A day with Anton Newcombe


Il leader dei Brian Jonestown Massacre parla dei due album in uscita, di Tess Parks e di proposte indecenti, dalle Bananarama ad NME e se fosse il giudice di un talent show.

Anton Newcombe è per molti un eroe, uno degli artisti più stimati degli ultimi 15-20 anni, ma a lui di questo non  frega nulla e probabilmente questo lo rende ancora più eroe. Perché Anton è talmente coerente con sé stesso da divenire il manifesto vivente di un modo di rapportarsi alla musica, così discreto ed allo stesso tempo influente, tanto da renderlo di fatto una sorta di guru universalmente riconosciuto, un punto di riferimento. Lo si capisce da tante piccole cose, a partire dalla sua posizione sul palco, tutto defilato da una parte, chi se ne frega se è il leader della band il “frontman”.  Lui si sente solo un musicista, niente di più, niente di meno, sicuramente non una “rockstar”, non fa proclami, né sparate per attirare l’attenzione, lui non si vuole imporre ed è per questo che sono gli altri ad andare da lui o seguirlo. Ha le sue idee, chiare, che espone quando qualcuno gli chiede di farlo e se l’argomento è interessante. Non nasconde nulla e gli piace chiacchierare, divagando, spesso pazzeggiando, è per questo che le interviste con lui (questa per me era la seconda) sono state tra le mie preferite in assoluto.

If you should divide your career in phases or ages, how would you describe this one?

I’m on my period…!

Eh già, perché poi può capitare che ad una domanda non sappia davvero che risponderti, quindi piuttosto che inanellare una noiosa serie di banalità come fanno in molti, la butti direttamente sulla battuta, tipo in questo caso.

You always said that you don’t care if people consider you a music guru and whatever, so what is the best feedback you received playing your music?

Well last night a woman walk up to me after we played, I was smoking a cigarette outside and she said “This was my church.” She shook my hand and walk away. So that’s good, because I don’t wanna hear a bunch of bullshits from people, cause I don’t care, it just don’t mean very much. Something so simple.

Who were your heroes when you were young and who do you admire today? Not necessarily in music.

I think I like a lot of strange people, I think about people’s attitude, I always liked people like the actor James Coburn, he’s like from 60’s and stuff right? Ya know when he came back from the war, burning people with napalm, he was like ‘Fuck all this people’. Even in Hollywood… he was taking acid, it was his attitude, he really didn’t give a fuck, he was for real. He knew he’s doing his job as actor in public. I like those guys.

How did you know Tess Parks and why you decided to create music with her?

I think I’ve read a review because this girl signed with Alan McGee and the music sounds like my band, so I wrote her “Why don’t you just come in Berlin to make a record?”

How did you work together? Are you her music guide? Or is she your muse?
I really enjoy working with her because she’s so open minded and write words so quickly. I told her I don’t want sing about “I” all the fuckin time, ya know sing to the listener, turn prospective in the other direction, I’ve got two BJM albums coming before the end of the year, I wrote 45 songs and we wrote lyrics together. She’s very helpful.

Do you prefer music that pushes you away from reality or more focused on it, with social meanings, political stuff, or everyday problems?
I guess you should sing about whatever is true. If you’re in love with an imaginary woman, you should sing about that. If you want to tell everybody that it’s killing you watch them ignore our government blow up every country and tell some other guys, you know.

Do you know any italian band or is there any italian musician that you like?
Well of course Ennio Morricone and the people who he works with. I like older italian pop, songs from old movies, but all that stuff is so dead.

You made a lot of collaborations through the years, is there anybody who asked you to do something together and you said no?
I don’t know, sometimes I got some very strange phone calls, somebody asked me if I wanted to do a song for Bananarama… what the fuck are you talking about?!

And what about other artists?
I don’t know, most people think I’m crazy s they don’t wanna work with me. I do remixes or stuff for people, for example I recently did for Primal Scream, I did 2 remixes for their new single ‘100% or nothing’, they took one, that is dub. The other one were more like Depeche Mode style, but I think it’s better than their new single, so they were afraid of that and choose the other one!

Would you like that your son would become a musician?
I’ve been playing music, even a lot for him, but I want it to be natural. Whatever he wants. Obviously I have so many instruments, so many albums, so many fuckin things in my studio, but I don’t want to push him, you know like “oooh look at my son, he’s so fuckin cool! He loves Love, his favorite album is ‘Forever Changes’, what’s your kid listening to? uh?” I don’t wannabe that guy, I don’t wanna brainwash him.

What kind of world do you see for young musicians today?
Well, it’s not good, I mean, it’s never been good. I remember when I was in San Francisco I couldn’t find anyone to play the music I wanted and the other bands didn’t want me playing with them because they wanted to do some kind of Red Hot Chili Peppers or Guns N’ Roses stuff and other bullshits. So I had to teach to my friends how to play. Today I suggest to all the kids to share as much as they can, share the gigs, share the guitar amps, share the van, shot videos and photos for each other, play wherever they can, organize parties and play in those, invite girls, there should be girls, always. and play like 30 minutes, like the Rolling Stones used to do at the beginning, so people never gets enough.

What would you say to your son if he tells you he wants to partecipate to a tv talent show?
Well, I’ll try to explain him that it’s all fake, that stuff is not real.

Would you ever partecipate to a tv talent show as a judge if they give you a lot of money?
Like Asia (Argento, nda)? You know I would have to be honest, if I would go on tv for a second I would spend it to explain the situation, I can’t stand there and lie to the people about things that I don’t like, but just because I don’t like something it doesn’t mean it can’t be good. It just means I don’t like it. Just because I don’t like some Katy Perry’s songs it doesn’t mean it can sell millions. See. It’s two different things, but I personally cannot fuckin listening to the bullshits, not for a minute, and I’m not gonna lie about that for money. But you know, they asked me to write for NME magazine, to be an editor, and I said that ‘it’s a honor that you asked me’ but I told them the same thing, I fuckin can’t sit there, you know, it can be funny talking some shit, saying ‘this new record from this person is… shit! and this is why, fuckin hate them! their mother should have killed them!’ you know what I mean? But I just don’t wanna do that.

Dei due attesi nuovi album dei Brian Jonestown Massacre il primo a vedere la luce sarà ‘Third World Pyramid’, (da cui Anton e soci hanno già iniziato a suonare live il brano ‘Government Beard’) disponibile dal 28 ottobre. Il promo però è già arrivato dalle parti di Nerds Attack! e non ha deluso. Diversi brani, dei nove totali, sono in linea con il marchio di fabbrica e lo stile caratteristico BJM che tutti conosciamo, ma c’è spazio anche per diversi excursus molto interessanti, dalla malinconica apripista ‘Good Mourning’ alla title-track ‘Third World Pyramid’, in cui Anton duetta con Tess Parks in un riuscitissimo mix tra dream-pop e new wave in salsa dance.

A cura di Niccolò Matteucci

Selfie di Anton Newcombe