Brant Bjork: "Kyuss was very dysfunctional, but that’s what made the music"

Brant Bjork wearing a woolly hat and warm jacket
(Image credit: Aija Svensson)

Now in his twentieth year of making solo records, former Kyuss and Fu Manchu drummer Brant Bjork has recently released Bougainvillea Suite, his fourteenth album. 

It's a typically hypnotic eight-tracker of laidback, funkily nostalgic grooves, recorded in Joshua Tree, California.

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Why Bougainvillea Suite? 

The title’s been in my back pocket for many years. It represents a comfort zone, a shelter from the storm. Bougainvillea is a vine flower that I grew up with. It’s plentiful in the desert, and has a tranquillity about it. It went with the vibe of the record. 

Who’s on the album? 

I play a majority of the instruments, and then my long-time solo band drummer Ryan Güt is playing keyboards. We had a lot of fun getting some kind of classic keyboard sounds from back in the day. 

There’s definitely some Doors influence detectable on the record. 

Of course! I was telling him: “Man, we gotta get that Ray Manzarek or Iron Butterfly kind of vibe.” I just love sixties music, so that’s quite evident here. Ryan’s also the drummer in our band Stöner. 

We’ve seen the name, tell us more

It’s Ryan on drums, myself on guitar and vocals and Nick Oliveri on bass and vocals. It was conceived during the lockdown of 2020. Stöner exists to have fun, and that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. It grew legs, got up and started running fast.

You have been at the forefront of desert and stoner rock since the late eighties with Kyuss. 

What impact did the band have? I hear from some younger bands that we were influential, and that’s flattering. But I was a longhair punk rocker and I’ve had my head down for twenty-five years, so I haven’t really paid attention [laughs]. 

The name Kyuss came from Dungeons & Dragons. Were you a nerdy punk? 

I was nerdy in the sense of being obsessive about stuff. I wasn’t good at school, but I liked dragons and medieval things, so I got the game, but it gathered dust in my closet for years. When the band formed we needed a name. I saw ‘Sons Of Kyuss’ on this game, and that was that. 

After Kyuss split, you, John Garcia and Nick Oliveri went out as Kyuss Lives!, but then Josh Homme and Scott Reeder put a stop to it. Is that all resolved now? 

I guess, technically, spiritually, literally… What happened was a real shame, and that broke my heart. Kyuss was very dysfunctional, but that’s what made the music, really. 

It’s twenty years since your debut solo record, Jalamanta. What did that mean to you?

 It was arguably the most liberating moment for me as a musician. I was just some desert punk, yet to think of myself as professional. This gave me confidence, and it turned into a career. 

On Instagram there’s a post of you with your sons, Swan and Brazil, who look like chips off the block. 

Swan is one hell of a drummer. He's getting into guitar now, and asking me for clothes. Brazil’s a great dancer and loves to sing. He’s got his mother’s business mind, too. He’ll be an insane manager. 

Bougainvillea Suite is out now via Heavy Psych Sounds.

Jo is a journalist, podcaster, event host and music industry lecturer with 23 years in music magazines since joining Kerrang! as office manager in 1999. But before that Jo had 10 years as a London-based gig promoter and DJ, also working in various vintage record shops and for the UK arm of the Sub Pop label as a warehouse and press assistant. Jo's had tea with Robert Fripp, touched Ian Anderson's favourite flute (!), asked Suzi Quatro what one wears under a leather catsuit, and invented several ridiculous editorial ideas such as the regular celebrity cooking column for Prog, Supper's Ready. After being Deputy Editor for Prog for five years and Managing Editor of Classic Rock for three, Jo is now Associate Editor of Prog, where she's been since its inception in 2009, and a regular contributor to Classic Rock. She continues to spread the experimental and psychedelic music-based word amid unsuspecting students at BIMM Institute London, hoping to inspire the next gen of rock, metal, prog and indie creators and appreciators.