Will Sheff

Will Sheff
Will Sheff
Photograph by John Vanderslice

The creative force behind Austin’s Okkervil River has taken on a new role as record producer of True Love Cast Out All Evil (Anti-), the first studio album from 13th Floor Elevators front man and psychedelic rock pioneer Roky Erickson in fourteen years. The 62-year-old Erickson has had a long road back from his early days, which were marked by youthful stardom, imprisonment, drug addiction, and mental illness. Now healthy and happy, he has crafted one of the finest recordings of his career, with some help from Sheff and his band.

You’ve said that Roky is both the most blessed and cursed person you’ve ever met. The things that happened to Roky in his life—any one of them would have broken me. His horrible experiences with drugs, being put in a maximum-security prison for the criminally insane, subjected to shock treatment and forced labor—he managed to get through it all with his creativity and his spark. He’s an incredibly positive, charismatic, warm person.

You were sent some sixty songs of Roky’s. Elevators outtakes, songs from Rusk [the institution where Roky was incarcerated], songs from the horror rock period, studio demos, and really shaky home recordings—even him in the prison yard playing. That stuff especially spoke to me; I felt I was getting this privileged glimpse into this secret world, and I wanted listeners to have the same experience.

This may not be the record a lot of Roky’s fans are expecting. That’s intentional. There’s a side to Roky that hasn’t really been explored much, and that’s what is on this record—the serious, mystical, spiritual songwriting that he does. He’s not a one-dimensional guy who only sings about two-headed dogs.

Some of these songs are wrenching, like “Please, Judge.” “Be and Bring Me Home” is just—Yeah, that’s my favorite. When I heard those songs, they broke my heart. It isn’t the sadness and how awful the things are

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