Telescopes - Precious MettleWith a new EP, 'Precious Little', and a new label, Creation, The Telescopes are now hoping to follow stable-mates Ride and Primal Scream into the Top 40. Everett True reports. Pics: Tom Sheehan
"PRECIOUS LITTLE" IS A SONG WHICH SUMS UP THE DESPAIR, the futility, the paranoia, the frustration of dependency ("I would be precious little without you", where all that matters is that one person, that one object of desire, and you can't imagine survival without them. Guitars wail besotted, distended voices howl and the chorus, where words become too much, cries out in joyless, unspoken agony.
"Precious Little" encapsulates the horror and exhilaration behind the "love is the drug" feeling that so many songs over the years have tried to express. It's a song about passion and obsession, love and belonging. It makes me twist and writhe inside with emotion.
"Precious Little" is the first song on a new four track EP from Creation's latest signings, those radiant stars, The Telescopes. At last, The Telescopes are beginning to understand the power of silence. And if it doesn't chart, justice can go take a long hike.
"I THINK 'Precious Uttle' is quite joyful," says Joanna Doran, guitarist with The Telescopes. "You could take it two ways: that someone is that into somebody, they'd die without him, or that they're so happy about it."
Stephen Lawne, vocalist and wordsmith elaborates:
"It's celebrating the feeling something, anything could be that precious to you. I put 'little' on the end, cos it could be something really little. It could be about nothing - this great big anthem in the sky could be about a f***ing flower, it could be a trick of the light, it could be bullshit for all you know."
I took it the opposite way - the person who was talking about this thing, was frightened by the amount this obsession could take over their life.
Steve: 'Yeah, that can creep into it. It's frightening if it's real. 'Never Hurt You', on the other side is pure pleading, a solemn vow. It's self-expianatary, really."
THE Telescopes, in their brief, luminous career, have recorded a handful of singles - nearly all of which have made Single Of The Week, courtesy of your humble writer and one, densely claustrophobic, album ("Taste"). They have also acquired a reputation for being arrogant.
"When you're first interviewed, you don't know what the score is, so it's easy for people to get your backup," says bassist Rob. "Someone asks you a stupid quest on, your immediate reaction is to tell them to f*** off, not bother answering. But I wouldn't worry about it we're feeling pretty quiet today."
Yeah, that's true. In fact, The Telescopes are looking decidedly hung over today. One of them, Dominic, the drummer, hasn't even made it out of bed. There was a party last night y'see, to celebrate the birthday of their manager, Nick, whose house they stay in London.
When I arrive, just past midday, the last vestiges of a bonfire an smouldering in a garden shorn of vegetation. Jo is sitting on a burnt-out sofa, the rest of the band squat on the last remaining log looking crestfallen. Inside, a pool table lies overturned in the living room, cups litter the place. Various Cheree bands - Whipping Bay, Bark Psychosis - wander around aimlessly (Nick also runs Cheree).
Faced with such desolation, I suggest adjourning to the local pub. The suggestion is greeted with unashamed enthusiasm.
"It's a vicious circle," Steve says, removing his ever-present shades. He's a (pint of) bitter man. "Them are a lot of arrogant journalist and a lot of arrogant bands. It shouldn't be like that. it's just music."
Jo takes a sip of orange juice.
"Early on, all we'd get were questions about our influences," she says. "It puts you on the defensive, because all you want to do is to push your own band, not other people's."
These influences - Spacemen 3, Valentines, Loop, Mary Chain, et al- have been well documented, and now is not the time to go into them again. Suffice to say, that although their sound is still generic, The Telescopes now have a separate, clearly defined, identity of their own. The Telescopes sound like The Telescopes, pointover.
Steve Sutherland made a point in your last interview that you seemed to have been born under a microscope. Do you think this has stunted your growth in anyway?
"No, the pressure encourages and motivates us. We want it to be there," Dave, the keger-and-shandy guitarist, replies from behind his granny shades. "lt's no fun not being noticed."
Steve: "We're not ashamed of a single thing we've done. There's not one of our records that hasn't been great, even though they're all difficult. The next album won't sound anything like 'Taste' - financial circumstances, personal circumstances."
Have you had much of a backlash because of the media attention?
Steve: "Mainly at concerts. People come backstage, and because they know you, they expect you to know them. They can get very demanding, and pick on things you've supposedly done and not done.
"We've had some bad reviews and some really good bad reviews. I keep the constructive ones. I don't keep the ones written by dickheads, who either hate us because they don't like my face, or love us because they like the look of Jo's backside."
"Until recently, Jo had to face her amp, because she couldn't hear herself on stage," Dave adds, rolling a Rizla. "So Jo's the stupid pretentious twerp with her back to the audience."
Steve: "Yeah, it was like at the party last night, people kept expecting us to be scruffy, miserable bastards. We may be scruffy but we're not miserable. It was like they were wondering why Jo didn't have her back turned to the fireplace all night."
WITH Creation's new-found chart success, bands like Ride, the Valentines and Primal Scream now have Top 40 status. What seemed inconceivable a short while ago, could soon become reality-The Telescopes on "Top Of The Pops".
Dave: "Somebody turned round to me a few weeks ago, and said, 'Whatever you do, don't go on "Top Of The Pops".' i just went, ~F*** off, it'd be such a laugh'. This program me that has been on at seven o'clock on Thursday for so many years - it's an institution."
Steve: "We were thinking of signing to Creation before What Coes On went bust (their previous label). But because there is this thing where people buy Creation records because of the label, we wanted to prove we could make it on our own terms first.
"Through our time with What Coes On, we got more and more friendly with McGee and everyone else down the Creation offices," he adds. "They're after the same thing as us, the charts."
HOW do you feel when you're playing on stage?
Steve: "Intimidated. You walk on, and there's this great chrome thing standing there with a microphone on top and people staring at you. I don't even think about the songs in the set or the words to the songs. If l happen to sing them, it's a fluke. If I get the songs in the right order; that's a fluke. I freak out when I go on stage, because I never know what to do."
Jo: "It depends where the gig is. If it's some massive stage, where you're stranded and you feel like no one can see you, then you enjoy it. If you're in some little club and there's people round the side of your amp, jumping up and down, sitting between your legs and you can't concentrate on the songs at all, then you're conscious of everything going on around you and you don't enjoy it at all. But sometimes it can move you to tears."
Steve: "When we're playing at somewhere like The Falcon, we're riding on sheer terror at the claustrophobia of it all. "One thing I can't abide," he continues, "is people spitting on me. I wouldn't spit on you, so why should you spit on me? Why should anyone come to my gigs and spit on me? It's incredible. For Christ's sake, it's only music, it's not worth spitting in people's foces for."
Do you find this intimidation exhilarating, in a strange kind of way?
Steve: "No, I find it repulsive. I got accused of treating one audience like a sixth form tutor, but they were scumbags, you know? I wouldn't wipe my backside anthem. I got accused of throwing this guy off stage once, but he was beating up our manager, you know? We're at the audience's total mercy - all we can do is run backstage and lock the door, which we do anyway.
"I don't care how extreme our music seems," he continues, "I just don't like rugger types coming to our concerts. It doesn't suit the music, no matter how fast or raunchy we get. I think we're more artistic than that. I want people sitting on deckchairs, with a Salvador Dali painting in one hand, and a Martini in the other, to watch us, not people in f***ing rugby shirts."
ThE conversation leads onto which bands do, and do not move The Telescopes. The Charlatans' single, the Mary Chain and The Cramps all get the thumbs up, while the last muckers, Inspiral Carpets, is universally reveiled.
"All we get to know is that there's summat wrong with mum, and dad's not to happy," Dave says facetiously. "Who wants about his family, for Christ's sake? Having said that, if I met him, I'd still shake his hand."
So what should songs deal with then?
Jo: "It' s what your thoughts are, aren't they? The trouble with that one is it's a made-up story. It's not real, is it?"
So you don't like "Ziggy Stardust" then?
Steve: "No, I don't like the ideas behind it. The music's great."
The Telescopes' songs are about feelings, emotions, stream-of- consciousness thoughts. Telescopic music probably sums up feelings of frustration better than most I can think of. And feelings of violence, too, even though earlier, Steve had been saying how repulsive he finds it...
Jo: "It just gives you a thrill. It's like when people watch horror films with their hands over their faces, screaming, Why do they do that? We like the feeling our songs like that gives us; But our songs can be quite beautiful and soothing at times, like 'Never Hurt You'."
Steve: "I genuinely derive pleasure from taking the piss. Say you take a beautiful blackbird, and you focus your music on that, so it's beautiful, soothing, caressing, whatever... and then you start on the lyrics, and for the lyrics you watch a horror film."
Jo: "Why do you listen to certain records? It's for the mood. Sometimes you wont to lie on the floor and listen to a Velvet Underground record, other times you want to jump up and doom to The Dickies."
I'M not sure how we came round to this, but via talk about the Mary Chain, and how it's okay if they slip in to self-parody "because they're the Mary Chain", Birdland's artificiality, singing flowers, Steve suddenly comes overall mock-Messianic, and Dave rants on about "people who don't deserve to be untied from their mother's nappies if they think God is a bloke with a long, flowing beard". Suddenly, we're onto definitions of good and evil.
Would you ever kill someone?
Jo and Rob: "Yes."
Steve: "It depends whether they look like a twat or not. Some people are just begging to be murdered."
Jo: "There's cases though. If someone broke into my house and tried to kill me, I'd kill them, yeah. It's simple fact. I hate murder and killing and hanging and all that but if I had to, I would."
Would you say Telescopes music is "good" music?
Steve: "Obviously we do, but we're not making ourselves out to be any guiding beacons. We do get some distuted people coming up to us at concerts, like the time after I mentioned in a music paper I'd been reading 'Helter Skelter', that book about Manson."
"This guy comes up and asks if I want some Thunderbird. "Er, no thanks.' So he says, "I hear you're into Manson', and I'm going, "Nah, nah, I just read a book about him'. And this guy goes, the guy's a genius, he was an architect'. And he's telling me how Manson got everyone else to do it for him, how he's a genius, and I say you could say the same thing about Hitler. So he looks at me, and says, 'Ah, another genius!' I just thought 'Go away! Just crawl away and die!'
"The funny thing was, once I started blanking him, he started coming round to my way of thinking."
ROB and Steve go off to get the next round in, as Jo expounds further on the disparity of beliefs with in the band.
"In the band we've got Dave, who's a vegetarian, Rob's a vegan, Dominic who's an avid meat-eater, and me and Steve who don't give a damn what we eat. Personal views don't come into our music.
"See that little girl over there with her little models of 'My Little Pony'?" Jo asks, pointing tothe couple atthe table next to us. "The purple ones? They're hideous, aren't they, the most disgusting things." If my daughter had one of them, I'd send her in for psychoanalysis."
You've gota daughter, then?
"Have I got a daughter? F***ing hell!" she exclaims hotly. "I've been menstruating that long to have one! I haven't got f***ing time to conceive one!"
STeve storms out of the pub: "jesus, that person just called me a freaky little c***!"
LET'S talk about love...
"Love?" Steve asks, "It's a load of bollocks, isn't it? Who needs it?"
"It's not" replies Jo scornfully, sounding like Rita Tushingham.
"Makes the world go round, dunnit?"
"Yeah, and I'm the little bit that sends it out of orbit every nine millionths of a second."
Jo: "That's rubbish. You just have to listen to your lyrics to realise you're a soppy sentimentalist."
Steve: "It's corny to say that though- 'Oh, we love each other, we love our audience'- it's a load of bollocks, that."
So what is beauty then?
Steve: "That dustbin bag over there, because it's the last thing around that you'd think of as beautiful; I'm sure if you opened it up and took a look inside, you'd find quite a few objects of beauty. Likke everyone knows a Campbells soup can is beautiful, because Andy Warhol said so. Well, there could be one of them in there.
"That's what beauty is to me - taking hold of something ugly and examining it close up and seeing if there's anyhing of beauty inside. And if there isn't well, that's the beauty of it!"
The Telescopes's new record, "Precious Little" is released on Creation this week. Their tour started on Monday June 25 and continues through July. See Gig Guide for details.
Originally appeared in Melody Maker June 30, 1990. Copyright © Melody Maker