June 2013 - THE TELSTAR SOUND DRONE
With the help of Bad Afro Records, I've already discovered a lot of great bands. This also includes THE TELSTAR SOUND DRONE, which left some lasting impression with their debut album 'Comedown' (review here). To me, their new release embodies everything I expect of a great psychedelic rock album: an atmospheric depth, in which one can truly sink into and soulful songs that have to inspire me to guarantee an optimal mind expanding trip. A further issue is that their music can be listened to over and over and depending on my mood I will get different vibes from it. So rarely does a current album allows me to comfortably play it from start to finish but with 'Comedown', I never have to worry about being near a remote control in order to skip certain songs. Due to my enthusiasm, I had to find out more about THE TELSTAR SOUND DRONE. Thanks to Lars of Bad Afro for putting me in contact with founding member Hans Beck (drums) who was kind enough to give us an detailed insight into the world of THE TELSTAR SOUND DRONE.
Hello! Instead of starting with a typical question about the band history, please tell me more about your self-titled debut EP. When was it released and does it point in the same musical direction as 'Comedown'? Is the EP still available?
When we formed Telstar Sound Drone all we really wanted was to get out and play some live shows, but we couldn't get a gig anywhere no matter how hard we tried. Even the more crappy clubs of Copenhagen were interested at all, so we decided to do a few casual recordings of some our songs for some kind of promo, and I mean very casual - we only had 3 mics and a lousy audio-interface with 2 inputs back then. We handed it out to anyone who had even the smallest kind of connection to the music scene. Still nothing but rejections. One evening at a Baby Woodrose concert I handed the sound technician a promo and said and told him, that if we'd ever get a show and some money to pay him we'd love to bring him along (he was the coolest sound technician you could ever imagine! "playing" his mixing desk just as intensely as the guys on stage). He seemed kind of preoccupied and a bit stoned, but he took the promo anyways.
Next day we got a mail from Ralph, the sound technician, asking us if we wanted to do some shows, he didn't care about the money. One thing let to another and suddenly we had a bunch of shows lined up. We got a decent reception and people started to ask for an LP or CD. We were kinda surprised but thought "Hey, if people want a record, we'll give them a record". We took took two songs, 'On Your Back Baby' and 'Light Around', from the promo and added 'Nursery Rhymes', which was a spontaneous living room recording we did one afternoon. The lyrics to this song is actually a poem by Maya Boboia. I'd just read the poem that day and the words just seemed like they were written for the track. We recorded it and mailed it to her to see what she'd say. To our luck she liked it...
We then mixed some recorded rehersal jams with an Allen Ginsberg reading, 'FGOSE revisited', and added some other stuff, mainly guitar and sitar. During the final mixing, 'Nursery Rhumes SFS' just sort of happened. It worked great as a prelude to the original. For the cover I did a quick, simple linocut and we handprinted the covers, white on white. We released the EP in 2009 and I think there's still a few copies left. Because of the Ginsberg excerpts, the EP was limited to 500 copies, and with us being the guys who printed it probably no more than 300 has been made. There's no distrubition though, so you can only get them at concerts. The EP is pretty straightforward and some of the songs has more of a pop feel to them. It's more naive and not quite as psychedelic as 'Comedown', although it has its moments. Still you can definitely draw some lines back to it. Some people might even consider 'Comedown' as the obvious development.
You've played at this year's Duna Jam. Was it fun to be able to take part in this exceptional festival?
Duna Jam was amazing! I mean, who doesn't want to chill out on a paradise island for five days, drinking, eating, smoking and listening to music?! We played as the last band Thursday ending our day with a concert on the beach surrounded by people having a good time, viewing the ocean and the mountains while the sun was setting and the speakers blasting away. Definitely the most amazing scenery we've ever had for a gig.
During most of the concert it was pitch black and we couldn't see the audience at all. Since our amps were blasting out drones and loops inbetween the songs we couldn't hear them either. It wasn't until we'd played our last song that we noticed how much they liked it. Duna Jam has the most nice and relaxed atmosphere you'll find anywhere. Good people and friendly locals. There's excellent food and good, cheap wine. We really hope to go back some day!
TELSTAR SOUND DRONE has been formed in 2007. I can well imagine that this wasn't your first band. So, what is your musical background? Where did you come from?
Mads Saaby (guitar) and I grew up in the western part of Denmark in a small port town called Fredericia. Nothing ever happened unless you did something to make it happen yourself. Despite its size the town actually had a lot of bands with most of them rehearsing at the same complex, a sort of semi-activist cultural house. Naturally a lot of the same people played with each other in different bands and one day we ended up in the same band. For most parts we've stuck together since then. Mads came from a more classic rock scene and I mainly did lo-fi and alternative stuff.
We played in a bunch of bands with early Rolling Stones being our main influence before we both got deeper into the whole psychedelic thing. After a rehersal some evening I convinced Mads to join me in project I was working on, which was to play instrumental jams along with the projections of old educational movies. He jumped on and really that was the start of what turned out to be Telstar Sound Drone. Not long after that we both moved to Copenhagen where we met Sean Jardenbæk (vocals). Sean is the type of guy who spend the time traveling the world while we spend it in a dark rehersal room. At the time we met him he was doing his own solo folk stuff, a -one-man-and-a-guitar- kind of thing. He joined us as a rythm guitarist before finally settling on the vocals.
A few weeks ago, Bad Afro Records released your debut album 'Comedown'. I think it's an excellent psychedelic trip that leaves no lysergic desires unfulfilled. How is the people's response?
The response is pretty good. We didn't think people would receive it that well and a lot of people seem to get something out of the record. We're moving in an area a bit outside of mainstream and a bit in-between genres, taking a bit from everywhere. The record is somewhat slow and noisy in its expression and despite being an album of songs, it's probably not for everyone. We didn't do anything to suck up or follow peoples expectations, and I think it shows with "Comedown" being the kind of record you need to invest some time in before it really unfolds. We're getting decent airplay at independent stations and there seems to be a general interest in what we're doing from a lot of different places.
I like the cover artwork of 'Comedown', because it isn't a typical psychedelic motif. Please, tell me more about it. By the way, what kind of object is that on the cover? It looks pretty strange.
As with our previous releases, I did the artwork myself. It was pretty clear from the beginning that we didn't want a retro-psychedelic cover. We're not retro fanatics and we generally wanted to do something different, though we still wanted to keep some sort of psychedelic vibe. The motif is a piece of space junk chrashed into the desert. The colours are highly saturated, turned into halftone dots and fused with a pattern build up by circles in different colours allowing you to discover smaller patterns. Moving in circles is a major theme of the album and I knew from the start that the cover had to have something to do with circles. The crashed space debris is about that, as well as a reference to the title of the album, some of the lyrics and of course the name of our band. I wanted the cover to be strange and different, and I think this strangeness is what makes it stand out.
Why did you choose to play psychedelic rock and what does psychedelica means to you? Is it more than just a musical style for you?
Where are you getting at? Ha ha. Psychedelic music fuses a lot of elements from different genres and I think this is the place where everything we like in music meets. There are no boundaries and you'll find a lot of experimenting in the good stuff. Still you can make good pop songs that are psychedelic. I guess it's got something to do with the nature and experience of psychedelic drugs. It's about letting go and not being affraid to let unexpected things happen. It's about a willingness to see things in a different way and allowing yourself to be seduced by even the smallest thing and get carried away with it.
To us, psychedelic music can be almost anything, as long as it takes you away to another place, set you in a different mood and makes you think and experience in a different way. Psychedelia is definitely more than a music genre. It doesn't have to be about the drugs either. I think it's more about the way you approach things and think about them. It's about reaching a different level of conciousness and seeing things in a different light.
There are a few guest musicians on 'Comedown'. How did this come about?
Before we began recording, we decided that we wanted to make a record that felt alive. We wanted to lose control, to embrace the moment and the randomness. To help us let go of our own premeditated ideas we decided to invite some guests. The plan was to let them do whatever they felt like doing and only give them a few takes. The first guy we thought of was the Hobbit (Spids Nøgenhat, On Trial). He has as very uniqe style: bubbly and swirly sounds mixed with simple but effective and moodsetting melodic bits. The Hobbit plays on most of the tracks, and there's some good stuff to be found if you pay attention to the details.
We were without a bass player for quite some time and during the recording we really felt that the bass could use a pair of hands that wasn't Mads' or mine. Dr. Hansen, who were producer and technician on 'Comedown', suggested Christian Norup (Bite The Bullet, Highway Child). Mads and I met Christian on a tour of Germany we did with Baby Woodrose. We remembered him for his solid less-is-more style of playing as well as his great bass sound. We enrolled him and it turned out great - especially his take on 'Cabin Fever'! He really lifts the track. Kåre Joensen/Dr. Johnson (Robot, Baby Woodrose) listened to some rough mixes and suggested that he tried to add some modular synth on some of the tracks. Assisted by his daughter Norma he did some takes at home and we ended up using it in two songs. The Hobbit and Christian Norup are now part of our live line-up and it's working really good. Live we've never been as good as we are right now and I think it'll only get better from here on.
When you play live, do you tend to stick to your songs almost note for note or do you like to improvise a lot on stage?
It really depends on the song. A lot of our songs has a pretty fixed form and we tend to stick to it. Never note for note though. We like when something unexpected happens and try to go with the flow if it's there. Many songs have more jam based parts as well and improvisation is an important element in general. Playing live is about the moment, being right here, right now and we're not the kind of band that takes a show that's planned into every little detail on the road. Still we're not a jam outfit. We do play songs and if you expect hours of guitar soloing you'll get dissapointed.
What are your most important muscial influences and inspirations?
Obviously a lot of sixties stuff like Ultimate Spinach, Red Crayola, The Byrds, Cold Sun, Velvet Underground, Furekaaben, Silver Apples, 13th Floor Elevators, The Rolling Stones and early Pink Floyd. A lot of music from the 80's, 90's and 00's such as Spacemen 3, Sonic Youth, The Flaming Lips, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Blur etc. To name a few newer ones we really dig stuff like Amen Dunes, Anders, Connan Mockasin, The Paperhead and Teeth Mountain. Its hard to pinpoint a few artist though.
We really get our inspirations from all over the place and not just in the psychedelic genres. During the recording of 'Comedown', we were really inspired by the looseness and go-with-the-flow feeling from the recording of Anders' 'In The Dark Hours', 'The Flaming Lips' 'Embryonic', and the records by a Danish 60's hippie outfit called Furekaaben. All of those records has a sense of presence but also a strange feeling of absence.
What are your plans for the second half of 2013?
We're trying to do a few small tours around Europe during the next year or so, though nothing is fully confirmed yet. As far as I know it will mostly be in Scandinavia and Germany. While writing and recording 'Comedown, we stopped playing concerts at all. It was a good move that helped us to focus on the record, but now we really need to get out! Still, we'll also get into writing and rehersing some new material. Maybe dust of a couple of outtakes from 'Comedown'. As mentioned earlier, we're building a pretty good live outfit. I expect the new material to be based around that.
Well, that's all for now, thank you! Is there anything you would like to add at the end?
Thank you! No, I guess it's it for now.