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Brant Bjork @ The Joiners Arms, Southampton, England

in Monday, 20 October 2014 at The Joiners Arms
by Jacob Dawson

In a true throwback to old-school Rock ‘n’ Roll, the legendary former drummer of KYUSS and esteemed musician in his own right Brant Bjork has been touring with his band LOW DESERT PUNK and playing a mixture of his old solo work, as well as newer material. I was lucky enough to see them at Southampton’s own Joiners Arms.

It’s been said that The Joiners is one of the essential places to play on the South Coast before a musician catches their big break, and although Brant Bjork caught his a long time ago it is a testament to the venue’s reputation that he still chooses to play here. While some might think the small size would work against it, in actual fact, it serves to make each and every event that much more focused and intimate, with those lucky enough to get in experiencing a more intense show: and this was no exception.
On this particular night the building was packed from the stage right out to the smoking area, and its small size meant that those at the back still got a very similar sound to those at the front, proving the acoustic benefits of a more enclosed environment. Unfortunately for me, the tight crowd meant that I was unable to get a decent space to take pictures from, forcing me to use the flash which only reflected off of the many bald heads in front of me. Still, you can tell from the look on Brant’s face that he’s very much into the musical experience, and everything he gives to the audience they return tenfold. With plenty of head movement and many audience members leaning against the nearest piece of furniture, pint in hand, it was easy to see that everyone was lost to the fantastic grooves throughout the set.

Special mention should be made for the drummer, who worked particularly well with the guitars to vary his volume and tempo not just across the set list, but also within individual songs to create a truly varied experience. Brant’s voice was on top-form too, but he was more than happy to let the music speak for itself since the vocal sections were few and far between.
It’s probably fair to say however, that more interaction with the audience wouldn’t have gone amiss, as for the most part each song led straight into the next with no introduction or banter with the crowd. This is probably to be expected by his fans though, since Brant Bjork is all about the music itself with little time for showmanship. Still, it was slightly awkward when he remarked it was good to be back in the UK and in the dead silence, someone right at the front enthusiastically asked how Belgium was and met with only stony silence in return.

It’s fair to say that over time Bjork’s musical style has changed from the hard, heavier sound of KYUSS to a mellower, more laid-back tone, and on this night he demonstrated more of the latter with music from his solo albums such as “Jalamanta” which indulged more of his Funk and Jazz influences.
The venue proved perfect for the type of performance the musical veteran put on, and every chord, beat and lyric echoed clearly throughout the pub. Let’s hope it’s not too long before his next visit!
Hello Brant Bjork and thank you for talking to me! Would you like to tell me a bit about how Low Desert Punk was formed and what your plans are for the tour?

This is just a band that I assembled that’s, y’know, all old friends who all have a basic musical root that we share. So it’s all about having a good time, being around good guys and being able to execute the Rock music.

And having a few beers along the way?

Yeah! Beers are fine, sure, why not?

So do you notice anything about the UK that’s different to other places you’ve toured?

Yeah, the UK is a really unique country. There’s some things about the UK that I don’t care for but I’d say the majority of it, I really enjoy it. The weather today’s been great, too. Y’know, we had a hard time getting into the country. The border crossing was really stiff and kind of weird. I kind of felt like I was in a Monty Python movie or something man. But once you’re inside the people are always really nice and I just enjoy driving between the towns and cities, the countryside’s beautiful. I just like the vibe, man.

So I know you’ve done a lot of solo work as well as obviously all the bands you’ve been in. Which do you get the most out of between playing as a band member and recording your own stuff, being able to show your creative side?

I enjoy the camaraderie of being in a band, I mean that’s how I started as a kid. But to be honest I really prefer being able to kinda dictate my own direction and my own trip.

So when you work on a solo record you have to play every instrument: which instrument do you prefer creatively, and which do you enjoy playing the most live?

I don’t really have a preference, recording to me is like building a house. And when you’ve got a band, it’s nice to have a band with this particular record, I wanted to have a band to record the record with and get that band’s spirit- and we very much got that. But sometimes there’s certain houses I build where I don’t need a band, y’know I’ll just do everything myself. I don’t prefer to do flooring to electrical, metaphorically, I just do what has to be done. So I just try to make the best record that I can with whatever I decide to work with.

So with that in mind, do you find it difficult to balance your solo work with what you’re doing here, as well as with that of Vista Chino?

It’s just time management. I mean I’ve got a wife and kids too, man, so you’ve gotta really just carve out the time. You’ve gotta get good at just not wasting time and getting good at what you gotta do when you gotta do it.

So over time how do you think your style has changed,  lyrically and musically?

Over the years it’s changed a lot, but in a lot of ways I kinda feel like the more things change the more they stay the same. This record is just me returning to those initially inspiring elements of my youth; just Punk Rock and Classic Rock and just not getting too intellectual about it, it’s very primal. So I feel like my music and my lyrics have always been specific to what I do, and what I do is for someone else to define (chuckles)

Would you say there’s something specific that you’re trying to do with Low Desert Punk, compared to what you’ve done with other bands as well as your solo stuff?

This is just my Punk band, I grew up on Punk Rock and out in the desert Punk Rock wasn’t a conservative thing. It developed a very kind of liberal thing, there was a liberal side to Punk Rock that I kind of embraced. I kind of dug that, you know, where it was about keeping an open mind. That allowed me to discover a lot of different music and incorporate that into what I do musically. That to me is the true spirit and essence of what Punk Rock means. So that’s why this is a Punk Rock band, and this new record is a Punk Rock record.

Do you think that’s evident in the work you did with Kyuss, or is it something that’s happened over time, since you left?

Well it all started with me and my best friend Chris Cockrell saying “let’s start our own Punk band”, y’know, we were Punk rockers. We got a couple other guys that also liked Punk Rock, and we were a Punk band. We always thought we were, we weren’t anything else, it was just what it was.

And what’s it like working again with Chris and other members of Kyuss in Vista Chino?

You mean working with Chris Cockrell and John Garcia and Nick?

Yeah, just everyone from Kyuss in Vista Chino.

Yeah, it’s good to be in a creative process with some old friends that I grew up with.

So are you going to tour and play stuff you’ve already produced, or keep creating stuff with them as you go? Can we expect to see a lot from them in the future?

I don’t know, I mean things change but right now today I kinda feel like Vista Chino had some cool potential but we were naturally drawn to going our separate ways. I enjoyed what Kyuss was and Vista Chino for very specific reasons, but I think it’s time to get back to work with my own stuff which I’m clearly doing, so I’m pretty content right now.

And are there any bands around now that you admire or draw inspiration from, or do you tend to look to the past more?

Not really. I mean I really like the new Tom Petty record. I think the new Tom Petty and Heartbreakers record is great. I think it sounds great, the lyrics are fantastic and the songs just excellent. So when it comes to new music I don’t spend a lot of time listening to it, I prefer older stuff. But I really like the new Tom Petty record.

Kind of on a similar topic, do you have an opinion on the current shift towards digital music? Do you miss the vinyl, and do you think people will cling onto the CD in the same way, when that starts to disappear?

Well I think people will cling onto whatever’s there to cling on to. The powers that be, for economical reasons, imposed digital technology upon the music industry years ago. People have been sucking on digital shit ever since, and I don’t think consumers even think too much about it. But it affected the business and the marketplace, and it affected the artists, and ultimately affected the consumer too, maybe without them even being aware of it. I prefer the older formats, I prefer the older ways of making music. Y’know I’m not anti-modernity and where it’s gone and there’s definitely conveniences that I can’t deny with digital technology.

Do you think Desert Rock as a genre is as popular today as it was 20 years ago?

To me Desert Rock means something very specific, and I don’t think it means to me what it does to other people. There was no such thing as Desert Rock when we were in Kyuss; we used to refer to ourselves as Desert Rock in a tongue-in-cheek kind of way. We called ourselves Desert Rock with no idea that it would ever be considered a genre! Because we were clearly from the desert, so it was very much environmental, and specific. Desert Rock, and Stoner Rock, and all that, again I don’t know if it’s for me to really decide what it is. To me it’s just non-commercial Rock music.

So is that what Low Desert Punk is, trying to bring back that freedom?

Yeah, well Low Desert Punk is just a more intense version of what I’ve always done. Doing the same thing, except I’ve kind of turned it up a notch.

And your solo record, Jacuzzi: any idea how that’ll differ to your previous records?

Jacuzzi’s just a record I was doing in 2010 around the time John called me to get Kyuss back together, so I put it on the shelf.  It’s a record I made at home with my old engineer, Tony Mason, where I’m just indulging in more of my Jazz and Funk influences, in terms of sound, and style and groove and stuff. That’s not to say it’s a Jazz record, or a Funk record, it’s just leaning in that direction.

Thank you for taking the time to chat to me, it’s been a privilege.

No problem, man.


Promoter: Brant Bjork
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Edited 21 March 2023

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