Liverpool hosts its fourth International Festival of Psychedelia at the city's Camp & Furnace venue next weekend (Friday 25th & Saturday 26th). In the second part of our preview, DiS caught up with artist in residence Anton Newcombe, who'll be taking part in a number of activities at the event including an hour long conversation with yours truly as part of Liverpool Psych Fest's Musings In Drone programme.
As well as discussing some of those activities, he also talks about his affection for the city of Liverpool, his recent collaboration with Tess Parks, The Brian Jonestown Massacre's 25th anniversary and forthcoming new album.
DiS: Are you looking forward to the festival?
Anton Newcombe: I am because I love that city for a lot of reasons. A lot of people are enamored by The Beatles history and anthology so I guess that's the main attraction. Some people are just Liverpool supporters. One of the guitarists in my band with Tess. He's from Iceland and they're his team so we're trying to get him tickets for the game. He wants to hear their fans singing 'You'll Never Walk Alone'.
DiS: I believe they're playing at home that weekend.
Anton Newcombe: I've got to pull all my favours for him just to be a mate. Personally I couldn't give a rat's ass about any sport. But I do think it will be cool to go to Liverpool and see people like Will Sergeant get all excited about the result. It could be any team, anywhere and I'd only be having a good time for that reason.
DiS: You're the artist in residence this year. How did that come about?
Anton Newcombe: As far as neo-psychedelia goes - whatever that means, I've been playing that kind of thing since 1992. More than any other current bands. There are very few who have that kind of non-stop thing going. I may be wrong. What does artist in residence mean exactly? A I think they have some bands from our label and me & Tess (Parks) are gonna play our other project. Some of the critique that record (I Declare Nothing) received just read, "Oh, one thing I don't like about is that all the songs sound the same." Well hey, I created this record all one way. I did that on purpose. We have totally different songs that branch out into different orchestrations or different vibes. Like hey, this is our Mary Chain/Cramps vibe or whatever. But I chose not to show that yet on this album. So we're going to play along with some bands from our label like Magic Castles, who are going to blow people away. They work very similar to how we do things with BJM, in that their album sounds very different to how they play it live.
DiS: Are there any bands on the bill you're looking forward to seeing?
Anton Newcombe: I wish The Limiñanas were playing again. They're my favourite French band. I just love those guys. It's hard for me to listen to a lot of other music that's not in my own world. I want everyone to have a great time and I want it to be mind expanding. That's the definition of what psychedelic means to me. The last thing psychedelic means to me is some motherfucker wearing a frilly Paisley shirt. I'm more interested in music that's all encompassing. That's why my projects include people playing sitars or cellos or marimba like on the Stones 'Lady Jane'. To me, all that is more psychedelic than Their Satanic Majesties Request where they all dressed up as wizards.
DiS: There does seem to be a lot of bands jumping on the "Psych Rock" bandwagon of late. Bands that one suspects were probably copying Oasis or The Libertines five years ago.
Anton Newcombe: Exactly. Me and Andy Votel - who I'm really looking forward to DJing with - were talking about this recently. He said they should quit with all the bullshit, stop making multi-coloured vinyl records and just call it indie rock again then everything would be all good. But popular music is bullshit. And whatever pretext you want to put it in, most of it is provided by record companies.
DiS: Tell me about the Thorium-232 virtual reality piece which you've worked on with Michael Saup and will be presenting for the first time in Liverpool?
Anton Newcombe: I've been working with this guy called Naut Humon on and off since the late 1990s. He does corporate media and sound traffic control and created this medium called Cinechamber. It's a revolutionary way of projecting sound and images that can be scaled to whatever size fits a particular situation. I'm presenting this really ambitious concept with a couple of artists, Li Alin and Michael Saup who's micro-managing for Naut. It also ties into Occulus Rift with virtual reality, because I can read what I'm presenting on the screens while people are listening on headphones and walking through. There's ten screens in one room then another four in the next room so people can see both the inside and outside. I want people to try and grasp Thorium-232 as a virtual reality experience. What I'm trying to do is get artists to make these wells so you would download them like a song on iTunes. The problem's gonna be that Facebook owns Occulus Rift, but we're still hoping everyone will have this thing by next year. We're trying to move it away from the Facebook thing so it becomes more of an artistic medium that's projected onto your eyeballs in your living room. We want people to be able to play Minecraft in their living rooms on holograms. It sucks though, basically, because there's a million new reasons to never leave the couch. That's why I like the ten screens thing because it makes you focus on the whole concept all at once. We're giving artists the opportunity to create the future with other artists. This is what it is but you have to define what it can be. A lot of the stuff is conceptual so what I'm trying to communicate is very difficult for people to understand. My exhibit is not to impress critics. It's to inspire artists. People can download it after it's done then they're also in the realm.
DiS: How much will it cost both to set up and for artists to use?
Anton Newcombe: Michael is a professor and he's putting it together with another guy who specialises in digital graphics so the cost is zero. He can just say to one of his students, "Assemble thids part onto here or that part onto there." If you search for Cinechamber on You Tube you can see how some of the creations work. I don't know if they're bringing all or some of the ten screens to Liverpool. I don't know what the deal is. It's not like they're gonna fly people over from Germany for free money just to set this stuff up. It's all fractal equipment. There's an Eastern flair to its minimalism. Li (Alin) wanted it to be ten minutes long and we were like, fuck that, let people work it out for themselves over a six minutes piece. I'm using it as an opportunity to explain to artists and people where certain things are going. It's beyond gaming. It will be interesting to see what Michael (Saup) has come up with visually because we're working apart for this. It might be quite good. It will change virtual reality. Alan Moore's working on this freaky Optimus project right now. There's a lot of people doing stuff. I'm looking to possibility collaborate with other artists in making their own realms. It's a multi-dimensional experience for both the audience and the creator. Hopefully we'll inspire artists to not only connect with other people, but also find other mediums to promote their music rather than streaming on Spotify or the NME. Do you know how uninspiring tours are right now? Success means playing a festival yet all festivals are exactly the same now. It really sucks. There has to be something more.
DiS: The festival circuit has become very homogenised in recent years.
Anton Newcombe: Absolutely, and its corporations and agents who are to blame. Agents because they've got to break these new bands so they're on every bill because they use them as a bargaining tool with promoters for their more established artists and headline acts. So if you want Eminem for example you also have to put on this bunch of other bands no one really cares about as part of the deal. That's exactly how it works. It happens at every festival including Glastonbury. I know bands who've had zero radio play in the UK yet ended up in a prime slot on the Pyramid Stage. The other blame lies squarely with those in power showing a lack of vision or any form of originality too. They have enough wealth and power to pull it off yet spend all their time showing off their billionaire wares on Instagram. Buy a load of fake followers yet nobody wants to set up a cool festival. Or a Radio Caroline.
DiS: Do you think there's too much pressure on bands to play live as much as possible in order to survive and that's why they align themselves with agents so early on in their careers?
Anton Newcombe: We've got to educate people. That's why I hope this talk at Liverpool is really good. What's survival? A rat walks into a cage, eats some shit and chews its own leg off. That's survival. What we need is for bands to think so what, I've only got this loaf of bread to eat but I don't care because I'm still living it large and enjoying my life despite everything. So I've got what I need. I've got my scene, I've got my ride, I've got my chick, I'm going to the show. That's what a modernist is. People need to go back to that reality of what it was like in post-punk land. You've got to get your band, get a flat, then share your gear in a shared space. You've got to make a circuit with your mates and start in the back of a pub and make your own night. Get all your mates to play and those who aren't to go. Invite lots of pretty girls to show up and make it fun. If your band is really bad at the beginning, keep going. If you're being creative and putting stuff out then it's cool. You can always make a record then make better records. People always love something that gets better. People love an underdog. Don't sell your rights and just go for it. It's like with my song that ended up being used for 'Boardwalk Empire' ('Straight Up And Down'). That took me one day to record in '95 or whatever, was mastered straight onto cassette and then years later their people asked me if they could use it. That would never have happened in a million years through a publisher. They'd have offered the new Lana Del Rey tune or something else they're trying to break instead.
DiS: A lot of bands seem to be reforming at the minute. What's your take on that?
Anton Newcombe: Well first of all, I saw all of these bands. I saw My Bloody Valentine before they turned into this developmental pioneering thing that everybody wants to copy. I remember them when they were just knocking off the Mary Chain and The Cramps. I love Ride so I'm really happy that they're back. I know Mark (Gardener) really wanted it for a long time but he couldn't talk about it. Andy (Bell) was always busy so I got them to play when Truck was cancelled in 2007. I got them to play with my band backing up which was a really big deal for me. They played four songs together in Oxford and it was brilliant. I love those guys a lot. There's going to be a remix record of their stuff and I've been asked to be a part of that, so I'm really excited. I'm really going to tear it a new asshole, as they say in the business.
DiS: The Brian Jonestown Massacre celebrate their 25th anniversary soon. You've already announced some commemorative shows in Australia for later this year. Will there be more shows in other parts of the world to coincide?
Anton Newcombe: The plan is 2016 for Europe and North America, and I'll have a new record then too. I can't wait to be back in the UK. We also have a mini-album coming out in November. There's a cover of 'Dust' by the 13th Floor Elevators on the record. It features Alex Maas from The Black Angels playing the electric jug. I'm not usually big on covers but I really love that song. We've had a little line-up change in the band. Ryan Van Kreidt from Dead Skeletons has come in on guitar, so now we're back to three guitarists. Which cleans it up because I've had four guitars for quite a while. I'm really looking forward to kicking some as with Ryan because he's a brilliant musician.
DiS: Who's no longer in the band?
Anton Newcombe: Matt Hollywood's doing his own group. We wish him well. Frankie (Teardrop) had a really nasty accident before the last tour. He messed up his arm. I mean really messed it up and tried to drink his way out of it, so now he's got his shit together he's decided to hang up his guns. Which is good, because even though I'll miss my mate I didn't want to watch him die either. He's totally got his shit together now so it's a beautiful thing that way.
DiS: Does the new album have a title yet?
Anton Newcombe: It does. We're thinking of calling it You'll Be Older Too. The mini-album is just called The Mini Album Thingy Wingy, but we have a song on there called 'Pish'. Somebody had to use that word. I'll be a legend in Scotland forever! The downside is now that Tescos are selling vinyl it will never be there.
DiS: Do you really care about that?
Anton Newcombe: No, not at all! But I'm crazy about this Liverpool thing, especially playing with Tess and the band. We're a different animal live. I play fuzz guitar, which is great because I started the group just to play fuzz guitar.
Part one of our Liverpool Psych Fest preview including a 50 song playlist can be found here.
Weekend and day tickets are still available here with doors opening at 3pm on the Friday.
For more information on Liverpool Psych Fest visit their official website.