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The Brian Jonestown Massacre: Culture Jamming with Anton Newcombe

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By Daniel Tucceri

Anton Newcombe of the Brian Jonestown Massacre wants to make one thing clear; he doesn’t want to be that awkward rock-dad who dictates what his kid listens to.

“I hate Disney’s brainwashing and whatever it is. But he loves it, right? So I haven’t sat down and said, ‘you’re gonna listen to Rubber Soul and all these records non-stop. I haven’t even bombarded him with music, because I don’t think it’s right”.

It’s a stark contrast to the despotic reputation that he’s gained, only further fuelled by the infamous rockumentary DiG. In reality, the loquacious Newcombe is perfectly affable and refreshingly honest. As Anton puts it, “I guess the frustration with adults is they should know better, you remind yourself quite quickly that they are just two year olds’.

Newcombe has had plenty of frustration in his time. In a matter of seconds, he lists a couple of incidents, which would have tested patience of a thousand driving instructors on kilos of Valium.

“It’s very tough when you’re opening up for Oasis’s first shows and one of your guitar players is passed out on heroin in the bathtub, finally comes out of his OD and is onstage for the last fifteen minutes of the show trying to untangle a bag of cords high as shit on smack”.

But wait, there’s more.

“One time we were playing this massive show in New York, maybe it was for VH1 or MTV. And the drummer’s on the phone”, he recounts. “He’s got this phone call argument with his girlfriend that’s been running all day and she’s threatening to f*ck the next door neighbour”.

“And he’s like, ‘I’m sorry man. I’ve gotta fly home’.” Whilst some would’ve collapsed under the pressure, Newcombe had his own signature way of dealing with it. “Ok, I’ll take you to the airport. But if you so much as make a peep, I will beat you to a bloody pulp.”

“I will kill you. Right now.” Every syllable is punctuated by a voice that sounds as serious as he wants you to believe. A conversation with Newcombe is as much of a rollercoaster ride as his band’s trajectory. This is a man you wouldn’t want to do wrong by, but that isn’t to say he’s a bully. “I could never say that to my kid, I don’t think,” Anton maintains and it’s reassuring to hear. As he continues, it’s difficult not to feel sorry for him when he describes his abuse at the hands of his mother. “My mum used to say shit like that to me”.

“My whole life, it started very early. I used to do all my schoolwork in class, and they would say ‘here’s your assignment for home’. I would look at the teacher and go ‘my home life is stressful, I get beat. I get beat within the closest object my mum can find, or whoever’s there’. My life is my time, when I’m at home. Not your time.” Newcombe isn’t one to seek sympathy, adamant that he “probably brought it on himself”.

“I was a little motherfucker, I think, maybe sometimes,” he insists. “For instance, if you can imagine posh cutlery. Imagine your folks getting knifes, two hundred a piece. And imagine me in the backyard throwing it for, like, twenty metres”.

By contrast, the recent departure of long-time guitarist Matt Hollywood was anything but confrontational. Hollywood claimed to have been blindsided by the sacking, receiving the news from Newcombe through his manager. Without hesitating, Anton details the reasons for his decisions, and there are many.

“I knew the band’s dynamic from the very beginning and he never wanted to actually do anything. So basically, the only reason those songs are in existence is because I started recording the whole thing and I’m writing every single part based on something I heard acoustic. Hence, ‘his’ song. That kind of thing”, Newcombe maintains.

At this point, he claims not to have written any music with Hollywood in twenty years. “I’m dragging him around to play three songs. He doesn’t wanna play bass”, dismisses Newcombe before dropping what is perhaps the biggest bombshell. “He wants to basically, screw teenagers. That’s not acceptable to me. Forty-something? Does that mean he gets to sleep on their dad’s couch? He can say whatever he wants to say. He doesn’t communicate with me”.

The relatively muted nature of the recent defenestration is the product of a clearer frame of mind, as far as Newcombe sees it. “The fighting thing… not drinking has solved a lot of those problems, because one, you’re not in a place where people are fighting and people are not just gonna hone in on you for whatever reason that might be”, he firmly asserts.

“Looking forward, these shows are gonna be amazing in Australia. There’s none of that bullshit”.

With the performance in Melbourne slated for the Town Hall, fans are can expect a Brian Jonestown Massacre performance unlike anything they’ve done before. Newcombe plans to make use of the imposing pipe organ, although he isn’t entirely sure how exactly at this point. “I’m looking forward to try and pull a few things off. It won’t be the full set. Hopefully, it’ll be beautiful. It’ll be a beautiful racket. It’s a wonderful opportunity,” he enthuses. In any case, Newcombe loves coming to what he regards as “one of the best cities on the planet. “Melbourne, they have a culture and you appreciate culture,” he points out. “That’s cool. There’s an energy that goes around and I love that. I’m over the moon about that.”

For his Melbourne shows, the frontman muses that he may premiere two songs from his latest album, ‘Musique de Film Imaginé’. His most recent effort is aural bliss for Francophiles, which he describes as “doing this thing for culture”.

“In the sixties in pop, they did have all these numbers that were in these languages. I want to encourage people to do something for their culture. I’m willing to go that extra mile to cross that bridge, because I see myself as this global occupant on planet Earth.”

Tour Dates

12 November – The Northern Hotel, Byron Bay. Tickets: Moshtix

13 November 2015 – The Triffid, Brisbane. Tickets: Oztix

14 November 2015 – Odeon Theatre, Hobart. Tickets: MONA

15 November 2015 – Melbourne Town Hall, Melbourne, VIC

19 November 2015 – Metro Theatre, Sydney. Tickets: Metro Theatre






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