Not Fade Away

The Rise and Fall and Rise (Again) of OCs Anton Newcombe


Anton Newcombe talks with me for three hours, and not once does he act insane. He exhibits a soft-spoken, inquisitive personality and asks me as many questions as I ask him. We discuss everything from rumors of an Orange County terrorist cell and the war in Iraq to conspiracy talk show host Art Bell and avant-garde Dutch artists. In one sentence, he leaps from an analysis of the War on Terror to a discussion of a scene in Conan the Barbarian when the high priest of a snake cult inspires his adherents to jump to their deaths by snapping his finger.

"Right now our government is trying to rile up anyone and take them out," he says. "The people who really aren't down with us are Wahabbis in Pakistan, like in Conan, where the guy claps his hands and they jump off the mountain one by one. We cannot win. They could do this all day."

Photo by Jack Gould
Photo by Jack Gould
Newcombe (right with pigeon foot earring) and Nick Sjobeck in OC, early 1980s. Photo courtesy of Michael Sjobeck
Newcombe (right with pigeon foot earring) and Nick Sjobeck in OC, early 1980s. Photo courtesy of Michael Sjobeck

Halfway through our conversation, Newcombe claims that most of the antics displayed in the movie DiG! were either genuine personality conflicts within his band or stunts aimed at garnering publicity. He says he was "just joking around" when he claimed that the ghost of Brian Jones visited him in the studio and told him that he was murdered by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards. "It was a funny way I could say these people killed this person and ripped off his money and his band and his girlfriend," he says. "I'm not really saying it, but saying it was said to me, because it is libel."

Newcombe says he feels betrayed by the way director Ondi Timoner portrayed him in DiG! He watched an early version of the film, and hasn't spoken to her since. "Supposedly they had 14,998 hours of footage, but all they used were scenes of arguments and fights," he says. "I guess some people bought it. It was like watching a train wreck. But I never ever said, 'That show at the Viper—wow that was really fucked up last night could you delete that?' Not once. It's all bullshit. We played so many more shows than anybody knows. We played a billion fucking shows and did really fucking well."

Newcombe adds that he's been clean for seven years and has rekindled his friendship with most of the original lineup of Brian Jonestown Massacre. He mentions that guitarist Jeff Davies has rejoined the band and Joel Gion and Matt Hollywood have recently appeared with him onstage for performances. Newcombe also says he's still friends with the Dandy Warhols' Courtney Taylor. "We've been friends for a long time," he says. He says that when he sent the Warhols shotgun shells that it was a joke he cleared with the band's publicity agent beforehand. "In the movie, they act all shocked about that, 'Anton wants to kill us!'" he says. "That's bullshit. I played on their next album—my name's on it. So that's just complete bullshit."

When I ask whether all the attention on his band from Timoner's film has led to any new opportunities, Newcombe looks at me like I'm nuts.

"I think people expect I'd be very difficult to work with, and it wouldn't be worth their trouble," he says. "It's good. I'm not really into all that junk. It's not my thing. . . . When I grew up, I knew exactly what I wanted to do. I had to create my own scene, my own environment. A lot of people can't say what they want in life, and I'm the exact opposite of that. I'll make another record if I want to make another record. And if people want to check it out, okay.


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