The newest Brian Jonestown Massacre album, the band’s twelfth studio release, helmed, as usual, by the prolific Anton Newcombe, is a multicultural, unexpected exploration of beats, genres and tempos, far from any BJM psych-folk you’ve heard before.  But don’t call Who Killed Sgt Pepper? a world album, per se.

Newcombe explains, (citing an opinion from one of the album’s detractors to prove his point): “Some people react saying, ‘It sounds so European.’  That’s like a euphemism for anything an American doesn’t understand.  It’s like a bad word.  Any kind of culture!  It’s not the end all, be all.  I sometimes have to explain that I was making a soundtrack for a movie and that fell through, so I’m just kind of presenting it.  Then they can go, ‘ooohh.  I see that!  It’s kind of cinematic in its nature.’” He ends this jab with a laugh, since he knows you can’t please all the people all the time, and why would anyone want to?

There have been quite a few changes in Newcombe’s life, and that of BJM as a band, of late.  For one, Newcombe moved to Berlin, Germany.  (More on that later).  He also decided to give away his former label, The Committee to Keep Music Evil, because it became too much of a money-sucking “vanity project,” and as he says, with his newest venture, A Records, he “can do better.”

Without final adieu, here’s more about the current business side of BJM from the man himself.  Newcombe: “I just decided to be more professional, and have Cargo distribution.  Big labels like EMI don’t even sell in any indie record stores, look at anybody, since we’ve had our project, all our contemporaries have bitten the dust.   Think of anyone big and I’m doing better. My Bloody Valentine had to sweat it out for seven years. It’s all perspectives.  You don’t necessarily have to use the bravado/hubris part, or lack of it, in that statement, but it’s in the research.  People on the forums feel slighted but our stuff’s all on You Tube.  People may say ‘you’re just going to be playing the same set you’ve been for the last ten years…’ Screw that, there’s a lot of that troll action, no matter what you’re doing.”


Though a few longtime BJM fans may be quick to discount the eclectic, epic reaches of the latest release, they can always relive some of the past music through the shows, since the next Brian Jonestown tour would never just be a recap of the newest thirteen songs.  With over 300 songs in their past catalog to pick from, there’s certain to more than enough near and dear to the older fans’ hearts.  Better yet, Newcombe is bringing one of the early BJM members, Matt Hollywood, on the next tour.  (There’s a  full band lineup below).  “We’re just going to dig deeper into our repertoire and put on a really interesting show,” he says.

At certain points throughout our phone chat, Newcombe realizes he’s cut me off, and then abruptly shifts, remembering his manners to say, “Go ahead. You ask the questions.” Unlike many of the artists I’ve chatted with overseas, he’s a good conversationalist, meaning he actually listens and doesn’t just talk at me.  Unless I sit back and let him.

Though Newcombe’s riled up today about file sharing, downloading and the future of the music industry, I’m still left with questions about the new album, so I ask about its sinister side.  He explains, “That was my number one goal: to get as mashed up as I could and scare the shit out of myself in a shamanistic way, using my understanding of geometry and the bpm that I was working in to achieve that goal.  Friends of mine were coming into the studio [a world class studio, Björk is a co-owner] where I was working in Iceland and just saying, ‘Holy shit!  What’s going on?’  Of course, we could hear it.  This was my devastating sound.  People would come in after partying and going to clubs and would bring their friends in to just say, ‘Whoa!’”  He continues,”I mean, what made Michael Jackson’s Thriller a forty million plus seller?  Was it just marketing?  Just a transformation process?  Was it Quincy Jones or was it the rhythm?  Was it everything together? On a base level, my thing is something more than that.  I’m in a blender, but I was never a blues-based thing.  If you consider Madonna’s music, it’s just 4/4.  It’s like a marching song: “Like a virgin…” [He starts to sing, then counts 1-2-3-4].”

Was Newcombe’s first inspiration a basic pop beat this time around, and then did he build up the new songs from there, I wonder aloud?

“I’m not doing that so much,” he says.  “I had a professional drummer from Scandinavia who was in a band that had a lot of hits, some band like A-ha, but not A-ha… I can’t tell you the band name, I don’t know it and don’t care.  I just took a bunch of YouTubes and asked him to play bits from certain songs like “Ring My Bell” or this song or that.  Just pretend he’s in the band and play them exactly as they are.  So I just came in and just made up new ideas on top of it, thinking, ‘how would I approach this beat?’  My engineer was like, ‘you’ve got to try “Ooh La La” by Goldfrapp!’  But the thing about Goldfrapp is that they just redo the song “I Feel Love” in around ten different ways.  That whole “Ooh La La” record is based on “Spirit in the Sky,” just like the BRMC song, people absolutely rip it absolutely off.  But I turned it into a future heavy-metal song, church-burning, whale-eating, scando-metal, and had my friend the rocker sing it.”

What about the videos? Was it a definite must that you felt you wanted a video to go along with each song on the album?

Content is key in the future, with the option of video.  Just like things on Napster, I’m all over YouTube. There’s Clip Nabber, or whatever you want to use.  You can download everything, the mp3 and everything.  Everyone’s got that.  So I thought to go for market share and be a hero.  Things will change and all of these sites will have a backdoor key, no matter what they’re saying now.  They’ll change things up under a pretext of life.  Right now, Bin Laden’s sending messages in mp3 files.  It’s only streaming now.  Everything already has a digital watermark.  When you use iTunes, they’re branding it.  What iTunes does, is that you can’t play that tune you bought from them on a real player.  They’ve already branded it.  It’s like as if Mercedes-Benz suddenly decided that you can only drive their car on the freeway, so you can’t go into your fuckin’ driveway.  So I’ve just decided to seed it peer-to-peer and that’s never going away.  [He goes off on Lily Allen at this point].  Meatloaf sold 35 million copies of that Bat Out of Hell album and he’s never seen one cent off of one sale.  Then people say things like, ‘File sharing is killing the record business!’ But gee, I guess it’s also responsible for the sixty percent downturn in eating out right now too.  Let’s factor in the fact that nobody has the disposable income to be wasted on all this fluff.”

Is the attitude towards sharing and downloading different in Europe?

“Strategically, you go to a place like Sweden, where 65 percent, even grandma, is downloading her media…  So I can play any of the festivals in Sweden because anyone can trade my files.  I make high quality products too. You can still buy the vinyl or the t-shirts.  I just thought I’d capture the market share because pretty soon it’s just all going to be streaming.  All the CDs and all their crap is going to be over with soon.”  He continues, “I’m doing better than ever on the sales.  People don’t even realize that you can’t even cut through the sea of crap right now.  When everybody’s an artist, nobody is.  On iTunes, there’s a billion files, right?  92 percent have never even been clicked on for a sample to see what it sounds like.  So quarterly, if I’m pulling in thousands or something, I’m way ahead of the game.  It’s like the top eight percentile of the world.  Now, it might be spectacular that Lady Gaga gets like 790,000 downloads in one day, but let’s put it in perspective again, like ‘wow, that’s so great.  The Beatles are number one.’  Well, let’s go on YouTube and check out K-Pop and J-Pop, the top 40.  Every single one of those songs have sold millions upon millions and every one is total shit.”

(At this point, the talk gets heated and various “rich men” and leaders are brought under the Newcombe microscope: “How much money Bill Gates has!  The guy’s secretary gets millions of dollars a year…Clinton, Obama, Bush.  Relief to Haiti.  Fuckin’ Bloomberg…spending his own money to get re-elected.  His sub-companies…”)

I steer the conversation a bit back to the topic at hand, and ask: Is the American way, or at least, all its less stellar qualities, one of the reasons you moved to Europe, and to Berlin specifically?

“I have no illusions, you know.  It is a little distressing to me.  We always have to remember this famous quote that’s so true.  Everything Hitler did was legal at the time, according to German law.  People forget that.  He didn’t break any laws, you know what I’m saying?  America needs to look at that because that’s 100 percent where we’re at.  First of all, being in Germany, I agree with the German democratic ideals and our striving for it to be a tolerant society.  I understand.  Modern Germany is at the forefront of the world in that.  It’s not succeeding in every way, but that doesn’t matter.  As it’s stated on the books and in the constitution here, I agree with it.  I know a section of the population is going to be anti-war, not that I identify with that necessarily, or I do, and some people are going to be more socialist, it’s all going to be on the level.  In America, some people just stand up and call Obama a commie because they want to argue to pay more.  I’m not down with that kind of thing.  It’s just gone too ridiculous.  [Obama discussion ensues].”

Time is about up, so Anton suddenly winds down and reminds me what a polite gent he truly is.  “I didn’t mean to totally change the subject,” he says.  “It’s not like I don’t care about talking about my album. But let’s just say all these perspectives have something to do with it.”–Madeline Virbasius/BJM photo of the band in Australia (from their MySpace page)

BJM Official

BJM lineup

Anton Newcombe – Guitar/Vocals
Matt Hollywood – Guitar/Vocals
Frankie Teardrop – Guitar
Ricky Rene Maymi – Guitar/Feedback
Collin Hegna – Bass
Daniel Allaire – Drums
Rob Campanella – Organ/Guitar/Percussion
Joel Gion – Tamborine/Maraca

Brian Jonestown Massacre – 2010 Tour Dates

Apr 16 Artefacts Festival Strasbourg, Alsace
Apr 18 La Vapeur Dijon, Bourgogne
Apr 20 CCO Lyon, Rhône-Alpes
Apr 21 Cabaret Aleatoire Marseilles, PACA
Apr 22 Bikini Toulouse, Midi-Pyrénées
Apr 23 Apolo Barcelona, Barcelona
Apr 24 Espace Tatry Bordeaux, Aquitaine
Apr 25 Olympic Nantes, Pays de la Loire
Apr 27 Bataclan Paris, Ile-de-France
Apr 28 Aeronef Lille, Nord-Pas-de-Calais
Apr 29 Abart Zurich, Zurich
May 01 Covo Club Bologna, Bologna
May 02 Bad Bonn Dudingen, Friburg
May 04 59 to 1 München, Bayern
May 05 Flex Vienna, Wien
May 06 Magnet Berlin, Berlin
May 07 Pumpehuset Copenhagen, Hovedstaden
May 08 Debaser Stockholm, Stockholms län
May 09 Rockerfeller Oslo, Oslo
May 11 Knust Hamburg, Hamburg
May 12 Luxor Köln, Nordrhein-Westfalen
May 13 elkweg Amsterdam, Noord-Holland
May 14 Shepherd’s Bush Empire London, London and South East
May 16 02 Academy Birmingham, Midlands
May 17 Academy 3 Manchester, Northwest
May 18 ABC Glasgow, Scotland
May 19 Spring & Airbrake Belfast, Northern Ireland
May 20 The Academy Dublin, Dublin
May 28 Cabooze Minneapolis, Minnesota
May 29 Turner Hall Milwaukee, Wisconsin
May 30 The Metro Chicago, Illinois
May 31 Grog Shop Cleveland, Ohio
Jun 02 Phoenix Concert Hall Toronto, Ontario
Jun 03 La Tulipe Montreal, Quebec
Jun 04 Paradise Rock Club Boston, Massachusetts
Jun 06 Webster Hall Manhattan, New York
Jun 08 TLA Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Jun 09 9:30 Club Washington DC, Washington DC
Jun 10 Mad Hatter Cincinnati, Ohio
Jun 11 Off Broadway St. Louis, Missouri
Jun 13 Bluebird Theatre Denver, Colorado
Jun 14 Urban Lounge Salt Lake City, Utah
Jun 15 Knitting Factory Boise, Idaho
Jun 17 Crystal Ballroom Portland, Oregon
Jun 18 Commodore Ballroom Vancouver, British Columbia
Jun 19 Neumo’s Seattle, Washington
Jun 21 The Fillmore San Francisco, California
Jun 22 Henry Fonda Theatre Los Angeles, California

  1. Social comments and analytics for this post…

    This post was mentioned on Twitter by sentm: Anton Newcombe on the Latest Brian Jonestown Massacre: When Everybody’s an Artist, Nobody is

  2. Anton strikes me with a Hunter S Thompson energy, regardless of what is said of him or his behavior there’s a spinning gyroscope in his mind that’s always giving good points.

    The peer-to-peer sharing in music, all information, is a recognition of his of the state of things as they are. Instead of attempting to classify something as evil, recognize what it is first and figure out how to use it.


  3. Went to the show in Minneapolis and it was, by far, the worst concert I’ve ever been to in my life. What an embarrassing crowd, a bunch of pathethic slimers. The fucking tambourine player broke a tambourine, and then produced another tambourine — just one example of how shitty this band is. No original sound, no energy. We were able to goad them with their own lyrics, which is pretty telling. Most people left early, due to general boredom.