I spent some time talking with John Garcia, formerly of Kyuss Lives, now Vista Chino, prior to their performance at Orion Music and More on Belle Isle in Detroit, MI. With their legal troubles behind them and a new start on the horizon, Vista Chino will surely be taking the world by storm. After talking with John, one thing was very clear. He is very passionate about his family, his band and the music he’s created. We discussed the new path for Vista Chino, the new album and artwork, what influences him, what fans can expect from their live set and the trouble with rattlesnakes.
Today I’m joined by John Garcia, formerly of Kyuss Lives, now Vista Chino. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me. So obviously you guys changed your name. Do you feel this will have a more positive impact on the band overall? Do you feel like you’re starting over or this is just the next level?
Well, I think it’s just a relief. We were trying to record a record and there were a lot of fires we were trying to put out. The fires were this legal battle. But I’m just glad that it’s over, finished, done, gone out and we can get back to what we originally started to do, which is making music, playing Kyuss tunes, going off on the future of mine and Brant and Bruno’s musical trip and it’s something that’s been a long time coming that I welcome with both arms. It’s just a nice clean fresh fucking start which is exactly what this band needs. No problems. No hassles. Just leave us the fuck alone and let us rock. That’s all we really want to do. So the record’s done. It’s done, it’s mastered, it’s mixed. We have a release date of fall, early September and we’re gonna be gone, you know, starting July we’re going to be gone up to Christmas Eve and then January we’re going to do it all over again.
Wow. So full on.
I’m trying to spend as much time as I can with my two kids and wife as humanly possible this summer. You have to have a, you gotta have a rock and my family is my rock so I’m just stoked and appreciative that I’m here talking to a complete and total stranger about the future of Vista Chino and my life. So it’s not something that goes unappreciated or obviously unnoticed. It’s something that I really appreciate and I don’t take for granted. I love being on stage with Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity playing bass. That’s fucking amazing to me. I love being on the stage with Brant Bjork from Fu Manchu and Kyuss, my old band mate, and Bruno Fevery. I’m a lucky guy. I appreciate it.
So what does Vista Chino stand for, what does it mean?
Well, we’re from the desert and the name Vista Chino resonates with us. Obviously there’s the true meaning behind the word Vista and the true meaning behind Chino. But Vista Chino means so much more than just what the Webster’s dictionary says, it’s where we’re from. It’s the desert and that’s where Brant and I are from and I still live there. The record was recorded up in Joshua Tree at Brant’s studio. I literally live in a small town where there’s 1,500 people and I have no neighbors. My neighbors are the rattlesnakes that I have to get the hell out of my property so my kids can play on their swing set. Those are my neighbors, literally. It resonates with us. It’s home. It’s a feeling. It’s an emotion. It’s where we’re from. When you go into Palm Springs or when you go into Cathedral City or Rancho Mirage or Palm Desert or Indio or Coachella or Indian Wells or Bermuda Dunes or Morongo Valley, chances are you’re going to come across Vista Chino. Vista Chino is a street there. Again, it resonates with us. It’s where we’re from, hence the name Vista Chino.
Sorry for the long-winded answer.
No, no, that’s good, that’s good. You recently signed with Napalm Records. How did that come about?
We met with a lot of labels and Napalm was known for a lot of heavy, heavy music and they’ve kind of reached out on a different arm and signed bands like Monster Magnet and Karma To Burn and Vista Chino and they wanted to kind of go off on a little bit of a different trip. The deal made perfect sense. There was a lot of talk with a lot of different labels but we wanted somebody with equal amount of enthusiasm and they showed that and a lot more. Because it’s fun and I’m fortunate to still be able to perform, but it’s also a business and we’ve got to look at that too. So that was part of it as well. We made the choice to go with them. The relationship is going fantastic and I anticipate it to continue to go fantastic until we’ve fulfilled our obligations and they’ve fulfilled their obligations and I’m stoked to be a part of it.
Well cool. So the other day you guys announced the actual album title for the new record which is Peace… (John flashed the peace sign)
Exactly…and also the artwork. Is there a meaning behind the title? Does the artwork coincide with the title or are they two different ideas that were just put together?
Well The Date Farmers are where we’re from. They’re pretty much born and raised and that resonates with us because we’re desert folk. We’re desert dwellers. I think we’re a certain breed, you know, (laughter) so, and they’re, The Date Farmers, that artwork is very appropriate for the desert and very appropriate for this band and it made perfect sense and, you know, Peace is, you know, humm. Funny, this is the first time that somebody has asked me what’s the meaning behind the name Peace. Because it could be exactly what it means (John showed the peace sign) that’s all we want, man, that’s all we want. That’s all I want. Peace is, it’s not where we’ve been that I’m thinking about, it’s where I’m going that I’m thinking about. It’s where I’m gonna to take my kids fishing this summer, is what I’m thinking about. That’s peace. I’m a family man, Brant’s a family man. There’s a lot of inner peace that we get by debating, am I going to use a worm for this bait Marshall and Madison or am I gonna use something else. Am I gonna use this grasshopper or cricket. So it’s that and it’s me standing right next to Brant Bjork when he’s playing drums with his Quicksilver shorts on and his bandana and I get a lot of peace from that too. It’s from bait, debate, to being on stage with Brant Bjork and to me, it’s all encapsulated. Sorry for the long drawn out thing…
No, it’s awesome. Have you always been in this thought process or is it something that came to you recently? You know how some people, something happens to them and they get a new perspective on life or, you just seem like you are very down to earth, you know what you want.
Well I just recently stopped changing diapers. If anybody thinks that I’ve got some, I wake up in the morning and do a bong load and then go trip out in the desert and hang out with everybody from the desert and dance around the fire and strum guitars, that’s the farthest thing, I’ve never done that. But I think that having kids has settled me down. I think the demise of, of not Kyuss Lives, but the demise of Kyuss, kind of began this, a whole other thought process. It was a wake up call for me. Wake up to find out who your friends are really quick. Real, real quick. I think either you have it in you, where either it clicks or it doesn’t click. You have it in you to be a good father, to be a good husband or you don’t have it in you. Some guys it clicks and some guys it doesn’t click. Or something bad happens and then the switch comes on. I’m a passionate person who loves music, who loves his kids, who loves his wife. I’m glad to be here and the appreciative factor is huge for me. I mean face it, fuck, I’m 42 years old. To be doing it at my age, I’m pretty fucking lucky. I can go back and work on animals and practice veterinary medicine anytime I want to. I can do that, because I love that too. It’s a blessing with my wife and family that I’m able to do this and you need a pretty damn strong woman to have your man in this environment. That’s heavy duty. And Wendy’s at home watching Marshall right now and when Daddy’s over here hanging out with his buddies and playing Rock ‘n Roll. So Wendy gets it. She’s cool and I’m very stoked and I’m lucky to have a good woman like that. It’s a good thing.
Very cool. I want to go back to the artwork for a second. You mentioned it was by The Date Farmers. How did you find out about them and did you just say do whatever you want, did you give them a concept idea?
Brant introduced me to The Date Farmers and he had a book by them. They’re great artists and after seeing some of their artwork it was very appropriate and again it resonated with me, that artwork, and it’s very, where we’re from, it’s part of that local culture, that type of artwork, and it made perfect sense. But as far as direction, I gave them a picture that I wanted to be incorporated. It was an old photo of a 1930’s jalopy going down I10 and there was a fork in the road, one going to Palm Springs and one going to Indio, and that’s the only thing I contributed to the artwork. Other than that, it’s 100% them. There’s some photos of us in Joshua Tree when we were recording the record that we took because we wanted to do a little bit of documentation so we put some photos of the band on the back. Other than that it was 100% them.
Now is the original a painting or was it done on the computer?
I believe that 99.99% of it was all hand. All hand drawn.
Oh, hand drawn. Okay, that’s amazing.
They’re old school. They don’t do any of that fucking computer generated…
I didn’t think so, but I figured I’d throw it in there anyway. (laughter)
Okay, so the first single is Dargona, Dragona…
That‘s an interesting name. Im gonna ask ya…
Well, it’s interesting how that name came up because there were a lot of working titles and working titles have their own mind sometimes and how people perceive them, especially engineers, and this gentleman by the name of Harper Hug who engineered and mixed the record started calling it a different name and it kind of morphed into Dargona, Dragona, Dragona, Dargona and so eventually, I think it was, we tried to name it something else but it just kept on going back to that, that fucking weird, weird name. So they morph into all kinds of different stuff. From As You Wish to Sweet Remain to Sunlight at Midnight to Adara, they’re all direct products of what we were feeling at the time and JT, I think.
So I’ve only heard the one single, obviously, but is the new material along the same lines or is it a variety of different things? Is it different from what you’ve done in the past?
I think, when you have the drummer for Kyuss and the singer for Kyuss I think there’s gonna be some automatic similarities there and to me there are. But the flipside to that coin is that Vista Chino is a different band than Kyuss and we’ve done a lot of growing. There’s a lot of different avenues and a lot of different tangents that we went on on this record and I was curious in regards to what it was going to sound like myself. But it wrote itself and Peace is what came out of it. There’s all kinds of different trips. There’s a 12-minute song in there and there’s a three-minute song in there and everything in between.
Now did you have any outside influences or did you already have something in mind when you sat down to start writing?
You know, I listen to an oldies station back at home. I still listen to radio, believe it or not.
I do too.
There’s an oldies station that I listen to and they play anything from Earth Wind and Fire to the Ohio Players to Johnnie Taylor. So I’m constantly influenced by R&B. I’m influenced by Brant Bjork. I’m influenced by Bruno Fevery. I’m influenced by Nick Oliveri. When they present something to me in an idea, I’ve got to make it my own and that type of shit kind of writes itself and it sells itself to me. I’m influenced by my surroundings and by my band members and by that fucking radio station that I listen to all the time. I love it. I still listen to radio when I’m out there raking and cleaning my creosote and pulling up cactus and shit and I almost got bit by a rattlesnake the other day. Literally, I almost raked a rattlesnake towards me. I’ve got the radio station playing, you know, I’ve got my oldies station going.
What was the song playing? Do you remember?
I don’t remember. I think I was, I remember going inside and telling Wendy, I said, “Don’t let Sky go outside,” Sky’s our daughter, “don’t let Sky go outside and keep Marshall inside.” She goes, “Why, did you find another rattlesnake?” I said, “Of course I found another rattlesnake.” So of course they all had to come outside and see it. I don’t like killing them, I don’t, but there was no way around it. I’m a veterinary medicine person so I don’t like doing that, but this one was…
Right, a little too close to home.
It was a little too close to home and it got a little too burly.
Are they fairly large where you live or they range in size?
Typically they range about 3 feet. Last big one I saw was probably about five feet and I didn’t mess with that one. I had had a couple cocktails and cocktails and rattlesnakes don’t fucking mix. So I just let that one be. (laughter)
Yeah, I can’t imagine, you know…
Cocktails. Some guys would be like, “Yeah, let me pet this fucking thing.” I’ve been out there for, for my entire life so I know what you mix and you don’t mix.
So you’re playing Orion. It’s your first performance as Vista Chino. Are you nervous or excited and what can fans expect from your set in general whether today or in the future?
I’m nervous. (laughter) I’m nervous, but it’s good. I’d be nervous if I wasn’t nervous. You know, like alright, it’s time to hang it up. But no, you expect to hear some Kyuss songs. We’re going to play a lot of Kyuss and we’re gonna give people a little taste of a live Dargona, Dragona and when the record comes out we’re going to give them a little bit more so we don’t want to expose too much just yet. It’s very fitting that Vista Chino played with, or Kyuss Lives, our last show was with Metallica in Perth, Australia and our very first show is with Metallica in Detroit.
That’s kind of awesome!
It’s fucking way awesome! I’m stoked, are you kidding me? It’s a good feeling and I’m appreciative to be here, you know what I mean? I’m very stoked and I’m very happy.
Alright, so one final question and it’s a random question. Here at Orion, Metallica all have their own lifestyle attractions. If you could create your own festival, what would your lifestyle attraction be?
I’d have my wish list, I’d have The Doors be there and Earth Wind and Fire be there and have The Cult be there. My range is so, from the Misfits to Earth Wind and Fire and everywhere in between. That’s the type of festival I would have.
What about a personal, like James has a car show here, Lars has a movie tent, Kirk has his horror collection.
Right, that you kind of curate their thing, right. It’s got to be something to do with animals, man. It would have to be something in the veterinary field…
It would be, maybe a bunch of different poisonous, venomous desert snakes, you know what I mean, maybe a camel or two. It would definitely be a desert animal orientated thing for sure.
Well cool. Well thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me and best of luck with everything.
For sure. Welcome. Thanks. Okay, good stuff.
Check out Dragona Dragona below: