четвъртък, 27 януари 2011 г.

Kula Shaker: Interview with Alonza Bevan

This interview is published in the Bulgarian webzine Rawk'n'Roll. I put here its English version in order this way it to reach more people and also the band to use it however they want to.

In the nineties, during the era of the grunge, the brit-pop and growingly faceless songs at the music channels, it is almost unimaginable for a psychedelic rock band, deeply inspired of India, to conquer the charts. The music of Kula Shaker bears at the same time the fiery energy of the youth and the wisdom of the musical culture of past epochs; contemporary, yet reflecting the spirit of the music of the 60’s; wonderfully combining the vivid picturesque pageant of the soundtracks of “Hair” and “Jesus Christ Superstar” with the psychedelia of the later Beatles. And in 2010 it abandoned all this musical whirlwind to release one of the purest, tender and beautiful rock albums. Kula Shaker closer, presented by Alonza Bevan.

RR: First of all – congratulations for “Pilgrims Progress” , though it’s been half an year since it came out! It is among the most beautiful albums ever released. Can you tell us shortly about the album, the label issue in 2008, the songs and the recording sessions?

AB: Well, the album grew out of circumstance we had just got out of some dodgy dealings with the dark side (moneymen, accountants and lawyers) which left the band in a rather poor financial position. We knew we had some good songs and so with some great help from our friends and local musicians we started recording Pilgrims Progress here in the countryside of southern Belgium.

RR: The first thing that is obvious while listening the CD is the fact that you have taken off the colorful garment that was so typical for your previous releases and “Pilgrims Progress” is a stripped down to naked melodies and pure emotions record. Was that transmission natural or you made it by purpose?

AB: The production idea for the album was to capture some of the magic and freedom of the song demos which so often gets lost in the recording process. I mentioned how circumstance created this record and it definitely affected the production choices. I finally got to use all the peculiar instruments lying around my studio, the organ from the local church got used and more than anything the medieval surroundings and forests gave their fairy tale magic.

RR: Is the song “Peter Pan R.I.P.” only about the end of the childhood, the end of the fairy-tale period of the life or it also treats the moving away of the band from the vivid explosion in the sound of its earlier records?

AB: I thought it was about the death of innocence in the 20th century but apparently not, you'll have to ask Crispian.

RR: I can tell that in “Winter’s Call” there is a load of Roger Waters-like drama, especially at the end of the song. Is it true or it’s just my mind and imagination?

AB: No it's not your imagination, It is a fully certified prog epic.

RR: The first two albums where echoing of the burst of the psychedelic rock and the hippie movement from the 60’s and the 70’s. “Pilgrims Progress” also bears the spirit of past decades but it seems as if it’s more opened to the folk rock and even rockabilly and evergreen era. Am I right?

AB: It wasn't something we really thought about, I've always loved the sound of the 60's folk revival, I guess this album offered the opportunity to draw on these influences.

RR: The album is very acoustic. Is that connected to the fact that the studio you have recorded it is in the woods, closer to the nature and closer to the roots? Because overall it is calm and beautiful with a peaceful aura, if I can say so.

AB: Absolutely, we thought we were going to make another rock'n'roll album but those bloody fairies and wood spirits had their way.

RR: What kind of music do you listen to and does it influence the songs of Kula Shaker?

AB: I've just been listening to The Cramps... I don't think they had much influence on the last album but as a rule most bands are shaped by their record collection.

RR: When you released “K” back in 1996 and it quickly gained popularity with singles like “Govinda” and “Hey, dude”, did you expect it or were you surprised? And do you think the success back then is due to the spirit of these years or it’s a complex of factors that brought Kula Shaker to the top?

AB: It seems strange looking back, at the time we thought that's what happens when you get signed by a major record company but we were one of the "lucky" ones. I think we were signed by accident because guitars were back in fashion. I don't think they banked on the Sanskrit Prayers or Vedic perspective which probably contributed to our commercial success.

RR: “Peasants, Pigs and Astronauts” is like an explosion of music, one of the most picturesque and splendid rock and roll albums. What have you listened back then and what have you taken while making the songs? :P

AB: I seem to remember lots of "Jesus Christ Super Star" being played, we felt we could do what we wanted and so we did. As usual we were under the influence of a lot of tea.

RR: What led to the split of the band in 1999?

AB: It stopped being fun.

RR: And what made you reform the band in 2004?

AB: We thought it might be fun again.

RR: “Strangefolk” was released without much of a media noise or advertisement, even though the fans were in furor. Why you did not pay that much of attention to the promotion of the CD?

AB: I guess we were a little apprehensive from our previous experience. We also wanted to work for ourselves at our own pace.

RR: The release of “Pilgrims Progress” also went aside of the wide attention and without much of a loud PR. Don’t you think that if you push a bit more the media it would lead to greater commercial success?

AB: Of course, it just costs a lot of money.

RR: It’s the same with the live appearances. I read everywhere that all of the concerts were really successful. Even so you seem not to care that much to provide us with live reports, videos and articles in the media. Is it by purpose or you just don’t want to pay that much of attention to this side of the business – it is obvious that fans love you anyways?

AB: I'm starting to feel guilty now.

RR: Talking on promotion, don’t you think about a live album or a DVD release?

AB: Why not?

RR: How did four guys who are aspired by the Eastern culture gather together in a band more than 15 years ago?

AB: Karmic destiny and the search for the Grail.

RR: Were you all vegetarians before Kula Shaker or this came with the band and its heritage?

AB: I became vegetarian at the age of 17, I think it came from youthful idealism and now meat eating seems very odd.

RR: Isn’t it controversial being a vegetarian and being in a rock band? And while skipping meat do you also restrain the alcohol and the drugs?

AB: I don't think it's controversial anymore, there are so many veggies, the world is changing. To answer the second part of your question, I became vegetarian for the health of animals not my own.

RR: While touring, is Kula Shaker a party band or a group of calm and devoted people?

AB: We are one of the most un rock'n'roll bands in the business... most of the time.

RR: What is your favorite tea?

AB: PG, nothing fancy just a good honest cuppa.

RR: While Crispian is dedicated to the film he works on, what is everybody else in th band doing? And are all the other guys okay with this situation?

AB: I've been working on the studio here in Belgium the film has allowed me to pick up on some old projects so I'm happy.

RR: What does the future of Kula Shaker hold? Crispian has mentioned that he would like to eventually keep the band involved in the soundtrack of the film.

AB: No plans but things are more exciting that way!

RR: At least Kula Shaker released a Christmas single in December, so it seems everything is alright! Wish you guys all the best and happiness from all our team!

AB: Yes it is! Sorry it took so long to get this back to you! I hope you have a good year too!!!

Lots of Love


The photographs, used in this material, are taken from www.kulashaker.co.uk and www.facebook.com/kulashaker.

понеделник, 10 януари 2011 г.

Interview with John Garcia

This interview is posted in the Bulgarian webzine Rawk'n'Roll. I am posting it also here, so the text could be available both in English and Bulgarian. And why we made an interview with John Garcia? Are you joking? Because we love him and we love Kyuss and they changed the way we listen to music.

RR: Good morning, John!

JG: Good morning, Ivo! How are you?

RR: I’m fine, thank you! I guess you are on your first coffee since it’s 9AM there.

JG: Haha! More like my second coffee really.

RR: OK, and I’m on my first beer now, here it is 7PM.

JG: Ah, good to you! Thanks for wanting to do this!

RR: Well, thanks to you for doing this, since the stoner rock or the desert rock is not that massive in Bulgaria as it is in the Western Europe or in the States, so it’s an honor for us here to have you!

JG: Okay, good deal!

RR: Yeah. And also Happy New Year and I wish you all the best!

JG: Same to you!

RR: How did you celebrate the New Year’s Eve?

JG: Sleeping. I took my wife out for dinner and we had some drinks and a couple of cocktails. We didn’t do too much really, we wanted to have a nice, quiet New Year’s and we really didn’t do anything. There are a lot of crazy people out here in the desert and people who are drinking and driving and stuff like that, so it’s safer for us just to stay home and celebrate here. My wife made it until midnight but I didn’t, I was sleeping. She woke me up 15 seconds after the New Year. So it was nice and quiet, thanks for asking!

RR: Sure. So, are you working currently on something, some music or you are still in holiday mood?

JG: I’m working, I’m working feverously to get Garcia Vs. Garcia off the ground.

RR: It’s been a while since your last update in the website.

JG: Yeah, I know. I’m working. As a matter of fact I worked on Christmas Eve, I worked on Christmas Day, I worked New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day on the record and I’m still working on it right now but it’s still the beginning stages of it. So, it’s gonna take about 6-7-8 months to finally get this thing done. I hope to have it all done by the beginning of winter of this year, so we’ll see what happens.

RR: I cross my fingers on that! And what about the Kyuss Lives! Tour? Do you feel excited about it already?

JG: I’m extremely excited about it. Especially because it’s all for the promotion of Garcia Vs. Garcia, that’s the entire reason I am doing Kyuss Lives! Thank God that Nick and Brant and Bruno obliged me and they’ve signed on to do this tour. It’s something that I look forward to express with Nick and Brant. Those two guys are… I mean, talking about integrity and rocknroll and good music that they make themselves. It’s a pleasure for me to play with those guys all over again and including Bruno Fevery. It’s something that I very much look forward to.

RR: And it is really amazing when you play live. I saw you last year when you played in Vienna during the Garcia Plays Kyuss tour and you played with Brant Bjork for a couple of songs and it was a real blast. The crowd went insane, it was amazing show. When you started this project – Garcia Plays Kyuss did you expect what followed and how does it feel up there on the stage seeing all these people going crazy in front of you on the songs you have made so many years ago?

JG: To revisit some of these songs and to celebrate my past, this was my plight along with letting people know that I’m still there on the musical map. Don’t count me out just yet. I’m not gone yet. I’m taking a break from veterinary medicine for a little while and it felt great to celebrate my past, it felt great to revisit these songs so many years after the records came out. So, it’s a great stepping stone for Garcia Vs. Garcia. It was great. It’s going to be even better because Brant and Nick are now involved in this. I look forward to the crowd response, I look forward to the opportunity to tour with Nick and Brant again after all these years. There’s gonna be some stories. I’m looking forward to having those times, to having these stories to tell. It should be good.

RR: Was it easy to talk Nick and Brant to do this?

JG: Well… I don’t know if it was easy or not. Once I played with Nick and Brant together in Hellfest in Clisson, France I realized I wanted to that again. I had to be strategic when it came to asking Nick and Brant. I wrote Brant a long letter asking him if he’d wanna do it again, not for just one show or two shows but for 21, 22, 23 shows. He came over to the house and we sat on the deck and we talked about it and I presented it to him again verbally. And thank God that he said “Yes”! He did say “Yes” and then I called Nick when I was over in my manager’s office in Nijmegen in Holland. I talked to him over the phone and I asked him and he luckily said “yes” as well. It’s very fortunate to have those guys signed on to do this and it’s even more fortunate to have Bruno Fevery, the guitar player, to stay on with me.

RR: We all know that Josh Homme was never into Kyuss reunion. Have you heard him when you decided to make Kyuss Lives! and do you know what is his opinion on this?

JG: (laughs) No, I don’t. Josh is a busy guy. He’s real, real busy. He’s busy with the Queens Of The Stone Age, he’s busy with Them Crooked Vultures, he’s got his hands in lot of pies, you know. And I don’t think he has time nor does he want to revisit Kyuss. With Josh is ever forward and never backward. But I love Josh and I don’t want to be there any shit talking about me and Josh because I think Josh is extremely talented, he’s a great songwriter, he’s a great singer and I love him dearly. It’s just one of those things when he doesn’t wanna be involved and I’m okay with that.

RR: And do you know if he has heard of this project?

JG: Yeah, he’s heard of it. Nick told him. I think he said that that was cool. I don’t know what else he wants or can say about it. I’m not gonna hold my breath, waiting for Josh to oblige me to play some Kyuss songs, especially when the only reason I am doing this is to help Garcia Vs Garcia. So, I think it would be kind of unfair from me to ask him and nor did I ask him. I haven’t asked him because I know that 99.99% of the times I would ask him, he would say “no”. So, I’m not gonna go back on that. I understand the reason why he doesn’t want to do it and I’m fine with him, he’s okay with it and I’m okay with it, it’s okay for both of us.

RR: Can I take you 15 years back and ask why did Kyuss break up?

JG: You know, I get this question a lot. When Josh and I sat down in a bar in Palm Desert, California and we decided to split, we knew that we were going to get this question a lot, so we decided and it’s true that it was just time. It was time to move on. A lot of good things came out of the demise of Kyuss. You know, Brant leaving and formed Fu Manchu and Brant Bjork and the Bros and Brant Bjork and then Nick Olivery and Alfredo and Josh. A lot of good things came out of the demise of Kyuss, so any time anybody asks me that, I just say “it was time”. It was the perfect timing for the disbanding of Kyuss and we all moved on.

RR: And after the disbanding you didn’t stop making music. You formed Slo Burn, then made Unida, then Hermano and you’ve sang in so many other artists’ albums, I think they are countless. Can you even recall all of them?

JG: Yeah, I can recall them all. That kind of makes sense for me to do it; it kind of makes sense for me to sing in other people’s stuff. And you know, that’s the key, Ivo, it’s… I would get my fix every now and then with bands like that. But always burning through me was me wanting to do this solo project which is Garcia Vs Garcia thing, so it’s time to get this monkey off my back with the blessing of my family, especially my wife. She gave me the thumbs up to give veterinary medicine a break and concentrate on music again and this is my way of reintroducing myself back into the musical community by doing Kyuss Lives! and Garcia Plays Kyuss and getting ready for the beginning of what’s about to happen and that’s Garcia Vs Garcia.

RR: I see. And what about Hermano? I have read that you were setting a new record. Is it going to happen?

JG: I think that Hermano will never die. I think Hermano is something that will constantly be in an idle position. So when everybody gets time between their already busy schedules to do another Hermano record, then we’ll do that. I definitely think that it’s in the cards for me to do another Hermano record at some point, so yes.

RR: You have announced that you will record an album with Kyuss Lives! Is this the line up you want to make the album with?

JG: Yes. Definitely! We decided that after weeks of rehearsal. I went to Brant and I went to Nick and we had a lunch in Hollywood and I told them my intentions and I asked them if they would oblige me doing another record. I don’t know what it’s gonna be called. It might be called Kyuss Lives!, I don’t know. I don’t know what it’s gonna be called but the plan is for now once everybody gets their time, ‘cause you know, Brant is working on his record, I’m working on my record and when that’s done, then Brant and I and Bruno and Nick will sit down and we’ll start writing the next record. So I’m excited about that too.

RR: Do you have any ideas about the songs and their sound?

JG: You mean the sound?

RR: Yeah, the sound of the studio record.

JG: Well… (laughs) It’s not gonna be a polka record, that’s for sure! It’s gonna be a heavy rock record. I mean, you’ve got the singer for Kyuss, the drummer for Kyuss, one of the main writers for Kyuss music, the bass player for Kyuss, so I wonder what it’s going to sound like. Probably Kyuss (laughs).

RR: I thought it. Last month I talked to Phil Caivano from Monster Magnet and he told me that Europe is very open for rock and roll and they play here very often. Is this the same reason you are playing often in Europe?

JG: To me, ever since I was in my early twenties, Europe has always treated every single one of my bands and projects with open arms. The European Union collectively, including Scandinavia and the United Kingdom has always invited me to dinner. They’ve always opened their doors and took me by the hand and say: “Hey, sit down, let’s have a meal.” And have always shown me really warm reception. I like to work and if there’s a want or a need or yearning for the type of music that I play in any country, I don’t care if it’s New Zealand or Australia, or Canada, or South America, or the EU, or Japan, I’m gonna try to go. You have to make a living out of this. You’ve got to love music and unfortunately, you’ve gotta make some money out of it. A lot of musicians are afraid to talk about money but you’ve got to make money, especially when you are a father, a husband and you wanna support for your family. There comes a time when you need to fucking man up and be a dad, be a husband and support your family. And you can’t be in a rock and roll band just for the love of fucking music because you have to make money out of it. And in my age, I’ll be 41 years old this year, it’s gotta make sense to go to countries that you know that gonna continue to work with you on a business level. And that’s extremely important for people to know as well – that you go where the business is good and you go where you’ve been before and you’re tap into that market. One market that I haven’t tapped in since the early 90’s is Australia. And I just booked an Australian tour for Kyuss Lives! And we’ll be down there for two and a half weeks. And then we are heading to New Zealand after that for three shows. So those unsaturated markets that I haven’t been to in ten plus years, it’s a great place to tap into after all these years, to go to and to be able to make a living. That’s important.

RR: And from the last year tour, can you recall where was the most inspiring and interesting show?

JG: Oh, it got to be the Hellfest in Clisson, France with Nick and Brant. That was the highlight of 2010 for me.

RR: And compared to the Kyuss days, what is the difference between now playing live and playing live back then in the 90’s?

JG: There is a big difference because Josh isn’t there. It’s a huge difference. That’s the big difference. And I’m a little bit older now, a little bit wiser, I’m appreciative of my past. Instead of shining my past which I used to do, I used to be: “Oh, fuck Kyuss, I don’t want anything to do with them or with my past” but now I’ve really come to terms where I’ve embraced my past and I am very lucky to have played with such great musicians in my life. The difference now from then is that I appreciate the music more; I appreciate what we were doing back then more. So that’s really the big difference, I hold it a lot more closely to my heart than I used to.

RR: And back then when you started making music first, when you were still kids, what made you wanting create music, what bands inspired you, what musicians, who were your favorite ones?

JG: I think that the biggest one was The Cult. Once I heard The Cult – Love, I wanted right then and there that I wanted to become a singer. That was really the main thing. The main band for me that really made me want to sing; that was a life changing moment in my life when I heard that record and that song “She Sells Sanctuary”. Of course later on I started listening more and more to The Cult, I changed high schools and Josh and Brant were going to that one high school and it was something they were into as well and we all just kind of got together and I was inspired by them. Those guys were my idols – Brant and Josh; I looked up to them because they were hungry, they wanted to do it. We all were just young kids, we just wanted to play in a rock and roll band and that’s basically what it was.

RR: Obviously Black Sabbath is an influence too because you have recorded that cover of “Into The Void”. I have seen an interview with you where you say you don’t like your singing on this one.

JG: Yeah, it’s true.

RR: I personally enjoy this one a lot but my favorite cover of this song is by Monster Magnet. Have you heard it?

JG: By Monster Magnet? No, I never heard it but I’m sure Dave Wyndorf does a much better job than I do on that song.

RR: It’s just more psychedelic, that’s the main difference. By the way, just yesterday I was listening to the Hermano albums and I was wondering is there any connection between the songs “My Boy” and “Adoption Boy” or it’s all in my head?

JG: Oh! You know, I haven’t listened to those tracks in a long, long time. I mean, lyrically there might be, I don’t know. That was a difficult time of my life when I was recording those songs. It’s something that I just can’t pull up in my head. It’s something that I have to go back and listen to and read the lyrics. It’s been so long since I haven’t sung those songs; it’s hard for me to pull them up in my head. Some people can do it, some singers can just tell you right about the similarities and the differences but I can’t. I’ve got to go back and listen to that shit. Sorry about that one.

RR: Do you still listen to new music, besides the music you are into? And if so, what albums in 2010 made you the greatest impression?

JG: (loudly, to his wife somewhere in the house) What records did we get in 2010, honey? Rufus Wainwright? You know, a lot of people think that I just sit down and listen to rock music all day long, he-he! It’s really not. The older I get, I find myself going backwards. Some of the new music that I’ve been listening to is really old music and revisiting these older songs. A lot of people think that when you are a rock and roll guy, listening to Maroon 5 is a guilty pleasure and to me it’s really not. I genuinely like Adam Levine’s voice and his vocal melody and Carmichael’s writing ability in that band. I’ve been listening to them. Also I’ve been revisiting Rufus Wainwright’s record “Poses” and that came out in 2003 I think it was (actually it’s 2001), I’ve been listening to that. And last night my wife and I were listening to a 1976 Boz Scaggs record called “Silk Degrees” and then we threw on Jimi Hendrix and after that we threw on Minute Work. A lot of people think that I listen to Karma To Burn and Monster Magnet all the time. And I listen to these bands a lot too but there’s some other stuff that I like listening to and I like going backwards sometimes.

RR: That’s what I heard from many other musicians and that’s what is going on with me too – going backwards, going to the roots, going to the old blues and folk. The new Robert Plant, if you have heard it, it’s all country and folk rock and gospel. When you grow older maybe that’s the thing you’re into. About the Kyuss Lives! tour, going back on this, what should we expect from this tour? What have you prepared?

JG: You can expect four guys getting up there and knocking your socks off really. The last thing that I wanna do and the last thing that Brant wants to do, the last thing that Bruno and Nick wanna do is suck. We don’t wanna go there and have a bad show. We wanna get up there and have fun and do what we know and what we know is these Kyuss songs. And we wanna get up there and have everybody enjoying the party and come down and have a good time and celebrate Kyuss. Celebrate the past. Because this is about as close as you’ll ever gonna get of seeing the real deal. I wouldn’t hold my breath for Josh to come up on stage at all, so again this might be as close as you’ll ever get seeing the real deal.

RR: But you have played with Josh, maybe it was 2005, with the Queens Of The Stone Age, I have seen a few videos in youtube, where you are making some Kyuss songs with Josh and the Queens.

JG: Yeah, that’s true and that was me and Josh and that was it, you know. What can I say? That was one show and one show only and it was with all the guys from the Queens.

RR: About this tour how did you choose the songs that you will perform? Or you still haven’t chosen them?

JG: We’ve already chosen. We’ve already chosen the majority of the songs. There are gonna be songs from “Blues” and “Sky Valley”, “Circus Leaves Town”, maybe a couple from “Wretch”. We’re gonna choose the heavy hitters, we’re gonna choose the ones that have proven that we know obviously how to play. We’ve got close to thirty songs to choose from to what we play, so hopefully each set, each night will be a different set.

RR: Last year in Vienna you did “Pilot The Dune” by Slo Burn. Are you going to go back to your other projects on this tour or it will be only Kyuss songs?

JG: Only Kyuss! No more “Pilot The Dune”, no more Slo Burn.

RR: Okay, John. Let me leave you now to enjoy your day. I hope to see you again in Vienna because I just booked my plane ticket for that show, so I’ll see you in Vienna.

JG: Alright! Well, thank you very much, I appreciate it. Have a beer for me!

RR: I will, next one is for you. Bye!

JG: Okay, I’ll talk to you later. Bye!

I would like to thank John Garcia for the patience for this interview and for sending me the picture with his wife Wendy in the vet clinic they work and the photo of him with Scott Reeder in Thunder-Underground studio in Palm Springs, CA. The other photos I took at the Garcia Plays Kyuss show in Vienna last June. Big Thank you goes also to Ram Lauwrier, the manager of John, who has been a great support.