Q&A: Ty Segall On His Focused, Glammed Up Manipulator And What He Wants To Do Next
One of the most pleasant aspects of attending the Ceremonia festival last weekend was getting the chance to see Ty Segall totally rip through his set while a few thousand Mexican teenagers went totally apeshit. The gig was a warmup of sorts for Segall, whose fantastic new record, Manipulator, will see release next week. The album is arguably the most well-rounded and polished of Segall’s career, which makes sense considering he spent more time finessing this record than anything else he’s ever done. His set in Mexico was as raucous as any of his shows I’ve ever seen — and it marked the moment when the crowd stopped standing around and promptly got to moshing — but apparently his recent spate of silver-lipsticked late-night appearances should give fans a clue where his upcoming glammy live shows might be headed. I caught up with him backstage to talk about the new record, his upcoming tour, and the rather unconventional projects he might be tackling next.
STEREOGUM: The kids at this festival are really excited to see you. Have you ever played in Mexico before?
SEGALL: Really? I’m super excited. We haven’t been here before. We almost played in Tijuana once, but that fell through. That was the closest we ever came to playing here.
STEREOGUM: You have a massive amount of tour dates lined up. Are you anxious to get back on the road?
SEGALL: I’m looking forward to it. You know, we haven’t really toured in a while. We played SXSW but it was kind of the anti-SXSW — we just played non-official SXSW shows while we were there, which was super fun. So it was a few days out. I need more. More!
STEREOGUM: Do you prefer being on the road to being home and recording?
SEGALL: I go through phases. I really needed some time off in order to work on this new record, but when I’m on the road, when it’s on, it’s really on. I do love it. But you know, after about six months I’m usually kind of done. They both fulfill certain needs for me.
STEREOGUM: Manipulator will be out soon and you spent a lot more time working on this record than anything else you’ve recorded. Now that it’s done, how do you feel the dynamic of the record was affected by all that extra studio time?
SEGALL: It just creates a different kind of record. I feel like I’ve done the other kind of record plenty of times: the flash-in-the-pan, throw-a-bunch-of-shit-at-a-wall-and-see-what-sticks kind of record. And those kinds of records, which happen really quickly, are a lot of fun and I’m sure I’ll do that again, but this time … I still threw a bunch of shit at the wall, but then I’d take notice of what seemed to be working, and then I’d throw some more shit at a different wall. I guess you could say I worked with several different walls this time, as opposed to doing that once and then just kind of calling it done. I guess this longer process makes for a less fucked-up record, but then you can kind of focus on making it more fucked-up in other, more specific ways. I really enjoyed it. I’d do it again, but I generally like to always do things a little differently each time, so I’ll have to figure out how to change things up again the next time around.
STEREOGUM: All told, how much time did you spend in the studio for Manipulator?
SEGALL: Around 31 days, I think? I actually lived above the studio while we were working. It was really crazy — every day I’d wake up and then work from early afternoon until around 4 in the morning.
STEREOGUM: That is intense. When you work that way, you start to realize how easy it is to totally fall down the rabbit hole. You can spend 12 hours just listening to drum sounds.
SEGALL: Totally. I mean, we took at least a day and a half just to get the drum sounds. I was really excited about it, but that’s so hard for me to do. In the past I’d just be like, “Can you hear the drums? Great, that’s the drum sound.” That’s been my way of working on records in the past — it just sounds how it sounds. This time it seemed like a good experiment to try to go really deep.
STEREOGUM: Even though 31 days might seem like a really long time for you, for most bands that’s still pretty short, recording-wise. I can definitely see the merits of both things — there is a rawness to your earlier records that works like a very precise document: these people were here on this day and this is what it sounded like. But there’s also something to be said for trying to craft the most pristine recording possible, something that will exist forever in this perfect form.
SEGALL: Absolutely. It becomes this other thing. It’s a different kind of documentation of a song, and something I’d never really spent much time thinking about before.
STEREOGUM: Has your live setup changed a lot since making this record?
SEGALL: Yeah, actually. We have some new synths. We all have different clothes to wear, which is really nice.
STEREOGUM: Is your recent late-night appearance an indication of what the show will be like? I know there was some silver lipstick involved.
SEGALL: Yeah. The ideas came from talking a lot about the record and trying to figure out how to represent that. This record is not really my own voice — it’s not so much about things that have actually happened to me. In fact, there are really no personal songs on the record, it’s mostly a bunch of different vignettes that are spoken by a bunch of different characters that exist in this other world of Manipulator. There was this other world in my head. So we wanted to create characters that exist in that world. We wanted to kind of glam it out. We just really wanted to do something different. We couldn’t go back to how we were playing before Sleeper, so it was just trying to come up with ideas of how we could really push things further, and everyone in the band was really into it.
STEREOGUM: You’ve had the good fortune and the ability to kind of dip your toes into a variety of different genres over the past few years. Are there other kinds of music you’d like to take a crack at? Do people every approach you to do film scores or things like that?
SEGALL: Oh yeah. I would love to do a film score. I would really love that. I have a friend who is making a documentary right now, and I was about doing the score for that and using only synths. I was also thinking about doing an all-drum record too. All-percussion. I know a lot of people might not like something like that, but I don’t care.
STEREOGUM: The idea of a total-percussion album is cool. Records like that are pretty few and far between these days.
SEGALL: I’m really getting into the idea of tuning drums lately, and then making songs by using only drums that happened to be tuned to different notes, almost like a xylophone or something. All the drums on Manipulator are tuned to a major scale of A. So the drums are all tuned specifically. The idea was that we’d have everything on the record actually be totally in tune. It’s a Bowie thing, I think.
STEREOGUM: You are known for being incredibly prolific. Do you already have another album waiting in the wings?
SEGALL: That used to be the case, but now I have much stricter guidelines for myself regarding which songs I keep. I’ve definitely been writing some songs, but … I don’t know. I do have an idea for the next record, but it’s pretty insane. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It might take me a couple of years to do it. And that would be ridiculous.
Ty Segall’s Manipulator is out 8/26 on Drag City. Stream it here.
[Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin photographed backstage at Ceremonia 2014 by Oscar Villanueva.]