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
John: Cool, awesome, you're welcome!
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
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.
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
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!
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.
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.
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
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
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
Blidmark: What about Vista Chino? What's the
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.
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
of the gig the same night