The Big Interview: Anton Newcombe

Anton Newcombe, Brian Jonestown Massacre

With one foot on stage ahead of a show in Dublin and with a Liverpool show this coming Saturday, The Brian Jonestown Massacre’s frontman Anton Newcombe talks to Joseph Viney about his affinity for the city, his fans and being the stuff of legend…

The Brian Jonestown Massacre chose their name well. The portmanteau perfectly captures the spirit of what has made Anton Newcombe and his band of sometimes-merry-men so well thought of, enduring and forever on the edge of something or other.

We all know of Brian Jones, but the reference to Jim Jones, his Peoples Temple and the mass suicide-cum-murder instigated by the somewhat askew religious leader and his people can sometimes go under the radar.

The latter part of the name signifies a cult-like devotion, a willingness to do battle without question and self-made philosophies that skirt hundreds of other topics. In short, if you like your music and its people boring then it’s time to take your leave.

BJM’s latest record, the fittingly-titled Revelation, is exactly that. From the paradise island-invoking brass of opener Vad Hande Med Dem?, the sweet, lazy drawl of What You Isn’t and the electronic-tinged punch of Duck and Cover it’s a record that already stands as one of the year’s best.

“You can expect to see a great band that can fire out good songs one after another for two hours. This is the stuff of legends”

Newcombe, the band’s leader and general roustabout, is a man on a mission. Having reunited with long-serving colleagues Joel Gion and Matt Hollywood a few years back, Newcombe and BJM haven’t looked back since. A steady stream of excellent records has been supported by tour after tour. Furthermore, Newcombe has picked up quite the following on Twitter thanks to wilfully weird and at times acerbic views on life, the universe and everything.

Life within the confines of BJM appears very happy right now. “The tour has been fantastic,” enthuses Anton. “We’re all getting along and getting better and selling out shows across the board.

“You can expect to see a great band that can fire out good songs one after another for two hours. This is the stuff of legends.”

Stuff of legends perhaps, but Newcombe is not against keeping the rest of the band on their toes. When asked if he’ll be playing even newer or more experimental work — not featured on Revelation — during any of their live sets, he states that “’new’ for the band can be any one of the hundred songs we’ve never played live.”

But for an artist and a group already in possession of such a storied career, what else can be done? What other heights can be scaled? It seems the secret is not in perfectionism, or constantly grinding the millstone until there’s no flesh on your fingers.

Indeed, the secret appears to lie within chance, a good hunch and that classic but unquantifiable edict: ‘know your audience’.

Newcombe’s testing grounds are YouTube and Twitter. Keener fans can keep up demos and re-workings almost to the minute as they are uploaded, spoken about and potentially taken away again for another look. It’s the process of organic trial and error played against a backdrop of social media and the world’s most popular websites. Like their name, it’s a fitting mix.

“For this album I learned that I could just plop some songs down as is and they would be well received because the time is right, I guess”, explains Anton.

“I would rather just show up and level the place”

But it’s not a method that will lend itself to success every time. Asked about what such processes teach him, or whether he still has anything to learn after such a long time in the game, Anton is typically guarded yet open; ever the contrarian!

“The unknown is the unknown, so I plan to see whatever I shall see, but I’m not going to speculate” he says. “Although I have yet to do a recording with say… Nigel Godrich… and make it perfect.”

The Brian Jonestown Massacre return to Liverpool this Saturday at East Village Arts Club. It’s been a long time coming, and the SOLD OUT stamped across the posters across the city is testament to that.

Newcombe has something of a history with Liverpool. Having recorded half of 2008’s My Bloody Underground LP here, Newcombe acquired the usual bug a lot of people seem to get for this old place, particularly for the music devotees among us.

So how does it feel to be back? It seems a little of both worlds. Love and destruction; that could almost be BJM’s modus operandi.

“I’m looking forward to it. I can’t tell you how much” he says, before adding the both sinister and yet exciting afterthought: “I would rather just show up and level the place.”

It’s ‘levelling the place’ that got Newcombe and BJM where they are today, for better or worse. It’s the uncompromising sounds, the fights, the love, the disappearances and reappearances. It’s all of that and more.

Let’s leave you with the last few, hurried words before a hasty exeunt:

“I think people should speak freely and put any and everything into proper perspective and show people for what they are.

“Well, I’ll talk about all that in another interview sometime, Right now I got a show to do, man.”

As we said, it’s fitting.

Joseph Viney

Brian Jonestown Massacre’s European Tour ends at East Village Arts Club, Liverpool this Saturday 12 July 2014 — see full tour here

Stream the new album Revelation in full here

Posted on 10/07/2014 by thedoublenegative