Kyuss Lives! is one of those projects that has been divisive right from the off – something we’ve made no bones about here at Thrash Hits. Despite inital reports that he was okay with the project, things got even more controversial back in March, when Josh Homme, former guitarist with Kyuss, filed a lawsuit alleging trademark infringement, misrepresentation, and a whole heap else besides. We caught up with Brant Bjork (that’s him in the hat up above), the band’s drummer and principle Kyuss songwriter after Homme, to talk about what’s really going on both in – and out – of the courtroom when it comes to all things Kyuss.
When did you first hear that Josh Homme was pursuing a legal case against you?
The day they went public with it was the day that I heard about it as well. That was the first time I heard about it.
So you had no prior knowledge of it before then?
No, not at all. Up until that point everything was what it had been since it had begun – it was fine, moving forward, no problems. I heard about it when it came online.
What do you think made Josh pursue the legal case now, rather than earlier on in Kyuss Lives!’s existence?
The most authentic answer to that question would have to come from Josh himself. But if I had to take a guess, I would just say I think the technical reason might’ve been that they realised the seriousness of John [Garcia] and I, how convicted we were with this, and the fact that we trademarked the name to move forward. They’re using that as their technical excuse, but to be honest, I think Josh just heard through the grapevine that we were planning to record and…exist…and he wasn’t comfortable with that for personal reasons, so he immediately knee-jerked and did what he thought would be the most effective way to stop us.
Why do you think he’s so opposed to Kyuss Lives! continuing?
He’s got his own opinions and his own beliefs, but I really don’t know why he doesn’t want [Kyuss Lives!] to exist or to continue. I was never opposed to the band getting back together – and I think I speak for John as well – and it was quite common knowledge among the band members and the public that Josh was not in favour of that. And I can understand to a point [sighs], but at the same time, in terms of just basic demand…people have grown to enjoy the band more with each passing year, and I just couldn’t understand why someone would neglect or deny a fanbase something that they would really want. [Kyuss Lives!] isn’t exactly something that John and I started to do out of curiosity, or to see what kind of interest we could stir up. We were directly responding to a demand that has been growing and requested to all of us – individually and collectively – pretty much ever since the band broke up.
When the band first got back together John Garcia said in a couple of interviews that you didn’t approach Josh because you knew he wasn’t interested – do you think that might have coloured his attitude to the reunion?
Again, on my part this is speculation because John is the one who communicated with Josh specifically about this topic over the years. I demanded that Josh was – at the very least – notified and informed with a full understanding of what we were doing.The option for him to come and participate is, and of course always was there. Whether or not he wants to participate is obviously not up to us, but John made sure Josh was informed of what we were doing. He sent an email to both Josh and Scott Reeder, informing them both of what we were doing, what [the band] was called, and what our ultimate plans for it was. Scott responded in favour and support and acceptance; Josh did not respond…even though [previously] he did support John with “Garcia Plays Kyuss”. John has a pretty lengthy email [from Josh] that is very much a positive sign of support for John doing that. John just kind of took it upon himself to take [Josh’s] non-response as just “not interested”, but we weren’t willing to wait for any kind of go-ahead. We didn’t feel that we had to do that – at all.
Back when Kyuss existed and you initially left the band, one of the widely-believed reasons for that was your disagreements with Josh over songwriting. Do you think this current row is a hangover from those same clashes?
You mean is the conflicted rooted in my relationship with Josh? Yeah, I think there’s a good ol’ fashioned conflict of interest which lies in the heart of business, and then very much the emotional side of this conflict would probably be directly related to the history of Josh and myself’s relationship – or lack of it. For whatever reason, Josh and I were very close, and that’s what kind of fuelled Kyuss, and then we had a falling out…or a growing apart, really. It wasn’t really an explosion, it was more…we were just young, and as we were growing as people, we just grew in separate ways. Quickly. And we never reconciled. We were never able to get back to a common denominator.
If you could talk to Josh today, face-to-face, rather than in a legal/business manner, what do you think you would say to him?
Well, I’d have quite a bit to say to him. The problem is that I don’t think he wishes to speak with me. The last time I spoke to him was six years ago, and he told me never to talk to him again, so….I don’t think there’s any real, real, legitimate beef there. I think a lot of this is just the result of non-communication, and like I said, there was never this amazing super-dramatic explosion of drama between the two of us, it just was this thing that ran out of gas, emotionally, spiritually and mentally, and we went off in totally different directions. Over the years, on the handful of times that we have spoken or even worked together over the course of the time since the band broke up, with each time it was just clear to me that we were just growing further and further apart. I honestly don’t know what I would say at this point. I feel like he’s a person that I just don’t really know anymore. I think we would probably have to start all over again.
When Scott Reeder decided to join Josh in his lawsuit, did that surprise you?
Oh yeah. That was very much a surprise. That was the big surprise. Scott had participated [in Kyuss Lives!] as a fill-in bassist for Nick [Oliveri] when he had to respond to his own court case. Scott had a great time, there was no problems whatsoever, and then we discovered his involvement with this lawsuit. I wasn’t anticipating that at all. I think Scott really thought he was going to be asked to join the band permanently, I think Scott kind of formed a specific timeline as for when his expectations for that were going to ultimately happen, and when it didn’t, I think he kind of knee-jerked as well.
Kysuss Lives! @ Manchester Academy – 05 April 2011 c/o Matt Thomas
Is there a reason why you decided you didn’t want Scott as a full-time permanent member of Kyuss Lives!?
This is…y’know…this is…how do I say this…this is a new adventure for this band, but these relationships go back over 20 years ago. There’s still a lot of emotional baggage that is involved in starting a new thing. It’s fresh but [chuckles] it’s got old baggage attached to it as well. Having said that, John and I [had] committed to Nick as our bass player, that was the decision we made. John was the one who ultimately put this together, and Nick was the bass player he ultimately envisioned playing bass on it. I questioned him, naturally, because Kyuss had two great bass players, and I questioned his convictions just to make sure, and he was very convicted in Nick, and I was fine was that. I love Nick and he’s a great bass player.
We committed to our collective decision and when Nick was having personal problems and his lawsuit, we sat down again, and John and I decided to stand by our decision to have Nick involved. The lawsuit concerns his personal life, the only impact it had on the band was us having to ask Scott to fill in on selected dates, and that was a minor inconvenience. It would’ve been a major inconvenience had Scott not agreed [to play], but he did. And everybody had a great time, and everything worked out. But there was no real reason – and this is something I continually communicated with Scott – there was no real grounds for us to fire Nick. And based on our history with Nick. John and I weren’t looking to pull the rug out from under him like that at any point.
I’m assuming if the lawsuit goes in your favour, you’ll be carrying on as Kyuss Lives!, but what will you do if you lose the case?
If we lose, we’ll probably have to collectively decide what our next move is. It’s hard to say – we feel very confident, we’re thinking very positive, we’re prepared to move forward ultimately, but things do happen in this world that are somewhat out of our control, and if that were to happen, to be honest I don’t see there being much we could do. We’d change the name of course, and move forward under a different name. I honestly don’t know what else we would do.
Kyuss in happier times: John Garcia, Scott Reeder, Brant Bjork, and Josh Homme.
The court case has thrown a wrench into the works, but you’re obviously very mindful of the future. Have you put your plans on hold?
It serves us no good to stall or to freeze. We are moving forward at full speed with the same momentum and the same gameplan that we had when things were smooth without the lawsuit. Until the courts tell us legally we’re not able to move forward as a band, we’re going to keep moving forward full steam. We have the new record written, we’re very excited, we’ve got bookings all the way up to next year, and we will start recording our new record independently as soon as we get home from this tour at the end of June. In our hearts and minds we’re a band, and we’re going to work.
When you come out of this, what do you think you will have learned from the whole experience?
Well…I think I will have learned a deeper sense of something that I already inherently know – which is that’s that there are a lot of people in this world, doing a lot of different things for a lot of different reasons.
Kyuss Lives! are set to play the Main Stage at Download Festival 2012 at 12:45pm this Sunday. For more info on the band, go check out the official Kyuss Lives! website.