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Brian Jonestown Massacre Biography
The Brian Jonestown Massacre is an American neo-psychedelia band formed in San Francisco in 1988. The band's output spans psychedelic rock, folk rock and shoegaze.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre began as a shoegaze group in San Francisco in 1988. After their debut and sophomore albums, the group quickly turned to a broader style of psychedelic rock incorporating folk rock and, later, electronica influences. The name "Brian Jonestown Massacre" is a portmanteau of The Rolling Stones' founder and guitarist Brian Jones and the infamous mass cult suicide in Jonestown, Guyana. The band have gained media notoriety for their tumultuous working relationships and the drug addiction of their leader, Anton Newcombe.
1993-1996: Early years:
The Brian Jonestown Massacre's debut album, Spacegirl & Other Favorites was a vinyl only release in 1993 with a limited run of 500 copies. The album includes the song "Hide and Seek", the only single released from the album in 1994. The band's follow-up album, Methodrone, was heavily influenced by the shoegaze genre that had gained prominence several years prior to its release. The album's dreamy rock sound is comparable to bands such as Galaxie 500, Spacemen 3 and My Bloody Valentine. Two tracks from the album, "She Made Me" and "Evergreen", had been released as a double A-side single in 1992.
The band went through an intense period of recording in 1996, releasing three separate albums. Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request reflects a pastiche of 1960s psychedelia that continues to characterize the present Brian Jonestown Massacre sound. The album also includes vast experimentation with a variety of different instrumentation including Indian drones, sitars, mellotrons, farfisas, didgeridoos, tablas, congas, and glockenspiels. The title of the album is a pastiche of The Rolling Stones' 1967 album Their Satanic Majesties Request.
The second album released in 1996, Take It from the Man! is rooted in rhythm and blues and heavily influenced by artists such as The Rolling Stones. The album includes the song "Straight Up and Down" which was later used as theme music for the television drama series Boardwalk Empire (2010-2014) on the American cable network HBO.
Thank God for Mental Illness is the band's third record released in 1996. The album explores genres such as country and rhythm and blues with vocals and acoustic guitar dominating the overall sound. The album is divided into two parts, with the first part featuring mostly acoustic lo-fi songs, whilst the latter half is a series of songs merged into one track named "Sound of Confusion". "Sound of Confusion" features both regular songs and more abstract sound collages.
1997-1998: Give It Back!, Signing to TVT and Strung Out in Heaven:
The Brian Jonestown Massacre released Give It Back! in 1997, their sixth studio album. Footage from the album sessions were included in the documentary Dig!. Give It Back! includes the track "Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth", a sardonic reply to The Dandy Warhols' single "Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth", which had supposedly been directed at The Brian Jonestown Massacre. The song was featured on the soundtrack to Jim Jarmusch's 2005 film Broken Flowers. Soon after the album's release, The Brian Jonestown Massacre signed a multi-record deal with TVT Records. This led to the release of the band's seventh full-length album Strung Out in Heaven in 1998. The album includes the track "Love", released as a CD single with a demo of the song "Wasting Away" as a B-side in the same year. Strung Out in Heaven didn't sell as many records as TVT had hoped and they later mutually dissolved their remaining contractual obligations with the band.
1999-2005: Bring It All Back Home - Again, Bravery, Repetition and Noise, And This Is Our Music and We Are the Radio:
In 1999 the band released an EP, Bringing It All Back Home - Again, the last release to feature band member Matt Hollywood, who left the band following an onstage argument. In 2001 the band released their eighth studio album, Bravery, Repetition and Noise, which includes the track "Sailor", originally performed by The Cryan' Shames. 2003's And This Is Our Music demonstrates contemporary influences such as electronic music. The album's title is a reference to the identically-titled, but distinct, albums This Is Our Music by the artists Galaxie 500 and Ornette Coleman. In 2005 the band released the EP We Are the Radio on Anton Newcombe's own label, The Committee to Keep Music Evil, which features a close collaboration with indie singer-songwriter Sarabeth Tucek.
2008-2015: Experimental music and recent releases:
My Bloody Underground was released on Cargo Records in 2008. The record contains more experimental sounds than previous albums, especially in a collaboration with Mark Gardener, formerly of Ride, who co-wrote the song "Monkey Powder". The Brian Jonestown Massacre recorded both the One EP and Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? in Iceland and Berlin in 2009. The One EP was released in November 2009 and features the songs, "One", "This Is the First of Your Last Warning" (which also appears on Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?), an English version of "This Is The First Of Your Last Warning", and an exclusive track, "Bruttermania". Who Killed Sgt. Pepper? was released in February 2010 and features musicians such as Unnur Andrea Einarsdottir (who recorded vocals on the previous Brian Jonestown Massacre album) and Felix Bondareff from the Russian band, Amazing Electronic Talking Cave as well as the musician Will Carruthers. Soon after the album's release, it was confirmed that Matt Hollywood had returned to the band after an eleven-year absence. According to Anton Newcombe, he would feature on the band's next album and toured with the band.
The Brian Jonestown Massacre released the album Aufheben on May 1, 2012. Newcombe stated that the album title relates to Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel's use of the term, whereby something is destroyed in order to preserve it. Revelation was released in May 2014. It is the first album to be fully recorded and produced at Anton Newcombe's recording studio in Berlin. Stylistically, the album mixes the traditional Brian Jonestown Massacre sound with eastern influences. Musique de Film Imaginé was released on April 27, 2015. The album is a soundtrack for an imaginary French film, and pays homage to the great European film directors of the late 1950s and 1960s such as François Truffaut and Jean-Luc Godard. It was recorded in Berlin in August 2014.
Along with The Dandy Warhols, BJM were the subjects of the 2004 documentary film Dig!. The film captured a love-hate relationship between both bands, highlighting the interaction of BJM frontman Anton Newcombe with his counterpart in the Warhols, Courtney Taylor-Taylor. The film was recorded over the course of seven years by Ondi Timoner and won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival for its unflinching portrait of a narcissist rock star and his subsequent descent into drug abuse and fallout with band members.