November 30, 2011
Kyuss deserves its own chapter in the hard-rock and metal history books, but the quartet was swallowed up by the Southern California desert from which it came after a handful of early-‘90s albums. The band was a cult favorite at best, but kindled a scene alongside a handful of likeminded bands that fused rumbling heaviness and melody: Monster Magnet, Fu Manchu, Sleep. The tag applied to the sound was “stoner rock,” and it finally found a commercial niche in the last decade, thanks in large measure to Queens of the Stone Age, led by Kyuss cofounder Josh Homme.
Now the remaining original members of Kyuss – singer John Garcia, bassist Nick Oliveri and drummer Brant Bjork – have teamed with Belgian guitarist Bruno Fevery to revisit the back catalogue and potentially record a new studio album under the moniker Kyuss Lives. Homme isn’t part of the reunion but he has given his blessing: “I think it’s awesome that they’re doing that,” he told the Exclaim Web site, “and I was blown away that their shows sold out like immediately.”
Indeed, Kyuss Lives is playing to far larger audiences than the original band ever did, a leap in popularity that Garcia credits to the solid foundation built by the original music.
“I used to think back then, ‘Where is everybody?’ ” the singer says. “But it all works out. It’s like a nice bottle of wine -- as it ages, it becomes more valuable and people want it more, it’s more popular. Kyuss is touring now on four records that came out many years ago, and were passed around among friends and friends of friends. You need a good product to have that elongated feel where people want to pass around your music years after it was made."
The band formed when they were still in high school, with Garcia the senior member as a callow 17-year-old. Football practice was followed by band practice. When no club owners would book the young band, the quartet took matters into its own hands and played shows in the desert for its friends, powering the amps and microphones with petrol-fueled generators.
“We were kids, and the kid that I was didn’t appreciate what we did very much because really none of us knew any better,” Garcia says. “I want to go back and slap that kid around. It gave me a great feeling to watch Josh and Brant write songs. They did the majority of the lyric and melody writing, and I took their pieces and put my stamp on them. Even then Josh had a touch for great riffs and abstract lyrics. I loved ‘Demon Cleaner,’ such a cool song, and so one time I asked him what it was about. ‘Brushing my teeth,’ he says. Really? Blew my mind. Josh could write a great song about almost anything.”
The foursome shaped a deep appreciation of ‘80s punk and alternative metal into a sound all its own: heavy bottom end, with down-tuned guitars sometimes played through bass amplifiers, and highway grooves alternating with sludgy, spacier excursions.
“Josh has a touch of mad scientist in him -- he knew what he didn’t want to sound like,” Garcia says. “All of us grasped onto that. Brant was a pioneer in that too. There was a void we needed to fill, a type of music that wasn’t being made anymore. People called it ‘stoner rock,’ which I understand there is a need to pigeonhole stuff. But to me it was rock ‘n’ roll. If I go to my wife’s grandparents, I feel better telling them that what I do for a living is ‘rock ‘n’ roll, rather than ‘stoner rock.’ ”
Garcia, who is now 42, has been in several bands since Kyuss broke up in the mid-‘90s. He says he remained on friendly terms with all the band members over the years, and began performing Kyuss songs at festivals in Europe. That’s how he met Fevery, who performed in a Kyuss tribute band as a kid growing up in Belgium and later collaborated with Garcia on a couple of songs for the band Arsenal. The reunion took flight when Oliveri and Bjork joined Garcia on stage last year in France to perform a couple of Kyuss songs. Now Garcia, Oliveri, Bjork and Fevery are in the early stages of recording a new studio album, which they hope to release next year.
“Some people want there to be animosity between me and Josh, or Brant and Nick,” Garcia says. “But it’s exactly the opposite. Josh isn’t part of it, and doesn’t want to be a part of it. An integral part of the band isn’t involved. But his support is greatly appreciated, because it’s all about respecting the songs that Josh and Brant wrote, and that’s what we’re doing. And, now it’s exciting to realize that Kyuss isn’t done. I’m curious where it’s going to go. What will it sound like? The sky’s the limit. But don’t get me wrong, we’re not aiming to make a polka record.”
Kyuss Lives: 7 p.m. Friday with the Sword, Black Cobra and Bible of the Devil at the Vic Theatre, 3145 N. Sheffield, $31.50; etix.com.
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