Heavy duty intergalactic two piece Tesla Cøils have chosen to call The Gold Coast their earthly abode. And for local music lovers seeking an unhinged yet catchy dose of retro-future electro-pop with lashings of dark electronica, this is a wonderful thing.
With an introductory EP Emergence Of The Cosmic Monolith unleashed today, Anthony Gebhardt received interplanetary correspondence from the celestial duo: analog synth maestro slash baritone vocalising Jed A. Wølters and cyber-tronic drummer Chris Dennis.
You won the Hard Rock Rising Band competition. What has this opportunity meant for you?
We knew we were up against some superb local talent. We didn’t know how we’d be received, especially since our sound is quite ‘out there’ and weird compared to most local favorites. When our name was announced as the winners, everything went in slow motion; it was such an amazing surprise! We were also so warmed from the praise we received from the fantastic judges, all of whom were such revered and celebrated local legends.
How long have Tesla Cøils been together? And what was the catalyst for the band forming?
When I was very young I was abducted by aliens, and on my travels I met Chris playing in a Cantina band at the Titania Spaceport. There was an unfortunate laser shootout and most of his band were incinerated, so I took him with me on my return to Earth. The time came in 2014 when I had written a bunch of new songs, and he was the obvious choice to help bring them to life, as he had now become one of the best live drummers on the Gold Coast.
You have a bold, expansive sound and people may be surprised to discover that you’re able to deliver this as a two piece. Did you always envisage this project as just the two of you or is it just the way that things unfolded?
I have been performing under the Tesla Cøils name since way back in 2012 when it was just me and my synth, and I would play a lot of open mic nights, testing my songs out.
Over the years I have experimented with extra players, but it was so hard to get them all together in the one place at one time! However I knew I wanted a real live drummer instead of looped beats – I didn’t just want to be that guy who rocks up to the gig and hits play on his laptop and fist-pumps at the crowd. Chris’ heavy hitting style was the perfect fit for the solid industrial sound I wanted.
Do you consider yourself as part of any ‘dark wave electronic’ scene or are you catering to more of a varied demographic when you go out and play shows?
There isn’t really a heavy electronic scene in Australia, let alone Queensland. I guess most electronic artists are jumping on the electro-soul, Chet Faker bandwagon or producing commercial dance music for clubs and festivals. We take more influence from the dark side of the 80’s, such as Gary Numan, Joy Division, Throbbing Gristle, which unfortunately there isn’t a great demand for. But we don’t care because we love standing out from the crowd.
However I do see some more darker electronic artists emerging in Australia, like Brisbane’s Rebel Yell, Pleasure Symbols, and SCRAPS, all of whom are amazing live! There is also Bodies, a good friend of mine out of Melbourne, and of course City Calm Down, who have been getting some airplay on Triple J lately.
Both of you are also involved in other musical projects; Jed with The Blackwater Fever and Aquila Young and Chris with AZREAL and Veal. How do you prioritise your time around them?
The key to juggling them all is to organise things in advance and go out of your way to move things around. Chris’s metal band AZREAL have a constant flow of shows but we always seem to work around that schedule. Even though I’m constantly writing music for Tesla Cøils, I’m simultaneously working on new music with The Blackwater Fever, and I also do some session bass playing for neu soul act Pirates of the Tempest. It’s all about organising, prioritising, and working as hard as you can constantly!
Besides the aforementioned influences are there any other acts that you see as shaping your trajectory?
Bowie, of course. We wouldn’t be here without him. And anything Brian Eno touches is pure gold in my opinion – Roxy Music, Devo, Talking Heads. We were actually once referred to at a gig as a cross between Talking Heads and Mighty Boosh!
There are also some fantastic present day artists who I’ve been getting into lately, such as Lebanon Hanover out of Germany, Xeno & Oaklander from New York and the eccentric, self-mutilating synth freak John Maus from Minnesota. Basically all unique acts who are, like us, getting experimental with analog synthesizers and gear.
You’ve just dropped your debut EP Emergence of the Cosmic Monolith. Can you tell us a bit about the creation and development of the record?
Our debut EP is a collection of songs written over the past few years that tell a story. Basically I’m a vintage analog synth nerd, I’m a collector, I own about ten right now. When I discovered analog synths it was like discovering a new world, where I could create sounds that transcended space and time, something I couldn’t do before with a guitar. They are all so old and they have imperfections, glitches and sometimes they sound like they are melting, but that’s the beauty of them. You can’t get that kind of sound from a digital synth or plugins. Lyrically I wanted to display a lot of my raw emotions, but hide them just a tiny bit behind narratives and metaphors.
Eyes is a song about interstellar love. It’s the only track with guitar – a twangy spaghetti western style intro. Parasite is about my struggles with feeling alienated and alone, and not relating to human beings (I’m half Tyrannian, an ancient space race.) It’s basically an 80’s throwback, channeling a Miami Vice new wave feel. Creature is one of our more heavier sounds – I put my synth through guitar distortion pedals to get that gritty tone – it’s basically a song about how I love imperfections in people and prefer to interact with freaks like me. Terminal is a blatant comment on my own struggles with mental illness. It kind of takes the voice of the people around you who tell you to ‘get over it and grow up’. There is still too much stigma surrounding mental illness and I really wanted to address that through Terminal. The last track on the EP, Evolved, is a song about a mutant being tortured and experimented on just because he is different.
In addition the EP also has a visual component. Which means each track has its own film clip and follows a narrative which you can watch from start to finish. We filmed and directed our own music videos. You’ll see footage of us soaring through space on our instruments, me brandishing a laser gun and fighting off a hoard of evil mutants, and a deranged psycho holding me in captivity and torturing me with sharp things. It’s an audio-visual journey through time and space.
You’re also playing some shows shortly to support the EP launch. What can we expect from you guys in the live setting?
We take the recorded songs and expand on them for the live setting. I have a live synth rig I have been developing for quite some time, consisting of a vintage Roland SH101, a MicroKorg, and a Roland SPD SX sampling pad. It’s such a simple yet engaging live setup.
On top of that I give Chris free rein to expand his drum patterns beyond the recorded material – it makes the set more organic and unpredictable, and lets us jam out the songs in all sorts of weird and whacked out ways. When we play live, there is this other-worldly presence that takes hold of me… maybe it’s my extra-terrestrial background. There is usually a point when I end up flailing on the floor or dragging my synth off the stage to tweak it in the audience. I really can’t describe it, I just do it because it feels right.
You share your band name with a creation by pioneering engineer and inventor Nikola Tesla, the tesla coil. Do you own one and if so what use do you put it to?
Tesla was such a mysterious character in history, we named our band in honor of his genius. Without him, technology today wouldn’t be the same. I’ve never seen a Tesla Coil up close but I know that they were one of the first electrical resonant transformers. I also now know that someone has modified one to be controlled via midi – which means you can play arcs of electricity resonating at certain pitches, via a keyboard! We would love to incorporate that into our live rig. Some day!!!
The debut EP from Tesla Cøils, Emergence Of The Cosmic Monolith, is out today, Thursday 25 August and available via iTunes. Or watch it in all its glory here:
Be sure to strap on your jet-packs and blast off to one of the band’s upcoming shows at the following venues:
Kreative Kommune, Expressive Ground, 17 September