Sunday, 20 October 2013


It's pretty lazy to call any loud, bass-driven psychedelic rock 'Stoner Metal', but it happens all the time. Sometimes, I suppose the bands are happy with it. Weedeater and Sleep, you'd imagine, probably don't go out their way to distance themselves from the label. Queens of the Stone Age got called it for a while, but they didn't like it. Witch get called it quite a lot, just because they play that riff-heavy, bass-driven, propulsive, noisy rock music. They do tick a lot of the boxes that qualify a band as Stoner Metal, but there's so much more going on with them than that label would suggest. Formed in 2005 by J Mascis of Dinosaur Jr and his friend Dave Sweetapple, Witch have their roots as much in U.S. hardcore as they do in metal - two genres that don't often see eye to eye - and while these influences are definitely identifiable in their music, the sound they make is simultaneously incomparable to either. We spoke to Dave just after he returned to the States following a trip to Europe.

How was Europe?
Europe was a lot of fun. I went along to tour manage part of the Earthless tour and launch the first round of decks the French and I doing on 1939, which included an Earthless board, but the plant never got them finished in time. The only item we had along with us was a 1939 collaboration t-shirt with Alan Forbes art on it. But yeah man, record shopping, good eats, and late night tourist shite made it all worth it.

Did you have a favourite town, or show?
I'd have to say London was my favourite town. I knew quite a few people that came out to the show and it was kinda like a party rather than a show where you pull into a town, play, pack up and leave. And of course, French and his wife Chrissie came out which was awesome. When he gets a few beers in him, he blossoms into a wonderful arsehole. He pretty much emptied the the backstage fridges of beer. Stood by me at the merch booth all night and yelled at people buying things. It was great fun, especially when the prospective buyer would ask for a deal on two or more items... He would swoop in and start berating them, "What the fuck do you think this is mate, a fucking bazaar in Marrakesh? You see the price. Fucking pay the man". I was laughing my ass off all night.

How did you meet French, and how did 1939 come about? I don't think too many people over here know much about that.
French and I met at a think-tank in Wyoming. I have no idea why we were there, except it was good food and beverage with a really nice outdoor pool. After a few more times of hanging out and having a mutual interest in skating and music, we decided to start this new company. Of course, he has been putting out boards for a long time through his Witchcraft Hardware brand, and I've been involved with releasing music for many years, so we thought... "Hey let's mix the two!" So we decided to start doing skateboard decks with band graphics on them, mostly in old school shapes. The first three decks were kind of a no-brainer... Witch, because I play in it, and the Earthless and Graveyard ones because it's like doing stuff for family. Coming up are boards for Doomriders and High On Fire, with a few more in the pipeline. It's not like this is a new concept, as there have been sick board designs in the 80s for bands like Metallica and Gang Green, The Big Boys and so on, but for me, those boards always meant something a little more than just a simple generic graphic. it was like wearing your favourite band on your t-shirt.

Do you like being called a Stoner band? I've always thought that term was kind of marginalising.
That's true. I have never liked that term. At first I was completely against it and to drive that point home, our label Tee Pee put some disclaimer in the press kit. It was sent around stating something to the effect of "Not to be pigeonholed in the Stoner rock category". But these days I don't really care. It's easier to call it that than say, "It sounds like Sabbath mixed with...".

What records made you want to form Witch, and make this music?
It wasn't so much listening to records that made us want to start Witch as it was a reaction to what was going on in our area (southern Vermont/western Massachusetts) in the mid 2000s. Mascis and I more or less came from the same musical background, classic hard rock into punk followed by hardcore. We'd been going to these shows in our area, more as a social thing than even for the music itself. There was a whole thing going on in these hill towns, which at the time hadn't yet been called Free Folk or Freak Folk or whatever you want to call it. There were tons of bands and they were playing this mellow, folky, falsetto vocal, clanging, folk music... Not that it was bad but it just had so little energy. One day, J and I were talking to Kyle (Witch singer/guitarist) who at the time was playing in an eight-piece folk band called Feathers, making fun of the 'scene', and J starts talking shit about how when we were his age, we listened to and played music that had balls. Kyle more or less dared us to start playing with him and after a few practices, we decided to record the first LP.

Just after you formed Witch, Dinosaur Jr reformed. Were you worried that your drummer might end up being too busy with his old band?
No, I was psyched for him and the fact that his second wind swept in. It did mean not doing certain things at times but none of us had that 'do or die' mentality about the Witch 'making it'. We just pick and choose things that make sense these days.

Were you a fan of the Californian band Witch? Have you met those guys?
No, truthfully we'd never heard of them before. same goes for the African band called Witch. 'Witch' is a tough thing to Google or whatever because it's such a basic, common word. Upon first looking into the name, nothing else had appeared relating to a band using that moniker.

Do you listen to any music that might surprise people? Did your listening habits change over the first couple of years of the band? It sounds like they might have.
I used to be a partner in a music distribution company, and we carried anywhere between 300 to 400 labels at any given time, so it meant exposure to a lot of different bands and a lot of different types of music. If anything I've reverted back to rudimentary shit from my childhood and followed some of that lineage to find new things to listen to. Before the punk/hardcore days, it was all classic rock from me. When I got out of the distro racket, i pretty much stopped listening to new music, mostly because it had been a job. Then I got back into enjoying music.

What do you think of the hardcore scene these days?
I don't really follow the hardcore scene much these days. Like every genre, it has splintered so much that it's hard to keep track of what's out there. Like metal, it's become really watered down with tons of derivative bands. I'm not saying I don't still buy hardcore records, I'm just a lot more selective of what I do buy. Check out Obliterations. They're from Los Angeles and have that '82 style thing going on.

Did you know your Roadburn set was going to be released?
The German cassette?

Yes. Chris from the label asked about releasing a live Witch recording and I didn't really have much other than the Roadburn thing to give him.

What appeals to you about cassettes? It's quite an impractical medium.
Truthfully, nothing appeals to me about cassettes. I hate them as much as I hate CDs. I gave away almost everything I owned on cassette and CD, except for a few nostalgic things, like the first Bad Brains tape, and some other stuff form the early skate days... There's Raw Power- the Italian band- 'Live', the Toronto Hardcore '83 compilation, Direct Action, etc. These days I only have a basic stereo amp and a turntable at home. I got rid of the cassette and CD players. 

Witch isn't as full-time a project as it could be. Does that make it easier to make music, knowing everything's on your own terms?
Yes, the pressure isn't there to bang out a record every year and try to stay at the top of the heap. We do shows or whatever for fun and if we happen to record then cool, and if not, same thing. 

Witch isn't your day-job, is it?
No, I do a bunch of stuff. I work for a couple of record labels and do the 1939 skate thing as well. Witch is just one of the bands I play with. I just got the test pressings for a new project I'm doing with a few friends. There is no name attached to it yet, but it's it's more doomy that than the others. A drummer friend and I recorded the basics riffs, sent it to California where another friend added layers of guitar, and then the whole thing was sent to Bergen in Norway where vocals and Moog parts were woven into it. It all came back to Vermont where it was mixed and that'll come out later this year.

Can you tell us who's involved?
Sure, I play bass and the drummer is Terri Christopher from 27, who are on Relapse. The guitar was added by Tim Lehi. He's co-owner of Black Heart Tattoo in San Francsico and records solo stuff under the name Draugar. He's a sick artist as well. He did the last High On Fire album cover. The singer is Grutle, who is the frontman for the Norwegian black metal band The Enslaved.

Is that hard work? It sounds a lot more complicated than jamming with your friends in a studio.
No, it was quite easy and stress free actually, because you can do it on your own time without doing multiple takes as a band. The problem is that those freedoms eat time like nothing else. It took us months and months to end up with the recently finished masters, but it's just a project, so it's not a big deal.

What's it like at Tee-Pee? They seem like a pretty good label.
Tee Pee has gone through many phases since I have been involved with it. It's a fine label with much recognition, but a book could be written about the label itself based on all the drama surrounding it. 

Have you got the nicest name in metal?
You know what they say about apples...

How do you know the Earthless guys, and how did the Volcom split EP come about?
Getting to know the Earthless guys came from being signed to Tee Pee around the same time. Witch and Earthless did a few shows in Europe together around the time that we both played our first Roadburn sets. Then we did some east and west coast U.S. tours to follow. (Earthless drummer and former pro skateboarder) Mario Rubalcaba actually filled in as the Witch drummer on a tour or two when Dinosaur first started its reunion shows. Tee Pee used to be like a real family back then, with all the bands touring together and hanging out in each others towns. Bands like Witch, Earthless, Graveyard, Assemble head in Sunburst Sound, Annihilation Time... It was one big family. Things got a little divided in years to follow with newer bands being signed, but I have to say that from that original group of mid 2000s bands, we are all still very tight. I see the same kind of vibe starting these days with a bunch of newer bands, bands like The Shrine, Hot Lunch, Lecherous Gaze, Carousel and so on... With regards to the Volcom split, Kurt, who runs the music division over there, just asked us to do it and we said "Definitely".

What do you think of the new Black Sabbath album? And the new Black Flag line-up..?
I haven't heard the new Sabbath. I'm not sure why, but I haven't had the desire to even check it out. I did, however, buy the new Deep Purple and it fucking rules. I haven't paid much attention to the Black Flag drama. Two bands playing the same songs with different line ups. Pick your kings.  

What are your musical plans for this year? A third Witch LP?
Hopefully, one of these days, we, Witch, will all be in the same room and bang out another record. If it doesn't happen, well... Once this U.S./Norwegian thing comes out, I'm planning on working on another one of those long distance recordings. Time is tough with that one though, as the singer plays in a touring metal band who are rarely home. Another band I started a while back is called Dusty Skull. We released a single earlier this year on Outer Battery Records. It features, me and the drummer from 27, and Graham from Witch and Lecherous Gaze, with Isaiah from Earthless on vocals. I really want to do a full length of that stuff. I guess I just need to book a ticket to Oakland and get it started.



Despite having only one verse on the world-alteringly brilliant debut Wu-Tang Clan album (he was in jail for most of the recording), U-God quickly cemented himself as a solid member of the Staten Island nine-piece with four solo albums since 1999, tracks across all subsequent Wu-Tang albums and guest appearances on records by just about every one of his Wu-Tang associates. From his initial pre-Wu friendships with RZA, Ghostface and Cappadonna through to his son being shot, his incarceration, his own record label his and turbulent time as a Wu solo artist; U-God is planning to document his life in an autobiography. In the meantime, his new album, Keynote Speaker, is out now on Soul Temple Records.

Do you ever visit Park Hills?
Nah, I don't visit the place man. For what? I used to go back there, try to show love to people, try to help people out, and they try to chop you up into a million pieces. There's no reason for me to go back there.

You records are pretty different from other Wu-Tang solo records. They each seem to reference different parts of the Wu that nobody else does.
I got my style of music. People either gonna like my style of music or they ain't gonna like my style of music. I'm trying to grow, and at the same time keep the original fans, you know what I'm saying? Every time I put out a record I figure out what people want more of from me. I'm also trying to give you a creative aspect, without being like anybody else. I don't know if people respect originality any more, but I'm still trying to keep that originality there as well. If people don't think it sounds like a Wu-Tang Clan album, well it does to me. It's just a 2013 type of Wu-Tang thing. People in the US are liking it, but some people don't like it. But hey. You can't please everybody. 

When did you realise the tracks you had were turning into an album?
I do a lot of work, and I picked the best of my work, that meshed together. I do more than what a lot of folks do, and I picked the best of what I got. That's how I put it together. I can't tell you how to do it; you just gotta work, work, work, work, until you come to a complete body of work.

You've got Meth, Inspectah Deck, GZA and RZA on this album. Were those tracks you'd been working on together, or are they tracks for the album that you wanted those guys on?
When I get my tracks, when they give them to me, I know where I gotta go with them. I do what I do. When I'm with my group you're only gonna hear sixteen bars of me. You'll only hear a little bit of me on each song. I'm much bigger than that, so that's why I put out records, which are more of what I'm about. I think I did that with Keynote Speaker.

Your first album was quite late, in terms of Wu-Tang solo albums. What took you?
Because I wasn't getting attention! You got nine people in my group. I had to gather my own music, gather my own beats, and I put out my first record in 1998. My first record was a gold record. I don't know what you mean by "come out late", to me it was time to put out a record.

When does something stop being hip-hop? Like the new Kanye album, it's pretty far from what hip-hop 'is'.

Music is music. It is what it is. You as the writer and me as the artist, your job is to write what I'm saying. My job is to entertain you. With my words, with my rhythm patterns. That's my job. Your job is to sit on the sideline and critique what I'm saying and also what I'm doing. At the same time, as a musician, we're dealing with sound here. And there's different levels of sound. As a person who is a musician, I understand what he was trying to do. We go through our experimental stages as musicians. We have to experiment, it's in us. Nobody wants the same fuckin' eggs and salmon every morning. No one wants to talk to the same people every day. You want to keep new energy coming. People want to push the envelope. It's the same with me, I'm gonna give you some Wu-sounding shit, but I'm also gonna take you somewhere else too. And you gotta come with me. But certain music does touch more people than others. And as a musician, that's what your dreams are, you're trying to touch as much people as you possibly can with your music. And sometimes we go out of bounds.

Your track 'Golden Arms' on the new record is more electronic. It's a step away from what you've done before.
The crazy thing about that is that a lot of people are gravitating to that track. Some people love that shit, and some people, it's not their cup of tea. As a musician, I have to make a whole body of work that everybody can absorb. You might not like track number fifteen, but somebody else does. My desire is to get fifteen tracks that y'all can relate to. And that's kind of a hard situation. Everybody's not gonna like the blockbuster movie that comes out, everybody didn't like Batman. You know what I'm saying? Everybody's picky. If you're making a salad you gotta put things in there that people are gonna like. People might not like croutons, but they in there. Like a body of work.

But people are going to dig an electronic track, because it's on a U-God album anyway. Even if it doesn't sound like their idea of Wu.

I don't know how you compare Wu-Tang sounding records, because my record is Wu. Wu-Tang sounding records? I don't know what the hell you mean by that shit. But I know one thing for sure, you turn that record on and it's Wu-Tang right there. It's 2013. By the time I come back you might change your mind. Because people do that too. Saying something at the beginning, then when everybody start liking it, they got a change of heart all of a sudden. It is what it is. This is a Wu-Tang sounding record, it's just my version of it. You're gonna hear more music from me too. It ain't like it's just going to stop. Trust me. I'm gonna give you always good quality soundin' music. That's my job, man.

RZA is credited as being 'Executive Producer' of this record. What does that mean?
I don't know what you're talking about. Next question.

Tell me about the book you're writing then.

That's gonna be about my life story, because a lot of y'all don't even know me like that. I've been like the black sheep of the family, in the background of the fam. It's gonna be my life story. I have lived a very adventurous life. I was a very adventurous guy. It's gonna be a good ride. It's gonna be what it's gonna be.

What are you listening to right now?
I listen to everything. I listen to too much different types of music. That's why my music might sound a little more abstract than usual. I'm not biased, if it's good I'm gonna listen to it. I was listening to some Evelyn 'Champagne' King earlier. I might throw on Mr. Mister, I might throw on Journey, I might throw on Johnny Cash or Bob Dylan or Ray Charles. I'm all over the place.

What are you doing for the rest of the year?
We gotta finish this 20th Anniversary (of the first Wu-Tang album). Get that crackin'. We got that crackin' before, then we had to go on tour. Then I got like a month home, vacation for a little while. Get some air, see the babies. Take care of fam. Then it's back to work. I ain't playin'. We gotta get this music done so we can entertain y'all and do what we do best.

Ty Segall

Ty Seagll is the 26 year-old Californian garage rock troubadour channeling Black Sabbath and The Stooges into his own deluge of psyched-out musical visions. Whether solo or with one of the countless bands/collaborations he works with over numerous labels, the guy is adored by everyone from the indie rock underground and Pitchfork to prime-time US Saturday night TV audiences. We got a chance to speak to Ty about where he's at right now, and if he's worried about becoming too hip. His new album, Sleeper, is out now on Drag City.

You've just moved to LA from San Fransisco?
Yeah, I've been here four months now. The main difference is really that LA is bigger. You have to drive. I guess there's more space, I mean, we found a house here to live in. We wouldn't have been able to find a house in San Fransisco. It's cheaper too.

Are you nearer the things you need to be near?

The only things I really need to be near are friends, family and the ocean. I don't need to be near any 'industry' place or anything.

What's so good about sleeping?
You don't strike me as somebody who spends much time sleeping.
Haha! The album's about dreams. And death. It's not actually about sleeping, it's about what comes after sleeping.

Have you seen the website of the Texas prison service, where they post up all the prisoners' last words? It's pretty fucked up.
That's such an intense piece of information. That's crazy. I can't believe they would put that up. Are the things that say pretty potent?

Yeah. They all seem to say that God has forgiven them, and that death is just a stage of some journey.
And they all apologise. Anyway, the songs on Sleeper are all pretty different to what you normally do. Is it an album you sat down and wrote or is it a collection of old songs?
They were all songs I wrote for the record. I started with a couple, then they all started coming out. It was a fast thing, like a month of writing and recording. I honestly was trying to write some loud rock n' roll stuff, and it just wasn't working for me. It just really didn't sound good. Those two songs came first, and I tried to write more loud stuff and it just wasn't working out. So I didn't really know what was going on. You kind of decide half way through a record where it's going to go, once five or six of the songs are done you know the vibe.

You've done Conan O'Brien and Letterman. Are you a rock star?
No, I don't think so. Haha!

Well what's more significant? Prime-time TV appearances or people bootlegging your new record? The CD I got wouldn't even load into iTunes. I could only play it.
That's wild. Both are just as wild. That's pretty rad if people are trying to bootleg the record, because it means they're excited about it. That's probably cooler. In the moment, playing Letterman and Conan was pretty cool. That's an experience that you'll never forget, or have anything similar to. But they're both equally rad.

Do you think there are people at your shows now who only come because they think you're hip?
There's definitely a lot more people coming out. People come up to me at shows and say "Yeah man, I'd never heard your records, I'd just heard your name", which is always a trip to me. It's like "Woah, that's pretty cool that you'd spend fifteen bucks to come out to a show of somebody you don't know!" Which is cool. It's always a trip to see different crowds, it's not just pals or rock n' rollers or punks or psyche-heads or record dudes any more. It's definitely a bunch of different kinds of people that come out to shows now. Which is awesome, which is the point.

You played a load of classic rock covers at a show in New York quite recently, how did that go down?

I don't remember that show. What happened? Covers..? Oh yeah! I remember that show! It was at Death By Audio. We did two shows that night, the first one was just normal then the second one was a load of covers and a few really old songs of mine. They were stoked, it was a super-small place and people were just raging, crowd surfing. We did 'Paranoid' by Black Sabbath, a couple Redd Kross songs, a James Gang song. And AC/DC, 'Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap'.

How much music do you make that doesn't get released? You've made more albums already than most people do in a lifetime.

A lot. There's a lot that I don't release. At least half has been thrown away over the years. With records, I'll always write 20-plus songs, and it'll end up being a twelve track record.

When you sit down to write a record, do you know what label's going to put it out?
It kind of depends. Almost all of my proper solo records have been for Drag City. And then a lot of other projects go to a lot of other places. There's still a few labels I've talked to that I kind of 'owe' a record to, because I want to do one with them because they're pals. Nowadays labels can really do a lot, with the internet and with distribution. There's not a ton of difference between labels, it's really just who you're working with and their style of pushing a record, or promoting a record, or how they're going to 'work' the record. Goner is more of a garage punk label, and Drag City is kind of an everything label. So there's some differences in that. Drag City has worldwide distribution, and Goner does too, but they're an import, so their records are more expensive in Europe. There isn't much difference, they both care a lot and put in a ton of effort. They're both radical labels to work with.

You've got a signature guitar pedal, how much input did you have in making that?
Matt from Death By Audio asked if I wanted to do a pedal, because I've gotten my pedal tweaked a bunch of times. I've known those guys for years now and I'm always sending my pedal in to get repaired or tweaked. I got this one Fuzz War that's my lucky Fuzz War. I've probably bought seven or eight of those over the years to give to people or as back-ups. The said they were doing a series of pedals and asked me, and I was like "Yes! Awesome!" and I came up with an idea. It's basically a volume boost with a delay reverb. I wanted something to volume boost over the Fuzz War. (John) Dwyer (of the Oh Sees), his pedal is a pedal that they had already designed like two years ago, because he loved the Fuzz War but wanted something even gnarlier. The basically put two Fuzz Wars together and made a mega Fuzz War.

Rad! You're playing the last ever ATP festival, and ATP has increasingly become the domain of reformed legendary bands. Is there value in that, in reforming, playing an album and going away again?
It's definitely more difficult to pull off, but there's definitely value in it. If it's rad it's rad.

But if it's not, it could ruin the whole thing.

Yeah! That's the chance you gotta take. The handful of reformed bands I've seen have been so good. I saw Pere Ubu do The Modern Dance in its entirety and it was one of the coolest things I've ever seen in my life.

Did you ever meet or play with Jay Reatard?
I did, yeah. I played a couple shows with him. Once was a Reatrads reunion and once was his solo band. The first time I saw him was his solo band, and it was amazing. It was right when Blood Visions had come out. It was in Oakland and there was only 150 people there. It was so cool. The second time, at the Reatards reunion, was definitely gnarly. He peed on his guitar player. It was pretty intense. But rad.

Did you ever skate?
I used to just cruise as a kid. I used it for transportation. Sidewalk surfing!

What are you doing for the rest of the year?

I'm in this band Fuzz, and we got a record coming out on October 1st. We're going to Europe for about a week, then doing a US tour, then maybe back to Europe in the Spring to do a full tour. I'm just working on demos, and my band are going to start touring again. We haven't played in a really long time. We toured so much that we needed to chill out so we haven't been on tour for four or five months now. I was working on Sleeper when we were kinda slowing down! I think we're going to go back into the studio and do a sequel to Slaughterhouse, maybe. And I'm going to do another record. Just working on stuff, but it's cool to have some down time.

Have you ever sneezed so hard that the doorbell rang?

Definitely not.