Ty Richards,
The TVD First Date

“I’ve never been good at first dates or surface conversations so I’ll just awkwardly dive right into it and either scare you off or make you fall in love with me. I have one true musical idol and its Mr. Frank Zappa. Mostly out of pure envy though. His music is good, but really I love him because that son-of-a-bitch put out 60-something albums and I haven’t. And he only made it to age 52. If I could choose to be like anyone it would be him. RIP.”

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t love me some warm gooey vinyl. As a producer and gearhead, I really enjoy seeing the resurgence that is happening of all-things-analog. I cobbled together my first demo as a 13-year-old kid by recording on an old ’90s Sony 2-channel Karaoke machine straight to cassette tape with the stock microphone that came with it, an old Squier Stratocaster, and a fifty-dollar practice amp.

I even picked up my dad in the background of one of the songs yelling like he always did, “TURN THAT THING DOWN, GODDAMMIT!!!!!” As a third wave analog nerd, I’m proud to say I’ve finally kissed 15 years of digital recording goodbye and come full circle to invest in a mid-’80s Tascam 388 tape machine that I bought off my good friend McCullough Ferguson of Whit.

That said, I’ve learned to be good friends with the digital era too, living a life that embraces the good of both worlds while leaving out the bad. I think this cliché of living a “hipster” lifestyle, as a mere recreation of a Wes Anderson film is dumb. I don’t want to use a typewriter and I don’t need a messenger hawk. I like my Mac and I prefer texting, thank you.

Also, I’m not going to feed you some hipster bullshit that I grew up blowing the magical dust off of a long lineage of vinyl that hath been passed down from generation to generation like King Arthur’s sword. I was raised on good old CDs, God love ‘em. My parents, like yours, threw away their turntables and lost their records after their divorces. But my dad did do what any good dad would—he stuffed my Christmas stocking with Zeppelin IV and CCR’s Chronicle. That’s just good parenting. I was introduced early on to ’60s and ’70s rock along with all the good Motown songs, but I also bought albums (in the form of CD) like Rubberneck by The Toadies, self-titled Third Eye Blind, Everclear’s Sparkle & Fade, OK Computer by Radiohead, and Jeff Buckley’s Grace.

My life, like most people’s, is a melding of the analog and the digital and I don’t see them as mutually exclusive. I just like things that are good. It’s more about inspiration than old vs. new. My upcoming record Zillion is a really good marriage of the two worlds. I’m using a ton of analog gear like my old ’60s Supro Zeppelin-type guitar amps, synth arpeggiators, and an early 1970s Arp Odyssey synthesizer. But I performed and produced it all in a digital, poppy kind of way. I don’t ever see myself making music that is purely throwback. And I won’t ever be a 100% analog kind of guy either. I listen to digital when I need convenience, but listen on vinyl when I want to fully experience the music. Nostalgic yearning but also reaching into the dark future for something new. Anyone can rehash the old. We must still push the envelope into a new space.

As much of a pretentious analog freak as I try to be, I do take pride in knowing that I grew up in the dawn of the “digital age.” I’m not ashamed to say it. I get to tell my grandkids, “I remember when the internet came out…” Millennials like me were raised with no internet and then all of a sudden in the middle of our awkward post-Cobain adolescence—BAM!—the interwebs were born. AOL Online, baby. Literally out of nowhere.

All of the sudden, I could pull up a black and neon website with blinky hyperlinks and get all of the glorious cheat codes to GoldenEye 007. Instantly. I don’t think I ever beat a single Legend of Zelda game until the internet arrived to help me cheat my way through. Sweet, sweet instant gratification. Years later, once the shock and novelty of internet porn wore off, it hit me. While my parents were at work, I would tie up the family phone line for 8-hour sessions of screaming dial-up to download a shit quality Mp3.

All this came at a cost though as we know—the destruction of the music industry as a whole and the further devaluing of artists and their music. My beloved Zeppelin Live BBC box set and Toadies CDs with their tiny, but still beautiful album artwork were on their way out bringing much sadness to my worn out Sony boom box and my ‘95 Chevy Blazer’s 6-disc car stereo. Out with the old and in with the iPod. With the rise of iTunes, the entire music industry completely shifted to suit the new consumers of convenience it created. To me, music fans had now become some kind of 99-cent single-hungry Bieber monsters who don’t even know what an album is. The time of auto-tuned disposable music was here.

This post-apocalyptic music industry sounds horrible, right? Well, in hindsight maybe not. In the long-term I would say that all these changes were actually good for me and my musical palette. Stop and think about it for a minute. The proverbial pendulum always swings. This new age, with its information overload and shitty band surplus, naturally brought me and my friends into a love for vinyl and into the history of “superior” music.

Not only that, but all things analog. Synthesizers, tube amps, tape machines galore. My brain drools at the mere mention of such things. It’s not that my analog gear makes my songs magically not suck. It’s more about touching knobs and faders and real buttons again—instead of the cold sterile screens of iPhones and computer screens. It’s liberating for the listener and the artist alike. Like using a pen or something. And it’s so much more than the satisfying ego boost that comes with buying old analog gear. James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem said it best in his sobering run-on-sentence of a song “I’m Losing My Edge”:

“I hear you’re buying a synthesizer and an arpeggiator and are throwing your computer out the window because you want to make something real. You want to make a Yaz record…”

Go listen to this right now. So damn good. This sums up the post-digital movement perfectly. We’ve watched the sale of vinyl blow up. Vinyl is officially mainstream. Hell, you can go to Barnes and Noble now and buy a shitty Crosley turntable and the entire Beatles catalog. The public appreciation for actual albums is growing and growing. The movement toward something “real”—something I can touch and feel, something I can immerse myself in—is here and here to stay. Even aside from all the eleventeen-year-old’s buying turntables from Target.

Records have stood the test of time and come full circle. It turns out that albums matter. Artists matter. Art matters. Good music IS valuable (and not just intrinsically). But if I can make a record, I think anyone with the right amount of stubbornness and willingness to go out on a limb can too. My bucket list has thirty items on it and I’ve only completed one on the list so far. My first LP. I’ve got some serious work to do. My life goal is to be buried with at least thirty records under my belt. It seems impossible to me, but I intend to make that happen and I’m glad that I finally arrived at a mental place in my life where I’ve realized that I don’t need permission from anyone to do it. I can just start.

My upcoming record Zillion is out on February 3, and it represents my realization that I am not just a musician but an artist and I can just make dumb shit without getting permission from anyone. It feels good. I’m letting the cards fall where they may. I got sick and tired of believing that I had to have perfect songs with the perfect band, and a perfect engineer with the perfect producer only to wait to get signed by the perfect label with the perfect PR campaign to back it. I’m so done with my own perfectionism. And done with an antiquated music industry that tells me that I am screwed unless I have a ton of money or the right connections. To this I say—Fuck. That.

I wrote, performed, engineered, produced, and mixed my own record and here it is. My own giant middle finger to my perfectionist self. A kind of self-rebellion and musical self-portrait to say no regrets, baby. I’ve sat on 5 or so albums worth of songs for 10 years only to wait until my 30th birthday to finally say, fuck everything I’ve written and thought before, here is my first full-length album. It’s all brand-new stuff that I wrote after moving to the wonderful Austin, Texas a couple of years ago. I left a yuppie ad agency suburbs life to become a self-unemployed, self-proclaimed artist and haven’t looked back. At the risk of being narcissistic, I say “Happy birthday to me!”

Here’s to making more and more records and carrying the rock and roll torch that will forever say “Fuck the System ,” whatever that system is.”
Ty Richards

Ty Richards’ debut full-length LP, Zillion arrives in stores on February 3, 2017. Pre-order it right here.

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