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?