INTERVIEW WRITTEN & CONDUCTED BY: CHRIS KELLY
PHOTOS: PROVIDED BY TELEMACHUS & HIGH FOCUS RECORDS
South London’s own, Telemachus, known to many as CHEMO or David Webb, is the legendary producer behind the most forward thinking UK Hip Hop records in recent decades. The partnership between Telemachus and Hip-Hop hegemon High Focus has crafted a cinematic & experimental sound that has gone on to define a generation of boundary pushing producers and bashment based MC’s . He has mixed for masters like Jam Baxter, Dirty Dike, Rag’n’Bone Man, Onoe Caponoe & High Focus’s latest arrival, TrueMendous. Now he is adding a new chapter to his orchestral Odyssey.
We got a chance to catch up with the mythical man before the release of his new album, Boring & Weird Historical Music. Besides mutually nerding out over our shared love of Ancient History, we broke down his production process, musical inspirations & favorite High Focus Projects.
BOOK 1: BORING & WEIRD HISTORICAL MUSIC
1) I would love to know about the birth of Boring & Weird Historical Music, what was the vision going into the album ? Was it a tricky process deciding on the direction you were going to take with the project
“The album developed quite naturally and the concept became clearer and clearer as I went on. I started with a handful of instrumentals which represented the Telemachus sound, psychedelic, dreamy and emotional, with interesting rhythms and inspiration from diverse musical cultures. Then once I had the story in mind, I weaved it all together like a kind of musical audiobook. I have always been a fan of storytelling in music, from ‘Peter and the Wolf’ as a kid, to the ‘Prince Paul: Prince Among Thieves’ album as a teenager. This album is my way of telling a story.“
2) Who designed the album cover and what is the story behind the design?
” The illustrator is my friend from New Zealand ‘Blake Dunlop’. We met in Bangkok through mutual friends. We have collaborated on quite a few projects, and my music and his visuals just seem to fit together really well. You can check out some more stuff of his here: https://blakedunlop.co.nz/ “
BOOK 2: PIRATE RADIO & ANCIENT HISTORY
3) As an artist what effect did listening to pirate radio stations have on your music & do you miss pirate radio being such a large part of music culture?
“When I was growing up, there was no napster or myspace or itunes or spotify or instagram, so to hear underground music you had no choice but to tune your dial to your local pirate radio station and listen to DJ’s. I was exposed like this to so many different genres and different musical cultures and this period totally shaped my musical tastes. I remember the first time DJ Ghost played my first release on the hiphop station Itch FM, I was sitting in the family Rover 400 car because its radio had the best radio reception, and I felt like a king!“
4) I’ve always wanted to know the story behind how you chose the name Telemachus? I did my degree in Ancient history so i was so curious as to why you chose the name of Odysseus son? I’m assuming you must also be a big history buff?
“Correct! I am pretty into history, not an expert at all but i feel like you can only really gain perspective on life today by looking at the past. I really fell in love with the name itself as a kid watching the cartoon: ULYSSES31… which was basically The Odyssey but set in space. The name Telemachus has a double meaning for me too, Telemachus in Greek literally means ‘far from battle/war’ which i guess reflects my peaceful nature. The only trouble is that most people cant pronounce it properly so they call me Telly Mattress or Tony Lemon Kiss or something…“
BOOK 3: HIGH FOCUS & MUSICAL INSPIRATION
5) You have had you hand in mastering and mixing so many of the High Focus projects over the years, but which projects that you have worked on stick out in your mind for some reason? either because of the challenge they posed or just the level of fun you had whilst making it?
“Good question!!! Ahhh man I am mixing and mastering stuff every single day so its hard to pick just one project that i have enjoyed. I really love it all though! Mixing is still very much a creative task but you dont have to pour your soul into it like when making solo stuff. So in some ways i find it more fun! I even enjoy working on stuff that is not so good believe it or not. People can get really really excited when you give them a really good mix for their track, and making other people happy like that is truly a great joy for me!“
6) Is there a particular genre or perhaps countries music scene that you love to explore for unique samples and beats?
“I’m influenced by music from the entire globe, but if I had to pick one main influence it would be West African HighLife music from the 70’s. Certain songs just have this special and almost impossible way of combining melancholic tones with a rhythm that makes you just want to dance. Sad dance music…!! Very VERY hard to do as a musician.“
7) How do you differentiate between music that you think could be dope or a different artist and one that would be good as a Telemachus release?
“Good question… I suppose Telemachus stuff is alot more melodically complex and musically detailed than some of the other stuff I make. Its probably even more inaccessible because I try and make the Telamchus stuff sound like something new and unusual every time, whereas when I am making beats for a vocalist I actually dont mind being a little more generic and formulaic…“
8) Lastly, Is there an artist or other producer that you are yet to work with that you still want too? And when you were learning to produce, who’s style did you admire ?
“Oh so many! Yusef Dayes is the best drummer in the world for me, Nick Hakim has the perfect combination of soul and psychedelia and Sevdaliza makes very dark but still poppy RNB that is just incredible. But to be honest, they are making great music already so I reckon I’ll just leave them to it. hahahaa. Honestly I dont have high expectations or ambitions for myself. Whatver happens naturally is what happens… And as long as a few people really like my stuff then thats more than enough for me.“