10 Good Questions with Steve Jenkins of Telefuture

Posted: July 11, 2012 by Jonny in The Rocking Chair Blog
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1) What is the story of Telefuture?

Both Frank and I have been involved in a music scene that revolves around a type of music called “Chip Music” (also commonly referred to as “chiptune” or “8-bit” music) who’s sound is largely based in the 80s. We started becoming friends in 2010, going back and forth about music in general. Skip forward a couple of years to where we were talking about musicians that incorporate a broader range of 80s inspired sounds… relatively larger acts such as Mitch Murder, Lazerhawk, College, etc. I think we were both a little bit embarrassed in admitting our love for the style, since there is a bit of a stigma surrounding the idea of 80s inspired music being considered ‘nostalgic’ before anything else, but we both quickly realized that like the artists we represent, we are genuinely in love with the sounds from that decade, and aren’t using them ironically.

The name “Telefuture” came from a video hosted by Laura Weinstein which was a recording of a newscast from the 80s talking about the future of technology. I started thinking about how the people speaking in the video were so sure that these kinds of technologies would last forever. To me, the name “Telefuture” represents the idea of keeping old dreams alive, and preserving the ideas of the past.

2) Where is Telefuture based?

I’m located in the central coast of California. A smallish town halfway between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Frank lives in New Brunswick, Canada. Physically, Telefuture is based in North America, but I think spiritually it is based either on the internet or in a different time.

4) Do you search for artists or do they come to you?

It seems to be a good mixture of both. We contacted both friends from the chip music community and reached out to additional artists for our website’s launch (Telefuture is officially only a few weeks old). Since then, we’ve received some really incredible demo submissions, and have been reaching out to people we’ve been admiring from a distance.

5) How did you come to this style of music?

Being a child of the 80s, I feel like these styles of music have somehow been encoded into my DNA. They aren’t something I’ve ever actively sought out, they’ve always just been a part of my life. For a lot of people, I think the 80s sound might currently be considered a novelty… something they hear and simply think to be a throwback to a bygone era. For me it is something grander. Something both familiar, and something that is just as relevant as any other sort of music being produced today.

I grew up in a time where bands like New Order and Tears for Fears were being played regularly on MTV. I think it piqued my curiosity in terms of what sort of music I had previously been exposed to. In the early 2000’s, I lived in Portland, OR, where I would go to basement concerts to watch bands like Glass Candy and Chromatics play what were essentially rock shows. Today these bands are commonly known for their italo-disco / synth music (some of which has been recently featured in the soundtrack for the film “Drive”). I think this is a good example of how a lot of people’s music is evolving into something that reconnects to the greatness of the past, and sheds a new light onto it.

In regards to the chip music we include on the label, it seems as though the artists are working in a similar way — where they are taking inspiration from old sounds, and making them something original and relevant in a contemporary sense. They avoid the label of “kitsch”, and instead create something that bridges the years between the past and the present. They take technology from the past to create original compositions meant to exist in the present.

6) What 80s sounds are the main influences for your artists?

As a label that presents 80s inspired electronic music, I would say that the influences are vast. After going back and forth with the artists on our roster prior to launch, I would say that it is safe to include musicians like Giorgio Moroder, Jan Hammer, Vangelis, Kitaro, Tangerine Dream, Yasunori Mitsuda, Hirokazu Tanaka, Nobuoo Uematsu, and many, many more. 80’s electronic music encompasses a massive set of musicians, and I think the list could go on forever. This is the sort of diversity that I hope to share via Telefuture.

7) Are your artists interested in producing music for video games?

Indeed our artists are interested in producing game music and a lot more. Spamtron has done game soundtracks. Plain Flavored creates his own games. Makeup and Vanity Set recently did the soundtrack for a short film called “88:88” which inspired the music for his release. Frank does game music. I don’t make music, but have been involved with making games. I would say that the Telefuture staff and roster is comprised of multi-talented people, who are very much in touch with the various sorts of media commonly associated with their respective styles of music.

8) As the music industry changes what are you doing to help distribute your artists music?

I consider myself fortunate to have been involved with most aspects of the ever-changing music industry. I’ve worked in record stores, played in bands, recorded albums, DJed for radio and in clubs. I’ve designed cover art and websites for artists and have been a part of advertising, promotion, and music distribution. I’ve written about and for bands, worked on and for various record and netlabels.

I like to think that I can bring this broad set of skills to use while maneuvering our tiny corner of the music industry — all from an independent perspective. I like to think that we can offer artists more than uploading their music to a few sites and making a post in a message board. Instead, I want to offer a set of tools to help musicians release their music into the digital world and beyond.

As a standard, we use the 1980s a touchstone in terms of our releases, offering more than a digital download, but instead unique physical releases. I feel like this practice is becoming rarer as time goes on, but is something that makes more of an impace on the listener. I’ve always considered an album’s physical format to be more significant than a digital one, and want to be a part in preserving that notion.

9) What are your plans for the next year?

To continue releasing really great music from awesome artists from around the world in unique and interesting ways. We already have quite a few releases lined up, the next of which will be available in July. Stay tuned!

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