(Originally posted as a collaboration with Calmscape)
Telefuzz aka Don Verbrilli aka The Verbrilli Sound had just released his new album The Financiers of Samsara and returned from the Big Chill in Eastnor when we caught him a late sunday evening to talk about his new release, about performing electronica live, about philosophy, buddhism, the Big Chill atmosphere, about psychedelic pop, why he chose the moniker ‘Verbrilli’ and his transistion from school teacher to musician.
Telefuzz is Don Verbrilli’s second creative project, activated by default when atmospheric conditions or other imbalances affect the Don’s ability to ply the sentient winds of the stratosphere. Gradually, Verbrilli has realized that transmission interferences, in the mind’s eye, are so hypnotic that a state of musical laissez-faire almost identical to the Verbrilli Effect can be achieved after only a very short time. Don Verbrilli likened the hypnotic effect to gazing at white noise on a large television screen for as long as it takes to feel a bit wiggy.
Calmscape: Good evening Don Verbrilli and thank you very much for taking time out of your busy schedule to do an Interview for Calmscape. How are you and what have you been doing the past week?
Telefuzz: I’m fine, thanks. I’ve been entertaining family from out of town- busy busy.
Calmscape: You just released The Financiers of Samsara on Upstairs Recordings, how would you describe the sound of The Financiers of Samsara compared to your earlier succesful releases like Sleep and Leisure War?
Telefuzz: Well, I find it kind of hard to be subjective with the sound of my albums for some reason. Pete Lawrence heard it and remarked that it kind of had a wintery, heavier sound, which I guess kind of makes some sense, it’s definitely got a full, round bass sound in just about every track, and there’s more guitar going on in these tracks than in previous releases, several songs with more fuzzyness than before too.
Calmscape: I often wonder if there is a story behind album titles, is there a story behind the title The Financiers of Samsara?
Telefuzz: Not really. My sister’s into Buddhism, and I know I got the word samsara from that influence. As best I can describe it, samsara is the cycle of suffering humans go through lifetime after lifetime. I just got this kind of epic idea of the type I kind of like to entertain myself with- that there’s some group of investors, human or otherwise, who finance the activities which keep us distracted in this cycle, it later occurred to me in fact that humanity has enough of these types to keep us distracted, corporations, governments etc. sounds like a bunch of evil dudes, no?
Calmscape: Baseball or football?
Telefuzz: Neither much during the season. Both- at playoff time.
Slackline Radio: How do you try and define the style of Telefuzz, keeping it original and distinct from the music of The Verbrilli Sound?
Telefuzz: Good question. I’m having more and more trouble with it. Originally we came up with 2 acts to make our first compilation appear to have more contributors. Now I’m really at a kind of crossroads, it’s likely that one of the acts will become a more studio-based/ electronic act and the other a more live/crossover act along the lines of the Telefuzz Live I did at the Big Chill.
Calmscape: The Verbrilli Sound is as much musical philosophy as it is an act of composing the music itself, you claim. Does philosophy play a big part in your creational process when developing new sound?
Telefuzz: No, not any sort of overarching philosophy per se. The only philosophy I bring into the studio really is that technological accidents usually bring about good things, and that you have to be aware when one of those happy accidents is happening. Usually when you bugger something up, your first impulse is to delete/erase/overwrite. My thinking though is that electronic music can be such an exacting exercise, it’s nice to let mistakes happen to loosen things up a bit. Sometimes its just the way you play a particular part in the song- not the way you planned it but ultimately a turning point in the writing process. Other times it’s an absolute glitchy freak of electronics- rare but tasty. Of course the fact that I overlay guitars, and sometimes bass and vocals, and live takes on keys sometimes- that can add more spontaneity and looseness to songs.
Slackline Radio: Sometimes electronic music can be lost from the real live experience, leaving most production to the studio. However, you have shown that you are not limited by a studio and have taken your music to live performances at this years Big Chill. Tell us a little about your live performances and how you recreate your music in front of an audience?
Telefuzz: Well I’ll admit that this is really an early stage in this particular incarnation of my live show. In the past I’ve just taken a sequencer and sampler and keyboards and jammed out my songs live, bringing parts in and out by pressing buttons, which surprisingly can be a lot of fun because you never play a song exactly the same as before, but of course it’s still just a guy pressing buttons on stage, not exactly a spectacle. so now I’ve expanded the live show to incorporate a drummer, bassplayer, and myself on guitar and hopefully down the road doing some vocals (I used to be a guitarist/vocalist in a band called Pull’ in the nineties). Basically there are some tracks I play from my laptop now that form the core of the song, and then we add the drums, bass, and guitar to these to give it more of a live band sound.
Calmscape: Both the atmosphere and the audience at the Big Chill must an incredible experience?
Telefuzz: You’re right. Any fan of chill- well, of just good music- MUST see the Big Chill to believe it. Really, It’s like getting baptised in music that washes over you from all directions and it re-affirms why it is we listen to the type of music we listen to. We get so caught up in our busy lives that we sometimes forget how to just slow down and appreciate this music to its fullest, out in the sun and the air and the outdoors, with lots of thoughtful people doing the same thing. Really, Pete Lawrence and those others responsible for the Big Chill have created something special and unique. You just get into a very enjoyable rhythm and head space, and its so unassuming, with families and kids and music lovers in general just blending together in a very peaceful way unlike any festival I’ve ever been witness to.
Calmscape: Apple or Intel?
Telefuzz: Intel, grudgingly.
Calmscape: Todays digital technology have made it possible to produce music with a minimum of hardware. Do you prefer hardware or software and can you tell us about your studio set up, what hard- and software do you use in your production and on-stage?
Telefuzz: I’m basically 90% hardware. I started making this type of music at the time cubase on ataris was the most advanced software sequencer, so my collection of keyboards and effects are all hardware based. Some of the softsynth emulations are enjoyable, especially for rhodes and hammond- stuff you’d never be able to buy, but I find outboard synths eminently more tweakable and satisfying, and I find I can always hear when a cd has been made with software instruments all inside the computer. It has a kind of sterility and coldness to it that rarely works to music’s advantage, only a very talented musician could pull true warmth out of software based instruments. I use Logic to sequence and add audio, but I go back out of the computer to mix through a board and add more hardware effects, it’s just a key component of my sound. However I’m not so crazy that I’d go sequencer-less, I’m too lazy. So my studio has a lot of midi wires flying through it, and that’s the way I like it.
Calmscape: I’m frightened of flying. I get cold sweat all over my body as soon as I enter an airplane, do you have any phobias?
Telefuzz: Claustrophobia. Don’t get me thinking about it.
Slackline Radio: Throughout your career you have created interesting names for the musical acts you have particpated in including TSR, Telefuzz, and The Verbrilli Sound. Describe your reasons for creating your interesting stage name, Don Verbrilli? How did you come up with the word choice, “Verbrilli”?
Telefuzz: I think I was listening to Fila Brazillia, and I was just trying to make a word I’d never heard before, that maybe didn’t exist, so that’s what came out. If you’ve got one strange word, you can get away with one normal word- sound. So I became “The Verbrilli Sound”.
Calmscape: When you are at home and need to be comfortable and chill out, what do you then pop in your cd player?
Telefuzz: Well to be honest I’m a huge psychedelic pop fan, not so much 60s pop, but stuff like XTC, The Smiths, The Church, Swervedriver, Supergrass, whatever. I love jangly guitar stuff, I love vocal harmonies. Of course I like ACDC guitar riffs too. Christ I like just about everything. Some of my favourite music to really chill out to, well I can always turn to 90’s ambient stuff- Sun Electric Presence’ is one of my favourites, Future Sound of London, I tend to prefer techno-ey ambient to more organic ambient. I love Ulrich Schnauss’ stuff- really re-awakened my love for electronic music, Telefon Tel Aviv is really good. I like my friend Jon O’Neil’s stuff, but he refuses to release it. One day you’ll hear about him. I’m not kidding. He’s got one song on our Blue Light One release.
Calmscape: Salvadore Dali or Leonardo da Vinci?
Telefuzz: Dali. I’m an absurdist surrealist all the way.
Slackline Radio: In your life you have also had other professions. How did you make the transition from school teacher to musician and how did your work around children affect your early musical creations?
Telefuzz: Well I still teach, so I haven’t really made any transition. In fact, I had to make the transition from musician to teacher. That was tough. Working around children, probably made my early musical creations sound like crap due to tiredness and my ears being shot, maybe I’m selling kids short. 😉
Calmscape: When not in the studio or on the road, what do you spend time doing. Any hobbies?
Telefuzz: I have 2 kids and they’re great fun and take up a lot of my time. Other hobbies, photography a bit, reading, lawn sports such as croquet and bocce.
Calmscape: We are in the year 2016, It’s late august, where is Don Verbrilli and what is he doing?
Telefuzz: Oh, I suspect it will be more of the same. I might be sitting on a stool onstage. You know, the furniture type.
We said goodbye to Don Verbrilli and thanked him for taking time out of his schedule to complete the interview. Visit Don Verbrilli’s place on MySpace and pay a visit to Upstairs Recordings from where you can purchase the new Telefuzz album.