Thursday 9 May 2019

Interview with Jesse Valencia about his new Brian Jonestown Massacre book 'Keep Music Evil'

When did you first come across the Brian Jonestown Massacre?
I first came across the BJM during my first time taking LSD, in early February 2008. A friend of mine had given me about four hits and showed me their music, and the next day we watched 'Dig!' After hearing Anton's call to revolution, I became infatuated with the band.

What was it about them that moved you to write this book?
What moved me to write the book was a daft challenge given to me by Anton himself after I suggested to him he should write a book counteracting the narrative of 'Dig!' He responded with, "Why don't you write a book?" and ten years later, here we are.

Do you have a favourite BJM album and song?
My favourite BJM album has to be 'Take It From The Man' and my favourite song is probably 'Straight Up And Down.' When the buildup explodes into that epic solo the happy molecules explode in my brain.

I believe you're also in a band, when did you guys first get together and what are the bands plans for 2019?
I first formed Gorky in 2000 or 2001. This year we've just released our third record 'Mathemagician' and just got back from our first tour. We're hoping to tour more this year and get to work on new music as soon as possible!

Did Anton cooperate with the books genesis?
"Cooperation" is a loaded word. He gave me initial permission to work on the book, but he didn't want to be involved in any way, understandably so, because of how bad "Dig" portrays him. Me not being a journalist, I just went for anyone who would talk to me. Some of them would say "I have to ask Anton first" and then he would tell them not to interact with me. Sometimes he would tell them they could and it worked out, but as time went on and I became more serious with the project there was more resistance on his end. Now where we're at is he's blocked me on Twitter, I assume for the reason that he does not want to give the book any attention, negative or positive, which has now triggered some of his followers to turn on the book, and me, which in turn has led to an arguably laughable boycott campaign. Those against it say I am either drumming up more sensationalism against the band or making a gentle puff piece, but since they can't seem to decide what is actually wrong with me or my work, or they make up lies to smear me, I assume they're just bullshitting themselves to give themselves a reason to be angry.

You had a lot of material to work with, how did you go about chronicling the book?
"Chronicling" didn't happen at all, whatsoever, because I never approached it from the perspective of journalism. I consider it a work of creative nonfiction, so what happened instead was draft after draft, probably thirty drafts or more, of writing the whole thing start to finish, editing things, throwing things out, adding them back in, adding new things in, until the story revealed itself. The book started to write itself after a while, and once enough pieces were it place and it felt right, it was time. The goal was always to create the best, most comprehensive history of the band in existence, something that would be strong enough to replace "Dig!" while not eroding its influence, and I believe I have achieved that.

What is it about the BJM that makes them such a cult band, the fans almost have a religious fanaticism about them?
I think what draws people to the BJM is their energy, but also their mystery. I believe the book solves a lot of the little mysteries fans are curious about, but there may be more questions than answers by the time it's done its rounds, and I for one am excited that their mystery and energy will go on.

Did Anton ever record a song with Charles Manson?
To find out the answer to that, you'll have to read the book!

Did any weird stories happen throughout the books making?
I wouldn't say "weird" but I would use the word "surreal." There was a moment in the writing of the book that I 'crossed over' into the world of the band and the broader psych scene - partying with the Dandy Warhols, playing shows with Gorky opening for Joel's band the Primary Colours, and then Matt Hollywood's band the Bad Feelings. It was like being in the movie. Immersed in that world, and it was so liberating. I was on probation for about half the time I was working on the book, and the world of the Brian Jonestown Massacre was an escape from that, so once it became "real" in so many words, my mind was just blown

I love the books title, tell me about the name?
"Keep Music Evil" is a phrase that Anton copped from another band and used it for his label. Over time the phrase in the BJM scene has taken on different meanings. For me, the phrase is the call to revolution: make art every day, believe in yourself, don't quit, and stick two fingers up at the establishment while you're doing it. It's the whole theme of the book. Hidden in between the lines is an instruction manual for artists.

Did Anton always have a fascination for cults?
I can't really speak for Anton, but as far as I know he's been fascinated with things like cults, esotericism, and the like since he was a child. I would argue that he has a fascination with secrets and secret knowledge, because if you listen closely, there's one hidden in every song.
Author Jesse Valencia
Gorky The Bank - Website

Buy The Book Here