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Stoner Rock Godfather Brant Bjork Explores the Power of “Oui” (premiere + interview)

Brant Bjork's long-lost instrumental album Jacoozzi has its heart in the improvisational elements of funk, soul and jazz. Uncontrollable dancing may result.

Multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter and a founding member of Kyuss, Brant Bjork, issues his “lost” jazz/funk album Jacoozzi on April 5 via Heavy Psych Sounds. A new single, “Oui”, exemplifies the LP’s power and Bjork’s commitment to the eternal jam.

With thunderous drums that summon thoughts of some long-lost Southern California jazz and soul outfit and guitar lines that are infused with the blazing, hallucinogenic majesty of Carlos Santana at his earliest, most majestic heights, “Oui” nevertheless sounds positively of the present. It’s Bjork at his most imaginative and passionate, playing with abandon, imagination and fire.

“That’s a perfect example of a song where I wanted to get people to tap their toes, get up out of their chairs,” Bjork says. “It’s got a lift in energy. It’s a motivator.”

Jacoozzi’s origins date to 2010 when the veteran musician had entered a home studio in Joshua Tree, California to cut a new album. Eight songs into that project, he decided to pull the plug, opting instead a new group of compositions that sat on a shelf for the better part of a decade. The result is an album of free-wheeling music that will inspire listeners to dance, shake and celebrate their very existence.

Bjork recently spoke with PopMatters about the album’s origins and its long path to release.

My understanding is that the writing and recording of this album was extremely spontaneous.

I was going through a lot of personal transitions and challenges. I did what I’ve always done and put myself in the studio to put together a record. While I was in the studio, I became disinterested in the direction I was going with my body of work. I turned to my friend and engineer, Tony Mason, and said, “Hey, you know what? Why don’t you roll the tape and I’m just going to jam.” I just wanted to play music with no particular direction. This album is the result of that.

It seems like it fell together pretty quickly from there.

I think we tracked and mixed it in three days. The inspiration for this record was less external, less intellectual. It was much more emotional. Songs, structures, arrangements, lyrics were all unnecessary. I just wanted it to be an expression in itself. Over the years I didn’t have the vocabulary to describe what it was. I thought it was more akin to the progressive jazz stuff of the ’60s or some really loose blues stuff.

You didn’t think about releasing it at the time, though?

In 2010 I had just dissolved my own record label with my partner. I had hit a wall with the business side of things. It was just a real hassle. It was a lot of responsibility. I still wanted to record music because I do it every year regardless. So I just recorded without any concept or avenue to release it. I did have interest from this label in Austria, Napalm, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to sign with them at that particular time, even though I did sign with them about three-four years later. It was just that I didn’t think they’d be the right label for this particular record.

What made this the right time to release it?

I found the right person with the right label. Gabriele Fiori has built a label with Heavy Psych Sounds that’s like the music I’m involved with, which is something I haven’t been able to do for a very long time. It feels good to give recordings to a guy who is actually into that kind of music and has a network of people to help support it.

Do you see this fitting in alongside your other albums?

It’s just groove-based music. That’s the main point. I started as a drummer, so my main thing is to get people to get up, move, or lay back and relax. I love rock music and understand it as the foundation of what I’ve been doing my whole career, but I also like to dance. I know a lot of people, especially in the United States, are not motivated to do that. They don’t really put dancing in the same sentence as rock music. But, when you go back to the birth of rock music, that’s what people did. They danced to it. I hope that spirit can come back. I encourage that when I play live shows. In Europe, people like to move. We get a good response when we do that.

Do you think you’ll play these tunes live?

I think these songs will live on record for the time being. It’s not that I don’t want to play them live. I just have a tight schedule and so many other things in the works, it really comes down to time. [Laughs.]

Do you see yourself doing another album like this?

I don’t know. I’m going to allow myself to do whatever I want to do. Right now, I’m working on my next record, which probably couldn’t be further from this one. But I like both approaches. I like to go in, improvise, but I also like to go in with a sense of structure.