reviews and interviews
Los Angeles, CA 7/27/2003
by Brant Bjork
SOURCE: Brant Bjork - Keep Your Cool album cover 2003
Bio by Nadeem Ali
Thankfully Bjork takes from the same eclectic palate as Queens Of The Stone Age and Earthlings? (whom he borrows the curiously named Shneebie from). What this amounts to is a rather odd record at times. Imagine if you will trouble funkers War backed by a seventies hard rock band with the power-pop sheen of The Cars. Opening track Kinda 65 provides the best example of this crazy mixture of influences. My Ghettoblaster on the other hand is just a rocking stoner pop song, yet it still has traces of War – Lowrider dammit.
Just when you think you have Mr Bjork pegged he moves further into the left-of-centre with a laid-back jazzy funk of album closer Kinda 65 (Return Flight). Earlier on in the album Electric Lalli is a surrealist psychedelic number with chunky guitars and laid back vocals. It doesn’t work all the time as Cheap Wine and Captain Lovestar that amiably amble by leaving no impression at all. But it can still hit the mark when it counts and might be a showcase what is to come for Brant Bjork.
SOURCE: Lose Control
Jalamanta (1999, Man’s Ruin Records)
Review by Esben
Brant Bjork & the Operators
Brant Bjork Artist Resources
SOURCE: The Music Cartel 2002
Brant Bjork & the Operators
Review by Frank Meyer
Though the credits read “Brant Bjork and the Operators” this is basically one-man show, with Bjork singing, and playing guitar, bass and drums, only sometimes joined by friends for the occasional lead guitar solo or backing vocal. Veering from new wave to metal to rock, Bjork covers a lot of ground here and keeps things simple and solid. Vocally, Bjork is reminiscent of Satchel/Pigeonhead/Brad singer Shawn Smith or even Rick Ocasek of the Cars, a smooth, limited range, but totally effective. Lyrically he’s certainly not giving Dylan a run for his money, but he’s not trying to either. Bjork seems completely fine revealing in teen fantasies and slacker bong-hit poems. On a Tool album it would some lame, like he didn’t try, but at this party it fits right in.
The material is all quite strong, built around simple guitar or keyboard riffs and very pop based. Bjork mixes metal riffing with new wavy hooks and smoky funk with ease, sounding both retro and fresh at the same time. A prime example of this fusion of styles can be heard on the opener, Hinda 65, which combines some Sweet style synth with a Duran Duran guitar line and lyrics about teen cruising. The songs coast along quite hypnotically, constantly feeling like it’s going to break out of it’s haze and explode, keeping you on the edge of your seat the whole time. “Smarty Pants” injects some funk groove to the party, complete with some Prince style falsetto vocals. “My Ghettoblaster” sounds like Fu Manchu with less guitar and more organ. These three songs get this album off to a real promising start, probably the best triple threat I’ve heard at the front of a record in a loooong time…
Then Bjork tends to stray a bit, indulging in jams and prog-rock workouts. The instrumental “Electric Lalli Land” features some pretty proggy sounding riffs and cool backwards guitar and while it’s pretty impressive chops-wise, it’s not exactly the most memorable tunes here. The same can be said for the jagged, dissonant “From The Ground Up” -- interesting if you’re a drummer or guitarist, but not for the average listener. “Cheap Wine” is a fun, upbeat little number that peps right along into the mellow and moody instrumental “Cocoa Butter.” None of it is bad, but not nearly as compelling as the first third of the effort.
By this time some steam has been lost, but momentum is quickly gained as “Joey’s Radio” comes blasting in and returns us to that heavy yet laid back vibe. “Captain Lovestar” opens with a tricky little guitar riff intro before kicking into a sexy rocker that sounds kinda like Masters of Reality covering Bad Company. The pimp rap in the middle is priceless. An electric piano driven instrumental reprise of “Hinda 65” closes the album and eases the listener down from their buzz in just the right way. This is how you wanna end a cool trip like this, with a joint in your hand and some smoky mood music in the background. Is there anything left in that bottle…?
No, this isn’t a perfect album by any means and probably coulda used a coupla more really strong tunes or a coupla less instrumentals, but I’ll be dammed if Bjork ain’t the best drummer turned songwriter since Mr. Grohl himself and I expect we’ll be hearing much more from this cat and his psychedelic furry friends. I know this might all sound kinda gay and ‘80s (what with all the Duran Duran and Prince comparisons) but I swear it works and rocks hard. It’s heavy in the right places, funny as hell, and just oozes with charm. Fans of Fu Manchu and Queens will dig this, fans of Tenacious D and Foo Fighter will “get it,” and fans of Brad and Satchel will LOVE it. This is the kinds music you wanna chill out to, drink wine to, and make love to… the ladies will understand… ***1/2
SOURCE: Frank Meyer
Jalamanta (1999, Man’s Ruin Records)
Review by Vinnie Apicella
Bjork’s new music features a stripped-down and very skin and bone recording, reigning in plenty of ‘70s stimuli, as well as encroaching on a more soulful design that may have yet to realize, their heads evidently still clouded from the incessant blare of the bass. Classic rock and jive presents itself most prominently on “Jalamanta” and in a stunning turn of events, the atypical, fuzz-driven feedback often becomes the sacrificial lamb to the prevailing beat that sets the tone all the way from the trippy “Automatic Fantastic” through the relaxing “Oasis Layback” and blue water dash of “Indio.” Bjork’s obviously got his finger on the pulse with this one and shows he’s unafraid to take chances albeit fairly modest ones in most cases, and more and more it becomes known that as influential and innovative as Kyuss once was, the whole doesn’t always prove grater than the sum of its parts!
SOURCE: AMZ - Access to the Music Zone
Brant Bjork – Three Band Plan
Article by Martin Popoff
First a few words on Che: “It’s pretty straight forward rock sound,” offers Bjork, who splits his hometime between Palm Desert and L.A., “a traditional Marshall, Fender bass, drums, in-your-face kind of thing. I guess in contrast with Fu Manchu, Scott and Bob really like the overblown, fuzzy sound, ‘70s and ‘60s-style bloopy notes. Che is just more ‘me’, my songs, a little bit more freestyle, from the hip, definitely more organic, a little bit more heart-felt I think.”
“It’s just me and my friends Dave and Alfredo who I’ve known for many years,” explains Bjork on the band’s origins. “I’ve known Alfredo since I was 13 and we’ve waited until now to get together and see what happens. And the results were a lot of fun and we really like the record. Alfredo called me, we were all living in the desert at the time. I was living with Dace. Alfredo had just gotten off of the road with Queens Of The Stone Age and he gave me a call and said ‘look man, I just left the band’ and I said, ‘oh wow, OK’ and we chatted about that. I’ve lived with Dave for the last year and a and Dave is just an insane bass player. I’ve loved his bass playing for years and we’ve been best friends, but ironically enough, we never played together, or at least in a long time and I said, “we’ve got this house, would you be interested in coming over to jam?’ So he came over and we just started jamming. And within about a month we were sitting on a handful of songs.
Consider the Che record, as Bjork says, more ‘70s-based stoner-type rock versus more specific doom rock that points to Sabbath. It’s heavy, but it’s clean, more power-chorded than the radical new Queens Of The Stone Age, a little psychedelic, cool and caveman-ish. Like Mountain, bang, maybe even late Amboy Dukes."
But next up is something altogether more introspective, Bjork’s next solo excursion. “I actually did a solo record for Man’s Ruin a year and a half ago and I’ll be doing another one next month and releasing it on my own label, which will be distributed through Man’s Ruin, called Duna Records. And we plan on doing a Che record in the new year as well. It’s really tough to juggle all the stuff with Fu Manchu’s crazy schedule, but I wouldn’t want to neglect Che and my solo stuff, because it’s really important to me and we have a good time doing it. The solo album I’m not sure how familiar you are with my solo album. The new one is going to be the same but different. To be honest with you man, I never can tell you. I’m just going to go in there with my stuff and roll tape. I’m not in the studio long. I just kind of perform the tracks. But it will be along the same lines, groovy and nice and warm. There isn’t any rock or anything radical, just pretty mellow. I’m usually skeptical in giving titles because my mind changes every day but I’m almost 95% sure that it’s going to be called Palm Desert Airlines.”
Martin: When do you think the Fu Manchu record will come out?
Brant: “Realistically, probably not until the middle or late summer, probably August. Style-wise, it’s kind of early in the game. We don’t have all the songs down yet, but we’ve got a good amount. We’ve done a couple that are really straightforward and standard for Fu Manchu, and there are a couple that are pretty far-out. It’s Fu Manchu, it rocks and it’s going to be big and hopefully it will move people.”
Martin: Do you find that people can’t stop talking Kyuss? Have People been trying to get you to put the band back together?
Brant: “Oh yeah, we’ve had offers and there have been rumors. Especially in Europe. Every year you would go over, there would be rumors of Kyuss doing this and that. You know, I don’t know, whatever. We’re all doing our own thing now. I’ve been doing really well with Fu Manchu and obviously the Queens are doing really well. I don’t think Kyuss would ever get back together.”
Martin: What’s been the coolest part of the whole trip, all these bands, all these collaborators? What part of the puzzle are you most proud of?
Brant: “Blues For The Red Sun was a special record. King Of The Road was a really fun record to make, and I really love the Che record. But I’ll tell you, about four years ago, Nick Oliveri came out to the desert right before Josh Homme started Queens Of The Stone Age, and he had some money and he was kind of down and out, and he wanted to record a record. So he got Josh and I back together and we got into the studio and that would have been the first time Josh and I played and recorded since I left Kyuss and it was definitely the first time Nick, Josh and I played together since Nick had left Kyuss, even before I had, and it was kind of an emotional, trippy, weird experience, and we recorded some of these songs that Nick had. I think there were only about two or three songs we played. And that recording has just been released as Mondo Generator. And I just got my copy the other day and I threw it on. I hadn’t heard it since we did it, and man, it just blew me away.
I mean, just going back, I was just a kid who loved music,” reflects Bjork on the whole journey. “I mean, I went through my stages when I was into punk rock, and then heavy rock and acid rock and I did a lot of my homework and connected the dots with different artists and listened to all kinds of music. I’ve always had an open mind. I just wanted to be a musician and make a living playing music, and I’ve done that. And that’s what I’m proud of, just the whole thing. I’ve been involved in a lot of cool bands with good musicians and I can make a living at it. Of course I’m not rich or anything but that was never my goal anyway.”
SOURCE: Martin Popoff
Interview by Dr. Perky
WTD: Why did you decide to produce your second solo record under the moniker "Brant Bjork and The Operators"? Have you made up names for The Operators or do you just call them "Bass Brant", "Guitar Brant", and "Drum Brant"?
Brant: In late 2000 I went into the studio to record a solo record called Palm Desert Airlines. Soon after I began the record I was inspired by a name my girlfriend said she came up with back in the early 1980s called The Operators. I began re-arranging and writing songs as if I had joined this fictitious band. It was really fun to do. Kept things fresh. After the record was complete I decided to title it neither one or the other but both ... Brant Bjork and the Operators.
WTD: Originally you were going to release the album on Small Stone Recordings, but backed out in favor of a deal with The Music Cartel. What was the impetus behind that decision?
Brant: I was originally set to work with Small Stone but was approached with a better offer from Music Cartel. It was hard because Scott at S.S. is a great guy, but I simply had to go with what was best for me. The music business sucks.
WTD: You recently left Fu Manchu after three records, citing time commitment as the reason. How difficult a decision was that?
Brant: It was hard to leave Fu Manchu because Scott,Bob and Brad are great people and we had great times but artistically I was very confident that it was time to move on.
WTD: You have been a part of tremendous albums with 4 different bands: the almighty Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Che, and also your two solo albums. What record has been your absolute favorite?
Brant: I can't really say which record I've done is my favorite. I enjoyed making each one for different reasons. I had a lot of fun making the Brant Bjork and the Operators record.
WTD: Why did you leave Kyuss after the release of Welcome To Sky Valley?
Brant: I left Kyuss after Sky Valley simply because it wasn't fun anymore.
WTD: It was recently announced that you are reuniting with Josh Homme and Nick Oliveri in Queens of the Stone Age. Is there any chance at all that the 3 of you will talk John Garcia into a reunion tour, or has that bridge been severed?
Brant: I would love to do a couple Kyuss shows and I'm sure Johnny and Nick would be excited to do so but Josh is a very busy boy these days. I don't believe Kyuss is on his mind and rightfully so. Also, for the record, I did not join QOTSA. It was talked about but that was about it. I'm very excited to work on my own music.
WTD: What do you think of the name "stoner rock"? What constitutes "stoner rock" in your mind?
Brant: Stoner rock doesn't bother me. If thats what the people decide to call this musical movement then so be it. I just hope it doesn't become too formulaic. There is nothing wrong with Black Sabbath riffs and songs about weed ... I would just like it to evolve musically as much as stay the same.That way we can talk about stoner rock in 15 years and it will still be a vital and credible thing.
WTD: You're best known as a fantastic drummer, but your guitar work on both your solo records and in Che has been highly impressive also. What is your favorite instrument to play?
Brant: I don't have a favorite instrument to play. I just enjoy creating music.
WTD: Tell us about your "Ghettoblaster".
Brant: "My Ghettoblaster" is a song about growing up in the early 80s and watching the whole rap/break dancing culture explode. I thought it was so cool even though I was into punk and ska. A lot of people damn the 80s musically but I always felt it kicked ass at the street level.
WTD: What bands have you been listening to lately?
Brant: I've been listening to Charlie Hunter's new record, Soulive, The Jam, Thin Lizzy, Fatso Jetson, and Augustus Pablo.
WTD: Any final thoughts/comments/things to plug?
Brant: I'm looking forward to working with my label, Duna Records. We'll be ready for on-line sales in May. I'm gonna re-release a couple great CDs from the classic desert bands Solarfeast and De-con, as well as a limited vinyl release of Jalamanta and BB&The Operators.
WTD: Thanks a ton for the interview; you're a fantastic musician.
Brant: Thank you White Trash Devil.