Interview | Prism Tats

By Kieran Webber

The lo-fi one man band originally from Durban, South Africa made his way stateside early 2000’s as part of a University exchange program and pretty much never looked back and once settled started building a repertoire for Prism Tats.

Fast forward to 2016 and Garrett Van Der Spek (Prism Tats) has his debut album set for release May 6th via ANTI, produced by Chris Woodhouse (Ty Segall & Wild Flag).

We were lucky enough to have an exclusive listen to the album, which by the way is an amazing barrage of infectious riffs and reverb laden lo-fi that would make John Dwyer weep. After a couple of spins and being thoroughly addicted we had to have a chat with the man behind the sound.

CLUNK : Thank you so much for taking your time to answer these questions, how have things been and what have you been up to?

Garrett : Things have been very good. Keeping busy with an album release and getting ready for tour. The usual.

CLUNK : You are originally from South Africa but moved to Seattle in the early 2000’s Im curious to know what was it about America (specifically Seattle) that made you emigrate ?

Garrett : I had always wanted to make the most of a study abroad program so in my last year at university I applied to several different schools around the world and the University of Washington in Seattle was the only one who accepted me. Once I was there, I met my wife and decided to stay. Very much a random spin of the wheel and I happened to get very lucky.

CLUNK : Are there any similarities between your home town Durban and where you are located now? If so what are they and if not what is the defining differences ?

Garrett : There are some very strong similarities between Los Angeles and Durban actually. Both have a big driving culture. If you can’t get there in a car, no point in going. Both can offer some brutal summer weather. My favorite thing about LA is how culturally diverse it is which reminds me a lot of Durban and South Africa. I feel strangely at home on the other side of the planet.

CLUNK : How did the name Prism Tats come about and why did you choose it?

Garrett : A continuing conversation with my brother-in-law about, “that would make a great band name” resulted in him sending me a list one day on which one of the names was The Prism Tats which I found pretty funny and saved to memory for my next project.

CLUNK : Are you excited about the release of your debut album ? Do you have a particular track you like the most, if so which one and why?

Garrett : Of course, so much hard work has gone into making this album, I can’t wait to share it. As for particular track, I love them all but if I had to pick I’d probably go with the last track on the record Know It All. It was from the first batch of songs I wrote for the record when I was trying to write and record a new song everyday. It was done as an experiment that I didn’t expect would make the record but it quickly grew on me. I also love they way Chris Woodhouse, who mixed the record, took a lyrical cue from the song and put a quintessentially T. Rex delay on the vocal.


CLUNK : Was their a particular influence for the debut album?

Garrett :  I definitely set out to create a record that sounded a certain way. The drum machine which I hadn’t used before definitely set the raw sort of Prince inspired pop tone and my guitar style is always to keep it pretty stark and simple so together it kind of came together as a post-punk-pop record.

CLUNK : What sort of music did you listen to growing up and what role did said artists have in you becoming a musician?

Garrett : The Beatles is the best children’s music and by that I mean that it seems so common that it’s almost a cliche that people fall in love with their music at a young age and is often the gateway drug to other great artists and making music oneself. My father started playing me Sgt Peppers and The White Album when I was 7 or 8 which ultimately led to me playing guitar by 10 or 11 just so I could learn some Beatles tunes. From there I started listening to Oasis, Blur, Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, the usual 90s teenage repertoire which led me to play in bands.

CLUNK : If you could collab with an artist (alive or dead) who would you choose and why?

Garrett : Phew so many spring to mind but the late South African legend Brenda Fassie would be an amazing collaboration. I saw her perform at a festival shortly before her passing and I had never witnessed such a rock star performance before. A 23 year old Mick Jagger would have struggled to keep up. She tore through her set with such incredible punk energy, it was so inspiring to watch.

CLUNK : Have you had any shows you’ve played that have stood out from the rest due to something crazy/gnarly or weird happening?

Garrett : Nothing too crazy/gnarly or weird but there was a show in Seattle when in the middle of the set a woman approached the stage and handed me a large rubber dinosaur between songs which became the Prism Tats mascot for the remainder of the set. Also had a cut on my finger that I’d superglued closed before a show spring back open to bloody gwaresque results. Sorry, were you eating?

CLUNK : Lastly, what is in the future for Prism Tats?

Garrett : Touring! We’ll be playing shows across North America this summer and hopefully line up some dates in Europe for the fall.