Brant Bjork & The Bros Somera Sól

Brant Bjork & The Bros Somera Sól
What do you mean, "Who’s Brant Bjork?” He’s only the original drummer in Kyuss, the godfathers of "stoner rock.” He also wrote some of their best songs. Best? Hell yeah, and heaviest — Guitar Magazine voted his riff for "Green Machine” one of the heaviest of all-time. After slumming for a few years battering the skins with Fu Manchu, he’s self-released a series of solo records, the best being the new wave-y rock of Brant Bjork & The Operators and the organic, stoner groove of Jalamanta. And, groove is what Bjork is all about; he locks onto a super-simple, catchy riff and rocks the head bobbing shit out of it. On Somera Sól, he’s rejoined the Bros, now with 25 percent more Kyuss! Alfredo Hernandez, the man who replaced him on traps when he left said legends, and who provided the robot beats on the first Queens of the Stone Age record, is back behind the kit. So, this must be a monster of low-end desert rock, right? Nope. Somera Sól has some of the wah-wah trippiness but is more about sweet, old-fashioned rockin’ than crushin’. Not as immediately accessible or catchy as his first two solo records, Somera Sól still has moments of transcendent, infectious, psychedelic groove.

So, you wrote one of the 50 heaviest riffs in history. How’s that feel?
[Laughs] It feels pretty heavy. No, I don’t know. It’s just rock magazines or people havin’ fun just trying to figure out, you know it’s just like… favourite record, what’s the heaviest riff. It’s flattering on a very basic level, but you know, whatever.

So, why’d you leave Kyuss?
Uh, well, for many reasons, for many reasons. I would say the easiest way to answer that question would be just to say that I no longer shared a vision with other people in the band, specifically Josh [Homme of Kyuss and Queens of the Stone Age]. In fact, only Josh. We kinda just… we were young and we were Kyuss and as we were getting older and as the band was experiencing moderate levels of success, everyone just kind of absorbs that trip in their own way. He went one way and I went the other.

I’d read it got too wild for you…
No, I mean we certainly were partying pretty hard, but a lot of my partying was ’cause of my frustration with just knowing that this thing that I envisioned and was building was crumbling due to things that weren’t musical, which is kinda sad.

Has your philosophy changed between then and now? I know you’ve worked with Josh again since then…
In some ways I’ve changed, in some ways I haven’t. I mean everyone naturally changes as they get older, when I was in Kyuss I was 18 years old. I was probably a little more idealistic then on certain things, but who knows maybe now I’m more idealistic on certain things as well. Philosophically, no. Musically and artistically, you can see the difference between where someone like Josh and I left and went separate ways. You can kinda see why, and how, and where that kinda thing would happen. Where we’re at now.

Josh Homme called you (in Magnet No. 64) "The confused one… Brant’s intense punk-rock guilt helped cure me of mine.” What do you make of being painted as an Ian MacKaye-like ideologue?
My only answer to that is like, you know what, I remember when we were kids, when we were 12 or 13 years old, and we were both idolizing punk records, and it was very musical, but it was very idealistic, too man. But, I understood the social aspect of hardcore music, and the independent factor, and certainly it was an influence on me. It’s an influence on me today. And, you know just because he sold out, he thinks that he can turn it around, it’s a total flip-flop psychology tactic. It’s like, "oh, he’s suffering from this, because I wanna go for the gold, I wanna be big, I wanna be famous, I want financial and commercial success.” It’s like, that’s cool, man. There’s nothing wrong with that. If that’s what you want, go for it. More power to you, literally. But, for those of us who don’t reach for that, you don’t need to turn around and express in publications that were handicapped with some kind of trip over some fanatical idealism. It’s him trippin’ on himself is what it is, man.

You guys got joint credit on "Whitewater.” What parts did you write?
That’s a real dark, deep thing. I mean to me "Whitewater” is a dear song that I wrote. The publishing of that song goes into a really deep, ugly place in the Kyuss demise. So, uh yeah. Let’s just leave it at that.

But you still did the Desert Sessions, right?
He asked me to be part of the Desert Sessions, he told me about the Desert Sessions before he even started it, and he asked me my opinion of the whole concept, and I said well, I was kinda torn you know… part of me was like: well there is a certain element of exploitation that I don’t like, but at the same time it was an opportunity to collaborate with musicians I respected, so I chose to be involved.

Did you have fun?
Yeah.

You enjoyed the recording space (Rancho de la Luna, in Joshua Tree, California).
Yeah, I always enjoy creating music, with all musicians and even Josh, that’s what it’s all about, is being creative.

The Operators record you played almost all yourself.
Yeah, except for the keyboards.

You were just talking about collaboration and creating with other musicians, what’s a difference between The Operators and this latest one?
Oh well, there’s quite a bit of difference, I mean now, my latest record you know with the Bros. The Bros is more of a band situation and we’ve been playing together now for four or five years, so we’ve developed a very good, solid chemistry. There’s just the obvious differences, you know? You know, a record like The Operators was just something, I had some riffs, and I knew Schneebie (Mathias Cornelius von Schneeberger), the engineer, and he had some keyboard talent, and we just kinda went in and I just had a concept, and I just kinda built it from nothing, you know and that’s just kinda part of the fun, is improvising in the studio.

I read this interview with you recently, where you did kind of sound like an indie zealot, where you were like fuck all new music, fuck anything that’s not recorded on, you know, a wax cylinder, or something. Where do you come from on that?
I know what I like. I’m convicted. I’m not anti-anything. I’m not anti-iPods. The world’s gonna evolve and technology is gonna be part of the music business and there’s not a damn thing I can do about it, and I ain’t gonna waste my time fighting anything. I’m not on some kind of idealistic crusade. But I like records. I think they sound better. I like music up to 1985, cause I think it was better. It’s just my opinion, man. I know what I like. I’m just convicted man, I know what I like, and there’s nothing wrong with that. That’s what it’s all about, some people like to be up on what’s happening, right now. I’m just up on what’s happening in my heart, and what I dig, you know? It’s that simple, man.

I read somewhere that you said "what I do is rock’n’roll.” People wanna call stuff stoner rock, and people wanna call stuff whatever. But how would you describe what you were doing? You could say rock and roll and people would be like "Oh, Bill Haley.” If you had to describe what you were doing how would you describe it?
Well, that’s just it, you say rock’n’roll, and you can say Bill Haley, you can call the Sex Pistols rock’n’roll, too. The same thing with stoner rock, you can say Black Sabbath is stoner rock, and you can say Blue Cheer is stoner rock, and you can say Nebula is stoner rock. I mean these terms are so broad. I don’t know where it begins and ends. I grew up on rock, I grew up on rock’n’roll, I grew up on punk rock, I like jazz, I like reggae, I like funk, I like blues. You know I like music, man. I like groove. I like music. I just call it rock. It’s like rock music. It’s roots rock. They say roots, rock, reggae. It’s just roots rock.

There’s a website that talks about stoner rock drummers (www.jimdero.com/OtherWritings/OtherStonersMD.htm), and on Wikipedia, they say you are role model for all these drummers that came after you, and you’re all self-deprecating and like, "well, I can’t really drum, I’m not a studio drummer.” How do feel about people putting you on a pedestal… or maybe a drum riser.
Yeah, I get a little uncomfortable, obviously, with some of my quotes, with people praising me or putting me up on some kind of influential pedestal, but part of me is like, I put a lot of heart and soul into my music and into my instruments. It’s just what I do, it’s longevity. I’ve been playing rock a long time. Even by the time I was in Kyuss, I was young but I’d still already paid my dues in the local desert scene. I just brought a certain kind of conviction into my instrument and I guess I was just trying to express that I don’t think it’s any kind of technical thing that people are hearing, it’s just a feel. And, I think a lot of people… when you see someone who really feels what they do, I think it has a natural effect in making someone go do the same thing in their own way.

What instrument are you most comfortable with?
Well, it depends on what I’m doing. Right now, in the Bros, I feel comfortable playing guitar and singing. There might be some other musical adventure I could go on where I’d feel more comfortable on the bass, it depends it just depends on what I’m doing.

So, the band that’s touring is the band that’s on the record?
The drummer, Alfredo Hernandez, he just came in and this is his first year with us and his first record with us. I’ve made records with him in the past. I’ve been watching him play drums since I was 13 years old. He’s very much part of our family unit. We’re very familiar with each other’s musicianship.

How are your styles different?
He’s more precise on his drumming. I think he’s very articulate. Subtly articulate in what he’s bringing to a song, I’m probably more of a freak just kind of, you know. He’s like a surgeon, he’s very convicted and awesome. Patient, very patient drummer. (Duna)