Anton Newcombe is the evil, multi-instrumentalist, genius around whom swirls the sound of west coast neo-pysch outfit The Brian Jonestown Massacre. He is The Warhols’ dandy, the most rebellious of the Motorcycle club, most bewitched of the Warlocks. BjM started in San Francisco in 1990, with a sly lysergic retro sound, eighteen years, fifteen musicians (and a movie) later we got to talk to the man behind the plan, a Spector at the feast of Pop, the founder of The Committee to Keep Music Evil.
Dorfdisco: I promise to try to make this as painless as possible.
A.Newcombe: Don’t worry about it just remember that I am not an object and I am not actually hawking my wares.
A.Newcombe: ..this is not a hard sell and I’m not trying to hustle anyone, the more you just get back and monster up any bit of intellectual curiosity, or natural enthusiasm or inquisitiveness .. and Fuck hyperbole, you’ll do better!
A.Newcombe: I know for a fact I can write better than you and I’ll just disappear…….
Dorfdisco: (slightly nervous laughter) Well maybe we better start with a wild card then. Six cards, face down. Gabba, Gabba Hey, or Gabba, Gabba Non?
A.Newcombe: Outlived both of those guys, man, so you can’t argue with the results.
Dorfdisco: True, you can’t argue with results. So you outlived the Ramones.
A.Newcombe: You can’t argue with the facts.
Dorfdisco: So a fan or not then?
A.Newcombe: It’s a little bit sophomore-ish. I mean there are other groups that I like more, much more you know – . That Velvet Underground record blows away all of The Ramones. There were a million bands, The Stranglers were a much better band than The Ramones. Golden Brown blows away the whole Ramones’ catalogue. I’m talking about caveman rock. Can and Neu would smoke the Ramones – and that’s before them. Fuck them..
A.Newcombe: ……as you know there were three of them, Can, Neu and . Kraftwerk
A.Newcombe:..smoke the shit out of the Ramones. 150 degree Fahrenheit, put it in a pipe and smoke the shit out of them. Awesome.
Newcombe spoke for a while about these German bands, Faust too are a favorite. We talk about Submission, The Pistols track. He loves it. “The stooges vampire was out of the coffin for that one”. The Ramones for him are “a brand name for nothingness.”
A.Newcombe: My friend Cameron and I, that’s Cameron from the Disraeli Gears, have a game when we walk down the street. The first idiot we see wearing a CBGBs or a Ramones T-Shirt – we have to punch each other. Spot the idiot first.
Influence is a recurring theme in our conversation. Earlier he told me that he had more rare Vox amps than Spacemen 3 had ever dreamed of and later, with some pride, that he had a hand in the new My Bloody Valentine record.
Dorfdisco: Returning to the subject of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, after all these years and changes of personnel, what is the thread that runs through the project?
A.Newcombe: There was never a band. I work with people, not unlike Banksy and we do a bunch of stuff together. What people know is not what they know, it’s not what they see. The Beatles were never four people –
He waives his hand, perhaps still a little bleary from jetlag.
A.Newcombe: – It’s industry. The evidence of that is like, listen to the Sitar music, you think that is John Lennon playing ? That’s an Orchestra!
Dorfdisco: I thought it was Ravi Shankar?
A.Newcombe: Well you know what I mean its an army of technicians it’s Jeff Lyne it’s everybody. It’s an army of people it’s an industry.
Dorfdisco: So its almost like a filmmaking approach then?
We digress onto the subject of his friend Jim Jarmusch’s movie, Way of the Samurai. When the producers from Channel Four wanted their names on the picture Jarmusch, apparently, told them that he owed a sum of his own money and if they wanted the credits they would have to pay up.
Dorfdisco: and in relation to the music industry?
A.Newcombe: Fact. Fact. Its full of people that you wouldn’t ask their advice if your shoes were good or not. You see every stupid band becoming like a bar of soap. Like they are a product and then they tell everyone in the village or the home town that they can fuck off because they have success.They get fat. It sucks.
Dorfdisco: So I know that you are not here to plug your wares but in relation to the new album�
A.Newcombe: Well actually there are five albums coming out. Five coming out and one in the pipe. Well the best thing are the videos. I suggest that you take any of the titles from the new album and do a youtube search. You will find them immediately and, to put them in their proper perspective, all of them are worthy of projection on to the Tate Gallery wall. So yeah, we are just doing it that way. (these titles are compiled at the end)
Dorfdisco: Some of the titles, “My Bloody Underground”, “Auto-matic-Faggot for the People”, “We are the Niggers of the World”, for instance, seem a little more aggressive �
A.Newcome: with those titles I think I pretty much have my heart on my sleeve, or perhaps my skull on my chest. (he is wearing a hand knitted jumper decorated with skulls…)
He goes on to talk about his work for Act Up, ten years delivering food to people with AIDS back in S.F. Maybe a little over anxious to counter any possible implication of prejudice, he told me he fought forty crack heads to deliver food, his mother was a lesbian and he wishes her all the best, Michael Stipe (he tells me he loves the B52s (sic), “yeah, dance this mess around.”) , the politics of the media, as well as making an allegation about Paul McCartney that, were it to be printed here, might result in us being raided by the cops.
His handler turns up and tells him that a telephone interview is scheduled.
Dorfdisco: I know time is precious so let’s wrap this up. Any plans to play Berlin?
A.Newcombe: As soon as I’m invited and I’m welcome I’ll come. My friend owns the 8mm bar and I’m planning to by a flat with them, upstairs, right above them and make radios and facilitate all kinds of music because I have an infinite amount of experience. I have worked with the Chemical Brothers, I’ve been programming since I was nine years old. It doesn’t matter that it’s a DJ based culture, we did Ninja Tunes. I’ve taught people to do many interesting things. If I live, I think it would be interesting to be here. It’s artistic energy – but we (his wife Kate has been sitting patiently through the interview) are spending time between here and Rekjavik and New York. Listen I have forty nine employees in England alone�. So just because you read about other bands. That’s just folly. That’s just record companies paying music journalists to write about them. That doesn’t mean that anyone pays to see their concerts. That doesn’t mean they make any money. To put it in perspective the Dandy Warhols made ten thousand the first time they played with us this fall. That was the first time they ever made money!
Dorfdisco: So you are still on working terms then?
A.Newcombe: Dig’s chronology was all wrong, if you look at the names on the albums, my name’s on them, co-writing all this shit. It didn’t come from yesterday, it’s the sum of everything that has gone before, like all great art.”
Dorfdisco: Well I do have one Dig related question, which I was saving till the end�.. Did you ever get your sitar fixed?
The answer was delegated to his wife Katy.
A.Newcombe: YES. But it wasn’t one sitar, it was two.
Dorfdisco: Two Sitars ?
A. Newcombe: Two sitars and a tamboura.
Brian Jonestown Massacre
The Commitee to keep music evil (Label):