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INTERVIEW Brant Bjork Vista Chino





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For many years people had to live without Kyuss after the band disbanded way back in 1995, something which was hard to do if you are a big fan of this legendary stoner rock band. Sure we got some great stuff out of it with Queens Of The Stone Age and Unida amongst others but there is something to be said about Kyuss that is hard to top. When the band reunited in 2010 for a special tour under the Kyuss Lives! name which they had to use due to legal battles with the original name, fans around the world rejoiced. Only this time it was a bigger beast. The mystery and legend of the band only grew bigger and bigger over the years which ultimately forced the band to continue where they left off which is where Vista Chino comes in, the new name the band plays under and which their first album "Peace" is about to be released with. I spoke to founding member and drummer Brant Bjork to discuss the new album as well as the Kyuss legend.



Andrew: Hi hows it going?



Brant: Hey good, hows it going with you?



Andrew: Yeah good thanks! Are you guys on tour at the moment?



Brant: No we toured Europe about 2 weeks and returned from Europe so we are at home at the moment and we should be leaving here in another 2 weeks to start touring North America. Looking forward to that but we're just chillin' right now.



Andrew: OK cool. Well first off it's great to see you and John (Garcia, vocalist) back together again and putting out new music with Vista Chino. With the end of Kyuss now behind you it must feel great to have Vista Chino rolling out with the new album now.



Brant: It feels fantastic man, it really does! It was a pretty painful road to get here but it was worth it. We lost the name but that was the price to pay given the situation with John and the rest of the guys making this work but that was a small price to pay. We're really glad to be where we're at and we can't wait to get out there and perform the new music and continue to play some Kyuss classics. We love the new record, we are proud of it.



Andrew: I've been hearing the new album, previews of the songs and it sounds really good. Would you consider this album to be a continuation of where Kyuss left off or a step in a different direction?



Brant: It's kind of hard to articulate, with emotions relating to Kyuss for myself and I think I speak for John as well. In 2010 John asked me to get Nick (Olivieri, bass) and put Kyuss back together and that's what we did and here we are. So this has always been an adventure even from day one where we wanted to create fresh music and put out a new record so that's just an organic process. Because returning to and coming back together has been a process as well. Nobody including ourselves expected this but it just felt right. Obviously with the exception of the lawsuit, everything has been one hell of a fantastic experience, we are really satisfied musically. Right now, it is a new direction of course. I don't see how you could not move in a new direction. We are just guys who have a lot of history behind us, a lot of love for each other and our music and when we get together, sparks fly and it obviously did and it's flying in all kinds of directions so we're really excited.



Andrew: So the new album "Peace", the album title and the cover, can you tell us a bit about how they tie in together and what it's about?



Brant: The artwork was created by 2 people that I know out in the desert who have an art collection that's based on it and they're local artists from the Coachella Valley Desert. They just create some of my favorite art, we all love their artwork, John and myself. It represents folkart from where we are from, it kind of resresents the desert and the energy and the vibe and the power of where we come from. For us it was exciting to ask them to get involved and do the artwork for the new record and they were equally as excited to work with us as well. That was a great experience and then working on giving the record a title, there wasn't really a whole lot of thought really going into it, it just kinda went into an intense structural experience on the outside, it was suggested why don't we just give it a name, pick a word or a name that you can kind of meditate on in years to come and just know that we made it through this situation and we can rest well knowing we got through it and we still get to do what we love which is play music so "Peace" was just a perfect meditative word for us to wrap our own experience of it.



Andrew: Yeah the name makes sense especially after all that you guys have been through with all the legal battles. What about the name Vista Chino, where does that name come from?



Brant: Vista Chino was, incidentally at the beginning was a working title we had for what would have been the new Kyuss record. And then when we went through what we've been obviously we had to let go of the name, we just kinda moved the working title of the record over to the name of the band. The name Vista Chino is just a name of a street in the desert where we are from and when you're naming a band you just gotta know it's going to be something you'll hear for a long time. We just wanted a name that when you hear it, it provide us with a certain feel and a certain meaning and that feeling when we hear Vista Chino, it just reminds us of our roots. The street doesn't have any definitive or literal meaning to us other than it's just a landmark, it provides us with a comforting vibe.



Andrew: It's certaintly a memorable name, something that people will not forget. The other thing I wanted to ask you was Mike Dean from COC (Corrosion Of Conformity) is also touring with you guys on bass and does a guest spot on the album, how did that come about?



Brant: After Nick dropped his tracks on the record, we were prepared to go to Australia and Nick got himself into some personal situations so he just wasn't able to go with us so at that particular moment I was really fustrated with the bass players in my life so I really just went you know what? I'm just gonna call around and pick the right guy and that was Mike Dean. I've known Mike for years and he is just a rad dude, I called him up and he's been rocking with us ever since. Fantastic musicianship, he's one of the coolest guys I have ever known and worked with, a pleasure to work with him. When he came out to the desert to start learning the set days before we were due to come out to Australia, I had a particular song that I hadn't dropped the goods on yet and I said 'Hey Mike I'd love for you to be on this record' and he said 'Shit I'd love to be on it too', so we just rolled some takes.



Andrew: I'm a big fan of Mike Dean as well so it was a big surprise when you guys came down for Soundwave and I was like 'holy crap that's Mike Dean from COC!' Is he still touring with you guys?



Brant: He is man, at the moment it's a great situation. How things are working out perfectly, this last tour in Europe the band has never performed on that level before, we are really killing it. Of course Mike is busy, he's got Corrosion Of Conformity, that band is his so we just want to make sure that everything is cool and doesn't jive and for the moment everything is working out. Mike is committed to touring with VC until the end of the year and early next year and Australia so right now everything is smooth man.



Andrew: So you do have plans to come down to Australia then?



Brant: Yeah of course man, we will be releasing the record down there and we should be coming down there I believe, I don't know for sure but I would say probably early next year.



Andrew: OK cool. So you played your first show under the Vista Chino name at the Orion Music Festival with Metallica, how was that?



Brant: That was great man! That was a lot of fun. That literally came about because we were down doing Soundwave and the last performance we did there in Perth, Lars and James and Robert and the guys came out and watched our set and they've always supported us and we've always been grateful for that. Lars himself told me about the Orion fest and he said it would be great if you guys could be on it and it actually all worked out. We are very grateful for that and very proud of it, that was our very first tour we launched with this and it's great.



Andrew: How many songs are you playeg off the new album and are they mixing well with the old Kyuss stuff?



Brant: Over the years we were very excited to play new material. We didn't know quite what to do if we should take baby steps or just let it all hang out cause obviously the record isn't out yet. We just started taking things out, we ended up playing all of side 1 literally every night which is about 5 songs. We have confidence in our playing but I gotta be honest, we were really surprised how well they took to the new material knowing that they hadn't heard it before. Audiences generally respond slowly when they are unfamiliar with new material and that's perfectly normal and expected but they really responded in a way that wow this is exciting! It gave us a lot of good feeling about where we are at right now and the material just shifted the Kyuss material like it felt immediately together, it just flows perfectly and I don't see any reason why it wouldn't. Kindred spirit in the songs and the vibe, the spirit and the vibe is what it's all about for me, it's all there man.



Andrew: Yeah I definitely hear a lot of the old Kyuss sound in there. With the legacy of Kyuss are you surprised that the popularity of the band grew so much after the band originally disbanded?



Brant: Well certaintly in the music business and music industry, there's mystery and there's always people's curiosity and then there's curiosity that people line up to see what it's all about. Kyuss was an experience then, we came from the middle of nowhere, Kyuss was a mystery then! It really was, we were tripping out on it as much as anybody else, we never thought in a million years that we would have left the desert and went on to do what we do. It wasn't roses the whole time but it was real and I'm just grateful that we got to make records. The band went up and down as fast as it did but the records is what really did it because the records stuck around and the generations to come got a hold of them and we just made our music the way we made our music and it's stood the test of time and I think that's what helped generate an ongoing interest in the band and then the strength of the band coming and going so fast and getting familiar with that. If you wrap that all up it's a pretty interesting thing and they are still rolling with it man, the're still active and contributing and we are really inspired by all that.



Andrew: Do you feel that this is a whole new era for the band and that it will continue for quite a long time?



Brant: I think so. I have a tremendous amount of love for Kyuss, I have my own very intimate relationship with the band. A lot of who I am as a person and who I am as a musician is because of growing up with Kyuss. When John called me in 2010 and said 'hey man let's get the band back together again, let's get Nick and do it' I didn't think twice, I said this is perfect. I didn't expect it but I think I was so keen on it and so stoked because I wasn't expecting it, it really just happened and it was a knee jerk situation where we were just responding to so many years of people just saying 'hey man we love this, we need this, we want this' and John, Nick and I are the kind of guys that are just...we can't deny when someone asks us for something haha! We put it together, it was amazing and so this is still an ongoing adventure for us, where we are at right now is a great place, it's awesome and it's even better than I would of expected and that seems to be this whole experience from the get-go. I mean minus the lawsuit it's been an amazing experience and to get to the heart of your question, I smell longevity attached to this.



Andrew: Well that's good to hear. I know a lot of fans missed Kyuss during the years that you weren't around so it's really good to see you guys back again and the new album sounds good. Just one more question, If you could pick the recording of any classic album in history where you could be a fly on the wall for, what album would that be?



Brant: Oh man I would have loved to have been there in London when they were cutting "Are You Experienced" - Jimi Hendrix man. That's my favorite record of all time.



Andrew: Good choice! Thanks again for the interview and as I said, it's good to see you guys back again and hope to see you in Australia sometime next year.



Brant: You can count on it bud!






By Andrew Schizodeluxe 24th August 2013




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