The Brian Jonestown Massacre with 20 Miles featuring Judah Bauer and the High Dials at the Silver Dollar Room (486 Spadina), Tuesday (November 18). $10.50 advance. 416-763-9139. Rating: NNNNN
anton newcombe is in bristol , England. His band, the Brian Jonestown Massacre, played in Wales last night, and it was "really great." The people were "funny" and the venue was "really nice." "I'm sorry if my answers are a bit curt," he apologizes. "I'm just freezing." His answers have not been curt, especially since I expected Newcombe to be a bit of a surly, precious prick.
Perhaps I've caught him on a good day. Perhaps he's become mindful of the amount of bad press he's gotten in the past. Newcombe acknowledges that many people dismiss him as a crazy drug addict and an asshole. I'm glad we got that out of the way, and ask why he thinks he gets so much flak.
"People just read that stuff and parrot it right back," he tells me. "Historically, in art criticism people are always trying to find a reason for something, a flaw in creativity. 'Van Gogh was on absinthe,' that sort of thing. They can't just let it be what it is, accept it for what it is."
Some of those articles were reviews of Newcombe performances during which he threw hissy fits onstage, and pissed-off audiences departed in droves. In fact, an astute NOW staffer suggested to me that maybe the reason behind holding the Brian Jonestown Massacre's CMJ showcase on a boat was to ensure that nobody could escape.
But I don't mention any of this. We've got something of a rapport going, and I don't want to fuck it up.
Bad reputation aside, there's still some mad respect out there for Newcombe, who's been the only constant in the Brian Jonestown Massacre. Over four dozen members have come and gone since 1990.
For years he's been cranking out the garage rock and psychedelic pop inspired by everything from the 60s onward, from the Stones (obviously) and Zombies to Iggy Pop, the Small Faces and My Bloody Valentine, as well as music from the East.
Also, despite his rep, Newcombe posts almost all his music online for free, and says things like "There's a whole generation of young people out there, and that's how they come into contact with music. Imagine you live in PEI and don't have a record shop out there. Are you supposed to be excluded?
"There has to be entertainment. People forget how difficult it is to be a young person. It is hard work to be young." Aw. Isn't that nice?
The latest record, And This Is Our Music is, believes Newcombe, BJM's best ever.
"I'm very proud of it," he says. "So much has changed in our approach. It's a more organic effort, in that we did everything ourselves and there was no one asking us to go in a certain direction. (Seems this was the case with TVT; And This Is Our Music was released on Tee Pee.) It was a reaction to garage rock and all that's going on right now. We wanted to do something different."
The record is swirly, psychedelic, hazy, lush and ambient. Not what you might expect after the screeching of a woman on an answering machine that opens the whole thing.
"That was someone who used to be an agent. She got sort of moody with me when I was on a long-distance call to Australia and I said I would call her back. She called and left that on my answering machine. She called me a bastard. My parents were married before I was born, so I could sue her for that."