Have you been super excited about something? In that excitement did you allow self doubt, sloth, and suffering to hijack your experience? After a lengthy break from writing, I got to thinking of interview subjects for this blog. I started with some steam, then, in large part due to the stress of chronic pain, I’d continually find myself having a hard time concentrating and finishing tasks, especially the ones that mean the most to me (strangely). With that being said, I’m embarrassed, yet excited to get this post out. After having the absolutely grand pleasure of interviewing Palm Desert vocalist John Garcia in 2016, this sloth relegated our conversation to the far corners of my Iphone’s data, neglected…a sad shame if you ask me!
Garcia is best known in my circle as the former singer for Kyuss, an early ’90’s “stoner rock” band that stunned the music world with epic albums such as Blues for the Red Sun and Welcome to Sky Valley. Along with Garcia, Kyuss had been composed of other legends like Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri, Scott Reeder, Alfredo Hernandez, and Brant Bjork. Kyuss played a large part in the surf scene in Santa Cruz, cemented when Santa Cruz video God Tony Roberts sprinkled the band’s heavy yet spacey sound throughout some of his classic Santa Cruz-centric flicks.
After listening to and singing his vocals in the shower for nearly twenty-five years, I’m beyond proud to share the conversation we had. Thanks to Mike Pygmie for hookin’ us up! Cheers!
Split Peak Soup-John, I’m such a huge fan of your music, as are so many of my friends up here in Santa Cruz. Have you spent any time up here?
John Garcia-Yeah man, Santa Cruz—what a cool, bitchin’ little town. David Insmore, Unida’s (one of Garcia’s other famous projects) is from Santa Cruz. So yeah, I’m familiar with your beautiful little town. What a great surfing community… I was fortunate to be able to watch a couple competitions up there as a kid. I’ve got some great memories of that place.
SPS-Thanks John! Yeah, super lucky to call this place home…there’s so much going on! So, starting with Kyuss in about ’97, I have been hearing your voice on all my favorite albums, and here I am chatting with you, which is really fuckin’ surreal. I was wondering if there were any instances in which you were able to meet one of your idols?
JG-I have, there’s two guys. I’m such a fan of singers. I’m just a fan of song. Glenn Danzig reached out to me in that way, as well as Ian Astbury (lead singer of the Cult). To this day, when I go see them, or run into them or whatever every once in a great while, I’m still starstruck. It’s not like we BBQ at the park with the family and shit like that, that’s not the case at all.
Ian Astbury is the reason I started singing, so running into him I’m a stammering fool….”uhhh…duuuhh…duhhh…uhhhh “(laughs). I don’t know what to say so I kinda’ clam up and do some small talk while I’m so fucking nervous. The flip-side of the coin is that, I used their styles of singing songs as guidelines for me. I was a fan and it helped me shape and mold my vocal style.
You know, I’ve always been kinda a realist myself…I’m a father, a husband, I’ve got a normal job and I never asked for any of this. I’m actually lucky to talk to a stranger over the telephone-wire who is a fan of something I helped create many many years ago. So, I myself are in awe even talking with you!
I’m about the whitest Mexican you’ll ever see in your life. I’m a dad to two wonderful children, have got a beautiful wife—everyone is happy and healthy, and I have so much to be thankful for. And one thing to be thankful, again, is to be driving my way to rehearsal talkin’ to a stranger, but a fan, so the pleasure’s all mine man. I don’t go to many shows at all anymore, but when I do, it’s to guys like Ian and The Cult, like the last show I went to. My wife and I went in as spectators and it was great seeing them perform.
SPS-Yeah, for sure. I’ve always loved the howls belted out by guys like Layne Staley, Glenn Danzig, and yours, in particular.
Despite the fact that some of my favorite bands were pushed on me from the surf/skate culture, being a youngster on long road trips with my family really influenced my musical tastes. To this day I’m still listening to my parents’ stuff, like the Beatles, Clapton, Door, and even Bonnie Raite! In fact, Rubber Soul has been in my beat-up Honda’s CD player for about six months now (laughs). How about you? Do you have any musicians or groups that left an imprint on you at a young age?
JG– You mention Bonnie Rate, I’ve never heard a journalist, who I’ve spoken to at least, bring up an artist who may not be “cool” in someone else’s eyes. See, I appreciate that.
Because I appreciate a guy by the name of Maurice White and Phillip Bailey from a band called “Earth, Wind, and Fire”. I appreciate Al Green. I appreciate Rob Skaggs.
I appreciate Frank Sinatra, YES, John Coltrane- a diverse spread of musicians.
People think I wake up in the morning, take a bong hit, and listen to the latest Monster Magnet CD; there’s nothing further from the truth. Matter of fact, my wife has said, “Jesus! Will stop listening to all this jazz, it’s driving me nuts!”, The older I get, I find my taste relax. For the past ten years I’ve been getting into stuff older than me- stuff from the 40’s,50’s,60’s.
Now, I’m looking more at “Rat Pack” stuff from the 50’s, 60’s. I’m a huge fan of laxing out to that old stuff. It could be Coltrane, could be Sinatra, but that was the only stuff I’ve been listening to for the past ten years. Of course, in my childhood years I was afraid to admit. I love Terence Trent D’Arby, this black dude from New York, whose an R+B guy who had some hits in the ’80’s like Wishing Well. This guy sings amazingly, so fucking amazingly! He blows me away to this day. And I’m a fan!
Anything that can make me feel, I don’t give a fuck who you are, I will admit, “That, is bad-ass. That was cool”. I appreciate the craft. Being a musician (I’m not going to say ‘as an artist [laughs]) I don’t take that kinda stuff too seriously
“I’m a 9-5, Mom ‘n Pop, Do It Yourself kind of guy—it’s just what I do. Everyone’s page is a little bit different, and I’m definitely not the guy trying to be cool, nor do I want to be cool, I just want to be me, a husband, a father, and that’s it”
SPS-I’ve read somewhere that you worked at an animal hospital after Kyuss disbanded. Can you tell me a bit about your relationship to animals, and what makes that connection so strong?
Garcia-I’ve had that connection my whole life. As a kid, one of my first jobs was working at a pet store. Then a “no-kill” shelter. Shit, I probably should have become a veterinarian! I had a counselor up at UC Davis—one of the best vet schools in the country, but I kinda blew that opportunity. Schools just wasn’t for me; I was more hands-on. I like the arts. I love music and working with animals, and sometimes I wish I’d pursued the latter more proactively.Regardless, I have always, whether it be at a “no-kill” shelter or veterinarian clinic, pet-store or grooming facility, loved working with animals. To this day, I help I help run Palm Springs Animal Hospital, where, if I’m not doing X-Rays, I’m drawing blood, or loading rooms, or assisting a surgeon. I kinda get to wear all the hats and am stoked to be involved in that animal care scene.
SPS-What trait do you think you possess that most lends itself towards such a love for helping sick or injured animals; whether it be compassion, sensitivity, or empathy, etc? If so, how has this trait molded other aspects of your life?
Garcia– I’ve just always like animals…I don’t know if that makes me sensitive? I guess it’s just being there to help them in a selfless way, which may sound corny. But it’s true. I’ve always really appreciated the diagnostic side, giving the doctor information to use to help make the right diagnosis. That, for me, is very special and important to me. Some of these animals depend on this information to stay alive.
Look, Neal, I’ve been very lucky to have three things in my life that I love to do. One, being a musician. Two, working with animals. Most importantly however, I am a husband and father, a family-man. I keep my eye on the ball and the “eye on the ball” is the most important thing in my life and that means being there for my son, daughter, and wife no matter what. It’s important to be that dad. To be that husband. That’s my real passion in life; being there for them.
SPS-It seems like, to me, a lot of singers sing to the guitar. When I check out old Youtube footage of you performing with Kyuss and Slo Burn, I see you onstage slithering around like a snake, rocking back and forth, as if you sang to that heaver bass or drum beat. Do I have something there?
Garcia– Oh man, I can’t look at footage of me back then (laughs).
SPS– No way bud! You were in the moment…golden!
Garcia– (more laughs) Thanks Neal, I appreciate it. That’s a good way to put it—you’ll have to excuse me, I’m easily embarrassed. To answer your question, I’m a guitar guy, dude. So guitar-driven, vocally. Of course, the rhythm section is there. There’s no doubt about it, that rhythm section—the bass, kick, and snare—those have all got to be there or else the guitar won’t make any sense. Absolutely, 100% and unequivocally in my opinion.
Later in life, I started using in-ear monitors, and of course, I’d have some bass, kick, and snare in there, but mainly what I hear in my monitors is guitar. There’s a “lower” and a “higher” guitar, and I’d use the higher the most, the one that cut through the most, that’s the one I had in my in-ears. Sometimes, I do guitar and vocals only. Of course, I couldn’t do any of that without the rhythm section. Without that section it’s generally just a big fuckin’ mess. That’s a good question.
SPS-Well I know you gotta split, but I wanted to thank you for your time and the rad conversation!
Garcia- My pleasure Neal. Thank you for the interest! This is my number, call me anytime you wanna chat!
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