In March, former Kyuss members Josh Homme and Scott Reeder filed a federal lawsuit against ex-bandmates John Garcia and Brant Bjork over their involvement in the band Kyuss Lives!, alleging “trademark infringement and consumer fraud.” The lawsuit came as a surprise to Garcia and Bjork, as well as the band’s longtime fans – Reeder actually played some shows last year with Kyuss Lives!, and a YouTube clip appeared to show Homme enjoying a Kyuss Lives! set in France last July.
Homme formed Kyuss with Garcia and Bjork in the late Eighties, with several bass players coming and going (Chris Cockrell, Nick Oliveri, and Reeder) and Bjork eventually being replaced by Alfredo Hernandez. In the process, the band issued several albums that are considered stoner-metal classics: Blues for the Red Sun (1992), Welcome to Sky Valley (1994), and …And the Circus Leaves Town (1995). After Kyuss split in 1995, Homme went on to form Queens of the Stone Age (which saw him reunite with Oliveri for a spell).
It was announced last year that Garcia, Oliveri, and Bjork would perform Kyuss classics under the moniker Kyuss Lives!, with guitarist Bruno Fevery taking Homme’s spot. All seemed merry in Kyuss Lives! land until the aforementioned lawsuit was filed – and to further complicate matters, Oliveri exited the group.
Garcia and Bjork have largely kept silent since the lawsuit’s filing, but they recently agreed to answer questions from Rolling Stone over email. Here is the complete exchange:
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Did the federal lawsuit filed by Josh and Scott in March come as a surprise?
John Garcia: Completely. Originally, the suit was only filed by Josh. Scott was not even involved; just recently, he has decided to join Josh in the suit.
Brant Bjork: Was I surprised? As far as Scott is concerned, yes, I was very surprised. I wasn’t surprised by Josh at all. They don’t want to mention that they trademarked the name Kyuss after I left the band, assuring that I had no rights in Kyuss’ future. They’re both accusing John and I of doing something that they actually did themselves. Their inner conflict is this: both Josh and Scott want control and money from Kyuss Lives!, but they don’t want to participate and they ultimately don’t want us to exist. The double standard is unbelievable.
Due to Nick’s [Oliveri’s] personal legal issues, Scott played multiple shows with us last year. The shows were great, the fans were stoked and we gave Scott the salary he asked for, which made him the highest-paid member of the band. We have a lot of respect for Scott as a musician and had a lot of respect for him as a person. Based on the fact that John and I jammed with Nick at Hellfest in 2010, we asked Nick to be the bass player and its quite obvious Scott is bitter about that. Scott’s stance is weak and shameful.
In the summer of 1987, I started a band with my best friend, Chris Cockrell. This band would ultimately become Kyuss. Kyuss was a name I found in a Dungeons and Dragons book called Fiend Folio. Kyuss is a big part of my life as a musician, and when someone asks me formal questions about Kyuss, or wants to discuss the band casually, I can’t help having a point of view that is naturally inherited by someone who is the original founding member.
Josh filing this lawsuit is not an issue of today … it’s an issue that began over 20 years ago. That is why the band was short-lived. Josh and I were the creative force within the band and after the completion of our second record, Blues for the Red Sun, we developed an opposing view on how the band should exist and operate. In 1992 Josh discovered publishing, which is the financial revenue stream for songwriting. After that, he wanted to write all the songs. As a drummer I couldn’t make him play my songs. I wasn’t going to compromise my heart and soul and play drums for Josh to make money in a band I started. So I left the band. I was a confused, angry and sad 19-year-old idealist who sacrificed my love of my band for what I believed in. Two-and-a-half years later, Josh would break up the band after John confronted him about the same thing; his need to control the band for personal gain.
After Kyuss broke up, Josh started a new band where he could have ultimate control. This band was Queens of the Stone Age, and with this band Josh arrived at the level of success and rewards that he was in pursuit of with Kyuss. It’s very clear that Kyuss was not meant to be his vehicle for personal gain. Queens of the Stone Age was the effort that was proper for bringing him his fame and fortune. For years, understandably, there has been a misconception that Kyuss was Josh’s band. I assume this is the result of his controlling the songwriting on the remaining records. This untruth has affected Josh’s ability to accept historical fact to the point that he truly believes he is entitled to dictate what we do with a band that we are all responsible for. The simple fact that we got the band back together and successfully brought Kyuss back to the people without him has left Josh’s ego bruised. Even though I respected the music Kyuss made without me, I swallowed the bitter pill of watching the band carry on after I left, and now Josh is getting a taste. I dealt with that taste by learning the music business and carrying on with new bands and a solo career for the last 18 years. Josh is dealing with this taste by taking John and I to federal court. I’ve known Josh since I was 10 years old. How a person who has experienced the richness of life that he has would take the time to take his past band members and friends – guys who directly contributed to his ability to go on to have his own successful career – is sad. I feel sorry for him. But no, I’m not surprised. This is a classic conflict fueled by power, control, money and greed and this lawsuit leaves no question who is part of the problem and who is part of the solution.
In their statement, Josh and Scott mentioned a meeting that took place last January where, they said, “we made every attempt to help them continue Kyuss Lives! respectfully.” Is that true, and what was discussed at that meeting?
John Garcia: To an extent. The things that were discussed were my intentions of keeping Kyuss Lives! touring, making records and conducting business the way we have been. Basically, just to continue working. What was stated on their side was that they wanted a piece of it.
They also said that their federal lawsuit “alleges trademark infringement and consumer fraud by Kyuss Lives!” What exactly does that mean?
John Garcia: Trademark infringement is a violation of exclusive rights attaching to a trademark without the authorization of the trademark owner(s). Consumer fraud is deceptive practices that result in financial or other losses for consumers in the course of seemingly legitimate business transactions. We believe we are innocent of these charges.
Brant Bjork: How would I steal a name that I myself found? Trademark infringement and consumer fraud are accusations used by Josh and Scott to justify why they do not want John and I to continue as a band without them. As for consumer fraud, we had a successful last year performing sold out shows all over the world. Kyuss fans are intelligent, conscious people. If they thought this was consumer fraud, they wouldn’t have supported it. Their accusation of consumer fraud a year after our successful tours is very insulting to us and to the fans.
Why did Nick Oliveri recently leave Kyuss Lives!, and who will be his replacement?
Brant Bjork: I honestly don’t know exactly why Nick left the band. My speculation is that he became overwhelmed with the lawsuit in combination with his personal legal issues, and it was simply too much for him to manage. Nick has mended his friendship with Josh over the years, and that, combined with his love of Queens of the Stone Age … I think he just couldn’t stand to be caught in the middle of everything. Nick did not play a major role when he was in Kyuss, but he played a very important role in Queens of the Stone Age. He is still brokenhearted over being fired from the band. His heart is still with Queens. Now, with all this mess, I believe Nick simply didn’t feel his time and energy was worth it, so he gave up.
John Garcia: Nick did not like the inner workings of Kyuss Lives!, so he left. We wish him luck. Billy Cordell, a longtime friend and fellow desert resident, will be replacing Nick. We are proud to have him.
Did you attempt to call Kyuss Lives! just Kyuss?
John Garcia: Never.
What are the band’s future plans? Is Bruno still in the band?
Brant Bjork: After Nick left, John and I sat down to talk about what we were going to do. Josh basically told John to give him what he wanted and he would then pull the lawsuit. After being bullied by Josh for 20 years, we both decided to stand up for our rights. We love music and we love our band, and we want to continue on and we feel we have the right to do so. So, we now know the lawsuit is not going away. Without Nick, I suggested to John we give Scott the benefit of the doubt – that he initially reacted the way he did because of his feelings being hurt – and ask him to now be the full-time player, which is what he wanted in the first place. John reluctantly agreed. I called Scott and we had a very nice conversation that ended with him saying he wanted to think about it and that he would call me in a day or two. Scott sent both John and I an email two days later saying “no,” that he was going to continue siding with Josh and was moving forward with the lawsuit. I was shocked. John was not. I made a statement last year that without Nick or Scott, Kyuss Lives! wouldn’t work. This statement was a show of respect directed to Nick, Scott and the fans. I now have decided that Kyuss Lives! can and will work without Nick or Scott, and this is a show of respect towards John and me. For them to be denied the opportunity to participate in the beginning would, of course, have been disrespectful. But for them to individually not want to participate and expect John and I to sit down, that’s straight up not cool.
John and I – along with Bruno – have a new bass player and we will carry on. His name is Billy Cordell and he is a very old friend from our desert home. Both John and I have experience playing in bands with Billy. He is a monster player and a super cool guy. Both John and I are sad that there is bitterness between members of Kyuss, but we are excited to go back to work and continue bringing the music to the fans. We have a new record deal and will begin recording in July.
The people ultimately decide which bands live or die. We serve Kyuss and the music. If the people don’t like our new music and stop coming to the shows, then John and I will respectfully stop. But until then, John and I feel we have the right to continue on with our favorite rock band.
John Garcia: Not sure. I can tell you what I would like to happen. It’s the exact same thing I told Josh and Scott in the meeting we had in January; to continue touring, making records and conducting business the way we have been. Yes, Bruno Fevery is still in the band and we are very lucky to have him.
Let this also be known: to say that we tried to “steal” the name Kyuss is 100% ridiculous and false. Josh Homme and Scott Reeder are suing us for financial gain. They had two ways they could have chosen to go about this. One: file the lawsuit privately and without incident, or Two: file it in conjunction and then simultaneously issue both a widespread press release and statements. Because of Josh and Scott, this is a very sad time for Kyuss fans. As I have always said, it was only out of pure respect that I decided to name the band Kyuss Lives! and not Kyuss and it was because one of the major pieces – Josh – was not there and everyone knew that.
Win or lose, we believe that the name Kyuss Lives! is worth fighting for, and regardless of the outcome of this foolish lawsuit Josh Homme and Scott Reeder have filed against us, we will continue conducting business as usual and connecting with our amazing loyal fans. It is our God-given right to play any and every Kyuss song anywhere and anyhow we see fit, no matter who wrote what, and we will continue to do so for as long as we are alive. Because of this, we have already won.