Side Stage Magazine: Thank you for taking the time to speak. Tao Of The Devil is out now. Correct me if I am wrong, the new album has a different feel compared to Black Power Flower. This record seems more laid back, not as intense. What that the intention this time?
Brant Bjork: Well, I’ve made a lot of records and every record I make I go in with a specific intention. Part of that intention is to not be fully committed to the intention. Every record naturally sounds different and every record naturally represents the particular vibration that I happen to be in at the time that I begin and complete the creating process. For example, Black Power Flower was a moment in time where I was feeling a certain something and the sonics of that record and the nature of that record kind of reflect that. Then I get it off my chest and then we build up something new and then it just … It’s always just the celebration of being able to be creative.
What was the writing process like this time around?
Making a record is like writing a book or doing a painting or making a movie or anything creative in arts. There is no desire for me to repeat any particular process. I kind of feel like I’m starting at zero every time and that’s what really excites me. Because I’m like, “Okay, oh, you know, awesome.” It’s not this mundane, systematic thing. It’s like I have all the ability. What’s the most exciting element of being an artist is freedom. With every record I get the opportunity to take advantage of that.
One of the songs that I really like off this record is “The Green Heen.” To me it sounds like something on where on Saturday night when you want to hear music, that’s the perfect song because it has this blues element to and this laid back vibe. Could you tell me a little bit more about that song?
Yes. I was doing some shows in Europe a couple of years ago and I was feeling a little blue this one particular day. We were playing with Saint Vitus and I went and saw Saint Vitus and they really cheered me up.
Really? Because Saint Vitus are more on gloom and doom side.
Yes, but there is something really beautiful about them. They reminded me to just have fun and be pure and I’ve always felt this, even though I’m not really … Obviously I’m not an artist that is really tapped into the doom and gloom thing, but I’ve always … I do come from southern California where it seemed like I kind of grew up with their presence. It just kind of reminded me like, “Yeah, you know, like have fun man.” I went back to my hotel room that night and wrote that song.
Well, I was going to ask you this later, but since you brought up Saint Vitus. I’ve been noticing this big resurgence in the Stoner Doom world The Obsessed, are back on tour and have released a new album. Sleep are touring as well. How do you feel about this resurgence?
Well, like I said, I was never much into the slow doomy stuff. That was never really my trip, but I appreciate it for what it is and that it’s … I’m always excited that anything that’s on the street level is starting to get exercise and be celebrated again. I love Black Sabbath, I grew up with Black Sabbath. I took a little something different from Black Sabbath, but I do love the dark heavy stuff too. It’s fun. You mentioned the key word there though. The thing about doom to me is like, I always take the less European elements of doom and I’m more into the American blues of it, which you kind of nailed it, hit the nail on the head with Green. It’s a very American record that we made. I love British music and I love the British 70s greats, but there is something that you said for being an American artist and I want to project the Americana of our jazz and blues root for sure.
Everything is derived from the blues anyway.
Yes, for sure.
You just played a show in Maryland. How did it go ?
It was good.It was fun. It was exciting and we were very grateful to be able to share the stage with Pentagram and all these great bands and the crowd was very positive, everyone had fun. Fun is the name of the game.
You performed in Europe and you toured all over the States. What you do you perceive is the difference between playing for crowds overseas and in the states.
There is a big difference. There is a big difference with European audiences and American audiences. A lot of that has to do with just the nature of those cultures. The social, political structures, the economic structures. It all plays a factor.
Being European, I can say we are much more guarded. It’s not uncommon for us to just stand around, enjoy the music, whereas here it’s like everyone kind of wants to jump around, start a mosh pit.
Yes, yes. America is an intense country. We are intense people and yes, it’s a different thing for sure.
You being an multi-instrumentalist, I can’t imagine how it must be like when you write and keeping track of things. Thinking of a riff, a lyric, a vocal part, and drum part, perhaps all at the same time.
Well, all I really … I’ve always thought of myself as an artist first and a musician second. I’m self-taught, I don’t even read music, I don’t even know my notes or anything really. For me, I’m just a … What I’m really trying to do is project and communicate a feel. It’s all a feeling. The instrument is almost irrelevant because it just might happen to be the tool at that particular time that I have to express a feel. I think every great band is the accumulation of a collective of musicians that are committed or subconsciously unable to do anything other than project a collective feel like whether it’s the Beatles, or the Stones where the feeling is so … That’s all it is for me. If I’ve got a guitar, I’ll try to communicate that feeling from the guitar. I got drums, I’ll try to do it from there.
What is a personal preference? Like if you had to choose an instrument or just sing?
Well, the beauty of the guitar is that it’s mobile. A big art of the reason why I would move to guitar is because I couldn’t put my drums anywhere. I just started playing my guitar on the couch. I like the guitar because I can work with melodies and paint colors and it’s just a very beautiful instrument. The drums are just very primal and fun.
How is a Brant Bjork solo project different from The Brant Bjork and The Low Desert Punks which is a band effort. When you are writing and you are letting somebody else kind of contribute to the ideas, do you ever get this thought “ I would have played this part differently.” Or do you just let the process take its natural course.
Well, it’s all about a collective effort. If it’s me by myself making a record where I play all the tracks, that’s an entirely different creative endeavor. I’ve rewarded myself the ability as a solo artist to create and put myself back in the band situation, which is where I always wanted to be. I had no intentions of being a solo artist. It’s kind of rad because now I can kind of deliberately put myself back in a collaborative effort. George Clinton said something one time I remembered he said, “Just because you can play all the instruments, doesn’t mean you should.” Then also I don’t want to project my reaction or my action onto other musicians. I choose musicians because of the way they play things. I want them to play their style. Every band has a collective direction, but they are all individually able to celebrate that journey.
What is one lesson that you learned after so many years of playing music?
I think the lesson that I’ve learned is you get what you give. You get what you give. You put it out there and it comes back and just if you don’t take for granted the joy of being able to be an artiste and have fun.
Play from the heart.
Yes. Honesty, integrity and authenticity. These are the things that make the ride super enjoyable. It’s about communication. I’ve learned it’s about communicating with other people and that’s what art is. It’s about communicating those things that are just really difficult to communicate. Feelings, you know? That’s what I’ve learned. I learned that, what I knew when I was 13, I never learned anything more. It’s all I needed to know.
I read in past interviews that you usually release an album, then go on tour. Then depending on how much time you have you back into writing mode again and go on tour. Have you started writing music for future releases?
We’ve already began writing for the next record. We just finished mixing a live record we recorded last November in Berlin. That’s going to be delivered in the next week or two. That will come out probably in the fall. Some of these are first live up here. It’s awesome. Sounds great. Then we’ll release the new record probably the summer of ’18 I think.
I know you mentioned that you are kind of in there, even though you don’t consider yourself stoner and doom I guess. . What I’ve noticed by going to shows in this genre as a fan, the audience keeps getting younger. I’m 33 and I’m just discovering this kind of music. How does it make you feel when perform and you see these younger crowd at your shows?
That’s great. That’s what it’s all about. 90% of the music that moves me, I wasn’t even born yet. It’s just like music is timeless, just like any good art. I think it’s exciting. I think in life we always have the conditioned concept, an idea that something better lies further out there. Sometimes it’s not the case. Sometimes really good stuff is happening right in the moment or has already happened and it’s exciting to go back. I’m historically minded, so I like to go back and check stuff out. I was that kid that was going to see the Ramones when I was 14, and I was the young kid in the crowd in the 80s and stuff. The Ramones, they were a 70s band so yes, I understand this is great.
The bands that influenced you when you just started playing music, are they still an influence to you?
Of course. The Ramones, Kiss, Beatles, Black Sabbath. They are still … Stones, they are still my favorite bands. What could be better than that?
What are you currently listening to?
I always like to listen to Kiss. They always make me feel good, and the Stones. I listen a lot of Stones.
Anything current perhaps?
Not really. I just like the way old shit sounds, but I know there is a lot of great new stuff out there. It’s like time management. I don’t have much time. There is only so much time in a day to listen to music. It’s like, I’m the same with movies. If I have a moment to watch half of a movie, generally I’m going to go back to a classic.
Finally, what is your advice to up and coming musicians?
Well, my advice is the advice that I put upon myself and it’s ironically enough something that I’ve heard Duke Ellington say years ago, which was, “Don’t have plan B.” Don’t have an exit. Just go. Do it and never stop. That’s all I do. It’s like I just never stop. I’m just a kid who liked skateboarding and rock and roll and I just never stopped.
When you like rock and roll and heavy music, when you get older I don’t think it’s something that’s not a part of your life anymore, and it’s not something that is easy to let go off. They say “ rock and roll is forever.” Unless a person conforms as they get older, I don’t think you ever lose it.
No. The whole Stoner thing, I think something that a lot of people might not … Anyway this is my opinion. The way I look at it is, it is a lifestyle. It’s my life, it’s my lifestyle. It’s all it is. It’s a sound, it’s a feel, it’s a vibe, it’s a philosophy, it’s a look, it’s an attitude and it’s anything indeed, and it’s fun.
Thank you so much for your time it was a pleasure getting a chance to meet you. I hope the show goes well tonight and safe travels to you.