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Kyuss Lives is reunited and savoring the experience

BY Erin Podolsky

Detroit Free Press special writer

Of all of the bands of the past 25 years that never made it big despite building big legends, stoner-rock group Kyuss was probably not the likeliest candidate for a resurrection. But for fans of hard rock in general and Queens of the Stone Age in particular, the revival of Kyuss as Kyuss Lives! is wonderful news.

Made up of original members John Garcia (vocals), Nick Oliveri (bass) and Brant Bjork (drums) along with newcomer Bruno Fevery, Kyuss Lives! started out as a way for Garcia to goose his own struggling career but turned into something more. Guitarist Josh Homme, who led Queens with Oliveri after Kyuss broke up in 1995, said time and again that he would never get Kyuss back together and stayed true to his word.

"I was out promoting my solo record, 'Garcia vs Garcia,' and letting people know that I'm giving my day job a break. I'm not done singing," says Garcia, who was running a veterinary clinic with his wife. "What better way to let people know that I'm still around than by playing and celebrating some back catalog stuff, which is Kyuss. We went on the road under the moniker Garcia Plays Kyuss and ran into Brant on the road in Holland and rekindled our relationship, and ran into Nick and rekindled our relationship. It only made sense for all of us to get up on the stage together and do songs like 'Green Machine' or 'Gardenia' or 'Freedom Run.' "

Those songs and others make up a robust catalog from the five years in which Kyuss was actively recording full-length albums. The group started out in the late 1980s, making its rep with wild shows in the California desert and staking out unique sonic territory with a sludgy, organ-rattling style that was unexpectedly accessible. Although Kyuss' tenure was brief, the group spawned numerous progeny, including Queens of the Stone Age and Fu Manchu.

After reconnecting with the old band mates, Garcia quickly realized that maybe Kyuss wasn't over and done with just yet, despite the intervening years. He reached out to Bjork and Oliveri and asked them to do another 22 shows while making it clear that his goal was to promote his record.

"Well, after they both agreed, Bruno was obviously in and we went on the road and started rehearsing, and next thing you know, everybody's projects were put on the back burner, including mine," he says. "We decided to get back together and do another record and to tour extensively."

The planned 22 shows became more than 80 throughout 2011 -- including the Saturday stop at the Crofoot Ballroom. Now the band is raring to get back in the studio in 2012.

"I don't think that we're going to do a polka record. I think it's definitely going to be a rock record for sure," Garcia jokes. "Obviously we're all older now and we're all in much different places in our lives right now. But we welcome that -- we're not going to sit down and try to make a Kyuss record. It's going to come naturally or it's not going to come at all."

He says he's confident about the material thus far.

"Nobody ever sets out to make a record that sucks and that's definitely not our aim. We're going to make a rock record, and it's going to be melodic and heavy and we're looking forward to it. I think that the key word is we're all just kind of curious. But we're working on it and we're excited about it."

For the moment, Kyuss Lives! shows are packed with the crushing, fuzzy riffs, brutal percussion and Garcia's signature vocals that pushed them through four albums between 1990 and 1995. But Garcia acknowledges that the passage of time hasn't gone unnoticed, and he doesn't just mean the usual aches and pains that plague rockers in their 40s.

"It definitely feels different. I keep on going back to the word 'appreciative.' I don't think that for me as the singer of the group, I don't think that I really grasped onto what we had. I was just a really young, stupid young punk who didn't give a fat rat's ass about anything with the exception of partying and being in a rock band," Garcia says. "I want to go back and slap that kid around and say, 'Hey wise up.' "

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My first encounter with Kyuss was seeing them at Raji's in 1990. Unbelievably, there's a clip on YouTube from the show. Nick's head-banging is awesome...and check out THAT HAIR!

Alas, I did not go to the recent Kyuss Lives concert at the Wiltern...as often happens, conflicting events the same night.

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