[Interview] Joshua Eustis talks about Telefon Tel Aviv's return to the stage
Photos by Kathryn Lasso
Telefon Tel Aviv is the brainchild of musician/producer Joshua Eustis. The project began as a collaboration with high school friend Charles Cooper in 1999. By 2009 the duo has released three albums, but Cooper's untimely death left TTA's future in question. This year marks the first year of TTA's return to the stage as a solo act. Bullet caught up with Josh before his set at Aisle 5 on Thursday night to ask him about this new direction.
This is your first year back as Telefon Tel Aviv.
I didn’t think I was gonna do it and I was scared to do it, but my friend, Ben Wynn [Deru], needed an opener for a show, maybe he was dropping a hint, maybe he wasn’t. I thought, I’m here, I could do it and it gives me an excuse to test the waters, see if it’s something that’s gonna work or not. When I first got on stage at the first show I was like, “Ah fuck, what am I doing? I’m gonna crater, this is gonna be a disaster.” It ended up going pretty well, the crowd was really cool and really into it. It felt really good. It made me feel like maybe I need to be doing this.
I’ve always been an outsider, even in electronic music. It never really fit anywhere. TTA was always too techno for rock clubs, but too rock for techno clubs. It’s always been in this weird kind of grey area, it never really fit anywhere. *shrugs* I don’t really know how to change it. It’d be nice to fit somewhere, but I don’t really care all that much. You make what you make.
Is it hard being back without your partner?
Fuck yeah. Really hard. I don’t have enough hands and I have to do all the work and then there’s the weird thing where if I’m playing a song and it gets to a part that was particularly his part or if I’m doing songs from Immolate Yourself, I don’t want to play any of the songs that Charlie sang. It’s weird singing his parts somehow, it just feels kind of sad and it makes me miss him a lot. I just generally stick to the ones that I sang so I don’t really have to deal with that.
It’s definitely weird doing it on my own. I never did it on my own, my whole life I always had a partner, so this is a first for me
How did it come about that you were singing vocals on your tracks?
Necessity. I’d be in the studio with Charlie saying, "We have words for this, or we have a melody for this, you try to sing it or I’ll try to sing it." We wanted to make a record, just the two of us, when it started looking like it was going to be songs, we realized that we would have to sing. I sing live on stage every show.
All of your TTA records sound very different. Why is that?
It’s a matter of getting older and your tastes changing. For us, we made Fahrenheit Fair Enough and we didn’t want to make it again. We never wanted to make the same kind of record twice. We have trouble making the same thing, which is a different kind of curse because every time we put a record out the people that liked the one before are like, “This fucking record sucks.” *laughs* We are, like, trading fans, every time we put a record out it’s a different set of fans. Some people only like the second record, some people only like the first, and some people only like the third. There’s a small handful of people who like all three and those are my people.
People aren’t sure what to expect out of the show tonight. Do you enjoy that element of surprise?
Yeah! I don’t want them to know what’s coming. What’s the point? Do you wanna go to a movie if you know how it’s gonna end?
Tell me about the Second Woman collaboration that just came out.
It’s me and Turk Dietrich. Turk and I have made a ton of music together since the 90s, we just never released any of it. A couple of years ago we started working on some sort of techno-e stuff together. We decided to just make it what we really wanted it to be, not this super strict, gridded thing that’s kind of feeling like a prison, we wanted to liberate it rhythmically. It happened really fast, the first record [Second Woman] got done in about eight weeks in 2015 and it came out in June. Now the second record is also finished and that will come out January of the coming year.
What can you tell us about the upcoming record?
It’s a growth from the first record. A little less hard a little more atmospheric, but still pretty twisted by our standards.
You’re also working on a new album for TTA as well. What can you tell us about it?
It will be out next year. I haven’t had time to work on it as much as I would like, but I’ll finish it this winter. I have a date in mind, but I don’t want to say anything yet because that is totally subject to change. If I finish the record and hate it, I’ll literally delete it from my hard drive and start over. It could take two months it could take a year. With a Telefon record, it usually takes about a year. The details take a ton of time.
What other projects are you working on?
Working on the second Drab Majesty record for Deus right now, working with Vatican Shadow on his stuff. Gonna do a Tropic of Cancer record later this year. I have a Sons of Magdalene cassette coming out in the fall and then "Black Queen," a new single came out today. I don’t like to not do anything. My sense of self worth is tied up entirely in how productive I am, so if I’m not productive I start to get depressed.
Are you excited to play here in Atlanta tonight?
Yeah, definitely. I haven’t played here since 2009, but I always liked playing here. It’s a good crowd. People like music here. It’s not the kind of city where there are a lot of people who like music, but don’t worry about what’s cool, they just want to hear stuff.