The Telescopes, pioneers of reverb music freedom
Following the release of The Telescopes “Exploding Head Syndrome”, Stephen Lawrie was extremely kind to give Noise Artists an interview. It is a huge honour as both the Editor and I are big fans of the band. Thank you so much Stephen.
The Telescopes are “an English noise, space rock, dream pop and psychedelic band, formed in 1987 by Stephen Lawrie. They have a total of ten released albums including their debut, Taste, released in 1989.
Their debut release was a split flexi disc with Loop on the Cheree label in 1988, which was given away with the Sowing Seeds fanzine. There followed their debut single, "Kick the Wall", and "7th# Disaster" also on Cheree Records.
They moved to the American What Goes On Records and released their debut album Taste and "The Perfect Needle" single which is perhaps their most famous song. A live album appeared on Fierce Records and following What Goes On’s bankruptcy they signed to Creation Records.
In contrast to Taste's noise-rock, a more laid back sound followed, described by journalist Alexis Petridis as having "an almost fragile sense of elegance and melody", and the band scraped the lower reaches of the UK Singles Chart with the single "Flying", and released The Telescopes, their second album, in 1992.
Lawrie explained the change in direction: "Your idea of perfection changes as you move on. I think we still hold the same approach to our music now, we still try just as many mad ideas, it's just a lot more subtle and works to a different end".
In 2002 they made a surprise return with Third Wave on Double Agent Records”…. and have been doing great music since. They just released their tenth Album, ‘Exploding head syndrome’.
Their impressive music work to date is:
The Telescopes (1992, later reissued as # Untitled Second)
Third Wave (2002)
Hungry Audio Tapes (2006)
Infinite Suns (2008)
Hidden Fields (2015)
As Light Return (2017)
Exploding Head Syndrome (2019)
“Exploding Head Syndrome is a snapping into consciousness, a synaptic charge of analogue dissonance saturated through a complex undercurrent of pulsing minimalism, profound in its simplicity.
A static haze of electronic distortion drifts in and out of lucidity to a sure propulsion of stone age repetition and heady bass vibrations, the momentum held on a thread of acoustic tension. As warm organs drone around the oscillating bones of enchanted melodies, an electric hive of enclosing guitars encircle Lawrie’s trance induced visions, which hang suspended, fractured at the core, until completely enveloped by the
Welcome to the 11th studio album from The Telescopes, their third for Tapete. Consisting of eight new songs and incantations that form a series of sonic convulsions stretching the parameters of intuitive composition to the point of auditory illusion.
Conceived in 1987, The Telescopes emerged as innovators in the field of melodic noise, becoming a crucial inspiration to a multitude of artists and listeners alike. The group has consisted of a revolving line up centred around lead protagonist and founding instigator Stephen Lawrie.
With the exception of Until The End* Exploding Head Syndrome was created entirely by Lawrie himself while immersed in solitude deep in West Yorkshire.
As the title suggests, this is the sound of a triggered mind reaching into the depths of his own inner turmoil on a personal quest for basic clarity. Whereas previous albums for Tapete have set a parallel course between song based structures and freeform impressionism, Exploding Head Syndrome employs almost traditional song writing techniques to achieve a melodic swirl of simplistic refrains capable of lulling the listener into vast sonic dimensions.
In the 1700s William Herschel defined a telescope as an instrument through which a person may view ‘beyond the realm of natural vision’. This is the mantra of The Telescopes.
*Until The End was co written with Chris Plavidal (Stumptone) and is dedicated to the late Nevada Hill (Bludded Head).
Exploding Head Syndrome (EHS) is the name given by John. M. S. Pearce in 1989 to a phenomena described by Robert Armstrong-Jones in 1920 as ‘snapping of the brain’. It is a condition in which a person experiences unreal noises.
The front sleeve holds an image of a blank sheet blowing in a breeze. A natural light phenomena occurring at the time the photograph was taken gives the illusion of a face.
What is your music about?
I’ve written many songs, each with their own synopsis.
What are your goals as an artist artistically/commercially?
To maintain a strong relationship with the crack in the cosmic egg.
Who would you want as a dream producer, and why?
Whoever crops up and inspires.
What are you trying to avoid as a band?
Explain your songwriting process.
I don’t have one. Every song follows its own course, I try not to get in the way.
Why do you make the music you make? Is it in you? Is it your environment?
It’s a communion with something beyond definition, I can’t pretend I am able to understand or explain it.
Describe your palette of sound.
What was it like being on Creation? How was it different other labels? Or was it not different?
We worked hard and had a lot of fun. I think every label has its own identity. They had a very positive vibe. Like a lot of labels, they tried to balance a love of great music with commercial success. I think overall they succeeded in their aim.
Which of your albums are you the most proud of? Why?
It’s impossible to say. They all get their turn. For different reasons.
Is it liberating to play drums for Vanishing Lines as opposed to being the focal point?
Just a different way of creating, it’s all liberating.