Telefon Tel Aviv's defection to Chicago in 2001 was a sad emblem of New Orleans' inability to support progressive bands in its own backyard. Tonight, amid a much-improved climate here for forward-looking music, the electronica band returns to the Crescent City for the first time in five years (10 p.m. at One Eyed Jacks) under its own sad circumstances. On the first day of TTA's first extended U.S. circuit since 2002, Gambit rang bandleader Joshua Eustis for a feature in this week's issue to discuss co-founder Charles Cooper's untimely and still unexplained January death, the weight of this honorary tour, and what the future holds for one of the city's finest musical exports. (Full transcript after the jump.)
Its been a weird year. It pissed me off, because we just werent going to say anything about it. Thats kind of the way his mother wanted it to go. Ive learned that if you dont say exactly what happened and I told her this was probably going to happen that people were going to say weird stuff thats going to be upsetting to her, if we dont nip it in the bud. But we didnt nip it in the bud. Later, I had to come out and be shitty about it. While I regret it, I see it as ultimately necessary to clarify certain things.
I dont know. Yeah, some of it did. A lot of the journalists I was railing against were my friends. In a way, they were quick to correct what they saw me seeing as a grievance. And I appreciate that very much.
Its basically just a continuation of where Charlie and I left off, as far as the live show is concerned. The live shows different now because Fredo does things differently than Charlie does, and now Im doing things differently than I was before. But honestly, I think now, its a really great show. Weve always had a really shitty show, and it is essentially still really stupid and pointless. But I feel like Charlie would probably be pretty psyched about where its at right now. So Im just trying to keep things going in a point where Im comfortable with it, and keep it in mind with what I believe Charlies wishes would be.
I dont know if Im going to do new things with it. Well see. I dont know what the future holds. If I knew what the future holds, I wouldnt be doing this; Id be betting on horses, you know? Im doing this tour, and Im not thinking about the future. Ill figure that out when I get back from tour. Im tired of touring. Im tired of being away from my girlfriend. My dad passed away in May, and I havent really been able to spend any time with my mother for an extended period of time, or my brother or two sisters. We all see each other so piecemeal because were all just busy. And it really sucks. People have to realize, music is the side project. Its not, Oh, what is your Telefon Tel Aviv side project? No, Telefon Tel Aviv is the side project. My life is the main project, my family and my friends. That all really comes first, and it hasnt always come first. And thats unfortunate. I have a lot of regret about that. I would love to try to fix that from here forward. Take care of the people that take care of you.
You bet your ass I did. Absolutely. Thats the only reason Im really doing it, because I feel like I owe it to him to see his final work through to the end.
Fredo is not as much an electronic musician as he is a performing musician, a player. He plays guitar, he plays keyboards and sings. Charlie had kind of come into his own as a singer, before his very short singing career was brought to a tragic end. So he was doing that, for sure, but now the main duties, the lead parts, have kind of fallen on me, mostly because Ive just put myself there. I dont know how Fredo would feel singing Charlies stuff. It might be a little weird. So Fredo sings backups, and hes playing a lot. While Im playing keyboards and stuff, it frees me up to play a little less and sing a little more.
I dont know what I think about performing. Sometimes I love it, and sometimes I really just hate it. Even as far as electronic artists, were weird; we dont really fit it in. It doesnt fit with what is the norm in electronic music right now. Its not fashionable.
Yeah, I was really happy with the way that came out. Because its gory details, what went down behind closed doors. I like it.
Yeah, we feel like the whole micro-detail thing, we took it as far as we were capable of taking it. Now, other people have taken it further, of course. Theres always Autechre, whos ahead of everybody as far as that stuff is concerned. We took it as far as we were interested in taking it and made it as good as we could make it, and then lost interest in it. It was like a mandala. We spent all this time going over all these details, years of doing these tiny little things that very few people notice. And in the end, its like a sand painting: Its just brushed away as soon as its finished. The whole thing about texture is, its kind of like heat and cold. Cold is the absence of heat. Well, glossy ProTools bullshit is the absence of cool recording. Its a very primitive idea. Digital recording is the absence of character. But I love digital. I could never do a record without using digital recording for a lot of things that I really rely on to make music. So it was a way of finally hybridizing digital recording and analog recording, and techniques and misusing both of those methodologies to the best of our abilities, with the kind of wide-eyed experimentation that we wanted to get back to when we were working on the first record. Which we felt like wed lost over the years.
Marc had never actually used that tape machine. He had it, and it was in a closet at his friends house for years. He felt really bad that it was this great tape machine collecting dust, so he gave it to me for mixing his record. I basically cleaned it and calibrated it. I bought the console a few years ago, and that was a point of no return. Once I got that console, Ive used it on everything Ive worked on. Its the hub of my studio, the mixer I got from John McEntire. Those two things are totally crucial for why that record sounds the way it does every song recorded through that mixer to tape. Weird for an electronic band, Im sure. But it felt right.
Its my day job, yeah. Im probably going to be doing a lot more of that in the year or two to come. I really like the science behind how music is recorded and preserved. I kind of think of myself as an archivist, in that kind of sense, where its like, youre making this music permanent. Youre etching it into something; youre making it permanent data.
I'm working on a record right now with this group, the Depreciation Guild, from Brooklyn. Were halfway through mixing. Theyre in another band called the Pains of Being Pure at Heart, and theyre touring together. Theyre doing double duty. Its really poppy, really catchy stuff, but its cool. Its all recorded, and four songs are mixed. We have seven more songs to mix when I get back from tour. I recorded it with them, we produced it together, and Ill mix it with Kurt when [we] get back from tour. Fredo and I are going to work on the next Apparat record. Thats going to be in January/February. Were going to Mexico to do that, because were all sick of the winters were sick of Chicago winters, and Sacha is sick of the Berlin winters. So were going to all meet in Mexico. And then Mode Selector next summer, hopefully.
I come back all the time, every couple of months. We havent played in New Orleans in five or six years. Must have been March 04. Man, its impossible for us to get booked in New Orleans. Sorry. Its hard to get shows down there. We havent really done a proper U.S. tour in a long time; its been one-off shows, stuff like that. Weve concentrated extensively in Europe over the last five years. Which weve done a shitload in Europe, all over the place. Germanys good, but Italy is great for us. Its really great over there. Italy and these places, we go there a lot.
We had 20 shows in June. It was a full European tour: Spain, Italy, Russia, Germany. Geneva, that was cool. We played in Luxembourg, that was fun. Prague. This is the first U.S. tour in five years. And the last U.S. tour was like four shows. It wasnt a tour. As far as actual touring the U.S. as Telefon Tel Aviv, it hasnt happened since 2002. Seven years.
Who cares. They probably arent, and good. Less stress for me.