Interview: The Brian Jonestown Massacre

Interview: Floyd Ferris
Thursday 01 June 2006
reading time: min, words

We had a chat with Anton Newcombe of The BJTM about the real reasons he's in the band...

What’s happening for BJM at the mo? You’re no longer on Bomp records?
Well, I never really was on Bomp, I just licensed the tracks out, like a hiphop arrangement. I used to work with Greg Shaw (manager, seen in Dig!).
I was sorry to hear that he died recently…
He was important because he was unique. Everybody passes on, but I miss his uniqueness, he never really gave up being enthusiastic about bands. He definitely got it!

You were associated with him for a long time...
Yeah, my older sister used to buy records off him and then I started buying psyche records and new wave and punk stuff
What is the Committee to Keep Music Evil?
Basically I called our label Tentacle Records and some guy started a folk label with the same name. Because it was folk music I didn’t feel like saying ‘well I’ve already been doing this for ten years and putting records out everywhere’. I just let it go because I felt bad. I just wanted to do something no one else had thought of. I also like being tricky like the CIA. When the CIA wanted to kill Third World children, they set up a company called Hunger Projects International
On the Tomorrows Heroes Today sleeve, there’s a quote ‘So young, so brave, so totally right on from the fucking get-go, why did we waste our time on you?’ Is that a committee 
No, it’s more the record. You see the record is called and this is our music and at the time I really hated stuff like ‘Hi, we are the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and we sound like this, we are the White Stripes and we have these mismatched clothes on, Hi we’re Interpol and we’re always this black.’
You didn’t sing much on And This Is Our Music. Was there a reason for that?
It was because people go ’he’s an asshole, he’s mental, he fucked my girlfriend’ or whatever they want to say and that has nothing to do with the music. It was something like ‘you can say all of those things but I’m just sat behind the mixing desk, enjoying my music. I built this band out of a bar, now what?’ When I write I might make seventeen songs at a time and never play them to anybody and then just whip them out on an acoustic guitar years later. It might have been something that I made up to entertain myself. What I do is based more on art and theory. It’s not a career…

I get that from the music, listening to the BJM albums. It’s not your persona is it? It’s a collection of work, a long project?
It’s definitely a collected work, sometimes I’ll look at the whole thing. As a playlist taken out of context, people don’t get it.
Your songs can be inaccessible in isolation…
People use music for different things, it’s the same with painting. It could be in the Louvre or just lumped in with a bunch of other things, there are lots of different ways of presenting things, and they have different impacts. The grand cathedrals used to make these grand statement about being bigger than life. Catholic and Anglican churches are different, but it was like ‘Blow the peasants minds’.
Catholicism is fucking psychedelic man, sinister and psychedelic…
Yeah and thank God! It would be a boring bunch of shit without that, wouldn’t it?
Are cults and followings interesting to you?
I like understanding the process of how people build little worlds to protect themselves, like with neurotics or whatever. With the news and this war what Blair and Jack Straw say is different to what the person in the street or BBC producers think. They’re different perspectives of the same event. I’m into people being individuals as much as they can be. I know how to get very specific reactions to things. We play music in the house before we play a gig and I just wind people up. They don’t even know, it’s just with stuff that I’m playing. 

Is it constructive?
Well yeah. There is an element of the prankster and troublemaker. If you know that someone is going to let loose at a certain point, that’s interesting. A perfect example is when The Warlocks were playing with the Sisters of Mercy recently and Andrew Eldritch (lead singer) has this thing where he hates his fans, he hates Goth people. He plays the most godawful commercial reggae backstage at his show. You can see how he’s built up the image with sunglasses and clothes and it’s like a prison. So many people do that…
You mentioned the war…
Yeah but let me clarify one thing, I’d rather discuss my own country. I don’t want to get too deep and I have good reason for this.

Every American artist I have seen play recently has apologised during their show.
I’m not going to apologise. But I think people at least should be informed. It’s impossible to use a cellphone on an aircraft! When these guys open their mouths the price of oil goes up. It’s not just one company or country. Its like grandmothers are affected by this. I think people are overwhelmed. It’s easier to ignore it or give up or paint a different picture and that’s why people write all this crap. I don’t know, but you have to let people draw their own conclusions…
You’ve been to Nottingham before with Black Rebel Motorcycle Club…
Yeah, I loved Nottingham, particularly the twisted old parts. The venue was so hard to find. I had a blast walking around. Everyone was on parade.

It’s sunny here and you still get goths in full dress.
So dedicated…
Okay, a few quick questions to finish off. JD Salinger or Charles Bukowski?
Batman or Superman?
Superman, I guess. (doesn’t sound remotely arsed).
Lou Reed or Pete Doherty?
I’m gonna support Pete Doherty right now.
Robin Hood or Jesse James?
(Emphatically) Jesse James!


We have a favour to ask

LeftLion is Nottingham’s meeting point for information about what’s going on in our city, from the established organisations to the grassroots. We want to keep what we do free to all to access, but increasingly we are relying on revenue from our readers to continue. Can you spare a few quid each month to support us?

Support LeftLion

Please note, we migrated all recently used accounts to the new site, but you will need to request a password reset

Sign in using

Or using your

Forgot password?

Register an account

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.

Forgotten your password?

Reset your password?

Password must be at least 8 characters long, have 1 uppercase, 1 lowercase, 1 number and 1 special character.