INTERVIEW: Charles Moothart

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If Sabbath is God, then does that make Fuzz Jesus? Duncan Clark works it out with multi-instrumentalist Charles Moothart; the bad penny of every psych garage band you already love.

INTERVIEW: Charles Moothart

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INTERVIEW: Charles Moothart

If Sabbath is God, then does that make Fuzz Jesus? Duncan Clark works it out with multi-instrumentalist Charles Moothart; the bad penny of every psych garage band you already love.

It already feels like 2021 has been 16 months long. Time creeps by at a snail’s pace, punctuated only by calendar notifications, my phone taking pleasure in reminding me of another live show I was due to attend that day. A dystopian graveyard for the musical multiverse. All that is left is to sit alone in my room, surrounded by the sound of miniature violins as I weep away the hours. 

Fuzz are the band I was looking forward to most last year. It’s not often the power trio visit the UK, or anywhere for that matter. Fuzz tours seem to sync up with my Uncle David’s bath time routine, so about twice a decade.

It’s no real surprise they don’t come along often. A trio made up of some very productive individuals, whose musical output between them could fill your entire (insert most up to date method of storing music here). Ty Segall and his long term friend and collaborator, Charles Moothart, swap roles to play drums and guitar respectively. Moothart bringing all the doom of Tony Iommi, with Segall embodying Marc Bolan whilst simultaneously playing some pretty fucking outrageous drums. These two are driven by the relentless bass of Chad Ubovich. If you haven’t already listened to them and are a fan of seventies heavy rock, you’re in for a real treat. 

In lieu of a live show, Levitation have treated us to a series of live streams, including both Fuzz and the Freedom band. Through the power of the internet I managed to catch up with Charles for a chat.

DUNCAN CLARK [Raw Meat]: So you’re in LA right now? Have you spent all of the last year there? 
CHARLES MOOTHART: Yeah I was lucky to be able to break out a couple of times, I got to go up and see my sister once that felt a bit more safe, but yeah for the most part I’ve been around Los Angeles.

You mentioned you’ve been working on some new stuff in that time right?
Yeah, I’m doing a session with my friend, it’s kind of an experimental kinda thing. Definitely in the vein of my solo stuff [CFM]. Trying to take a stab at a different approach to things.

Are we going to get to see a UK tour with CFM anytime soon?
I would like to. The last tour we did was strange, but I feel like it went over pretty decently. I would definitely like to do it again. I’m just trying to recalibrate my brain with everything that’s happening right now and deal with the tour plans that we have at the moment. It seems like things are both never going to happen and then at the same time it feels like the next two years of my life are blocked out. We’ll see, but for sure I want to.

Fuzz were due over here last Summer, which then became Spring this year and is now yet to be announced. Is that still totally at the behest of Covid?
Right now we have dates that are being worked on for early 2022. Between Fuzz and the Freedom band shows it’s been a leapfrog situation. Something gets cancelled and then put to the back of the line, something else gets cancelled and put to the back of the line, so the order of everything gets completely scrambled. It’s hard to keep track of. The plans for 2022 seem sturdy, but before then, probably not.

Do the logistics of the numerous bands become easier given there’s such a crossover of personnel? 
I mean, it makes it easier in some ways. I’m lucky because I’ve loved every project I’ve been a part of and toured with. Most of the stuff I do is in Ty’s world, which kinda makes the puzzle pieces arrange themselves. I can then use whatever time is leftover I can use to do what I want, if I wanna do a CFM run of shows then I can use that pocket of time for that. It can be frustrating and a little overwhelming sometimes, as it’s sometimes hard to keep track, especially this year. But mostly it just solves itself.

I watched the Fuzz Levitation session last week, which was really fun. The Freedom band one is out next week [15th May]. How have you found doing the live streams? They were both pre recorded, when did you record them? [GET TICKETS HERE]
We had them separated by about a month, similar to the release timeline. It’s been really interesting, I really enjoy it. Nobody really did these things before, but I know that I love finding well recorded and well filmed footage of bands I love. It’s cool that it will exist forever and now there’s this documented point in time. I feel like the space they created with it was awesome, people reacted really positively to it.
Early on I was really wary of the pay to watch live stream shows in case they didn’t go over well or fans thought they were being taken advantage of. The way this has come out, with a record involved and all this really cool stuff has made me feel it’s something special that people would be happy to be a part of and support. It’s really weird and stressful in different ways. You want it to look the best and sound the best under a different magnifying glass. As anybody knows who does anything involving live music, it’s very rare to get all things to work at the same time on the same night. I really enjoy the whole thing though.

With no crowd there, how much does that affect how you play the live set? 
All of these go both ways. You can get into a weird pocket of being self aware. But, I think if you know how to react to that and harness it, it can become a positive thing, especially when you’re trying to come out with the best version of the set you possibly can. There were definitely moments where it felt really strange and uncomfortable, but it also allowed everybody to think a bit more critically about things. Wanting to still perform, but not leaning into the full on physical nature of it, trying to think more about your own musical performance.
That’s one of the funny things too, you go into it saying you’re going to play something a little more in the pocket and then watch it back and realise it’s way faster than you realised. You never have that moment with a live concert cos you’re not going back over the tapes. My major concern with these is that people who buy it and experience it are happy. That’s all that matters to me.

Do you think there’s any space for live streams to continue? For example, as a way to reach an audience who wouldn’t ever get the opportunity to make it to a live show. 
I think it’ll be case by case. I think that’s an awesome concept. I think that the music world has changed so much and technology has changed so much that it might open a door to people being able to harness it in that way. It could go both ways. I know that a lot of projects I’m involved with, we hold the show space as a holy space. As musicians there’s something very different with these things to playing a live show. You’re not playing the way you would, musically. It’s a very different concept. That being said, a lot of things that are happening right now in the world are probably going to stick around in a major way for the foreseeable future/forever. I’m very interested to see where this all lands afterwards.

What’s been your biggest challenge in the past year?
I think the same as most people. There’s definitely the ups and downs of depression and existential moments. I’m an optimistic person, but I’m also realistic. I’m very lucky to be who I am and where I am, with a strong support system emotionally and professionally. One of the biggest challenges was trying to stay in touch with where everything was going and my place within that. Staying present was the hardest thing because being present has been painful over the last year.

I almost feel like it’s been somewhat freeing for people who are predisposed to feeling anxious and depressed. It puts everyone in the same boat in terms where everyone is feeling a bit distant and anxious. It’s an interesting leveller. 
It really is. It’s interesting for me to see who, in this strange passage of time, became the people I would see regularly. Especially from a touring standpoint, the same as anyone from a professional standpoint, you go from seeing the same people all the time, to all of a sudden not. I find even the negative parts of it interesting. I feel refreshed by it in a lot of ways.
The concept of re-entering the world has made me question my interactions with it. Even from a creative perspective, I feel like I’ve been forced to check out different avenues of my brain and my creative process. I feel a new sense of purpose and faith in people. In America the last year went between very depressing and dystopian, then at other times inspiring and beautiful. It’s interesting to see how I’m going to carry that forward into the next phase of reality. It’s both exciting and anxiety inducing in its own way. 

Are live shows back on the cards over there yet? 
I hear a bunch of different things. To be real I try to keep tabs, but I can only really keep tabs on my world. I hear rumours of outdoor concerts and I heard there was going to be a show mid-May. From a touring standpoint we’re just trying to be as safe and responsible as possible so we are keeping a bit further out from it. Until I get word that a friend is playing a show next week I won’t know how I’ll feel about it. News today can in two days be completely different. 

Fuzz haven’t toured for a long time. 2020 brought a new album and a tour announcement. Does that mean more regularity for this band, or is it something that will return to the back burner? 
Historically I’d have no idea and especially now it’s an even bigger question mark. I do think, in all reality that’s probably what it’ll be like. We’ll see how these tours go and if it feels really positive and feels like we should keep this door open then that would be great because I love that band. With the age we are all getting to, the body is changing and everyone has their own stuff going on, but if it feels positive then we will. 

Was it a deliberate career choice to be a musician with lots of fingers in a lot of different pies? 
Deliberate, not necessarily, but that’s the way it’s always been. Ever since I was in high school I was always in a handful of bands. I went to high school with Ty and we were always starting new bands. It just naturally went that way, especially as we all play different instruments and enjoy playing different instruments, which opens that door up even more as the chemistry is different, even with the same people playing. I love it and I wouldn’t change it. 

Do you think the workload is higher playing in different groups, rather than in one band?
There are definitely trade offs. I love everything about what I do, I love travelling, I love touring, I love writing, I love recording, I love all of it. There are times when it’s a lot, but the trade off is that working and touring with one band would fatigue you in a totally different way. I think you would tour the same amount, but the studio time would be less, but I love being in the studio. I came up thinking it was normal to put out records, then tour and never stop. 

Is it nice to be able to tour, having so much material across different bands, without feeling obliged to play ‘the hits’ at every show?
I do really enjoy that. Ever since I’ve known Ty, he’s been so driven, which has brought us together cos I’m down for keeping pace. That’s something I respect about him, is that he’s able to keep that energy going. I think when I started realising that’s the strength of having all these bands I started leaning into it, as it’s special and it’s fun. It could go the other way and people could lose interest, but he’s a very commanding presence. When you’re around him you want to know what’s happening next.

When you put Fuzz together, was it genre based? Or was it more about swapping roles between the two of you? 
It was all very intentional. I had been working on some demos, where my whole goal was to write a Sabbath style riff. I was wondering if I could do something cool that sounds interesting. 

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had a daily mix on, a song has come on and I’ve thought, "ah I’ve not listened to Black Sabbath in ages," to then realise it’s Fuzz. So I definitely think you’ve nailed that one. 
Well I take that as a full compliment, cos Sabbath is God. That was all very intentional. I started showing them to Ty and he thought they were cool so we started jamming. He’s an incredible drummer. When I met him he was pretty much only drumming, before he started playing guitar. So it became an excuse for me to play those ideas and for him to play some drums.

Who’s the better drummer, you or Ty? 
I would say Ty, but who knows. I’ve always known him to be the drummer. Drums is his first instrument and guitar is mine. 

You play drums in GØGGS too. How do you enjoy that kind of drumming compared to the Freedom band?
That’s kind of how I learnt playing drums. I grew up playing punk, I played guitar in a hardcore band and drums in a garage-y punk band, so it’s a very comfortable space for me. The difference between being 22 and playing a set at that speed and being late 20’s is a whole different thing. 

Are we likely to see anything more from GØGGS?
I dunno, I’m not sure. Chris (Shaw) has his band, Richard Rose, which totally rules. I’m also not sure what Ex-Cult are up to. He also recently became the father of an amazing child. I know that he’s got a lot going on, similar to us. Right now things are so up in the air. Who knows. 

Last question, you’re putting together a one-day festival, you’re allowed to pick from all time. Who’s playing and where’s it being held? 
I’d start from the top with Black Sabbath and Motörhead. The Miles Davis groups are always hard for me to keep track of, but I would say either Miles in the Sky or Bitches Brew era Miles Davis, maybe for the sunset session. Then I’d go into Sabbath, then from there into 36 Chambers era Wu-Tang and then Motörhead. Before Miles Davis I’ll put '77 era Grateful Dead, cos that’s been my jam lately. Super late night I’ll have Void playing a totally fucked up late night set, which is only watched by 10 people. It’s going to be somewhere on the coast of Southern Mexico, which is where I want to be right now.  

designed by Duncan Clark, dreamed by Charles Moothart

With any luck, Fuzz will be back in the UK in 2022. I, for one, can’t wait. For now, Fuzz’s session is available through the Levitation website.

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