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First formed in 1988, the Telescopes have been described as pathing "a fine line between astoundingly brittle beauty and a cacophony of ear-bleed noise."
The group, whose central member is multi-instrumentalist Stephen Lawrie, came originally from the Midlands town of Burton-upon-Trent, but are now based in London.
Their debut album, 'Taste' (which has recently been re-released on Revola) came out in 1989 on the American label What Goes On. When What Goes On went bankrupt the following year, the Telescopes signed to Creation Records. Their second album, 'Untitled', followed in 1992.
The Telescopes, however, shortly afterwards fell into hiatus, not finally re-emerging until 2001, with only Lawrie, and the group's only other constant, guitarist Jo Doran, remaining from their original line-up. Their third album, 'Third Wave' was released on Double Agent Records in 2002, and their fourth '#4' on their own label, Antenna, in 2004.
The Telescopes' early sound drew comparisons with the Jesus and Mary Chain and the Velvet Underground and they often found themselves bracketed with their Creation label mates My Bloody Valentine,Ride and Slowdive as a shoegazing act. They have, however, since their return become both largely instrumental and increasingly indefinable, their often cinematic soundscapes bridging their own unique and usually very loud-sounding gap between electronica and post and industrial rock.
The Telescopes' latest record is 'The Hungry Audio Tapes', a six track 30 minute CD mini-album, which includes a reworking of their 1989 What Goes On single, 'The Perfect Needle'. They have also recently released a a vinyl EP, 'Night Terror' , as the first release on a new Irish label, Trensmat. Jo Doran has recently left the band and been replaced by Bridget Hayden.
Back for a second interview with the Telescopes, Pennyblackmusic spoke to Stephen Lawrie about 'The Hungry Audio Tapes', which is a collection of both old and new recordings.
PB : You have recorded records on a variety of labels including Double Agent, Revola, What Goes On, and, of course, Creation. Your last album '#4' came out on the Telescopes' own label Antenna. Antenna seems to be flourishing, and has put out over the last few years releases by the likes of Fuxa, Los Planetos del Agua and O as well as the Telescopes. Why did you decide to release your latest mini album on Hungry Audio rather than as an Antenna release ?
SL : It wasn't intended to be a mini album originally. Hungry Audio had already released the 'Winter' EP for us in 2004, which sold out so quickly they asked for a second EP. Meanwhile the demand for 'Winter' continued to grow, rather than repress. They came up with the idea of merging the two EPs. I listened to how that sounded and thought they worked well together.
PB : You have also just released a 7" limited-to-500 copies EP,'Night Terror', as the first release of a new Irish label Trensmat, and haveanother single coming out with them in November. Who are they ?
SL : A great new Irish label. They believe every noise has a note, love drones and 7" format. They're well worth searching out.
PB : Since 'Untitled' in 1992 you have largely dispensed with lyrics and the Telescopes have been mainly instrumental. Do you think that you will ever focus on lyric writing again ?
SL : I write lyrics all the time, but only use ideas that fit with whateveris going down musically. Maybe there will come a day when the Telescopes will release a very lyric heavy album again. Who knows ?
PB : 'The Hungry Audio Tapes' features at its end a reworking of one of your most famous songs , 'The Perfect Needle'. Why did you decide to rework that ?
SL : It kind of came from the ether. I was playing wasp drones in the key of A. The melody for the song came into my head and it worked, so we circled it live until it grew into what you hear on the record.
PB : The album was recorded using a lot of very unusual instrumentation including a broken Hammond, bedsprings, jackplug noises, mooger fooger, silver foil and top trump cards ,elastic bands and a bodhran. How did you slot some of these instruments onto the recording ?
SL : The bedsprings were used to write one of the songs. They were lying around in my studio next to a xylophone, every time I entered or left the room. I tapped the two instruments until I had 'Where It Comes From Where It Goes'. It was the same with the bread maker. 'Household Objective#2', another of the songs, was created by improvising around the sound it made when it was mixing dough.
Sometimes it's a case of thinking what a piece of music needs, and keeping an open and inquisitive mind on how it can be achieved. Other times things can develop out of moments of inspiration, boredom, mistakes or day dreaming.
PB : During the Telescopes' long absence from recording, you and Jo worked mainly with Unisex, which was a collaboration with multi-instrumentalist Nick Hemming and who released an album 'Stratosphere' in 2000. Is Unisex still a regular concern or does it no longer exist ?
SL : It was left open, although we've all travelled such different pathways it's hard to see us all playing together again, but I've learned never to predict the future as it often has ideas of its own. Nick's playing with Clayhill now and a group called Shoreline.
PB : The Telescopes have been described as more of a "lone vision" in which you do the songwriting. How do Telescopes songs come together ? Do you improvise by yourself and then bring those improvisations to whoever is currently working with you in the rest of the band, or do you write in other ways ?
SL : That's how 'Third Wave' was created, but every album has been different. I write in all kinds of ways. The stuff I am doing at the moment is totally collaborative.
PB : Your regular band mate in the Telescopes and also Unisex has been Jo Doran, and she appears on 'The Hungry Audio Tapes' as she has done on all your records to date. Yet she has now left and the Telescopes now consists of Bridget Hayden and yourself. Who is Bridget and what has happened to Jo ?
SL : She's concentrating on Los Planetos del Agua, her other band. Things kind of ran their course with the Telescopes, and when your bones are telling you that, you've got to listen. It wasn't easy for her but she did the right thing.
Bridget is a great artist in her own write. She's also had a big hand in a lot of other amazing stuff that's definitely worth searching out. The music we summon up together is an entity of its own. The best Telescopes music ever.
PB : The Telescopes are often described as an "ex-Creation-band". You have always made a point of saying how grateful you are to Alan McGee for bailing out the Telescopes financially when your previous label What Goes On went bust, but you were only at Creation for about three years, a very small part of the band's nearly 20 year history. Do you sometimes get tired of being labeled under that moniker ?
SL : Well 8 years of that was dormant. People have tried to stick so many labels on us. None of it really holds. The Telescopes feel beyond definition.
PB : The group meet with mixed reactions as a live group. You're ear splittingly loud. While half the audience will moving towards the back of the room or running for the exit, the other half will be standing totally transfixed down the front. Is it part of the band's philosophy that any reaction is better than no reaction ?
SL : We just follow what we are compelled to do. We have no control over how people react to it.
PB : The Telescopes are going to be touring California in early November and then a week later making its second tour of Italy this year. Is this the first time that you have toured America ? Who will be touring with you ?
SL : Yes, this will be the first American tour. Randall Niemann from Fuxa will be joining in. I'm really enjoying playing live at the moment.
PB : The Telescopes have in recent years often recorded records and albums a year or two before they are eventually released. What are you working on at the moment ? What can we expect from you next ?
SL : We're going to be doing a 2nd 7" for Transmat.
PB : Thank you.
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Space Age Recordings
What Goes On
Former Creation label signings, the Telescopes play their own unqiue blend of instrumental electronica and post and industrial rock. Main man Stephen Lawrie talks to John Clarkson about the band's new mini-album, 'The Hungry Audio Tapes'
Anthony Strutt speaks to Stephen Lawrie from experimental/psychedelic act the Telescopes about his band's lengthy history and their recent inclusion on 'Still in a Dream', a new five CD shoegaze box set
Telescopes:Mondo Underbelly, London, 17/2/2010
Anthony Strutt watches former Creation band the Telescopes play a violent and darkly impressive set of songs from their 1989 debut album, 'Taste'
Telescopes:Marquee, London. 7/10/2005
The Telescopes were often bracketed as a shoegazing act in the early 90s. Back after a long absence and having completely changed direction, Dominic Simpson sees them play a stunning set that utilises drone frequencies and oceanic washes of guitar noise.
One of the great Creation Records bands, psychedelia act Telescopes returned in 2002 after long absence with their third album, 'Third Wave'. Frontman Stephen Lawrie chats about the band's rapidly evolving style, and plans for their firuth and fifth album
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Eighth offering from Stephen Lawrie's the Telescopes, whom deliver a fine soundscape of noise and confusion
4 - CD
Excellent and atmospheric largely instrumental rock from former Creation label signings the Telescopes back with a fourth album on their own Antenna Records label
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