Recently, I reviewed the first solo album from the one and only stoner rock legend John Garcia. (You can read that here) Mr. Garcia is an interesting guy (Did you know he was a veterinary surgeon?!) and he has released one heck of a great album. I was given the opportunity to sit down with him for a nice long telephone call. It was truly my honor to spend a few minutes with such a genuine, nice person, and I hope you enjoy the chat as much as I did.
Listen to the entire John Garcia interview below:
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Today, I’m honored to be interviewing one of my favorite vocalists of all-time. The one and only John Garcia joins me. First off John, thanks so much for taking the time to speak with me today and welcome back to the Unsung Melody family.
Thank you Jonathan. I appreciate it and I appreciate the interest. This is a little bit of a monumental moment for me here, as it’s my first solo release. So, again, thank you for the interest and thank you for chatting with me.
I assure ya the pleasure is all mine. I’ve followed your career for years, so I was very intrigued to hear about this. With the success of Vista Chino and Hermano before that, what made now the right time to do a solo album?
(laughter) Exhaustion, really. Exhaustion, when it comes to looking at this collection of songs that I have had throughout all the years in this cardboard box. I never kept them in a vault, if you will, or a safety deposit box. It was just a dusty old cardboard box in my room. I’ve collected these songs that were special to me, that I had a personal relationship with. These are not b-sides or leftovers from any other projects. These are songs that I kind of knew that they wouldn’t fit into some of the projects that I was in, so I put it in my back pocket and held onto it. I was exhausted looking at this cardboard box and I felt bad for them. I had a relationship with these songs and I wanted to liberate them. I wanted to play them and breathe new life into them. So that’s it. I love Vista Chino and all of the acts that I’ve played in. Anybody who knows anything about my career knows that I don’t stay in one place too long. This is a direct result of that. This is me being explorative and exploratory and that’s it. Right now? There was really no reason. I just really wanted, ever since I was 18, I’ve always wanted to do a solo project and it’s taken me this long to say no to some other projects and finally say yes to this group of songs.
Sometimes though, it’s kind of a destiny, if you will. I interviewed Tom Keifer from Cinderella awhile back about his solo album and he talked about how the songs just weren’t ready and maybe you just needed that time to reach a point in your life where it’s time. So very cool.
Yeah. Half the fun, really for me, everybody differs a little bit in regards to every session. Each session has a life of its own. This one definitely took on a life of its own and again, the majority of them were done, but I wanted to breathe new life into them. To write with Dave Angstrom and Marc Diamond and Robby Krieger from the The Doors, that was the enjoyable part. Really creating in the studio and having the song take up a life of its own and sometimes it’s a different vision than how you envisioned it. Sometimes it’s better, sometimes it’s worse. Nobody goes into the studio to make a record that sucks. I certainly wasn’t looking to go into the studio and make a record to change the face of rock and roll or to do any of that. Again, these songs were just close to me and I felt like liberating them. I think that Harper Hug, Trevor Whatever, my other producer and myself, I think we did exactly that. We liberated them.
You mentioned going into the studio and a song taking on a life of its own. Going into the studio with the song Confusion, which I think is one of the more unique tracks on the album if for nothing more than the simplicity of it, it really took me a couple of listens to connect with it, but it’s now one of my favorites on the record. But, going into the studio, the way the drums are only used as an accent, was that something that was always in mind or was that something that evolved in the studio?
This is a perfect example of breathing new life or taking life away from a song. Confusion was another acoustic track, almost a love tragic story. This record only had room enough for one acoustic track and that was Her Bullets Energy. So going into the studio and turning this kind of love tragic acoustic song into something that is the complete and total opposite, where it’s just the guitar, drums and vocal, that was the enjoyable part. That was the cool part of creating in the studio. Sometimes you have to breathe new life into it and sometimes you have to take it away. This is a direct example of taking life away from a song and turning it into a completely and totally different monster. That particular track is exactly that. It’s a standout one of me choosing that song and going, “Yep, this song’s gonna go on here,” then getting in the studio and listening to it acoustically and then going, “Nope. It needs to go a different direction. We need to chop its arm off and give it a black eye, a few broken ribs and a broken nose.” Then that’s what you get. Again, that was the enjoyable part of creating in the studio.
Since we are on the studio, the sound of this record is very interesting to me. It has the polished sound of the studio, but at the same time, it’s very raw, especially in the guitar tones and drum sounds. I can’t put my finger on it, but I’d almost call it desert garage music, and I mean that with all the respect in the world. I think it’s great. Was that the sound that you envisioned with this album, or again, was that something that was just a direct result of being in the studio?
Tonality on the guitar and bass was very, very important. We wanted something with presence and grit, but we also wanted something that was mean and dirty and thrashed, but yet have some clarity to it. So Trevor Whatever, let me tell you, he worked, both him and I, worked really hard, as well as Harper, the whole team worked really hard in regards to tonality, song selection, along with guitar selection, head selection, cabinet selection and different blends. He did get mad scientist on it, but on the flip side of the coin, there is some simplicity to it as well. That was specific. We didn’t want to get out there, this wasn’t math rock. This was just a classic, simple rock record and that was the concept. Keeping it simple and not getting too involved and over-thinking and overworking the tones. Again, I give credit where credit is due. Harper and Trevor were instrumental, as well as my guitar players Dave Angstrom, Marc Diamond, Dandy Brown, and Aaron Groban, who is my live guitarist. So I’ve got to give credit where credit is due and I couldn’t have done it at all without the help of these super passionate, extremely talented musicians and producers.
I do want to ask you about the first single, My Mind. It has a very interesting video. Was that concept your own or was that something that was pitched to you?
(laughter) Well, it was a little bit of a combination of both. It’s a story about inner conflict with one’s self and this guy, this character, it’s about good versus evil. You have little devils. You have a good one on your left and a bad one on your right. This guy is hearing voices and being controlled by them. So when I told the story to Douglas Quill, the director, I think he took some of those ideas and he ran with it. It is a little bit of an abstract narrative. Maybe it’s hard to follow the first time, but for me I think it’s a perfect video for a fucked up song (laughter), one that has conflict with its character. I personally dig it. Working with Douglas was awesome and we wanted to do it. We knew we wanted to do it local. I’m very proud of where I’m from and to be out there shooting it in 104 degrees wasn’t easy, but on the flip side of the coin, it was an exciting time too, and fun out there. So it was all good.
John Garcia – My Mind:
I think that’s one of the things that makes you more unique than most, and that’s the fact that you are always true to who you are and where you’re from.
Again, I’m proud of it. The cover shows a lot of that too, with the open desert road. I’ve got to drive up a 1-1/2 mile dirt road to get to my house and that cover speaks volumes to that as well with the big horn sheep. It’s not a goat, it’s a sheep. They’re indigenous to this area and something that I see on a regular basis on several different mountain ranges here in the desert. So I dig the artist, Sam Young, who illustrated the ram. Then the artist Jared Connor put it all together and it was really all his concept, so hats to those guys.
For me, The Blvd is probably my personal favorite track on the album. I just love groove and I especially love the story. Care to share a little insight into that one or is that too personal?
No, no, all of my stories are fictional. They’re just stories and there are bits, pieces of my life in there. Some of it was inspired by it, but I’d say that 99.9% of it is all fiction. They’re just stories. That song is a little over 10 years old and when writing it and breathing new life into it with Dave Angstrom, this is another one that took on a life of its own. I never expected this song to be this slow. It was never intended to be this slow and have that groove to it. I give credit where credit is due and Harper was instrumental in that particular song, of bringing it down. At first I didn’t agree with it and I thought it should be faster and ultimately it was my decision, but I trusted Harper, and boy it took on a different life. Jonathan, it’s one of my favorite tracks to sing live as well, when rehearsals have already started and that’s part of the set. So to sing that live, some songs are harder and some more enjoyable to sing and this one is on the more enjoyable list. So it’s one of my favorites as well, if I may be so bold.
I’ve known Dave Angstrom for a long, long time.
Oh yeah? Okay.
When I listened to this album, I thought that has to be Dave on this or that song. But when I heard The Blvd, I said, “That has Dave Angstrom written all over it.” So that was really awesome.
He was instrumental on the majority of these tracks, Jonathan. He was. To have him in the studio with me was an honor and why he isn’t one of the biggest guitar gods in the entire world is beyond me. I’ll never understand. He is amazing. Absolutely phenomenal guitar player. I can’t talk hardly enough about him. These guitar players that I have on this record are all phenomenal. Marc Diamond was unbelievable. Aaron Groban, Dandy Brown, Chris Hale; They are all great musicians and I’m very fortunate to have played with these guys, and again, I can’t thank them enough.
I live near Lexington, KY where Dave once called home, so I have a lot of friends here that keep up with Dave and obviously your career as well, as they’ve kind of intertwined over the last 10 or 12 years, it seems like. So the friends are kind of freaking out a little bit about a solo album and it not being another Hermano album at the moment. Is that project, as well as the Vista Chino project, are those on hold or are you moving on from those?
I look at it as, I have to go where the void in my gut is, and this solo release is something that I’ve been wanting to do for years and years and this is where it’s taken me. I don’t stay in one place for a very long time. I certainly would love to do another Hermano record. As far as Vista Chino is concerned, it could be…I don’t know. There’s been talk about it, but we’ll see where that goes. I see me doing another Hermano record and all these projects I’m very proud of. Musicians Brant Bjork and Mike Dean from Corrosion of Conformity, Bruno Fevery, that was an amazing group. That group of guys were a great band. I had to park the Vista Chino car in the garage and get this monkey off my back. Again, I love those guys dearly and I just wanted to explore and this is a direct result of that need and that void. Same with Hermano, Dave Angstrom and Dandy Brown, Chris Leathers and Mike Callahan, I love all of them dearly, but the car is parked in the garage and when it’s the right time, we’ll take her out for another spin. Right now, my car is fueled up and I plan on taking this one out for a nice, long drive and I’m not going to be parking her anytime in the near future.
I had to ask that one. I had some friends that were pressuring me. (laughter) This album has a member of The Doors (Robby Krieger) playing on a song (Her Bullets Energy). How on earth did that come about?
When selecting these songs, Harper and Trevor and myself sat down and we knew that Her Bullets Energy was fully in contention. It was Harper’s idea. He said, “Hey listen, I hear some Spanish guitar on this track.” And I said, “That’s a great idea Harper. Who do you know that plays Spanish guitar?” And he said, “Well I know Robby Krieger.” Obviously I just about fell over in my chair. This was a long time in the making here, kind of a wish list and I certainly hoped that Harper could pull this off. He said, “I know Robby. The first thing, let’s get the track to Robby and let’s see if he likes it. If he does, the last piece of the puzzle is if he would play on it.” Long story short, the next thing I knew, we were at Robby’s studio in Glendale, CA and he was laying down these tracks on it. You talk about a monumental moment, this is a moment that I will never forget for the rest of my life. What a super genuine, super nice guy and again, a moment I’ll never forget for the rest of my life. So I can’t thank Harper and Trevor enough for making that dream become a reality. Robby not only made the song better, but he made the record better. So hats off and big thanks to Harper and Trevor and Robby.
You already mentioned that rehearsals had started and that would lead me to believe that a tour is obviously in the works. Can we expect a US tour or are you mainly focusing overseas at the moment?
I would love to do an East Coast tour and a West Coast tour, I really would. It’s got to make sense in every aspect. It may or may not and it would bum me out if we couldn’t do an East Coast/West Coast tour, but I’m trying. One thing that is set in stone is Australia in September. I’m heading over and doing a four show exclusive run over there. Then November and December of this year, I’m doing a heavy European run. After that, I plan to start in on the new solo record. Start writing it and then I’m going to be doing another European Summer run next year and hopefully getting back down to Australia with New Zealand and Japan added in there. So, lots of touring and lots of recording and all good things.
I for one hope it happens. I haven’t gotten to see you since you guys flew into Lexington, for I believe the 2nd Hermano record and did some practices and a show at a little club here. That’s the last time I’ve gotten to see you live, so it’s been awhile.
Well I certainly hope to. I’d love to do a full blown, extensive US tour. I love touring the US and touring this country. Sometimes it just doesn’t make sense to do it because I can’t afford it. Honestly, that’s the God honest truth. It’s tough and there’s nothing worse than having to really pay out your ass to go play. When you have two kids and you want them to go to college and you have a wife and you want to be able to support your kids, that’s first and foremost man. I’m very fortunate to have two things that I love to do. One is working with animals, and two is being able to have my family to allow me to go on the road and be in the environment that I’m in on a nightly basis. It’s got to make sense in every aspect, so yeah. I’m certainly hoping that the booking agent that I’m going through right now can certainly make it happen and I’m certainly doing everything I can, so hopefully. Keep our fingers crossed.
Per tradition around here, I always try to end with a random question. It’s goofy, but it always ends up being fun. So here goes; Your music has always captured what many call the desert sound. This album has a few tracks that have a cinematic feel to them. Her Bullets Energy for instance would be great in a movie. If you could choose anyone to work with to score a film, who would it be and why?
I would love to score a film with Ian Astbury from The Cult and Jim Morrison from The Doors. I think it would just be really interesting to score, whether it be a horror film or a documentary or a drama with those guys. I’ve always wanted to work with Ian and obviously, God Bless his soul, Jim. I can’t do that, but I can imagine what type of soundtrack that would be working with those two guys. So lots of good tunes and big respect to Jim and Ian Astbury, one of my idols.
You certainly got my wheels turning. John, I can’t thank you enough for your time. Your music has meant a lot to me over time and I’m honored to have the chance to help support you.
Preview or purchase the album below: