weather icon Mostly Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

Band continues to spread influence of timeless sound with Kyuss Lives!

While the other guys in the band were still making music full time, he was performing emergency C-sections on 160-pound Irish wolfhounds at 3 in the morning.

As frontman for desert rock monolith Kyuss, which performs this weekend in the House of Blues at Mandalay Bay, John Garcia helped catalyze a minimovement of shaggy-haired hard rock posited on steamroller riffs that came to be somewhat clumsily known as stoner rock.

And then he got a day job.

But first, that sound: immense, enveloping, seductive, extraterrestrial.

It begins with the guitars.

Think of a garden snake: This is an average hard rock band’s riffs.

Now think of a boa constrictor: This is a Kyuss riff.

Add some head bobbing, fiercely funky bass lines and Garcia’s gut-bucket howl, and you get something that’s heavy, but not metal, as the emphasis is on groove not concussiveness, and there’s a real swing to it all.

It’s dude music that your girlfriend might dig.

But beginning with the band’s seminal 1992 debut, “Blues for a Red Sun,” Kyuss’ influence far outpaced its record sales. When the band ended in 1995, Garcia eventually turned to a full-time career in veterinary medicine, occasionally cutting guest vocal spots with acts such as the Crystal Method and Danko Jones and touring with his bands Unida and then Hermano during vacation time from work.

Kyuss guitarist Josh Homme would go on to found Queens of the Stone Age with bassist Nick Oliveri, while original drummer Brandt Bjork would play in Fu Manchu.

Over time, though, Kyuss’ legacy would grow as scads of bands cited their import.

“I think that, back in the day, Kyuss did create a type of music that was somewhat timeless to a certain ear,” Garcia says. “But the flip side to that coin is that any time something goes out of print or a band breaks up or they stop making a bottle of wine, the value goes up a little bit.”

Kyuss’ value became increasingly apparent with the growth of the stoner-rock ranks, populated by bands such as Sleep, Nebula and the aforementioned Fu Manchu and Queens, though Garcia is ambivalent about being associated with that scene.

“I don’t know about creating any subgenres or pigeonholing Kyuss into stoner rock,” he says. “If you want to call it stoner rock, desert rock, whatever, I’m totally cool with it. But I think people misconceive the band a little bit when you say ‘stoner rock.’ What immediately comes to mind is me waking up, taking a bong hit and putting on ‘High on Fire’ or ‘Monster Magnet,’ and that is about as far from reality as I could ever explain.”

However it may be classified, Kyuss’ dense, distinct sound was kept alive by Garcia, who went on tour last summer in Europe under the banner Garcia Plays Kyuss. At a set at the Hellfest in Clisson, France, Garcia was joined onstage by Bjork and Oliveri, who were also touring abroad in separate projects.

“We’re all friends. What better way to celebrate some friendship than by jamming together?” Garcia says of the impromptu get-together. “That’s exactly what we did, and that really was the catapult of what was about to happen.”

Though Homme has long resisted a Kyuss reunion, Garcia, Bjork and Oliveri decided to tour again as Kyuss Lives!, joined by Belgian guitarist Bruno Fevery (recent legal troubles have led to Oliveri’s being replaced by one-time Kyuss bassist Scott Reeder on the band’s current trek).

For Garcia, it’s a chance to tighten the screws on the Kyuss catalog.

“I’ve really learned to appreciate the songs more and give them the attention that they deserve,” he says. “In my eyes, some of the Kyuss songs, especially the early ones, they’re almost demo-esque. I go and I’ll listen to them to see how close we’re mirroring these songs, and we’re pretty close, but it’s great to be able to explore a little bit more at my age and with my knowledge of the songs. Back then, I was still very much learning to sing. My voice is much stronger than it was.”

And so is Kyuss’ drawing power.

Abroad, Kyuss Lives! sold out 3,000- and 4,000-seat halls their last time over.

Here, they don’t quite match those numbers, but they’re still doing far better now than during their initial run.

Garcia sounds bemused and a little bewildered by it all.

With Kyuss Lives!, he’s experiencing life after death.

“It’s surreal to me that we’re generating a little interest. Back in the day, I can tell you that we wouldn’t be playing the House of Blues at all,” he says of the venue the band will play in Vegas. “It’s weird. I often wonder, where the hell was everybody when we were together?”

Contact reporter Jason Bracelin at jbracelin@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0476.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.