Incubus’ Brandon Boyd on Music, Books and Guitars
During a recent promotional tour of Europe, Boyd sat down with Gibson.com in London to talk about his latest publication, musical endeavours and his beloved Gibson ES335…
How’s Europe been? Where have you visited?
It’s been good; I started in Zurich where I did my first art show in Europe. It was really fun – we sold out. It was super-inspiring. It was a graphic art exhibition. From there I went to Milan, then I went to Berlin, then I went to Paris and then I came here. I got here about an hour and a half ago.
Let’s talk about So The Echo, your newest book, how would you say it differs to your previous?
If I could be so bold to say so, I think it’s better than the first two books! Is that okay to say?! I still enjoy the work that I put out in the first two books. There’s definitely more of a, I guess you could say a scatterbrain effect of them – I think I was searching for something and with ‘So The Echo’, I think I found what I was looking for aesthetically and now I feel like I can truly move on into deeper realms of visual expression. It’s nice though that it landed on three. Third time’s the charm.
What were your intentions when you set out to make the book?
I had certain ideas that I wanted to execute. I knew I wanted it to be a cleaner aesthetic, I knew I wanted it to have simple kind of silly things like a table of contents and I wanted it to be bound in velum and little bookish aesthetics like that, but for the most part my plan is to not really have a plan with these things. One of the reasons that I still love doing what I do, not only with art but also with music, is that I do it because I love it. I have a really good time doing it and that’s really the main thing. Usually if I run into a corner or it stops being fun, I find my way out of that corner and I go back out into the field and keep playing. So it’s really about play and drawing for me. It’s like I’m colouring, I’m drawing. It’s fun.
How long have you been drawing for?
As long as I can remember. I should be a lot better at it by now! But I don’t care enough. Sometimes I get little inklings that I need to get better. I see paintings in this nice hotel we’re in and these are really, really talented technicians. These people have gone to school obviously and if they haven’t then they’re some kind of geniuses because they look like photographs. So occasionally I’ll see things like that and I need to try harder. But then I start to draw and I get lost in what my process is, what has become my process and I want for nothing. It feels beautiful and simple and that’s the whole idea.
You have a side project called Sons of the Sea – what can you tell us about the band?
They’re great! It’s the first band I put together. Incubus came together as a band because we were friends in school; this was a bit more of an adult curation process. It was talking to people with mutual interests. We did 8 concerts in the States a couple of months ago and it was so eye-opening, so much fun and so different than my experience with Incubus. With Incubus it is continually enjoyable and fun, but it’s at a size – it’s gotten to a place where it’s like riding a dragon or something, it’s like holding on the whole time. This one is a bit more like, we’ve found a baby dragon and we’re feeding it. Does that make sense?! I’ve some weird ideas in my head. It’s a lot of fun. I really, really hope that we have the opportunity to come over to the UK and into Europe to play concerts – I’m trying to make that happen for this fall. We’re absolutely open to invitations from promoters and from people to come and play because we’d really like to, but it’s an independent project. One of the things I’ve learned and has been eye-opening is that with no record label and with no financial support - it’s crazy expensive to go on tour! I’ve opted out of being on a major label and I’m happy for a number of reasons because of it, but there’s drawbacks to that as well.
Is Sons of Sea a solo project or collaboration?
Brendan O’Brien who produced the last three Incubus records and any number of highly influential records in my life and lots of other peoples – him and I wrote this record together, so it was very much a collaboration between him and I and we performed everything on the record together – save for the very, very last minute. I had performed all the drums on the album and then I invited an old friend in - Josh Freese - to play the drums and he made the record sound x20 better. He’s really good. He’s very sort of sought after as well. It was at an 8 and he took it to 11 when he started playing.
Are you still rocking the Gibson ES-335? How much do you play the guitar?
Yes, as a matter of fact I am. In Sons of the Sea I use it a lot to write, but I rarely play guitar on stage. I play a little bit with Incubus. The band doesn’t really need my help with guitar; I’ll play some rhythm things here and there, but I’m surrounded by virtuoso guitar players and so I’m under no illusion that I’m a good guitar player. It’s one of those things where I just like playing guitar and I can keep up here and again. I also have a sense of humour – I’m not trying to be Gary Clarke Jr. He’s phenomenal; incredibly talented at the guitar and it’s different than the shreddery that one would think of when you think of a guitar virtuoso like Steve Vai – he’s of a different school. It’s a little more old school. He’s almost has a little bit of a Hendrix thing, dare I say.
Who are your guitar heroes?
Jimi Hendrix. Straight up. Where else do you go from there?! Jimmy Page. There’s so many people that have taken guitar to such unusual inspiring places. I’ll stick with those two for right now.
Incubus – do you see the band getting back together in the near future?
We are. We just needed a little bit of downtime; we needed to not have a plan for a while. It’s like any long term relationship; eventually you need to set it free in order for it to make sense again. We’re going to have some kind of new music offering and we’re going start writing early next year. The thing that we’re uncertain of though is if the actual album format, if a full album format is still relevant enough to do. I don’t know what it’s going to look like, but it could be a series of EPs or something like that. It’s one of the things that you have to pay even the slightest bit of attention to the climate and how people are absorbing music. The album – I’m still super-trained on that and I love albums, but in mass people don’t really want albums. They want little bursts of music. So, we’ll see how we should do it.