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FILTER 49: Getting To Know: Ty Segall

By Zachary Sniderman on November 20, 2012


FILTER 49: Getting To Know: Ty Segall

Ty Segall comes from a place where his friends have bloody faces, love songs are strange, the forces of dark and light battle inside your head and guitars sound like a T. rex tearing apart a car. “The idea was writing a pop song and then destroying it.” Segall is calling me back from San Francisco, after scarfing down a sandwich from Yellow Submarine (cheese combo with extra hot sauce). His new album, Twins, is his heaviest yet, thanks to a newly rekindled love for distortion and an effects pedal aptly called “Fuzz War.”

This is not his first rodeo. Since starting out in the mid 2000s, Segall has released or contributed to more than 35 albums with a variety of California-based punk and rock bands (Epsilons, Party Fowl, The Traditional Fools, The Perverts). Segall plays pretty much every rock instrument under the sun, allowing him to bounce between gigs even when not fronting. He has eight albums under his own name (and voice), and—despite hewing closely to the punk ethos—each has taken on new styles. There have been garage records and, recently, a folkier, vocals-focused album (2011’s Goodbye Bread). Twins is meant to rip the doors off and go as gnarly as possible. Segall also has two other albums out this year, one with Tim Presley’s White Fence (Hair), and one with his own house band (Slaughterhouse). “I haven’t done an album since Goodbye Bread, and that was a year ago,” Segall says, with a touch of disbelief. “Waiting a year is hard for me. I mean, it’s a year in your life.”

Image courtesy of Ty Segall

Twins sounds like an angrier, darker version of a Beatles album. It’s meant to kick your ass, not help you get chicks. Most songs on the album come in under three minutes with titles like “Love Fuzz,” “Thank God for Sinners” and “There Is No Tomorrow.” Yeah, it’s a little dark. Hell, even the titular refrain of “Would You Be My Love” sounds less like a question and more like a sinister guarantee.

And yet, despite his enormous talent, restless mind and bloody-knuckle aesthetic, Segall has got to be one of the nicest musicians on the planet. His friends have bloody faces, but only because they wrecked into a reef while surfing. Twins is about the struggles we all face inside our own heads, but that’s got a positive spin, too: “With every album I do, it’s pretty heavily about mental problems. It’s not the age-old issue for nothing,” Segall says. “For me, it’s more like our brains are fucked up and we can get through it. I don’t know, I’m still a relatively young man, so maybe I’ll figure it out.” Segall’s present day off will probably involve normal things like going up to Mount Olympus and maybe washing his clothes (“I really enjoy doing laundry”).

Segall is also surprisingly unplugged from technology (not amps), preferring to stay away from computers. The musician’s tendency to dive into a thousand different musical obsessions also caused him to fixate on the musical blogosphere. When his computer was stolen about three years ago, he took it as a sign and went technology-free, cold turkey. “If you’re constantly assessing what people say about you, then you’ll go crazy. I’ve done that in the past… You should ask a girl out on a date instead, or take your buddy out for a taco, or go to the beach.”

This nice-guy act drops away the second Segall picks up an axe. His shows are bar-brawl-tough, sweaty, joyous experiences. Segall himself is attractive and solid, with a distinct California drawl and a look that alternates between scraggly surfer and clean-cut LA hipster. His live shows are where he thrives and Twins is built to move. “One of the ideas behind the record was to make songs that were sort of catered to playing live.” Segall recorded the album in the studios formerly used by Creedence Clearwater Revival and played all the instruments himself, in just two takes. Which is odd, because it usually doesn’t take so long. “We almost always use the first take, but this time we recorded it and then scrapped it and recorded it again. The first take, you’re just experimenting.” In explaining this, Segall hums, sings and beatboxes (as he does throughout the interview). Music clearly fills his brain. Albums like Twins act like pressure-release gauges, letting Segall poke, prod and clear his head for the next batch of albums.

Even still, Segall’s brain is refilling at lightning speed; like a Harley waiting at a red, it buzzes with possible projects, guttural and gut-punching to go. Who would be his dream collaboration? “I never thought of that before,” Segall says, immediately going free-associative. “Blue Cheer, Hendrix or something? It would be so cool to play Harvest songs with The Stray Gators. I would have liked to start a punk band with Neil Young when he got punk in there. I would have been like, ‘Neil, what’s up, dude?’ Make a record with The Screamers. James Brown. Dude, James Brown, that’s it. James fucking Brown for sure. For sure.” What would Segall play? “I don’t know, whatever he would want to do. We would just jam. Do it up. Dude. I want to do everything. So one day, I’d like to do it all.” F