Q&A: Ty Segall (NXNE 2011)

Bodies flying, girls dancing and fuzzed-out guitars ripping. If you have never experienced a TY SEGALL show, you really haven’t lived. The 23-year-old San Francisco garage rocker has been making waves for almost five years now, slipping under the mainstream and being embraced by the underground. In between gigs in Toronto, we got the chance to sit down with the songwriter touching on subjects such as the work of Jon Dwyer and Neil Young and why fame isn’t really cool at all.

Would you call yourself a prodigy?

No. Not at all (laughs). I’m just a person trying to make music and put out records. A prodigy to me is a classical pianist who can play anything and everything, no matter what the style of music is, and not struggle with writing music. That’s not me.
When people read labels like that coming from SPIN and other publications, their expectations are automatically high. Does that affect you at all?

The expectations from others are always going to be high. But I don’t focus on that, I do the opposite. My goal is to make records, ones that stand out. Like instead of being famous, I want to make records people look back on in ten years and go “Woah, what a cool record”. That’s what I am for.
Why would you rather not be a famous musician?

Fame and all that stuff, it isn’t cool. To me, fame sounds horrible. There’s no chance to have a normal life; you can’t do ordinary things you would normally do everyday. You would be lucky to make music and put records out, you know? All of your time would be spent fighting with popularity and trying to maintain it and you wouldn’t be able to make the music you want to. That’s why fame isn’t really a major goal for me.

There was so much aggression in my music before. There’s really only so much aggression you can put into your music before it becomes too much..
For me, I just wanted to chill out..”

Do you feel provoked to create music whenever you can because of the fact that you’re still young?

No, not really. I make music when it comes to me and most of the time, that’s a lot. Really, music just comes to a musician when it does, it happens naturally. A lot of people feel this way, but my music isn’t forced, nothing I do is really (laughs). It just comes to me and I work with it.
Is that why you’ve released five solo albums to date and also been involved with five different groups over the years?

Yeah. When I work on songs, I put them out as soon as I’m done with them. I put a lot of focus into making the best record possible every time I look to record songs. But I don’t consider myself prolific. I do release an album almost every year, but that’s just the way I work. You write songs, go to record an album and while you’re working on that, you’re writing more. Like when you spend so much time on one project, you have to find time to kill; what else am I going to do (laughs). I don’t want to wait months and months just to write.
Do you think musicians write their best material when they’re young?

No. It all depends on a situation a musician is involved in. Situations, and life in general, affects you and how you write which is why I don’t think that’s true. Like with John Dwyer (Thee Oh Sees, Coachwhips), people thought he wrote great music when he first started out but his best stuff didn’t come until later on. I could see that happening with me.
Bringing the LP Goodbye Bread into play, some people are kind stunned by it’s more laid-back feel. What made you go that particular route?

There was so much aggression in my music before. There’s really only so much aggression you can put into your music before it becomes too much. This time around, I just wanted a different feel, a different vibe. For me, I just wanted to chill out; that’s why the songs on the new record are slower and more mellow.

Were there any LPs that really connected with you, affecting the sound of the disc and how you recorded it?

Oh man, too many to name! I found myself listening to a lot of psychedelic music and a lot of classic stuff. When I say classics, I mean artists like John Cale, Neil Young, musicians like that. Nothing specifically affected the sound of the record though. It more or less helped me work on the sound and tune it and make the material better, you know? It slowly helped me make the best record I could.
You have noted before you have plans to make a “noise rock record”, and since you mentioned Neil Young who released the album Le Noise last year, have you explored that idea more?

I actually haven’t heard that record by Neil yet. Is it any good? I’ll have to check that out for sure. The noise rock album is an idea I hope to do and make happen, but I can’t really plan it out. It’ll take place when I can get some time to focus on making that record because you have to put certain emotions into that type of music. We’ll definitely see though (laughs).
Playing with different styles and experimenting, what kind of records can listeners expect and not expect from you in the future?

I don’t really know. It’s stuff I don’t think about because what I want to do just sort of comes to me. There is some stuff; I want to do a psychedelic record at some point soon, experiment a bit more and maybe get into some weird things people wouldn’t expect from me at all. As of now, no clue really (laughs). People will just have to take me as I am.

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