Anton Newcombe is in a good place. First, the mundane facts: the psych rock legend is now living in Berlin, having kicked both drink and drugs and fathered a song – 16 month old Wolfgang. On a wider aesthetic level: he’s finally able to do whatever the hell he likes, whenever the hell he likes. Opening his own imprint A Records, a new Brian Jonestown Massacre record is forthcoming, with Newcombe utilising the label as means to aid new groups.
“I’ve always been interested in helping other groups” he explains. “Especially, I’m interested in mixed media. I still press vinyl on all those things. I like helping bands because to me the BandCamp thing or SoundCloud isn’t really an album. There’s something about it – because everyone can do it, it means nothing to me” he laughs. “But I think at the same time if you’re doing things in a different way then it means something more even than just being some guy who’s only making vinyl or something. Like that isn’t legitimate to me. If you’re using every medium then it’s kind of interesting to me, I think.”
A truly independent artists, utilising every medium is most certainly Newcombe’s aim. Existing out with the system, the California-born artist is able to critique it from a distance. “The industry is kind of toasted in a lot of different ways” he says. “I went and saw The Strypes play in Berlin and I saw how big the guestlist was... I was like: woah. That’s the whole venue. Good for them, I’m glad that people are interested in them but we’ve never really been that way. We completely worked our way. From the very beginning we rented out our own homes and stuff. It’s just a different thing, you know.”
Working entirely from his Berlin studio, Anton Newcombe was able to piece together the Brian Jonestown Massacre’s new album ‘Revelation’ with whatever materials came to hand. “Since the very beginning I’ve sort of recorded with whoever - even if there’s nobody around, regardless” admits.” I’m really interested in recording on the fly, that’s how I make everything up for the most part. Then short of that I’ll record with whoever’s around for inspiration of them just being there or to play music with somebody. I have the studio separate from my house, it’s like my workshop and we can accommodate other bands and stuff. It works out good.”
Able to work in a solitary fashion, Anton freely admits that he does need outside influences to bring each Brian Jonestown Massacre album to fruition. “I brought one of my guitar players over when I was second guessing myself. Ricky came over. We’re both multi instrumentalists, so he can just completely fuck it up on the drums” he explains. “If he’s in a good mood he’s like one of those people that it’s infectious. He’s goofy that way that it’ll rub off on you too. It can be really positive; if he’s in a positive mood it’s really infectious.”
“It was very important for me at that time because I was trying to figure out how the music fit together. Because of Spotify I realised that people are going to make their own album playlists, with iTunes or whatever these days. A lot of people are” Anton insists. “Many other times I’ve lumped songs together by virtue of that they’re all recorded in the same way, or that I can see this invisible thread which ties it all together or it’s kind of dreamy or druggy. There’s something, which only I can see, which makes it all work. This time I didn’t see that with this album. So it was like a different situation where it gave pause to the whole thing. Going, how are people going to view this?”
Continually pressing ahead with new projects, Anton Newcombe has both a band and a label to run. With A Records continuing to expand, the Brian Jonestown Massacre are able to play a sold out European tour before setting their sights on the United States. “We’re doing good” he says. “I mean, we’ll sell out the Roundhouse with no advertising and all that jazz. No problem. We go all over the world and do that, on our own time – that’s really good.”
“I can’t complain” he muses. “These shows, it looks like all of them are going to sell out in Europe. Which is good. So that’s 48 shows. That’s nothing to sniff at, right there. I’m on my way to go over to the Austin Psych Fest and the West Coast shows are all selling out in big places. Things are going really good. I’m really looking forward to actually make another record, because I’m kind of inspired, in a way, to record and write better as an artist. If it’s possible. I’m curious to see with my maturity what I can do. Besides burn out or whatever.”
Ultimately, Anton Newcombe is leading the life which deep down he has always wanted. A cult figure, the songwriter is able to make his music heard – entirely on his own terms. “When I was like a teenager and I wanted to play music I never really wanted to go for this Led Zeppelin thing and be as big as U2” he says. “Like some rock star or something. You know, I guess what I was shooting for was somebody maybe like Mike Watt, somebody who a lot of people knew who he was and was making records and was travelling around playing gigs. And for me, that was like a success.”
“I just wanted to be somebody making records and be known for making records and touring around” he finishes. “And now it’s my idea of success to have basically everybody anywhere have an idea who I was. You know what I mean?”
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Brian Jonestown Massacre's new album 'Revelation' is out now.