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The Fuzz puzzle

Interview by Patrick Baillargeon

Guitar, bass, drums, a wall of amps, volume at full, and foot planted on the distortion pedal. With III, Fuzz puts all the pieces of the puzzle in place to position themselves in the top tier of heavy rock.

Genres and styles : Acid Rock / Hard Rock / Rock / Sludge

Additional Information

Fuzz. With a name like that, fans of noisy rock know what to expect. When, in 2011, Charles Moothart and Ty Segall decided to form a band in the image of their idols Black Sabbath and other similar acts, the name Fuzz was a natural choice. Why complicate life unnecessarily, when you can keep it simple. The fuzz pedal is undoubtedly associated with a plethora of bands – especially guitarists – of hard, acid, stoner, and sludge rock, and that’s exactly what the two school friends wanted to make: noisy, heavy rock, with no other pretension than to have fun, one fist in the air and a beer in the other. 

Drummer with Ty Segall in some of his many projects, Charles Moothart finds himself at the front of the stage with Fuzz, in charge of the six-string. This band is his idea, his baby. Five years after the double album II (like we said, this band doesn’t overthink things), the California trio, completed by bassist Chad Ubovich, comes back with… III, a more concise and precise album, on which Fuzz assert themselves more and more. Charles Moothart tells us all about it, at length.

PAN M 360 : When and how was this third album conceived and created?

CM: We recorded this album in August, 2019. It’s interesting because the record has certain songs that have some social aspects but nothing was reacting to what’s currently happening. So the album wasn’t affected by everything that’s going on right now, but we are affected by the fact that we can’t tour it. We recorded here in L.A. at this studio called United Recordings, that is unfortunately closing down, which sucks, because it’s a legacy studio that’s been going on since forever [the studio opened in 1957]. We had Steve Albini come out and record us.

PAN M 360: That was precisely one of my questions… Why did you choose to work with Steve Albini?

CM: We’ve worked with him a few times in the past with Ty. We’ve developed a good working relationship with him. He’s so good at what he does! It’s nice to know you can trust the person who’s commanding the whole thing, and just go to a room and get live takes. The last album wasn’t really like that. For this one, there is a lot of live playing, but we kind of went a little farther out with post-production and stuff like that, so I think we just really wanted him to try to do something that is as close as possible to what it feels like to be in a room with us. What it feels to watch us play a show, how we feel when we’re playing our songs… There’s obviously a few guitar overdubs and the vocals aren’t live, but we just wanted to be as true to the sound of the band as possible

PAN M 360: Did Albini record and produce the album?

CM: I guess he doesn’t really like to think of it that way, but the whole time he’s working, he’s kind of tweaking sounds. He tends to keep things pretty minimal. I would do a guitar harmony and ask what he thought of it, and sometimes he puts his foot in but generally he likes to stay out of that process. He likes to let the band figure out what they want to do. I’ve heard him say multiple times that he doesn’t want to voice his opinion and accidentally put band members against each other, so he is very conscious of that. We’ve gotten pretty comfortable with him, so I think he’s also comfortable voicing his opinion, but I don’t think he likes to feel like he is entering a conversation that should be between band members. It can be really intimidating at first. Like the first time we recorded with him, I asked him about his opinion on a drum take I was doing, when we were recording with the Freedom Band. He said he didn’t want to give his opinion and I thought, ‘Whoa, this is really intimidating’, but when I figured out why he felt that way, I came to respect that, not wanting to disrupt the creative dynamic within a band. He’s interesting, the way he draws that line, but that energy is not for everybody. 

PAN M 360 : What does III have that your other albums don’t? What have you corrected or improved?

CM: For me, it’s more a mental thing. I did put a lot of pressure on myself on the previous album. Where I was at mentally in my life, five years ago… I was touring a lot, my mind was still in a younger place… So I had a lot of expectations. It’s not that I think that we didn’t achieve them, it’s just that I had unachievable expectations. I put a lot of pressure on my guitar playing and how I wanted people to receive the record. Which I think affected how I interacted with Ty and Chad as a band. We still had a lot of fun making that album, but it was a double album, it was really long, it was a huge undertaking. So I think that for this album, we wanted it to be fun and natural. And of course we wanted to practice a lot, we wanted to feel really prepared and just go and get our takes. We wanted that to translate on the tape, you know, that we’re having a good time making the record. To me, I think that’s the most standout aspect. Obviously the production is very high quality, so I think that for the listener, it’s a totally different experience. And I love these songs – a lot of these songs were written over the last five years, at different points in time. I do like that the album spans five years of songwriting. It feels like a pretty collective, focused effort. To me it feels like its very connected between the band and the listeners.

PAN M 360: And why did you take five years to make this record? With Ty being hyperprolific and everywhere at the same time, it’s probably difficult to have him for a while, without him having to do something else? 

CM: Yes, it’s mostly because of schedules. It’s an interesting thing, because I love to work with Ty on some different projects, I feel lucky. We’ve known each other for so many years, we’ve done a lot of cool stuff together. Every now and then we would kind of pick up Fuzz and be like, ‘is it time?’. For me, this is obviously a very important band, so I’m always down to do it. So it’s kind of waiting for it to feel right, to feel it’s the time, because as you know, Ty always has a lot of things going on. So you gotta wait until it feels right, without forcing it. It still has to feel natural getting in a room, writing songs. We can’t be like, ‘oh now is our six-month window to write a record, we have to make it happen now!’. It was two or three years ago that we took some time to write two songs and ask ourselves, ‘are these Fuzz songs? I don’t know!’. And next thing you know, we have three, four, five songs more. Once we felt that the pieces were in place, then it was like, okay, now let’s write the rest of this record. So it happened the way it had to happen.

PAN M 360: When you started Fuzz, you were just trying to see if you could make some big hard-rock riffs without it sounding cliché. Today, do you see Fuzz differently? Do you think the band is somewhere else ? 

CM: I think it’s somewhere else. The first Fuzz song I wrote, I think it was “Fourth Dream”, I literally wanted to see if I could write a riff that doesn’t sound totally cheesy. Fuzz is obviously a nod to ’70s rock ’n’ roll. So yeah, I think it’s different. Because you would like to think that you don’t stay in that same cycle, doing the same thing over and over again, so I do think that we’ve exited that mentality, we want to do something that feels specific to us. We obviously love Black Sabbath, but we don’t wanna be a Black Sabbath worship band. But at the same time, we don’t want to walk away from that so much that we end up disappointing the people who like the music. We still looove that music, I still listen to Black Sabbath all the time, I still listen to the Stooges all the time. So we’re still making high-energy rock ’n’ roll that’s meant to be fucking loud and fun to listen to. But we try to mature away from just  feeling like, can I write a Black Sabbath riff… that was seven or eight years ago.    

PAN M 360 : You mention Black Sabbath, and with Blue Cheer, I think these are the two most obvious influences that come to mind when listening to your music, but we feel a few jazz spikes here and there on the record… Are there other influences you’d like to talk about ?

CM: It’s a constantly shifting space. I think over the last five years or so, I’ve gotten more into jazz, listening to Art Blakey, Miles Davis, and stuff like that. Not just picking the record to listen to it, but listening at how they play their instruments and how they play together. And of course there are always records that come in and out of cycles, and there are the staples that stay in there, like The Groundhogs and stuff like that.

PAN M 360 : You play drums with Ty Segall and play guitar with Fuzz, whereas it’s Ty who plays drums in Fuzz. Do you guys switch instruments sometimes, or you just stick to the guitar?

CM: Guitar, that’s my place, that’s my home, spiritually. I love playing drums in Ty’s band, but guitar will always be the best way to express myself. So with Fuzz, it’s always me on guitar. You see, that’s the thing – when I first met Ty back in high school, he was a drummer. He was the best drummer back then. He’s always been one of my favourite drummers. That’s also why this band started back then, it’s because he wanted to play drums and I wanted to play guitar. 

PAN M 360 : Can you shed some light on the lyrics? They’re often rather nebulous or abstract, even cryptic.

CM: Each song is different. For example, I feel “Spit” is a really abstract one. There is, like, a story happening, but it’s very loose. For the most part, Ty and I are writing the lyrics. So when we write together, it’s a really interesting thing because he tends to be more abstract and I’ve always liked to tell a story. So we always kind of end up landing somewhere in the middle. I think Ty, over recent years, has come back to wanting to be more specific with the lyrics, but there’s an interesting combination. I like poetry, so I always kind of think that way, but Ty is also really good at being more focused on the sounds, like he can say, ‘I can’t sing that word because it doesn’t work well with the way that the vocals go’. So we end up finding these weird balances, where it’s like, ‘I wanna say this but we can’t say that… ’. So we have to change this last word to make it work and then we end up with that kind of a weird Frankenstein of a sentence, and then we’re like, ‘oh, that’s really cool!’. Every song is different. Some are much more straightforward, and it kind of goes back to what I was saying earlier, us not wanting to abandon what this band is, we want to keep certain songs fun, like pump your fist and yell at the show, you know? We’re a rock ’n’ roll band, so we want to keep it primitive, and other times be a bit more heavy. But I agree, there are times where it might just not make sense! 

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