Ahead of his big U.S. tour in April, Segall spoke to Westword about his evolving perspective as an artist, upgrading from a tour van to a tour bus, and becoming friends with jack-of-all-trades musician and comedian Fred Armisen.
Westword: Are you having a good time in between touring?
Ty Segall: Yeah, yeah. I’ve just been working on random stuff.
What kind of stuff are you doing between tours? Are you writing music? Are you just hanging out?
A little bit of everything. Sometimes I’ll have random odd jobs or something. Like working on scoring something or recording a band or something, or just working on my own music. Or just fully chilling. It’s the best.
So, from my understanding, you and Fred Armisen are kind of tight. Is he someone that you can just invite over and jam with?
I mean, I’ve hung out with Fred a few times. We’re not too close, although I think we’re buds. He rules. I’ve only really gotten to know him in the last year, year and a half. But yeah, I would love to do more stuff with him in the future. I’m a big fan. So hopefully.
You brought him in to do some drumming for “Every 1's a Winner,” yeah?
I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just asking you about Fred Armisen for no reason.
No, no, yeah. I actually met him through Drag City Records and Steve Albini as well. He rules.
I always just write by myself. I usually demo the stuff by myself. It’s part of the songwriting process for me. If I’m jamming with someone, it’s for a different project or a different band.
Has being married changed your recording habits?
It hasn’t at all. We’ve been together for a very long time, so it’s the same as it’s ever been.
I remember getting married and realizing, "Oh, this is not that different, actually."
Yeah. And it shouldn’t be, you know what I mean? If it is, then something’s up [laughs].
That’d be kind of odd to get married and then suddenly realize, "Oh, there’s a lot of stuff I didn’t know about this person or relationship."
That would be very weird.
Freedom’s Goblin feels like a pretty ambitious record. It’s very diverse in sound but manages to still be fantastic. Does putting out so many records that are well-received change your ambition as an artist?
Yeah. The only way it changes for me is I think I’m a little more open-minded. This might come off the wrong way, but I don’t really care anymore, meaning that I’m just having fun and wanting to make things for myself at the moment. I had a realization the past couple years that I don’t want to view my music as being precious anymore. I think that can be detrimental to making the music itself. If you look at it a different way, it’s a lot more fun, and you might get more exciting results.
It’s just the idea of being malleable [with the music] that you’re trying to write. Not being so obsessed with one specific thing you’re going for. That’s where my head’s at right now, and it’s pretty fun.
I think the first time, I really obsessed over making a record. I put it out and it didn’t go how I thought. It didn’t necessarily do poorly; it just didn’t go how my ideal was. And then I realized that’s a really unhealthy way to think of things and to want a piece of art to be received. I realized, in that moment, I needed to let go of that, and ever since then I’ve become more and more open to the ideal of letting go of something as soon as you make it.
I guess it is still just a job where you strive for perfection, but at the end of the day, it can’t ruin your life if it doesn’t go how you want it to.
And more importantly, it gets in the way of making cool stuff. I think you need to take cues from life and the situation of the recording, or whatever, to make that more fun, and also in turn maybe a better record, or recording, because you’re open to anything happening instead of it having to be a specific way, or blah blah blah.
Do you think changing your perspective and letting work go after making something keeps you fresh as a songwriter?
I don’t know — I never felt like I had a block or anything as a songwriter. I just feel like it’s a continual journey toward being open … to going somewhere. I don’t really know where.
What’s your favorite part about making a new record?
I don’t know. It should all be fun. It shouldn’t be a drag. I think about halfway through writing the album, when you start to see what it’s going to be — that’s pretty cool, I think. I couldn’t tell you, to be honest.
It looks like you have a pretty straightforward tour coming up in April that will have you all over the country. Do you have specific habits that keep you going through such a busy month?
You know, the things that keep you going: sleep, a little bit of exercise now in my old age. I’m going to bring a bike on this tour. It’s weird; we just started doing tour bus tours, so it’s a totally different experience. I’ve been doing the van tour for like a decade now. I just switched over, and it’s really interesting. You wake up in the place that you’re playing, and you have the whole day to mess around.
It’s going to be a new experience. I’ve never done it in the States. I’ve done it in Europe twice, so I think it will be really cool. I’m just going to wake up and do shit in whatever town we’re in. It’ll be way different than Europe, because I’ll have an easier time getting around and all that stuff. It’ll be fun.
I imagine it will allow you to get to know the tour stops a little better instead of just driving straight to the shows.
Let’s talk about the opening track on Freedom's Goblin, “Fanny Dog.” How many songs have you written about pets?
I think only two. “Fanny Dog” and then “The Feels” from Manipulator is about my cat. And "Fuzzy Cat” is a song I wrote a long time ago about my parent’s cat — I don’t know if that counts. That kind of counts.
Sure, it counts. It’s a family cat.
Yeah, I guess three.
Are you one of those people who lets their dog lick them in the face and mouth?
I mean, I’m a little … [laughs] ... Fanny can do whatever she wants.
I think you just made everyone in Denver happy. It’s very pro-dog here.
Ty Segall, with Dirty Few, April 5, Ogden Theatre, 935 East Colfax Avenue.