Stoner rock have a handful of faces that belong in the Mount Rushmore of the genre. However, if only one really deserved to be up there, it would arguably be John Garcia, who has fronted many legendary acts including Kyuss, Vista Chino, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano. His name alone has become the most solidified of the entirety of stoner and desert music, and has established a massive fan base throughout his strong-hearted career ever since. Having been a regular visitor to the Australian audience, John Garcia announced his first ever acoustic tour in the country, going from Brisbane to Sydney, to Melbourne and Geelong. Speaking to the godfather of stoner and desert rock himself, John states that the early conception of the acoustic project was not quite what he anticipated, but in the end, he got through and has never been more excited for this to be happening.
“I thought it was gonna be a lot easier” he begins. “When I said “what do you think about doing some acoustic shows” with my guitar player and he said “yeah”. We got into the rehearsal room and all of a sudden, it wasn’t such a good idea, because there was nothing to hide behind. You have one acoustic guitar and one vocal. I don’t have any effects on my vocals. There’s no percussion, bass, synthesizers, keyboards, any of that. So all of it is really stripped down, so you either go to the show and you’re going to do well, or you’re going to tank. For me, it’s a great challenge and I love the challenge to sing these songs in a different environment. That was one of the main reasons why I did it, because it was a challenge for me. As far as the logistic side of it, setup is twenty minutes and breakdown is fifteen, that’s all it is. It’s really cool, liberating and different to do these songs in a different environment that’s a lot more intimate. I’ve been wanting to get back to Australia again for awhile, and now it’s happening, so I’m stoked!”
With the acoustic tour going down for a while, John Garcia also released an acoustic album last year under the moniker “The Coyote Who Spoke In Tongues” through Napalm Records. The record featured not only newer songs from John, but also fresh acoustic renditions of older Kyuss tracks. On his side of the story, John stated that he wanted an obstacle to work with for the older material that established the name of John Garcia.
“One of the reasons why I did some of the Kyuss songs and some of the other bands that I’ve worked with in the past is because it was challenging. We didn’t turn Green Machine into a ballad, it was just a different take on the song, same with Gardenia and Space Cadet. To turn something heavy into the opposite end of the spectrum, Aaron (Groban) and I thought we were equal to the task. It was very clear and evident upon when Aaron turned the Green Machine melody into something else. It was really cool and we liked what we were hearing and feeling. They take me to a place where I’d like to go that’s out of touch with reality. It takes me away from whatever’s going on in my life and it takes me to a place that I’m very familiar with.”
Considering that John Garcia’s been a renowned voice in the scene for three long decades, to this day, he remains astounded by the global connection between his music and fans. Having grown up in the blistering heat of the Californian deserts and branching his name out from there, John seems to still be processing the fact that his music from Kyuss all the way up to his solo work has inspired millions worldwide, and that he gets to have a special rapport with those that familarised themselves with his sound.
“I’m very lucky to be apart of this whole scene. I’m lucky to be talking to almost a complete stranger over the phone from thousands of miles away about a project that I’m about to embark on and share with Australia. That really blows my mind, and the appreciation level that I have is off the charts. So I never knew it was gonna be listened to or talked about between two bodies. It blows my mind, so I’m stoked and very appreciative. I don’t take myself that seriously though, I’m a dad and a husband, I love Australia, the beach, the people and to me, it’s a no-brainer to go down there. I am very appreciative and there’s nothing worse than false humblers. I’m very lucky and blessed to take off time from the animal hospital to hang and do what we do for a couple of weeks.”
Being one with the desert, John Garcia’s hometown of Palm Springs has played a big part in his life. However, it hasn’t predominantly been the main impact on his sound and identity. As someone who primarily sees himself as a family man, music is a ‘necessity’ that’s always been in the backseat according to him.
“You could ask anyone else around in the desert, and they could give you a different answer. For me, I love where I was born and raised. I really, really do. I feel that there’s a comfort level when being at home, but I don’t necessarily know how much the desert has influenced the sound. I don’t know how much of that impacts all of the music, but it’s more about being comfortable. I need to make sure my son, my daughter and my wife are all okay. Now that they’re okay, let me get into this frame of mind where I can go into the studio and start writing. Everything has to be fine for me to get creative, because I run an animal hospital and I’m a dad and husband. So, music has taken somewhat of a backseat. But I’m still very passionate and spend all of my spare time devoted to it. I think the desert scene has partially blown out of proportion, lately. If music is a necessity, you’re going to find a way to do it, no matter what environment you’re in. That’s what it is. If you’re passionate about something, whether it be journalism, painting, singing, basket weaving or guitar playing, you’re going to find a way to get that craft done. All of these false legendary stories and these feelings and emotions that have been brought out of this desert as a mystical place, some people will get it and some don’t. But, music is a necessity and I’m going to find a way to create it.”
There are many artists and bands that end their careers at a certain time in their lives. John however, doesn’t feel the need to stop anytime soon. He not only feels that his work as a vocalist is not 100% finished, but his passion is what’s been driving him to strive for bigger and better opportunities to transpire in the future. Even after Kyuss, Slo Burn, and even guest appearances with The Crystal Method and more, his apathy needs to be tamed in order to keep his life in a steady point, according to him.
“I get bored very easily. That’s why I’ve played with so many bands. I feel that once I’ve got to the point where I wanna move on, the beauty about my own name is that I can do whatever I want, wherever I want and however I want. And I really like that freedom and challenge. I like to be challenge, there’s something about it that makes me do the projects that I want. Whether it be Monkey3, Danko Jones or The Crystal Method, it’s challenging for me and I don’t see myself slowing down any time in the near future. I still enjoy performing onstage, singing, recording and writing on a summer sunday and hanging out with my guys. It’s healthy for me. I’m a family man first, and family always comes first. I’ve gotta keep enough steaks in the freezer, I want my kids to go to college, and as a musician, I can’t always do that at least for me, with my status of being a musician. So, I run an animal hospital with my wife, and it’s a very successful one in Palm Springs and we love what we do. When I have time to go to the studio and sing with the guys, then I certainly give it every inch of my time. I don’t see myself slowing down any time in the near future, at all.”