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The Brian Jonestown Massacre Biography

Birth Place: San Francisco, California, United States
Years Active: 1990 – present
Genres: Psychedelic Rock, Experimental, Shoegaze, Folk Rock, Avant-garde, Nu Gaze

The Brian Jonestown Massacre is an American eclectic musical group led by Anton Newcombe, whose music spans multiple genres including psychedelia, electronica, folk music, blues, and experimental music. 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 group was founded by Newcombe, Matt Hollywood, Ricky Rene Maymi, Patrick Straczek and Travis Threlkel in the early 1990s in San Francisco. The band has undergone several lineup changes, and currently comprises Newcombe and numerous long and short-term collaborators.

“Spacegirl & Other Favorites,” the band’s debut album, was a vinyl only release in 1993. It has been reissued several times since then. Their second album, “Methodrone” followed in 1995.

The Brian Jonestown Massacre released three albums in 1996, the first, “Take It from the Man!,” was recorded in the Rolling Stones' mid-1960s style of rock rooted in rhythm and blues. The second, “Their Satanic Majesties' Second Request,” reflected a takeoff of 1960s psychedelia that continued to characterize the group’s sound to the present day and was an homage to the Rolling Stones' 1967 album, “Their Satanic Majesties Request.” The third, “Thank God for Mental Illness,” displayed a country and rhythm and blues oeuvre with voice and acoustic guitar dominating the overall sound. This is a format that Newcombe occasionally resorts to when presenting live material during times of transition in the band. A further country/folk approach was applied to the 1999 “Bringing It All Back Home - Again” EP, the title itself an homage to Bob Dylan's “Bringing It All Back Home.”

“Give It Back!,” released in 1997 was their only album that featured Peter Hayes, who went on to found Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. The stand-out single on the album, “Not If You Were the Last Dandy on Earth,” was best known for being a sardonic reply to The Dandy Warhols' single “Not If You Were the Last Junkie on Earth,” which was itself directed at The Brian Jonestown Massacre. 1998 saw the release of their next album, “Strung Out in Heaven,” which took its name from the David Bowie song, “Ashes to Ashes.” Their LP, “Bravery Repetition and Noise,” followed in 2001.

Electronic music crept into 2003's “And This Is Our Music,” evidencing more contemporary influences as well as name-checking the identically-titled albums “This Is Our Music,” each by the artists Galaxie 500 and Ornette Coleman. The band then issued “My Bloody Underground” in 2008 which explored more experimental sounds than previous BJM albums, especially on a collaboration with Mark Gardener, formerly of Ride, who co-wrote the song “Monkey Powder.”

Along with The Dandy Warhols, The Brian Jonestown Massacre were the subjects of the 2004 documentary film “Dig!.” The film captured a love–hate relationship between both bands, highlighting the interaction of The Dandy Warhols frontman Courtney Taylor-Taylor and Newcombe. It was recorded over the course of seven years by Ondi Timoner, and won the Documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance Film Festival.

Newcombe and company released “Who Killed Sgt. Pepper?” in 2010. The album's title referred to The Beatles' 1967 album “Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band.” It may also refer to “Who Killed Bambi?,” an early working title for The Sex Pistols' film “The Great Rock 'N' Roll Swindle,” as well as a song on the film's soundtrack. In 2012 they issued their 13th album, “Aufheben.”