from the new album.

Thank You. Too kind. One it's an acoustic record. It's quite the departure away from a full live project with Mike and Greg on bass and drums. Plus Aaron on Guitar. It's little a bit of a departure. They can expect to twist one up and sit back with your lady. Put the record on and chill. That's typically what I did when I was writing the record with Aaron.

We were in Aaron's living room in Palm Springs. It's just a chilled record.

Was it an easy decision to release an acoustic record for your next record.

First it was Steve. It was a very easy decision. Though once we got into the rehearsal room or his living room as you will, it didn't turn out easy as we thought. There's nothing to hide behind. As there's just vocals and guitar. There is some percussion in there and some bass in there. It's nothing like a full blown electric record.

Decision was easy. Doing it was another task.

Your 2014 debut album perhaps included some of your heaviest material to date. Did you want to go back to basics for the new album.

It was the original intent. When I first had the idea of doing an acoustic tour – I said to Aaron – Hey Aaron what do you think about doing this. Aaron said – Yeah, lets try it out. We went to the rehearsal room after all. The thing that got me the most was – It was a challenge. I love it when a song or project will challenge me. Almost to the point of it saying – You can't do this because it's too hard.

I love when something so emotional like these collection of songs spoke to me by saying – Hey man. You're never going to get me. You'll never be able to do this.

I thought what a challenge like Green Machine and Gardenia in a laid-back manner. My team of people working with me – Harper Hudd and Robbie Waldman who are both my producers. Steve Feldman another one of my producers. I work very closely with these guys as well as Aaron. We thought if we are going to do an acoustic record. Let's really change it up. Lets really examine these songs underneath the microscope. Make them like the originals. I think we achieved that.

I loved doing this but I also LOVED TO HATE IT. It was a really challenging record.

You've included recordings of Kyuss classics - Green Machine‘, ‘Space Cadet‘, ‘El Rodeo‘ and ‘Gardenia’ onto the album. Did you record any more Kyuss tracks.

No. That was it. There were a few of them that Aaron and I scrapped. What you hear on the record is what we strived to do. There were a couple of them that didn't make the cut. Journalist folks are asking me why your re-hashing you old songs. I told them it's a challenge and they're fun to do. I still like performing these songs to this very day.

Even though I'm 46 years old, it's still fun for me to get into an rehearsal studio and sing. All my spare time is devoted to it.

Why not use them. They're your songs. It's what your mainly known for. So why not sing them.

Agreed. I'll keep on doing that until the old ticker stops.

Though I do dig the new tracks especially Kylie, The Hollingsworth Session and Court Order. Did you write the new songs specifically for this album or did you have them lying around for a while.

Court Order was definitely was written for this record. Kylie was written for the last album. We decided to record it acoustically and it sounded better. We are going to do an electric version of Kylie soon. You may see these new songs pop-up again sometime in the future electrically. Mainly for my next record.

Where did the name “The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues” come from the new album. Any specific meaning.

There's a big meaning to that one and it's really a personal thing. Being from the desert and I hear coyotes on a nightly basis. They'll keep me up in night and the way the communicate with each other is an amazing act of real nature. I'm in awe by it. It's very fitting for a person like myself. It was just a very fitting name.

The album is being released by Napalm Records. Just like you past two records. Solo album and Vista Chino. Are you looking to continue your relationship with Napalm or you looking for new opportunities.

No. I like Napalm Records. I really love my label and they treat me really well. They always have and treat me with a lot of respect. They care. They actually care. Some bands don't have that with their label. My relationship with Napalm couldn't be better. They treat me fairly and that's all I ask.

I think we're a good match for each other. Sebastian, Thomas and Mona over at Napalm. The whole team people behind me working on this project. It's not just a job for them. It's their passion. People seem to know me as this BIG ROCK GUY but this acoustic record is a major departure from all that. It's a chance for me to broaden the audience and reach new people.

There's something to say about growth. I do want growth as this is a business. Even though I don't make millions of dollars being a musician. I still have a full time job working at an Animal Hospital. I work as a Veterinary Technician for 3 Doctors. It's still fun for me and I will still be doing it regardless even without the money. It needs to make sense. I believe artists should be compensated for their work. I'm a firm believer in that. I rarely see any money from record sales. It's all about touring and even then it's miniscule. Thought it's still fun.

Slo-Burn will be performing at Freak Valley 2017. Let me tell you I've been hounded by my friends asking more about this. Is this a one-off appearance. Will you be doing more gigs or tours in the future. Any potential future releases or is this too early to tell.

We will be doing a handful of shows in Europe. Probably 7 or 8 shows in Europe. Then we will see what happens. We're still friends and we've been talking about doing this for years. I like surprises. Not only at Freak Valley. We are also doing Hellfest and a couple of club shows as well. Everything is all set for that. Guys are already rehearsing and I will be rehearsing soon.

It's taking years in the making for this to happen. We're going to have some fun. That's the main reason behind the reunion. We want to have some fun and share the stage with each other again.

The whole response has surprised me since we announced the news.

Obviously your mostly associated with Kyuss. Unida, Slo-Burn, Hermano amongst others. What's the latest involvement with Unida and Hermano.

I'm very content with the direction I'm going in now. My main focus is my solo career. These little one-off shows are just things to keep me busy and relax with a bunch of good guys to play some music.

Photo Credit by: Richard Sibbald

Looking back over your incredible career over the last 28 years or so. Has it surprised you the journey your music career has taken you upon.

Yes. Absolutely. What a journey it's been. It's been a lot of ups and downs. Though mainly ups. I'm very lucky to be even talking to you about music. I appreciate that. People can still buy records and see there's this great band by the this dude called Josh and he's got these Desert Sessions.

Nick started this and that. Brant was in Fu Manchu and started that other new band. I started Slo-Burn. I love the history of it all and the desert as I'm still residing here. I'm still able to create new music with other Desert based musicians. I'm very lucky and it's something I don't take for granted.

Talking to you over the phone discussing this stuff blows my mind. I appreciate it.

What's your verdict of the current Desert/Stoner Rock scene. Do you follow bands who say their inspired by your work.

I don't listen to a lot of new music. I search if someone recommends something to me. I very rarely find something new that I enjoy. I'm listening to a lot of Jazz at the moment. A lot of Coltrane. It's relaxing to me. I get a lot of that stuff when I'm on the road and even when I'm in my own car. I still listen to “Oldies” Radio Stations. The majority of my life recently I've been listening to 60's Rat-Pack music. Frank Sinatra and that sort of thing.

I will then go from Jazz to something a bit more modern. I'm listening to Gnarls Barkley with Cee-Lo Green. The first record is called Saint Elsewhere. I still listen to that album and it's amazing. It goes from Jazz to other elements.

There have been two documentaries released this year. Desert Age and Lo Sound Desert. I was surprised you weren't involved in any of those films. Were you asked to be apart of those films.

Yeah I was. To be quite honest with you. I think the whole Desert Scene is over-hyped. This is my point of view as still as a musician who lives in the desert and who never left the desert. I'm still here. I think the Desert Rock scene got a little bit overhyped. Partially the fault is the people who reside here. I think it got a lot of overhyped. If you want to write about a music scene then you should probably visit Seattle and talk about that music scene.

As the music scene down here was really guys out of sheer boredom and wanting to play music. Mainly to find the means to do it. There were no clubs here. So what do you do. Any necessity to do it. Necessity is the mother of all inventions. It was a necessity for us to play the music. We had to. We found a place to play. Why did it become so famous and legendary due to these generator parties. People saying how mystical it was. It was a house party.

People have these all the time. If it happens to be in South London or Nebraska. People are going to find a place to play music. It happens all the time. I don't know why this scene got more blown up than the other scenes. It was partially down to musicians based here. Kyuss mainly. These were just high-school parties. They're exactly no different to other high-school parties. Absolutely no difference at all. The only exception they were played in the middle of the desert. People are always going to find a way to play music. It got blown out of proportion.

I just think these writers and producers didn't want to hear that. They wanted to keep it legendary. They wanted people to say how awesome and mystical it was. They want people to say how cool it was. You know what Steve, I don't want to be FUCKING COOL!!!

I don't want to be any of that. I'm a father, a husband and I bust my ass for my family. I bust my ass to play music. People get over-excited about making a name for themselves and for the Desert Rock scene. I'm passionate about what I called my DESERT. Letting it be is totally fine by me.

My final question is – Does it surprise you that people still hold Kyuss in such high regard. Even 20 plus years since you guys split up.

Yes. It does. I'll always be known as the singer from Kyuss. I'll always appreciate that. People are passing Cassettes, CD's and MP3's of Kyuss from one generation to the next. They will say have you heard this and put on Green Machine. People say – Who the hell is this band. That's the reason why the music is still alive. People pass the music back to one another. They continue to share music. I really appreciate it. As it keeps my career going.

I'm a realist. I'll give credit where credit is due. Kyuss is a big part of my career. I appreciate people are still buying records and still listening to the music. It keeps my career going. I don't take this for granted at all.

Thanks for doing this interview John. Been a real honour talking to you. Best of luck with the album. It's a great record.

Thanks very much and I appreciate your kind words. So thanks again.

Words by Steve Howe and John Garcia.

Thanks to John for doing this interview. Thanks to Andy and Mona at Napalm Records for arranging this interview. The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues will be available to buy on CD/DD/Vinyl via Napalm Records from Jan 27th 2017.