Here on Imbolc, a Foxy Digitalis archival interview with the one and only Telecult Powers from 2011.
This interview was done in late 2011 and coincided with the release of their first (and utterly essential!) LP Zion Traveler. Enjoy.
Few bands have left a bigger crater in their wake in 2011 than the duo of Telecult Powers. Witchbeam and Mister Mathews have been brewing up some of the best electronic stew for a while now but never has it been more condensed and ready to bathe in than on their first vinyl sacrifice, Zion Traveler. Easily one of the year’s best albums, Zion Traveler takes synthetic time traveling to a whole different place.
This is the kind of music that lives inside your bones only to be awakened every so often when a couple of exorcists like Witchbeam and Mister Mathews come along to unlock the secret code. It is as vexing as it is groundbreaking. It’s as old world as it is modernistic. I can never quite pinpoint what it is about Telecult Powers that makes them so significant & different, I just know it’s there. The only real solution is to drop the needle, dive in deep, and bleed purple until you reach the other side.
Where does the Telecult voodoo originate and why does it exist?
Witchbeam: Not sure what you mean by Telecult voodoo really, but we do practice an offshoot of Michael Bertiaux’s Voudon Gnostic system, a bit of a blend between traditional voodoo, spiritualism, theosophy, Crowley and science fiction. With Telecult it comes to play mostly because I just feel that noise/drone/synth without any kind of spiritual connection is a bit empty, really. That’s just my opinion, sure, but I just think that without trying to tap into something greater than yourself or something inside yourself like your Holy Guardian Angel it just becomes onanism with gadgets.
Mister Mathews: Questioning the origins of nearly anything is a sysyphus situation, eating its own tail all the way to the head. The beginnings and endings are unknowable, we respectfully engage with our aether friends for as long as and fruitfully as they allow. The relationship thus far has been outstanding!
So you would say your interests in voodoo comes from your interest in the works of Michael Bertiaux?
WB: He probably was the first spark, yeah. First heard about him through the Kenneth Grant Typhonian Trilogy books, then Grant Morrison spent a lot of time writing kind of fan fiction around his techniques in The Invisibles which I was reading at the right time in my life for sure.
I had lunch with Mr. Bertiaux this past summer while we were in Chicago for the Neon Marshmallow Festival, he was an amazing guy to hang out with. I told him about all the nods and influences that he has had on Telecult, starting from a few titles of songs to names of certain cassettes. He was def stoked that that we create art so intertwined with his. He has more traditional heirs to his system, David Beth runs an off shoot called Société Voudon Gnostique that does fascinating work.
Zion Traveler, the new LP, has been a long-time coming… or, at least it feels that way to me. Why now?
WB: Check the liner notes, you will see that a lot of it was recorded in the near to distant future, we had to wait until the tech was available to send it back to the here and now.
MM: Time is a strange concept for us, we have worked in various ways together for 20 years and overall there has been only been slight derivation from the core of what turns us on. We are not adherents of flooding the world with releases. The live experience is primary, and we only release things that can accurately portray our goals, when they cant be shared in person. The record has been a long time coming,but we are very pleased with it, and hope to be as pleased when it is thawed from the next ice age glacier.
Please describe this (hopefully patent-pending) transmission technology?
WB: Shhhh, can’t give away all the secrets. A large part of of it will be the magickal correspondence course that is about to be launched. (Email me with your snail mail address and I will send you a flyer on how to sign up if you are interested.)
Why’d you bury your synths at the crossroads for nine days and what new powers/ghosts did they pick up in the process?
WB: In Haitian voodoo Papa Legba is the intermediary between a person and the loa, he stands at the crossroads. Burying the synths was a way to ask Legba to help our music become more cosmic, more otherworldy. This is why before Telecult sets a Legba candle is always the first lit and the last to be blown out.
MM: It could be thought of as recharging the soul battery, or not at all. its very tricky stuff. There are no new powers here, but perhaps previously unseen lingual binaries are revealed, but maybe not!
How’d you guys meet anyways?
WB: Just being super freakers in a very bland high school outside of Cleveland, Ohio.
MM: I yelled some nonsense for no reason at Witchbeam first day of high school and 4 days later we were best friends. Some time no sense DOES make sense.
Who or what are some of your other influences, musical or otherwise?
WB: Oh yeah, a list of influences, hard to find someone that hasn’t changed our brains in a positive way. Earliest influences can probably be tracked back to watching In Search Of… obsessively as a kid growing up in the late seventies. First real introduction to strange music, strange people and strange ideas. Witchcraft, Big Foot, Nessie, Ancient Aliens, Bible Mysteries, all stuff that can be found in Telecult. The Isis tv show was pretty amazing, cosmic mysticism in Star Wars really flipped my young mind out. Original Star Trek too, when you look deeper it has a lot of strange gnostic ideas floating around.
Let’s see… writing you have pretty easily identifiable and mainstream types like Maya Deren, Terry Southern, Philip K. Dick, Grant Morrison, William S. Burroughs, Robert Anton Wilson, Aleister Crowley, G. I. Gurdjieff (although I think I am just starting to get where he is coming from), Nat Freedland, Kenneth Anger, Salvador Dali’s Magic Craftmanship book really made an impression on me. To some slightly more obscuro ones like Cordwainer Smith, Michael Bertiaux, Kenneth Grant, Raymond Buckland, Alfred Bester, René Daumal. Robert DeGrimston. I could go on forever.
Wolf Eyes helped bring us out of noise hiatus ten years ago, seeing them reminded us how fucking fun and amazing it is. Absorbing whatever John at Bent Crayon carries. Lots of Cleveland crew, Skin Graft, Thursday Club, Bee Mask, Tusco Terror, ever heard of a band called Emeralds? Haha they were in a band called Fancelions first that really had a profound effect on how I view the later wave of American Noise music. Of course I love and keep up with everything they have done since, but what was going around CLE at the time was the kosmische trigger that really flipped the switch. William Bennett’s Afro Noise is probably an influence on Mysteres du Serpent even tho I didn’t really think about it at the time, I was thinking more about 23 Skidoo.
MM: Witch’s list will probably represent best, but we are certainly more influenced by books and movies far more than music. The In Search Of program in the 1970s is absolutely key to my psyche, perfect blending of materials at precisely the right time.
Draft just put out a Telecult tape recently w/ different collabs/guests on each side and have done numerous collaborations in the past. How do these other contributors change the Telecult dynamics? And what makes you decide to collaborate with someone?
WB: I think it started because we were feeling like we were in a bit of a rut. What would be the easiest way to continue in our direction while changing it a bit? Throwing in someone else would be enough to shake it up. Jamming with Dylan (ISA Christ) really brings out the harsh that we always just kind of flirted with, playing with Bob Bellerue is an interesting exercise in patience and timing. Matthew and I were really into the quick sets. Set up, do it, break down, where Bob is much more contemplative and interested in the long format. The first few times it was really jarring for me, I would literally sit there and wonder what the fuck was going on. I just wasn’t an experienced enough of a player to not just blow everything I had right away. Playing with Lala was always like… music class as a little kid, where anything goes, she is a wonderful and playful improviser. With her husband John Fell Ryan you always get the sense that he is in charge, but since Excepter have always been my favorite of all the Brooklyn/NYC noise acts that was never a problem. Getting a chance to share the stage with the architect of KA was always a thrill.JFR did us a favor by stitching together hours of recordings with Lala to create a perfect 23 minute jam for Stars are the Eyes of God, to which I will always be grateful.
MM: Its easy to collaborate with folks that follow a similar course or method, but far more satisfying to work with those that can bring something that is not our stock in trade. Working with the lovely Ryans from the Excepter camp was probably the easiest and most natural addendum to our equation. They walk in the same world and not even a gesture is needed to light the way forward. their work, while abstract and ethereal has a basis in time that is foreign but welcome to us. Their departure to the west coast only spreads the web wider, we will no doubt walk the path together again. I think witch addressed our other comrades as well as I could!
Speaking of… when did Hex Breaker Quintet/Quartet first begin and what motivated its formation?
MM: There was a mutual love fest in bloom for quite some time before we pulled it together. The first attempt was a disaster! But creation demanded we try again at a later date and it was pure bliss. It allows for another region to explore outside either of our main endeavors, with just as gratifying results. Both telecult and grasshopper often act as adrenaline shots to the cerebral cortex while Hex Breaker is more a warm belly of bourbon and soft light.
How do you all keep things rolling while being spread across the country? I’m guessing this is why the recent self-released (and exquisite) Hex Breaker tapes are a Quartet instead of a Quintet.
WB: Not that far, even 1300 miles away Matthew is always in my heart. That sounds corny but when we were closing out the evening at Voice of the Valley this past Saturday within seconds we were locked in as always. Telecult Powers is the two of us and we have to make it work, as far as HBQ, there was no reason for my absence to have anything to do with what they were doing. I had to leave, they stayed. The sounds must continue! Having a long distant fourth member trying to get anything done would be a nightmare. The sounds must continue!
Not being able to play with Matthew constantly has been a bit of a drag, but lately I have been jamming with some New Orleans folks which has been really fun and rewarding. Doing a duo with Donald Miller (Borbetomagus) that is far beyond outrageous. We share a lot of the same interests so it rules going to hang out with him and his wife Cree, play a bit, drink some beers, play some more, look at insanely obscure occult books, play some more, pet one of their awesome cats, drink more beer into infinity. Also jamming with a guy that was in Mythical Beast (Aaron Hawn) and a guy that was in Binges (Christopher Robert), think we have decided that we are called USS Cyclops. Heavy psychedelic grooves. Duane Pitre may become a permanent part of the act too which is exciting.
MM: Physical distance is only disabling when we allow it to be. Our actions over the summer have been extremely vital owing to the limited nature of our contact. Crucial times demand crucial actions! Hex breaker’s team has had slightly different players as the low frequency worlds demands play on our workaday lives. As with our other goings on, we only reveal the most representative moments of our work.
What are some other records and projects — things with a real spiritual connection — that are currently doing it for you?
WB: I met this guy the other day via pure coincidence that was an original member of the Process Church, so just picking his brain has been sick. The whole LaGrange scene has been blowing my mind lately (anyone reading this on Foxy Digitalis knows what I’m saying). Whenever I can I go to the La Source Ancienne Ounfo vodou ceremony here in New Orleans I do, incredible drumming and singing. Outstanding. On the Voudon Gnostic tip Lightning Path are really hot, out of Columbus, Ohio. Guys are great, part of the David Beth tribe, bit of a break away from the Bertiaux crew. Although my Christian leanings are more towards the Osiris/mystery religion aspects of it I am always moved when I see Scotty Irving/Clang Quartet perform the sacrifice of the Christ as a contemporary passion play.
MM: The current fascination with “new age” practices and beliefs is much out of line with the way we see existence. I am actually slowly cobbling an essay on the subject which will be a foundation stone of the True Color of Venus imprint. Hopefully it will arrive before the “singularity” so many are counting on. I am not particularly informed on the beliefs of many people in the “scene”, however I hope their experiments and efforts are as rewarding to them as ours are to us. I just watched a great doc called the Mindscape of Alan Moore, which I cannot recommend enough. The clarity he possesses in a muddled and murky world of psyche shattering garbage and self flattering flatulence is astonishing. I could only hope to be able to one day express my own thoughts (many of which he nails precisely) in such an inclusive and brilliant way.