Trouble Is Trouble Never Seen: An Interview with Tim Presley
We spoke to the prolific garage rocker about his two new bands, releasing a 20 track LP, and his "teenage mutant blues."
“I live in fear of wasting time,” sings Tim Presley on the song “Fear,” one of the best tracks from last year’s White Fence album For the Recently Found Innocent. This line is the perfect description of Presley, who in this year alone has started two new projects: W-X (a therapeutic exploration into synth-based weirdness), and DRINKS (a new project with Cate Le Bon that sounds like a modern interpretation of the great Messthetics compilations on Hyped 2 Death). Since starting White Fence, Presley has released 6 LPs, handfuls of singles, an amazing live album on Castle Face Records, and a collaboration LP with his pal Ty Segall. I caught up with Presley via e-mail right before DRINKS played their first European shows to put the psychedelic polymath under the Death & Night & Blood microscope. Enjoy.
Noisey: How did the project with you and Cate start? How soon after the two of you met did you know that you wanted to start a band with her?
Tim Presley: I believe us meeting was cosmic. I think we always new we would do something together. When we started hanging out more, it became more and more obvious we needed to connect on that level. Us starting a "band" was the perfect way to express this, and also to keep us both inspired. She is inspiring to me. That’s why this works. We admire and respect each other with no pretense. When you connect on that level with someone, being creative comes naturally. It’s a rare thing, and I know this. When the moon pulls you to someone, you have to say "Thank you, Moon." You don’t ask why.
We started this venture with more "songs" initially. We even demo'd a few tunes. I had written a sad country song and thought her vocals would sound so beautiful singing it. But we both looked at each other and thought “Yea, this is nice but its not what we want to do now.” It sounded good, but it was too safe. Un-stimulating. So, what if we planted an apple tree, and the apples grew blue instead of red? The possibilities are endless if you want them to be, but it takes the right person and moment in time to make it work, and now happens to be that time.
How did Cate come up with the name DRINKS?
Presley: I think she asked for a band name for Christmas, and Santa was so kind and gave it to her. God bless him.
Where was the Drinks album Hermits on Holiday recorded and how long did it take? How did you split up instrument duties?
We wrote all the music in Ty (Segall) and (John) Dwyer's rehearsal room in LA. They were super cool about us using it for a week straight. Then we took that musical mess to a studio called Comp-Ny, with good friends Rob Barbato and Drew Fischer recording and engineering it. Then we called up Nick Murray for drums. We might have been annoying for him at first, because we barely played him anything.
There was no preparation or time to sit with it, but that was the point. He's such an amazing drummer I knew he'd pull it off and play really cool shit in an improvised setting. That "play what comes natural" thing was ultimately the point of the record. Needless to say, everything he played was fucking cool. As far as splitting up instrument duties, it was a musical chairs thing with Cate and I. Whoever had a bass line became the bass player. Have a guitar line? Then you’re the guitarist, vocalist, etc.
You started BIRTH records to release a Jessica Pratt album, but since then you’ve released a couple other things, including the US version of Hermits on Holiday. How active are you trying to stay with that label? Any upcoming releases you want to talk about?
Presley: I think at this point, I need to be more active. Concentrate on what I got on it now. Same mission still applies though. I’m not putting out records just to do it. I have to be completely in love with it, or else I see no point. As far as upcoming releases, we'll see.
Tell me about this new project W-X. Your debut album with this project is a double LP with 20 songs. What the fuck are you thinking?
Presley: Ha. It’s basically a compilation of therapeutic sound bites. It’s been my anti-depressant. Throughout the last few years, if I have writers block or can't stand the way my guitar looks at me, I resort to making music like this. This W-X LP is very parallel to the first White Fence self-titled LP: a collection of songs written over time, with no intention of releasing it, and then being shocked and excited that someone liked it. So I suppose it was all a natural thing.
I swear I’m not in some race to get music out. It's just what I do at home everyday and night. I thought it'd be more effective if it were long. It’s about 60 minutes. I’d been going through a Sun Ra phase and I liked how long some of his records were. Or like a Public Enemy album. Really long! I like to draw and paint and listen to albums that are long, so I guess it's good for that. Speaking of long, some genius made a YouTube video of 4 hours of all MAC DRE's verses. Maybe that had an effect.
What’s the story behind “Clean it Glen,” the W-X song you recently premiered. Who is Glen?
Presley: Glen, is a janitor of teenage mutant earthly hurdles. The cleaner of news, bad news. We are in a bad news era. I like to go dumb, but not too dumb. There are wars going on between tweetie birds and a giant fox. Are we rebelling against teenagers? How strange. Oxy-clean, is an oxymoron. I hope Glen is OK. I hope we are all OK. Some are born under a bad sign. So much information! I'm setting alarms for my alarms. I can barely move. I’ve got teenage mutant blues. The lost art of cleaning the news. Lick the words right off the paper. Thanks, Glen. The son of the janitor in the “Smells Like Teen Spirit” video. #blessed
You’re about to hit Europe with DRINKS, when are the US dates? Will you be touring anywhere with W-X or is that even on your radar right now?
Presley: DRINKS tours the East Coast in October and the West Coast in November. I’m not sure if W-X will, or can be played live. Maybe.
And where does White Fence fit in with all of your new stuff going on? Last year’s For the Recently Found Innocent was your first foray into a “real studio” with White Fence. I remember you telling me at one point that that was a step that needed to happen, whether the outcome was what you wanted or not. Now that the album’s been out for a while, how do you feel about it? Will you return to a proper studio for the 7th White Fence record?
Presley: Yea, it was something I needed to do. I may try it again, with Cate producing. Maybe in December. We have talked about it. I think it's important to have a variety of albums. If artists made the same records over and over, then they ain’t really doing anything for anyone. I like Neil Young's speal that "selling out would’ve been making another record like Harvest." I get it now. I would’ve scoffed at that when I was 20, but it’s a new morning.
A lot of the reviews of your music mention the lyrics, and personally they are my favorite part about what you do. Where does your lyrical inspiration come from? How important is the lyrical process to you, meaning do you just come up with something that sounds cool or is there a deeper meaning behind it all?
Presley: The lyrics have become the most important part to me now. It’s like a puzzle that I will never complete. Plus, it's the only healthy place I can vent. That is my therapy. I write all the time now. So when a song comes along, I'll go through those words and see if they fit. There are the times I need to sacrifice strong words for melody, but that’s part of the puzzle too. I like dressing up words or lines so they become transexual. Plus, I noticed if the lyric has deep personal meaning, I'll perform it better live. I get chills right before it comes. Like venom from the teeth.
You did the artwork for the W-X record that’s about to come out, and the art for the Drinks album Hermits on Holiday, plus you’ve done most, if not all of the White Fence album art. How important is the artwork to the overall aesthetic of your records?
Presley: It’s really important. Plus, I live in fear I'll ask someone to do something and I'll hate it and then won’t know how to tell them. I love doing it though; you get to create the visual universe the album lives in. When it works, it’s the greatest thing ever. A perfect example is CRASS. The art for those records sounds more like CRASS than the music.
Would you ever do album art for another band? Who would be an artist or band that you couldn’t say no to in terms of doing their album artwork?
Presley: Shit, I dunno. I would. I’d like to do art for Pusha-T. Or Tom Petty. Or that band INSTITUTE. And, of course, Ex-Cult.
Finally, what does Family Perfume smell like?
Presley: Smells like…bed.
Chris Shaw plays in the band Ex-Cult. He is on Twitter.