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Interview: Ty Segall Discusses The Rolling Stones and Darren Aronofsky

Potentially, the most metal thing Ty Segall has ever done was shred on the morning news in Chicago in 2012 (“CHICAGOOO!!!!!”). It was clearly the crack-ass of dawn when disgruntled commuters were just getting out of bed to hear a likely horrible weather report before driving to work. All parts of the broadcast were going normally–traffic, weather, forced banter–and then, for some reason, the then San Francisco-based garage rocker exploded, turning the composed news anchors into manic teens and probably causing many at home to turn off their TVs. Not me, though. I was up early cramming for on of my last midterms of college. Thank god: this still ranks as one of the top-3 luckiest things I have ever been able to witness on live TV.

This was the first time I ever saw a video of Segall performing live, and that is when I decided he was going to be an artist whose work I was going to listen to in its entirety. This decision, as it turns out, has been far more daunting than I realized at first–in addition to coming out with three albums the year of that performance, he has 20-plus releases as a solo artist and collaborator since 2007.

That is why it is so rewarding to listen to his most recent album, Manipulator. After writing his most personal record, SleeperSegall took roughly a year to return to garage rock and further expand the sounds that have influenced him most. We caught up with Segall to discuss the new album, the Rolling Stones, and Darren Aranofsky. Check out our conversation below.

Nerdist: For your last album, Sleeper, you mentioned that your dreams played a big role in how you wrote your music. Was the same thing true for Manipulator?

Ty Segall: Writing Sleeper was a whole different experience. It wasn’t those kinds of dreams happening. It’s weird, because I’ll either not remember my dreams at all, or I’ll remember them extremely vividly. So this was a case where lately I haven’t been remembering my dreams at all, actually, which is interesting. There have been a couple of dreams lately, but I can’t remember them. They’re hard to remember. I need to start writing it down.


N: You generally write music first before lyrics. I was wondering if there were any songs on Manipulator where lyrics came first instead?

TS:  I think just the idea of a couple of songs came first, like Manipulator – that came first. The rest of the time, honestly, it’s always music first, and then I’ll mumble when I’m writing, I’ll mumble the words along with it, and record that as a little demo, then actually go back and listen and decipher something out of the mumbling. That’s kind of how I do it. When I sit down and try to write lyrics first–I’ve definitely done that in the past–but most of the time, they come off as a put-on, or less genuine than you would think. I’m the kind of guy that if I over think a sentiment, or I over think a statement, it’s weird. It has to be more of a flowing thing, for sure, for me, so doing it that way is really natural.

N: It seems like you had the luxury of time for this album. I was wondering if you still had an instinctive sense of urgency since that is how you usually operate?

TS: I definitely had to control my urges during the recording, because there were times when I was like, “Why the f-ck are we taking a day to lay down the bass?” Getting the bass to sound good? This is insane! But it was worth it; it was great. So it was a lesson in control and patience. But it was good.

It is funny that everybody brings up the prolific thing. To me, it’s like, really? I don’t think it’s that crazy. I mean, look at the Rolling Stones. Look at all these bands, like the old bands. Rolling Stones put out – I should look it up right now. From ’65 to ’72, I think they did, like, 12 records or something. [pause to look up info] From ’64 to ’72, they did 13 records.

N: What albums you were listening to while making Manipulator?

TS: I was really heavily into Funkadelic – I’m still heavy into Funkadelic. Maggot Brain and Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow. And the first record – those first three records are so insanely great. So good! A lot of weird psych, rock, John Fahey’s in there, and a lot of metal, actually, but I don’t think that influenced the record at all. I’ve just been super into heavy metal for, like, the past year. I really like proto-metal, so stuff like Pentagram is really great, and that’s more in the vein of Sabbath and stuff like that. I like thrash metal and black metal, stuff like that. A band called Sodom–they rule. They’re ridiculous and super-fast

N: Can you tell me a little about the title Manipulator, and if there was any explicit reference to anything?

TS: There is no reference to anyone specifically, but, you know, maybe Manipulator is just about the character, Manipulator, of that song, and the world in which all the characters existed. It’s supposed to be like a different place with these kinds of different characters – kind of outlandish types of characters, but they are all personalities and people that you meet in various worlds. In my experience of the world of the media, music, film, stuff like that – that’s kind of my reference point. Like, the rock and roll world, but it can be taken in any way in any world, so that was kind of the idea.

All the songs are kind of giving different viewpoints of different characters. Instead of telling a linear story, it more just has a bunch of different perspectives in the same world or realm.

N: Your last album Sleeper was very introspective and focused on negative feelings at times. How would you describe your journey from that headspace to where you are now, a year later?

TS: The things that really led me to the new record were touring on the Sleeper record, doing acoustic stuff, and playing it out, which is really great for me to play those songs out and kind of get it out there, and get it out of my brain. It was cool, because once that cycle was done, I just wanted to make rock and roll–loud rock and roll music again. So it was really nice to be able to get out and go on tour for those songs, and then come home after the tours and take some time. I found myself getting really excited about playing rock and roll again.

That was pretty much it. Moving down here [to Los Angeles], being able to spend time on it in a different way than I had before – that whole experience shaped my writing, but it’s been a very positive thing. I feel like the Sleeper record had a lot of, not negative, but heavy, very heavy experiences. It was more like telling a different kind of story. The Manipulator record was really fun to do. It was far less heavy and draining, in an emotional way. It was just like making a rock record. It was just really fun.

N: There’s a line in “Green Belly” where you sing about making a movie of someone’s entire life. I was wondering if you idea what the movie of your life would look like?

TS: I would want the dude who directed Requiem for a Dream—Darren Aronofsky, to make it super brutal. Well, him and Gaspar Noé. We could collaborate and make it a really f-cked up, brutal, gory, disgusting film. Oh, yeah and produced by David Cronenberg.

N: That would be very intense.

TS: That’s what I want it to look like, maybe, but I don’t think that would happen.

All concert photography was taken by John Weselcouch at The Echo in Los Angeles. Be sure to catch Segall on his current tour, which starts tonight in Tucson, AZ.

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