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Telefon Tel Aviv: Audio Carnage

Telefon Tel Aviv — the genre-mashing amalgam of Charlie Cooper and Joshua Eustis — formed in 1999 and combined the artists' backgrounds in electronic and instrumental music. Their 2001 release, Fahrenheit Fair Enough, surged with intricate electro-rhythms, shimmering guitars and warm analog instrumentation, and followup Map of What is Effortless (2004) added soulful vocals and a broad orchestral scope. Their diverse influences include soul, IDM, hip hop and harder-edged rock. Cooper's background is punk rock, and Eustis's roots are in Industrial and death metal. We sat with Josh to discuss the duo's techniques onstage and in the studio.

How do you use Live?

We use it live! We sync two laptops together; one guy handles beats, one guy melodic stuff and textures. We flip-flop back and forth because the beat job is so much fun. Then, we just improvise on prearranged patterns, dub the songs out in real time and generally deconstruct as much as we can.


What do you like most about Live?

I love that I can have a loop of beat data or whatever, and then I can open it in the Clip View and shred on the loop points. The code from Ableton is so gangster that you can grab loop points and move them around, pitch them up, down, draw in volume envelopes — all on the fly of course. For real, it's fucking carnage. With the release of Live 4, I started dicking around with actually sequencing audio in Live. For example, in a portable-studio-on-the-airplane kind of way. I have to admit that Ableton has made it abundantly easy for dumbasses like me to get something legit happening in a short amount of time without making me want to defenestrate myself from the exit row. Also, wait, I'm forgetting something important: Has anyone else noticed how fucking ace the Ableton plug-ins are? The sound is peerless.

What has Live inspired you to do that you wouldn't have thought of before?

Mostly resequence audio on the fly. This is something that Charlie and I have always wanted to be able to do in a performance context, and it's been made possible only with Live. It's added a new way for guys like us, whose music is primarily beat oriented, to advance the possibilities of what we can get away with in a performance — a stupid amount of improvisation.

Any other comments about Live?

In 2000 I was thinking to myself how weary, stale, flat and unprofitable it seemed to perform electronic music live. Then some German guys who are capable of thinking on a level far beyond most bipedal hominids came up with the idea of an audio sequencing and looping app with blazingly gorgeous sound quality and top-of-the-line plug-ins. Ableton is the shit; they saved my life. Now they have created the industry standard in live electronic music performance. Hats off!

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Joshua Eustis of Telefon Tel Aviv shows how he makes music on the road in this video.