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Brant Bjork (Brant Bjork)

Interview with Brant Bjork from Brant Bjork
by Paul Carr at 13 October 2016, 8:31 PM

Metal Temple got to chat with Desert rock hero, Brant Bjork and quiz him on his solo career, and his new album, “Tao Of The Devil”. He also reveals what he gets from working in a band, his philosophy on his longevity and a surprising mentor that has helped him in his career. 

Can you remember first album you fell in love with?

It was probably “Rocket to Russia” by the RAMONES. I think that was the record. The older kids in my neighbourhood were all KISS fans and so I was kind of indirectly brought up on KISS and QUEEN. I love both of those bands. I kinda stumbled onto the RAMONES by myself and I saw them as a more obtainable version of Rock n Roll. I would run home after school and I had a few hours before my parents came home from work and I would play my drums to “Rocket to Russia” pretty loud. That was essentially how I learnt to play the drums.

You seem to be someone who loves what you do and you seem happy. You don’t seem to want to necessarily be part of any scene.

Yeah Yeah. I think content is more apt but I strive for happiness. I was lucky enough to grow up with music all around me. One of the things that gave me security. It had such a positive effect on me and I put all I had into it with no real plan to be successful at it. I literally just held onto it like a safety raft in the ocean. And I somehow turned it into a career. I’ve definitely done the work though.

You don’t strike me as a careerist though. Is it luck or judgement? How have you got this far?

Well I think. I definitely didn’t strategize but I relate to jazz and blues musicians in the sense that they just go to work. Music is what they do and as Duke Ellington said… well he didn’t have a plan B. There was just no plan B. It’s almost like my survival instinct to figure out how to keep doing it and make it work for me. That’s it. Persistence. I just don’t stop. Figure it out as you go.

When you look back on your debut solo album, “Jalamanta”, what’s your perspective on that album now?

Well, I haven’t listened to that album in a long time. I do kind of look at “Jalamanta” as the beginning of me pursuing the music that I have inside me with no other motive than I have to get this out. The creative process of getting that out was the beginning of me being able to make music. A certain amount of naivety involved.

How does this new album (Tao of the Devil) differ from Black Power Flower?

They are very different in that “Black Power Flower” was me returning to solo work after stepping away for some years and in returning I was impatient and frustrated and there was an angst there. I related the feeling to being a kid and skating and listening to punk rock and I just wanted to just scream and shout. It was written all pretty quickly and it was more about representing that experience and it was a satisfying thing to make. I felt like I got this thing off my chest and out of my system. In the process I developed a really good relationship with my band. What stuck was something awesome and they’ve ended up being the best band I’ve ever worked with and this record reflects that arrival. They do the thing that comes naturally to them and you just roll with that. With all the power I have as a solo artist I could inject myself back into a band situation.

Does being with the band take the weight off your shoulders?

For sure. I’m always pretty critical of what I do but they are able to take an idea and run with it.

You don’t strike me as overly tyrannical. How do you conduct things?

It depends. I do believe in destiny. There is a destination there. You have specific idea in mind. I may come in and say I have an idea and I want it done like this but you know authenticity is key to me. The destination and the concept is what we’re aiming for. Here’s the start. How we get there is open to interpretation.

You’ve worked in tense band situations before. Do you ever try engender some tension to aid the creative process?

I think the musician's personality is important. Take the BEATLES for example. There is such a harmonious, joyful sound but when you look at the mechanics of the band. For example, John Lennon seemed like the kind of person who might flip if you said the wrong thing but that worked for them. That music perfectly represents the band they are. I think that is something that I try to create with this band (THE LOW DESERT PUNK BAND).

Being a drummer yourself, do you find it easy working with other drummers?

I try to have a vision but I try to give them the room to be the drummer they naturally are. I want to get to a place rhythmically but it wouldn’t be fair of me to ask someone to get there if they clearly can’t or are struggling. Now I have the drummer who can do that (fulfil his vision) I just cut him loose. I don’t have to really think about it.

What’s the meaning of the title “Tao Of The Devil”?

It’s just a title. I mean this is a Rock N Roll record and it has a confidence to it. I try and force myself into situations that make me feel a little uncomfortable because I want to evolve, I want to grow. Really my solo work is a chance to hear me grow as a person. On this album, you can see what I’ve learnt and what I’m able to do.

A song like “Dave’s War” has an amazing extended jam outro. How much of that is actually spontaneous?

I love to jam so improv music is something I was brought up on. Not everyone wants to listen to a long jam though. I try and think what will still be exciting for the listener. With “Dave’s War”, we had ideas that we fleshed out but I think we edited it a whole lot. There’s probably a very long demo version of that song.

Can you tell me the meaning behind “Green Hee”?

I didn’t really have an idea but what I was singing sounded a lot like “Green Hee” and it just kinda stuck.

After doing this for so long, how do you avoid repeating yourself?

I kind of just follow my instincts. I do talk to the band and I tend to ask Ryan (Gut, drummer) what he thinks and he’ll give me an honest answer.

So you are on tour soon. I read that you were cutting down on touring.

Yeah. Well say in 2005 through to 2007, I was touring for 7 to 9 months of the year. Now that I’ve got a family, I’m in a place where I don’t want to be doing that so much. I want to be with them. I’m still gonna play and tour but like I took the summer off. That meant I could spend time with the family.

Can you remember a mentor that you’ve had in your life and what did they do for you?

I’ve been lucky enough to have had quite a few mentors. I feel like they have all affected my experience. I’ve looked to individuals in many areas of my life but the one that sticks out. Of course, I didn’t know him personally. But the one was Muhammad Ali. I can’t say enough about who or what he was as a person. His philosophies were simple but he was a genuinely amazing human being. His ideas have certainly helped me at various points in my life.


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