all words: Ryma Chikhoune, all photos: Alyssa Lesser
I know nothing about beer. And when I was asked to go “beer tasting” with Ty Segall, in my mind it involved an imaginary beer expert, casually walking us through the drafts, educating us on the grand history and process of beer making. But that didn’t happen. So, basically, I put 12 different kinds of beers in Ty’s face, and between questions, he had a taste and told us what he thought. Since I clearly lack any knowledge or natural skill in beer description/terminology, I’ll leave you with Ty’s top three: the Weihenstephan Wheat Beer, followed by the Captain Lawrence Liquid Gold and the Old Speckled Hen. (“I’m going to say no thank you to the Kelso Pilsner,” he says after a sip.)
I first found out about Ty Segall when I heard “Cents” – I was really into it. The track came from Ty’s sophomore endeavor Lemons, released in 2009. Then came Melted, followed by last year’s Goodbye Bread. 2012 alone has seen the release of three new LPs (that you kind of have to listen to), Hair, a collaboration with Tim Presley of White Fence, a recorded album with his touring band, Slaughterhouse, and Ty’s own record – Drag City’s Twins, out today.
Are you a beer guy?
I know a little about beer, but I’m definite not a…beer dude, you know?
So, you grew up in Laguna Beach – what was that like?
It was good. It’s a normal, small town…suburban style.
What did your parents listen to around the house?
My mom was actually super into hair metal, which is pretty rad, like Thin Lizzy. My dad was really into oldies like the Beatles, oldies radio…all the 50s Doo-wop and 60s hits, all up into the sort of psychedelic stuff. It was a weird bend of Guns and Roses and Louis Louis.
What were you listening to in school?
I was getting into skateboarding and surf stuff in middle school, so I started listening to Dick Dale. I started off on Led Zeppelin, Hendrix, Cream, and Black Sabbath when I was 12. I was a super psyched weird little 12-year-old kid with a hood on and headphones everywhere…out to eat with their parents with headphones – that kind of kid.
You were that kid?
I would take my headphone off and be like, “I’ll have the California roll bleeeehhhhh” and put it back on, all pissed off. That was me.
Eventually, I got into Black Flag and the Germs and all that punk stuff, The Dead Boys, Dead Kennedys, the Buzzcocks. And then I got into the Contortions and No Wave…DNA, this band called The Dance. I got the New York Noise comp when I was 14 or 15, and I was super down with that. And right around that time, there was that resurgence of dance punk…Gang of Four, The Pop Group and The Rapture, back when The Rapture was a noisy dance punk band…that record Echoes came out, and I was super into that. I got into garage music later, which is funny, because it was all backwards…I found The Kinks, and The Sonics, The Mummies when I was 16 or 17, super late in the game. And then I got into psych music…
In San Francisco?
Yeah, in college [University of San Francisco]. And then I got into noise rock…And now I just listen to all that stuff. And I probably gave you a way too detailed explanation.
No, it’s cool. What made you decide to pick up a guitar?
Black Flag, just “Nervous Breakdown”. I was like, I wanna play that song. I played drums first – I was always the drummer.
Why San Francisco?
San Francisco is a special place to kids in Southern California, kids everywhere. For me, I could have gone to LA and have been an hour away from my family. It would maybe have been a slower process of finding myself, I guess. San Francisco is 7 hours away in a car. It’s a bit too far away to just flip out and go home to mom and dad. I had to just stick it out and really just figure things out for myself. That was the main reason I wanted to go. And also, I was a big fan of the music that’s happened there. And it just seemed like a different kind of city than LA. And New York was too scary for me. I was like, there’s no way…But musically, I’ve always appreciated the music that’s come out of there.
What was your first band after the move?
The Traditional Fools.
So, what initiated you going solo?
It was an accident. I booked a show for The Traditional Fools, and I forgot to ask them, and they couldn’t do it. So, I was in a pickle, and I had to go play by myself. I couldn’t play Traditional Fools songs – I had a bunch a songs that I had written, so I just did those. And I had never done the one man band thing. It’s funny. I never meant to play. It was never a goal of mine to play those songs live. That’s why I would have never called a band my name. It just kind of happened.
And lately, it’s the Ty Segall Band.
Yeah. Emily’s always been the drummer. Michael was the original bass player and then he left. He could only play one tour, cause he was living in Southern California. Then another bass player, Tim, who’s now in the Sic Alps. And then my girlfriend played bass for a while, and now she works in a school. And Charlie’s always been the second guitar player. We used to just be a three piece. So for a year and a half it’s been the same.
You’re known for releasing a lot of music – you have three records out this year. The first being Hair with White Fence. How did that collaboration happen?
I met Tim maybe two years ago at this party in LA…huge White Fence fan. My friend Eric put out the first White Fence record. Just a thousand copies, and they were floating around San Francisco, LA, NY. I was just like, who is this dude. I was really good friends with his brother. I went down and saw their second show ever at this house party. I went up to him and was like, “I know your brother “– I was a little drunk – “dude you were great man, I’m Ty.” And he was like, “Oh I know your music man.”
We got to know each other and played some shows. A year goes by, I call up Tim – and we were always talking about doing a split single, and I was like, “I talked to Drag City, they said they’d do that split single, so start working on some songs. 2 songs each, a 7 inch.” And then a couple weeks later, I’m like “dude let’s make a 12 inch, 4 songs each.” Two weeks later, “I’ve got an idea – what if it’s a collab record.”
I think the songs we wrote together are my favorite on that record. I’m stoked, we’re going to do some more…we’re going to do another record.
Oh cool…So, then, when did Slaughterhouse come about?
All the records, Twins, Slaughterhouse, and The White Fence record, were all going on at the same time.
That’s so interesting, because they’re all so different. I mean, it’s still you.
It was all an accident kind of. I was working on Twins when we were talking about doing the split 7, so it kind of just turned into an LP. I was also working on Twins when we were doing the Slaughterhouse record, and that was just supposed to be an EP – it was just supposed to be a 6 song, 12 inch. It kind of accidentally turned into LPs. With Slaughterhouse, I just wanted to record the band. I just woke up one morning, and I was like, dude the band is too good to not do a record. I was super psyched on everybody in the band. It would be a shame if we didn’t do it. Just personally, selfishly, I just want to have it, for me.
What was it like collaborating with them?
It was great. Collaborating is the best. It’s cool because before that I was feeling not as fulfilled as I would like to. What’s great about doing a solo record is you get to control every single little aspect of every piece of sound that you ever hear on it. You get to call all the shots and do everything. It’s very specific and exactly what you want it to be, it’s great. But in the other sense, collaborating with someone, that person comes up with ideas and sounds – thing that you would never think of doing. And always creates a different sounding, interesting ending piece. So both the White Fence record and Slaughterhouse were super satisfying in that sense. The Slaughterhouse record turned out to be way harder, louder, crazier record. And there’s a lot of stuff on there that I wouldn’t have done on my own. It was 100 percent collaborative.
You wrote Twins in between?
I worked on that record for six months. I wrote a bunch of songs and just cut it down. I was just trying to take my time with it. And it was actually cool taking a little break here and there to work on other projects, and then you refresh your mind and keep working on the same extended project.
Who’s the girl in “The Hill”?
That’s Brigid Dawson – she’s in Thee Oh Sees. She’s awesome.
Who’s doing the bong hit at the end?
That was me. It was a fake bong.
Where did the title Twins come from?
Well I realized that most of the songs I was writing were kind of about split personality kind of stuff. Or battling an unstable part of your mind. Everyone has their other side of their person, where they can get dark or psychotic or whatever. And I definitely have that to my personality. Even if that side is just writing a crazy song.
Honestly all my songs are kind of about that stuff. “Girlfriends” is a positive song, but it’s also psychotic. There’s some psycho stuff. It’s mostly psycho music – but I get it out, so I’m not a psychotic in real life. Therapy with a guitar.
What’s next for you? You’re going to keep touring…
We have two more tours. We’ve got one more tour in Europe and another U.S. tour. And then I’m off for at least 6 months from touring.
What will you do?
I don’t know. Cause I haven’t had much for the last couple of years. I’m hopefully going to surf and hang out with my girlfriend and try to just get normal a little bit…sounds good. Maybe, you know, not think about music for a month or two. Get my perspective back.
See Ty Segall @ Black Cat on Thu. Jan. 31 (w/ Ex Cult) and/or in New York @ Webster Hall on Fri. Feb. 1