Anton Newcombe Only Really Cares About Making Art
The Brian Jonestown Massacre has always lived up to its comical-gruesome name. Once, frontman Anton Newcombe and former guitarist Matt Hollywood got into a row involving a hammer and a knife. And, in a notorious scene from the 2004 documentary Dig!, the entire, sprawling ensemble detonates into an onstage brawl. In the immortal words of Newcombe: “You broke my sitar, motherfucker!”
All this turmoil would sink a lesser band, but it’s only stoked Newcombe’s creative fires. Tomorrow (March 15), the long-running psychedelic rock band is set to release their new, self-titled album; not only their fifth album in four years, but their 18th in all.
It’s the latest off-ramp on a seriously bumpy road. Since their 1990 formation, the Brian Jonestown Massacre has refracted classic rock — not only in their Beatles and Stones-baiting album titles like Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? or His Satanic Majesties’ Second Request, but in their genre unorthodoxy and membership upheaval.
Their Wikipedia page cites enough ex-members to start several bands; when it comes to his own, Newcombe perpetually seems to be at square one. “I would like a great drummer,” he tells TIDAL with a hint of shade. “Who tries, who has soul.”
He’s not just being fickle; Newcombe is a man of his own uncompromising vision. By cycling through band members like socks and cramming rock, punk, folk, psychedelia and shoegaze in the same drawer, the Brian Jonestown Massacre remains one of rock’s vital acts. And their lean, consolidative self-titled album only continues their legacy.
Read on for an interview with Anton Newcombe about world conflicts, creation as godliness and his accelerating pace of output in 2019.
You’re on such a prolific roll right now. Is artistic creation like any other workaday profession?
I believe I am a reflection of the Great Creator. Keep it shiny. Work as play. I like to burn people that have no real ideas or hollow ideas backed by the power of the all-thingy. Most of all, I like to share.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre sounds like a fusion of all of your styles over the years. When did you first feel like you had found your own voice — not just the sum of your influences?
I have been told that any true artist is a combination of five things that they loved and then their own voice or desire to create. I am interested in the suspension of disbelief. Conceptual art. I seek to create something that soothes my soul, yet at the same time doesn’t capture it.
I love the magic mirror and the mystery machine. Nobody needs to know how shitty I have felt or how in love I might have been.
My hope, my dreams… all they need is the space to interact and find out if it it means anything to them. I am interested in the full spectrum of human emotion, and that can be touched on in the music or the words or both.
Ultimately, it is not for us to decide who should judge us as a genius or asshole. I just do what I do because I enjoy doing it.
‘My Mind is Filled with Stuff’ is a great title. Do you view your mind as a computer system or as more of a sponge?
I see my mind as many things. I think faster than I can perceive. I just do. It doesn’t always work out best, but I can live with me… other people, not so much.
You’ve been working with a much more shifting lineup than you did back in the days of Methodrone or Thank God For Mental Illness. How did you arrive at this particular group of players?
I am working on just being, just showing up, shutting up and playing my music. I have no other goals than to present the music and and entertaining people. I don’t want to lead a protest or be president. I don’t even care about money.
I would, however, like a great drummer — who tries, who has soul.
Which aspect of agreed-upon, consensus reality do you question every day?
Can we just agree to have pity on a poor widow’s son?
Do you feel like the Western world can have a rosy future?
To be honest, I see major conflicts between the things that need to be done and how to do them. Morality versus dogma.
What do you think happens to the ‘self’ after death?
Time is not linear. Whatever happens, happened.
Do you have any grudges you’ve never let go of?
It’s complex. OK, let’s say fuck the system because of piss-poor leadership, fuck the Illuminati because they are awkward and arrogant. Let’s say fuck war because they’re just fucking around endlessly and we know they can settle a score, be it atomic, biological or whatever, however. ‘Round and ‘round we go. No vision.
Oh, except now it looks like the fascists have a plan, and it’s calling anyone who reacts a fascist. No, I don’t hold grudges. I am an artist. I create art.
(Photo credit: Bradley Garner)
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