Interview with The Telescopes

It’s been a few years since we last spoke to Stephen from The Telescopes and with all the recent activity surrounding their first single in 12 years and various compilations and reissues hitting the shops in the last year, now seemed a good time to speak to him again.

Unbelievably it’s over three years since we last spoke and you’d just made your live return at the time, how does it feel to be here a few years down the line and The Telescopes seem as popular as ever?

I feel this is the most creative line up we’ve ever had and that we are making our most exciting and interesting music. I never thought I’d be able to make Telescopes music again, so we’ve totally exceeded any expectations I never had. There’s a good spirit within the group which would still be there if everyone hated us. We would still enjoy making the music for ourselves.

You’ve had various compilations released in the last year or so and the re-issue of your Creation album on Rev-Ola. How much involvement did you have with that and what was it like working with Joe Foster again after all these years?

Our involvment was to send extra mixes and photographs for the sleeve and to approve the new artwork. It’s an honour to work with Joe. We’re huge fans of his Creation single ‘I’ll follow you down’. We play it every time we dj. Jo got him to sign her copy last year when we played his club in Brighton.

How did the other releases come about?

– I always wanted ‘Altered Perception’ to come out. I asked Steve from Spaceage if they would be interested in releasing it and they were happy to. Midsummer madness held a poll asking for peoples favourite Telescopes material of old and approached us with the results. Anton from Brianjonestown Massacre wanted to release his favourite titles on his Committee To Keep Music Evil label. Greg Shaw put it together for him. We sent pictures and mixes.

You also recently released the Winter EP on Hungry Audio, your first single in 12 years. How did that come about?

Both tracks grew from the Third Wave tour. People send me bootlegs they make of our live appearances. hearing back a recording taken in Chiasso, we were inspired to expand on the versions in a studio environment.

I’ve known Adrian from Hungry Audio for a while. When he asked for a single for his new label, we sent him the recordings half expecting a thanks but no thanks. I wasn’t sure anyone was going to understand what we were doing. I was pleasantly surprised when he did. Adrian thought it best to release the EP in Winter. Which meant holding it back for the best part of a year, but it was the right thing to do. We’ve had letters and emails from people who say Winter#7 is the soundtrack to their winter time.

I’m told the single has virtually sold out now, do you have any idea how well the albums have been selling?

I get updates from some labels. Considering they haven’t had big PR /advertising campaigns behind them most of them are doing well as underground records go. Obviously we’re not selling as much as we used to 15 years ago, no one is. We would probably be number one in the mainstream charts if we had our old sales now. I think it’s harder for the guys at Midsummer Madness because they are introducing a whole new genre of music in a foreign tongue to their country.

The most surprising thing to me was that NME reviewed everything…. all the reviews were extremely positive, did it feel strange seeing yourself in there again after all these years, it certainly made a nice change from reading about Razorlight and all those bands.

Indeed, the possibility never crossed my mind when we started making Telescopes music again. I naturally assumed we were travelling very different pathways. It’s interesting to see.

You recently dj’ed at the Sonic Cathedral ‘Shoegazing’ night in London, how was that?

Great, nice crowd. We played the kind of things we play at Jo’s Electric Earbone nights, things like Throbbing Gristle, Suicide, Slaughter Joe, Sunroof, Vibracathedral Orchestra, Magnetophone, Faust, and Can. The people there were really open minded and responsive. they seemed to really enjoy it.

There seems to be a fair few similar nights starting and whole host of a new generation of bands influenced by the likes of The Telescopes, Slowdive and obviously MBV. Have you been to see any of the new bands?

Some of them play with us from time to time. Some i like, some are too derrivative. Same with any genre. I’m interested in any music bringing something new to the table.

As a live band you’ve changed quite dramatically since your last incarnation. You certainly split audience opinions when I recently saw you, with half the audience walking out and the other half shaking from the sheer volume of the set. Are you trying to make Kevin Shields jealous?

I’m sure Kevin is safe in the knowledge of what he is capable of. Our music is fired by ESP, the choice of loops we have to improvise around and the instruments we bring are all we prepare. everything else comes from tapping into something we can’t describe, but is there in the environment. Any effect that has on us and the audience is interesting to us. Some bands you can sit through in a kind of apathy, neither loving them enough to cheer or hating them enough to leave. I’m happy for The Telescopes music to cause extreme division. Nothing is for everyone.

Do you think you’ll ever play any of the early material again?

Defnitely. The version of The Perfect Needle on the Winter EP came together live. I’m sure we’ll introduce more from time to time. We’re working on an Acoustic Night Owls session for Double Agent at the moment, which is mostly old material. we’ll record it live one evening soon , maybe tonight, whenever feels right.

When can we expect some new material from The Telescopes?

There’s a new 4th album almost complete. We recorded so much we ‘re considering the possibilty of a second part being released at a later date. We have other ideas we would like to try first.

Can you describe what direction the new material is going in?

Very dense sounding, lots of layered textures, like with Winter, seriously dark, very trippy, intense and warm, much more guitar based than Third Wave and a lot less beat driven. the material ranges from pagan folk chants to extreme white noise.

What other projects apart from The Telescopes are you involved in at the moment?

Jo has joined Los Planetos del Agua playing guitar and singing. They’re busy eating cake, drinking tea and mixing a new album. Jo also promotes the Electric Earbone nights once a month, Vibracathedral Orchestra and Ashtray N avigations are playing the next one. My job is to record all the shows for the end of year compilation. I’m also compiling a compilation for Antenna of new experimental music from around the world. It’s taking a while to assemble, but it’s well worth it, there will be lots great mind expanding music on there.

Interview held January 2005