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Charles Moothart: "I Try Not to Be All Doom and Gloom, But I Also Try to Keep It Real With My Thoughts About The State of The World"

Following the release of his new LP Black Holes Don't Choke, Los Angeles garage-psych luminary Charles Moothart (Fuzz, Ty Segall) has shared with us three new videos of his band's live session at Discount Mirrors Studios from last December. We also caught up with Moothart who shares insight about how the new album came together, his artistic growth, and that one Letterman performance.

Ten records now on In the Red Records. What's that feeling like?

Charles Moothart: It's been a really interesting journey you know. I feel like if I was to go back to my 18-year-old self I would be, "woah you just achieved everything you wanted to do and you can now die happy" [laughs]. But you know it's been a huge honor. I owe Larry Hardy so much as he's been so supportive of me. A lot of these records have done well for both me and the label so there's also that mutual respect and appreciation. The mark of ten records was unexpected for me and it just makes me so stoked to keep going.

It's one of the greatest labels ever and it's incredible great to see them still supporting legends like King Congo, Alice Bag, Chip Kinman, Cheater Slicks, and The Scientists.

I just feel so lucky that through over a decade of touring and working with booking agents and a label like In the Red that I've crossed paths with some of the people you mentioned that have been really meaningful and impactful. It's just been cool to brush shoulders with people like that which gives you the sense that you're tapping into something really special.

Out of these ten records under either CFM, Ty Segall, Fuzz and GØGGS, do you have a particular favorite?

When I look back on the records I've put out on In the Red specifically, all of them have such important memories to where I was at in my life both creatively and personally. But I feel like when looking back at the time period in which we were recording Slaughterhouse and the first Fuzz record, doing those records with Chris Woodhouse in Sacramento, that was a really interesting time for all of us and for the San Francisco garage rock scene, which was really taking off then. Also the second Fuzz record to me, has so much weight in both a positive and negative way. I say that because I placed so much creative pressure on myself with that record because I really wanted it to be a great record. At the end of the day, I think we did something really special, but I also learned so much by the pressure I had on myself and having unrealistic expectations of who I am and who I'm not, so that record to me really stands out as a crux in my creative world. It also marked the beginning of what I'm exploring now with my solo stuff which is something I'm still figuring out.

We're talking today because you released a new album this month titled Black Holes Don’t Choke. What does that title name mean to you?

I mean, to me, the title really comes down to the fact that we as people created this world that we feel like we are fully in charge of, but, you know, there are, there are these greater powers of nature and powers that we are still subject to whether or not we want to admit it. The name is just zeroing in on the fact that the powers at play outside of our own man-made reality or surreality, we will succumb in some way, whether we figure our shit out and stop being so destructive and so evil. There is so much beauty and compassion in the world and so much great culture that if we can just tap into that then we should be okay, but if we don't then we continue on this path and the black holes won't blink at sucking us up. The title isn't as tongue-in-cheek, but meant to be obviously a bit dramatic. It's a kind of tip of the hat to the realities that we're facing but also trying to embrace the positive possibilities within human nature that are kind of in a lot of ways blooming, but are also trying to be kind of stuffed down and suffocated. I try not to be all doom and gloom, but I also try to keep it real with my thoughts about the state of the world.

How exactly did the new album come together? When and where was it recorded? 

Some of these songs I've been working on for six years. It's just kind of how I operate when it comes to songwriting, writing riffs, or whatever, I have these things floating around in my head that I'll be working on for a while. I really try to veer away from talking about anything as like a "pandemic album" or anything, but I definitely had a hard time writing for a while during COVID and during the George Floyd demonstrations in 2020. I had these songs coming around and really intense feelings, but I didn't feel prepared to put my words out to the world just yet, instead I felt it was a good time to listen. Then finally in 2022, is when I kind of sat down and recorded everything myself at this rehearsal space I rented out with my friends and bandmates. I just spent that year just kind of learning, getting better at engineering, and trying to figure out how I wanted to approach the record. And I really feel lucky that I was able to do it on my time and I was the only person in the room. It was definitely frustrating at times but also allowed me to really dig into certain nuances and allow myself the space to try something and have it not work and not feel embarrassed or like I was wasting someone else's time or whatever.

When recording the new album, did it ever bleed or bounce off other records you were working on?

Yeah totally. I've been playing the riff on the track "Hold On" in my living room for probably close to ten years. That song was going to be on the last Fuzz record and it was a song that I was gonna sing lead vocals on, but it just didn't fit right sonically with the rest of the songs. I was actually kind of relieved when I got to come back to it with the new record. I'm sure there are other bits and pieces across the new album that were almost used on a Fuzz record since it's really the only world in which I'm bringing my riffs to the table.

Which song from the record means the most to you (and why)?

The two songs that stand out to me in that way are "Hold On" and "One Wish. "Hold On" to me is the song that I was so fixated on making work with this body of music. I felt like if that record didn't kind of pop off as the second track, then I was kind of lost with the direction of the whole thing. Also lyrically, the song zeroes in on this concept of the balance of being confident in your abilities, but also understanding that you have flaws and that not everything is going to be perfect or sound the way you want it to. That's such a big element of my creative process right now is trying to zero in on that this is my voice, it's not perfect and I'm not the best singer all the time, but how do I how do I own that and make it sound like me and make that my strength instead of my weakness, you know? "One Wish" was also really important because that's another one that I've had floating around in my head for a while, and just kind of the nature of the way that I sing the song, it felt really poppy to me, and really vulnerable in the way that I was. Sometimes it's hard for me to lean more into a pop aesthetic and be more vulnerable with my voice. It's a single vocal, and I'm kind of reaching for different spaces that I haven't really been before with the melody and pushing it, trying to sound way more confident with my vocals.

How exactly did the music video for "Roll" come together with director Matt Yoka?

It was pretty incredible. So Matt Yoka, who made the video, and I are obviously good buddies. And when we first talked about the idea, I told him originally, "I would love to make a music video with you. I know you're busy. Let's make it as low pressure as possible." After bouncing off a few ideas about filming it around Los Angeles, he mentioned his friend Haoyan, who lives in New York and has all these crazy cinematographer gadgets, about helping out with it. So Haoyan came out and had this crazy 360 camera that's also on a 15-foot selfie stick that disappears in the shot, so you can't tell that I'm holding the camera. And that's how all the crazy spherical shots came out with me running around town. And he had the really awesome motorized panning thing for the time lapses. So that turned into two days of hanging out with them for a day and shooting around town, just kind of running around and watching them, also doing the time lapses, and just kind of being part of it all which was really cool. One of the places we filmed was MacArthur Park, which has a large immigrant community so we really wanted to try to respect people's privacy, but we also really wanted to push this concept of me running through LA. So it was kind of interesting how it all came together by this flow of consciousness. It was a fun journey to say the least and filming it was exhausting, but it really pushed me out of my comfort zone.

What can you say about the Discount Mirrors session videos that we're premiering today?

We recorded this session in December '23. We had just played a show in San Francisco, and I mostly wanted to capture the live band so we could get people hyped to see us play. I really enjoy playing these songs with this lineup. Shelby Jacobson on guitar and vocals, Corey Madden on bass and vocals, Marley Jones on drums, and Paco Casanova on keys. They all have a sturdy resume if anyone wants to look into it. So yeah, Discount Mirrors is a great studio run by Eric Bauer and John Dwyer. It's in Highland Park and they have an apartment next door and a big mixing room. So it's a really fun place to hang and record. Kai McKnight shot and edited the video. We basically just ran four takes of each section, chose the best take for the audio, then Kai edited together all of his footage to the take we chose. That gave us the multiple angle effect while having only one camera person in the room with us. But all of the music and singing is live. I am really excited with how this lineup is shaping up. It gets more fun each time we get together. 

What was the idea behind the drawing that Tati Compton provided for the album's cover art?

With Tatiana's artwork, I always let her take whatever initiative she wants because I've always liked everything she created. I had this vision at first of a nondescript face that was kind of androgynous, it could be male could be female, and there's three faces kind of you know making different expressions and that was kind of all I really saw was this idea of like a singular character that was multifaceted and maybe expressive of different emotions. And I sort of threw that idea at her and she showed me what she had been working on and I was like "whoa, what the fuck did you just do? Like this is so next level and so far beyond anything I could have come up with. Then you know it took us a little while, because it was a pencil ink drawing so we had to figure out what to do with the color and the gradient. But yeah, she crushed it. She ran with a very basic idea I had and just fully shot it off into space.

You'll be playing these songs live on a West Coast tour coming up with The Fast Band. What are you looking forward to the most getting back on the road?

So first of all, I'll start with who's in the band, because it's a bunch of friends who are really amazing and they're also just incredible musicians. Marley Jones is the drummer. He's played in a bunch of bands. He used to live in Austin for a long time. He's here now obviously, playing in the band VR Sex. He used to also play in Oog Bogo. Corey Madden is playing bass. Right now, he plays guitar in Color Green and also plays in Grave Flowers Bongo Band. And Shelby Jacobson is playing guitar and singing with me as well. And she plays in Tube Alloys and played with Shannon Lay and Oog Bogo. She's just a dear friend as well and she rocks. And Paco Casanov is the keys player, so he really brings a lot of the newer elements of this album to life. He plays in Hoovereiii and used to play in Prettiest Eyes. I'm just really lucky to be surrounded by these people who are very talented and really good friends of mine so its natural to trust them with these songs. And I feel like the songs are already translating really well, and we're still kind of figuring out a lot of the grooves and tempos, because we all like to tend to play fast. That's kind of why the name is "Fast," even though that's not why we chose the name. But yeah, it's a fun crew and the set is already feeling really good. We've only played a few standalone shows up to this point and they've been going great, but you know it's hard when you play one show every three months and it feels too precious. I'm just excited to play a handful of shows in a row and really dive into it because I think it'll be really beneficial for us.

You know, besides from the new album and the run of shows happening next month, I mean, what else is on the horizon for you this year? Has there been anything happening with other projects you're involved with? Can fans expect another GØGGS record around the corner?

GØGGS has not been talked about in some time. Everyone's pretty busy. Chris [Shaw] has a kid and Ty has a kid now as well. We just played a Fuzz show a few weeks ago, and it was really fun. I hope that we're able to kind of get that into a swing where maybe we revisit it with some regularity. I'm working on some exciting things and trying to branch out to find some other people to collaborate with and also helping Corey on some of his music and I have some ideas of what I want to do next. And I also am starting to write the next record for whatever my next record might be. And yeah, trying to get out to the East Coast in May! I'm just also pretty focused on just trying to get the band to play and try to play as many places as we can and try to build up an infrastructure for that.

Looking back, what do you recall about Ty Segall's frenzied performance of "You're the Doctor" on Letterman in 2012?

It's really funny you said that because I've thought about this a couple times lately where it feels like a whole different lifetime where playing on late night television was even remotely possible. The Letterman experience was funny because it was kind of towards the tail end of him being on the air and you could tell that he didn't give a fuck about us. I forget what request we had made, Ty wanted to do some sorta crazy stunt, but the producers had shut it down. And you could tell that Letterman had this kind of energy of "how many times do I have to deal with these little punk-ass kids who want to come on my show and prove a point?" But that performance was definitely wild. And I remember talking to a lot of the old school, New York union heads who were really nice and cool with us which was sort of my favorite part of the whole experience. In retrospect, I feel honored that we even got to go on and play and I'm glad that we took the approach we did. I'm going to go back and watch it.

Black Holes Don't Choke is out now on In the Red Records. Upcoming tour dates below.

4/18 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar

4/20 Los Angeles, CA @ Zebulon

4/24 Oakland, CA @ Stork Club

4/26 Portland, OR @ Star Theater

4/27 Bellingham, WA @ Make Shift Art Space

4/29 Seattle, WA @ Sunset Tavern

5/1 Sacramento, CA @ Starlet Room

5/2 Santa Cruz, CA @ Crepe Place


5/30 Baltimore, MD @ Holy Frijoles

5/31 Brooklyn, NY @ TV Eye

6/1 Kingston, NY @ Tubby’s

6/2 Philadelphia, PA @ PhilaMOCA


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