Shot last night at Club Nokia, LA. Great show!
Shot in Los Angeles, November 19th 2010, the second day of rehearsals.
If you listen with the right ears and the right heart, then maybe you’ll hear a distant rumble out in the California desert. Could be thunder, the winter nights are closing in, dark by 4.20 in the afternoon, and bitterly, bitterly cold. There are ghosts out here among the husks of campfires, spent bullets and white power graffiti: you’ll pass signs for Whitewater and, if you can find it, one that reads Welcome To Sky Valley. That one’s been stolen a few times and photographed many more.
It was here, in the late 1980’s that Kyuss was born, first as Katzenjammer, then Sons Of Kyuss and eventually Kyuss, and with them the birth of stoner rock, spawning a thousand bands, a whole sub-genre of rock n roll. They played generator parties in the desert, now the stuff of legend, lawless, loud and often hostile, honing a sound that grew heavier to fill the desert void.
With their second album, in 1992, the masterpiece that is Blues For The Red Sun, Kyuss established themselves as one of the greatest bands on the planet. You can read their history online, there isn’t space here: what is important is the in 2010, in a tiny rehearsal space in downtown Los Angeles, three of the four members from the Blues For The Red Sun lineup, (vocalist John Garcia, bassist Nick Oliveri and drummer Brant Bjork) are getting their licks together again, friends again. The band split up in late ‘95, all going off to other great projects, guitarist Josh Homme forming Queens Of The Stoneage, and it was always thought that, despite a Facebook paged dedicated to their return, they’d never be back. Until now.
The planets began aligning early this year at Hellfest in France when all three band members happened to be playing the same festival and Garcia was playing Kyuss tunes.
“Dude,” grins Oliveri, “there was grown men on the side of the stage, me being one of them, watching Garcia plays Kyuss and crying. You’d never think, like the singer of Weedeater is a big tough guy from down South, and when certain songs came on he hugged me, all crying and shit. There were some people who were really stoked to see John do that and I was singing along too, man. It was like holy shit! There’s all these kids that are really excited about it because they never got to see it the first time. I closed my eyes and it was like “it doesn’t matter as long as John’s singing. It’s not Van Hagan, the voice is up there!” I’m like, “dude, I want in on that.”
Inevitably Nick and Brant joined John on stage and, inevitably, the place went nuts. Surely they must have known that people were, to put it bluntly, gagging for it.
“Yeah,” smiles Brant. “It’s hard not to notice that people have been getting into the band with every year, and there’s a whole new generation of kids getting into it. So there has been some demand for the band on a cult level.”
That’s putting it mildly. The London show sold out in something like four hours, bigger than the last venue Kyuss ever played in the city (the much missed Astoria 2). All those thousands of fans who claim to have been at their debut Borderline show can finally get to see them for real. Well, it’s probably as close as they’ll ever get given that Josh Homme won’t be present.
“I didn’t ask Josh,” says Garcia. “By no means do I want anybody to think there’s any animosity towards Josh. I love Josh, he’s an amazing songwriter, amazing singer and he’s very intelligent. But I’m 99.9 percent sure that he would say no. He’s a busy guy and it would almost be an insult. He’s got Queens and Them Crooked Vultures and I don’t think he wants to go back. What we’re doing here is celebrating some of the great music we’ve played in the past and breathing some new life into it.”
It’s only day two of rehearsals but already the likes of Thumb and 100 Degrees make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. Oliveri’s right, just close your eyes. New guitarist Bruno Fevery, quietly spoken, when he speaks at all, is a Kyuss fan of old, even setting up generator parties in his native Belgium. He admits to feeling the weight of filling Homme’s considerable boots, but at ease with this line up.
“Bruno’s an unbelievable guitar player,” says Garcia, “and you never really see him coming until he gets on stage and gives you a right hook. We’re extremely lucky to have him on board.”
So Kyuss Lives, starting right here in this tiny rehearsal space, lit by old christmas lights and the cold grey sky through an open window. Oliveri is learning Scott Reeder’s bass parts (“that’s some job security shit he’s got there!”), likewise with Bjork learning the beats of later drummer Alfredo Hernandez. But it’s coming together fast and sounding fucking incredible, vice-tight, yet with that unspoken groove of improvisation .
“To me right now these songs are new!” says Oliveri. “It’s like going out and playing a bunch of new records. It’s been years and to a kid coming to see it these are all new songs. For me it’s like, “I remember that song! That’s fucking awesome!” To fall in love with it again is new. I have mad respect for Scott Reeder and the stuff that Kyuss did with me and without me, so there’s a certain amount of being yourself, but at the same time there’s a respect for what was recorded. If you stray too far away from that then people will be like, ”that’s wasn’t Kyuss”.
“A lot of kids discovered Kyuss through the recordings and the recording are great,” agrees Brant, “but if a musician is confined to a very specific space, playing live, then it can hinder you. We did a lot of jamming and improvising as a band so that’s only natural.”
So a new album then?
“For Kyuss?” says John, sounding surprised by the question. He’s ostensibly doing this for fun and to promote the oh so long awaited Garcia Vs Garcia solo album. “I don’t think that’s gonna happen. The only person that’s really gonna be able to say “let’s do another Kyuss record” is Josh, and the chances of that are slim to none. With all due respect I’m not holding my breath. The reason for this is to celebrate some music and hang out with old friends. By no means am I gonna be riding on the coattails of Kyuss for the rest of my career, but will I always be known as the singer from Kyuss? Absolutely. But there’s gotta be some departure. I got my fix here and there with Unida and the Crystal Method or The Arsenal Project, but it was never enough for me. I’ve spent the past eight years doing veterinary medicine, but I have to get this monkey off my back otherwise I’ll always wonder what would’ve happened.“
“Nick and John and I have been playing music ever since Kyuss and if anything we’ve earned the right to go back and celebrate one of our first bands,” nods Brant. “But you know what? I think a new record would be bad ass. It has crossed my mind. With all due respect to Bruno, I agree with John, but I think this unit right here would come up with a goddamn good record.”
Fifteen years after their demise Kyuss’ following is stronger than ever. Kids of then kids are getting into the band (“I haven’t played for kids since I was a kid,” laughs Oliveri) and the older fans never went away. The band have grown up and had time to look back at their legacy.
“I think stoner rock is very cool,” says Brant. “There’s probably a lot people who thought the term punk rock was bad, but stoner rock pretty much authentically represents what we all were and what we were doing back then. We were kind of politically incorrect. The Seattle scene was happening and was more pretentious and politically conscious, whereas bands like Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu and Kyuss were just young kids wanting to rock. It was very simple. But that’s the key word: we were kids. The first time we played LA we were all shitfaced thinking we’d made it! A lot of people ask me about Kyuss and now they have kids. It was young kids getting loaded, rocking and rolling! That’s what this music was born from. It’s rock n roll. And looking back it was interesting because we all grew up in a time where the bands of all the genres,punk and hardcore and metal, had already passed, but we were able to absorb all of that. So when it comes
to making music you’ve got a lot of good shit to pull from. We were into everything from GBH and Motorhead to the Ramones. John was even throwing around a little ZZ Top at the time. We were creating our own music by celebrating all the things we were into. That combined with living in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do. It’s just fucking bizarre that there’s a huge festival (Coachella) now.”
“And no desert bands playing!” laughs Nick. “How about that? No desert tent!”
Did those kids, when they formed Kyuss all those years ago, ever expect to leave behind such a legacy, become legends even?
“I’d like to be humble,” grins Brant, “but to be honest, man, I always knew Kyuss would do that. They were a great band!”
‘”I’ve met people who have kids called Kyuss, there’s at least four!” says Nick.
“Well, if you mean did we think we’d meet kids called Kyuss,” laughs Brant, “then no, that’s just weird!”
Like we said Kyuss Lives.
Shot in West Hollywood yesterday, Feb 19th 2011
Scott Reeder, California. This was shot on film for City Beat magazine at Scott’s house. It was freezing cold! This is a scan of a scan from Scott’s myspace, but I’ll put the original up when I can find it.
Okay, I found them. These are scans of film.
Shot at The Studio Underground, Los Angeles, CA. 2010
Shot in Barcelona, October, 2010.
Shot in Barcelona, October, 2010.