Teargas & Plateglass Interview

There have been some incredibly obscure bands in California music history. San Francisco 70s art-rock darlings The Residents, for example, posed for album cover after album cover and played show after show, wearing eyeball helmet masks covering their heads and identities to deliberate artistic effect. Waxploitation's Teargas & Plateglass don't give out their identities or pose for promo photos. Maybe they simply don't believe in that kind of shit, who knows. They do have an excellent self-titled debut out; an eerie, dark downtempo instrumental album full of orchestra drones and gritty breakbeats. They were available for an email interview. The band's responses came back in several days. Their actual identities are as obscure as ever, and there are no plans for shows.

Better Propaganda Editor Terbo Ted talks to Teargas & Plateglass

betterPropaganda:   If it was up to you, how would you describe Teargas & Plateglass?  

Teargas & Plateglass:   We are a group of artists who share a belief that dark music compels certain people towards deep introspection, to tap into a frequency that expresses a shared feeling of a very real impending doom.   But hopefully the result motivates an aggressive change of the outcome.     

bP:   The band seems to avoid publicity photos, and there's this sense of a Wizard of Oz "Don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain" with your group.  Is this a conceptual thing, a legal thing, or something else?  

T&P: "Who we are personally is really a distraction.  Our audience doesn't care."

bP:   We had a song from your album on our site, it was in our top 5 on the download chart for awhile, which is unusual for an instrumental track; usually vocal tracks fill the top spots.  We also picked "An Adagio For Tandems Stacked" as our Weekly Propaganda song of the week awhile ago, and the entire CD has been a big favorite at our office, we were playing it every day when it came in.  What kind of feedback are you getting on the new album? 

T&P:    We're happy with the feedback.   People have been very generous with us, in that they have accepted that it's a debut album and judged it in that light.   Additionally, in some cases we have agreed with some of the criticisms reviewers have had.  It will actually help our next album.   When you have a lot of material, created over a few years, putting together an album, especially a debut, is very hard.   We had a lot of songs to pick from and had to be careful to have as diverse an album as possible, but also stay true to our sound... so there was a lot of infighting when it came to assembling the final master.   The next album won't be as hard to do, from that standpoint.    

bP:   A common reaction to this album is that it's very cinematic, coming off like a spooky or eerie soundtrack.  Does the band also do literal production work for the motion picture industry, or have any experience there?

T&P: No.  

bP:   The Prague Symphony Orchestra is credited on the CD.  How did this partnership take place?  Did you hire them remotely, or travel out there, or just sample them or what?

T&P:   We sampled them, but messed with the strings significantly.   We do our own strings as well, so we merged them into one vibe.   But the original Prague strings were just incredible to work with.  Credit Jocelyn Pook for the original Prague strings, she's amazing... scored Eyes Wide Shut for Kubrick, etc.  

bP:   The word 'dark' is commonly used to describe your current work.  I first remember that word being used to describe jungle or drum and bass back in the 90s, and is that what people are talking about when they use the word 'dark' with your tunes? 

T&P:   "Dark" is as good a description as any.   It's not a word that bothers us.   It must have something to do with an overall theme of minor chord progressions, which is something we share with some jungle, drum and bass stuff like some of Roni Size's works, especially minor chord progressions with synths.  With strings, it's more influenced by someone like, say, Dmitri Shostakovich.   For instance "Largo" where one cannot listen to that without feeling utter sadness and utter despair.  

It's also our conscious choice as to how we engineer tones.  We have a very specific, conscious way of recording that lends itself to a 'dark' result.   How we use our amps, plate reverb, various delays, how we mix and so forth.   We've spent a long time crafting aura as technique.

bP:   There's definitely some snare rolls in your songs that are drum and bass flavored, yet your tempos are much slower.  Do you think jungle is still an evolving musical culture, or have we seen that peak already, and stuff like you're doing now is the next wave?  

T&P: We're not really part of those scenes, so it's hard to say.  One thing that kills a genre is when suddenly everyone is doing it the same way.  it becomes too saturated for people to know who is doing what.  Eventually, maybe someone will step in and take it where it has never been.   There are some incredible outsider music scenes in countries that have nothing to do with the US and the UK... a real ghetto underground of analog and digital hybrids, with kids who are 12, 13 years old who just makeshift technology that is available to them... it takes forever for that music to reach the first world, but that's not a bad thing at all really.   

bP:   Is there any sort of live show for Teargas and Plateglass, and what would that be?  It seems like the band's reclusive nature would prevent that from happening, is that right?

T&P:   We might do some shows at some point.   But for the most part, it's not something we need to do.

bP:   What was it like working with Natacha Atlas on "Adam's Lullaby?"

T&P: We didn't get a chance to meet her in person.  We basically got the vox parts and worked with them in our studio.  She has the most incredible voice.  It fit in completely with the vibe we wanted.   Perfectly.  She's phenomenal.  We were honored to have had the ability to collaborate on any level.  That song was very meaningful to us.

bP:   I was surprised to see King Britt credited on the album, what's the association there?

T&P:   King Britt discovered Oba Funke and he made the connection between us and Oba and Zap Mama.   King's an old friend of ours and kind of a mentor.  Without King, we would not have been able to remix the Oba/Zap Mama song "911".  He made it happen.  King is a great lover and supporter of eclectic music.  In another lifetime, he'd have been Al Jourgensen.

bP:   I had a chance to interview Chris Vrenna from Tweaker last week when he came through town on tour.  He's also on your same label.  You thank him on the album credits.  Do you guys have a working relationship, or are you guys just sending him a shoutout or what?  

T&P:   We are very close with Vrenna.   One of our first things was a remix for his debut Tweaker album.   Chris has been one of the most important people in our lives as artists and has been a vital and essential part of our history.  He's given us an astounding amount of moral support as well as occasional moment of technical support.  Chris is one of the smartest people in music one could ever hope to meet.  Courageous, honorable, generous.  We might not exist had it not been for his early moral support.       

bP:   Your label Waxploitation has put out some exceptional music this year, including your album, some Danger Mouse, Tweaker like I mentioned, and so on.  What's it like working with them?  Do you have any sort of team or family vibe going with the other artists?  It seems like you credit a lot of the roster on the album.

T&P: Yeah, we are friendly with Danger Mouse and Tweaker and E-Swift from Tha Alkaholiks.  We're all in the same city, which helps.  It's kind of a tight group, which is maybe a little odd given the big differences in the artists, but we're all on similar frequencies as people maybe.  Waxploitation is a good place for that since it's not a strict genre label.

bP:   There's a lot of excellent effect processing on the album.  What kind of reverbs and echoes are you using?  DSP stuff, or outboard gear, or all of the above or...?

T&P:    We use a little bit of everything, and use it incorrectly.  That's key.

bP:   The tone of the CD is pretty mature.  I'm wondering what kind of roots or timeline you're referencing in electronic music culture.  Do you feel comfortable comparing yourself to stuff like Aphex Twin's early ambient works set, or early DJ Shadow even? 

T&P: We're referencing late 60's dub more than electronic music.   Scratch Perry, King Tubby, U-Roy, Prince Jammy, Bunny Lee, Scientist.   Old dub alchemy is the source our our inspiration.  That shit is sage.  

Our stuff is probably close to early Shadow since we share in common an appreciation analog beats.  And Aphex Twin is a master.   So both have influenced us greatly.  

bP:   The music you're doing on this release seems to be fairly comfortable or understandable, the cultural references make enough sense on a media literacy level, yet it feels very much like the mood of 2004.  It's like you're combining familiar things in a new way that fits the vibe of current events.  Do you think the electronic music culture has a good enough sense of its roots as it continues to constantly evolve, or does that not matter to you at all?  

T&P:    This might sound strange, but electronic music culture losing it's roots might not be the worst thing.   Again, we don't really consider ourselves to be 'electronic music' so maybe this will come across as extreme, but electronic music is really very dull most of the time.   There seems to be a very familiar pattern, style, tone, tempo, texture that most everyone follows... there's a conformity in it that is painful to witness sometimes.  Maybe that's because there's a culture attached to it, so artists feel a pressure to be part of the community or something.  But the end result is a lot of the same thing over and over, year after year... so in some ways, those roots are constricting it's growth.   But then again, are electronic music fans demanding change?   It's hard to tell.   

bP:   Does the band make any sort of political connections in its work?  Is the dark mood direct social commentary, or unintentional?

T&P: It's completely intentional social commentary.  It's the basis for everything we do.  

bP:   Would any of you in the band describe yourselves as goths, and is that a community you respond to?  

T&P: No.

bP:   Part of me thinks this is just some studio supergroup hiding it's identity, and this is just a labor of love concept album sort of thing.  Am I right to think that there's some people involved who are more well known for other stuff that can't or won't identify or credit themselves proper because of whatever reasons?  

T&P: No.

bP:   Will we be seeing more work from Teargas and Plateglass, or is this more of a one off thing that will disappear back into the shadows again?

T&P: There's no reason to think there won't be another album.

bP:   What's going to be coming up next for the group?  

T&P: Right now we are not working on music as much as we are trying to rasie awareness for the genocide taking place in the Sudan right now.  It's looking like the genocide that took place in Rwanda in 1994 where in only 100 days 800,000 people were murdered.   It's a very important thing for people to be aware of that is not getting much media attention.   We are contributing a song to an upcoming CD that is donating all it's profits to Oxfam's Sudan Relief Fund, and we are trying to motivate people who are concerned to sign up here as well as reach out to their local House and Senate representatives.    

bP:   Thanks for your time.

T&P:    Peace

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