JOHN GARCIA "Voice From The Desert"

By The Great Sun Jester
John Garcia, from his early years fronting the renowned Kyuss through his later stints with a variety of great outfits, has always performed with inspiration and passion. When he talks about being a slave to the song, anyone familiar with his music will understand exactly what that means. It doesn't stop there however. Garcia lives a quietly inspiring life, forever "keeping his eye on the ball", and understanding that his life away from the stage lights and amplifiers means more and makes it all possible. Artists rarely come as real as this.

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: First off, I was wondering if you have your live set locked down yet or if you're still experimenting with songs?
JOHN GARCIA: We've locked it down... that's a good question. We rehearsed last night and, believe it or not, made it through. We have 30 songs and we'll eventually chop some out and inject some, but right now we're about ninety percent done, so we're very close. [laughs] I got a little giddy there because no one asks me that question and it's great to say that, it's great to say, you know what, let me think about it, we are about ninety percent done. We have rehearsal again tonight and again this weekend, so we're movin' and groovin'.
WC:Sounds like you're putting a lot of time in.
JG: We all are, a hundred percent. This is important to us and we take it very seriously. We want to go out and we want to go out well rehearsed.
WC:All of the songs seemed designed to pull off onstage, but have any of them required subtle or not-so-subtle changes to pull them off?
JG:You're right. "Saddleback" is a little different. It's all in the action, the energy, and on a lot of these tracks, there's two guitars on them, like "Rolling Stoned" and "Flower". We've changed "Flower" up a bit, but we're not just doing that. Believe it or not, we do it out of pure respect, but we also want to breathe new life into songs like "Whitewater" and that whole end jam is gone and replaced by, instead of something very subtle, a totally different direction and it's mean, dirty, and gritty. I'm excited.
WC:You know, I think hardcores, or longtime fans, will appreciate those kind of changes. You always reading about fans complaining something didn't sound like it used to not like the album, but I have to respect it because it's about keeping the material alive for you. How can you possibly give a good performance of it if it isn't alive for you?
JG:Yeah and you take a song like "Gloria Lewis", a Kyuss song that the band never did live, so we're touching base with a lot of material. Even Vista Chino, we played some Kyuss tunes, but we never played "Tangy Zizzle" or "Gloria Lewis", we stopped playing "Demon Cleaner", but now that opens up the set. We go into the solo record, then Slo Burn, then the JG solo project, so it takes some turns, goes off on some different avenues and tangents, it's cool. It's a cool set. We actually, and I say this jokingly [laughs], we actually sound like a band. When you play with three new people and you're so used to sharing the stage with Brant Bjork, Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity, and Nick Oliveri, and Bruno Feverly, you have to adjust. [laughs] I've certainly adjusted, these guys are the real deal. They're lifers, as Arthur C. would put, it's what they do, and they're serious about their craft and profession. Not only that, they're great at what they do. They've showed these songs an incredible amount of respect .
WC: What drew you to covering Black Mastiff's song "Rolling Stoned"?

JG: It's very rare that I get a chance to see an opening act and one night in Canada, up in Edmonton, I got a chance to. Me and Bruno went in and I said, let's go check out this band Black Mastiff. We went in, stood by the soundboard, and I was immediately put in a trance. It's very haunting and mellow, but yet heavy and melodic. You know how you have something with cool words and it marries over something that's heavy and mean? It's awesome and I like where it took me. I introduced myself to the guys and they hooked me up with some vinyl and cds. The more and more I listened to that cd and vinyl, the more I thought, I totally love this song, I dig it, and want to cover it, so here we are. It's a great song.
WC:It's a great marriage of music and lyric. Those first two lines really grab you.
JG: Yeah, I got a weird look from my wife's grandparents. I had to say, whoa, hey now, I didn't write the lyrics! [laughs] It was funny.
WC:I bet.  Are there any outtakes or material that didn't make it on the album?
JG:There are. There's one song called "1974" and another song called "Little Marshall". I'm going to save these for the next record. They came really close, but I'm really excited to do it again. There's really nothing else, we were very specific. We went in there with thirteen or fourteen songs and we cut thirteen. "Swimming Pool" is another good one that didn't make it, but it just didn't go in the direction I wanted it to go in and some songs, when you hold onto them for a while, go in really cool directions and, other times, they don't. It wasn't part of the vision and it takes a little more time for me to get them to where I want them to be. They'll get there eventually - except for "Swimming Pool". I think that one took a turn for the worse.  I don't think there's any turning back off that one. [laughs]
WC: This is a question that goes back into your past a bit. With all of the bandwagon jumping that inevitably happens with any scene or movement that sprouts up in music, I am reminded of something that I once read Bob Dylan say. He said that the 1960's were like a flying saucer landing - if you weren't there, then you didn't see it. Is that a fair assessment of the scene you came out of?

JG:My thoughts, and they may not be shared by the desert locals here, is that it's overblown. I think the whole legendary mystique of these desert parties, the people, and the music... you know, that stuff goes on everywhere. It goes on in the south of London, it goes on in Melbourne, it goes on in Lawrence, Kansas.  If there's a void that needs filled, kids will find a way. Kids will find a way to have a party - it's like that old saying, necessity is the mother of invention.  It was a necessity for us to play, whether it be a house party, in your back yard, or in a garage, we made it happen. That's just my personal view.

WC: I agree with you. I think anytime movements like that sprout up, or seem to, Americans really latch onto that idea. There's kind of a mystique about it for people in other countries. It's overblown.
JG:It is overblown, but was it a cool time and did I enjoy it? Well, fuck yeah, I did! [laughs] It was great to be in some of those natural venues, if you will, and playing in the desert. It was cool. It was a party, it was a high school party, we were all in high school, so when we had the generator and maps were drawn, the word spread, and people showed up. It was just a party. Everybody's gone to those high school parties.  All good things.
WC: I know you recently guested on Steak's debut album "Slab City" and will be doing some shows with them in the future. When bands talk about the influence you've had on them, I know it's a honor, but is there a part of you that hears that and thinks, I'm not a museum piece yet?
JG:I don't really think that way at all, Jason. I'm a dad and I'm a husband. I'm a realist and a simpleton. I'm lucky to be talking to you on the other side of this phone call about something I've created, that blows my mind, and I'm appreciative of that. I appreciate the status that Kyuss has gotten, that its influenced some bands and writers, it blows my mind. I don't ever want to be put on a stool, I don't ever want to be called a legend, I'm not interested in leaving a legacy. To me, that word is so self-centered. I can see where other people want to use it, fine, use it, but to me it's just a bad word, and I'm just appreciative that I was part of it.
WC: It is a bad word, I agree, because it can cause you to lose perspective too. Talking with you before and now, I get the sense that if there's any legacy to be had for you, it's your family and kids.
JG: That's it. My family is the most important thing in my life. I keep my eye on the ball and that's my ball, that's the big picture. I've said it before, but they allow me to still do this. My daughter, eleven years old, made a video for all the members of my band and said, listen guys, my dad can only practice for 3-4 hours a night because I want to hang out with him. [laughs] I said, whoa, honey, you've got to consult with me before you start changing the hours on the guys! But, you know, it's important to her, so if it's important to her, then it's important to me. I mean, we don't just go in there for a hour, we stay for eight, ten, twelve hours and we rehearse all day long or all night long, which we did last night. I'm a little tired and we popped off a little bit and partied at the end... [laughs] anyway, I went off on a different tangent there.
WC: If touring, making records, and all of the stuff that goes with being in this business ended tomorrow, is music such a part of you that you'd keep doing it anyway, for your own enjoyment?

JG: Yeah! Whether it's here locally, in front of five people, 50 people, 500, or 50,0000, doesn't matter. I'll sing in the shower, I'll sing to the kids, it's still fun and I'll always be doing it.
WC: Listening to the new album, it doesn't sound like your past constrains you in anyway. I can hear echoes of everything you've ever done on it and even things you might not have heard from those previous projects.  Is having that kind of freedom a requirement for you in any project?
JG: For this one, it was. I had to make it my own because I had a personal relationship with these songs. It has given me a tremendous sense of freedom to cut these songs. I think I might have said it to you before that this record might not be a monumental moment for the rock and roll world as a whole, but it is one for me and it's something I've always wanted to do. I've been talking about a solo record since I was seventeen years old and I'm forty-four now, so you can imagine the pent up energy. It's like not having sex for twenty years, so it's gratifying to me. It's not for everybody, I realize that, and it's alright. It's okay if you don't dig it, it's totally fine. When you're exposing yourself, you're gonna get critiqued and criticized, people are going to talk about it, some good, some bad, and in this business, that's the way it rolls. You detach your emotions from that kind of stuff. You're doing it because you want to be doing it, it's your passion. That's why I'm doing it. I'd miss it. I'd miss doing it professionally, but on the flip side of the coin, I miss veterinarian medicine as well and I just might go back.
WC: It's gratifying in a different way.

JG: It's gratifying in a different way.
WC: Does your songwriting satisfy you most when it's a mix of the personal and imaginative?
JG: Yeah. I always say that my writing, the lyrics, are fiction, but there's some of my own life in there. I draw from my life experiences. I suppose that might make it, technically, non-fiction, but it stems from all kinds of stuff. It comes from my inspiration - I'm inspired by the guys in my band. I'm inspired by my four year old, my eleven year old, and my wife. It's an interesting question, but I haven't pondered on it, so I can't really answer except to say that I don't think on it that much, it just happens, and when it happens, it's not forced, and I just become the song's slave.
WC: Last question. You're surrounded by talented, professional musicians and, of course, are one yourself, but were any of these songs harder to nail down in the studio than you anticipated?
JG: "Saddleback" was a big one, that was much harder. I could have sat in the studio and turned the knobs for another month, but at some point, you've got to let it go and just say, here's my baby, you're about to be introduced. For the most part, I was very happy. I didn't expect "All Those Walls" to go in that direction, I didn't expect "Saddleback" to go in that direction, and I didn't expect "The Blvd." to go in the direction it did. I'm certainly glad it did because it's much better than I envisioned it. "Confusion" was fun, it was originally a love tragedy song, acoustic, but there was only room for one acoustic tune on the album and that was "Her Bullets Energy" with Robby Krieger, so we turned it into this weird interlude with guitars and drums and that's it. That's the fun part of visiting these songs where I'm at in my life now verses fifteen years ago. All around, it's been a great experience.