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17 Sep 2018

A Collective Mindset: Before Touring Europe to Celebrate His New Album, Brant Bjork Is Playing Pappy's

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Brant Bjork. Brant Bjork. Karl Hahn

When Brant Bjork left Kyuss in 1994, he didn’t stay idle for long.

He had stints in bands including De-con and Fu Manchu, before releasing his first solo album, Jalamanta, in 1999—which featured him moving away from the drum set and becoming a frontman/guitarist.

Today, he continues to kick ass and take names. He’ll be playing at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace on Friday, Oct. 12—one of five American tour dates before heading to Europe.

On Sept. 14, Bjork released his 13th solo album, Mankind Woman.

“I think it sounds like a solid and respectable 13th effort,” Bjork said during a recent phone interview. “I worked closely with my guitar player and good friend, Bubba DuPree. I asked him to produce the record and went into it just hands-off. I just wanted to flow down the river. He and I collaborated on writing and performed all the tracks. I just really wanted to collaborate, and I really missed and enjoyed working with someone. Bubba and I started to work together on the last record, Tao of the Devil, and I really enjoyed it.”

Bjork and DuPree played all of the instruments on Mankind Woman.

“We moved quick on this record, meaning we jumped into the creative process,” he said. “We had come to a really good place with a record deal with Heavy Psych Sounds Records out of Italy, and we really liked the deal, and it came together so fast that we were able to say, ‘Why don’t we get a record out this year and get it to coincide with our European run?’ We were excited, and we were very much inspired. But having to move like that, Bubba and I decided to just take care of the instruments ourselves. My bass player, Dave Dinsmore, and my drummer, Ryan Gut, they live outside of the area. Dave lives in Berlin, Germany, and Gut lives up north in Shasta, Calif. As much as I love my rhythm section and would have loved to incorporate them in this recording, it didn’t make a lot of logistical sense. Creatively speaking, I was pretty excited to just play the drums to a lot of the guitar parts that Bubba was coming up with.”

If you keep up with Kyuss culture—including the Facebook group Kyuss World—you know there are Kyuss fans all around the world, many of whom are feverish for anything and everything all of the members have done before and after Kyuss. Some have even traveled here to explore where the desert-rock genre started.

“I think Europeans have more of an appreciation for things that leave a lasting effect on the individual—on the collective, on the mindset, and the culture. In the United States, it’s a ‘me me, here here, now now,’ kind of instant gratification,” Bjork said. “… That’s not to say that there aren’t some American fans who are really into my music and rock in general, but it’s just not as celebrated among the masses as it is in Europe. I’ve been waiting for people to dive into that historical situation, because it’s been going on for years. I’d like for someone to write a book about it. It also goes back to jazz artists like Miles Davis and Louis Armstrong. Miles Davis was a god in Europe, and when he came home, he was playing in the same clubs in Manhattan. They always say you never profit in your own land.”

Bjork did a DJ set at Pappy and Harriet’s following Sean Wheeler’s recent performance there, and the combination of music that night was fascinating. I brought that up and asked Bjork what artists or records inspired him as a kid.

“The Ramones. I think it’s just a combination of my age and where I was at in relation to my environment,” he said. “My parents were older and weren’t hippies. They were more into first-wave rock ’n’ roll, and my mom really liked the Stones, and my dad really liked Ray Charles. There were those early Rolling Stones, Fats Domino, Ray Charles and Chuck Berry records. I loved that stuff. Most of the kids in the neighborhood were listening to KISS, and I really liked KISS, but I had a hard time wrapping my head around the makeup and blowing fire. It was classic ’70s heavy rock and didn’t have the buzz of the early Stones stuff. But when I heard the Ramones, it was the perfect band that combined all of it. They had an image, and they were cooler than KISS; they were animated and cartoonish, but exaggerated in all of the right ways, and the music was KISS and the Stones, only at 45 RPM—moving quick. The Ramones was made for a kid like me, and the contemporaries of the Ramones in the ’70s knew what they were trying to do, and they appreciated it as contemporary artists. They were for the kids like me who didn’t get the Stones or the Beatles. I was perfectly in time for the Ramones and I ate it up and collected all their records. It was my first concert, and they were the band that really turned me on.”

While Bjork is a fantastic guitarist and frontman, he said he still loves playing the drums.

“That will always be a joy for me, and playing drums for a live audience is a rush,” he said. “But sometimes it depends on the music and the situation. I like to play the drums if I’m playing with a group of musicians or a style of music that inspires me to play the drums. Not to state the obvious, but that’s always how it works for me. The thing with the guitar and the singing—that was a challenge for me, and it was something I never planned on doing. But … my solo career is just me sharing my story, and it’s hard to do from the drums.”

Earlier this year, Bjork went back to the old days of the generator parties and threw what he called “Stoned and Dusted,” a modern day generator party … with some modifications.

“We just solidified our date for next year this week, actually,” he said. “It’s a great time, and it’s a work in progress, but the concept is what it was back in the past: the desert environment and rock bands. We have it organized, and we want to bring people from all over the world and have them enjoy the natural environment with some good rock music, good food, some smoke and some drinks. We eliminated the riff-raff element that was largely the reason why the original generator party movement came to a stop.”

Brant Bjork will perform with Nebula at 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 12, at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53668 Pioneertown Road, in Pioneertown. Tickets are $18 to $20. For more tickets or more information, call 760-365-5956, or visit www.pappyandharriets.com.

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