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Interview with Telekaster

img  Tobias

The recording process for „The Silent Anagram“ anything but "business as usual" for you, wasn't it?
I had quite a clear vision of what i'd like to do before i even started. Telekaster is a project that was born out of being slightly bored or being in too much of a routine with the stuff i used to do before. I tried to get away from the slow beat/guitar/voice-thing i had developed for my phon°noir project over the past couple of years. I was trying to reduce things and strip down ideas for what could have been „songs“ to their bare minimum, focusing more on the textures and the minimal variations and tensions within and among the sounds themselves... a certain idea of endlessness, a positive reading of the term „monotony“, and maybe a way of re-defining my guitar sound into something more ethereal were the basis of all this... i wanted to work with a  more abstract kind of approach, simply letting things happen, stretching time and forgetting about song structures and formats. I started focusing on only two or three chords or one or two basic loops per song (in some cases it's just one), building tunes around that simple moment of minimal beauty i found in there, trying to sharpen that particular aspect and making it shine...  Soundwise i knew exactly what i wanted but it took me a while to understand how to get there, i also had to find lots of new tools and ways of working to make it come together the way it sounded in my head. So on the technical side of things producing this album was definitely a lot of trial and error and i would constantly start new sessions, sketching out new ideas before i had finished what i had begun the week before. I think that way the individual pieces kept feeding back into each other adding to that very strong overall album-character, which i feel „The Silent Anagram“ has.

In which way are the questions and statements on the telekaster website indicative of the themes and motives „The Silent Anagram“ is dealing with?
„The Silent Anagram“ is definitely „dealing“ with something, even if it's something i cannot put into three sentences. This something to me is more like a vague set of feelings and attitudes, thoughts and reflections, things that have been on my mind for the past years and that obviously couldn't be filtered into the sort of music i had been playing until the point where i realized telekaster could maybe open up the needed spaces here. I always felt I would maybe rather have to create „objects“ than songs in order to be capable of making these ideas transparent, which is maybe why telekaster may at times seem closer to sculpturing or to architecture than to guitar-based music. As for the words on the website, there is two layers of text on The more poetic fragments i gathered around the photography have been triggered by the finished music: A friend of mine wrote them for me, originally in order to create some sort of atmospheric press release. The more sloganized parts of the text I wrote myself. They obviously exist like headlines or like "siblings" to the music, both of them being products of the same ideas, manifesting themselves just as much in these phrases as they do in piece of music. To be honest, some of these phrases are just playing around with words that got stuck in my head for too long and that suddenly made perfect sense - like the album title for instance, which works like a programmatic headline with an inbuilt subtitle once you really get behind the words.

Did you prepare sounds and noises as a specific palette prior to commencing the recording?
Not really, actually. It's more that i found out about certain sounds and processes while working on the first few tracks... It was then that i realized which of the things i had thought of beforehand actually worked, and which wouldn't work. While recording and sketching out new ideas I would generate a certain set of effect-chains and software patches that allowed me to come closer to the vision i had, especially for my guitar treatment. Indeed quite a few of these self-made presets have been used  frequently over the months of putting the album together. Many times i would start out recording a few guitar lines or piano bits, and then first thing i'd do with them would be feeding them through my patches in audiomulch. I found a way there to develop these grainy, hissy fog-like textures underlying most of the instrumental recordings on the album. These textures are for sure one of the reasons why the album sounds so coherent, in my view they function as some sort of glue, tying together the individual pieces of a particular track but also linking all of the 8 tracks into each other. One of the main ideas when starting to write and play this music was to work with sounds ermerging from out of the white snow of static and hiss, finding melodies, finding beauty in there and to see where this takes me.

You were also sent material by Mikhail Karikis. Was there a specific request for particular sounds from your side or did Mikhail simply send over some files for you to peruse and check out for usability?
Mikhail and me have been in touch for quite some  time, we both released on subrosa (i did 2 records there as phon°noir) and knew each other through that channel. Last year we produced remixes for each other – i did one as telekaster for his MORPHICA album, he re-worked one of my phon°noir tracks for my remix download-EP COUNTING RAINDROPS. In that remix he made excessive use of heavy orchestral soundscapes, mixing software orchestra stuff with his own violin and voice in a very „sacral“ but dramatically modern sounding way. I was totally overwhelmed by his reinterpretation of my song and i felt we should work together on a proper collaborational piece at some point, hoping he could add this kind of vibe to one of my newer tunes, too. ALL THAT IS SOLID MELTS INTO NOISE was the piece i chose to hand over to him at some point because it was screaming for that type of epic build-up and culmination; i had already fixed most of the basic recordings, my textures and the piano and the noise bits but i figured  this could be a way more „exhaustive“ piece of music,  and this is where Mikhail came in with the orchestral parts and his characteristic vocals. In the end it became what is maybe the most radical and most over-the-top piece of music i ever did. Yet this recording wouldn't have been possible without Mikhail, he has musical capacities that go far beyond mine and it's so enriching to have him onboard this record.

You worked on the album within your room in Berlin. How important are your immediate surroundings for your music? I talked to the guys of Lokai and the fact that their latest album was recorded in Vienna – a city where they could always have a quick break from the studio and go for a coffee or Schnapps – appears to have been vital...
I totally agree on this. For me, Berlin is still very important. I have been living here for almost 7 years now and it has been an strong input ever since even though i could never relate to (and never really wanted to) any of the „scenes“ people always suspect to exist around here... but my friends, my home, my life, everything is here, so i couldn't really work anywhere else for a longer time at the moment.

Did you also record all of the collaborations in your room?

As for the the violin parts a friend of mine played, yes. We did that at my place too. The contributions from Mikhail and Keung (of Mandelbrot Set), however, were recorded at their respective places in London and i embedded them in the mix later on.

Upon finishing „The Silent Anagram“ you mentioned that you had „finally managed not to go beyond the 40-minutes-limit a vinyl record holds“. Does this mean you had to shed a lot of material to arrive at the eight tracks of the album?
I might have had material for a record of about 60 minutes... the decision panic arrest and me took in going for this release on vinyl limited the maximum duration to 40 minutes, as that is what you can fit on a 12“ without loss of quality... i really liked the idea of skipping a few pieces in order to be left with only the best material, yet the fact that building the playlist would also mean dividing the album in 2 sets à 20 minutes still provided some more obstacles. Some of the tracks were meant to be crossfaded, others could only stand alone, others could only be at the beginning or the end of a side - so many things to keep in mind. In the end i managed to get everything in its right place and most of the material i wanted to release at that point is now on the LP. Other pieces are currently being reworked for the 2nd album, or i already used them for theatre or radioplay purposes in the meantime.

You appear to hold a deep interest in the visual arts. How do music and image complement each other from your perspective?
This is something i have been thinking about a lot since i first realized how much a cover artwork or a videoclip can actually enhance the experience of the music they go along with, or how much music and imagery can mutually influence each other way beyond this, for instance on a theatre stage. It's one of these effects you can easily recognize once they become obvious but you can never really describe what it is that makes the effect work in the first place, at least i can't. So i can't really come up with a satisfying rational answer to this question. And it seems like a real effort trying to find an answer without sounding very esoteric, which i'd definitely like to avoid. But it would most certainly include something along these lines: When it works, its's more than just the sum of its parts.

How much are pictures or moving images a direct influence on your music?

I think they are to a degree beyond what i can actually put into words. I have always been thinking and building music very visually; sounds for me have always been connected to colours or patterns or shapes, it's weird to explain it, but at times very beautiful to experience. In that sense visual input i get from imagery of whatever kind - a space, a picture, or actors on a stage - often directly translates into some form of sonic or musical idea, or at least into a feeling i can connect to some piece of music i know. In that sense i also do consider the pictures i took for the telekaster website just as much part of my „compositional work“ as the pieces of music i ended up releasing on the album. So i always was and always will be extremely precise and conscious about what kind of imagery represents my music in what way. I am very privileged to be surrounded by a few very talented friends i have been working with for years now. Sebastian Haslauer (who did the telekaster sleeve) for instance I've known since school days, so we also share a certain awareness of what actually complements the others' work; his graphic work, just like Stefan Bünnig's films (who does all the telekaster videos and live visuals), are a huge influence on what i do. In a way i consider Stefan the second band member in telekaster. Especially when it comes to playing live in front of his visuals i feel he adds just as much to the whole as i do with the music.

Where did the idea of the „Fireworks“ video come from?

Stefan and me spent a few months thinking and talking about possible video ideas and moving imagery for the telekaster music while i was actually still in the middle of recording it. From the very start we wanted to use images that would seem organic and artificial at the same time... we wanted them to be somewhat narrative as well as totally abstract, depending on what a spectator would like to see in them. The images of the diving couple were actually leftovers from Stefan's previous movie ROUNDS. When i saw the final cut of that movie i got totally obsessed with a short sequence of a boy and a girl swimming and diving in a tower filled with water, with their clothes on. Later we found out that there was way more extra footage left over from that shooting; we started playing around with a few images and this song underneath, and within five minutes we knew that this was the direction we had been looking for. It felt like a modern dance piece coming together the moment we made the actors' movements fit the very loose inner rhythm of the music... i like the aspect that you can't really label this a music video. It could very well be a piece of video art with a telekaster soundtrack – it is this ambiguity that really made us want to start working together in the first place...  at the moment we are working on a second clip for „Where Diving Bells are Ringing“, the first track on the LP. When playing live-visuals along my last set at schaubühne berlin Stefan came up with some really nice video loops and cut-ups and we are about to build a proper clip out of the material he used there. it will be up on the telekaster myspace in a few weeks i hope.

Was this interest in visual presentation perhaps also the reason for your love for the Vinyl format?

Definitely, yes! Of course I always loved the sound and even the smell of vinyl... and its very special tactile qualities are something i even remember being highly fascinating to me when i was a child. But besides that i knew a vinyl release would not only mean that my music would be pressed on this lovely material but also that the artwork could be printed in a few times the size of what would have been possible in cd format – and that was an idea i couldn't resist. In the end sebastian created a sleeve that could only work as a vinyl sleeve... he used the massive extra space given to him in the most radical way, leaving as much white as possible... the composition has a certain power and a certain tension that only unfolds if you look at it on the original sleeve or at least in the original size, it's amazing. I wanted that cover to be the most distinct statement possible about what the record holds for the listener while at the same time it should be able to be a graphic work of its own right, in no way subordinated to the music. I think that worked really well.

You mentioned Rene Margraff (Pillowdiver) as a friend. In which way would you say are your styles complementary and mutually influence and inspire each other?

René and me played our first concerts as pillowdiver and telekaster on the same night, last october at  electronic church club in berlin. I think we share a similar approach of working and thinking music as well as a similar idea of what you can do with guitars that maybe some people wouldn't expect. Besides that we both just left our former musical alter egos behind us, getting rid of the more song-based work in favour of the more ambient/drony kind of stuff. I really love the album he did for 12k and i listen to it quite a lot at the moment, i feel i can relate to it on so many levels, and yes – it is very inspirational to me. Besides all this he is simply a very nice guy and one of the few persons that i could spend entire evenings with just having a beer and chatting the funny music nerd talk that neither of us really intends to get into - but you always end up in the depths of it sooner than you think...

The entire production and release cycle for „Silent Anagram“ was almost a 1,5 years long. Are you intending to shorten that for future releases?

I hope so, yes. In the case of „The Silent Anagram“ things took a bit longer than expected and a bit longer than it would have been necessary... there were a few stupid incidents that held up the release, which was initially scheduled for march this year. the actual recording and mixing was done within 6 months – which is a long time in itself already, but as i have been busy with many other projects (mainly theatre and radioplay work) i always had to find my way back to the telekaster stuff first, trying to find a few free weeks to dive into it a little more. For record number 2 i am currently demoing and starting to rehearse with a drummer for some pieces... i hope i can release it faster once it's finished. Let's see...

By Tobias Fischer

Picture by Mike Ruiz

The Silent Anagram (Panic Arrest) 2009

Telekaster at MySpace

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