Author Archives: Jon Pacella

John Garcia and
The Band of Gold,
The TVD Interview

When we last spoke with John Garcia in 2014, he had just released his first solo album. He was an artist in a state of flux, stepping out of the shadow of bands Kyuss, Unida, and Hermano and making his own mark. In 2017, Garcia linked back up with guitarist Ehren Groban for an acoustic album, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues. Featuring a blend of new tracks and reimagined Kyuss classics, Coyote was effective at tipping the hat to the old, while previewing what was to come. 2019 has arrived, and Garcia has returned with a new band, a new album, and a hot desert wind in his sails.

After a European tour and a lone US date in Las Vegas, Garcia and the “Band of Gold” stopped by Palm Springs for an intimate, acoustic show at the Palm Canyon Roadhouse. Supported by old friend and former bandmate Nick Oliveri, the show was a chance to preview some songs from the forthcoming album and spend an evening jamming with the locals before the holidays.

Before the show, we had a chance to catch up with John and the guys to talk all about the new album, and a bit about former bands, his solo career, and what lies ahead for the Band of Gold.

TVD: We last chatted back in 2014, when your self-titled album dropped. Now you’re back with a new band and a new album. I want to rewind just a bit first—you recently revived one of your old bands, Slo-Burn. How did that go for you?

John Garcia: Those guys had been reaching out to me for quite some time in regards to getting back together again and doing another record. There was a little bit of down time where it made sense to do some stuff with them, so they came out to Palm Springs and we went to a rehearsal place, Ehren’s rehearsal joint, and it was making sense. All it really was, Jon, was four old buddies getting back in a room together, man. That’s essentially what it was, nothing more, nothing less.

There was no long-term plan there?

JG: They wanted to do another record, and they had presented a bunch of songs, but it’s tough. It’s tough when you have the Band of Gold, and you have plans because you commit to that, and you’re committing for a year and a half. It’s not just as simple as “let’s make a record.” You’ve got to take a couple of years out of your life and make it happen. The passing of songs, the studios, where you’re gonna do it, this and that, the supporting tour after it, it would eat up two years of your life really, really quick. That’s basically all it was, just four buddies getting back in a room again. Playing some tunes, then heading over to Europe for a small little run, that’s all it was.

That’s cool. So the Band of Gold—the wheels were already in motion for that to happen?

JG: The wheels were already in motion back in 2014 when I was doing the debut record. Those were songs that I had collected throughout the years, from my past, that I wanted to bring to life that had been sitting in a little corner of my bedroom. I wanted to take some of these songs and bring them to life. At that point in time, this band had already been together. We were already together, weren’t we when I was doing that? [Looks over at guitarist Ehren Groban]

EG: The record was done, and you were putting the band together.

JG: It was around that time that I was looking for desert musicians that wanted to be involved in a project like this. There are some different tangents and different avenues I went down, like me really falling in love with this acoustic thing. I thought, “Eh, let’s do an acoustic record. We’ll just do it really quick.” [We all laugh] You can’t do a thing like that “really quick.” It takes up a lot of fuckin’ time.

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TVD Live Shots: Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri, and Nebula at the Redwood Bar, 10/10

The spirit of Sky Valley was in abundance at the Redwood Bar in downtown Los Angeles. Brant Bjork, the former Kyuss and Fu Manchu drummer, has been blazing his own trail for years now with a catalog that spans ‘70s grooves to heavy stoner rock to soulful acoustic jams, with a who’s who of the desert rock scene by his side along the way. His latest album, Mankind Woman, just dropped in September, and he brought a solid stoner rock lineup out on the road with him.

The only part of the evening that felt like a formal “concert” was when the Redwood staff cleared the place out for 30 minutes or so to set up and soundcheck. The small, intimate setting combined with the nautical theme and decor of the venue made the rest of the night feel like a stoner rock basement party on the orlop deck of a pirate ship. The mood was friendly and the vibes were mellow as Nebula took the stage.

Together again for the first time in over eight years, the trio began playing without any fanfare or formality, only to ask at the song’s end if that was soundcheck or if the set had begun. After a quick regrouping, singer-guitarist Eddie Glass returned with a slightly more formal intro and thanks before beginning a terrific set. Returning bassist Tom Davies was exemplary, and new drummer Michael Amster was a high point of the night. Hopefully their set is a sign of good things to come.

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TVD Live: Desert Generator at Pappy
and Harriet’s, 4/8

It is widely believed by fans of stoner rock that the Mojave Desert in Eastern California is exceptional. Underground bands like Kyuss, Fatso Jetson, Yawning Man and more put the desert on the map and turned stories of generator parties in the middle of nowhere into urban mythology. At the perfectly out-of-the-way Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown, Desert Generator was the ideal crossroads of looking back at the past was while celebrating present and looking to the future of stoner rock.

Desert Generator is the brainchild of Brant Bjork, former drummer of stoner rock legends Kyuss and Fu Manchu, and an accomplished solo artist in his own right. It’s a weekend to harken back to the golden years—good vibes, good tunes, a good buzz, and people showing off their bitchin’ custom vans.

The weekend kicked off on Friday, with a special show called “Stoned & Dusted,” which, in some ways, was a way for people in 2017 to experience the true generator parties of the past. A limited number of tickets were sold to keep the crowd size down, and attendees were bussed to an undisclosed location to experience Nick Oliveri, Yawning Man, Brant Bjork, and Fu Manchu in an open-air, intimate setting.

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TVD Live: Prophets of Rage and Awolnation at EagleBank Arena, 8/19

PHOTOS: RICHIE DOWNS | The use of music as a medium to react to politics and injustice is not a new idea. Tracing back to Irish folk songs and bard’s tales from ages ago, to Baez and Dylan’s antiwar folk movement of the ‘60s, to Black Sabbath’s metallic railings against a conformist society in the ‘70s, the message has been the same, even though the method of delivery has varied. As the ‘80s were drawing to a close and the ‘90s approached, two of the biggest voices of musical revolution were Public Enemy and Rage Against the Machine. Whether it was Chuck D’s unmistakable baritone demanding that the masses “Fight the Power” or the fury of Zach de la Rocha’s cry for justice, the face of rebellion in music was forever changed.

If there was ever a right time to bring these outspoken musical forces together to make a statement, that time is now. With the election right around the corner, America has turned into a polarized, partisan, daily minefield of he-said-she-said rhetoric. Thus, the Prophets of Rage were born.

The idea was simple, yet effective. First, you have three of the four members of Rage Against the Machine (singer Zach de la Rocha declined to participate but gave his blessing). Filling his shoes is the aforementioned Chuck D of Public Enemy, B-Real of Cypress Hill, and DJ Lord, also from Public Enemy on turntables. All the pieces were in place, and after some rehearsal time and two performances in Los Angeles and Cleveland (coincidentally at the same time and in the vicinity of the GOP Convention), the “Make America Rage Again” tour was ready to launch at EagleBank Arena in the DC suburb of Fairfax, VA.

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Vinyl and good vibes: The Washington, DC Record Store Crawl, 8/6

There are a few schools of thought when it comes to record shopping in these modern times:

  • Those who were born in the ’90s, and have discovered a fascinating retro-cool way to listen to music while shopping at Urban Outfitters.
  • Those looking to detach from the digital wasteland and reconnect with their beloved music in a tangible way.
  • Those who grew up with vinyl, and have either never stopped listening to it or who have reembraced the format.

No matter which group you may fall under, there’s no denying that the popularity of vinyl is at an all-time high since being dethroned as the preferred music format by cassettes and CDs in the ’80s. If you were to ask any vinyl aficionado what they love most about vinyl, somewhere between “the warmth of the sound” and “the artwork” would be the hunt. Sure, it’s easy nowadays to hop on ebay or Discogs and find your prize within seconds of typing in the search, but nothing beats the joy of finding that long-sought-after gem after hours of crate-digging at record shows or your local shops.

Not long after I was approached by TVD to cover the 2016 Record Store Crawl, I read up on it and found the concept an intriguing one: a pseudo-bar crawl, hopping from record shop to record shop, getting drunk on shopping and live music rather than cheap drinks. Taking place in seven cities in the U.S. over a three-week span, they tout the crawl as “The Coachella of crawls” on their Facebook page. While that description didn’t exactly endear me personally, I was still excited to hit some of my treasured local record shops with a group of like-minded souls.

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TVD Live: Gwar at the 9:30 Club, 11/9

PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | It’s been over a year since the untimely passing of Gwar leader and founder Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus, but the Gwar machine is still rolling full steam ahead. Soldiering on with a new book, a Gwar-themed bar, the yearly Gwar-B-Q and more, they have hit the road for a fall tour as is their norm, leaving a path of gore and destruction in their wake.

This time around, they stopped at the 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C. with Michigan thrashers Battlecross in tow. Entering the venue, the telltale signs were evident that Gwar was in town. The 9:30 staff dressed in white for maximum visual effect, and sheets of plastic draped around the club to protect the bars and equipment from the forthcoming bloodbath.

The self-proclaimed “blue-collar thrashers,” Battlecross got things going in a hurry, beginning with “Force Fed Lies” and “Not Your Slave.” With a bit of prodding from vocalist Kyle Gunther, the crowd who was a bit reluctant at first (not surprising for a cold, rainy Monday evening), eventually warmed up and increased the enthusiasm with a pit starting here and there during the set. Gunther was a blur of energy, injecting both humor and fire into the band’s set.

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TVD Live: AC/DC at MetLife Stadium, 8/26

PHOTOS: DAVE BARNHOUSER | In the world of rock music today, there are a scant few bands still touring who can be categorized as “living legends.” The Stones. The Boss. McCartney. Yet even with the legendary history behind those great artists, none today have the sheer power—dare I say the “high voltage rock and roll”—of the mighty AC/DC. After four decades of the purest, no-frills heavy rock on the planet, the band is still at it and as heavy as ever.

On this stop at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, the faces had changed a bit, but the rock stayed the same. Former drummer (Razor’s Edge-era) Chris Slade has rejoined the fold, stepping behind the kit for longtime drummer Phil Rudd, who is under house arrest due to some, well, legal issues.

The other change in the lineup, and the most disappointing one, would be the absence of founding member and band leader Malcolm Young. Retired due to debilitating health issues, the band kept it in the family, recruiting nephew Stevie Young to fill the void at stage right on rhythm guitar.

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TVD Live: The 6th Annual Gwar BQ at Hadad’s Lake, 8/15

Blöthar. Beefcake the Mighty. Sexecutioner. To the uninitiated, these may seem like names from a twisted, perverted comic. To the Bohabs, or devotees to the band known as Gwar, well, you’re still not too far off. For three decades now, Gwar had been pushing the limits of musical outrageousness with their twisted music and their gore-filled live shows have become a thing of legend.

In recent years, one of their latest ventures has been the annual Gwar BQ in their hometown of Richmond, VA. Correction, adopted hometown, as they claim Antarctica as their home on Earth. The Gwar BQ has been picking up steam, as the annual event has grown bigger each year, and that was most apparent with this year’s lineup.

Three stages, featuring some of punk and metal’s heaviest hitters like Down, Clutch, the Descendants and Of course, Gwar themselves.

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TVD Live: High on
Fire at the Regency Ballroom, 8/1

Like a powerful derecho blasting its way across the midwest, stoner rock icons High on Fire keep gathering momentum the further into their career they go. Their destructive winds blew into the Regency Ballroom on Saturday night (8/1) as the band began the tour in their home state of California. Hot on the heels of releasing their most dynamic album to date, Luminiferous, they seemingly have a renewed spark and have put together a package tour of brutal proportions.

Opening up the night was Houston’s Venomous Maximus. With songs full of dark stoner riffs like “Give Up the Witch,” the band was musically adept and at times walking the doom metal line harkening back to classic Pentagram or Sir Lord Baltimore. What was lacking here are the mediocre vocals of singer/guitarist Gregg Higgins. In fairness, Higgins sounds better on wax than on stage and their mix was muddier than the Rio Grande, but it just wasn’t happening in Frisco. The solid metal core of their songs carried them through their set and the slowly growing crowd showed them some love.


Up next was Germany’s Lucifer, a band I was immensely excited for especially considering it was their first tour in the United States. Led by the bewitching Johanna Sadonis, Lucifer took the stage with something to prove—and prove it they did.

After an eerie intro, the band opened with pure Sabbath worship in the form of “Anubis.” The all-seeing eye on the back of Sadonis’ satin robe stared down the crowd as she turned away towards the drums and her voice was soaring and haunting, perfect all the way through as she writhed with the music. Her vocals were the focal point of their sound, but the thick guitars of metal veteran Gaz Jennings of Cathedral gave the band some serious weight. Two shows into the tour, Lucifer sounded well-seasoned and are destined for higher ground very soon.

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TVD Live Shots: Chris Stapleton and Aubrie Sellers at the Jefferson Theater, 6/20


If you are a fan of country music and you aren’t familiar with Chris Stapleton, there is a void in your life that you may not have even realized was there. The Lexington, Kentucky native has written songs for some of the biggest names in country and beyond including Sheryl Crow and Adele. Having previously fronted the Grammy-nominated bluegrass band The SteelDrivers, Stapleton has broken out on his own and is making huge waves with his debut solo album, Traveller. In the midst of a string of sold-out dates, I was a traveller myself, venturing from DC, down to the Jefferson Theater in Charlottesville, VA on Saturday to see him first-hand.

This is not your typical FM-country radio or CMT Awards fare. You won’t find songs of cold beer and hot women, and driving through the mud to get to the lake party or other standard bro-country themes. Stapleton is honest, real, and pure, and there is no pretension to what he does. It may have been a hot, rainy night in Charlottesville, but the warm glow of good music inside the venue made everything all right.


The venue packed quickly, fans lining both floors of the theater seeking out a vantage point. The crowd was buzzing by the time Aubrie Sellers took the stage to open the show. Having paid her dues as a country music background singer, Aubrie seems poised to break out on her own in a big way. The daughter of country stars Lee Ann Womack and Jason Sellers, the twenty-four-year-old Sellers won over the audience in no time flat. Her commanding voice was damn near a dead ringer for her mother’s, with an extra tablespoon of attitude thrown into the mix.

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Joe Elliott,
The TVD Interview

Anybody who has listened to Def Leppard at any point in their life has their own personal, lasting memory of the band during their thirty-five-year career—a group of young, brash Brits greeting the States in rock anthem style with “Hello America,” Joe Elliott’s Union Jack shirt nearly ubiquitous on MTV, or “Pour Some Sugar On Me” propelling them to superstardom.

Rather than relics, Def Leppard has both fully embraced their past and moved into the present—exuding a youthful energy and sounding top-notch. Prior to embarking on a U.S. tour with Styx and Tesla, we had a chance to chat with the band’s iconic lead singer, Joe Elliott.

While Joe may not share the same enthusiasm for the vinyl format as some of our readers and staff, he both embraces its history and sees its place from a musician’s perspective as his side project, the Down ‘n’ Outz, released a vinyl EP for Record Store Day 2015 in the UK. Joe gave us a look at Def Leppard’s past, present, and potentially long future, as only he could.

As we go to press, it’s been announced that the band’s guitarist, Vivian Campbell will be taking a hiatus from the road due to the return of the cancer he’s fought bravely in recent years. It’s in this light that Joe’s comments on the band’s future prove both thoughtful—and prescient.

Hi Joe, how are you doing?

Excellent, not too bad at all.

Good to hear! You’re about to kick off a huge summer tour with Styx and Tesla. How did that combination come together?

These combinations are all suggested tours made on the premise that we want to tour with people that we are familiar with or the audience are familiar with. In other words, kind of like the old ’60s package tours, if you like. I’m a huge fan of these old Fillmore West and Fillmore East—or even the Marquee London posters—with The Who on the same bill as The Move or Amen Corner or Humble Pie, or something like that. Not just bands that are “special guests,” which I hate.

We’ve always said to agents through our management, “Throw suggestions at us who we could go out with.” That’s why every ten years or so, you’ll see us out with the likes of Bryan Adams ten years ago, Journey, Poison, we’ve been out with Styx and REO [Speedwagon] before, Cheap Trick, Heart, you know. These bands are multi-platinum bands.

We toured with Tesla back in ’87-’88 when we were doing the Hysteria tour for most of that tour. When they went away, we went out with bands like L.A. Guns, Queensryche, or Europe. These bands are all selling two, three million albums, so we were always out with well-known bands, and I think it makes a better night. Ticket prices, especially these days, you know, parking, and ten dollars for a beer. You’ve got to make it a value for the money. I think that should start at 7:30, not at 9:00.

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Straight Outta Örebro: The Desert Rock of Truckfighters

Among the throng of stoner rock bands to come out of Europe over the last ten years, one band that has set itself apart from the pack is undoubtedly Truckfighters. Continuing the desert rock sound that bands like Kyuss helped form years ago, the Swedish trio have crafted a sonic assault that is equally great on wax or on stage.

Tracing their lineage back to 2001, the band released a number of splits and EPs, leading up to the release of their debut album, the fan-favorite Gravity X. Touring primarily in Europe until 2011 when Truckfighters made their way to America, the band won over crowds time and again with their stunning live shows. Jump to 2014, Truckfighters released their latest album, Universe to critical acclaim, solidifying their place in the upper echelon of stoner rock bands—while doing things their own way and not following a traditional formula for the genre.

On the final day of the Psycho California Festival, I had a chance to sit with Ozo, Dango, and Enzo early on before things kicked into high gear. The subdued discussion in no way prepared me for their superb set that was to come later as their performance was one of fest’s most electrifying.

So you guys just got in. Did you come over straight from Sweden?

Ozo: Not really. We did two shows before this.

Yeah? how did those go for you?

Ozo: Really good. We did Oakland and San Francisco.

There’s been some amazing music here this weekend.

Niklas “Dango” Källgren: You’re not used to these kinds of things, either.

I know! Fests like this one don’t happen that often in America. There have been smaller stoner and doom fests here and there, and Maryland Deathfest will have some mixed in through the lineup, but nothing of this size that can compare to Roadburn and shows like that.

Oskar “Ozo” Cedermalm: You’re picking up on the European standards! [laughs]

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Conan: Herculean Doom Metal from Liverpool

The genre of doom metal has just undergone a serious upgrade courtesy of the U.K.’s Conan. The trio from Liverpool, England are best known for their herculean sound and guitars tuned so low that they may have quite possibly summoned the Old Gods from the deep, bringing about the end of all mankind.

Both their live shows and their latest album, 2014’s Blood Eagle, have been hailed by critics and fans alike—of which I am both. Their set was one of the more sonically powerful sets at Psycho California this year—their heavy chords like iron shaking the rafters of the venue. Amidst the chaos of the fest in Santa Ana, I had a chance to break away for a few minutes and talk to vocalist-guitarist Jon Davis and drummer Rich Lewis about all that is Conan.

How’s Psycho California going so far for you guys?

Jon Davis: It’s been great! We almost felt like we couldn’t settle down before we got here and we went onstage pretty much straight away. We’re looking forward to relaxing and having a few beers.

Sounds excellent. Do you think the set went well?

JD: Oh yeah, I think so. [to Rich Lewis] What’d you think?

Rich Lewis: Yeah, we had a great sound on stage and I think we played pretty cool.

Pretty good crowd reaction?

RL: Yeah, yeah. It was good watching them and sort of putting it back in.

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The TVD Interview

Heralded as “the band who was punk before punk was punk,” Death was ahead of their time, the most influential band that no one had heard of. Their unique brand of proto-punk pre-dated the Ramones by two years, but in their unwillingness to kowtow to record executives who demanded they change their name (“Death” was considered a taboo, unmarketable band name in the early ’70s), the band was literally shelved. The master tapes would sit in a suitcase in an attic, lying in wait to be unleashed upon the world.

Their tale was told in the 2012 documentary, A Band Called Death, a heartfelt, emotional, and inspiring film chronicling the band’s history leading to their subsequent revival. I watched the film with a smile and an occasional tear in my eye, and made it my mission to tell as many people about Death as humanly possible. Their story needed to be told, their music needed to be heard. My chance had come, and I finally had the opportunity to see them live at the Black Cat in Washington, DC.

After the show, Death stayed for a meet-and-greet, sticking around until the last person got their pictures, autographs, and conversation with the band. We made our way to the dressing room and what followed was as joyous and inspiring a conversation as I could have hoped for. Forty years later, Death has finally found their moment to shine.

So, this was your first time playing DC? How’d it go?

Bobby Hackney: It was a big success! We enjoyed it, people came out, and it was great. Ever since we’ve been here we’ve just had a wonderful time hanging out. They say it’s Washington, DC, but this is Georgetown, right?

No, we’re in DC proper.

BH: This is awesome. We really had a wonderful time, we love Washington, DC. We definitely plan to come back. It was a great time.

What was your initial reaction to the huge response to the A Band Called Death documentary? Did you ever expect it to have that kind of impact?

BH: Well, when we saw the end result of it, we knew that it was something good. We didn’t know how the public would take it, but it’s been wonderful, man. It’s like a surreal dream and it’s what we’re living.

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Anti-Flag’s Chris #2,
The TVD Interview

At its core, the heart of punk rock music is, and always has been, rebellion. Rebellion against social and political injustices, the Man, and the ire of those wrongs and those who have been wronged have become the fuel for countless punk anthems over the years. No punk band today brings those issues front and center more than Pittsburgh’s Anti-Flag. The quartet is now in its twentieth year and is celebrating the release of their tenth album, American Spring.

The new album is a sharp effort and a scathing look at some of the most polarizing issues in the world today. Taking their social commentary even further, the band has included an essay with each song, speaking in-depth to the inspirations and motivations for each one.

We had a chance to talk to bassist Chris Barker, aka Chris #2. The passion for fighting for what is right comes through clearly with every word, and it was apparent that Chris and Anti-Flag have their work cut out for them when it comes to making relevant, socially aware punk music.

Your tenth album, American Spring comes out at the end of this month, just shy of your twentieth year. How do you feel the band and the music have progressed from back in the beginning to now?

Well, I think that we’re talking about a lot of history, and a real, honest discussion amongst ourselves about whether or not we even make a new record. We did celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the band. This is our tenth record, and you look at your history, and you look at the things that you’ve created in the past, and we recognize that if we wanted to, we could tour much of the world playing songs from Die for the Government, which was our first record or The Terror State, or For Blood and Empire, which have been kind of tent pole records in our band’s life that people seem to identify and connect with.

We had this real lengthy talk about the work that would need to go into making a tenth record, and how diligent we would have to be as both songwriters and also as people who are looking to be found on the right side of history whenever it comes to things like racism, or the current administration’s drone strike program, the largest gap ever between wealthy and poor in our nation’s history, and the police violence that we see on a day-to-day basis.

We knew that if we made this collection of songs, that it would be something that people could look back on and say, “There were people who were caring more about the world than they were themselves.” So, when you go and you kind of scan over the history of the band, I think the biggest difference between record one and record ten is how self-aware we are of the ability of music to transcend borders.

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