I first heard the music of Teledeath when WDNF Philly played one of his tracks on the same night as a tune by my band The Star Crumbles — and I’m quite happy for the coincidence! Despite a slightly foreboding name, Teledeath offers bouncy, 80s-inflected beats and chunky synth riffs that call to mind classic synth-pop acts like the Eurythmics and early Depeche Mode. Floating over it all is the soaring vocal of David Budet, who also happens to have played or programmed all of the instruments on his debut single “The Hunter” and its b-side, “Final Forum.” Curious to learn more, I dropped him a line.
Teledeath is a cool name. It sounds to me like the title of a David Cronenberg movie. How did it come to you, and what does it represent?
I love Cronenberg and never considered that; you’re right! Makes me like the name even more.
I wish this was a more pleasant story… I’ve always played music, but after getting engaged, I became very focused on my IT career. I hardly played for about eight years. I really started to miss being creative during the pandemic, so I decided to pick up and play. I was listening to a lot of electronic music at the time so I decided to work exclusively with synths for the first time in my life. I also play guitar and bass.
I began to consider names for my project. One night, I was reading an article about “telehealth as the future of medicine,” which amused me. I said to myself, “What will they think of next? Teledeath?” And it kind of just hit me – how about that for a name? it was different, catchy. There wasn’t anything death-related going on in my life for me to associate the name to, but the novelty of it stuck with me, so I decided to go with it for the time being.
Now, as insane as this sounds, a few weeks after coming up with the name, my wife was diagnosed with late-stage cancer. The diagnosis came from out of nowhere. She had no signs, symptoms or pains – she merely went for her yearly physical. The doctor was concerned about some of the numbers in the blood work and a scan revealed the cancer. She cooked and ate mostly organic, exercised six days a week, didn’t smoke, no hereditary issues. It made no sense and still doesn’t. Things accelerated very quickly and two months and two days after the diagnosis, we lost her. It was one of the worst horrors you can imagine.
During her illness and afterward, music became my therapy, and in the aftermath of her passing, I tried to balance work with writing and recording music, but after a couple of months, my workload increased dramatically, to the point that there was just no time for music. I struggled with this for over a year and finally broke down. I was overworked in the aftermath of a massive trauma. It was all just too much. I decided to leave my job and pursue music, and just take time to focus on being a dad to my girls. The corporate attitude is anti-human. It’s not something I’m able to fit into anymore.
Changing the name of the project never crossed my mind again. Teledeath literally means “death from a distance” and in hindsight, that all-too perfectly summarizes what I have been through. It’s not possible to come out of something like that as the same person, but you also can’t let it destroy you. I initially steered my life in a specific direction and it did not go as planned, so I think it would be madness to try again. Either way, we are all where we are supposed to be, even when it doesn’t seem like it. I have abandoned myself to that concept and it’s been one of the most liberating experiences of my life.
I’m sorry for your loss. I can only imagine your pain, and I admire your strength. I’m also struck by what you said about the therapeutic value of music. Looking at your photo on Bandcamp, I can see you’re wearing a Siouxsie and the Banshees tee shirt. What is it about her music – and, more broadly, music of the post-punk scene – that speaks to you?
Siouxsie is everything! I just adore her. I think the attitude, the clothes, all of it speaks to me. It’s the spirit of defiance in the style and in the music – to hell with what society thinks about how you look! If you’re happy, you’re winning. Even now when I go to goth or industrial night at the club, one of the best parts of the experience is people watching… everybody looks great!
What Siouxsie and the Banshees, specifically, brought to the table was the element of mystery. We typically associate mystery with dark as opposed to light and this is a common theme in many genres of modern music like metal, industrial, punk, etc. This is not the “Shiny, Happy People” crowd for the most part – and I absolutely love that. Are we not as deserving of love and art and wonder? We are all little colors on God’s palette, some of us are just more black and blue than others.
Mystery also plays a large role in the religious experience. That same feeling of transcendence is the most critical element of live performance to me. When I see an artist perform, I want to feel transported. I SHOULD feel transported. Terence McKenna argued that artists have a responsibility to act as modern-day Shaman, and that ultimately, the modern artist is failing spectacularly in that role, which I largely agree with (most of his vitriol was reserved for modern poets).
A side-note regarding the photo you mentioned: it was taken by Michael Benabib, who is a prolific hip-hop photographer. He’s photographed countless classic rap album covers, Tupac, Biggie, Dr. Dre, etc. It was his idea to have the shadowing around my eyes match the photo of Siouxsie in the shirt. He’s pretty brilliant. I found a photo agency on Google and filled out a standard contact form thinking some intern would call me back and it ends up being Michael Benabib who calls me. The next thing I know, we’re on a rooftop taking pictures. It was pretty crazy.
How does the music you’re making carry on that tradition?
My music is always going to explore the darker and more mysterious side of existence if you will. I love to analyze relationships and emotions through that lens… its just who I am as a person. There’s also a limit to how much of that one can ingest, so its important to me to challenge the listener. I love to bring in elements unexpectedly. I want the flavor to change while you chew on it. I have lots of other influences that have really begun to come out in the newer pieces I’m working on. One in particular feels very much like an 80’s B-52’s song. Cindy Wilson is one of my favorite vocalists and I swear I could hear sing this song. Siouxsie is a big influence on me vocally, but I’d be remiss not to mention that my heroes are Annie Lennox and Jeff Buckley.
I’m curious about “The Hunter.” The lyrics call to mind “Hungry Like the Wolf” by Duran Duran, but I imagine you’re taking on a persona or writing from a fictional perspective. Assuming that’s a fair assumption, what’s behind the story you’re telling?
It’s very important to me that my music be universally accessible. If you’re a drag queen in L.A. or a married mother of 3 kids in Oklahoma, I want you to be able to take my songs and personalize them. If I’m not creating in that manner, then I’m not communicating universally – which means I’m not doing my job.
Lyrically, “The Hunter” is from the point of view of an aggressor. That said, it’s not an endorsement of such behavior, its an analysis of it… musical criminology, in a sense. Studying crime isn’t an endorsement of crime. It’s an analysis – an attempt to understand. Well, the same can be done with a song. I can examine the world through the eyes of someone most would hold in contempt, but that’s not an endorsement. I want you to look at the protagonist in this song and figure out who they are and why they do what they do – for yourself. It seems to me that people don’t do analysis so much anymore. There’s a preference for emotional reaction and overreaction and righteous indignation, which all leads to really mid and mindless art.
Your Bandcamp bio describes your music as “mediumistic electronic” and also “dark medicine for dark times.” What do those phrases means to you?
My music jumps around a lot of electronic sub-genres… The thing is, I don’t really write songs. I can’t read or write music. I’ve never sat down and written out or planned a song in my life. I am responsible for my lyrics, but the melody and the beats, etc…, they come from somewhere else.
The best way to describe it is that I have a radio in my head that goes on at random… music just appears, usually a beat, melody or phrase, that unfolds over a matter of moments. I always have my phone by me so I can sing, tap, hum, whatever, into my voice recorder. I take that to the studio and build from there. Very little of it is conscious choosing, so I have come to accept that I’m not a composer, but rather, a channel.
There is a phenomenon called “Mediumistic Art.” There has been some research on this – people who can draw these incredible, otherworldly pictures, with no prior or proper training, it just comes to them. I believe I do this with music. I think a lot of musicians do this and don’t know it, but since my music jumps around so many sub-genres of electronic, I call what I’m doing “mediumistic electronic” as a catch-all for my processes and what I produce.
The whole idea of “dark medicine for dark times” goes back to McKenna. I take my responsibility as an artist seriously and believe it to be part of the shamanic tradition. I think I owe it to the listener to offer an experience that will leave them in a state where they feel healed, or stronger or validated or not so alone. The listener is coming to you to feel something. Artists should feel a sense of honor for that and they should seek to reward the listener’s faith.
I believe the world is improving in general, but let’s face it, we’ve just been through a pandemic… a lot of crazy has happened in a short amount of time. So I think there’s a lot of fear and hesitation to get back to life as we knew it. Ultimately, I hope my music can serve as a healing mirror. We’re all going through some nasty stuff, we’ve all been hurt, now let’s sit with it and let it wash over so we can get back up and fight.
You produced “The Hunter” and “Final Forum” on your own. What’s your recording process?
When I record, I typically lay down the music first. I do a lot of editing and looping. There’s a significant amount of sound design that goes on. I sing whenever possible. There are a lot of challenges with that. Despite a ton of help from my wonderful family and friends, I am still a single parent of two young twin girls. I also have a freight train that goes through the backyard 20-30 times a day so, yes, I have some significant hurdles to being able to record vocals; but I make it work. I finish up with comping. I’ve started to employ less complex vocal arrangements. I initially did a lot of layered, breathy stuff and I think I’m over it now. I’m definitely experimenting with a more dynamic, and aggressive style, like 90’s house music, sort of along those lines. That’s really my vocal wheelhouse so I’m going to hang out there more. I’m not young and time is not on my side so the most important thing for me is to create a body of work. Without the music, there’s nothing. Social media, marketing, whatever, it means nothing if you don’t have songs.
Out of curiosity, what program do you use to make music, and why do you prefer that one?
I use Ableton Live 11 in Windows. It reminds me of MOTU Digital Performer, which is what I used when I first began home recording on a Mac, years ago. I adapted to Live pretty quickly. People crap on it a lot, but I think it’s a great DAW. I can do what I need to without too much trouble.
Is everything “in the box,” or do you use any outboard gear?
I have a ton of VST’s, but my primary synths are Carbon Electra, U-he’s Diva, Arturia’s Analog Lab and the Native Instrument’s Reaktor and Battery series. I rely heavily on Reaktor and Battery for creating my drum kits.
For outboard gear, I have an ASM Hydrasynth… it s a digital wave-shifting synth, kind of like an outboard sound design machine. That’s where that thick synth line for “The Hunter” comes from. It does a great job mimicking analog warmth. A lot of my bass lines are analog via a Moog Minitaur. I use Arturia controllers exclusively – I love them.
I see you’re from New York. Is there an electronic music scene there? Do you get to play out much?
NY always has a pretty vibrant scene. We clearly have not bounced back after the pandemic but I don’t think anyone has. I think what we have now is what it’s going to be for the foreseeable future in terms of attendance at shows and clubs, etc. As for me personally, I ‘m working on concepts for a live show and should start playing out by summer. I’m probably going to do some live stream events first, the first will be in February or March. I’m going to be very busy for Q1 of 2023.
I know you have a new project in the works. Can you talk about it?
Yes, I am releasing a single in early February for a song called “Adore.” I will say tongue-in-cheek that it’s my “Justify My Love.”
I mixed my first release and learned quickly that mixing and mastering are quite literally, sciences. I would never dissuade anyone from experimentation and learning, but the odds are quite low that you are going to create a final product that will sound like what a seasoned professional would do. I have accepted that I’m a producer/musician and that’s good enough for now. I will continue to learn as I go. I’m happy that I came to my senses and got professional help for this release. Jason Corbett from the band Actors is mixing and mastering this track, which I’m super excited about.
I’ll be putting out singles throughout 2023 and eventually will release an EP some time this year. I encourage anyone reading this to follow me on whatever music, video and social platforms you use via https://linktr.ee/teledeath.
Thanks for taking the time to talk to me!
Thank you – I really appreciate you asking me!