I await Brant Bjork’s arrival while a meeting place is sorted out and I am told he is rather tired after catching an early flight. Brant’s suggestion to do it outside in the sunshine is a good one as we greet and take our standing positions by a wall in the outside backstage area of The Electric Ballroom. Brant proved to be a true professional as he answered each question with thoughtfulness and intelligence while reflecting on his career, changes in the music business and his optimism for his current Low Desert Punk Band.
Recently you have been making solo albums so how did forming The Low Desert Punk band happen?
I just had a particular sound and a particular vibe that I wanted to pursue when I knew I was returning to solo work. It was a kind of dream team, that’s what I would call it. So I just called some guys, a couple I’ve known for years. I think when you have done this for as long as I have in as many different ways as I have (chuckles) I think you can finally arrive at something which you can only arrive at through years of trial, not even error, but just trial. And I have landed upon a chemistry that is just awesome.
It’s where you want to be?
Yeah, it’s where I want to be. We blasted of that record (last year’s “Black Flower Power“) and material – things gelled so well so fast – we have already begun the next record.
Yeah, things are just moving.
What I like about the album is it gets into a continuous groove. I know you have said before you like jazz and reggae. I love Culture’s “Two Sevens Clash” where it gets into an atmospheric groove. Did you achieve this by jamming?
There is one song at the end of the album, ‘Where Are You From Man?’, which is an improvised jam. I always like to have a bit of improv elements on my records. This record had a very specific direction in terms of the feel and the vibe but the newer stuff we are working with is way more expansive. I like to do both.
Is it more fun to write by jamming?
I like a well-crafted rock song. And I like songs that are really loose too. If I can accomplish both on one record then that is great. Like I said, sometimes I favour a particular direction for a particular set of songs. “Black Power Flower” was very directed. There was a destination. There was a purpose.
What is the meaning and intention behind the title of the album ‘Black Power Flower’
It’s a record fuelled by frustration. It’s sometimes hard to perfectly pinpoint what a feeling is – that is where the poets get involved – sometimes you just can’t describe a feeling. I love a lot of music from the sixties in the United States. I’m a part hippy and a part Black Panther. “Black Power Flower” is my way of expressing that same frustration that you heard in MC5 and Blue Cheer.
So the frustration is more to do with the social side of things?
Social, external, and internal – both worlds you just got to deal with.
Is the plan for this band to be a long-term project?
With this band we are in an age and a place in our individual musician lives. I feel we have touched upon something which has longevity. We just take every gig as it comes, and every project, and a lot of good communication. We feel positive.
You have been in the music business for a long time and have seen a lot of changes. A lot of reports have been about the negative changes but are there any positives?
It’s like Darwinism – it’s the survival of the fittest. I think there was always an element of that in the music business. But with technological advancement and the nature of the world the music business has changed quite a bit. You just got to roll with it, and I think when the field changes the challenge is to figure out how not to change your creative game. For as an artist you maintain a philosophy and creative style and you got to figure out how to maintain that. It’s not easy thing but if you are a lifer like me you just learn to adapt. I have been saying the last few years – just remind yourself – it’s just the music business, as long as you can do your homework, take the time to figure out what makes the modern world the most sense for the music.
What musical influences formed this album, as it heavier than recent solo albums?
The sonic vision and sound that I had, and the foundation for the record, was a pre-heavy rock sound before the amps were made. Rock musicians wanted to create a sound that amplifiers hadn’t been designed to do yet. I was listening to a lot of Blue Cheer. By the early seventies, with the amplifiers, people wanted to rock with pedals. I like the beginning of things when it’s still not quite there yet. I wanted to take that pre-rock sound and modernise it. I didn’t want to emulate Blue Cheer but I was willing to accept the results of my effort. It was about having this ridiculous guitar sound. I love the sound of “Raw Power”. The original Bowie production is so bad it’s good (chuckles).
With the introduction of modern technology like Pro Tools, do you think there is a beauty to older types of production?
Modern conveniences with technology have allowed (that) they can rely less on their imagination. There are options and abilities to perfectionise things. I like things raw. I like the meat on the bone. I think it’s appropriate to make analogue recordings and fuck them up and explore. Let’s pick up where great analogue and artists from the sixties and seventies were leaving us because it’s going to go digital anyway, so we should counter that with analogue recordings.
There are a lot of artist who are using analogue, like Jack White.
I am certainly not alone. Things are beginning to sound better. There is a new generation who are digging up old records, like we did, and going “Holy shit! I like the sound of this”. I listen to Little Richard and it’s the best sound ever. It never got better!
Are there plans for recording the new stuff?
I like to think we can get this thing out, but take our time and do it right; probably next spring.
Brant Bjork & The Low Desert Punk Band are playing various European festival dates this summer so check their website for dates.