John Garcia,
The TVD Interview

The genre of stoner rock has roots in bands like Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer, but few bands contributed more to the modern era of stoner rock than Kyuss. When John Garcia started the punk/metal influenced Katzenjammer with his buddies Josh Homme and Brandt Bjork back in 1987, they had no idea that they would turn a whole genre on its heels. Not only did Kyuss help define modern stoner rock, but they took the age-old heaviness of their predecessors, hauled it out into the arid heat of the Palm Desert, and baked it into a whole new genre. Desert rock was born and began what became known as the Palm Desert Scene. 

All good things must end and Kyuss split in 1995 and went their separate ways. Homme formed Queens of the Stone Age with Kyuss bassist Nick Oliveri, and singer Garcia forged his own path. Building a resume of strong bands and varied guest appearances, Garcia has maintained a steady journeyman status…until now.

In 2014, John finally releases his opus, the album he always wanted to record but didn’t. (Spoiler alert: the album kills.) I found John to be like a spotlight—bright and beaming for all to see when we talked about his new album and his family, but leaving the stage a bit dark when the subject of the past came up. This is a more mature, focused John Garcia than I’ve ever seen, one who is ready to rip the rear view mirror off of the windshield and haul ass into whatever the future holds.

Hi John! How are you doing?

I’m doing good, doing good! They’ve got me doing a little bit of press today, they didn’t slap it on me too heavy, so that’s good. Things have been alright here. Where are you calling from?

I’m right outside of DC.

Oh alright, cool.

Just got back from a wonderful weekend in LA, and I miss it already.

Yeah, I was at the beach yesterday with my kids and it was just beautiful. Today’s a little overcast, but you can’t beat California weather sometimes.

No doubt. Which beach were you at?

Newport.

We were at Zuma Beach yesterday.

Oh, that’s a beautiful beach!

I went right from there to LAX.

Wow, that’s rad. Cool, man.

Tell us a bit about the new album, the self-titled John Garcia album.

This is something I have been waiting to do for many years, for a long, long time. I’ve said yes to a lot of projects, and I’ve said no…this collection of songs that I’ve been looking at and staring at for many years and I finally got tired of saying no to it. It was out of really kind of pure exhaustion that I wanted to unleash them, uncuff them, and give them the freedom that I thought they deserved.

It’s a direct result of that, and hey, I wasn’t looking to change the face of rock and roll with this record, it’s not for everybody. I’m a father and a husband first, and my kids and my wife really allow me to have the type of environment that I’m in on a nightly basis, and without their support, I couldn’t be doing it.

You would call this one a labor of love?

Yes, it’s a labor of love, that’s all it is. Again, I’ve been wanting to do this for a long time, and to finally get it out there, it feels real good.

Is this what came from what was originally being referred to as Garcia vs. Garcia?

Yeah. The reason for the name change is that I talked about Garcia vs. Garcia for so long, it just never came to be, so if I just changed the name to my own name. It’ll give me a nice fresh start, which it did, and it finally came out.

It’s simple, it works.

Simple, yep. It works.

This is not all brand new material—this goes back how far for you?

Some of it goes back a little over twenty years. I wrote “Her Bullets Energy” when I was about eighteen or nineteen and living with Nick Oliveri in North Palm Springs.

Wow. Way back.

Not all of it is that extreme. Some of it is ten years, twelve years, some of it is five years old. I kept them in my box, and I traveled with them wherever I went, wherever I moved, whoever I was with, I held on to them and I never let them go. I knew one day, that I’d get around to it, and it was finally this year that I said no to every project and I said yes to this project. It felt, again, quite liberating, and there’s a tremendous amount of freedom that I feel, I gotta tell ya. I go back to that word, “liberation” and “freedom,” but it’s true. I wonder myself, why did it take me this long? It shouldn’t have taken me this long, but it did. I had to go through some of the things I went through to get to this point, and now I’m—not to say that I wasn’t happy before—but I’m really happy. I’m great. All good things, man.

GarciaAlbumCover

You also had old friends like Danko Jones, Nick Oliveri, and Dave Angstrom help out with the album, right?

To name a few, correct.

How did these friends contribute to the vibe and feel of the album?


I know exactly how they contributed. They have just the same amount of passion as I did. When looking at these writers and these co-writers and the people who I work closely with, they didn’t go “Well, you know, I’m not sure if I can, uh, I don’t know if I can do that, man. I’m just not feeling it.” They were like, “No. I love this idea, let’s run with it.” They had that excitement, they had that passion.

There were a couple of guitar players that I wanted to be on this record. I met with them at a local watering hole down here in the desert and I said “I really have you in mind, and I think your style and your vibe would go great on this one particular song.” They said, “Well, you know…” I just said, “Enough said. That’s all you needed to say. The beer’s on me, we leave in peace, and I’ll see you at the party later on.” We are still friends, and it was all good, but everybody that played on the record had just the same amount of passion as I did, as well as the producers.

We have to mention Robby Krieger. That must have been amazing.

You talk about a monumental moment for me, being in the studio with someone like him.

So, he didn’t send you the tracks, you got to sit face to face and work on “Her Bullets Energy” with him?

Yeah, we went to his recording studio in Glendale, and it was just finished being built, and “Her Bullets Energy” was actually the very first song that was recorded in his studio. It sounded really good. We sat down, and he asked me what the song was about, and I told him. You know, I’m not a poet. I don’t claim to be a poet, I write abstract relationship stories. He goes, “Ok, cool man, let’s get on.”

He sat down with his flamenco guitar in one hand, and he set his burrito down from the other hand, and just started slapping it. After the track was done, I think we were talking more about golf than we were about the track. He was just kind of a normal, cool, awesome, sweet, genuine, fucking badass guy. I can’t thank Harper and Trevor [Harper Hug and Trevor Whatever, album producers] enough for being the conduit to getting Robby to play on the record. I gotta give credit where credit is due, and definitely Harper and Trevor deserve a ton of it, not to mention big thanks to Robby, for not only making the track better, but making the entire record better.

That’s the kind of response you always hope to hear, with someone of his caliber. You don’t want to hear, “Oh, well, you know, we knocked out the track,” and that’s it. When you have such kind things to say about him and how great it went, you’re sort of reaffirmed inside, like “YES!”

Yeah, like, “Oh cool, he’s not a douche!” [Laughs]

Exactly!

Look, I don’t claim that I play thirty-six holes with Robby Krieger. I don’t. It was an honor to have him want to be a part of this. Harper said, “I’ve got this idea for one of your songs. Let’s not get our panties in a twist over this thing. Let’s see if Robby likes the track.” I’m like, “Okay.” So, the first piece of the puzzle is if Robby liked it. Okay, he liked it. Now, another piece of the puzzle is, if he would play on it. Would Robby Krieger from the Doors play on this track that I wrote when I was nineteen years old?

Crossing your fingers at this point.

Yeah. If someone had told me that Robby Krieger from the Doors was gonna be playing on a song that I wrote, I would have told them that they’re fuckin’ out of their mind, to go jump in a lake. I want to work with Robby again, I want to work with him in a more intimate setting, where we write together more. I haven’t really said that to any journalist before, but I just had a meeting with my producer a couple of days ago, and we were talking about the next record. That’s a goal, to work with Robby in a closer environment, and to get a little bit more intimate with Robby when it comes to creating together. So, I’m excited about that endeavor. That’s on tap.

I’d love to hear that, for sure.

Me too! [Laughs]

What kind of tour plans do you have? Do you have a touring band already lined up?

We’re ready to go. Great guys. Ehren Groban—local guy, desert local. He plays guitar. Mike Pygmie—local guy, plays bass. Greg Saenz—local guy plays drums. We’re rehearsing today, we’ve been rehearsing for the past month and a half, and we have our first show here in the Palm Desert to kind of kick off the world tour at a local watering hole. We leave in about a month for Australia. We’ll stay there for a small run, then come home and rehearse some more and start the writing process. Then we’re off to Europe for a big, big, long tour. We get back right before Christmas and we’ll hit it again. The band’s hungry to tour, we’re hungry to write and play, so those are the immediate plans.

So, is the American tour next year?

You know, we’re working on it. I don’t know if it’s going to make sense, honestly. I’m trying right now to set something up where we can surround something around South by Southwest, and have South by Southwest be the anchor date. We’d start off in Texas and work our way west, go up the west coast, go through the bottom border of Canada and the US, then go down the east coast and maybe a few midwestern dates before working our way back to California. That would be ideal, but we are working on it. Nothing is confirmed yet and I don’t know if it’s gonna actually happen or not, but nobody wants it to happen more than me. I’m chomping at my booking agent for it, so we’ll see.

We definitely hope it does happen.

Me too!

Throughout your career, you have been a bit of a journeyman. You had Kyuss, then Slo-Burn, Hermano, Unida, and various appearances with bands like Karma to Burn, Mondo Generator, and Orange Goblin to name a few. Do you enjoy the feeling of not being too tied down or are you happier now that it’s one solid, stable situation?

Well, you’re right. You’ve done your research and you know how many projects I’ve been in.

I’ve actually been a fan since ’92 and a fan of all of those projects.

Anybody who knows me knows I don’t like to stay in one place for very long. For me, it’s all about being explorative, and being exploratory. This is a direct result of that. If there’s a rulebook for singers, saying you should do this and not water yourself down, or whore yourself out, I don’t live by those rules. It’s not about whoring myself out or watering myself down. It’s about me being me.

I see whoring yourself out as doing something you wouldn’t normally do, just for a paycheck.

There you go.

Which you haven’t done throughout your career.

You know, if I was in the business for the money, I would have quit a long time ago and went right back into working side by side with my wife at Palm Springs Animal Hospital. That’s what I would have been doing, and you know what? I just might. I very well just might do it. I loved that career, I live vicariously through my wife. She always tells me, “Anytime you wanna come back!” I tell her “As long as you continue to let me do this!”

Not that I’m pussywhipped or anything, but it’s gotta make sense in every single way. It takes a lot to let somebody’s wife and/or husband go out for over a month and be in the type of environment that I’m in on a nightly basis. Then, to boot, take care of an eleven-year-old and a four-year-old, and run Palm Springs Animal Hospital. She’s the unsung hero here.

I went off on some different tangents there…I like where I’m at, I like being exploratory. I get offers all the time, every week there’s something that comes up in my inbox. “Hey, I want you to listen to this song, we’ve got 3K in the budget for you, all you have to do is sing this chorus.”

Wow.

Every fuckin’ week that stuff comes in. Every week. It’s gotta make me feel, it’s gotta touch me. Even like, the Crystal Method, that shit, I was like wait a minute. “Scott and Ken, are you sure you want me to sing on this techno record? Do you know what I do?” They’re like, “Yeah, we know what you do.” I said, “Alright, well let me hear the track.” I heard it, and it was a trip what they did to Wes Borland’s guitar. I thought to myself, “Well, fuck man. This is me and the guitar player from Limp Bizkit, and two guys called the Crystal Method. This is really interesting, I wonder if I could do it?” It became a challenge. It became a personal vendetta to me, where I wasn’t getting bored. It enthralled me, for some reason that particular track made me feel, and I tried it out.

I went to their studio in Glendale, and it wasn’t going so hot at first, so I had to relax, and lo and behold, they called me up. I was on vacation up in Minnesota and they called me up and said, “John, we’re done with the track and we’re pushing it as a single.” I was like “Holy shit!” Next thing you know, I was in Miami at the World Dance Awards, getting an award for Best Dance Single. I’m in the wrong fuckin’ business here, man! [We’re both laughing]

That is surreal.

What a trip! I’ve never gotten an award in my entire life. I don’t want an award, but it was weird to get an award from the World Dance Awards! It’s like what the fuck!? But that’s what comes from being exploratory, and I love doing that. Whatever makes me feel good, I’m gonna do it. All good things.

Looking back for a moment, the 4 Kyuss studio albums just got a vinyl re-release. Do you see this as a special thing for these albums, a cool thing to kind of keep their legacy alive?

Yeah…I have a hard time with the word “legacy.” That’s a weird word for me. I don’t get the word at all. But, you know, I’m very proud of what Kyuss did, and I’m very proud to be a part of that project. That kickstarted my career. Without Kyuss, we wouldn’t be talking right now, I don’t think.

So, I’m very proud of that, and I’m glad that when I was a kid, people would hand me music, going “Listen to this. This band’s called Queen, and the album is called News of the World. Here’s Santana, or here’s Jimi Hendrix” or whatever, and it kept being passed down. I like that, and it still is. To have some Kyuss records still be available for kids that want to share them like I did. When I got something cool, I’d give it to my friend John Marino, or Brian Evelin, or Scott Madigan, or whoever it may be, and I’d say “Listen to this band,” and they’d do the exact same thing. So I look at it like that. I’m very appreciative that they are still in print, that’s awesome. Good things.

Kyuss is almost, in a sense, like a cult movie. At the time, it may not have sunk in to everybody exactly what it was, but over time, as the years go on, more and more people seem to hang on to it and just get it.

Yeah, I often wonder, “Where was everybody when we were around?”

It’s strange.

Yeah, well, it is what it is, and you know…things are good. I think that if something goes out of print, or if a band breaks up, or if a poster goes out of print, or if a bottle of wine is no longer available, there’s a value that, well…

It makes people want it more.

It does make people want it more. The flip side of that coin is, when I still listen to any Zeppelin record, that shit speaks for itself, and it sells itself.

Sure.

There’s a big difference, and I’m glad that…I’m not comparing Kyuss to Zeppelin by any means, trust me. But it’s nice to know that some people have considered it to last a little bit longer than just a one record, one-off deal and be forgotten. I’m appreciative to that fact.

I still listen to them all the time, to this day. We mentioned that they were out on vinyl—do you personally collect vinyl? Are you a fan?

Yeah! I’m a fan of vinyl. I’ve got my records. We were spinnin’ vinyl the other night. When we’ve got the kids, we’ll spin some vinyl. I get a little freaked out, I’m one of those guys where you’ve gotta handle the vinyl just right. With an eleven-year-old and a four-year-old, they’re looking at it like, “What’s that?” Just a giant MP3 kids, that’s all it is. Then they got it!

They were like “Well, how does it work?” “Well, I’ll show you how it works.” Madison, my daughter, she knew about that stuff. My son, not so much. As he gets older, he’s into it. So I’m very particular with the handling of it and the playing of it. When Grandma has the kids, Wendy and I have two options: we either go out for a night, or we’ll stay home, twist one up, and spin records.

That’s a good evening!

Oh yeah! We’ll have a Cult night, or a Black Sabbath night, or we’ll have a John Lee Hooker night, where we just spin nothing but that artist. Those are fun times too.

Do you have a favorite record shop?

Not really. If there’s anything really that I need, I’ll usually just hop online. From time to time I’ll stop off at the local, there’s this little local place in Palm Desert Mall, this guy’s been in business for thirty-five years, and it’s called The Record Alley. He can get anything you want. From time to time, if there’s something that’s really rare, or something I can’t find, which is hardly ever, I’ll go and talk to the owner in there. Very rarely.

Do you ever find your mind wandering back to the Katzenjammer days or the desert generator parties? Maybe not longing for them, but reflecting on the early days?

Not so much. My reflecting is more of the times I made with my kids yesterday, and last summer, and the summer before last, when we were up in Big Bear and we were fishing, and the kids were fighting over the worms. Shit like that. I reflect on a lot of family, that means a lot to me. Music does, too, but as I’ve gotten older, I appreciate…I love my kids man. I’m a family man, I’m a simpleton. There’s nothing complex or complicated, I’m not gonna give you any weird fuckin’ quotes, I’m not gonna try to lay something heavy on you. I’m not a poet, I’m not that guy…I’m a simpleton. I just care about my kids, and my wife, and I wanna write. I still wanna write.

I’m going to rehearsal as soon as I’m done talking to you here. In the next half hour, I’m leaving, and that’s important to me. I’m thinking about those times right now, and writing new times. I’ll always have a special place in my heart for those times, that was part of my youth. I’m really more excited about making new ones with my guitar player, Ehren Groban. We’ve got a nice day planned. We’re gonna do some acoustic songs, then we’re gonna head on down to Guitar Center and experiment with some different combos and fuck around and drive everybody crazy by playing super-loud guitar at Guitar Center. [Laughs] That, to me, is fun. That’s what I want to do, making memories like that. When we hit Australia and Europe with this lineup, we’re gonna be doing exactly that.

You’ve found a pretty solid inner peace.

You know, I’m just trying to keep it all together here. I’m not trying to go too nuts and too crazy. All things are good. I’m lucky to be talking to you on the line about something I recently created, so there’s a big appreciation with that.

As long as I’ve listened to you, I feel like the lucky one. I have appreciated pretty much everything that you’ve ever recorded going back to Blues for the Red Sun.

Thank you, I appreciate that. Good stuff, man.

Look into the future – do you have more unreleased material that is looking to see the light of day? Maybe more new songs, or maybe a new Unida or Hermano record? What’s in your future?

I’m very, very happy with where I’m at right now. I have no plans on deviating from where I’m at. I love the freedom that I have. I love how I’ve kind of exposed myself in way I’ve never done before. I’m not hiding behind any band names like Vista Chino or Hermano. There’s nothing to hide behind, this is just the J.G. project, and I’m diggin’ this. All the other cars are parked in the garage, and I’m taking this one out for a nice, long drive, and she’s not gonna be parked anytime in the near future.

I’m staying right here, I’m gonna do another record, and we’re movin’ and groovin’.

John Garcia Facebook | Twitter

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