Far Out Opinionated: Anton Newcombe says “be true to yourself, be individual, be bold, make music”
Anton Newcombe is the American singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and founder of the iconic music group The Brian Jonestown Massacre.
Having toured the world celebrating the band’s 17 studio albums, Newcombe told the music industry to fuck themselves, built his own recording studio in Berlin and produced masses of records… including two new Brian Jonestown Massacre which come later this year.
How did he do it? How did Newcombe make it this far? By being true to himself… and he explains in his own words with an exclusive article for Far Out Magazine.
Here I am in St. Louis, Missouri, sitting in the back of the bus on another big, big tour.
I am very fortunate, when I was a kid watching Paul McCartney, Hendrix or even The Monkees on TV because there was nothing any of them showed me that told me I could play music too, if that was my dream. In the way that growing up with Johnny Cash and The Carter Family, it would be perfectly natural for you to pick up a guitar – or at least sing a long at home. My home wasn’t like that. My sisters took piano and I wanted to as well but my family said “you will get bored” – so, instead, I taught myself. But anyway I digress… back to the music.
I have loved music on a deep level since I was two-years-old but nothing some dickhead like Robert Plant – who I hated – ever showed me that I too could follow those dreams. It wasn’t until I saw post-punk bands playing and realised how stupid and wonderful all these people really were. You see, when you copy Bob Dylan, you become him, copying an old man from way back. But when you copy Johnny Rotten you become you.
Anyway, I became me. I loved psychedelic music in the widest sense except I never wanted to be retro. I watched my parents trade VW’s for Volvos and what not….I hated every person I ever met. As a six-year-old I sat and tried to figure out why everyone was so unhappy, it turns out that none of them were doing what they wanted and even in their wealth they had a poverty of ambition and ideas…so I split.
I had groups since my early teens but the main problem was that I wanted to sing… and most people don’t write songs very well. That doesn’t mean that people don’t enjoy them, but people also support football teams that never win and are perfectly content. Life is strange.
Long story short, I didn’t want some fat fucker saying “I just don’t hear a hit, so you can’t play music” – no deal. The other problem was that I am interested in is conceptual art… I press record and as soon as it traps me I stop, but then for me, the magic is making it live.
Finish the words and trap the listeners but never get hung up like the Stone Roses with an albatross around my neck of some studio creation, waiting 30 years to dribble some sub-par urine out of a flaccid member and call it a day – don’t get me wrong, Manny is wonderful and Ian Brown’s fear is amazing my point is – I love playing music. I told Seymour Stein when every label wanted to sign me saying ‘we are going to make you the next Kurt Cobain’ I was like “hey, there is nothing you can fucking do to stop me from doing what I want for me… later”.
Here I am.
See the problem was me going into a studio, playing old school and some fool going ‘well they do it like this in Seattle’ or whatever. Imagine trying to produce My Bloody Valentine? It could not happen. Then the other problem was that people would say ‘we just gave the kid from Smashing Pumpkins Fleetwood Mac’s studio, you can move in next door, do whatever you like, produce anyone but we want 50 percent of your money from all time or we want all the publishing from the last 200 songs you wrote’. I basically told the world to fuck themselves, but I did not stop playing music…I played more music.
Here I am, on tour, playing bigger concerts than my friends on major labels who are on the radio. The same friends who get to be on TV and here I am… living in Europe, my own label with 175 catalog numbers, a studio… every damn thing I need and all I had to do was stand my ground and be productive. It also helped that I found the best manager in Ted Gardner, and the best guy to run my labels Stuart Flint… and the best distributors… Phil at Cargo among others but I have people all over.
Lets talk about albums. I produced The Vacant Lots this year, we produced The Liminans, I did a Tess Parks [pictured above] Anton Newcombe album and EP, I’ve done an album for Alex Lipinski, I just did one for Emmanuelle Seigner that absolutely kicks ass and, at some point in September, my manager Ted said “Anton if you want to tour Australia I need another album (the two albums last year don’t count) and I need them in a month”. So I sat on my couch at the studio while Andrea Wright, my engineer, was away recording the new Echo and the Bunnymen album and I sat there for three weeks, bummed about life then said ‘fuck it’ and I started writing and recording by myself and knocked out “something else…” then, deep in the purple patch, I hired a drummer named Sara Niedorf – amazing woman…and I said “look, you know that Hendrix song Hey Joe? We ain’t recording it, now play it really fast and fuck it up”. I plugged in and I wrote the second album song after song as it is.
In fact Anthony Bourdain flew to Berlin to film me and I cooked dinner for 14 while I wrote, produced and recorded one of the tracks all at once…. you will be able to find that online sometime if you wish. I guess all of this shit I have been talking about doesn’t really scratch the surface of what I want or should say, but I will add this…
Music is an ecosystem. It is in your own best interest to help everyone and make shit happen.
I don’t care if you ask the old man at the pub for Thursday nights to play records and have one band a week….that’s how shit happens….that’s how Mick Jagger ended up getting 500 million quid, because Brian Jones knew that, and I know that. That’s what I did.
Now go do it yourself.
P.S. if somebody hands you a contract….Google every line… then make your own contract and hand it back.
Thank me later, you have no fucking excuse for being a sucker in this day and age.