Band site: www.kyusslives.com
“I don’t look at it like that,” vocalist John Garcia says, after a brief pause, when asked if it’s been a welcome by-product of the Kyuss Lives! experience that the legendary Californian heavy rockers have been able to enjoy the victory lap they never had the first time around. “I look at it as, that we wanted to celebrate the past, revisit the past, and we did that. That will always be part of our history and we appreciate that. We appreciate our history and we like to revisit that. We wrote some of these songs when we were in our teens and fucking hell, I’m 42-years-old right now,” he laughs.
“This is what we do and it’s a good feeling to be able to do it. It’s where I’ve been that’ll always be with me, and the history of the band. But it’s also where I’m going, where everybody’s going. Where we’re going are these cool, new places and so we’re excited to get there. Also keeping the past very much in the present, and we’re gonna do both. There is really no unfinished business; there was no unfinished business. We finished it off and this is just another new chapter; another new, exciting chapter.”
Garcia and his cohorts certainly are moving forward, but not without incident. Please bear with us for a moment; this is going to require a little explanation. In June 2010, former Kyuss members Nick Oliveri (bass) and Brant Bjork (drums) joined Garcia on-stage during an appearance by “Garcia Plays Kyuss” at France’s Hellfest. Later that year, it was announced that Garcia, Oliveri and Bjork would tour under the moniker Kyuss Lives! Guitarist Bruno Fevery filled the spot vacated by former axeman Josh Homme, who has obviously tasted major success since their split in 1995. The new group embarked on a successful world tour that seemingly had Homme’s blessing.
However, in March of this year, Homme and former bassist Scott Reeder (who had played several shows with the band when Oliveri, swamped by his own personal legal issues, temporarily left the ranks) filed a federal lawsuit against Garcia and Bjork over their involvement in Kyuss Lives!, alleging “trademark infringement and consumer fraud”. It aimed to prohibit the duo from continuing to use the Kyuss Lives! name.
Bjork, in an interview with Rolling Stone claimed Homme, who he had known since the age of ten, had essentially forced the drummer out Kyuss in 1993 due to his need to control the band for personal gain. The sticksman also believed the lawsuit was motivated by greed. “For years, understandably, there has been a misconception that Kyuss was Josh’s band,” he told the magazine’s Greg Prato. “I assume this is the result of his controlling the songwriting on the remaining records. This untruth has affected Josh’s ability to accept historical fact to the point that he truly believes he is entitled to dictate what we do with a band that we are all responsible for. The simple fact that we got the band back together and successfully brought Kyuss back to the people without him has left Josh’s ego bruised.”
The verdict was handed down in August, which determined that essentially, Kyuss Lives! could use their name in concert, but not for recordings. However, the judge stated that it may be in Bjork and Garcia’s best interests to adopt a new name. Adhering to this advice, they’ve re-branded themselves Vista Chino and will release a new album next year. Oliveri has since returned the fold and Soundwave 2013 will be their final shows under the Kyuss Lives! banner.
“It’s an absolutely huge relief,” Garcia explains, appropriately enough, from his desert-based home. “Nobody wants to go through a lawsuit. Brant and I have been through a fuck of a time, trying to get through this thing, and we’re still trying to get through it. But it’s also super fucking refreshing to know that nobody can touch Vista Chino. Nobody has anything on Vista Chino that we can’t do. To say goodbye to Kyuss Lives! down in Australia, it’s great. We’re all excited to do it. The legality of it all; I’ll be honest with you, it sucked. It totally sucked. Again, nobody wants to be sued. But you know, you’ve gotta get through it… The big light at the end of the tunnel is this record, and changing the name of the band. It’s somewhat of a bittersweet (thing) to say goodbye to Kyuss Lives! but it’s also just a huge welcome to see the birth of fucking our new band. I can’t say it enough; to say goodbye to it in such an awesome, kick-ass country like Australia, it’s very fitting for us.”
All of this legal kerfuffle is far removed and arguably detracts from the legacy of the band which, spawned by drug-fuelled, desert generator party jams largely defined stoner rock via classics such as 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun and 1994’s Welcome to Sky Valley. Like many great artists the band’s enormous impact on hard rock and metal wasn’t felt until several years after their initial demise. Thus, few could really blame Garcia and Bjork for enjoying the fruits of their labour, albeit well in excess of a decade later.
As for the new record, Garcia is audibly enthused about the project, in his own laid-back, friendly manner. “We’re right in the middle of recording the record. In the New Year, I’ll be doing my vocals up at Brant’s studio up in Joshua Tree. So I’m very excited about getting in. The majority of the music is all done; the majority of the melodies and the lyrics are all done. So I’ve just gotta put it down to tape and then we’ll release the thing. So I’m stoked.”
Loud prefaces the following question by acknowledging it likely isn’t an easy one to answer, but how is the new material shaping up compared to previous Kyuss records? “When you have one of the original songwriters and the original drummer, and you have… I used to sing for that band, still do. There’s gonna be some automatic similarities and I think it’s gonna be a rock record, for sure. But I don’t think that Brant has tried (to) steer clear away from his roots. Brant was a fan of Kyuss; we were all fans of each other, and we still are. I’m a huge fan of Brant Bjork; so to hear some of his compositions that he’s let me listen to have given me a clean palette to sing to, it’s great. It’s a great feeling to be in a band with him, and to write to some of his songs.”
Garcia is also as fascinated as any diehard fan regarding what the finished product will be. “Again, it’s gonna be a rock record and I think there’s gonna be some similarities there. I have to say that I myself am curious in regards to what the overall record is going to sound like. I can’t wait to get it done, to have it fill the void in my gut. So it’s an exciting, yet still curious time for me as to what the record’s gonna sound like. I’m stoked; I definitely think it’s gonna be a rock record.”
The initial Kyuss recordings are so revered and laid such a foundation for waves of weed-infused rockers that one wonders if releasing the album under a different name may be a blessing in disguise. Perhaps using Vista Chino means fan expectation could be a little more realistic. It also may help them display respect for their sizeable legacy, without being handcuffed to it.
“I don’t think that Brant, nor I and Bruno think about expectation,” the frontman begins. “I think it’s more of what void needs to be filled in our lives and our ears; in our minds, hearts and guts. Integrally, ideologically, philosophically and what fills that need. It’s a necessity for Brant to be playing music; it’s a necessity for Bruno to be playing music, a necessity for me, as well as Nicky. I think that we’re all excited just to be able to share the stage again with one another. But I don’t think that going into this record we were thinking of what… I don’t think Brant goes, ‘what can I write that sounds like Kyuss?’ That’s already in him; Kyuss was in him since he started this band. Brant was really the originator of Kyuss, with the help of Josh, myself and Nick, as well as all the people that we played with.
“I think we’re very fortunate to have played with such amazing musicians, and we appreciate the fact that we still can do it. Expectations I think are minimal, if anything, when it comes to what we expect. Brant just shits out rock songs, you know?” he laughs. “What I’ve heard so far and what I’ve sang to so far, it’s a not a fucking polka record, I can assure you of that. It’s not an unplugged acoustic record; I can assure you of that. It’s a rock record and I think what Brant brings to the table is a lot of style, a lot of class, a lot of integrity and just a lot of feeling and emotion. When you have somebody like that writing tunes the way that he does, it’s almost impossible not to like them. That’s true to the thing; when the singer, when I say something like that, it’s awesome to hear these songs.”
From a creative standpoint Garcia acknowledges – to borrow a line from Neil Young – their sole responsibility to the muse is to follow it. “All you want is to fill a void in your gut and you’ve gotta get that fix,” the frontman says. “Everybody needs an out. When it comes to creativity in some people, it’s in forms of physical things, sometimes it’s emotional, sometimes it’s art, or whatever it may be. It’s all emotional and it’s individual, (but) that void needs to be filled. I’m just stoked to be a part of the band’s integral process of getting their fix. And they’re my fix, too. It’s a good place, where we’re at. To say goodbye to the lawsuit very soon, and the light at the end of the tunnel is Vista Chino. That’s the birth; the birth of the whole new thing and we’re all just looking forward to moving on and going forward.”
Kyuss Lives! plays the sold out Soundwave Festival in February/March.