BJM's Anton Newcombe previews Friday's Turner Hall show
On Friday, The Brian Jonestown Massacre will play its third show in as many years in Milwaukee, visiting Turner Hall for a 7 p.m. gig.
It's hard to classify this band, but having seen their last two shows in Milwaukee, I can safely say that BJM is one of my all-time favorites.
Newcombe is touring in support of the band's new record, "Aufheben." The album is reminiscent of BJM's earlier work, but it also sounds distinctly different from the vampy, guitar heavy, almost surf-rock music you'll find on its two-disc retrospective, "Tepid Peppermint Wonderland."
Interestingly, BJM has been a little more visible lately, as its 1996 song, "Straight Up and Down" is the theme song to HBO's "Boardwalk Empire."
If you saw the 2004 documentary, "Dig!," you'll know that the band's front man, Anton Newcombe, is a very complex, albeit brilliant, musician. So, distilling a 15-minute phone conversation with him into one interview, in which we talked about everything under the sun, wasn't easy.
From his home in Berlin, Newcombe said he likes playing in Milwaukee. "Turner Hall is right next to a German beer garden, right?"
But seriously, "Wisconsin, despite recent events, is a progressive state," said Newcombe. "I like salt of the earth, normal people, and I also like its progressive politics."
For an unbelievably prolific band that was seemingly recording nonstop in the late '90s and basically received no radio airplay, BJM is also an incredibly experience live.
"I think you'll enjoy this trip, because we've been out for a couple of months doing Europe and the West Coast and Australia. I think the band's playing pretty good," he said.
So how is "Aufheben" both different and the same as the band's other work?
"I like to see things evolve, but also stay true to whatever traditions and theories are involved," said Newcombe.
I asked Newcombe if "Boardwalk Empire" has opened his music up to new fans.
"I'd like to think that's true," he said. "But I think it's a combination of so many different factors all at once. If I do a Google search on my band's name in the last week, all sorts of people are name-dropping me as a point of reference. That's kind of cool, because one of my goals was to enter the popular lexicon.
"Music is a really strange medium, because when you think about it, in the really big picture, mediocrity disappears. You have to force yourself in your craft if you want to hang in there. All of our recordings are conceptual art."
After interviewing the Dandy Warhols' Courtney Taylor-Taylor this spring, I was almost afraid to ask Newcombe about "Dig!"
Taylor-Taylor is still furious about the film, but Newcombe is much more at peace with it.
"I don't think the movie was very fair to (Taylor-Taylor), specifically. I made it very clear from square one when I saw what they were trying to do with the finished product, that it wasn't OK."
Still, Newcombe acknowledges that the movie showed that average people can follow their dreams.
"It's one of our primary goals, to reinforce that folk notion about what it is that I'm doing, that kind of environment. It's like a marketing strategy.
"If you watch the Beatles, except for playing guitar, there's nothing that they do that you could. Those kind of guys influence people to seek fame, but if you're watching Jimmy Page play, there's nothing that he'll show you that leads a person watching to think that they can become him.
"I'm more interested in folk music that's so natural, that maybe you're watching your grandma sing. If ("Dig!") inspired people to do stuff, then that's what I'm really interested in."
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