Ty Segall on Going Guitar-Less, Performing Multi-Night Residencies
Ty Segall has a pretty good reason for plotting a multi-night residency at Los Angeles’ Teragram Ballroom. “This sound silly,” the garage rocker says, “But I wanted to figure out a way to stay at home for the summer.” Segall has performed at the Teragram every Friday since July 26th, playing both his new LP First Taste and other records from his extensive catalogue in full. When the residency concludes on September 27th, he’ll head to New York for a five-night stint at Brooklyn Steel and Bowery Ballroom, followed by a trek in Europe. “[Then] I’m going to take some time off and chill,” he says.
Segall made First Taste — a scuzzy, psychedelic stomper with restless melodies — with no guitar. Instead, he experimented with a wide range of instruments, including the koto, bouzouki, mandolin, saxophone, and recorder. “I just was pretty sick of rock ‘n’ roll guitar music,” Segall admits. “And it seems like the world’s is pretty sick of it too, so seemed like a good moment to try something new.”
Walk me through the making of the record.
I finished Freedom’s Goblin and I pretty was much over playing the guitar for a while and didn’t really feel inspired to write guitar music. So I thought about how I could change it up. And I just started buying instruments and one of the first instruments I bought was the bouzouki, a Greek bouzouki. And I wrote a song on that and I felt really happy with it. And so I just decided to pursue the idea of buying instruments I didn’t really know how to play and just experimenting with that. And through that, the album kind of turned into a non-guitar album.
There’s not a single guitar?
No guitars. It was really fun and made the recording process different. For instance, there’s a lot of frequencies an electric guitar takes up and recording so all of sudden it’s this gap, this space still with different instruments. So it was a really interesting experiment and to mix the songs in a different way than I’m used to, which was really fun.
What’s the theme of the record?
Lyrically, it’s a little all over the place, but I think it’s definitely different. More dream-themed, surreal. There’s a lot of lyrics about family and memory and the past….things like that. I wouldn’t say it’s nostalgic, though. Definitely coming from a different place than other records. Probably more inward.
How long did it take to record?
My process is: I have a home studio and I always record demos there. Sometimes the demos become the versions of the song, and that’s the case for four or five of the songs on the album. So I’d started recording those songs maybe in January. It took around eight or nine months total with demoing and then going to the studio and writing.
You have a massive body of work behind you. Do you think you’ll always work at this pace?
[laughs] No, I don’t think so. Who knows.
How did you decide to play these multi-night residencies?
We were throwing around ideas. One of the more crazy ones was, “What if we played a show a week for the whole summer in L.A.?” And then we started actually talking about it and taking it a little more seriously. We basically just talked to Teragram [Ballroom] and they thought it was a great idea. I still think it’s very risky.
Why is it risky?
Playing 10 shows in one place. It’s just a lot for one place.
There’s only five shows in Brooklyn.
Yeah, it’s a different record each time. But the Brooklyn one’s also twice as big, the venue. So it’s almost the same thing.
How did you choose which albums you’d play straight through?
Half thinking about what I think my fans would want and half what I wanted to do. About 80% of Manipulator songs have never been played live, so I felt like it was time to do that record. And that’s I think probably my most popular record, so I was like “OK. I think I’ll do that for those fans.” And then Emotional Mugger for me, because that’s probably my favorite record of mine besides First Taste. And then Goodbye Bread because that’s probably my second favorite one. And then same thing with Melted. I was like, “Well it seems like people really like Melted, so I’ll try that.”
What are you going to do after you come back from Europe?
I’m rebuilding my home studio so we are trying to get lpermits and all that stuff. I’m actually going to build a building, so it’s going to be pretty fun and definitely experimental and going to be a long process. So that’s my project for the next six months. And it’s actually cool because I literally, physically can’t make any music right now. So it’s pretty nice.
Do you think you’ll continue making records with no guitars?
I feel like I want to continue down that road. I’m not saying I’m not going to use guitars any more, but it’s really fun to think of music in different ways, different terms. I just want it to be a different experience.
What music shaped the album?
I’ve been really into that African band, Witch. I’ve been really into Fela Kuti. I’ve been really into that English soul band, Cymande. I’ve been really into Aphrodite’s Child, this Greek band. I’ve been going through all the old Wu Tang solo albums…fantastic as always. And getting back into the Beatles again. I had a really heavy Let It Be moment about a month ago. That’s all I was listening to.
The two tracks on the record — titled “When I Met My Parents Pt. 1” and “When I Met My Parents Pt. 3.” — what are they about?
That’s more of a risqué title. People are always changing and reintroducing themselves to the world or have the opportunity to. So I think that people don’t know it, but they’re constantly re-meeting people, even people in their lives like their parents or their siblings or their family. Because people change, and I think it’s a good thing. So it’s an interesting concept. You’re probably going to meet 10 versions of your parents out of your life. That’s the cool thing. That’s a good thing.