SUR­VIV­ING A MAS­SACRE

An­ton New­combe has lived a tur­bu­lent life of cre­ativ­ity with his band Brian Jon­estown Mas­sacre but be­tween bust-ups and ac­cu­sa­tions of wasted tal­ent has pre­vailed with some of his finest work to date

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - PLAY LIVE & LOUD - NOEL MENGEL

Scrapes – An­ton New­combe has known a few. We could fill the rest of this mag­a­zine with anec­dotes about his wild times and dan­ger­ous liv­ing, drink­ing and drug in­take, not to men­tion the ever-chang­ing and some­what com­bustible line-up of his band Brian Jon­estown Mas­sacre.

But here’s the punch line. An­ton New­combe is still here, he doesn’t drink or get into scrapes any more and is hap­pily set­tled in Ber­lin with his part­ner and their son, Wolf­gang.

Oh, and last year’s Musique de Film Imag­ine is one of the best BJM re­leases ever.

Those who laughed at him in the 2004 doc­u­men­tary DIG!, which por­trayed the band as the Spinal Tap of psych-rock, need to make a reap­praisal.

New­combe re­fused to par­take in the record industry’s game but he’s still mak­ing mu­sic at a fu­ri­ous rate, and is about to tour Aus­tralia once more with the Sil­ver Ju­bilee tour, cel­e­brat­ing the band’s 25 years. Plus, he has lived to tell the tale. So Ber­lin, it’s good for you? “I think so. My Ger­man is hor­ri­ble,” New­combe says.

“It’s a dif­fer­ent style here to what they speak in other parts of the coun­try – High Ger­man, more like BBC English, if you know what I mean. And Ger­mans are very con­fi­dent peo­ple so it makes me shy talk­ing to them.’’

But the fact that he can’t be as­saulted all day by tele­vi­sion and ev­ery other form of com­mu­ni­ca­tion suits him.

“I am this free ghost. I’m not sucked into ad­ver­tis­ing or Kim Kar­dashian’s world, and it’s not a city that’s over­run with bill­boards,” he says.

Which gives New­combe time for projects like one with his friend Naut Hu­mon called the CineCham­ber, which he pre­sented at the Liver­pool Fes­ti­val of Psychedelia.

“Naut asked me, ‘Do you med­i­tate?’ I say, life is med­i­ta­tion. Stay on course, be fo­cused with who you are, that’s the purest form of med­i­ta­tion right now be­cause it is ab­so­lute over­load now.”

There you go. Life lessons from An­ton New­combe. Ber­lin has been good, ob­vi­ously.

And those peo­ple who ac­cused him of de­stroy­ing his ca­reer in the mu­sic industry? “It ate it­self,” he says. “The peo­ple in the movie who crit­i­cised me for blow­ing my op­por­tu­ni­ties don’t have jobs and their com­pa­nies don’t ex­ist. Their prized pos­ses­sions went from a cut-rate of $7 for a CD down to .001 cents for a few plays on Spo­tify.”

The in­ter­net also gave New­combe an im­por­tant weapon – in­for­ma­tion.

“I was in­ter­ested in the his­tory of the mu­sic busi­ness, that Allen Klein rene­go­ti­ated The Bea­tles con­tract be­cause they were get­ting screwed. I knew the whole scam of the mu­sic industry but also knew about the tri­umph of the in­die stuff,” he says.

It was the post-punk mu­sic he heard as a teenager in the ’80s that opened a path to mak­ing mu­sic.

“There is noth­ing Paul McCart­ney did that leads you to be­lieve you could be Paul McCart­ney, he is a phe­nom­e­nal in­di­vid­ual. I am more into the folk thing. If your grandma can play the fid­dle, if you see a kinder­garten kid on TV strum­ming a gui­tar, surely you can do it too. That was the spirit.’’

And the, shall we say, re­bel­lious spirit which drove his ex­tended ado­les­cence?

“That was al­ready in me, not want­ing to con­form,” he says.

“As a self-preser­va­tion thing I knew sub­terfuge was im­por­tant. I thought, ‘I’ll make some­thing as beau­ti­ful as I can and wrap it in a spiny blan­ket so all the crea­tures in the for­est know not to screw with it’.’’

In the case of the Musique de Film Imag­ine, there’s no need for the spiny blan­ket. It is a thing of haunt­ing beauty.

“When­ever I did the press rounds I would say I wanted to get into sound­tracks, putting the idea out there. But the movies is a bil­lion-dol­lar busi­ness, it moves so slowly and projects would keep get­ting pushed back,” he says.

“I just thought, ‘I’m not wait­ing, I will fill in the blanks for an imag­i­nary film’. It was done in a week.’’

An­ton New­combe is back in Aus­tralia with Brian Jon­estown Mas­sacre, as part of the band’s 25th year Sil­ver Ju­bilee tour.

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