One of the smartest British bands of recent years, Telepathy are ready to unleash their second album, the long awaited Tempest. Before the post-metal four piece from Essex headed off on their Euro tour with Canadians Zaum, I had a chance to speak to bassist Teddy-James Driscoll about his history with the band, the new album, touring Europe and Roadburn festival among other topics.
Jack: Hi Ted, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions. How are you?
Teddy-James Driscoll (Bass): Hi, Jack! No problem, man. Always have time for you! I’m doing well; the press cycle for our new record is heating up so we’re super busy getting things sorted before our tour in April. Life’s good.
Jack: Before you joined Telepathy, were you a fan of theirs before? If so how did you discover them?
Ted: I was definitely a fan before. I saw Telepathy’s first line up play at V Bar in Colchester about five years ago with Earthmass and Old Man Lizard. It was the Fracture E.P/12 Areas era and I remember being properly captivated by their performance and their stage presence. The weight of the talent they all possessed was quite intimidating for me and I always remember thinking of them as a cut above the rest- including my own band at the time- in terms of professionalism.
Jack: How did you end up joining Telepathy?
Ted: I was knocking about online one day and saw that Rich had posted a message in a Facebook group that a lot of the Essex metal band community members were involved in. It basically said that Telepathy was looking for another bass player and I replied as soon as I saw it. My own band had run its course by then and I was haphazardly trying to put together a new project to no avail. It took a couple of months to actually get in a room with the guys but it worked pretty well from the off.
Jack: Telepathy are a well-loved band in the UK post-metal scene. Did you feel any pressure upon joining?
Ted: I only really felt pressure to learn the songs, I’m super confident in my ability to perform to a good standard but learning 12 Areas was a challenge for me at times.
Jack: Was it hard learning the old material?
Ted: It was different to anything I’d played before. I didn’t feel like it was above my playing ability or anything, but I was learning it all by ear so, having played 6-string for so many years, it took me a while to feel comfortable with a new style on the bass guitar. The song structures, time signature changes and tempo changes were tricky to get at first but as soon as I adjusted to that playing style it became a lot easier.
Jack: How do you think your first show with Telepathy at the Waiting Room went?
Ted: I remember that show being great. I’d not played live for nearly two years by that point and I was quite nervous about playing in the hours leading up to it, which was odd because I never get nervous before a show. It was great to be surrounded by peers and have a lot of them tell me that I was a great fit for Telepathy.
Jack: The Waiting Room has closed down recently, what will you miss the most about this venue?
Ted: If I’m to be totally honest, I couldn’t make it to many of the shows that Chris and Abbi promoted there, which is a great shame for me and something that I feel I should have taken more advantage of on the times when I could have. But every time I did manage to go there it was always a quality night and there was always an excellent vibe. Those guys worked their nuts off to build the Colchester scene and there was always a tremendous sense of passion, support and equality in the air. Everyone respects them for that- that I’ll miss that the most.
Jack: The Waiting Room is sadly closed its doors at the end of November, can this problem be solved by just getting more people to shows?
Ted: I know very little of the contributing factors that led to the closure of The Waiting Room, so I can’t really speak with any conviction on that matter. I heard that the site on which it stood had been appropriated by some sort of property developer and that it’ll be turned into student housing. If that is the case then I think it’s a little short sighted to say that it could have been prevented if more people had attended shows. At the end of the day money talks and big business often eclipses the little guy, so I’d see it as more likely that someone was offered a wedge, they went to bed wealthier that they woke up and they probably slept real easy. Sadly, for champions of grassroots arts communities all over the world, that’s the way it goes down. Generally speaking there are definitely venues that have closed down mainly due to poor attendance- but then you have to ask yourself why weren’t people attending? Is it that potential audiences are becoming more complacent in modern times? Or is it promoters aren’t doing enough to target customers? Is it a combination of both? Is it the bands fault? Who knows? These occurrences have to be assessed on an individual basis; I don’t think there’s a ‘one size fits all’ solution or cause for that matter.
Jack: How was it to play Desertfest?
Ted: I played the first Desertfest with my old band but Desertfest 2016 was my first with Telepathy and it was awesome. Reece managed to get us on the bill last minute and we are super grateful that he kept us in mind the whole time. We were on about 3pm on the Saturday and Gav from Old Man Lizard told me that he couldn’t get into The Black Heart to see us because the audience was spilling out of the door and into the stairwell, which was pretty cool to hear.
Jack: Your excellent new album ‘Tempest’ comes out soon. What do you hope people take from the experience?
Ted: Good question! A lot of time, money and effort went into making this record over the last 18 months, so I guess fundamentally I really hope that people get the record, enjoy it and come to see us at a show, ha ha! We get messages nearly every day from people asking about the new album and when it’ll be available or asking about when we’ll be in their part of the world next, so now that we’re on the brink of Tempest being finally being released and the release tour coming up, I can’t wait to get out there and hear what people have got to say about it.
Jack: Tempest depicts the harrowing journey of a person beset with grief and faced with total isolation after awaking from a great flood. The album guides the listener on a journey through awakening, desolation and finally acceptance. What inspired this theme?
Ted: We all decided on the concept a few songs in to the writing process for Tempest. We tend to demo as we go and listen to the songs a lot while we’re not working on them to establish the mental picture that the music helps us to envision. As there’s no lyrical concept for us work from, we’ll usually work out the common recurring themes in each of our individual minds and it will take shape from that point on. Water and ruin were two of the themes that we all envisioned so we constructed the concept around those elements initially.
Jack: Because of this theme, would you say that this is a darker album than 12 Areas?
Ted: Sonically and thematically, I would say Tempest is the darker of the two Telepathy records so far.
Jack: What was it like working with Jaime Gomez Arellano on the album? How much freedom did you get with him?
Ted: Gomez was a friend years before I ever recorded any music with him. That can be a problem sometimes- mixing business with friendships- but that was not the case with him. Everything we wanted to achieve he helped us realise, we had a laugh and experimented as much as possible but there’s a time to be told ‘yes’ and a time to be told ‘no’. He’s great at nurturing ideas that serve the music, but he’s great at cutting out the bullshit too. Obviously, from looking at the calibre of his clients, there was a lot to be learned from him too. Basically, he’s my boy and we’re all super happy with how the record turned out.
Jack: How did a Telepathy recording process differ from previous bands?
Ted: To be honest, the whole process from writing, rehearsing and recording was way more intensive than anything I had experienced prior to joining Telepathy. I didn’t grow up playing music with these guys so I’d not really been in a band with a bunch of dudes as focused as they are but I fucking loved it. I joined the band in June 2015 and we entered the studio in January 2016, during that time we played as many shows as possible, recorded a demo, wrote the whole of Tempest from start to finish, rehearsed the material then jumped straight in and recorded it.
For that whole 6 months we’d all work during the week and then we’d spend nearly every Friday night, Saturday and Sunday working on this thing. Often times we’d be in our studio for 10 hours a day if we weren’t playing shows. I’m not claiming that we’re anything special, that kind of work ethic is obviously nothing new- most bands who give a shit have to work that way to get things done- but we were working at the pace that I had always wanted to be working at and hadn’t really been able to before with my other bands for one reason or another. That was the main difference for me.
When we actually entered the studio we were riding so high on the fact that we’d been able to get things moving again so quickly, we initially only booked 5 days with in the studio to complete the album. From recording the first kick drum, right through to mastering the finished product, we smashed out all the tracks in 3.5 days and then left 1.5 days for mixing/mastering. Even though we did complete those initial sessions in that time frame we did end up going back a few months later to add the finishing touches that gave Tempest its depth.
Jack: Echo of Souls features vocals from yourself, why did you include vocals?
Ted: Regarding vocals, the general consensus has always been that if the songs demanded it we’d use them. This was ultimately the case with ‘Echo of Souls’. Tying in with the overall concept, Tempest basically follows 3 musical movements; these could be interpreted as Devastation, Desperation and Acceptance. We felt ‘Echo of Souls’marked the lowest point of the journey for the protagonist and fits in between Devastation and Desperation. The song essentially evolved from a jam session we were having and the vocals were a spontaneous product of that jam. When we listened back to the demo of that session we felt that the miserable vibe of the track was taken to another level with the inclusion of the ambient, harsh vocals, so we left them in there.
Jack: Does this hint at a future direction for Telepathy with more vocals?
Ted: I think so. Though it definitely doesn’t mean that we’ll shoe-horn vocals in wherever we can for the sake of it. We’ll continue to write in the same way that we always have and see where it takes us. I kind of like the freedom that we have with it though. We’ve already established ourselves as an instrumental band so vocals can only really add to the experience. If it were the other way round it probably wouldn’t work as well. Whatever we do, we’ll do it the way we think it should be done.
Jack: You’re touring the UK and Europe with Zaum, what do you like about them?
Ted: Yeah, we hit the road with those guys from April 1st. I grew up listening to the slow and heavy stuff so I’ve always had a soft spot for it even though I don’t listen to a lot of doom anymore. I like that they’re doing the ‘mantra’ doom thing, their records are super hypnotic.
Jack: How is Europe different to the UK?
Ted: It’s well documented that the European attitude towards touring bands is superior to the UK’s attitude. You generally get paid more money and dinner, drinks and a place to stay is usually standard too. That being said we’ve always been pretty lucky in the UK because Rich takes care of our shit like a boss, but I think that generally the UK is starting to get better for touring bands, albeit slowly. Thankfully most of the UK promoters we work with are as generous as they possibly can be which is amazing. Some aren’t and treat you like a bum but they’re the ones that don’t stay in business for long.
Jack: Telepathy and Zaum are playing Roadburn Festival this year, how does it feel to play such a prestigious festival?
Ted: Man, it’s great. I’ve consistently tried to get on the bill for Roadburn Festival for about 10 years and failed every time. It’s the Mecca for underground heavy music, so to finally be able to do it is a little victory for me personally. I know the other guys are stoked about it too.
Jack: What’s your favourite song to play live?
Ted: I love all of them but I’d say ‘Smoke from Distant Fires’ is probably my favourite song to play because it’s a great seven minute, mid-pace rager. It’s got so many differing sections and it’s so impactful live. It was one of those tunes that took us forever to write too. I think we started writing it within the first couple of weeks of me joining and it took us the whole six months to get it finished, but when we did it ruled.
Jack: What are your plans after the UK/European tour?
Ted: Promoting Tempest as much as we can and writing a new album. We also have another Euro tour in the works for the autumn.
Jack: Finally what makes Vinyl so special?
Ted: Vinyl speaks for itself, man. It sounds better, you get the massive artwork and it’s collectable. No one ‘collects’ mp3’s do they? It’s also keeping smaller bands in business which is never a bad thing.
Jack: Thanks for your time and have a good tour.
Ted: No worries brother.