Wednesday 21 May 2014

Interview with Erik & John from Tellusian

So I kinda dropped the ball on this one.  Collision by Tellusian is one of my favourite records of 2014, a mixture of many influences, be it grind, death, sludge and even jazz.  So I was keen to talk to Tellusian to get the lowdown on the band.  Having sent the interview a number of months back, I somehow managed to delete the completed interview, only to find it in my junk mail box or something.  Anyway.  He is the much delayed interview with Erik & John from Tellusian.  Enjoy.  

Split w/The Swan King

Welcome to the Sludgelord, pleased to talk to you guys and welcome.  

(SL) Let’s kick things off, who are you, state your name (s) and purpose?

E: I´m Erik, the drummer.

J: John, the guitarist and the sound engineer

(SL) Summarise your musical journey (s) this point?

E: Well, I was in Crowpath from the start in -97 until we quit the band in 2010. After that we turned Tellusian into a proper band. Me and John had been jamming on an off for a while and Robert (bass) and Henrik (vox) was added to complete the line up. We recorded some demos, which sounded way different; it took us a while to find our sound. We did a split 7" with The Swan King from Chicago for the Hell Comes Home 7" series and our 7" Scania.

(SL) What can fans look forward to from you in 2014? How is your schedule shaping up?

E: We don't have such a thing as a schedule. We just rehearse now and then, write new tunes, and if anyone is interested in having us to play we will try to do it. The main thing about Tellusian is to make sure we have fun and we try to create music that we like ourselves. Not that we don't appreciate that other people like what we do, that also means a lot, but I try to keep the real world out of my music. Being in a band is very much, for me at least, a way to get away from the real world and all the pressure of everyday life. Behind the kit it’s my world, and together we create our own world. We’ll just have to see what happens once the album is out, we’ll see if it people enjoy it or if it just slips by unnoticed, who knows, and maybe we will do some weekend shows here and there if anyone will have us.

(SL) What springs to mind when you think about the completion of your new/current record?

E: That we made the songs way to complicated, haha. No, I’m really proud of most of the material, some things could have been done in a different way but that’s how it is. Always has been, always will be, but overall I'm really proud of it. One song didn't make the album since I played like crap on that song and I don't know if we ever liked that tune anyway.

(SL) Who handles song writing duties?

E: John writes most of the stuff and sometimes we make some changes together. Henrik takes care of the lyrics.

J: Yes, most of the songs start with me doing some kind of demo (bunch of riffs with programmed drums). I then mail that to the rest of the band, just to give them a heads up. At the rehearsal space we then totally dissect the riffs and put it together the best possible way.

(SL) How long was the gestation of your new/current opus from conception to delivery?

E: Wow, Some songs has been with us for more than a year or so prior to recording, but I’d say that most of the material was written during 2012.

Some stuff was taken from old scrapped songs and then reworked in a new form. I tracked drums for a couple of days in February -13 and then everything has been added on and off during the year since we have been doing everything ourselves. John is a sound engineer so he has been working on it on and off between other jobs. But from conception to delivery I’d say it has taken about 2,5 years...that’s insane.

J: Yeah, it has been a journey... After our previous 7" Scania, I sold a bunch of equipment to afford to build my own preamps, eq's... I even built a clone of all sound engineers wet dream, the Neumann U47. My goal were to do this record DIY all the way. But after building and buying better equipment, record the whole thing, editing, mixing... my ears started to get enough. I realized that if this record is going to be as good as I can, I have to let someone else's ears in on it.  
So I took it all to a soundie friend (Stacy Parrish), we made some of the final adjustments at his studio and then mastered it. And that was a good choice.

(SL) The artwork is really great, was it designed with a particular physical format in mind? Who designed it?

E: The man behind the artwork is a friend of ours, Daniel Karlsson. We talked to him about doing the artwork for the album long before we even had started the recording. We had another idea for the artwork initially, colourful and LSDish, but once we had completed the album we realized that the sound wouldn’t fit the artwork. The record turned out quite bleak sounding, harsher than I had anticipated, so we had to come up with another artwork and luckily he had this sketch done and worked on a new artwork from there. I’m happy he agreed to make a new artwork for us, I think this imagery fits the music perfectly.

(SL) As music fans yourselves and given that music seems to be so disposal at times, how important is it to a great package to your fans, and yet not alienate them by producing something which is not affordable. What are your thoughts on the finished physical product? What format is/will be available?

E: Music is really a use-and-throw-away thing these days. We try to make a nice piece of art. Music, artwork, layout, the whole package. I personally appreciate good looking (and sounding) albums and of course they have to be affordable. Everything we do is very much affordable, we recorded everything ourselves and Mike at Pillowscars is doing his label from his bedroom and of course we have to keep the costs down. I don't think great art has to be expensive, trends and businessmen make art expensive. I remember those vinyl releases from Witching Hour, they were always interesting, with stupid shapes etc, but they were not really expensive as I remember it. Hell, some of my favourite music has black and white Xeroxed artwork, so it all comes down to the whole experience, it has to fit together. As for now we will just release it on vinyl. Mike at Pillowscars had some plans for a CD version as well, but that’s just plans. I assume it will be available through Spotify as well.

Scania 7"

(SL) The best and worst things about being in a band?

E: The best thing about being in a band is probably creating your own imaginary world together with good friends, creating music and to get away from reality. The worst thing is probably when you tour and play shows and have to kill huge amounts of time before playing for half an hour.

 J: I have since over 10 years been sitting at home making riffs and songs.
Of course I've been in some bands but I never got to play what I really wanted. So the best thing with being a part of Tellusian is that we all do what we want, individually. If Robert (bass) wants to play this soft jazz line over a total grind chaos, he will. For me there is no "worst thing". Yet.

(SL) Influences and heroes, what are turn offs and turn on’s?

J: David Grohl, that man knows how to write some catchy rock. It has alway been inspiring to listening to Foo Fighters, for example the moments when "making it simple" is the best way to go. Kurt Ballou, for me is it like everything he touches sounds awesome. Even if I don't like all the bands he have recorded and mixed, as a production they are perfect. As goes for musical influences I mix a lot of genres. But to mention some bands I like Torche, early Mastodon, Ulcerate, Burst and Converge. I have always liked bands sounds rough, if it's a good production. I'm that guy that can't listen to "good music" if it sounds crap. For instance an ugly sounding kick or snare drum could be enough to turn it off, or too load vocals (Metallica) But since I got my first kid I have started to listen to a lot of "children's music", there's a lot of nice melodies here and there that inspires me. And that will hopefully be audible on the next record.

E: Thats a tough question. I wouldn’t call them heroes but I have always been a big Today is the day fan, and unlike John I can deal with not so great sounding albums, you know, like Sadness will prevail. Still a great piece. I just love the feel of that band. Man, it’s hard to pick a hero. My friend’s bands are always inspiring, you have followed them through the years, you know them, you love them. I´m always excited about a new Maruta, Sayyadina, Gadget, Sulaco, Pyramido, American Heritage or Bäddat för trubbel release. Those would be some of my heroes.

When it comes to turn offs nothing beats hearing a bands album and digging it just to go watch them live to realize they suck. That’s the worst thing, it breaks my heart, and you really want it to be good but it just isn’t.

SL) Any record from the past or present that springs to mind?

J: I really love "Meanderthal" (Torche), "Remission" (Mastodon), "The Destroyers of All" (Ulcerate), "Prey on life" (Burst) and as it goes for Converge, I think that all albums have some greatness in them. One thing they all have common are a lot of great songs. And it all sounds amazing.

E: Well, I have to go with present since there is way to much old stuff I would like to list here. It´s been a lot of grindcore lately, That new P.L.F. album has been shredding my ears for some time now, its just catchy and angry as hell, some of Suffering Minds billion releases last year and that new Gorguts album is also really good...and of course the new Carcass.

(SL) The last album that kicked your arse?

J: Ulcerate: "The Destroyers of All". When I heard this record, I was totally blown away. Then I saw them live, and that was even better.

E: That P.L.F. album.

(SL) What was your first instrument or musical experience and what do you use today?

J: I started with trumpet when I was about 7 years old, then went through a musical journey of piano, classical and electric guitar, drums and bass. When I was around 13 I made a choice, sold the trumpet and bought a Marshall amp. I played through music school and with a lot of different constellations and bands. It was a lot of different genres: Pop, Rock, Jazz, Hardcore and Metal... 2008 I bought an ESP baritone guitar, and that changed my "playing style". 2010, I built a Warmoth Telecaster baritone that kicked the ESP's butt so hard that I sold it. It's the best instrument I have ever played on. And that what I use today.

E: I started my first band when I was 13 and started to play guitar, just me and some friends trying to sound like Misfits. A few years later I was in another band and the drummer in that band was kind of a music wiz, could play anything. So one day he took my guitar to show the other guitarist some riffs and I could do a little drumming so we switched, just for the moment we thought but we never switched back. So I became a drummer. My first kit was a Premier XPK jazz kit, love that kit and still got it. Now I use DW collectors series.

(SL) One item, gear or otherwise that characterizes your band and one item from your set up you cannot live without?

J: Hmmm, I would not say "one item or gear" but maybe Erik's drumming style and Robert's bass work. As it goes for my setup, I continuously try new pedals and stuff. But my Telecaster Baritone will be impossible to live without.

E: You are too kind, John! I just love Roberts’s bass playing! It really does a lot for the sound, but I guess we all do. My zil bel is quite vital, not so very used maybe, but it adds little things here and there.

(SL) Pro-tools versus old school?

 J: Pro Tools with a lot of analogue DIY hardware. I love the concept of 100% analogue recordings and mixes. But with the genre we're playing, it would be impossible. I guess we write too complicated music to record it on tape. I do a lot of manual editing, like gating toms, fix and tricks with ride, snare etc. That would be a nightmare if recorded onto tape. But I think it's very important to get outside the box. I only used eq plugins to cut frequencies, and analogue eq's for the sound. I have this amazing Thermionic Culture Tube compressor that really works as a glue. But since I don't own a console I still wanted it to melt together even more. So when we did the final mix, we took all stems out to an API console, through a tape simulator (for some saturation) and then back into Pro Tools. So a combo of Pro Tools and the old school is the way to go.

E: I have no idea. I just like it when it comes out the way I want it to, digital or analogue.

New record issued via Pillowscars

SL) Has their been much opportunity for your band to do live shows and is playing live  still as important today given the influences of the web and social media ?

J: We only have been playing two shows, and now when almost all of us have small kids it will be hard to go out on a tour. But I hope we could go away on weekends to play a couple of shows, here and there. If someone wants us.

E: We haven’t exactly been flooded with offers to play live, we are not really looking for shows to play either. If anyone wants us to play we will try to make it happen. Maybe we will do some shows here and there now and then.

(SL) Who are some your favourite bands you have toured with and what have been your band highlight (s) thus far

E: We havnt toured at all.

(SL) What are your survival tips for the road ?

E: I have to go back to the Crowpath days to answer this one. Once we could afford to rent a bus with a TV, DVD. player and an Xbox, life on the road got so much easier. I remember a tour we did with Sayyadina and they had brought a bunch of TV-series along, it was great. Just chill, drink some beer, eat some snacks and to watch some TV.

Humor is also a great thing. Its interesting to watch the regression of humor while touring. On the first couple of days its quit sophisticated and intelligent humor on display, after a week we are down to poo and urine kind of humor.

(SL) Vinyl Junkie or Ipod flunky? Discuss

J: I buy Vinyl to support bands and love the format. But since I don't own a turntable... I'm listening to mp3's.

E: I used to buy way more vinyl than I do now. Spotify ruined it for me. I try to pick up vinyl now and then. Love the format, but you know, Spotify is so convenient.

(SL) Finally, do you have any final comments/word of wisdom you’d like to bestow upon us?

J: I hope people will enjoy listening to our new record and gets inspired by it. I think there are too many metal and rock bands out there playing and sounding almost the same. What's the point with that? Go your own way, have fun and don't compare yourself with others.

E: Enjoy the album. And Gadget drops a new album soon, we are all stoked!!! And try to be nice. I really like nice people.