The Los Angeles-based one-man garage band White Fence has picked up some swell shine thanks to his collaboration with Ty Segall in 2012. The man otherwise known as Tim Presley crushed out excellent long-players such as Family Perfume Vol. 1 and the recent Cyclops Reap. We talk weirdos, cyclopses and being a “lifer” with White Fence’s Tim Presley.
Interview by Will Martin, photos shot by Suzanna Zak in Los Angeles, USA
‘I have my own gang of weirdos that I love, and we’d do anything for each other in the name of bettering the situation.’
Your music as White Fence seems pretty tied in to your life in L.A. I imagine a lot of the art scene there is made up of people who either have enough money to live off and create, and those who create because they can’t do anything else.
Yes… there are both sides of the spectrum, and both sides are valid.
I guess a lot of people would define work as being anything that they don’t want to do, which would subsequently make music a refusal of work. Is that how you view your music?
I’ve worked before, music is not work… it’s a piece of work. The same applies to any art… but yes, doing music is my refusal of work… though at the same time, you must be active with it. And work very hard. And in turn it’s actually swallowed me whole. It’s all I think about.
Has making music almost become a means of survival?
I do know that without it, I would shrivel up like a raisin in the sun and be hopeless. I think for me it’s something I can release demons through… because I can’t afford therapy. It’s a way for my soul to survive, and I am a soul man.
White Fence is named partly after an L.A. gang. Do you see relationships amongst musical contemporaries as holding a similar relationship to that between gang members? Traveling and creating together as a means of breaking away from social norms etc…
Yes, but I saw that more in the punk scene, growing up in San Francisco and East Bay. That had more of a community feel. Looking after each other, literally feeding each other etc… Now, with my contemporaries it’s a bit like that, but mostly everyone is too cool to give a shit about one another. And too worried about a career, God bless them all. But I have my own gang of weirdos that I love, and we’d do anything for each other in the name of bettering the situation.
‘There are times where I would rather die homeless and poor in the name of making art.’
There’s a generation of kids now who are probably never going to be able to buy their own homes, moving from place to place, trying to be creative in the ways that they can make money: always on the run. Is a nomadic lifestyle the way forward?
I don’t know: I’m going through that now. I wonder if I’ll ever have a house, garden and child. Things our parents had. The problem with being a ‘lifer’ is that you never know. There are times where I would rather die homeless and poor in the name of making art. But there are the other times where I think it would be nice to have a family and a home with a pet goat.
Do you think owning property is even relevant anymore?
It’s near impossible where I live. Honestly, I don’t know how many of my friends will own property. This is a sad interview.
In Be at Home you talk about retreating to ‘the room go to while wash underwear in the sink.’ I get the impression that rather than wanting to run away from home, you have a pretty strong attachment to it.
I do. Or a strong attachment to the ‘unit’: a two bedroom apartment with the wife, and two cats. It’s like an alternate universe. Because I’m always making music in my room, and because Los Angeles can be isolating, it feels like my L.A. is in my apartment.
How does that work out when you’re on tour? Is touring the solution to homesickness…? Little breaks to make the heart grow fonder?
Yes indeed! It’s the time when I can explore and get my kicks, and at the same time romantically miss something and someone. I think it’s healthy. Maybe. Plus, my wife is the only girl that understands how this touring life works. I’ve had girlfriends that thought I was abandoning them. So fuck those needy girls/partners.
Has the music you’ve made ever come as a result of you running away from anything?
Yes. I think I’m always running away from something. Either physical or mental. I’m trying to outrun sadness and being unhappy. I think that’s why I’m so focused on writing music and recording. I am the one-eyed focused cyclops. I build swords and armor all day. I am a blacksmith.
White Fence plays OT301, Amsterdam on 16 May with Naive Set and as always it’s free for Subbacultcha! members.