The psychedelic rock pioneer and long-time percussionist for The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Joel Gion’s follow-up to 2014’s ‘Apple Bonkers’ is due out later this spring. Sometimes known as ‘The Tambourine Man’, Gion took the tambourine and made it an indie staple. His first single, ‘Tomorrow’, was released in January with some calling it a ‘simmering sonic thrill ride’.
Will this upcoming album be a departure sonically from ‘Apple Bonkers’? What can we expect to hear?
Some jazz, some soul, some bossa nova as well as psych and shoegaze. Also for the last 15 years I’ve mostly listened to soundtrack music from the 1960’s and 70’s so that’s all filling in the cracks. It’s different. My own mixture. My “day job” all these years has been working in indie record stores. My knowledge of music is pretty wide and personally I have a black belt in knowing why I like things so I’m trying to prepare myself mentally for critics that will attempt and fail to figure me out.
Your first single ‘Tomorrow’ from the forthcoming album does a bit of calling out to rising classism in the States, as you’ve said. How do you think the events that have happened since recording the latest album, the election results, the inauguration, mass protests, the ban, etc. will influence your music in future? Do you think you will become any more political in your lyrics?
It will always be there whether directly or more creatively than straight messages. But everyone who even knows how to think knows this whole set up sucks and they don’t need me to tell them. All I could say that isn’t all down everyone’s Facebook feed every morning is “hey let’s get armed up and go to the White House and take all the peoples shit back from these fuckers because this country belongs to we the people!“
But then you go down there and wind up sitting in prison missing the new season of “Game Of Thrones”. No way man fuck it.
The upcoming LP was recorded in phases while you were touring with The Brian Jonestown Massacre on the 2016 world tour. What is it like recording in the midst of touring in comparison to having a solid amount of time off to record?
Artistically frustrating as Anton’s writing and my writing are totally separate but I love to tour with The Brian Jonestown Massacre so I can’t moan on it. We’ve been out so much though it’s made for a long haul.
What are the differences with performing solo compared to when you are performing with The Brian Jonestown Massacre?
With BJM my mouth is closed the whole time and solo my mouth is open the whole time but I’m still standing in the same spot.
In the three years that have passed since your solo debut with ‘Apple Bonkers’ – a bit of a commentary on the state of San Francisco with the influx of the tech industry and the effect it’s having on artists – we’ve seen more of a push for musicians to be paid fairly for their work. It’s become a common talking point now, what with streaming services such as Spotify taking more of a platform, yet musicians still are not being paid fairly. What are your thoughts currently on this?
The facts on the damage the current streaming pay system has on new artists is out there. The people have spoken and they are ok with it so that’s the end of that. In 10 years new music will exclusively be whatever the labels want you to hear. There will never be another Beatles. A band of poor boys ignored by every single record label but take over the world anyway because the kids demand it. It’s not the consumers fault. It’s natural to enjoy a good deal. Once again the CEO’s are the only winners. Soul American!
You used to work at Amoeba Records in San Francisco, among other jobs, so I’m going to wager that you’re a big fan of vinyl. What are some records you’ve bought recently? Any other musicians’ work you’re into lately?
Um yeah I spend tons of bread on vinyl. As for new stuff mostly Italian soundtrack reissues that release on a steady stream and sell for $30-$40 each. Help me!
You’re working on a book; would you like to tell our readers a bit about that?
No. Haha just kidding it’s a personal memoir of experiences in early to mid 1990’s San Francisco. Right before “Dig”! It’s delicate telling your story when other people are involved. But it will be my story. I couldn’t keep interested telling anyone else’s.
I have to ask about your love of hats. About how many would you say you have?
They’re upside down socks actually.
What’s your first musical memory? A particular song that soundtracked something in your childhood that’s stuck with you?
My mom went to see Sly & The Family Stone while pregnant with me. Great, great gig man.
What’s on the horizon for you? You have this new album, the book you’re working on, some tour dates. Anything with BJM? Or something completely random like your appearances on Gilmore Girls?
Man I wish only other thing on the books right now is BJM are playing the Psycho Las Vegas festival in August with a bunch of hair and stoner metal bands. Save me!
Hey here is a link to an essay that was published sort of previewing what the book will be like.
Photo credits: Mathieu Faucher (1st one), Lilly Creightmore (2nd one)