INTERVIEW: Ty Richards

Hi Ty, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thanks for having me. Things have been really good, I can’t complain. I’m just chomping at the bit to get this new record into everyone’s hands. I think you guys are really going to like it.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Spaceman”?

I’m super excited to put “Spaceman” out into the world. This song is both epic and dumb at the same time. That’s kind of my thing right now. I have this weird dual nature and this song just captures it perfectly. I’m a hardcore perfectionist and at the same time I don’t take myself seriously at all. There is nothing greater to me than making fun of myself and this song does that for me. It’s like me laughing at my own joke.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

The vibe and the lyrics represent a huge departure from my own personal reality. I’m coming from this place in life where I had decided to “grow up”, and join the real world. I embraced that playing music is for kids and I’m an adult now so it’s time to give that shit up. I moved to Austin on a whim a couple years ago and I just thought, “fuck that!”. Within a few months I went from a slick-haired agency yuppie to a long haired free-spirit. For some reason I felt free to do my thing fully for the first time in my life, and I accidentally started making a record. “Spaceman” sums up the entire record for me. It sets the tone of the whole thing. I woke up one day and I felt like I was a zillion miles away. That’s what the song is about to me.

How was the filming experience?

So. Much. Work. I had done music videos before but this one really took an insane amount of effort. It was my first shoot at a remote location. I’ve never been so exhausted in my life. Imagine yourself lost in the desert with no way out. Your sludging through sand, and by the way you are also moving living room furniture around in the process. And your head is inside of a fishbowl. If you’ve ever seen videos like this, I guarantee there is like a 20+ person crew making it happen. For the “Spaceman” video, it was just 3 of us. Me, my lovely wife Emily and my insanely creative Videographer/Director Steven Gunter. All that said, no pain no gain. It was well worth the toil. Steven and I pulled this ridiculous storyline out of our asses in one afternoon over beer and kombucha and then a month later we we’re dragging furniture through the desert together. Him and I have a special relationship. This is my third video with him. It goes like this – he shoots and edits PERFECT video and then I shit all over them with whatever dumb idea I’m feeling at that moment. Steven shot something so beautiful that looked like it could’ve been out of the latest Star Wars film and then I put the finishing touches on it by fucking up all the colors in the worst way. God love him. He has infinite patience with me. He is by far one of my favorite humans to collaborate with, besides Emily of course – she is just the most badass women I’ve ever known. My only regret in making this video is that we spent so much time working that we didn’t have time or energy to go checkout the “Marfa Lights”. I’m convinced there is some serious alien activity going on there. I asked this woman who had lived there her whole life and she is totally certain that the lights are alien related.

The single comes off your new album Zillion – what’s the story behind the title?

Zillion is alluding to the chorus of Spaceman. “You’re a spaceman waking up a zillion miles away.” I talked about my personal inspiration behind this but this is also just another word that gets to my obsession with Sci-Fi and all things space. I like that it’s a totally made up number, it’s assumed to be impossibly large. It’s a great number to add hyperbole to a statement. It’s the only way I could think to describe the massive amount of change that’s happened in myself since starting this record. Zillion.

How was the recording and writing process?

This song like most of the songs on the record was written and recorded at the same time. I really dig walking into my little studio and just starting with no preconceived roadmap or plan. As a singer/songwriter I’ve spent most of my life tied to the guitar and vocals and that gets really stale for me. So for “Spaceman” I just lay down a stupid simple drum beat – KICK SNARE KICK SNARE – that’s it, then I hit record button and start playing bass until something sticks. I let the song write itself. The guitars were a natural next move for the process. By the way, I’m a huge nerd, and wannabe music historian / gear head. I like learning about how bands from the 60’s and 70’s made records. On the first song of Led Zeppelin IV, Jimmy Page recorded guitars for “Black Dog” by plugging a guitar straight into the console. No amp whatsoever. In modern times, going ampless is a no-no. It sounds dry and style. But Jimmy always brings the studio magic. I emulated that technique for recording guitars on Spaceman. I plugged my guitar into an old fuzz pedal and then ran that directly in, with no amps or mics and went to town. I still can’t get over how thick and mellow it sounds in stereo. It’s like a massage for my brain. And I really enjoyed putting it over a dead simple drum beat that feels robotic. The song feels vintage and futuristic at the same time. And for vocals, at least on this record I don’t even think about lyrics or melodies until the song is pretty much baked. Totally backwards from how I’ve always done things, but when you are coming from a 2 year bout of writers block, desperate times call for desperate measures.

What was it like to work with Brian Lucey and how did that relationship develop?

I love Brian. He has the no nonsense objective approach I really need after trudging through the mixing process. Refreshing. And so freaking good at what he does. It’s funny how I decided to work with him. I literally just looked at the liner notes of all my favorite albums and straight up cold-called him. Sometimes it’s just that simple for me. Who mastered this record? Oh him… and Done! It turns out that a couple producer friends I know work with him too so he had street cred with them too. He did The Black Keys’ “Brothers” record along with a random single of Beck’s that I really love called “I Won’t Be Long” and a HUGE list of records that are in my collection. He is really good at making an album sound like a cohesive body of work, not just a bunch of songs thrown together. And also he’s just great to work with, humble, chill and not a dick like a lot of audio guys out there. I can’t wait to work with him on the next record.

How much did he get to influence the album?

My collaboration with him was entirely after the record was recorded and mixed but he still played a huge role in the “feel” of the entire record. The album has crazy jumps in dynamics. He had never worked on a record with such intentional difference in dynamics between songs and even within the the same song. He delivered the final stroke to the music. Brian did his magic in such a way that the energy and spirit of the record comes across clear as day. He helped me communicate aggressive changes where they were needed and delicate dynamics where they needed to be. And he was the voice of reason when I was asking to do dumb things that make no sense. At this point in the process I was the only human that touched the record and I was desperate for someone to take this away from me. I wrote, performed, produced and mixed the record myself and I was ready to work with someone I could really trust with my musical babies. Brian was definitely the write man for job.

What other books and novels besides Romeo and Juliet have inspired the lyrics on this record?

Well, the story within the music video is more of a nod to Romeo and Juliet, I’m not a Shakespeare buff or anything. I just like that at the end, the couple unashamedly blow up their only chance of getting off the planet just to be together alone for the rest of their lives, or however long their oxygen tanks allow. But as for the record, half of the lyrics are taken mostly from my subconscious brain. Not “Spaceman”, but more half of the song’s lyrics were written from “mumble tracks”. I just went into my vocal booth and sung a melody with total nonsense lyrics that weren’t real words. Then I listen back at a low volume and write down what I think a hear. It’s kind of a “freudian” way of song writing that removes my ego from the equation. So much fun. I can’t take credit for the method. I stole the idea from Jeff Tweedy of Wilco who probably stole it from someone from the 60’s. “Shoulda Coulda Woulda”, “Kiss with the Lights Out”, “You Are a Star”, “She Can Count the Days”, and “Going Out for a Cigarette” were all written with that technique. But it’s funny to me. Those songs have more meaning to me than any other songs I’ve written in my life, they aren’t just random for the sake of being random – I resonate with them on a much deeper level. Then I’ve got a song like “Naked Girls”, that started out as a joke song and accidentally got produced into a real thing, oops. And then “Uncle Ben” lyrics are literally about how Spiderman must’ve felt when his Uncle Ben was gunned down by a thief that he personally was responsible for letting get away. Yep it’s a psych blues song about Peter Parker. Dumb I know. Also a couple of the songs are just straight up about sex and how much I love it. I’ve never let sexuality blatantly bleed over into my art until now. This whole record is just my goofy ass attempt at making raw art that people can just interpret however the fuck they want. I’ve written a lot of songs in my life, probably a couple hundred or so. But these 10 songs are the first time I’ve really just let myself create “art” and just not give a shit how it’s interpreted.

What aspect of the universe did you get to explore on this material?

I would say that I’ve only just begun to explore he universe of my subconscious mind. It’s like I’m meeting my real self for the first time. It’s a strange universe where my real life and fiction and nonsense collide. I’m peering into my boyhood, love & joy, the sorrow of superheroes, my sexuality, exes, our fucked up society, strippers, my current family life, abusive relationships, burning bridges, and foreign planets. It’s a universe of literal and figurative nudity in a way.

Any plans to hit the road?

Yes, I’m doing my best to do that without going bankrupt. I’m entirely self- funding all this with no label so I plan to play as much as financially possible. I plan to take this as far my bank account can take me 😉

What else is happening next in Ty Richards’ world?

I know I haven’t even put this first solo record out yet. But I’m already scheming and writing my sophomore album. My biggest priority is to put out as many records as possible. My life goal is to die and be buried with at least 30 records. I could care less if they sell or if I “make it”. I’d much rather make 30 records then “make it”. I do wish there is some way my music could be known to people without the “getting famous” part. When I look at Frank Zappa and his freaking 62 albums, Neil Young’s 30-some-odd records and the Beatles’ 12 albums in 8 years, I just think “what the hell”. Epstein was putting out a new Beatles record every 6 months. I envy these guys so much. But next move is to get the debut record out and into your ears and then just keep this train rolling. I can’t wait to write the next one.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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