Ty Segall hasn’t been doing many interviews lately. Actually, he hasn’t been doing any, but made a rare exception this time. The Laguna Beach native has exploded with popularity since he started popping up in lo-fi garage rock bands around Orange County in the early 2000’s. Since then, he’s been caught up in a whirlwind of recording, touring and promoting.
“To be honest, I grew a little tired of interviews and needed a break. I know I sound pretentious, but I really don’t like talking about myself that much, especially on tour,” he explains. “It’s not fun and it’s so impending, so I decided I would just save it for the cool ones.”
After going solo around 2007, Segall’s rise to notoriety has been steady, and the 25-year-old shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Luckily, Segall made the move to San Francisco before MTV’s reality show, Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, landed on his front door. It transformed his hometown into something unrecognizable to him. Fortunately, that’s beginning to change.
“It just got too much attention. All of these new business showed up and new kids that were going to school for all the wrong reasons. Some kids wanted to get famous and their parents supported that,” he says. “A lot of the really cool, older restaurants shut down because they couldn’t keep up with all of the new business. New laws popped up for awhile, like no skateboarding. For real, it was super weird. A lot of really weird things happened. It’s getting better now. The notoriety has worn off, which is cool. It’s just a trip.”
San Francisco provided the environment he was looking for, and with its close proximity to Laguna, he was able to make the move rather effortlessly.
“The show didn’t come out until I was in college so I was already in San Francisco. It’s far enough away that I had to be completely independent, which is what I wanted to do. I just wanted something different,” he recalls. “Also, I loved the music scene and all of that stuff, too. The city itself is just amazing. I was a fan of the San Francisco early 2000 scene, like The Numbers, The Hospitals and The Coachwhips. I loved all of that before I moved there. I was super psyched about the noise rock of San Francisco.”
As a kid, bands such as Black Flag, The Stooges, Frank Zappa and other weird rock-n-roll enthralled him.
“It was Black Flag that made me go ‘I want to play the guitar.’ Keith Morris rules. So cool, so cool. Black Flag made me think I could learn riffs and that it didn’t really matter if I was good or not,” he says. “I mean, don’t get me wrong, Gregg Ginn is amazing, I’m not saying that. It was just a different kind of music. It wasn’t like Led Zeppelin and Cream where you had to be a virtuoso. You can make up your own rules. I was like ‘oh shit I can do that.’”
Technically, his first solo effort was a cassette-only release titled Horn the Unicorn, but 2008’s self-titled album debut was really what started to garner him significant attention. Each subsequent release seemed to be better than the last. 2009’s Lemons, 2010’s Melted and 2011’s Goodbye Bread were further evidence of his love for ‘60s-sounding distorted guitar tones and penchant for songwriting. On Goodbye Bread, which was his Drag City Records debut, Segall played every single instrument, however, drummer Emily Rose Epstein stepped in for 2012’s Twins and more recently, Slaughterhouse. It’s natural to wonder about having a female drummer and the presumably rough waters she may encounter.
“Originally, we didn’t think about it as sexes. Emily just rips. There has been some funny baggage that comes along with that with morons that say stupid shit, but she rips so hard that they always look like morons,” he says. “It’s pretty annoying, but it’s really great to blow their minds when she gets up there and rips. That’s the coolest part. Proving people wrong and making morons thinks differently is rad.”
While his music may mimic the garage rock sounds of the ‘60s and ‘70s, Segall doesn’t share in the whole “sex, drugs and rock-n-roll” philosophy, per se. He’s much more careful about what he does (or doesn’t do) and assures he “isn’t a fan of groupies.”
“I never felt comfortable with speed, heroin or hard shit like that. I’ve tried some hallucinogenics in my life and some other drugs. I drink alcohol and that’s about it. I don’t smoke weed or anything like that. Substance abuse is just more recognized now than it was in the past. People are always surprised that I don’t smoke weed. I get a lot of flack for not smoking,” he admits. “I mean dude, it’s hard to tastefully be socially responsible and share your ideas. That’s the hardest part. You can’t go on stage and go ‘Fuck drugs!’ People are going to be like, ‘that’s not fun’ and they will probably go to the bar.
“To be honest, I’ve been sober this whole tour. I’ve been kind of sick and I don’t think I’ve even had a beer. My whole thing with substances, it’s maybe for the right occasion, but people shouldn’t feel the need to get fucked up every night. It’s all a matter of choice,” he concludes. “I’ve noticed a lot of people, myself included, that have parents that didn’t let them experiment a little bit, and those kids end up being way more fucked up on drugs and alcohol. I was one of those kids that didn’t get to experiment that much. I kind of flipped out when I was 18 or 19 and drank too much. I still get drunk, but I pulled back a lot. People should try things, but if you take mushrooms 100 times, I’m sure your brain will be different than it was before [laughs].”
Ty Segall with Ex-Cult, Digital Leather and ZATH, February 10, at Sokol Auditorium, 2234 S. 13th St., 9 p.m. Tickets are $13. Visit www.sokolunderground.com for more information.