1992: KyUSS


Metal Hammer (UK) - - Contents - WORDS: MÖRAT

Armed with se­ri­ous riffs, Kyuss broke out of the desert and took stoner rock to the world.

it’s 116˚F in Cal­i­for­nia’s Palm Desert to­day – 46˚C in real money – a sti­fling, de­bil­i­tat­ing heat into which only the fool­hardy ven­ture. Not that there’s any­where to ven­ture to un­less you like golf or an­tique shops. And it was here, in this most un­likely en­vi­ron­ment, that rock mu­sic – stoner rock, in par­tic­u­lar – was changed for­ever, with the birth of a band called Kyuss, and their sec­ond al­bum, Blues For The Red Sun.

The seeds were planted five years ear­lier, when 14-year-punk-rock-lov­ing skate­boarder and drum­mer Brant Bjork de­cided to form a band named Katzen­jam­mer – Ger­man slang for hang­over – with his best friend and bud­ding bassist Chris Cock­rell. Brant knew a kid from school, a Black Sab­bath fan by the name of

Nick Oliv­eri, who was sell­ing a bass to take up gui­tar, so he and Chris went to his place to see what was up. The trio jammed for a few months, and at the end of the sum­mer re­cruited an­other lo­cal kid, Josh Homme, as their sec­ond gui­tarist.

“It was a tiny scene,” says Brant to­day. “That’s why it’s funny when there’s all these guys go­ing, ‘Each lit­tle vil­lage in the desert, Palm Desert, Palms Springs, In­dio, had their own lit­tle scene’, but even when we came to­gether it was a small scene. So when you’re putting a band to­gether, there were ba­si­cally no op­tions; we were the only guys who could have joined a band.”

When an­other lo­cal kid, John Gar­cia, joined as vo­cal­ist, they changed their name to Sons Of Kyuss, named af­ter a char­ac­ter in the role­play­ing game Dun­geons & Dragons, and re­leased an epony­mous EP in 1989. Thanks to YouTube, you can check out the EP, and it’s not at all bad for a bunch of young teenagers. The same can be said for their de­but al­bum, Wretch, from 1991, the band hav­ing short­ened their name to Kyuss (Nick Oliv­eri, who had quit as gui­tarist be­fore the EP, re­joined as bassist in time for the al­bum, re­plac­ing Chris Cock­rell).

More than 100 miles away from Los Angeles and the width of a con­ti­nent from New York, Palm Desert had no out­lets for young bands. Kyuss de­cided to take mat­ters into their own hands. Set­ting up makeshift stages in the desert out­side of town, they would play gigs to ever-grow­ing crowds of friends. Part gig, part al­fresco rev­elry, they be­came known as ‘gen­er­a­tor par­ties’, due to the elec­tri­cal gen­er­a­tors used to power the band’s amps.

“Back in the day it was just punk rock, DIY, or our ver­sion of it,” says Brant. “DC, New York, and LA all had their scenes, and in the desert we had ours. There were no clubs to play at, es­pe­cially back in the 80s. You’d go and hang out at McDon­ald’s be­cause there was noth­ing to do, so we’d put bands to­gether and just go and play out in the desert.”

These semi-leg­endary gigs have be­come part of the Kyuss myth over the years. But ac­cord­ing to Brant, the re­al­ity was less glam­orous than the idea.

“It was like Al­ta­mont ev­ery week­end,” he laughs, re­fer­ring to the in­fa­mous 1969 Rolling Stones gig. “There was no se­cu­rity, no noth­ing. That’s what’s so ironic about peo­ple ro­man­ti­cis­ing those par­ties. You had a lot of fun, but it was pri­mal and dan­ger­ous.”

As word of these gen­er­a­tor par­ties spread, so did Kyuss’s fame. But no one saw what was com­ing next. In 1992, while the rest of the world was ei­ther pre­oc­cu­pied with grunge or cry­ing over the ashes of hair metal, Kyuss re­leased Blues For The Red Sun. Heavy as lead but with a punk rock spirit, it sounded like noth­ing else around at the time.

Kyuss them­selves knew they were sit­ting on some­thing spe­cial with Blues For The Red Sun, even if they weren’t en­tirely com­fort­able with the ‘stoner rock’ tag that swiftly sparked up around them.

“We were def­i­nitely smok­ing pot,” af­firms Brant, “and that was def­i­nitely a big part of our chem­istry. In fact, I was smok­ing a joint when I came up with the whole con­cept for Blues For The Red Sun. Josh and I used to smoke a lot of weed to­gether, and I think that’s what con­nected us, be­cause we were very dif­fer­ent as peo­ple; our ide­olo­gies, our back­ground, our sense of hu­mour, we couldn’t have been more dif­fer­ent, and the weed re­ally brought us to­gether.”

Kyuss them­selves had a big­ger gripe with the fact they were per­ceived as a metal band when they con­sid­ered them­selves punk. Josh Homme fre­quently ar­gued that de­spite their slow, heavy riffs, he was more into Black Flag than Black Sab­bath.

“Josh was be­ing hon­est when he said he wasn’t ever re­ally a Black Sab­bath fan,” agrees Brant. “He was al­ways very com­fort­able with his punk rock roots. Heavy metal is a big genre; it has a ten­dency to pull ev­ery­thing in, and there’s not much you can do about it.

“WE gOT A lOT OF gunS



Nick Oliv­eri quit the band just prior to the re­lease of Blues…, and was re­placed by Scott Reeder (sec­ond from right), who’d re­main in the band un­til their break-up

John Gar­cia: desert dreamin’

Dime­bag Dar­rell proved that groove would out­live grunge

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