Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Psychopedia Interview With Anton Newcombe


“What goes on in your mind?”

“I think that I am falling down”

The maxim that The Fall would still be The Fall were it to consist solely of Mark E. Smith and “yer nan on bongos” is equally applicable to the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The outfit has existed for over a decade as the primary outlet for the creative talent of Anton Newcombe. A mercurial presence whose fragile genius has sadly only begun to permeate the collective subconscious through the one-sided portrayal of his troubled strivings for artistic freedom in the 2004 documentary “Dig!” Newcombe can be a stubborn, self-absorbed, egotist. However, the documentary’s portrayal of a man bent only on drug and alcohol fuelled self destruction in the name of artistic achievement with a propensity for in-band and audience-targeted violence bears witness only to the negative elements of a man assured both of his own intelligence and vision.

It is remarkable how closely Newcombe’s creative approach and output mirrors that of one of his most obvious influences: Bob Dylan. Both glorify the enraptured state of youthful innocence and yet seem aged and knowing before their time. They both have a “wrestles hungry feeling that don’t mean no one no good” and feel the urge to be out “on the road heading for another joint” in a state of constant movement and renewal, ever changing, ever creating. Among other fragments and disjointed musings Newcombe insists during our interview that he is currently working on “four or five” albums simultaneously.

Out of these constantly spinning projects it is the Massacre’s upcoming 13th studio effort, “My Bloody Underground”, that I ostensibly met Newcombe to discuss. The bands first album in four years was recorded in Liverpool and Reykjavik with traditional Jonestown haste and features the bands traditional neo-psychedelic riffing combined with a nod to the more avant-garde. The record is notable for the appearance of Ride’s Mark Gardener and the fact that it is a stunning body of work comparable to the band’s sublime highs watermarks “Take It From The Man!” and “Thank God For Mental Illness”. Newcombe, however, remained happiest stalking the grounds of his West London hotel imparting his knowledge of Blitz-era London and attempting to instill the need for “civic duty” in passers by. Over double Smirnoff and tonics he had been dinking since midday of course…

In the past you have expressed weariness towards playing in England. How are you feeling today sat here in Lancaster Gate?
I think English people are Anglo Saxons. There is no unified peoples here, there are different kinds people. I like parts of them because they are us and I am not into bullshit nationalism and I don’t care about your bullshit nationalism. I mean I just don’t care you know? You can be into whatever team and I will cheer them, Liverpool or whoever, I will be all your girlfriends all night long. I just don’t care. But the reception you get here can be beautiful sometimes.

Is it a similar case in Europe? I saw you play at Primavera three years ago and your emotions on stage seemed to oscillate pretty wildly.
That place? It was just such a rude situation being there. Lou Reed had his sensei sitting in a yoga position right by the side of the stage next to him as we were playing. It was just fucking ridiculous. We just wanted to look at clouds and go swimming but they wouldn’t let us. We did it anyway a bunch of times, just dived straight into the Mediterranean off of those concrete blocks. It was the first time I had ever swum in the Mediterranean and it was a beautiful experience but they didn’t want too many people doing that. Oh no.

Can I ask what motivated you to write this new record and in particular the first track on the record?
First up this isn’t the new record; it is just the one that is being released now. There are others, this one only took four days to get down and there are four or five others that could go down at any time in my head right now. I work constantly. I only sleep for two hours and twenty minutes a day. My wife will attest that. With regards to the song I assume you mean “Bring Me The Head Of Paul McCartney On Heather Mills’ Wooden Peg (Dropping Bombs On The Whitehouse)”? That was inspired by the apocalypse. But I don’t even care about that. What I think about is being the best husband I can be to my wife and raising my child and being a civic-minded individual and being respectful of other individuals and being a pillar of my community. I don’t care about rock and roll. I couldn’t give a damn. But to get it down we just took a walk. I mean really it took about six seconds to come up with it and about 20 minutes to cut. If you take out the cocaine and whatever. But I’m not gonna get into that, I can tell looking in your pupils you got a sorcery full of secrets and deceit. But I am not the judge or jury that you need to convince with those irrational eyes. Anyway there are a whole load of kids here so we can’t talk about that, they are here in London experiencing and enjoying and that is a beautiful thing so best behavior and full steam ahead.

Did you feel the need to create as a child?
Well music is only one means by which I express myself. I have been programming computers for the CIA since I was 5.

As someone who has expressed concern over the current state of near apocalypse is that something that you have considered the outcome of?
I couldn’t say if it was good or bad, it is impossible to establish a unified opinion. I will tell you that it’s like saying “is the internet bad?” You can map the human genome with t or you can download porn or you can use the genome to destroy others so whole thing really is triangular. But it’s not my business to exist inside of some tea party with H.G. Wells in Oxford and create some kind of science fictions. I just don’t care as you or I shouldn’t really be alive right now.

What makes you feel that way?
Everyone is walking around like an idiot, ripping everybody else off and everything you think, concepts of nationalism, which is all a joke. I am bound to die but I have not encountered that yet so for now I will try and be the best I can be for my wife.

Is that the state of mind you record in?
No, we tend to go away and take many drugs, huge handfuls and reach the state of the bezerker. You can look that up if you don’t know what it means. My wife is Welsh and it is a very Welsh state, very primal and bezerk, lots of drinking and we were all bezerkers but again because of the children in the next room I cannot speak my mind freely on this position. I don’t need sycophants attempting to pop off on me.

This record sounds an equal to anything else you’ve done. What are you hoping to take Brian Jonestown Massacre now?
To prepare for the apocalypse.

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