Lust For Life: The Creed McTaggart Interview
We sit down with your man on the cover to discuss life, bands and hanging with Iggy PopRead more
Creed McTaggart is lovely. I know that in the half-century of surf magazines, opening an interview by describing the subject as “lovely” is a little odd, especially one that surfs as hard and fast as he does, and plays even harder and faster on stage with his band Wash, but really, there is no better way to say it. There are a lot of lovely people in the world. People who show genuine interest in the humans around them. People who approach new things with unbridled enthusiasm and old things with intrigue and a willingness to learn. People who bring the best out of their friends, and invite outsiders to their inside. Really lovely people. And Creed McTaggart is one of them. After giving away competition surfing as an under 18 Australian Champion five years ago, he’s starred in the biggest high profile movies of the era – Kai Neville’s Cluster and Globe’s Strange Rumblings – he’s taken top billing in the most creative and absurd Australian surf movies – his and Toby Cregan’s Nix Nic Nooley and our own Scary Good – and he’s started a band with his mates Ellis Ericson and Beau Foster that’s touring with some of the best up-and-coming young bands in the country. And this year Wash will be playing with Iggy Pop, of Iggy and the Stooges, of Raw Power and Search and Destroy and The Passenger and Lust for Life, all before Creed enters his mid-20s (he turns 24 on Australia Day). It’s all been happening for Creed and it hasn’t always been fun nor easy, which we’ll get into, but through it all, Creed McTaggart has remained lovely. And that is a wonderful thing for us and for surfing.
SW: Are you the kind of guy who creates a mental blueprint of where you want your life going or are you more a get up in the morning and see where the world takes ya kind of person?
CM: I’m definitely a get up in the morning and see where the world takes me kind of person. I hate making daily plans because if they don’t come off, it creates stress, but then at the same time I do have long-term ideas about where I want my life to be and that creates very natural pathways on how to get there. If you’re surfing as a career, there’s not a lot of stability. I don’t think of myself as indispensable and I never have. It’s been that way since I was young. I knew early that getting paid to surf wouldn’t last forever so as soon as I had money I went full mogul. I’ve got investments, I have houses, I wanted to make sure if the dream came to an end I had something to show for it. I dropped out of school when I was 15. I was pretty fucking stupid. I don’t know what I would do now if I didn’t surf. So to be in a position where I was always conscious of how fortunate a situation I was in, and to respect what I was getting paid to do it, and to put that money into stuff that gives me options later in life… it’s something I’m proud of doing. I don’t wanna be a burnout after all this shit goes down, when living the dream, or whatever you wanna call it, is done. But other than that, I wake up in the morning, go surfing and everything is pretty spontaneous, certainly as far as trips and daily life are concerned.
That’s solid, mate. By doing that you really avoid becoming the pro guy who gets bitter because he surfed and had a ball but then has nothing to show for it when the money runs out. You get to be grateful for the times you had because you made some good decisions. Exactly, man. I get paid to go on surf trips, which is fun, but I also take it pretty seriously. And when I’m away, I surf a fucking shitload because I love it. I love the feeling of setting out on a trip or a project and working hard because it’ll only ever turn out as good as you want to make it. Freesurfing as a career is ridiculous, it’s the best time with the best people doing what you love, but you have to take it seriously and put in the work too.
Are you much of a daydreamer?
Oh hell yeah. I had this crazy dream last night. It was like a nightmare, but it was so fucking amazing, one of those really long, tense horrible stories that goes for ages. I woke up this morning and wrote it down and thought to myself, “Shit, maybe one day I’ll make a horror film!” (Laughs) One bad dream and next thing I’m making plans to become a director or some shit! (Laughs) Yeah, my head’s always in the clouds, but I reckon you gotta be like that because if you’re not, you’ll never do anything. It doesn’t really matter whether an idea is good or not, it’s the enjoyment of starting a project and getting into the whole journey with everyone and then the satisfaction that comes when you complete it and then the big celebratory release, sharing what you’ve made with everyone. l love that feeling, I fucking love it. I love making movies and then watching everyone at the premiere stoked and screaming and sharing that journey. Seeing it through from idea to finished product with all the hard work in-between and then celebrating the fact you fucking did it! That’s the juice right there.
How important has your band Wash been in terms of helping you heal? What has writing music brought to your life?
It’s probably the most important thing that’s come into my life since I started surfing. I’m obsessed with it. And it’s funny because most of the early songs I wrote when I was starting out were so dark and depressing, but then after I’d write it I’d feel light and amazing (laughs). The process is so healthy, you take a thought or a feeling and you write it on a page and that becomes a lyric which then becomes a verse and then you find a chorus and then that forms into a whole song. So after 30 minutes or an hour, all your worries and all your negative thoughts and everything that’s shit goes out the window because you have just created something awesome out of all these shitty feelings. It’s beautiful. I remember showing Toby Cregan (filmer and Skegss bass player) some Wash songs before we recorded them and he was like, “Yeah, I like it, but fuck it’s depressing and dark!” And I’d laugh because it made me feel so happy and the words rhymed (laughs). It really is the best feeling and I would recommend to anyone who feels shitty that they should start a fucking band. Don’t worry if you can play or not, just start and learn on the run because it’s the best way to deal with the shit that you go through. The funny thing is, now I’ve fallen in love and I’m writing love songs. A year ago I would have never imagined doing that. It’s amazing. When I was younger, I only listened to hardcore music and punk music and I was totally, “Fuck everything else!” Now I listen to country music and jazz and pretty much everything. I guess it’s a bit like life, the more open your mind is to everything the better your experience of it will be.
Which bring us to Iggy Pop. How did hanging out with him come about?
About a year ago Steve Gorrow and I were in Bali having a full blown Iggy Pop relapse, listening to all his albums, and he was like, “Maybe we should do a collab with Iggy?” And I was like, “That would be sick!” Steve had already done the Warhol Billabong collab, so it didn’t seem that out of the question at the time, but then a year later I get the call and he’s fucken pulled it off! I couldn’t believe it. I’m not religious at all, but it was like being a Christian and being told, “Hey, so we’re gonna go hang out with God in a couple of weeks and you’ll be able to jam with him too.”
Tell us about the day you guys hooked up?
We rocked up at eight in the morning to this mansion in Malibu and it was owned by this guy with ties to the royal family in Pakistan or some shit, and he was totally loaded. This guy is just corked out of his mind, sweating bullets, wearing boardshorts and cowboy boots and drinking some sort of liquor from this really skinny bottle that’s in the shape of an AK-47. And he comes up to me and he’s like, “Hey man, I met David Bowie when I was nine-years-old and he was a mentor for me for my whole life and I’m doing this album with Slash and we’re making a record.” And I was like, “Cool, well, I’m Creed.” Anyway, the Billabong guys are setting up, and Mike Piscitelli who’s shooting it is getting everything ready for when Iggy turns up, and I’m just wandering around. Pretty soon the guy comes back up to me and says, “Hey, come down to my other little house just down my driveway?” I was like, “Sure,” but at the same time I was a bit off it because the dude was just so wasted on god knows what. But we get down there and he’s drinking from his gun bottle and he introduces me to this girl who’s wearing this skimpy little swimsuit and she’s off her head as well. And the guy says, “Creed is a world famous surfer and he’s doing a shoot with Iggy today.” And the girl says, “No way! I’m from Hawaii. I surf Waimea. I’m like the only girl out there.” So she starts telling me about her life in Hawaii and at the same time the dude is talking to me about how he has been on the phone to the Vatican all morning and he’s trying to get a Michelangelo sculpture shipped to his house, and then all of a sudden the girl bursts into tears saying how much she misses Hawaii and that she wants to go home. And then the guys starts pissing himself, right there in front of me, and he doesn’t even know. So it’s all happening and I get up and say, “You know what guys, nice to meet you, I’m heading back up to the other house.” I bail back up to the other house and I sit down on a couch and I’m tripping on all the stuff I’ve just seen, when all of a sudden fucking Iggy Pop busts in through the door. Like, the door just bashes into the wall and in walks this specimen of health and vitality wearing Gucci shoes and a leather jacket and boardshorts and I just couldn’t believe the juxtaposition between the guy down at the other house who wanted to be Iggy Pop versus the guy who actually is Iggy Pop! Anyway, he comes straight over to me and he’s like, “Hey man, how are ya? What’s going on? Hey, I was watching a surf movie of you and, man, you were going crazy doing those big airs,” and he’s talking to me about how well I surf (laughs). In my head I was screaming, “Oh my god!” but I said, “Thanks, Iggy.” He was just a terrific, normal, super-chill dude. We spoke about Lou Reed and Leonard Cohen and he was telling me how he went to Leonard Cohen’s house and Leonard would always be playing this shitty keyboard and would be writing these songs on this little piece of crap instrument. It was so bizarre. We did the shoot and the whole time we were talking about surfing and music and the sun was out and we were eating burritos and even though it was so cool, I was fully shitting myself the whole time. It’s so heavy to meet someone you’ve idolised your whole life. The first tattoo I ever got was one of his songs, “Innocent World”, which was in the credits of Doped Youth. It’s the best fucking song, and it kinda sums up my whole childhood. After the shoot he says, “Hey I’m playing tomorrow night in LA, I’ll get you tickets.” So me, Kai and Stevie went to LA and watched him play and he was insane. He was going off and his voice hasn’t changed a bit. I was tripping out, and straight after the gig he zoned out in his limo and left. I was just like, “Fuck. That was the best two days of my life.” I thought, “This is it, it doesn’t get any better than this.”
But it does get better because on the day this mag comes out Wash will be playing as Iggy’s band at the Billabong House in Hawaii to launch the collab range. That’s out of control!
It’s so heavy man. We play three songs with him, “Search and Destroy”, “Raw Power” and “Lust for Life” and he’s going to come up and sing with us. At first, I didn’t want to do it. I was like, “I don’t deserve to play with Iggy Pop, we’re a fucking shitty band that have been together for just over a year, and we don’t even know how to fucking play!” But half an hour later I thought about it and I was like, “One day I’m gonna be 45 and saying I didn’t play with Iggy Pop.” He was such a cool dude. Back at the house, we were jamming for a bit on guitars and I was playing this little riff, and he was like, “Whoa, what’s that song? Is that a cover?” And I was like, “Nah, it’s just a song I wrote in Mexico a couple weeks ago.” And he’s like “Dude, you gotta record that. That’s a hit.” (Laughs) He is the sickest dude ever. He’s pretty much a god.