Last March, multi-instrumentalist Charles Moothart - one of the key pillars of the West Coast's prolific garage rock scene - released his debut solo album, Still Life of Citrus and Slime, under the initials CFM, after years of relentless touring and recording alongside his long-term friends, Ty Segall and Mikal Cronin, in their various and varied musical projects.
Just one month on from the one-year anniversary of his debut, Moothart is readying the release of his sophomore album, Dichotomy Desaturated; a focused and ferocious song cycle recorded last year with both Segall and the pair's regular recording engineer Eric Bauer behind the boards.
We sent some questions over to Charles to find out a little more about the writing and recording of Dichotomy Desaturated, his current role within Ty Segall's Freedom Band, and his plans for the future.
When did you start working on the songs that would become Dichotomy Desaturated, and how did the overall songwriting process differ from when you worked on your debut album, Still Life of Citrus and Slime?
I’m basically always writing in some capacity. Whenever I am at home, or around a guitar, I am constantly coming up with and expanding on ideas. So, I guess I started writing these songs off-and-on following the release of Still Life of Citrus and Slime. Every song is different as far as [how the process goes]. Sometimes I have a riffs or chord progressions that I like, but I don’t know what to do with them. I just kind of play them through, whenever I can, and sometimes the ideas form into a song, or lend themselves to another part, immediately. Other times, it takes coming back to something after a month, or some extended period of time, and seeing what feels natural.
'Natural' is the key idea for me; the song should sort of speak to you, as to where it wants to go. From there, you can flip things on their head to make it interesting, or get a specific kind of reaction from it. I am trying to get better at writing songs that can sit in a groove. With that in mind, the writing process for this record was much different than anything I have done before, because I was trying to keep the spastic tendencies I usually have in check. Obviously it can’t be avoided, and I never would want to remove that from my music, but it was more of a mental note to myself.
You've noted that much of the album found you "extremely out of [your] comfort zone," and that you made a conscious decision to "push" yourself on this release. In what ways did you achieve this, and are you pleased with the end results?
Everyone has self doubt, especially when it comes to creating music, or art, or writing, so some of the moments that are out of my comfort zone would not necessarily be recognisable to an outsider. That being said, there are a lot of songs on the record that are slower and less aggressive.
The fidelity of the record itself was hard for me to push through. Ty [Segall] helped me push through the fear of having cleaner, louder vocals. I am still finding my voice as far as singing goes; that was a big one for me on this record. Every song has a moment to me that was hard to push through, and that is what I like about creating anything; it should be a challenge at some point. It doesn’t always need to be a challenge, it doesn’t always need to be heady, but some kind of challenge is good for your mentality and helps you keep yourself in check and keep yourself growing.
I am happy with how the record came out, and I am happy that I pushed through and continued to grow as a person and as a musician. I am trying to grow as a person, and force myself to not only take a look in the mirror, but also remember who I am and why I do the things I do. So it is nice to come through a process like this and feel like it is a step above the moment before it. I hope that kind of feeling can continue in my music, whatever the project is.
Still Life of Citrus and Slime, was written and recorded during a time of personal change. How was your mindset during the writing and recording of Dichotomy Desaturated?
I think the older I get the more I realise that life is exactly that ['personal change'] all the time. It would be boring if it wasn’t. The wheels are always turning, life is unpredictable, and the world is in a precarious position. The real recurring theme for me with this record is growth; growth in the face of doubt and the shit-show that is planet earth.
Also, the world of music is rapidly changing. There are a thousand new bands created every day. It is interesting to think about how to keep developing and creating things that feel exciting and different. At the end of the day, it should all be organic, because that is what creating is. You should be creating something that is natural to you, but at the same time you have to think about what the world needs or doesn’t need. Does it need more of this or that? Is there already too much of this or that? Questions like that are what drive me to try to find my voice, literally and figuratively. It’s fun, and also important to remember to use your resources for the greater good, however that may be possible.
Who, and what, were your primary influences while working on this particular set of songs?
My influences are all over the place. I have been trying to dig in to the jazz world more: Miles Davis, Sun Ra, Coltrane, Art Blakey. I’ve been listening to a lot of Parliament and Funkadelic, and over the last couple of years I have been getting down with the Grateful Dead. The classics, obviously, are still in rotation - Black Sabbath, The Groundhogs, Blue Cheer - and I was jamming a lot of [The Stooges'] Fun House at the tail end of finishing this record. Velvet Underground, JJ Cale, Fred Neil, Moby Grape. Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, the Germs, Rudimentary Peni.
Your first album was recorded entirely by yourself. Was this also the case with Dichotomy Desaturated?
I recorded the record with Ty and [producer and engineer] Eric Bauer at Bauer Mansion, in San Francisco. Ty and Eric engineered the record, and we mixed it together. I play all the instruments, except Ty plays drums on one of the songs.
What's the significance of the album's title?
'Dichotomy' comes from split ideas; the fragmentation of logic. Everything has a double meaning, and everything can be broken down and viewed [as a] positive or a negative. As humans, we try to categorize and name things, but these are just words that we have created to represent - and possibly distance ourselves from - a more natural, intangible truth.
'Desaturation' represents a similar idea that when you want to break things down to 'black and white' there is everything in between, but the effort to break it down is what makes people feel comfortable with their reasoning. These are just loose ideas that I think about sometimes, and the songs themselves have a similar aesthetic.
What are your favourite tracks on the album and why?
All of the songs have different parts or moments that I am attached to for different reasons. "Saline/The Man/Kind to You" is a personal favourite, because it felt ambitious to blend those three ideas together. It also spans the different vibes of the record pretty well. "Voyeurs" was also a song that, for me, felt ambitious. I like "Pinch the Dream" because it hits a certain groove that can be intimidating to me, sometimes. All of the songs represent different aspects of music and songwriting that I am trying to immerse myself in and have fun trying to figure out in an organic way.
Who created Dichotomy Desaturated's artwork and what does it mean to you personally?
[Artist and photographer] Denee Petracek took the photos, and I just traced the photo and then did some shading on it. To me, it just represents the personal dichotomy. Also, the hand-drawn side of me represents the record itself, and that [the album] is something that I created. Basically, it represents the vulnerability [of] wanting to just put [the album] out there and own up to whatever imperfections there may be.
Who performs in the CFM live band, and how did you assemble the group?
The band is Thomas Alvarez on drums, Tyler Frome on bass, and Michael Anderson on guitar. Thomas plays in a band called Audacity, and has played in countless other bands, but I have known Thomas and Audacity since we were in high school.
Michael and I have known each other since high school, as well. We played in a band called Epsilons together that started when I was sixteen. We also had a hardcore band called Culture Kids together, and we've been playing music together for over a decade.
I met Tyler a long time ago. A band I was in called Perverts played with his band Moongerms. This was right when I moved to San Francisco in 2008, and he was living in Santa Cruz. We had mutual friends, and when I moved to LA we started hanging more. I feel lucky to be surrounded by old friends that are on the same page.
How does it feel bringing your songs to life during the live CFM shows?
It’s really fun. All of us are down to figure out where the songs can go, and we all push each other to learn new things and get comfortable with what we are doing. It’s nice to have a platform for us to work off of and try to expand as a group of musicians playing live together.
You're currently playing drums in Ty Segall's Freedom Band. How's the tour been so far, and how does performing in the Freedom Band compare to your many other Ty-based projects?
Touring with the Freedom Band is extremely fun and rewarding. The performances themselves are more challenging, as far as playing drums for that long, and there's a lot of jamming and room for improvisation. It can be very challenging, but overall it’s very positive.
The accompanying self-titled Ty Segall album, released earlier this year, was recorded as a full-band project last Spring. How was it working with noted recording engineer Steve Albini at Electric Audio on the album?
Steve Albini is an amazing person to work with. He works hard, but also works smart. He knows how to use his time and how to get the best results, and ultimately wants to be a tool to help whoever he is working with get what they want out of the session. That can be intimidating at first, but at the end of the day he is an inspirational person to work with.
Do you have any fond memories from the recording process?
My fondest memory is that my nephew was born while I was there. I fell asleep on the floor of the live room, after jamming very late at night with [guitarist] Emmett [Kelly], and I woke up to a text from my future brother-in-law that said the baby was born. A very radical moment to receive that news.
At the time of the album's recording, Ty was working extensively with his backing band The Muggers. I was wondering how the Freedom Band ended up coming together to record the album as opposed to The Muggers?
I couldn’t really say. It was just the way it went. Ty likes to mix things up, and he obviously felt like that line-up was the right choice.
What are your favourite Ty Segall songs to perform live?
I hope to do more stuff with Fuzz. GØGGS is going to be working on some new material soon. [Vocalist] Chris Shaw just moved to LA, so it will be rad to have him closer so we can do more.
We recently spoke to former Thee Oh Sees drummer Ryan Moutinho about his time in the band and the West Coast's close-knit garage rock scene. Despite loving the genre, he did note that a lot of acts are now starting to focus more on recreating a specific 'garage rock' sound, rather than writing good songs. Is this something you've also noticed?
I think that music always has stuff that some people find boring and contrived and that others don’t. I think that, at this point in time, there are a lot of bands that are trying to do the same sound. I think that the people who are trying to create something true to themselves deserve more attention than they may be getting, but fads have always existed in music and art, generally. Only time will tell what people take with them.
With a career spanning many different recording and touring projects, I was wondering what your personal favourite records and projects are that you've worked on?
It’s hard to answer that question because I don’t feel like I have worked on a record that wasn’t exciting in a specific and unique way. [The Ty Segall Band album] Slaughterhouse was an amazing experience because it wasn’t supposed to be a “full-length,” and it was written in a streamlined fashion because Ty had some ideas ready to roll. We had been touring so extensively as a band at that time that as soon as we would play a song the vibe was just there.
Fuzz II was an intense experience because we really wanted to create something that would just destroy people’s psyches, which was both positive and negative on our ends. Every record I have been a part of has been a crucial stepping stone in my life - both creatively and personally - which is something I hope to never lose.
What do you consider your career highlights, to date?
I couldn’t say. I’m just lucky to be able to do what I do. I guess my highlights are when someone comes up to me and says that my music has helped him or her in some way, or that it inspires him or her to play music themselves.
Are there any musicians out there that you would love to collaborate with one day?
[Rudimenta Peni's] Nick Blinko and/or Tom Petty.
Finally, what are your plans for the rest of 2017 - are there plans afoot for a third CFM album?
I am constantly writing songs, where they will go I have no idea. CFM will certainly do another record as a whole band at some point, but we want it to feel organic and come together after playing live a lot. So hopefully that happens sooner than later. But in the meantime there is a lot stuff going on that I am excited about.
Dichotomy Desaturated will be realeased on April 7th, 2017 on In the Red Records