Alec Dartley spoke with Ty Segall about the common properties between surfing and performing, why he needs his process to be scary and challenging in order to be interesting, acrylic paint brands and longboards versus shortboards.
You don’t want to wait in the water until you have one incredible, giant wave show up. The ideal is to just keep getting lots and lots of fun waves the whole time.
Whenever I go to one of your shows and I’m anywhere near the stage, it’s like shore break. I’ve got to keep my guard up a little bit. I’ve got people landing on my head, you know? When you’re playing, do you ever think of waves or swells or anything like that? Like “I’m going to give them a big one,” or “It’s getting too crazy, I’d better chop it out?”
I’m obsessed with the idea of dynamics in performance. It’s sort of developed over the years to where I kind of view each chunk of the set as a swell, choke or whatever. They all have their arcs. There’s ebbs and flows. I don’t think you should give it all away at the beginning. I don’t think you should save it all until the end. To liken it back to surfing, you don’t want to wait in the water until you have one incredible, giant wave show up. The ideal is to just keep getting lots and lots of fun waves the whole time.
Also, when I’m at one of your shows, I feel that my pent-up anxiety gets released. From your viewpoint onstage, does it ever seem like people are energy to you?
Yeah, it’s all one kind of communal energy. But the ideal would be this: let’s say you’re in high school, getting into music and really experiencing live music for the first time. I see people from all walks of life experiencing this communal idea of releasing tension, anxiety and negative emotions back into a positive space that’s healthy. That’s the right way to slam dance or move around. I’ve seen the other side of it where it’s not rad — it’s just violence. But for me, playing music is therapeutic and totally visceral.
I need things to be sketchy or strange or challenging or difficult or weird or scary in order for it to be interesting for me.
When I first heard your music, I looked you up and heard you were doing a one-man band. That inspired me to try it. I was playing for two little kids and totally lit my own fire. When you first started playing, when did you feel you could do that to yourself, like all you needed was your voice or guitar? Was there a moment, or…
I was never secure or confident in that. It was always sketchy and this experimental situation. I was definitely having fun, but it was always like, “Whoa, this is weird.” It came about like a lot of things in my musical realm — out of necessity, where everyone I played music with was in southern California and I had moved up to northern California.
I was in this one band, but I thought my songs were too different for that band. They were going one way and I was going the other. I just thought I’d play those songs myself. It kind of informs my idea that I need things to be sketchy or strange or challenging or difficult or weird or scary in order for it to be interesting for me.
So The Muggers were another way to do that, maybe?
Totally. Like, frontmanning it? That was so scary and sketchy and weird for me.
I remember at one show, Cronin pulled out a sax and I heard this collective “Ugh.” Like, “What? Ty’s bringing out a saxophone?” I love saxophone. It was kind of awesome. I wanted to ask you a little about your painting and how that’s going. Could you talk about materials? You use acrylic, you said?
Yeah, I’m still figuring it out. I’ve been doing some rainbow people. I actually thought of you when I was doing it, because your stuff is way more detailed, but I thought you would appreciate the color-bizarro-world of it. I’ll send you some stuff! But yeah, I’m using acrylic, and they’re all really big paintings. I’m only doing big paintings now.
Your size, kind of?
Yeah, I mean, I don’t have the space for them to be humongously massive, but after the “rainbow people” series, I want to do giants in 12-foot crazy-sized paintings that freak out all my neighbors.
When you paint with acrylic, do you use a medium with it, water or straight out of the tube?
Straight out of the tube. I’m admittedly gloopy. I probably waste a lot of paint how I do it.
I have a friend who’s one of those reps for the Golden Paint company. He’d be like, “Dude, you’re wastin’.” But I’ll send you some extending liquid. It’s supposed to double your paint, but I don’t think it doubles your paint, because it gets thin after a certain point. But you’ll get 20% more out of your paint if you use a little bit.
That’s cool. I should definitely start trying that.
Yeah, and they have it in matte or satin or gloss or whatever. What brand of paint do you use?
To be honest, I use the budget Blick paint. It’s pretty cheap and on sale all the time. I go through so much of it and it looks great. The Golden Acrylics are pretty rad, but they’re so much more expensive. I’m a Blick man.
When I pull off a backside maneuver on a wave, that makes me mega-stoked because it’s so much harder for me to go backside and grab the rail and pull some shit off.
Here’s a guest question from my son: “Surfing: frontside or backside?”
I’ve got to say frontside. That’s how I’m wired, but I’ll take both. I’m going to say both. For me, when you pull off a backside maneuver on a wave, that makes me mega-stoked because it’s so much harder for me to go backside and grab the rail and pull some shit off. That’s awesome.
What kind of shape do you ride, Ty?
I’m kind of a longboarder, single-fin. There’s a board that Dewey Weber used to make called “the pig.” It’s six-foot, super-thick and single-fin like a longboard. That’s probably the most fun board I have, because you can catch anything and then ride it like a sketchy shortboard and walk it a little bit or whatever. I love walking the nose and stuff like that. That’s my jam.
When I was in Hawaii, my friend lent me this Mark Angell, who I guess is a Southern California shaper, and it was a pretty big longboard but the tail was shaped like a shortboard. I had never been on a longboard like that. I could, like, swing it around. It was really cool, man. And taking off, I felt like I could take off into crazy stuff and hold in. It was really cool.
Amazing, dude. That rules.
He said that once he dings it up a little bit, he’ll sell it to me cheap. That rules.
You should come out there sometime and we should paint, too, man. I don’t know if you’ve done any landscape painting before, but it’s pretty fun.
That sounds like so much fun. I really need that right now, man.
Curated by: Alec Dartley
Conducted by: Phone
Transcribed by: Morgan Enos
Published: February 16, 2018
Total questions: 14
Word count: 1128
Reading time: Four minutes
Aagoo Records, acrylic, Alec Dartley, anxiety, Blick, budget, challenging, community, concert, confidence, Dewey Weber, Drag City, dynamic, expensive, experience, gloopy, gloss, Golden Paint, guitar, Hawaii, landscape, longboard, maneuver, Mark Angell, matte, Mikal Cronin, neighbor, performance, rainbow, realm, satin, saxophone, shortboard, sketchy, strange, surfboard, swell, The Muggers, therapy, Ty Segall, visceral, wave
About the curator
Alec Dartley is a painter and sculptor working from The Palisades in New Jersey. He received his BA from Parsons School of Design in 1995 and was later awarded a Skowhegan residence. He was born in 1973 in Englewood, New Jersey. Alec is also the founder of Aagoo, a record label for emerging musicians.
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