In late 2010 three original members from Californian stoner rock giants Kyuss (drummer Brant Bjork, singer John Garcia and bassist Nick Oliveri) got together to perform Kyuss songs live for the first time since the band split in 1995. Founding guitarist Josh Homme (Queens of the Stone Age) chose not to get involved, thus preventing it from being an official Kyuss reunion. Calling themselves Kyuss Lives!, last year the group announced intentions to record new music, but Homme firmly objected to their use of the Kyuss brand name. Along with Kyuss’ second bass player, Scott Reeder, Homme instigated legal proceedings and a court case that ultimately prohibited music being released under the name Kyuss Lives!. On the phone from his family home, John Garcia, vocalist of the recently renamed Vista Chino, sounds utterly shocked about being taken to court by his former bandmates.
“I don’t like a parking ticket, let alone a speeding ticket, let alone a fucking federal lawsuit that’s slapped on me,” he exhales. “I don’t want anything to do with that. It could have been handled in one simple phone call but I guess Josh Homme was too busy to call me and say, ‘Either change the name or I’m going to sue you’.”
Like crude online rants and vegan diets, such messy legal affairs are increasingly serving to destroy any godlike mythology in modern rock music. Garcia speaks incredulously about the nature of the court case. “He thought we were trying to steal the name Kyuss, and that’s the most ridiculous, asinine thing I’ve ever heard in my entire life.”
When Kyuss Lives! first began touring, a reunion with Homme actually seemed quite feasible. However, any hope of the entire classic lineup reforming has now essentially been quashed. “You know what, I don’t like those guys. I don’t like Josh Homme, I don’t like Scott Reeder. Who does like somebody after they’ve been suing you? Fuck those guys! I don’t care if an elephant fell out of the sky and landed on both of those guys. I don’t give a shit,” Garcia fumes.
Rather than wallow in dismay, the band promptly renamed itself and last week releaseda record of all-new Vista Chino material, ironically titled Peace. Garcia has no scruples admitting the album bears close resemblance to Kyuss. “There’s going to be some similarities there. I was the singer for Kyuss, Brant Bjork was one half of the writing force of Kyuss, Nick Oliveri plays on that record; that’s three-quarters of Kyuss. Songs like ‘Dargona Dragona’, ‘Sweet Remain’, [and] ‘Gambling Moose’ remind me of Kyuss, but there’s some departure. A song like ‘Barcelonian’ – that songs talks about departure and exploration. There’s a lot of freedom in there, there’s a lot of exploration in there – and there’s some familiarity.”
Although Oliveri took part in the initial Kyuss Lives! tours and plays on the majority of the record, Garcia confirms he is not an official band member. “Nick Oliveri is not in Vista Chino. I think he wanted to be a part of in-the-studio and being on these songs. We have a lot of respect for Nick and he’ll always be the honorary bass player of Vista Chino, but Vista Chino’s really a three-piece. It’s myself, Brant Bjork and [guitarist] Bruno Fevery.”
Joined by bass player Mike Dean from heavy metal veterans Corrosion of Conformity, Vista Chino are currently traversing the globe in support of the new record. Although they’re bolstered by a batch of new material, Garcia resiliently rejects any speculation they’ll cease performing Kyuss songs.
“Josh Homme and Scott Reeder did not take my joy away. I won by still being able to sing those songs whenever I want, however I want, wherever I want and I plan to do so. I plan to sing ‘Supa Scoopa and Mighty Scoop’, ‘Gardenia’, ‘100 Degrees’, ‘Whitewater’ – whatever it might be – as long as I’m on this earth.”
BY AUGUSTUS WELBY
Peace out now through 3Wise Records.