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Stereboard Talks To Anton Newcombe Of Brian Jonestown Massacre

Monday, 17 March 2014 Written by Graeme Marsh

Anton Newcombe, mastermind behind psychedelic revivalists the Brian Jonestown Massacre, is currently enjoying one of the busiest years of his life.

Having recently completed an Australian tour, the band are now limbering up for a huge European trek to coincide with the release of a new album, ‘Revelation’, in May.

Now residing in Berlin, Newcombe is now a far cry from his younger self, as an often troubled past has been replaced by a family-oriented present. Stereoboard managed to muscle in on the busy man’s schedule to discuss the new album and tour, his legendary ability to play just about any instrument he sets his mind to and weird song titles.

So, how was Australia?

Australia was fantastic. You know, last time we took the Raveonettes with us and played big places and it was full, but this time we played even bigger places and it was full without them, so it was nice to know how things are going. I love those guys by the way.

You posted a full album demo of ‘Revelation’ on YouTube a while ago and you also have a busy Twitter account – how vital do you think it is for an artist to embrace social media?

I'm not sure, but since it's out there I use it. Look, nobody knows what the perfect level of interaction is going to be for an artist like me to build on the body of work in this changing music market, because we are kind of unique in many ways. We’re still around because we did it our own way. Other people's groups break up when the label or the publisher or whoever decides that 20,000 albums sold isn't worth paying for buses and hotels and rentals and per diems for x amount of guys.

Being known as a perfectionist, particularly on stage, have you accumulated a lot of demos over the years? Do any of these ideas ever get revisited?

I view the music, the demos and the recordings as conceptual art and I am really flexible and pretty free about leaving it unfinished and sharing that on album. However, I get uptight when we play live because I view that as performance art and I want it to be good, and for the listener to go, "wow, that was interesting, and different than the 10 other groups trying to be like those guys”.

The demo kicks off with Vad hände med dem – “whatever happened to them” in Swedish. What does this mean in the context of the song?

It’s like the Strokes…whatever happened to them? I kind of feel that about every single thing the media tells me I’m supposed to care about, every buzz band and chart topper.

The guitars in Demo Number 12 and Days, Weeks and Moths is the classic Brian Jonestown Massacre sound – how do you obtain that brilliant, distinctive tone?

Thank you! Well, I have guitars and amps, obviously, and I just approach everything the same way over and over, switching around from style to style and try to push myself a little as I circle back around to any style I may have visited before.

Memory Mix sounds like a perfect gig intro, like Panic In Babylon was when you toured ‘Aufheben’. What can fans expect from the setlist on the upcoming tour?

I think we'll add three of the songs from the new album. I like Memory Mix as a song,  it’s going to be on the album, but I don't think we're playing any disco on this trip. I get kind of shy asking my band to step up to the plate to learn some really interesting things…one of these days.

It’s just very hard because people live all over the world, so even to get us all together to learn the parts means I have to fly them some place and put everyone up in a hotel. Then there's the equipment and without cases that wouldn't work, which leaves me doing what everyone else does and that's use a laptop. And I don't care if every band does it, I don't care if you think it’s fantastic that MBV and Panda Bear are singing along to backing tracks.

I like something about playing with some people and just making that noise old school. And I love Panda Bear and MBV. Just saying, when we played Glastonbury it was everybody except Leonard Cohen and us playing to their backing tapes or lip syncing and it’s stupid.

What’s the band line-up going to be for the tour?

It’ll be Dan (Allaire) on drums, Collin (Hegna) on bass, Matt (Hollywood) and Frankie (Emerson) on guitar, Ricky (Maymi) on guitar noise, Rob (Campanella) on keyboards, Mellotron and organ, Joel (Gion) being Joel, and me.

Possibly the weirdest song title I've ever seen is Bring Me The Head Of Paul McCartney On Heather Mills' Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs On The White House), from My Bloody Underground. Where did this come from and what does it mean?

When poor Paul was going through all that muck and it was plastered all over the press, beyond the yearly avalanche of Beatles marketing overload, I was like ‘enough’. In a drunken stupor I kind of tried to piss my friends (ex-friends) in Liverpool off. I was recording in Echo And The Bunnymen’s space. I just felt like going for it and doing something so outrageously stupid that no-one would take it seriously and at the same time, it would be real and exist forever, just like the Beatles.

You're known for being able to play over 80 different instruments.

The first was piano and I found it easy. I'm about to teach myself Ableton Live, it's sort of a DJ recording type platform I figure will come in handy with soundtracks. Most things are easy if you have an idea of what you want to hear from it, like how a Hammond organ player sounds on Green Onions. It makes it easier to teach yourself to play in that style.

After the tour finishes, you'll be working on a soundtrack, which is something you've wanted to do for some time isn't it? What's the film about?

The film is called Moon Dogs, they're currently shooting it and I start my bit in August. This is something I've wanted to be a part of for years and I'm looking forward to working with the filmmakers to get it where they feel it works best. Visually, I think it’s going to be epic. From what I gather, it’s about two brothers from Scotland that love the same gal.

One moved away, the other stayed in the home town, or something, and plays music. They take a trip to this Scottish island where they do the mad Viking festival, where they burn the ship…I don't know, maybe I've got some of this wrong. I'm doing the bloody soundtrack not the screenplay!

Brian Jonestown Massacre UK & Ireland Tour Dates are as follows

Sat June 28 2014 - BRIGHTON Concorde 2
Tue July 01 2014 - LONDON The Roundhouse
Wed July 02 2014 - NORWICH Norwich Waterfront
Thu July 03 2014 - BRISTOL Anson Rooms
Fri July 04 2014 - NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms
Sat July 05 2014 - GLASGOW O2 ABC Glasgow
Sun July 06 2014 - NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE Think Tank at Riverside
Mon July 07 2014 - BIRMINGHAM O2 Academy Birmingham
Wed July 09 2014 - DUBLIN Academy 2
Thu July 10 2014 - MANCHESTER HMV Ritz
Fri July 11 2014 - LEEDS The Cockpit
Sat July 12 2014 - LIVERPOOL East Village Arts Club

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