Taking On The Demon Cleaner: An Interview With John Garcia Of Kyuss

Glen Mcleod finds John Garcia in combative form as they discuss the past, present and future of Kyuss

There are many ways to conduct an interview – all with their pros and cons, and all with varying degrees of effectiveness depending on the subject. Face to face is usually the best method; the interaction can add gravity to a piece, with the subtleties witnessed sketching out a more complete picture than words alone could. Email interviews can work well, too. The space and time to compose complete answers which most accurately portray an artists’ vision is a luxury which can yield interesting (if perhaps a little too preconceived) results. The phone interview sits somewhere in the middle. It offers a level of personal interaction, whilst also having the potential of misinterpretation forced by the distance between you. Logistics often dictate the use of this method, and for the most part it’s the next best thing to being in the same room as someone. And so I find myself down the phone line to John Garcia, the vocalist with the genre defining Kyuss, who’s now heading his new project Kyuss Lives!. He is one of the people responsible for what has become lazily classified as stoner rock, but surely he won’t live up to the stereotype this genre name would suggest?

After a couple of unanswered calls he picks up, sounding confused. After telling him we have an interview scheduled, and what day it is, he takes a couple of minutes to get himself together. I half expected this kind of start to the interview, but what I hadn’t expected was the paranoia, mood shifts and eventual hostility which was to follow.

Hailing from Palm Desert in California, Kyuss seemed to let their surroundings filter into their sound. Early on they would play outdoor shows in the desert hooked up to petrol powered generators (which became known as generator parties), and listening to their records did seem to stir images of handfuls of red sand pulsing atop fuzz-emitting amplifiers. The Kyuss sound really was the sum of all of its parts; the original line up of John Garcia, Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork each wove their distinct elements into the fabric: Garcia’s high-ranged holler sat somewhere between singing and yelping, and contrasted nicely against Oliveri’s jittery basslines. Bjork’s cymbal clatter would go on to define the genre’s drum sound, and Homme’s downtuned bass-heavy guitar (which he achieved in part by playing through a bass amp) added a psychedelic veneer. The band put out four records, with lineup changes during their seven years of existence, but the core of the band – Garcia and Homme – remained throughout. So it was something of a shock when it was announced late last year that the band were reforming without the latter.

To conduct an interview with Garcia on this reincarnation of Kyuss would naturally lead to a discussion of Homme, their history and his role (or lack thereof) in this new project. He brought up the topic himself early in the interview and bemoaned that journalists have tried to play up the demise in their relationship, when the opposite was the case; the final Kyuss release was a split EP with Queens of the Stone Age and this, to my mind at least, was the most amicable way to go out. It was as if the band understood that Homme wanted to move in a new direction, and gave their seal of approval.

So, my questions on the band’s demise and the subsequent rise of QOTSA were coming from this perspective – curious as to how it must have been for Garcia to see Homme take this sound which he had played a hand in creating, combine it with a pop sensibility and serve it up to the mainstream to great acclaim. He interpreted these questions as antagonistic, and cut off the interview before its natural end. Afterwards, attempts were made to re-schedule a new interview to set things straight, but these were refused. His forthcoming solo album – of which he tells me promoting it is the only reason for the Kyuss Lives! project – is, somewhat aptly, titled Garcia Vs Garcia. Is John Garcia his own worst enemy?

Hi John, it’s Glen from the Quietus

John Garcia: Hi. Do we have something setup today?

Yes, we’re going to do an interview…

JG: Oh. Is today the 20th?

It is indeed.

JG: Oh ok… How you doing, man?

Good – how about yourself?

JG: Good – hanging in there.

What have you been up to?

JG: Getting my stuff together for Australia and Europe, and just doing daily business stuff.

Have you guys been rehearsing much?

JG: Actually, we rehearsed a couple of months ago and everything went great, man. Everything went nice and smooth. It sounded so good that me, Brant, Nick and Bruno decided that we are going to do another record, so I’m very, very excited about that.

And you’re called ‘Kyuss Lives!’ now?

JG: Yeah, for this specific project that we are doing, and why we are doing this tour – it’s called Kyuss Lives!.

Do you see this as the next phase of the Kyuss project, or as something different altogether?

JG: I see it different altogether really. I mean obviously, it’s different without Josh. You can’t really call it straight Kyuss without Josh – that’s just a given – so it’s different altogether. It’s the next phase.

It’s interesting, actually…

JG: Yeah. I mean, a lot of journalists and a lot of people want there to be a lot of demise in our relationship – me and Josh and whatever – and actually, it’s not. I love Josh and I love his guitar playing; I think he’s a great singer and songwriter. I have nothing bad to say about Mr Homme. I respect him. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Josh, and it just wasn’t in the cards to have him do this.

So when you broke up in the first place, was it because you all wanted to do different things at the time?

JG: No, not really. Josh and I sat down in a bar and we decided to break up – break up our relationship. It was time, you know? It was time for Josh to move on, it was time for me to move on. But within five minutes of the conversation we were already toasting about times, so it was good. But again, a lot of people think… a lot of journalists want to hear bullshit. [They] want to hear nothing but fucking shit was talked between me and Josh, when again it’s the complete and total opposite. It’s a bit refreshing to not constantly get pounded and hounded about my relationship with Josh, who is a friend of mine.

So is there a reason why you decided to reform the band again now?

JG: Yes. It’s to help promote my solo record Garcia Vs Garcia.

Oh, OK.

JG: That’s the only reason why.

And you’ve just started rehearsing, and it’s just felt so right and everyone has been enjoying it?

JG: Yeah, everybody’s got their thing. I mean, we’re not running into the studio to record another record right away. I’ve got to release Garcia Vs Garcia, I’ve got to tour it, I’ve got to work it – I’ve got to work. And Brant just got done recording his record; he just got signed with Napalm over in Europe. He is, I think, close to being done with his record so when the stars align and we all have time to sit down and talk about this and start writing a little bit more… It’s something that we’ve all decided to do, so hopefully we will all stay alive and healthy enough to pull it off. We will see.

Sounds good. So Kyuss at the time… I guess like other bands such as The Velvet Underground or The Pixies, you had a sound that perhaps people didn’t quite get because it was something new or something different, but it seems to have been something that has influenced a lot of people and become part of the musical ether now. What did you think about all the bands that came after you and had a similar sound?

JG: I was flattered that people were trying to mirror the sound – I’ve never been in that position before. And I totally respect those guys – and if we influenced them to want to sit down and mirror our sound, or try to be a part of the Kyuss chain gang, then fucking hell, man, more power to you. I absolutely am flattered, and honoured, and stoked. It’s good to be in a position where people would want to emulate the sound and vibe and feel of the band that I was playing in. So yeah, I was honoured.

And I guess it must be nice now – you’re going to be playing to bigger audiences, more people kind of get it and I guess you have just become more popular as time has gone on…

JG: I think that’s par for the course, really. If anything breaks up, or if an album goes out of print, it automatically becomes a little bit more valuable. Just look at The Who – when they broke up, fuck, it was a sad day in history. And then they get back together for a few shows and it’s like, fucking boom! I think anything that breaks up automatically… sometimes it gains more value and sometimes it doesn’t. It could be a bottle of wine. We don’t make that wine anymore – this is the last case of this year, so it’s a lot more valuable. So it’s par for the course.

So obviously you don’t want to go back to the whole Josh Homme thing too much, but for me, I was a fan of you guys and then Queens of the Stone Age, and I was kind of amazed at how big they became. I remember going into a record store to buy Rated R and the kid who sold it to me from behind the counter was like, ‘This is my generation’s Nevermind‘. He was so blown away by it. It must have been weird because I guess you kind of passed the baton onto them with the split – and then they just became one of the biggest bands in the world. So it must have been interesting watching that?

JG: Well, I’m very proud of Josh – I think he definitely made a departure. He went from that whole Kyuss guitar sound to making his own mark. That’s something that’s difficult to do for anybody, and how well he did it and how simply he did it. A lot of people try and get too bitching with guitars and all that shit, when in reality to try to stay simple is very difficult. And Josh waves the flag for all of us here in the desert, and he waves it high and he waves it proud. So to see that amount of huge success not only all over the world, but here in North America… it was leaps and bounds for everybody behind Josh, and everybody was super supportive including me.

And let me make one thing straight: I’m probably one of Josh’s biggest fans so how did I feel about his success? How did I feel about Josh waving the flag super high for all of us underachievers here in the desert, for lack of better word? Fuck… I mean, what do you want me to say? I mean really, what the fuck do you want me to say? You want me to say… is this another journalist fuckin question gone bad? Do you want me to say that me, Brant, Nick and everybody is jealous of QOTSA?

No, not at all. It just must have been…

JG: What else did you want me to say? It’s another fucking journalist question gone bad, thinking that there is some sort of animosity. That you’re fucking poking around thinking that I’m going to start talking shit about Josh – don’t fucking do that to me!

Honestly – it wasn’t coming from that place. I was just trying to…

JG: Well, what the fuck did you want me to say?

I mean you pretty much answered…

JG: What did you want me to say, besides that I’m fucking proud of my brother? You wanted me to say something else!


JG: Just face it. You know what? Interview’s done. Fuck you.

Kyuss lives will play the following live shows:

March 31 Rock City, Nottingham

April 1 Wulfrun Hall, Wolverhampton

April 2 The Forum, London

April 4 O2 ABC, Glasgow

April 5 Academy, Manchester

April 6 O2 Academy, Bristol

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