I recently had the pleasure of talking to Ty Segall on the phone for a lengthy interview for KWVA. I tried my hardest not to freak out and lose my composure by his sheer radness and his incredibly nice disposition. Here is a full transcription of the interview as well as the entire audio file on sound cloud as well as some links below!
Thank you so much for taking time out of your day, it means a lot.
Hey man, of course. I remember you from outside… was that Mississippi studios?
I can’t believe you remember!
Yeah man, no, that was awesome.
Well awesome, I’m going to be asking you a few questions and picking your brain on some stuff. For those who don’t know, you have a singles compilation coming out tomorrow [11/22/11] on Goner Records that sort of culls things from all over your career: a lot of stuff that was unreleased, that was a B-side, or a single all collected into one. When you’re going in and writing and recording things, are you constantly in that writing and recording process, or do you go in thinking that you want to make an album of this batch of songs, or is it that you’re always coming out with stuff so this singles collection is a good way to get it out to people?
Well, I kind of work in the sense of always trying to write stuff. Sometimes it doesn’t work, so I’m always just trying to lay something down. Usually, most of time, half of it gets thrown away, or at least half sometimes more, so I don’t usually go into the studio with a big batch of songs to do. I’m lucky enough to have a good friend who basically has a studio in his basement, so I usually just go over there when I have 3 or 4 songs, and I’ll do those, so I’ll usually do three or four songs at a time. I usually go over there once a week and try and do a song or two when I’m at home, so I’m trying to do as much as possible, but at the same time I’m not scared to just throw songs away. But the singles thing is cool because all of these records are pretty much out of print now, so it’s a cool way to get the out of print records in one place.
When you’re writing material does most of it happen when you hunker down at home or do you come up with any of these songs when you’re touring or performing live?
I mean I’ve come up with a couple songs on tours, like riffs and stuff, but almost all of it is when I’m at home on my down time for sure.
Now I know that you’re a drummer as well as a guitar player. Is most of what we hear on the albums you, or do you have a menagerie of musicians in there?
Yeah, most of it’s me. I usually play most of the instruments but I love having friends come play and stuff, so a lot of different people have played on a lot of different songs, but most of the stuff is me. Almost all of Goodbye Bread is me playing everything. Actually, yeah, I play everything on that record. Melted had a lot of friends play and stuff and I love having that and that’s how the next record is going to be with friends and stuff.
Speaking of that, can you tell us anything about the next record?
Well there’s a couple coming out. There’s one that’s like a collaborative record with Tim Presley from the White Fence, I don’t know if you know that band, but yeah it’s basically an LP of just White Fence and me doing songs, which is rad. It’s cool because half of the songs we wrote together and the other half we just brought our own songs to it. So, that’s going to come out on Drag City in May. And then there’s another six-song EP coming out on In The Red with the whole band playing, which is going to be awesome because we’ve never done a record with the whole band playing live. It’s going to be super heavy and crazy, it’s gonna be cool. And then I’m working on a another full length for Drag City, which is going to come out probably like in August of next year. I only have like four songs done for that one but I’m going to take my time, so it’s going to be cool.
Well that’s very cool, thank you very much I’m definitely excited now (BRAIN EXPLODES). Now, how do you find ways to manifest all these different avenues of your songwriting like the collaborative efforts, as well as the full band thing and the solo efforts? Are you finding ways to manifest what you want to do or was this planned out initially?
No, I mean, basically I’m down for anything, you know? Like, I think any opportunities to work with someone new or to write with someone you haven’t written music with before, or someone you respect or to do something in a different way, that’s what makes me psyched. For instance, to be able to work with Tim Presley, that’s like “Oh my god, that’s so awesome!” because you know I’m such a huge White Fence fan, and Tim and I are friends, so it’s rad to work with someone like that. And I like working with Mikal Cronin, it’s the same thing. It’s different with every person you work with so it’s really fun because it’s not boring and it’s really challenging and it can be really difficult but really great because you’re thinking outside the box.
Yeah totally, Reverse Shark Attack is one of my favorite albums of all time so I’m glad to hear that you’re collaborating with more people.
I’m sort of curious, a lot of people talked about Goodbye Bread as a shift in style and I know that in an interview you said you wanted to shake it up and do something different. Do you see Goodbye Bread as an experimental album for you or as a next step or an evolution in your sound?
I don’t know, I like to think that everything I would do after, like every next record I would do would be more experimental than the one before… In the sense of maybe going outside of comfort zones and trying new things, and in that sense Goodbye Bread is definitely that for me because I’ve never tried to write songs like that before or try to, and it might be funny for some people but for me it’s a lot more uncomfortable to be mellow and work on melody and lyrics and things like that instead of having just a bashing garage rock loud song. For me, it was kind of more experimental for me, personally. I don’t think it’s an experimental record but I think for me personally, it was a little more out there for my song writing and stuff, but it’s great because I’ve learned a lot about those kind of songs and its only a shift in direction in the sense that now I’ll be able to incorporate that kind of song writing into the general song writing I’ll do. The next record has like a couple little moments like that but it’s definitely not like that; it’s a lot harder it’s a lot heavier it’s a lot loud. It’s cool. You can tell, I think I can tell that it’s still there but it’s not.
You took the things you learned from Goodbye Bread and applying it to your overall process?
Yeah, definitely, for sure.
One of the things I think is really interesting about you that I think a lot of people talk about is that people throw around the term “Fuzz Prodigy” because you’ve released so much good material. How do you feel about where you are right now? It only feels like you’ve been releasing under the Ty Segall name for five or six years, but you already have a singles collection as well as a vast discography of music. How are you feeling about where you’re at for how young you are?
I feel really lucky, man. It’s pretty crazy to have people want to work with you just in general, you know? And I’ve always felt that way and I still feel that way and everyday when I have people wanting to do stuff with me. It’s so cool and it’s so rad because you get to do stuff. I don’t know man, I feel really really lucky. I can only just keep going. It’s good, I feel lucky you know, stoked. It’s cool.
Do you ever see yourself hanging out and playing drums again in a band where you’re in a different capacity, maybe not under the Ty Segall banner, but just having fun in the background?
Of course, I love doing that. It’s like the most fun, it’s great. I have to go tour under my name and play these shows, it’s what I do. I want to make these records and play these shows but there’s something so fun about backing someone else up or being in a collective band and being the drummer or whatever. It’s super cool. Actually, there’s a band that Mikal Cronin and my buddy Charlie, who plays guitar in my band, and I are starting. Well, we already stared and it’s called Fuzz. I play drums in that band and it’s really cool.
That’s so awesome.
Yeah dude, of course. It’s like the most fun to play drums.
Taking it back to the way people talk about you and when people say things like “fuzz prodigy” and “lo-fi king” and the stuff that people think about you. How do you feel about your perception as the blog and the music culture perceives you and do you think there’s any big misconception about you?
I don’t know, man. “Fuzz king” and “lo-fi king” or whatever that’s pretty funny, that’s awesome. I don’t know man, it’s funny I run into people that think I’m like a super drug addict. It’s pretty funny because that’s how rock and roll is, or something like that? It’s a pretty funny misconception to have on tour because a lot of people will offer you heavy drugs. I don’t know, I’m a pretty square dude when it comes to that. I don’t like heavy drugs. That’s just a funny one for me because people think I’m like a heroin addict, man! I don’t really like to pay attention to that stuff, to be honest, because it kind of makes you crazy to read all that stuff, so I try not to pay attention to that stuff. I kind of live by the rule that you try to play great shows and put out great records and if people don’t like it or have some weird perception of you, they’ll get over it eventually and you just shouldn’t pay attention to it. Just going to play the shows, man.
On the topic of shows, I do have to say you are one of the best live shows I’ve ever seen, even if it was through a window. When you’re taking the songs out live because you do record things by yourself, what’s the process of jamming them out and giving them to the band, do you feel like if people saw the Ty Segall band it would be a different entity than what’s on the album or is it the same thing as the album?
It’s like two different bands and that’s so cool to me. That’s the best part, it’s totally different, it’s just so rad. It creates this completely different thing so that’s one of the most fun parts about it for me: turning a song that I recorded into a different song live.
Has there been any material that’s really turned into a different beast live and you found the energy in it live that it didn’t have on the record?
Yeah, man, I think a lot of those songs, a lot of the energy is way crazier live. The Goodbye Bread songs sound totally different live than on that record and its rad because you can kind of like record it now and it would be its own record almost. You could get someone to record all the songs with that band and it would be a totally different record. Yeah, all those Goodbye Bread songs are pretty punk live, which is cool, a lot louder and more messed up.
One of my personal favorites off the new Singles Collection is a song called “Fuzzy Cat.” That song seemed like such a fun little jam. There’s a lot of people that are anal about what they release and only do the most pretentious songs possible are you sort of just hanging out and a song like “Fuzzy Cat” comes out as a B-Side?
Actually, that one, yeah, that was a song about my cat Balthazar. Actually, my parent’s cat: a Persian Himalayan a ridiculous, ridiculous cat. That song just kind of came about.
Also noticed there’s a really cool Oh Sees cover, what made you want to do that?
When I first met John, actually a little bit after I met John, maybe like six months or a year ago, I guess… We were going on tour, Thee Oh Sees and me back when I was a one man band live thing, and I was just like really stoked. I was like “Hey man, would you want to do a split?” and he was like “Yeah, let’s do a split” and then I was like, “What if we covered each other’s songs?” And he was like “yeah, awesome”, and it was going to be a tape and I blew it. I was totally unorganized and I was going to put the tape out, and John was like “We should just put it out on a 7 inch and I’ll do it.” And we did a cover seven-inch and he did “The Drag” and I did that song “Maria Stacks”.
One last question: what’s on the Ty Segall’s Playlist right now?
I’m listening to… Beefheart, Zappa, Groundhogs, Blue Cheer… I’ve been jamming White Fence for months. Sabbath, I don’t know, man. Let me do a browsing of the recently played: Ventures, Modern Lovers, Chrome, Nancy Sinatra, JT4 an awesome dude from Chicago, Troggs, some Stones, some Can, Woody Guthrie, Wipers, Tiny Tim, Beach Boys, Stiff Little fingers, a lot of stuff Crass, King Crimson…
Some tasty jams…
Tasty jams, yeah man, whatever floats your boat man!
Thanks so much Ty, I can’t thank you enough.
Thanks for being so awesome, and yeah, thanks for giving me a ring.
Thanks so much, I think you’ll be running through Portland December ninth playing the East End?
Well that should be very cool, best of luck at the show and for all your new projects that I am really stoked for, have a great day!
Good chatting to you man, for sure!
Ty Segall’s website: http://ty-segall.com/