Latest release: John Garcia (Napalm/Rocket)

Since his rise to fame with the short-lived but massively influential Kyuss in the early 1990s, John Garcia has enjoyed the status of one of modern rock’s most revered singers. Following the split of that band he led other groups including Hermano, Slo Burn and Unida until going into semi-retirement from music to pursue a career in veterinary medicine. With the Kyuss reboot in 2010, Garcia’s flame was rekindled as the band made its problematic transition into Vista Chino. Then he caused consternation by announcing he wanted time off to do a solo album instead of following up on the impetus behind Vista Chino’s Peace album from last year.

“Vista Chino is a great band,” Garcia says from his home in California in a voice as laidback as his onstage persona. “I love Brant, I love Mike and Bruno, and what a great band! To share the stage with those guys was phenomonal. Not to say that I quit Vista Chino or anything like that – there’s a lot of momentum behind all the work that we had done – but I gotta go where my heart tells me to go. When I got back into music back in 2009, my whole plight was to do my solo record. I just never intended to fall in love with Brant’s drumming! So it took me in a different tangent as to why I got back into music, [and] got out of veterinary diagnostics.”

Harbouring a box full of songs he’d never had the opportunity to release or work on for two decades had finally become too much of a burden. Vista Chino or not, the time had finally arrived for John Garcia to do something that was his own thing. In separate interviews with Loud this year, Brant Bjork and Mike Dean both expressed surprise and disappointment at the curve ball their singer threw them but the break has also allowed them both to also do other things – Dean finished and released the ninth Corrosion of Conformity album and Bjork’s own solo set is coming soon.

“I felt I had a personal relationship with these songs, and I held onto them throughout the years,” Garcia explains. “I put them in a safety deposit box – a vault – if you will. Actually in reality it was just a dusty old cardboard box. I got tired of looking at them every. Single. Morning. Saying yes to other projects and yet never saying yes to these songs that I’ve had such a personal relationship with. You know, I wasn’t trying to change the face of rock n roll with these tunes at all. These are just songs that are close to me and my heart and to finally give them the freedom that I believe they deserve it’s very liberating.”

Garcia’s safety deposit box was found to contain 44 songs waiting to be given their freedom. After twenty years of procrastination, the singer opened his treasure and sifted through them with producer Harper Hug in Jalamanta Studios where Peace was recorded. A month later, with help from a laundry list of friends and former bandmates including Slo Burn pair Chris Hale and Damon Garrison, Dave Angstrom and Dandy Brown from Hermano, Marc Diamond and Tom Brayton of the Dwarves and the polarising figure of Nick Oliveri, John Garcia was done.

“I can’t thank them enough to have had the same amount of passion recording these songs as I did,” John Garcia says with some animation. “It was great to have them be into it so much. They were equally as passionate about these songs and helping compose them and putting them down to vinyl and it was an experience I will never forget for the rest of my life. I’m very honoured and very fortunate to have surrounded myself with such great musicians. It couldn’t have happened without them.”

He’s careful to mention the contribution that Canadian rocker Danko Jones made in the form of the specially-written track ‘5000 Miles’ and isn’t likely to forget the album’s very special guest – Doors guitarist Robbie Krieger. Garcia has Harper Hug to thank for that.

“When my producer Harper Hug looked at me and said he could hear Spanish guitar on ‘Her Bullets Energy’, I said, ‘That’s great! I hear that too. Who do you know that plays Spanish guitar?’ and he goes, ‘Well, I know Robbie Krieger’. And I just about fucking fell out of my chair and said, ‘Holy shit, do you think he would play on it?’”

Garcia speaks with the genuine excitement of anyone who has had the chance to colloborate with a personal hero.

“Next thing you know I was in a studio in Los Angeles and he was laying down some flamenco Spanish guitar on the track!”

He talks often about ‘breathing new life’ into the songs he neglected for so long. It was simply fun, he says, to revisit them and see where they might end up.

“’The Blvd’ took on a life of its own,” Garcia says. “It’s great when a song writes itself. Being in the studio and recording with Marc Diamond and Dave Angstrom and Tom Brayton on this particular track, it was great for it take a different direction from what I thought it was going to. Same with ‘My Mind’, the opening track. That was the really enjoyable part of being in the studio, hearing songs take on new meaning and new life and ‘The Blvd’ was a direct result of that. That’s the stand-out track for me.”

John Garcia’s next challenge is to bring those songs to the stage, a feat he will be doing for the first time when he comes to Australia in September for a whirlwind east coast tour. Garcia has a deep affinity with our wide brown shores that goes right back to the first time Kyuss visited when they opened for Metallica on the Black tour.

“It’s nerve-wracking to expose myself without being behind a band name such as Vista Chino or Unida or Kyuss Lives! or Kyuss. But I’d be nervous if I wasn’t doing this. But to be doing this in Australia for the first time in my career and have Australia be the conduit – for me to do this for the first time in Australia, not in California, not in Europe, not in South America, but in your beautiful country… Australia’s always had a special place in my heart. It seems very fitting.”

He even goes so far as to say that if he could afford it, he’d buy a second house on the Gold Coast and apologises for not doing a complete Australian tour this time around, with a promise he’ll return as soon as he can.

“I’m looking forward to it and even though it’s only four exclusive shows, it’s exactly that – it’s very exclusive, and I’ve been getting a little flak in regards to Adelaide and Perth and New Zealand and Tassie, but I’m just looking forward to getting down there and doing this. Eventually I hope to get down there sometime at the beginning or mid-next year to do a more extensive tour. And my band’s really excited too.”

He has a final gift to his Aussie fans too. Eschewing the recent trend for touring artists to charge their fans a king’s ransom for a handshake and a photo when they can just as easily be found drinking in the next bar after a show for free, John Garcia is doing meet-and-greets before each one of his performances. For no extra charge.

“I appreciate Australia,” he says warmly. “I appreciate all the love and support that Oz has given me, man. This is a monumental moment for me, and to have people show up and buy a ticket and see me play, past and present – I gotta give thanks. I wanna invite everybody down to hang out with me. I’m gonna be hanging around early and if people want to shoot a photo or shake my hand or fucking spit in my face… I certainly hope they don’t do that! This is my way of saying thank you. No need to charge fucking extra for all of that stuff. I just appreciate all the people coming down to my show, and I wanna make it special.”