Special Report by Greg Prato
Singer John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork have been through quite a lot together over the years – but perhaps their most daunting task was having to slug it out in court with their former KYUSS band mates, Josh Homme and Scott Reeder, over the use of the name KYUSS LIVES!. Ultimately, Kyuss Lives was rechristened VISTA CHINO (which when translated to English, means Chinese View), and on September 3rd, their debut album, Peace, will be issued via Napalm Records.
With guitarist Bruno Fevery also included in the line-up (as well as a revolving door of bassists, which you will read about below); Vista Chino has already launched a world tour, which will see the band on the road for the entire next year. Garcia recently gave BraveWords correspondent Greg Prato the lowdown on Peace, as well as the aforementioned bass situation, that troublesome lawsuit, and singing through a famous gentleman’s microphone.
BraveWords: How do you think Peace compares to Kyuss’ earlier classic recordings?
John Garcia: “I think that there’s some similarities. The first two being – not to be talking about myself in the third person – but the singer and the drummer being half the writing force of Wretch, Blues for the Red Sun, and Sky Valley. So there’s an automatic feel and vibe. The second part of that is songs like ‘Dargona Dragona,’ to me as the singer, they bring back a lot of familiar feelings. It has the vibe and it has the feel of some very early Kyuss – in my views. The same with ‘Adara,’ the same with ‘The Gambling Moose.’ The flipside of that is I think that Vista Chino also has branched out in its own musical endeavor, with songs like ‘Barcelonian.’ It’s another progression, it’s another graduation, it’s another step. So there are similarities and differences. Of course, it goes from ‘Acidize,’ which is the first part of that two song piece, ‘Acidize/The Gambling Moose,’ which is very much in the speech level type of vocal performance that I did in ‘Demon Cleaner.’ Again, there’s some similarities, yet there are some exploration, and we weren’t afraid to do that. When you’re sitting in a studio in Joshua Tree, California, working with Brant Bjork, in an environment, and where we were in our lives – personally and professionally – creatively, exploration is inevitable. We welcome that.”
BraveWords: When it comes to such longer compositions as ‘Acidize/The Gambling Moose,’ what determines if the band is going to keep it long, or edit it down?
John Garcia: “I think it happens naturally. Just like the lyrics, once the first line is written, the song will take a life of its own and it goes off of feeling and emotion. We’re all professional musicians, that’s what we do for a living, so it’s got to have the right feeling, and typically, the song will write itself. For someone like me, it will start itself and it will end itself. Sometimes, it will take an hour; sometimes it might take a month. But eventually, it gets there.”
BraveWords: Does Nick Oliveri play bass on the album, and is he still a member of Vista Chino?
John Garcia: “Nick does play on the record. But he is…Nick has an unofficial title of he’ll always be a band member of Vista Chino. But he’s not playing in the band right now. Right now, we’re blessed with Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity. I don’t think the bass playing situation in Vista Chino will ever be a permanent thing. Nick plays on the record, Brant plays on the record on bass, and so does Mike Dean. So you have three great musicians being able to fill those shoes. Again, I just don’t think Vista Chino is going to have somebody solid, 100% of the time. But one thing for certain, it will always be me, Bruno, and Brant.”
BraveWords: How do you compare Bruno’s guitar playing to Josh Homme’s?
John Garcia: “Bruno is an incredible guitar player. Technically, he’s better than Josh – in my eyes, in my personal views. But when you play Kyuss songs, I think anybody who knows anything about guitar, they can sit down and they can play ‘Demon Cleaner,’ they can play ‘Green Machine,’ they can play ‘Supa Scoopa and the Mighty Scoop.’ But one thing that’s missing in some of the musicians that can do that is the certain type of character. And Bruno has that character – he has the feel, he has the emotion. We’re super-stoked to have Bruno. He’s a diamond in the rough. If you don’t know who Bruno Fevery is, certainly after listening to Peace, you will for sure then. We’re lucky to have him.”
BraveWords: What are the touring plans?
John Garcia: “We are presently on the road. We are in Austria right now; I’m getting ready to play a show tonight. The tour just kicked off yesterday. And we’re pretty much going to be on the road up until the end of summer next year. Of course, we have families – I have two kids, Brant has two kids, and Bruno has two wonderful daughters. It’s got to make sense for us to be able to do this. So we go out for two and a half weeks, we’re home for a couple of weeks, we’re out for three and a half weeks, we’re home for three weeks, we’re back out for a month, we’re back home for a week and a half, and so on and so forth. It’s going to be like that until the end of next summer. And then, we’ll start working on the next record.”
BraveWords: Now that some time has passed, what are your thoughts on the lawsuit situation with Josh and Scott Reeder (over Vista Chino’s previous name, Kyuss Lives!)?
John Garcia: “One, I’m just glad it’s over. Brant Bjork and myself, we don’t like speeding tickets/parking tickets, let alone fucking federal lawsuits slapped upon anybody. And I can tell you another thing, that if Josh Homme called me up – which he has my phone number – and said, ‘Change the name or I’m going to sue you,’ I would have changed the fucking name. It was just completely and totally unnecessary…and to publicize it in the way he did by doing a press release, that to me, was just an Josh Homme’s words, ‘A sad day for Kyuss fans.’ But moving on with that, we’re doing what we set out to do, and I think everyone expected Brant Bjork and I to fold and to fail, and we didn’t. Instead of being in the studio where we wanted to be, writing the next record, we were doing depositions. So it was asinine, and completely and totally unnecessary – and fucking foolish beyond belief. And the funny thing is that Scott Reeder fucking played with Kyuss Lives! And I think both him and Josh teaming up together was just a…who knows what was going through their minds at the time. But moving onward, we’re just glad to be here. I have to say that nobody has the right to take anybody’s joy away. And nobody did. That’s why we’re still here. We’re going to be doing this anyway, whether it be in front of five people, 500 people, 5,000 people, or 50,000 people, we’re still going to be doing it – under Kyuss, Kyuss Lives, Vista Chino, or any other name that we see fit. We’re going to be doing it anyway. It is my god-given right to play any Kyuss song the way I want to sing it, however I see fit, when I want, how I want, wherever I want. And I will do so and will continue to do so for as long as I’m on this Earth. So I’m in a very good place right now. And the most important thing is that I’m able to do this with the blessing of my wonderful wife and my two great kids. And that’s really all that matters. I get a lot of talk about the lawsuit, but to me, it’s not the lawsuit that bothers me, it’s the type of fishing bait I’m going to use once I get back, that I’m thinking about when I take my two kids fishing. And they’re into that stuff too – they don’t care about that stuff that daddy does, they just care about spending time with dad. So it’s a good place – we’re in a very place right now, and I look forward to a bright future and to play these Vista Chino songs and Kyuss songs for a very, very long time.”
BraveWords: I think fans are going to be impressed with Peace when they get a chance to hear it.
John Garcia: “I thank you for that. Vocal-wise and songwriting-wise, it was done in a very organic way. We didn’t used Pro Tools, we used two-inch, and we used an old analog board, and I sang out of Jim Morrison’s U87 microphone that our engineer got, because he’s building Robby Krieger’s studio in Los Angeles. So it was super-rad and super-inspiring. It’s an exciting time right now.”
BraveWords: Wow, so you sang through one of Jim Morrison’s microphones?
John Garcia: “One of his microphones that he used in the recording studio, yes I did. I was a little intimidated by it, but it was just a great experience all the way around. When you’re in a vocal booth and you’re looking at this U87 and then past that, looking at Joshua Tree National Monument, it’s kind of hard not to be inspired. And I think you get a little taste of that from ‘Adara,’ ‘As You Wish,’ and ‘Sweet Remain.’ ‘Sweet Remain’ is one of my favorite tracks on the record, and I think we’re going to push that as the first single. Again – exciting times, good stuff.”