Following a successful European stint with his Garcia Plays Kyuss outfit that found him bringing former drummer Brant Bjork and former bassist Nick Oliveri on stage at the Hellfest in Clisson, France, ex-Kyuss frontman John Garcia decided he wasn’t done. Not done with music, not done with Kyuss, not done with touring, and not done making albums.
The result is Kyuss Lives!, a three-quarters reunion of the lineup that produced Kyuss 1992 breakthrough Blues For The Red Sun. Absent from the mix is guitarist Josh Homme, who went on to form Queens Of The Stone Age, but under the revival moniker, Garcia, Bjork, Oliveri and guitarist Bruno Fevery (of the Belgian band Arsenal and also Garcia Plays Kyuss) have gone on to enjoy massive success touring Europe. This month, they bring the show Stateside for the first time.
Kyuss is a band that inspired passion mostly after the fact. Their influence in underground rock is measured in the amount of people who’ve adopted their riff-based approach and the sandy atmospheres of their home in the Californian desert. I spoke to Garcia about this and other topics over the phone, and as he enjoyed his morning coffee, he revealed that not only is this tour huge for the band, but that the four-piece have started writing material for a new album, to materialize next year.
We join the interview already in progress…
John Garcia: …Having a little bit of morning coffee and trying to wake up. It was a bit of a late night last night with the band, but all is good.
You’re doing rehearsals?
It’s pretty much pre-production for the next record has already started and we’re just trying to get all of our ducks in a row and whatnot.
Wow. That seems really quick. Do you have new material already, or is pre-production writing it?
Yeah, it’s more pre-production writing it, sitting in the room and bouncing ideas back and forth, talking about tones and drum sounds, guitars, whether it be sitars or 12-string baritones or whatever it may be. We’re kind of ironing out all the logistics of it all. It’s an exciting time.
I’d imagine so, but probably quite tiring by the time you get home.
Very. I’ve got two kids. One of them’s eight and the other will be two at the end of this month. Daddy doesn’t get to sleep in, you know what I mean (laughs)? So it’s interesting. But again, it’s great to be back in that room with Brant. He’s just an amazing songwriter. Absolutely amazing. It’s just an absolute pleasure being in the guy’s presence. I’ve always had respect for that guy, and it’s great to be in there with this new group of guys that we’ve got. It’s good. It’s real good.
Is Brant taking the lead role in writing the music?
One thing for certain is it’s everybody’s responsibility to come to the table with something. This is a group thing, and Brant expects that. Brant expects that out of everybody. Whoever brings something to the table, music-wise, he needs to put his 25 percent in there, I need to put my 25 percent in there, and Bruno does, so we all have to. Nick does. So it’s definitely a planned thing, where the song deserves everybody’s input. That’s the good thing about it. It’s not just one person, it’s the whole band thing, whether it be writing lyrics—Brant’s gonna come to the table with melodies, I’m gonna come to the table with music. There’s switched roles, and I look forward to that. It’s definitely a group project, though.
Do you have any new songs ready to go? Do you have some idea as to an overall direction of the material?
You know, we have to keep the standard. Kyuss have a standard, and sometimes songs made it on vinyl and sometimes they didn’t. We want to go beyond that. We want to take Wretch, Blues, Sky, Circus, compress them, and supersede those records and pick up where we left off.
Now, obviously, a huge, integral part of Kyuss is not there, and it’s going amazingly well without Josh. Now, a lot of people think that there’s—a lot of people want there to be a lot of animosity between Josh and Kyuss Lives! The flipside of the coin is that there’s no animosity. We all love and respect Josh, and it goes both ways, so it’s very, very interesting, how the process is going.
We’ve only just begun, and you know, again, we want to take it to the next step. I think there’s a lot more that this band can offer than just those four records, and I think we’re equal to the task.
Any chance you’ll be introducing some new material on the North American tour?
I don’t see that happening. One of the big things that we’ve talked about was letting the cat out of the bag, and how we want to—especially in this day and age, shit gets leaked and it’s not like another Led Zeppelin record, where they’d keep it under tight wraps—but it’s something that’s special to us and it’s gotta be presented, and it’s gotta be listened to in the correct manner sonically.
Has it been hard for you to transition back into touring life?
Absolutely. You need the support of your wife, and that’s key, and you need the support of your kids, and it’s gotta make sense. It has to make sense in every shape and form. Do we knock ‘em back a little bit and do we have a couple pops—as Brant puts it—before we go on stage? Absolutely. I gotta watch myself.
I gotta be careful too. I don’t want to fall back into that, “I don’t give a fuck—woo hoo!” like I was back in the day. Not to be talking about myself in the third person, but there’s two Garcias these days. There’s the old guy, who I want to beat the shit out of, slap him around and say, “Wise up,” and then there’s me now. I just turned 41 about five days ago, and… 41, trying to make a little bit of a comeback, you’re fuckin’ risking it, John. You’re pushing it. Don’t praise the bread before it’s baked, type of thing. You gotta ease into it and be careful and it has to make sense in all aspects: Financially, time-wise.
But I’ll tell you what, it’s great being able to wake up and spend more time with my family, that I’m here, and I’ll look at Wendy and go, “Do you want to go back to the vet clinic?” and she looks to me, because she’s full-time mom now, and she goes, “No, I kind of like this.”
The only time it’s hard is being on the road, but that’s why Skype’s there. That’s what FaceTime is there for. That’s what phones are there for. We Skype all the time. We have to. It’s a lifestyle change, and family.
Again, we’re all family men. That’s good. Brant has a beautiful son. Bruno has two wonderful girls. I’ve got a boy and a girl. Nicky’s free and clear, but three quarters of the band, we’re family guys, so we know that’s important. It’s gotta make sense. And so far, so good.
So the plan is to tour basically into December. Will you write on the road, or save that for when you’re off tour?
We’ll probably do some writing on the road. We’ll probably do some closed soundchecks and that type of stuff, and on the bus. But the downtime. In between the two U.S. legs, we’ve got a month, and that’s gonna be the next session, coming in. We’re all on the same page, and we’ve got our schedules going.
Brant likes to move pretty quick, and so far, so good on that. Without rushing it and forcing it—you can’t force this stuff—but when he sits down… we’re jamming out. We were jamming out these last three days, and it’s been rad.
You’ll tour more in 2012 behind a new record.
Yeah. We’re going to continue working, but our main plight is getting this record done. We’d like to have it out before summer, but I don’t think that’s gonna happen, because there’s gotta be planning and everybody’s gotta be on the same page, and the way things work right now, if you drop a record and you don’t do it right, you’re fucked. So we want to make sure we take the time.
As of right now, it’s looking like the end of summer, possibly fall, but we’ll see how things go. We don’t want to force it too, and if it takes a little bit longer, it takes a little bit longer. I don’t foresee that happening, but that’s the immediate plan, anyway.
Kyuss Lives! hit the Trocadero in Philadelphia on Sept. 21 and Terminal 5 in Manhattan on Sept. 23. More info at kyusslives.com.