Photos and interview by Charlie Weinmann
Ty Segall has never been wary of pushing the boundaries. His music has taken on many shapes and forms throughout his career, involving different casts of musicians and bands Ty has assembled to support the many records he’s made. His most recent accomplishment, First Taste, was released on August 2. In place of where you might expect a guitar, the album features koto, bouzouki and mandolin.
As a drummer himself, Ty has always featured the drums as a main component of what makes his music stand out, but for this album he’s gone one step further, incorporating long-time pal and drummer, Charles Moothart, as a second drummer, the two of them playing together on about half of the songs on the new record. The result is exciting to hear on the recorded songs, and even more so when seen performed live with the two playing drums together onstage while Ty sings.
Check out the song “Self Esteem” to get a sense of how the two play off of one another.
Drumhead chatted with the two artists about the how the idea for using double drums came to be implemented, and how it’s worked out in live settings so far on the band’s current tour.
Ty Segall –
CW: What are you most excited about in playing these new songs?
TS: They’re super fun. Practicing them has been super fun. I’m the most excited to play drums. Charles and I play double drums for about half of the album, so that’s really fun for me.
CW: Is this the first time you’ve done double drums on an album?
TS: There’s been a couple songs over the years where I’ve had double drums on the recording, but this is the first time we’ve done live double drums.
CW: How was the experience of tracking drums at the same time?
TS: It’s a totally different experience, because when you overdub drums, you’re playing to something that’s already been created, and if you’re overdubbing more drums, the existing drum track is the click track. But when you’re doing something live, you’re actually interacting with each other, you’re looking at each other and taking cues. You’re changing with one another – it’s a living thing.
CW: Would you say that the live versions of these songs are fairly different than what we hear on the record?
TS: Yeah, they are. They are a bit more aggressive, a bit more wild.
CW: What inspired you, or what made you want to execute this idea of double drumming for this album?
TS: The idea kind of came from this bizarro, stereo syncopation idea for the album, where, let’s say you take a super simplified 4/4 beat and split up every other kick hit and pan it left and right. And every other snare hit panned…that’s the super over-simplified version. Then when you take a really complex beat, that’s nearly impossible to play by yourself, chop it up and split it between two drummers, it creates this really syncopated, bizarro stereo feel. We didn’t really stick to that method a hundred percent, but there are a couple songs with that happening, and not fully chopped up, but that’s where it started, and it grew from there.
CW: What do you like about Charles’ drumming and how does it work with your drumming?
TS: I’ve been playing with Charles for, man, fourteen or fifteen years. We basically grew up drumming with each other where we were teaching each other how to play the drums. I’d go over to his house and he would have figured out a new lick on the drums, and he’d show me that. Or I’d be like ‘check out this weird thing.’ That’s kind of how we learned a lot of the stuff that we know. And we never actually played drums like this together.
CW: How did the songs for the new album come together, and how did you write the double drumming parts?
TS: I had written all of the songs, and then Charles and I would get together and discuss the drum patterns and where things should go.
CW: Are you using any additional percussion for the new songs?
TS: Yeah I got some roto-toms going on. On the album there’s a lot of extra percussion – timbales and roto-toms and shakers and banging a chair against the floor and smacking a table and hitting metal…all those kinds of things…shells and bells and shakers. But live we stick to two traditional kits and I have the roto-toms.
CW: Each song on First Taste seems to have its own identity. Could you speak to how you crafted the songs as individual works?
TS: I’m a fan of all different types of records. I love the super streamline Ramones-esqe record where it’s just – like the first Ramones record is so great and is mixed so great because the bass is in the left channel and the guitar is in the right channel, and they never change. It’s just one thing the whole time, and it’s great. But I also love albums where every song sounds different from the last, where every song has its own identity and its own mix. Most of the time with my records I make an effort to mix every song differently, and create pockets for every song to live in. I like that kind of thing, and it’s important for me to try and do that.
CW: You’re singing and playing drums at the same time on this tour – have you always played drums while singing?
TS: Yeah, actually. One of the first bands I was ever in, there wasn’t a singer, per se, so I sang a lot of the songs while I was playing drums. That was in high school. Then with my band in college, everybody sang but then I sang most of the songs on the drums. And then in this band, Fuzz, I sang ninety percent of the songs and played drums. It’s a weird kind of pat your head and rub your stomach, simultaneous exercise that at first is hard but now it’s part of my drumming. It’s rare actually that I play drums and don’t sing. And when I get to do that, it’s extremely fun because I’m just free.
CW: You guys are touring through October – what do you have planned after this run?
TS: We’re going to take a couple months off, November and December. Some of my band members have tours of their own, and then I’ll do some acoustic shows in February and then we play some shows in Chicago and Toronto in May.
Charles Moothart –
CW: You and Ty have been playing drums together since you were teenagers?
CM: More or less, yeah.
CW: How did you guys come to decide to do this double drumming thing?
CM: To go back in time, Ty was one of the first people I watched play the drums, like when we used to play house parties together. He was one of my peers that played drums and I was like ‘oh that looks really fun.’ That was before I really started playing myself. I’ve always loved his style as a drummer, since I was like 14 years old, when we were in high school.
We’d always be playing music together, starting bands, and we’d switch back and forth playing drums and guitar. We’ve always had that thing where we both understand each other’s language on both instruments.
We’d always be scheming about different projects we wanted to start or things we wanted to try, and at one point and time we talked about wanting to play drums together, and never really knowing what that would be like or how it would work out. The first time we really tried anything like that we were on the first Fuzz U.S. tour, and Chad, the bass player, got really sick. We were going into Athens, Georgia, to play a house party at our friend’s house. Since Chad was so sick, and it was kind of a low-pressure deal, we told him to rest and got him a hotel room.
Me and Ty went to the house party and felt it was the perfect excuse to try some double drumming. Our friend from Athens set up two mics around our drums and he used pedals to affect the sounds…like an experimental noise set. We set up two drum sets facing each other. It was really funny because we told each other going into it that we should start mellow so we have somewhere to go, but we had never done that and we had no idea what to do. We both tend to be fairly spastic at times, especially at that point and time. So we look at each other like ‘what do we do,’ and we just exploded into chaos – literally the thing that we said we weren’t going to do. We found our way into some cool stuff but it was kind of a funny test run.
After that we always knew we had to revisit that because there was something really cool there. But nothing happened for a while. He had me come in on the Melted record to play drums on the song “Girlfriend” but he’d already recorded drums, so that was a thing where he had me play along to the recording and he stereo-panned the two drum takes. So there have been other experiments, but with First Taste it was really the first time where Ty wanted to try something that rhythmically based. He said he wanted this to be the time we do the double drum thing. When we started practicing for it, it was really fun – we would try and differentiate and try to not play the same thing. We’d try and play off of each other and break down the drum parts, and have the two parts bounce back and forth. It was a weird road, feeling like it was an inevitable experience that we were going to have and it was cool that it took until now, where he and I have also learned a lot of different skills in being reserved or not reserved.
We both understand each other super well, but there are things, especially on drums, that we just do completely backwards from one another, so it’s been a fun experiment. I know how he does certain things and he knows how I do certain things, so it was kind of funny to break those things down, face to face, drum kit to drum kit.
CW: How much of the drum parts in the live show are “scripted?”
CM: There were a couple things in the recording process that were improvised, that now, I’ve tried to establish what I do. I would say that there are two moments where the drums are improvised for me – the drum break in the song “Taste” and then there’s the drum battle in the song “The Fall.” So when it comes to double drumming, especially with Ty singing, it’s been an interesting thing to bring into a live context because it makes me feel like I need to be solid in what I’m doing so that I’m not throwing him off. So I’ve had to take a different approach to expanding these ideas that were kind of “free” in the recording process. I’ve had to create a sort of grounding level so that I can be checking in with the rhythms and the bass and checking in with Ty and watching his hands, to make sure I’m not fucking him up.
My style with any form of music, it’s very rare that I feel that I have things that are super mapped out – that’s not really how my brain works. It might be mapped out to some extent but it’s always fun to throw in little differences to get someone onstage to smile…I feel like that’s just how we roll. I always want to throw a little bit of a curve ball so it kind of reminds everything that we’re all here and present and we’re all paying attention and this can all be changed at any given moment.
With double drumming, I’m taking a less improvised approach over all, because I want Ty to feel like he has the freedom and a backbone to be launching off of.
CW: What’s most exciting for you as an individual, playing double drums for this music?
CM: I’m exciting to see how it elevates the experience for us and for the crowd. It’s a very different kind of energy. It’s cool because we get to combine the old energy with the new energy, and there’s a totally different mindset that comes in. It’s commanding, mentally, in a different way, and I’ve already noticed in the shows that we’ve played that my experience onstage has totally changed – instead of being focused on ‘how wild can I get’ it’s very focused on the experience. It’s really like a story, and every night is going to be a different story. It’s just exciting to see what the mentality of the group will be, and to see what space we find in this kind of uncharted territory. The double drum thing, like I said, it’s something that Ty and I felt was inevitable that one day we’d be doing something like this. There’s a very funny moment that happens every time we’re doing it where we lock eyes and there’s more of a funny smile that happens that goes beyond the playing, like ‘okay, we’re here, it’s finally happening.’