2014 Artist Survey: Telekinesis

Michael Benjamin Lerner on U2's Free Album, the Ice Bucket Challenge, Mark Kozelek vs. The War on Drugs, and His Worst Haircut

Dec 16, 2014 Web Exclusive
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For Under the Radar's 12th annual Artist Survey we emailed some of our favorite artists a few questions relating to 2014. We asked them about their favorite albums of the year and their thoughts on various notable 2014 news stories involving either the music industry or world events, as well as some quirkier personal questions.

Check out our Best of 2014 print and digital issues for answers from alt-J, Camera Obscura, Chromeo, The Dears, Death From Above 1979, Deerhoof, The Drums, The Flaming Lips, Glass Animals, Hookworms, Sondre Lerche, of Montreal, Ought, Owen Pallett, The Rosebuds, Strand of Oaks, Teleman, Sharon Van Etten, The War on Drugs, Warpaint, Woman's Hour, Wye Oak, Zola Jesus, and others.

Here are some answers from Michael Benjamin Lerner of Telekinesis.

Top 10 Albums of 2014

1. Spoon: They Want My Soul

2. Beck: Morning Phase

3. Caribou: Our Love

4. Pillar Point: Pillar Point

5. Perfume Genius: Too Bright

6. Clay Cole: 55 Greetings

7. Courtney Barnett: The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas

8. Chris Staples: American Soft (Barsuk reissue)

9. Say Hi: Endless Wonder

10. Ex Hex: Rips


What was the highlight of 2014 for either you personally or for the band?

We did some great touring in 2014, so all of it (no, really!) is a highlight for me. This is cliché, but I really just truly love getting to play music with my best friends all across the country. It's always weird when you are a one-man-band type situation (Telekinesis is really just little old me, playing all the instruments) and you have to figure out a way to tour your record with other people. I am particularly lucky to get to play with such lovely people. 2014 was a great one. BIG shout out to [touring band] Rebecca Cole, Eric Elbogen, and Nick Vicario for ruling it. 

What was the low point of 2014 for you? 

I had a pretty damn good 2014, I must say! However, the Telekinesis tour vehicle broke this year. Like, the engine broke, and I had to get rid of it. It was a sad, sad day watching that thing drive off into the scrap heap sunset. So many memories, so many trips around the country. We drove it hard from 2008-2014.

What are your hopes and plans for 2015?

I'm currently working on finishing up writing and recording the next Telekinesis record, so hoping to get that out and start touring behind it at some point in 2015.

U2's new album was downloaded for free into millions of users' iTunes accounts without their permission. Was it a wonderful gift to music fans or an invasive action that devalues music? Also, which artist, other than you, deserves to have their album automatically downloaded to half a billion people more than U2?

It's a mixture of both. I mean, it's invasive in the sense that someone is putting something on your device without your consent, and there is a little bit of a sour taste left in people's mouths with that. At the same time, you are getting a FREE U2 ALBUM. Personally, I think that's a pretty great thing. Regardless of whether it's good, bad, whatever. You got a free U2 album, which you could ignore or listen to. I'd say my friend Chris Staples deserves that luxury. If half a billion people heard his record, American Soft, it would be a truly magical thing.

Did you take part in the ice bucket challenge? If not, why not? Grimes declined due to animal testing issues, was the grief she got for that deserved?

I didn't, but it was incredible to watch that spread so far, and raise so much awareness for a great cause. I didn't really follow the Grimes stuff, so I don't have an opinion on that one.

The shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri opened up a new national dialogue on police shootings and racism in America. Do you think anything will actually change because of it?

It's hard to say. Of course you want something to change for the better from all of this, and of course you want it to change overnight. It's hard to see that happening right now, but I truly hope it does.

What's your craziest theory for what happened to the missing Malaysian Air flight?

I don't know, really. Honestly, I feel bad even theorizing about it, because it's just really so tragic. And a little terrifying. How you can just lose a jumbo jet is totally insane. 

Mark Kozelek was criticized in 2014 for insulting his audience (calling them "hillbillies" for talking during his set) and for making fun of The War on Drugs when their sound bled over to the stage he was playing. What responsibility do performers have to be respectful of their audiences and fellow bands?

A lot. I love both Kozelek and War on Drugs, but I have to say Kozelek is being a real bummer. It's just not fair. The thing is, War on Drugs were just doing their thing, and Kozelek was doing his thing. It's no one's fault. But for him to get so crazy and to take it so far, it just isn't cool. 

"Weird Al" Yankovic was back in a big way this year. If he were to lampoon any one of your songs, which one would you want it to be? What would the "Weird Al" version's lyrics be about? 

Haha. Man, none of mine would be good candidates. Maybe "Tokyo?" Just so he could say "I, I, I went to ______" or something?

Which common criticism of your music do you most agree with?

"Telekinesis isn't reinventing the wheel." I totally agree, I have never tried nor wanted to. The wheel is already pretty great. I'm just trying to write good songs!

What's the most uplifting or heartwarming fan interaction you've ever had?

There have been so many! Recently, a very cute couple emailed me and asked if I had an instrumental version of "I Saw Lightning" because they wanted to play it at their wedding. I didn't have an instrumental, because we recorded it live and straight to tape. So I re-did the guitar part for them. That made me very happy.

What's the topic no one asks you about in interviews that you wish they would? Conversely, if you could get journalists to stop asking you one question, which would it be?

I love interviews, so I never feel like I'm getting too much of a question. As far as what no one asks you, I really don't know! All the questions run the gamut.

Who from your youth (such as a former bully, an unrequited love) do you most hope pays attention to the fact that you're now a successful musician?

Probably all the former bullies in elementary and junior high school! Look at me now, bullies!

What was the first album you bought and do you still enjoy listening to it now?

First album I purchased with my own money was Limp Bizkit, Significant Other. I still listen to it and love it.

Which subject do you wish you paid more attention to in school?

ALL OF THEM.

Both Robin Williams and Philip Seymour Hoffman died in 2014. Did either death deeply affect you and do you find it strange to grieve for a stranger? Which celebrity's death in your lifetime has most affected you?

Both weren't strangers, because you watched their films and really felt like you knew them. It definitely affects you; it's a real punch in the gut. You don't ever think those people could be suffering so much in their personal lives. You only know them as actors playing a part, and even though you feel like you know them well, you are reminded that you don't truly know them at all. I remember where I was when Princess Diana passed away. It was just such a shock, and I was so young, but could really see the anguish on my parents' faces and the newscasting was so intensely sad. 

Which well-known filmmaker would you most like to direct one of your music videos?

Wes Anderson, without a doubt. 

What was your most disastrous haircut experience?

I once accidentally got a buzz cut. That was a bad one.

Do you ever long for the days before the Internet and cell phones? If so, what do you think has been the worst side effect of those technologies?

All the time! People are just so antisocial and have no patience. It's really terrifying when you step back and look at it.

Which 2014 song most got on your nerves?

"Wiggle" by Jason Derulo. That song was insane.

www.telekinesismusic.com

 



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