Publik / Private Interview + Mixtape #11.11: Joel Gion

Mixtape Curated By: Joel Gion
Written By: Jordannah Elizabeth
 Photo by: Raynie Alexandria Vratari 


We have so many years on this Earth and only have one life to live. I am glad that in my during lifetime I can say I have interviewed Joel Gion. Gion can be considered the sweetheart of the now prolific, internationally adored rock and roll band, The Brian Jonestown Massacre.  He’s been the loving saving grace, the purveyor of astoundingly timed, humorous one liners and a cherry blossomed persona that could sooth any fan from the panic of star struck nervousness. I remember in my younger years, he walked passed me at a show in some city (I’ve seen BJM a number of times, never in the same town), and I quietly said “I love you, Joel.” out of pure innocence and admiration, and he turned around before he walked backstage and blew me a kiss.

Some people are just nice. Nonetheless, I didn’t base that story on why I interviewed him (I honestly just remembered that happened when I sat down in front of my word processor to construct this intro), but I reached out to him because he is finally putting out a record of his own. I have had my ear to the ground about his new album, Apple Bonkers for a while now and attended one of his earlier San Francisco shows as he performed with his full band, Joel Gion & the Primary Colours. So, I am honestly following through with a process that I have been accutely aware of for several months.

More importantly, Joel Gion has served as a pioneer of the underground neo psychedelic scene for over 20 years. He has served my generation with great music and with an open heart. The least we can do here at Publik / Private is plug his record and give him a platform to express himself during a time in his life that should be celebrated.


How long did it take you to write and record Apple Bonkers?

Well, I wrote and recorded the album sporadically over about 6 months. I’d write a couple songs and then travel to L.A. or Portland where my BJM bandmates had studios. We would record, then I’d go home and write a couple more songs. It all happened pretty quickly, but despite immediate quality label attention, it still managed to take what seemed like forever to release the album.

Tell us why you chose to name your album Apple Bonkers?

There’s this cartoon I saw as a kid where there are these Blue Meanie characters who invade a peaceful land and take it over by “bonking” people over the head with giant apple shaped logos, just like now in San Francisco. In the end, music saves everybody.

After so many years as a professional musician, do you take your current project very seriously or is it a labor or love where you don’t expect to obtain a large profit from it?

This album was my reaction to becoming a 40 year old tambourine player. I decided it was time to do better. I noticed after the movie I had become sort of a comedian type of character. My life has been all about music from the beginning – it ain’t no joke.

How important was the support of your bandmates and friends when it came to creating this album?

It was actually BJM’s bass player, Collin Hegna who after listening to me talk about starting to write new songs offered me free studio time at his studio in Portland. Then it suddenly became real before I even knew I was going to be able to do it. After a session with Collin, Rob Campanella (BJM keyboardist) gotin on the project and we all met at his studio in Los Angeles. I’d come in with a demo and lyrics in hand, record my guitar tracks live with Dan Allaire (BJM’s drummer) and then everyone would join to play on it. In L.A. we could just call people up and an hour later we’d have someone like Miranda Lee Richards putting down the voice of  angels on a song.

Who is Joel Gion as an artist and individual?

Oh, just another lazy bum that found out he could write songs that make him happy. I am also well traveled and can hold my liquor.

How long have you been playing guitar? Have you ever played guitar on a BJM track?

In 1994 I bought a red 360 Rickenbacker guitar and was “speed” learning to play it, but once I discovered I could join a great band and all I would be required to do was to drink and play tambourine, I decided to do that…for twenty years. And no, so far I’ve yet to play guitar on a BJM track. There were always 3 or 4 other guitar players in the band to do that. I did play guitar live once with Anton at a KISS tribute concert. This was before I was in the band. The whole first line up had just quit and he still had this appearance booked at the long gone music venue, Brave New World. Tim Digula (pre-Tipsy) played stand up drums, Matt Hollywood’s girlfriend, Amanda played flute and I strummed A and E on an acoustic guitar while Anton sang a Death In June inspired version of “I Wanna Rock an Roll All Night”. We walked on stage and Anton grabbed the mic and said “The only thing funnier than the fact that you all think I’m a fag is that I’m getting paid to make fun of all of you”. And then we went into the song and emptied the room in about 15 seconds. Peter Chris was in the audience and people were PISSED! There were like 200 hair metal guys there. I can’t believe we got out of there alive.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned about yourself during this process?

That I have quality artistic contributions to make to this world.

What’s the most important thing you’ve learned as a professional touring musician?

You only get one liver – so as you get older, steady as she goes.

What is your favorite thing to do on the planet?

Walk on stage in Paris.

Why have you chosen to stay in San Francisco after all of your bandmates have dispersed all over the world?

Traveling with BJM, I’ve seen all the great cities of Europe and theU.S., and I’ve yet to say to myself: “man I’d rather live here”. In the late 90’s Anton and I stayed in Portland for a few monthsand then from there we moved to L.A. for a of couple years. The whole time, all I could think was, “how am I gonna get back to San Francisco?” That was during the .com boom. I couldn’t afford it. I love San Francisco. I hope people don’t wreck it more than they already have

Do you have any advice for young musicians?

Don’t let the fuckers bring you down.



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