Perhaps only Mark E Smith could rival this man in the foreboding stakes. Anton Newcombe’s reputation lends a picture of him being irascible and abrupt, and the stories of him treating interviewees from an askance stance and being downright insulting are many. Moreover, lest the world ever forget, the documentary on his band The Brian Jonestown Massacre features him being physically abusive to people too. But this was my second time in conversation with him, and his voice was so soft and low as to be described as gentle, and again he was forthcoming and generous with his time and answers. Like the aforementioned awkward Fall frontman, Anton’s modes of thinking and behaving are not always in accordance with what may be referred to as societal norms. But, regardless of that which I’ve heard about or even encountered with Anton over time, the one thing that surmounts all this is that the man makes remarkable music, and is fascinating to talk to. So it was that when the interview arrangements were altered at the very last minute and I had 40 minutes to get some seven miles to the Columbia Hotel, I resurrected the spirit of Challenge Anneka - I had to get there. I was halfway through eating a Quorn burger when I got the news. But through a combination of running, buses, tubes, and the guidance of a Scottish stranger, I made it in time.
The interview offer was sold with the statement that Anton was now ‘sober’. I wondered how much this could or would effect or openly change things. I decided to risk asking the questions that other journalists may not have been bold enough to broach and certainly ones which I have never seen approached in interviews over the years - rather than stick to the general or the usual, I dug for a personal perspective. Pleasantly, Anton was candid and discussed with me such topics as: sobriety, mental health, former members of The Brian Jonestown Massacre, married life, inspiration and discipline.