Witchbeam: The Playboy Interview

Telecult's Gear

Telecult Powers are a Brooklyn-based synth duo influenced by various mysteries, mystic states and magickal systems.  Performing custom-built synthesizers behind lit candles, Telecult opens a link to a spirit world in hopes of communicating with another dimension.  I asked one of the members known as Witchbeam a few questions about the group, his artwork, his label and his experience at the Voice of the Valley festival…

GT: I was first introduced to your work form Chris Madak (who runs Deception Island, performs under Bee Mask). I was looking to set up shows in NYC for Brother Raven and he dropped your name and a link. From there I started my search of Telecult Powers and found all sorts of bizarre information and occult references, as well as some links to artists I was a bit more familiar with. I found the Temple of Pei website and the Witchbeam site, both of which seem to add to the mystique of your efforts. I ordered a few tapes from Temple of Pei, Baked Tapes, and Pizza Night Tapes and was floored by the spaces the duo creates: ritualistic, mind-altering visions of otherworldly dimensions (A Beginner’s Course In Hoodootronix, Baked In the Kitchen w/ Bob Bellerue & Kiss the Viper’s Fang). Upon my visit to NYC, I was able to see Telecult perform at the Cakeshop – where I had the opportunity to meet you. Since then, I’ve wanted to find more about you guys – which lead to the idea of this interview . Maybe I can start by asking you how you got involved with Telecult Powers?


Witchbeam:
Wow, thanks for kind words. I guess a bit of a time line is in order, my friend John and I went down to Ohio University one weekend in the really early nineties to visit our girlfriends. On the way back to Cleveland he was playing a Whitehouse tape, which I am pretty sure was Dedicated to Peter Kurtin. I had never heard anything like this before, and was hypnotized by it. He was telling me about this kid Jason and all the bands he was into (Throbbing Gristle, Whitehouse, Muslimgauze, Psychic TV, etc.) After that I was really intrigued, mixed it all with an interest I already had developed in psychedelia, various occult systems, Robert Anton Wilson, Death Valley & Ed Sanders’ The Family, Grant Morrison’s Doom Patrol, and this whole other world sort of unfolded before me.

Before long my friend and current collaborator Matt and I started dabbling in making music, along with our friend Jacques and some other local weirdos, Craig from 9 Volt Haunted House comes to mind. Pretty basic stuff, but the Process Sound of the Final Judgment sprang from that. Then we sort of morphed into a four piece, The Sinister Cloaks, and then that sort of fell apart, we walked away from the jams for a while. Matthew wound up moving to New York, and I started focusing on Witchbeam, a bit of a portfolio site for my cosmic illustrations.

A couple of years ago I had to get the hell out of Cleveland and moved to Brooklyn, leaving behind one of the brightest noise scenes in the country. I had been playing in a rock band in Cleveland called Yeti Scalp doing weird looped computer sounds, generative music for the background, but wanted to get into something more organic. Matt had started being an electronic hobbyist a while before, and we started picking up his synthesizers he had been building and our sound sort of oozed out of our earliest developments.

Listen to Telecult Powers ‘The Joy of Hex':

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GT: What has the experience been like?

Witchbeam: As far as Telecult Powers as a personal experience, I have to say this has been ridiculously rewarding. Almost every single person I have met from being in Telecult has been a wonderful and fantastic individual. People have been surprisingly open to it, which makes it much easier.

GT: So where do you see Telecult Powers heading now?

Witchbeam: Further into inner space… but in seriousness, we have been talking about creating a much more open and interactive environment in our performances, more of an initiation to our mysteries? Or actually, non mysteries…. There is a bit of occult vibe that we put off, but I think we are moving towards more of a gnostic one, illumination instead of secrets? I get a lot of flack for saying things like that, but those are the things that interest me.

Delaware

GT: You mentioned a little bit about your illustrations. I’ve seen a few things, posters and cover art… all of which seems to be very integrated into your musical involvement. How does your visual work fit into your artistic efforts?

Witchbeam: It’s pretty much all the same. The illustrations and the sound both try to tap an essence more than anything else. Whether it is through trance inducing music or cosmically themed art I want to open gateways to other worlds. The material plane has always shown off its limitations to me, I’m more interested in what lies beyond it.

Heart

GT: I know Bee Mask‘s work, but not much about the other artists on the label. Can you tell me a little bit about Temple of Pei and how that all got started?

Witchbeam:
I have to imagine that it is similar to most of the other labels out there, when we started we needed an outlet to release our sounds. It’s grown a bit since then where we have solicited releases from a few other people, but in general it is a way to get Telecult Powers out there without being filtered by anyone else.

We have also been lucky enough to put out tapes by Reviver, Bee Mask & Family Treasures, all top acts and top shelf releases. It seems small, I know labels that put out what seems like 6 tapes a week, but we are more restrained. We just received the master from Cleveland homebuild freak god Fluxmonkey that is sure to make some people reexamine the way they even get out of their bed in the morning. One of the best things I have ever heard, period. It is his first release anywhere, so this is something really special for us. He had a couple of tracks on the Dark Barbarians compilation we put out, but those were just teasers for the real deal.

I heard Telecult Powers played Voice of the Valley this year – how was that? What were your favorite acts?

Witchbeam: Shit, favorite acts at VOV? Pretty much everyone that played brought something to the table. Sam Goldberg played a particularly illuminated set iirc, Bee Mask raised the bar as far as electronics went. There was an Emeralds/Max Eisenberg set that really really was interesting. We were over on the mountain freaking out and walked down to the stage and the sound just sounded WEIRD, it was a nice surprise that they were jamming with a fourth, so that was really cool. This guy Clang Quartet was a really odd one, he had this christian apocalyptic puppet vibe, but I was really drunk by the time he played so I have no idea what was really happening. Signs bearing quotes from the Acts of the Apostles and stuff, really flipped out.

Cleveland really flexed it’s freak sound muscles,  Fluxmonkey/J. Guy was incredible, Outer Space, Fragments & Thursday Club were hot, and scumfuck Skin Graft was particularly twisted. He brought the sound of urban squalor and decay into the woods, visions of children playing with dirty needles at the beach. Really sick mental shit.

There was no MC so I left not knowing who a lot of them were. Oh yeah, by the third day acts started breaking away from the stage, and these freaks Twilight Memories of the Three Suns climbed the mountain and really did some weird shit. They would bang on an anvil and you would see it, then a few seconds later the sound would roll down the hill. Brilliant use of the space. Oh yeah, and can’t not mention the free jazz stylings of Tiger Hatchery. We were on the mountain during their set, in this heavy fog, couldn’t really tell what was going on but it was great. Our friend Flar did sound for the fest, and really blasted out the valley. This guy Narwalz played my favorite Psychic TV track through Flar’s system, it was AMAZING to hear Blue Pyramid at incredible volume. Nautical Almanac closed out the weekend, and sort of hypnotized the crowd. There was a hill in front of the stage and they asked that you lay with your feet up where your head would be, so the blood would rush to your brain. I just remember having this wonderful sense of calm listening to them, seeing two stray shooting stars that I associated with the two of them. We had an overwhelming feeling of community with everyone else there that generally lacks at noise shows. It carried on for weeks after.

Stony Tusco did an amazing job putting it together, I have to hand it to him.  A lot of people went into it with some apprehension, but the whole weekend went off without a hitch. God is as good to the humble as the devil is to fools? Hahahaha.

(Check this link for some recordings of these sets.)
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