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Interview conducted November 07 2014
Interview published November 11 2014

After singing in iconic desert rock bands such as Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, Unida and Hermano, it was only a matter of time before John Garcia ventured into a solo career. After writing songs for more than twenty years and wanting to release his solo album for the past six years, it's finally out and John has just kicked off his European tour in support of it. I got the massive privilege of sitting down in the tour bus and speaking to John for forty minutes about his solo album, Kyuss, touring and his family life.

John: Man, it's chilly outside...

Blidmark: It sure is. Winter is coming!

John: Yeah, winter IS coming!

Blidmark: Okay, so first of all, thank you so much for taking your time to talk with me. It's really cool, and a true honor.

John: Cool, awesome, you're welcome!

Blidmark: Of course, I have some questions about your new album. Are you happy with the reception of it so far?

John: Yeah, I really am. I'm lucky to have, you know, to have one record sold, let alone hundreds of records so I'm just thankful for that, yeah. So I'm happy and appreciative and, you know, cause it's hard doing it. It's hard doing this stuff at my age, having two kids and a wife and... It's tough so, you know, ask me this any other day and I would say I don't know how much longer I'm gonna be doing it. I'm still getting it out of my system - I don't know if I'll ever get it out of my system but I've been appreciative.

Blidmark: Yeah, I've been listening to your album a lot and I think it's brilliant, it's one of the best albums of the year.

John: Oh, thanks. There's, you know, I could've sat down and twisted the knobs a little bit more on songs like Saddleback and... That one I wish it would have been a little bit different, and the end of Argleben a little bit different but at some point you have to lift your hands up and say "I can't be messing around with it too much", though, but thank you.

Blidmark: So, I first heard about the Garcia vs Garcia project back in 2008, I think, but if I understand correctly a lot of the songs go way back longer?

John: Yeah yeah, you know Martin, I've had these songs for... Some of them for many years, and so I just collected them and I put them in a box in my bedroom and I knew eventually that I would get to them and I finally stopped neglecting them and said "Alright, let's get you out of the cardboard box and let's get you out and see the world" and I was able to explore them. And it was fun. Yeah, I don't know if fun's the right word but it was, you know, it was very gratifying and very liberating and there was a tremendous amount of freedom involved with that.

Blidmark: Yeah, I imagine it's a different thing doing a solo album compared to recording with bands?

John: It really is! It's a totally different energy and I'm not accustomed to it but I had a lot of help. You know, through Harper Hug and Trevor Whatever, my two producers. They're tremendous, a lot of props go to those guys and their studio, Thunder Underground. And of course, not just the producers but all the players. So, uh, very appreciative and I could not have done it without them. I give credit where credit's due and they certainly deserve it, a ton of it.

Blidmark: You worked together with Harper and Trevor producing Black Mastiff [John also recorded a cover of their song Rolling Stoned for the solo album], right?

John: Yeah... Yeah, I, you know, I don't produce. I'm not a producer, I don't even like that word. I think it's stupid and lame to be quite honest with you, and that's my own personal opinion. But I like Black Mastiff and, um, that's all it really was, that I like the band and I wanted to be involved in the recording process. That's all it was.

Blidmark: So, if we're looking at what was supposed to be Garcia vs Garcia, is there a big difference from that product with what's now released?

John: No, this is the exact same thing. You heard about it back in 2008 I think you said, Martin, and that's how long I've been wanting to do it and... It became a curse because I wanted to do it, I wanted to do it and I'm like, fuck, you know, I'm just gonna change the name to "my name" solo record so I can get it done because it became like "When is it coming out? When is it coming out? When is it coming?". Well, it never came out and so I changed the name and it finally came out! So it was a curse, a little bit, so I just got rid of it and just decided to use my own name.

Which is... It's, it's fine, you know but I wish it would have been Garcia vs Garcia, because I put a lot of time into that and Garcia vs Garcia was me versus me. It was a constant battle between family life and music. And that's what it was all about - it was me against me and dealing with that on a daily basis.

Blidmark: It must be tough, touring and combining that with family life, with your two kids and all?

John: It is. I Facetime with them and Skype with them and text with them, constantly!

Blidmark: Yeah, there are a lot of good tools to communicate nowadays.

John: Nowadays, there is. So it's become a little easier but it's still... I don't know if it makes it harder that I can't be there. Marshall, my son, he's in kindergarten. So today is show-and-tell 'cause it's friday, so he had to bring something that started with the letter C. So he went to get one of his cars, his Duplo Lego cars, and I got a chance to, you know, help him pick that out and have him show it to me. And I... I don't take that stuff for granted, because when you become a father... I was watching this Christmas video, this morning, of Marshall, and he had his nook - you know, the little sucky thing - for a little bit too long but right after that he threw it away. But I told him today, I said "Don't grow up, stay this age!" because I already miss that little part of him, you know what I mean?

That's really the truly hard part, the second hardest part is what touring does to your body, and sleeping in here and sharing the bus with eight other guys and a gal.

Blidmark: I'm a father myself so I can imagine your feelings.

John: Oh, okay, so how old's yours?

Blidmark: He's two.

John: He's two, okay. So, you know, it's not like I'm in the military or anything like that, where I'm gone for six months or eight months or a year so I'm thankful for that.

Blidmark: I guess you wouldn't be interested in doing a year long tour?

John: Yeah, no, this is about as long as I can be gone, it's a little over six weeks.

Blidmark: I've read somewhere that you had a lot of songs to choose from for your solo album. With all this material stockpiled, can we expect another solo album some time, you think?

John: I want there to be. A lot's riding on this tour and a lot's riding on my psyche of music because it's hard, a hard business to be into. It's really difficult. I would certainly want to do another record and as of right now, yes, there is another record being planned. I'm working closely with Harper and Trevor again and my writers in the band are writing, we're writing songs so we're on track to make another record, yeah.

Blidmark: Great news. So, you had a lot of guest musicians on the album. Among others the legendary Robby Krieger [of The Doors]. That must have been great, how did that happen?

John: It was amazing! Harper knows Robby, I didn't reach out to his manager or anything like that. It was Harper asking "Hey, take a listen to this track. There's this guy by the name John Garcia who's doing a solo record and we hear Spanish flamenco guitar on it, what do you think about it? He wants you to play, we want you to play and it'd be a great honor". So, he heard it and he said "Yeah" and... It was as basic as that, Harper asking and Robby saying "Sure man, I'll play on it!" so I got a chance to go there and meet Robby and... That dude's a legend, you know, he walks in and you're like "Uuuh... Hi!", you know!

It was great, you know, and we now have... We're not friends or anything - I don't go golfing with him. Well, I've been simulating golf with him, actually, and we've started texting each other, which is amazing, and emailing and we're bouncing ideas back and forth for some more songs that we're working on together, so... That's massive. That's huge for me. I love his style, his guitar playing is un-fucking-believable, pardon the language, but he's amazing, he's a badass.

Blidmark: He really added something to Her Bullets' Energy, it was really an amazing contribution.

John: He not only made the song better but he made the entire record better, just by him being on it. And it got a lot of attention because of it, you know.

Blidmark: That's a really interesting thing on the album with the two "Bullets" songs [His Bullets' Energy and Her Bullets' Energy] basically being the same song.

John: Yeah, same song, played much differently and that's what happen when I play Her Bullets' Energy over and over and over for twenty years, it eventually morphs into something that's heavier and that's exactly what happened with this one. But I give credit where credit is due, to Ehren Groban who's playing with us tonight, to Dave Angstrom, to Mark Diamond. All the guitar players did an amazing job, I was very lucky.

Blidmark: Tell me a little bit about the musicians you're touring with. I know Ehren did some guitars on the album.

John: They're all desert locals, which is key. It was important to me. When you grow up in the desert there's a circle of professional musicians that you know of and you hear about and whether you like it or not you hear about it cause it's a small community of guys. And so, Ehren plays in this band called War Drum and Mike [Pygmie, bass] and Greg [Saenz, drums] play in this band called You Know Who. It was Ehren's idea to get Mike involved and I think it was Mike's idea to get Greg involved. Greg used to play in The Dwarves, you know, but Mike's a family man, Greg's a family man, I'm a family man, Ehren's a cool level-headed guy and they're great musicians. So now, you know, I don't have anybody, in Belgium or in Holland or in Atlanta or Kentucky or Colorado, that I got to fly in to rehearse.

You know, we can all get together - we practice on Tuesdays and Wednesdays and sometimes on Saturdays. It's great to be able to get up on a Saturday and have a bloody Mary and go and rehearse with the guys and be home in time to barbeque with the wife and kids at Saturday night - that's awesome! That is really cool to do and I really appreciate that. And I like them, they're all nice guys, they're all just genuine and they're real. They're tangible guys, I don't see any rock stars in them, I know that you can reach out and shake their hands and know that you can get a normal conversation out of these guys. And I mean that with all due respect, that they're just normal, cool guys and that was important. We all get along.

Blidmark: How's the tour been so far? You played Stockholm yesterday, I think.

John: Yeah, and Oslo the night before. Oslo was a little weird 'cause it was the first one and that's always a little weird. Stockholm was better and tonight I think it's gonna get ever better. I can tell through soundcheck that it's gonna be ever better. You know, we have a long way to go, we have 31 shows and this is only the third one of them so... I try to keep a level head already and try to rest and stay on a path, 'cause it's really easy to me to get a little out of control but I try to go to bed early. So yeah, it's just moderation, everything in moderation.

Blidmark: I was gonna ask about that, do you have any time to relax when on tour? I reckon it's pretty intense.

John: Yeah, I usually get a hotel room and I'll go back to the room after dinner and I'll take a shower, relax and I'll text my wife and we'll hang out over Facetime and get caught up in work a little bit. The tricky part about touring is - Gothenburg looks like such a beautiful city and I'll only get to see about half a mile of it, yuo know, just walking back and forth to my hotel room 'cause... It's fucking cold here! I mean, you say "Winter is coming" but I'm freezing! But you know, I got two long-sleeve shirts on and my parka jacket so it's all good.

Blidmark: Lately it's become more and more popular for bands to play entire albums when on tour, is that something you've ever considered?

John: I considered it, yeah, I considered doing maybe Sky Valley or Blues For The Red Sun, you know, doing something like that, maybe side one or side two of Sky Valley then side one or side two of Blues but right now we're doing a lot of stuff from my record, we're doing like three Slo Burn songs and four or five Kyuss songs and the rest of it is the solo stuff so it's a good combo. I've never done anything like this before so this is the first time for me and I'm happy with it. I wanna start playing more solo stuff, I think we want try to inject His Bullets' Energy into the set.

Blidmark: What are the main differences between touring the US and Europe?

John: Uh... People showing up! That's the main difference. The money is another big difference too, I mean, a lot of people don't think about the bread or think that the musicians are afraid to talk about money but it's gotta make sense. When you have kids and stuff like that, it's... I can't pay to play. If I was a millionaire I could get a bus and do this and... But I can't. Europe has always been much more receptive to this type of music than the United States and, you know, even in my home town I'll be lucky if a hundred people show up - if that! I'll be lucky if fifty people show up! In my home town! Los Angeles, too, maybe. We haven't done an LA show but it's something I'm used to.

I say this all the time but whether it be five people or fifty people or five hundred people or five thousand or fifty thousand, I've done 'em all. I'm still gonna be doing it, anyway. You know, if anybody knows even anything about my career - and I say this all the time, too - they know that I don't like to stay in one spot for very long. But I don't see me deviating from this track anytime in the near future, whether I like it or not.

Blidmark: You've definitely been explorative during your musical career.

John: Yeah, I like that word.

Blidmark: Is there something else you've been wanting to do or is this the peak - your solo career?

John: I would like to do a record with Robby Krieger, I'd like to do a full record with Krieger. That's something I'd really want to do. So, but, uh, it's just a dream. It'd be nice to. You know, he's talented. There's only two Doors member left - John's one of them, Robby's the other one - so it'd be nice to really work with him. That's one of the things at the top.

And, you know, I want to spend more time with my son and my daughter and I want to find time to fish more, you know? That's always been my favourite pasttime besides music, so I'd like to do that. I'd like to go up to Canada and do some fishing up there, spend a couple of weeks and just unplug. You know? Turn everything off.

Blidmark: Yeah, you're really connected all the time today.

John: All the time. I remember when there only was email. And I didn't get a phone 'til 2003. I refused, said "I'm not getting a phone" and then my daughter was born on January 16th, 2003, and after that day I got a phone just in case of an emergency. I never gave anyone my phone number but eventually I started giving it out, eventually I got an email and I was like "Fuck!" but, you know, it helps a lot too. Especially in the business we're in.

Blidmark: Do you think it's easier for new bands today?

John: I think if you really want to be in a band and you want to commit to your craft, you've got to commit to your craft. It all depends on how easy it is to make it your job and have people support you, 'cause you depend on people buying tickets, you depend on people buying records, you depend on that stuff. And that's called support, you know? So, I certainly would not want to start up... If I was fresh out of high school... I don't know if I would make the same decision, you know, I don't. Because it's hard, it's a hard life. And unless you're gonna sell three million records it's gonna continue to be a little rough.

But I still dig it - I love being on stage, I like performing, I love singing. That's still fun for me, that I do like. I mean, all of this other stuff - not to say this stuff right here [doing this interview] but all the other stuff is just, like, you do all of this for an hour and a half of what you really love to do. Hour and a half, out of twentyfour hours a day. You travel, travel, travel, all for that hour and a half. You load in, you load out, you soundcheck, you eat with all your bros and all the other bands and you know... It's a hard life but when you get up there [onstage] it's fun. That's the fun part, yeah.

Blidmark: You said you want to inject more of your solo stuff into the shows. Do you ever fell held back by your Kyuss legacy?

John: No, no, I think I'll always be known as the singer of Kyuss and I still genuinely love playing those songs and I'm proud of that. I'm proud of it but eventually it's gonna go more and more into the solo stuff. But I'll always play Green Machine, I'll always play Whitewater and Supa Scoopa and Thumb and, you know, One Inch Man and stuff like that. I'll always do that.

Blidmark: So, what are your plans after this tour?

John: I knew I was gonna get back in mid-December so the last thing I wanna do after six weeks of touring is hang a bunch of Christmas lights. So the Christmas lights have been hung at the house! It's all done! I take care of the outside and my wife with the kids take care of the inside, and I'll help with the inside too. But I do my thing and I'm a family man. When you've got two kids and one's eleven and one's five, Santa's fucking coming to the house, man! He's fucking coming! So I get into dad-mode and I love that stuff, I read 'Twas the Night Before Christmas on the night before Christmas. And I've got a wood-burning fireplace and bake a turkey and have tamales and, fucking... I put my dad-hat on and I love that! And you know, I'm gonna go into eating mode! Get fat and then lose it again! So that's the plan, the immediate plan.

Blidmark: What about Vista Chino? What's the official status?

John: You know, there's this rumour going around that Vista Chino broke up and I'm like... Vista Chino wanted to do another record but I said I wanted to do my solo record. So, uh, you know, there's no official statement that I want to make as far as Vista Chino breaking up. Vista Chino's just parked in the garage for a little while. So, well, we'll see what happens.

Blidmark: There's something of a renaissance going on for stoner/retro rock bands and Kyuss is a strong influence for many of these bands and your voice is something of a symbol for an entire genre. Do you feel proud of this legacy?

John: I'm proud of... I'm very happy to have played with all the bands I've played with in the past - from Kyuss to Slo Burn to Unida to Hermano and Vista Chino. I'm very proud of all that and I'm proud to have shared the stage with all those guys. They're a great group of guys and incredible musicians and I'm proud of that. I have a hard time with the word "legacy". It just... I don't... I don't like that word. I'm a musician, a singer and a father and a husband first. So if people have been influenced by anything that Kyuss has done or anything I've done, I'm very appreciative to that fact. That's awesome, that is great 'cause one of the reasons I sing and perform live is I want people to feel what I'm feeling.

Sometimes when I put on an Earth, Wind & Fire record it makes me think of me kissing my Mexican girlfriend, when I was ten years old back in 1979, underneath my grapefruit tree in the backyard. And I like that feeling - it brings me back, you know? It's an escape. If I had a shitty day at work, as a veterinary technician, I would go home and I'd turn on music and just forget about the day. That's what music does to me, it takes me to someplace. And if I can do that and influence other musicians, I'm appreciative to that fact - I'm really in awe and shocked and stunned. And there's nothing worse than false modesty, I just can't help that that's the way I feel. I just don't like the word "legacy" or the word "legend". Robby Krieger, that's a legend! Okay? That's, that's... Now we're talking!

But for me, I'm a dad. I changed diapers for many years, I mopped floors for many years too. I don't care, I'm proud of that. There's nothing wrong with putting in a hard day's work. Anywhere. Anywhere. I don't give a fuck if it's at a convenience store, or mopping floors, or being a gardener, or working at the garden section at Home Depot at the local hardware store. Nothing to be ashamed of. Musicians sometimes get a little bit of a bad rap - "Oh, fuck, he couldn't make it" or "Blah blah blah, he's gotta go back to work" - I don't give a fuck about that. As a musician you kind of have to put on that hat 'cause people will say "Dude, that record sucks! You can't sing your way out of a fucking paper bag"! Cool. Right on, you know, it is what it is.

I'm more concerned about my kids, what they think of me, you know? Who doesn't wanna be a good dad? Some dads, some men, when they have kids it scares them. It scared me but it clicked in me, where I wanted to provide, to protect and to be there and that has never gone away. It was the same with my dad. He was the exact same way, he wanted to be there and to provide although I never remember living with him 'cause my parents divorced at such an early age. He was always there for me, he always loved me and he always told me that. I got off on that weird subject but what's important to me, really, is the dad thing and being a part of my family.

Blidmark: You mentioned Earth, Wind & Fire. What more bands do you listen to today?

John: A lot of old stuff. I listen to a lot of Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Rufus Wainwright, Terence Trent D'Arby... I don't listen to a lot of rock stuff, really, too much anymore. There's some stuff that's cool that I have to get in the mood for but as I get older I find myself tending to go back to the older stuff. Lately, I listen a lot to The Doors. You know, again. That's always on rotation, though, always.

[At this point, the tour manager comes in to inform that dinner is served]

Blidmark: Okay, I'm not gonna be holding you up any longer!

John: Okay, well thanks man, Martin! Thank you very much - I appreciate it, dude. You coming tonight?

Blidmark: Yeah, of course!

John: Alright, good deal!

Blidmark: Good luck with the show, I'm really looking forward to it.

John: Thank you, Martin. I appreciate that, I really do.

See also: review of the gig the same night

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