The Brian Jonestown Massacre - Killing In The Name
3D’s Steve Tauschke talks with the acid tongued Anton Newcombe, founding father of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, returning to Australia this week with their lo-fi album My Bloody Underground in tow.
Stream-of-consciousness poet. Misunderstood genius. Middle-aged brat. Anton Newcombe is many things to many people, thanks largely to the revealing, albeit lop-sided, DiG! – the 2004 documentary tracing seven years of trials and tribulations contrasting Newcombe’s Brian Jonestown Massacre and Oregon rockers The Dandy Warhols.
“I don’t respect those people to any degree,” says the multi-instrumentalist and BJM mainstay in his assessment of DiG!, a Grand Jury Prize winner at Sundance. “I have a lot of insight given I orchestrated that whole thing and my friend paid for it and it’s not exactly what it was presented as. I think it’s unfortunate that people will watch that movie and think I’m a junkie or something because that’s not really the case.”
Speaking to 3D on a scratchy mobile from Europe, Newcombe is certainly the perfect gentleman; engaging, polite and genuinely excited to be touring Australia again in August. He also has a new home, Germany, having recently relocated from Manhattan. “I’ve had about enough of the New York thing for now,” he says. “It’s just sirens and people yelling abuse, it’s like being in King’s Cross in Sydney 24 hours a day.”
Currently residing in a pockmarked industrial district in East Berlin notable for its old breweries and subterranean World War II-era tunnels, Newcombe says it’s an artist-friendly environment and a creative place to be; he is working concurrently on four separate albums.
“You wouldn’t think of Berlin as a green city with Germany being an industrial powerhouse of Europe,” he says. “But I would highly recommend it. There’s lots of trees and children and a great mass transit system and people taking life at their own speed – I kind of like that.”
Having formed BJM as a quasi-psychedelic outfit in early ’90s San Francisco, Newcombe has endured the arrival and departure of a veritable roll call of musicians, most of whom have since moved on to their own projects; Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, The Raveonettes and The Warlocks, to name a few.
But the prolific Newcombe has persisted, this month releasing the band’s nineth studio album My Bloody Underground, written and recorded between Liverpool and Reykjavik, Iceland.
“Once you know a lot about Iceland and you’ve been there it’s hard to imagine a country with only 300,000 people,” says Newcombe, whose young son has Icelandic heritage. “There are smaller countries, Luxembourg has only 29,000 or something like that but it’s more like a city with farm around it.
“But I find Iceland is really cool, the people are well-educated, they speak multiple languages, they travel all over, they hang tight with each other and close ranks. I found it easy to work in Reykjavik. I rented a hotel close to the studio and would go out and drink in the day and then hook up and do some stuff in the studio and then go out for dinner and then come back and do some more.
“After my son was born – I don’t live with my son, but after he was born – I slowed down a little bit as far as being hyper because right before that I had a record contract with some people that became a two-year fisticuff session over some crap – so I slowed down. It didn’t mean I stopped writing but rather sitting around and playing with friends and just making stuff up for the hell of it, the joy of it, that&rsquo