Insanely Close and Personal With the Brian Jonestown Massacre
I met Katy Newcombe when we were both fifteen. Now I see her presence lurking within magazine features, disguised as the words “Anton’s teenage Welsh bride.”
Asia Argento and Anton.
I met Katy Newcombe when we were both fifteen. We grew up in the same tiny, dead-end town in South Wales and broke into outdoor swimming pools for fun, both trying our hardest to look the most like Evan Rachel Wood in Thirteen. We shared cigarettes, some extremely questionable ex-boyfriends and a love of Duran Duran. Oh, and she is married to Anton Newcombe, the singer of Brian Jonestown Massacre. NBD.
It is a relentless headfuck to see her presence lurking within written features about Brian Jonestown Massacre disguised as the words “Anton’s teenage Welsh bride,” “his wife Kate” or something equally dismissive. And it comes close to incomprehensible to think that the girl who spent entire summers necking Vodkat in my parent’s garden currently lives in Berlin with the most memorable (for all the wrong reasons) person in Dig! and their son, Wolfgang, who is approximately 400% cuter than any other child on earth.
Katy has been on the road with Brian Jonestown Massacre since 2008, seeing them through countless world tours and three studio albums. Forever laden with a myriad of film, digital or instant cameras, she has been scrupulously documenting everything as she goes along—an ideal outlet and infinitely more impressive substitute for the photography degree she bailed on to go and live every teenager’s dream and every parent’s nightmare. Over time, she has built up hundreds of unseen shots which, as well as providing a unique portal into the lives of Brian Jonestown Massacre beyond the media-gaze, reveal the story of a girl for whom enough was never enough.
Noisey: Hiya! How has your day been? What were you doing until I interrupted you just now?
Katy: Hello, it's been a good day. I've just put Wolfgang to bed and am making tea.
Do you remember the first time you ever listened to Brian Jonestown Massacre? Was it like at the beginning of Almost Famous when that kid with the bowl cut sticks on Tommy with a burning candle?
Ha! I honestly can't remember the first time I listened to them, but I'm thinking it probably had something to do with me being a big Dandy Warhols fan and reading something about the Dandys and BJM, so I thought I would check them out.
Have you ever met the Dandy Warhols?
Yes, many times. First time was at their studio, the Odditorium, in Portland a few years back. They have always been great friends with the BJM, despite what is portrayed otherwise. When Wolfgang was born, they sent us a little Dandys onesie and t-shirt for him, which was very sweet.
Dig! definitely solidified a particular reputation for Brian Jonestown Massacre. I think there are all these assumptions that entire band forever operates on mind-bending drugs. What are tours generally like with them these days?
Fun. Less fighting, more just hanging out and having a great time. The band lives all over the world, so when everyone comes together it's genuinely nice to catch up and see one another. Anton doesn't drink or do drugs anymore, so that has changed the band dynamic hugely, for the better of course. The last tour I went on I was pregnant so it was quite laidback as far as I can remember. I'm pretty sure I'm still the champion of back alley bridge, winning against Colin, Rob and Travis in a game that went on for about a week.
It’s probably strange for people to picture a band like that doing something normal like playing cards or flying kites. What’s going on in that picture, by the way?
That was taken backstage at Glastonbury festival in 2008. I think Anton bought the kites, he used to buy toys at every petrol station or services on tour. There is a lot off time to kill at festivals.
You're both living in Berlin now. What drew you there?
We were in New York, and Anton had been talking about moving to Europe for a long time. On a press tour, we met up with a friend of Anton's who lived in Berlin, and they started talking about living together so we just moved over. We lived with him for the first year or so, which was a lot of fun. I used to DJ at his club 8MM, but I do it a lot less now, since having the baby.
What does a typical DJ Katy set typically consist of?
Usually David Bowie, Hole, Ariel Pink's Haunted Graffiti, My Bloody Valentine, Serge Gainsbourg, Adam and the Ants, and of course Duran Duran.
What’s the most trouble any of you has ever got into on tour?
Well, the most ridiculous was 2008 in London and Anton got arrested for stabbing Frankie (he did not stab Frankie). That was a messy night, but it was made out to be much worse than what it actually was. [UK tabloid] The Sun even reported that Frankie was "stabbed to death." I'd say that was quite a bit of trouble.
Do you think that’s happened a lot with the band; things being made out to be much worse than they were? Or was it generally pretty raucous?
Definitely a bit of both, but I think people want to hear about the crazy, because those stories are always more interesting, right?
You’ve sung on stage with them a few times. What was that like? Were you scared? Drunk? Both?
I think I was too drunk to be scared, which is why I sounded so god-awful half the time. That was the first tour and I was young, so I wasn't thinking too much about it. The first time was in Copenhagen and I kind of got ushered onto stage by Anton so I just went with it.
When we were teenagers I don’t think I saw you without a Polaroid camera in hand even once. Do you still carry one everywhere? What is it about Polaroids you love so much?
These days I'm more likely to use the Instax Fujifilm because the film is so much cheaper, but my Polaroid 600 is still my favorite camera. I love everything; the colors, waiting for it develop, just the entire aesthetic. I have so many, I'm always finding them around the house. If I could, I would shoot with Polaroid film all the time, but I just wish the film wasn't so expensive.
Of all the shots you've taken of BJM, do you have a favorite?
Hmm… so many favorites, but one of them is definitely the photo of Frankie holding the koala bear while we were in Brisbane in 2010.
That picture is ridiculous.
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