Leather daddies and jazz: a beginner’s guide to garage-rock hero John Dwyer

Dwyer has released 21 albums with Thee Oh Sees – and 20 other records that range from German industrial electronics to heavy metal. He gives the backstories about key tracks in his vast back catalogue.

‘My motto is: try everything, life is short,” says John Dwyer, the leader of San Francisco garage rockers Thee Oh Sees. “We are growing at every turn. Every day you get a little older, a little closer to the grave – you should taste it all.”

A master of contemporary garage rock, he came into prominence as part of the fruitful San Francisco scene of the early 2000s. Since then Thee Oh Sees have rattled out 21 LPs of bewilderingly consistent quality, under various iterations of their name, and Dwyer has written, recorded and released another 20 albums with other collaborators, encompassing everything from industrial electronics to improvised jazz and death metal.

In a recent interview with Marc Maron, Dwyer talked of his love of Scott Walker and, in particular, a scene in the Walker documentary 30th Century Man when a percussionist is recorded punching a side of beef; Dwyer has similarly tried to master new sounds, be it a flute on Thee Oh Sees’ Dog Poison or electronic bagpipes on his most recent Damaged Bug LP. His career is full of examples of how to explore genres on a shoestring, too – there are projects that are just drums and vocals (the Drums) or a hefty death metal record squeezed out of three people (Dig That Body Up, It’s Alive). We asked him where to begin in his vast back catalogue.