Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Q&A with Kyuss' John Garcia; Kyuss Lives! in Asheville Sunday

Influential hard rock band Kyuss’ early to mid`90s run was short-lived, but its legend lived on helping spawn the underground yet fairly fervent “stoner” or “desert” rock genre (desert for the area of Southern California that it called home and which provided a fitting back drop for Kyuss’ thick riffs and moody grooves). Considered pioneers of the genre, its members went on to play with underground bands like Hermano, Slo Burn, Mondo Generator, and solo projects although guitarist Josh Homme seems to have risen highest from Kyuss’ ashes founding Queens of the Stone Age, Eagles of Death Metal, and Them Crooked Vultures. There’s long been demand from fans, especially those too young to witness its original run, to reunite which made the announcement earlier this year that three fourths of the lineup – bassist Nick Oliveri, drummer Brant Bjork, and vocalist John Garcia (with guitarist Bruno Fevery, as pictured in order) - would reunite for a tour, so sweet. Dubbed Kyuss Lives!, the tour, which features Bruno Fevery on guitar, hits Asheville’s Orange Peel Sunday, September 25. (7 p.m. $23-$25. Tickets available at

Garcia, who returned to music a few years ago with Garcia v. Garcia (and in turn a live project called “Garcia Plays Kyuss”) after working as a veterinary technician, spoke to me earlier this month from his home in the Palm Desert before launching the North American leg of the Kyuss Lives! Tour.

What sparked the reunion?

I guess you could say the beginning of it was a completely unintentional thing where Nick Oliveri’s Mondo Generator and Brant Bjork and me playing Garcia Plays Kyuss wound up playing Hellfest in Toussaint, France. We had all stayed buddies and we were all very respectful and never any bad blood between us and it made sense for us to get up and do a few songs with three fourths of the original band. I was doing Garcia Plays Kyuss to help promote my solo record. I’d been out of the mix for a while. Brant was still doing it. Nick was still doing it and Josh and (another former Kyuss bassist who has also played with Kyuss Lives!) Scott Reeder. I was busy at the vet clinic where both my wife and I worked.

What made it different playing Kyuss songs with these guys?

The comparison between Garcia Plays Kyuss and Nick and Brant getting up there was like night and day. To get those feelings back? It was very emotional. That was the real deal again. To do that again with these guys was a bold move especially with Josh not being there. We wanted to celebrate our past and revisit some of these tunes. It was special to us, something I look forward to especially us playing in the states.

Was there some feeling that you never got to experience the spoils of your success since Kyuss got more popular after the split?

Totally. We tour now off of four records that were released 15 to 20 years ago and I’m thinking where the hell was everybody when we were together? The type of music we were writing was the music we were missing in our lives (that we wrote) to fill a void in our gut and that music has stood the test of time.

Was there a point that you started to notice Kyuss’ influence on bands that came after?

I’m very honored when guitar players and bands and singers say “Dude, ‘Blues For the Red Sun’ influenced what I’m doing in my band right now.” I did start noticing that as Kyuss continued to grow. I think that started happening toward the end of “Sky Valley” and “Circus Leaves Town” type of period.

Was there any hesitation about reuniting without Josh?

No, because I knew he would say no. It’s setting yourself up for immediate failure and an immediate no. Josh is always looking forward, never backward. People want there to be animosity between us and it’s the opposite. We just ran into him in France and hung out backstage. He’s got Queens and Crooked Vultures. He just had another baby boy. He’s doing his thing.

The fans seem just as excited about the reunion.

I’m a huge fan of Josh and he’s had mad success and I’m certainly glad he’s out there waving the flag at the front of the pack. It’s a good relationship we have. It’s on mutual terms. I think on the fipside of that if you don’t know who Bruno Fevery is, you’ll know who he is after one of these shows.

What kind of expectations did you have for the reunion?

I never expected to have it go this far when Brant would come up on stage with us for Garcia Plays Kyuss. To try to mirror that again for 22 shows - and it was originally suppose to be for only 22 shows -what a great feeling for me. It turned out to be much more than that.

Where do things stand now?

We’re on track to do another record. That’s why I’m up in Joshua Tree at Brant’s recording studio. The past three days we’ve been hanging out and writing and taking it easy and just not forcing it at all. If we’re going to do it we have to do it right. We don’t want to screw up what Kyuss created. Kyuss had a standard and we’re going to stick to it. We have a lot more to offer than just four records. It’s been a little bit of experimentation with Bruno. All of our projects have been put on the backburner and this is first and foremost our main thing. It’s exciting times.

How is touring different now?

When (my wife and I) made the decision, with both the kids (an 8-year-old daughter and 2-year-old son) it’s tough when daddy’s gone. She’s my right hand and without that final ok this never would have happened. We’re all family men. Brant has a son, Bruno has two beautiful daughters. Scotty’s family is his animals. We’re all animal people too. (The key is) to tour smarter and not harder, to be able to keep in touch. With the iPhone or iPad or PC it’s not as hard to see each other and talk to your kids on a daily basis. It’s not a party. We knock `em back before the show, but we still have a job to do.

People can change a lot in fifteen years. Are you pretty much the same people you were when the band ended?

I certainly am a different person. If I could go back and talk to that kid I’d slap him around and say, “John, wise up.” That guy didn’t appreciate what he had. I’m certainly glad I’ve wised up. There couldn’t have been a better thing to happen to that kid than Kyuss breaking up. You talk about a piece of humble pie. I thank the big man upstairs for allowing me to swallow that humble pie. You’re not a singer in a rock band anymore. It’s not something I take for granted. I’ve known Brant since he was 14 and he’s 38. I just turned 41 a couple days ago. I think Josh, Nick and Scott and Brant have always had that high level of integrity as well as Bruno.

What can you tell me about Bruno?

I’ve known Bruno now for five years. He and I played in his band called Arsenal. The thing about Bruno is there was a long line of guitar players chomping at the bit to do this. They didn’t have Bruno’s demeanor and attitudee, character and kindness and overall disposition. That was the key piece in getting this thing together. You will know him after this record.

Scott Reeder has filled in for Nick on part of the tour. Who will be at the Asheville show?

As of right now Nick is going to be doing this next US leg. Nick has some legal problems. Let’s not beat around the bush. Right now what Nick needs is the band’s support. That’s what we’re going to give him. It’s an interesting time and we’re going to get through it.

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