The Brian Jonestown Massacre's Anton Newcombe: "The Worst Thing Is You Don't Exist Anymore"
Anton Newcombe is ready to do his interview, but he's not truly ready to do his interview until he reaches back to grab his red aviator sunglasses. Once he's suited up, then we're set, and this Newport Beach native who can trace his family's local history back to the days before farms turned into parking lots and shopping malls--and who shouts out Burger Records--is ready to talk.
It's the day before Brian Jonestown Massacre leaves on a tour to promote their latest Aufheben (out now on Newcombe's A Records), with a stop scheduled for the Wiltern this weekend, and singer/songwriter/multiinstrumentalist Newcombe--subject of a fascinating 2006 cover story in the Weekly, and subject of the ... less-than-salutary documentary Dig!--is in what you might call a very good place.
"The Brian Jonestown Massacre is out there but has never had any real, measurable radio play. It's never had a film soundtrack or a car commercial," said the L.A. Times in 2004. "On the day of the interview, Newcombe evidently had a studio and a place to stay, but no phone."
But here we are in 2012 and Brian Jonestown's "Straight Up And Down" is the theme song for the much-acclaimed Boardwalk Empire, a deal Newcombe describes as worth "two or three or four or five '90s record deals, or for indie bands ... that's like twenty Ariel Pink deals at once." And back in his various European home bases, Newcombe runs his own Ustream channel called Dead TV, where he cooks and chats and takes calls all through his Skype connection.
In the long aftermath of Dig!, Jonestown and Newcombe have soldiered on as they always have, releasing some of their best albums and filing the documentary experience away alongside all the unorthodox other methods they've used to put their music into the minds of ... well, not quite the masses, but a lot more people than just the usual rock 'n' roll mutants. Like back when the Internet was something you had to access by getting to the campus lab and having a servermancer chant solemnly over a zip disk with your files on it--that's when Newcombe was already seeding Brian Jonestown MP3s to
the world via a server at CalTech. It's all just a method of connection.
"I realized there would never be this record store that carried Bomp! records or this English label I'm on or my own label or even TVT in some little town in Norway," he says. "My stuff was gonna be unavailable except by mailorder. So I'm just allowing 5,000 people in Oslo to check out my stuff.
"I instigated the Dig! thing," he continues. "I brought the Dandys in and eliminated the other groups. It was like eleven L.A. bands hashing it out and they brought me in because it wasn't that interesting. You know how guys at Guitar Center are--these
guys just wanted to be famous. It'd be like if you were doing a documentary on kids standing in line for American Idol. You know what they're all about. Rebecca Black can break down what that motivation is! They don't have anything to offer the world, but they just want a shot. And I had this whole other thing."