My next guest is a musician coming out of Brooklyn, NY. I caught wind of Teleseen after thoroughly enjoying his new album, ‘Fear Of The Forest.’ Teleseen merges dub and reggae with elecrtonic music like I have never heard before. The album is 10 songs that you can just press play on your CD player and let it spin. Guests on the album range from Jah Sight, Abena Koomson, and Billy Woods just to name a few. Gabriel Cyr, aka Teleseen was very upfront to all my questions. We got to talk about what software he uses, his love for reggae music, his preference for retail over digital, and so much more. You can grab a copy of the album at www.percepts.info!
Stoli: What is the meaning behind your album title, ‘Fear Of The Forest’?
Teleseen: The phrase got stuck in my head a year or two ago when I reread Chinaua Achebe’s novel Things Fall Apart after having a conversation with a friend about the book. Achebe at point, describes the protagonist as being full of various fears, one of which is “the fear of the forest”. Early in human history there was a social division between between people who chose to live in the forest and people who lived in grasslands, and its a division that still exists quite literally in some parts of the world . I become obsessed with the mystical aspects of this idea, and of the forest or jungle as a metaphor for the chaos of life and of human fear of or resistance to that chaos as a organizing principle of human society. Also the notion of the forest as some sort of origin point or Eden or Zion that we a a society have gotten further and further away from in our collective consciousness. I’m a firm believer that we are alienated from or environments, from each other and from ourselves and that self destruction or self annihilation is a fundamental part of modern society. Where we fear the natural and go out of way to control it, or deny it. Some of the songs on the record deal with these themes, of separation, self-exile, and anxiety…
Stoli: You released your album, ‘Fear of the Forest’ recently. Are you pleased with the final product and reception from fans?
Teleseen: I’m very pleased with the final product. I set out to make a record that was stylistically diverse but still used the same sonic palette from song to song and I think I succeeded. I also wanted it to have a certain heat, humidity, and organicness to it, which i think I achieved. The response so far has been really positive and gratifying.
Stoli: Please describe the transformation from Gabriel Cyr to Teleseen?
Teleseen: I’m still trying to map it myself. They are islands off the coast of each other.
Stoli: What does the word Teleseen mean to you and how it applies to your music & personality?
Teleseen: The word Teleseen was chosen fairly randomly a long time ago to cover some performance projects combining live visuals and electronic music that I was doing with video artist Art Jones. I had been producing tracks for a long time and had only just begun to perform live as the technology caught up with my ideas and my resources. I liked it because it spoke obliquely to the collision of sound and televisual images he and I were experimenting with. I also just thought it looked and sounded good. It has stuck throughout the years as what I have done has evolved. There is also a company in Sri Lanka that makes exercise equipment that is called Teleseen. I like to compete with them to see who can show up at the top of google searches, today I am winning. I’m hoping for a sponsorship deal or some sort of stardom in Sri Lanka one of these days.
Stoli: I love how you mix various genres but it all comes out as electronic music. How did you decide that you wanted to mix primarily dub & reggae?
Teleseen: Reggae and dub are longtime influences for me, my father is a great record collector and he played Black Uhuru a lot back in the day, which at first I hated, but i could’t stop listening to it and obsessing over it and the lyrics, iIt began a life long obsession with the work of Sly and Robbie, and with reggae in general. I still listen to “Red” their second or third album, and it brings tears to my eyes. I come from a very political family and think that aspect of reggae resonated with me, it is the ultimate protest music. Its also music of transience, music of the sea, of islands, I come from a small port city and have the ocean in my blood. Reggae to me, really is the sound of the Atlantic; the sound of migration, and sufferation, but also of hope and joy and love.
Stoli: For all my tech readers. What is your favorite software and hardware to use when creating & recording new music?
Teleseen: These days, like most folks, I mainly use Ableton Live as a conduit for recording, editing, and sequencing, and I have a lot of old analog synths that I use; the Juno 106 is a favorite that appears on a lot of my tracks. I also use a lot hand percussion and most of the keyboard and piano sounds you hear in my music are played on a Honher Pianet T, through various weird reverbs and tape echos I’ve collected over the years.
Stoli: This is your second album. How has your sound & production matured on this new album than with ‘WAR’?
Teleseen: War is a fairy grim album in my mind, I was dealing with some personal issues while making it/finishing and i think it comes through in the sound, while the new one has at least some sunnier moments, though it also strays into some very dark territory. The first album also covers a fairly long period of time, some of the tracks on there date back as far as 2003, whereas Fear of the Forest was all produced in one fell swoop of the last year and a half or so. I also tried to let other different influences seep in, I’ve spent a lot of the last two years in various points in Africa in the Mid-East and produced parts of the record variously in Cape Town and Tangier. Particularly I fell in love with chaabi music from morocco, which is sorta their pop music; long, winding, modal music, with guitars and ouds and auto-tuned vocals. An influence that creeps in on “East Wind Unification”, which I recorded there, and on “Factions”.
Stoli: Where have your fans been buying your new album from online or retail and do you have a preference?
Teleseen: People have mainly been buying it online, and I have to say that I still prefer retail and physical objects. I go out of my way to make beautiful packaging, and I think the folks who designed the art for me on this one, Ken Meier and Yoonjai Choi, did an amazing job. Unfortunately only a small fraction of they’re work comes through on the jpg you get with the download. I know that the future holds big things for digital album artwork, and the lines between, videos, songs, and album art are already starting to blur, but for me there’s still no substitute for ink on paper. I have to say that I know a lot of people hate on cds, as a format, and i can see why, but I think the jewel case is the real enemy. You will never see one of my releases in a jewel case.
Stoli: Who are some of your peers that you respect and look to for inspiration?
Teleseen: There’s really too many to catalogue. My neighborhood here in Brooklyn crackles constantly with new and old music, cumbia, salsa, meringue, dancehall, hip hop, all of which are a source of inspiration. And in recent years the internet and my constant traveling have made the world smaller and allowed me to hook up with like minded folks all over the world, Maga Bo, Lehrl, Dubmasta China, Fletcher, Filastine, Timeblind, Checkpoint 303, just to name a few…
Stoli: People say that electronic music has prospered due to the Internet & digital on-demand TV. Do you agree with this statement and will electronic ever be considered mainstream?
Teleseen: I think we’re at a point in the history of music, where distinctions between acoustic and electronic music have pretty much disappeared, everything is electronic music these days, even if its not presented as such. One could argue that all recorded music is electronic music. Certainly, I think that people have become more accustomed to synthesized sounds and maybe our ears have become more open. Although, and maybe this is a condition of aging, I hear less and less mainstream music that sounds interesting to me at all, including mainstream hip hop and r&b, which used to be the last great hope. Modern dancehall and contemporary music from Jamaica is holding it down for innovation in a big way though, almost to an extent that is hard to keep up with as a listener.
Stoli: What is your opinion on the stereotype that electronic music & venues encourage drug use by the mainstream media?
Teleseen: I think that stereotype is definitely true, and I’ve certainly encountered many folks doing weird drugs at shows around the world, a trait that can be great in an audience. I certainly don’t see anything wrong with a certain amount of herbal enhancement in life, but I can’t really get into chemicals…
Stoli: Your label Percepts is very impressive. How did you end up signing with them and how have they helped expand your movement?
Teleseen: Percepts is owned and operated by me, so I guess I’ll flip your question to how did i start my own label. The main reason is that I’m impatient and didn’t want to go through the process of waiting for a label to get things done, I’d rather just do them myself. We’ve been trying to expand and we have a lot of great releases coming in the next year, an ambient record from myself under a different moniker, a great new single by a super group of Austrian and South African musicians called Majoni, and a great album by and remix project of the Zanzibarian multi-instrumentalist Mohammed Issa Matona.
Stoli: You have been blessed to deejay all over the world. Where are some of the hottest & wildest clubs for music & partying?
Teleseen: Berlin is great city to go out in and perform in, so is Dublin. The music and club scene in Cape Town and Johannesburg is amazing, and they can drink anyone under the table down there. I also love going out in Tangier and Fes in Morocco; all night sessions with live bands, but they play for hours and its basically presented as one long song with no stops, dj style. We also bring the fire like no one else here in New York, but its on an underground, house party tip usually.
Stoli: If I was to look at your I-Pod or MP3 player what artists might I find on there?
Teleseen: Lately I’ve been listening to a reggae group from St Croix called Midnite, who blow my mind. Also I’ve been feeling stuff that’s been coming out of Jamaica on Stephen MacGregor’s Big Ship Label, Vybz Kartel and Movado, and Busy Signal. On a totally different vibe I’ve been into the new record of an indie band from Philly called A Sunny Day in Glasgow. Also I listen to a lot of indian classical music…
Stoli: I love your track, “Crown” feat Abena Koomson. How did you two link up and create that masterpiece?
Teleseen: We hooked up through the recommendation of Mr Maga Bo, incredible dj and producer who is a good friend of mine. She had done vocals on track he was producing for Jah Dan’s recently released album, and we linked up over the phone, I sent her a bunch of beats, the one that ultimately became Crown was my least favorite of them actually. But she came through with an idea for it and recorded all the vocals and overdubs in just a few takes and it sounded incredible. I could have released it just like that without any additional editing or work at all. She’s one of the most talented people I’ve had the pleasure of working with.
Stoli: What is coming up next for Teleseen and where can readers get more from you & your music?
Teleseen: Big things. Doing a remix project for Maga Bo at the moment, doing some shows around the US this fall, and getting ready to tour in Europe and the UK in january, and hopefully South America in March. Check out the myspace www.myspace.com/teleseen, or percepts.info. I can also be found blogging on occasion at www.ecotoneradio.blogspot.com.