The Interview to go along with the BANGINGEST mix

My entry point in to the world of Taliesin (tal-I-ess-in) Gilkes-Bower was the fucking great Life On Earth Radio show that he shares as Realms Manifest on Mixcloud which I discovered through Maekan. It also goes out in real life via very small scale transmitters north of San Francisco.

Check out the Life On Earth Radio 4 502 Mix he did, super kindly supplying everyone who listens to an aural feast, late night audio mysticism, blind to genre and truthful only to good vibrations whilst you read through the questions we put to him.

We caught up at first over the phone before Christmas and then I put these questions to him on how he’s using what he’s learnt from Jamaican soundsystem master builders, the links between S&M and surfing and how to soundtrack teenagers smoking weed in their cars.

502: Where do you think music comes from in a person?

TG-B: Clearly we are all some sort of channel or conduit for some form of universal intelligence/consciousness. We can reinforce or focus on certain capacities for having access to this creativity.

You're building sound systems, this seems like a really adventurous hobby - how did you start and what are you working on now?

I guess like everything you get obsessed with, there are peaks, vistas and plateaus. I am currently at the plateau of wanting to know more about commercial sound system design and development. I love the sound of what I am making - but it's obvious there is just incredible institutional knowledge in these longstanding audio companies. Most recently I've become obsessed with Meyer Sound, which is based in the bay area (where I live) and emerged out of acid fueled desires for the grateful dead to have the best live sound possible. It started probably with listening to dub music in highschool, starting to spend time in Jamaica, and then eventually becoming friends with Uncle Ronnie and Orville, a couple of the best soundmen in Kingston.

Portrait at top and this photo by Aubrey Trinnaman

How much has Jamaica informed your musical taste and that of the world?

There are so many white dudes obsessed with Jamaica in the world, of which, I am one. Jamaica is basically 5% of the size of the UK - I think it's the most musically impactful country in the world. I've never seen anywhere where music was so clearly a spiritual technology, practice, and life defining art. For a while, so much of my focus was on Kingston and Jamaican music, and I've kind of cooled on that, but still it's basically informed all of my creative practices deeply. For about a decade I was going once a year, sometimes working on personal photo projects, running a couple of pop up studios with musicians from outside JA, and making films. Last time I was there I was trying to figure out how to get JA speaker builders to the US to give workshops.

Your Life On Earth Radio series got me through lockdown in the UK. What was it like for you to make them during the Pandemic?

That is pretty much the sweetest thing ever to hear. This year has been full of seriously challenging emotional experiences. My wife and I had a miscarriage, I absolutely failed to find footing in work, and ended up super depressed/stressed and broke for a while. Doing radio really kept me going, and I'm so psyched that it's resonated with you - and other folks who have reached out. It's broadcast on these extremely small scale transmitters north of San Francisco and it's always been my fantasy to soundtrack teenagers smoking weed in their cars somewhere out here.

What's a banger you've into at the moment?

In the small coastal surf town I live in there are so many people with incredible taste in music and deep record collections. All of my soundsystem pursuits are currently related to building the perfect house party system for us to all share the music we love. My friend Alex recently made a mix of just ferocious jams- that got me into Gwen Guthries anthemic "Thrill Me". This pretty deeply encapsulates the house party vibe I am seeking these days.

Jamaican sound system culture is part of how the world sees Jamaica, do you know how people started it and where building your own speakers came from too?

There's too many competing mythologies to claim a single narrative, but the deepest revelation that I've come across is that some first generation soundsystem builders and electrical engineers in Kingston had been trained by the RAF when they served in WWII. The DIY thing has always just pushed the culture forward with whatever limited resources were available.

In terms of sound effects are you more of gunshots or air horn kinda guy?

My favorite is a FX that floats around in .zip packs called "Lasers Over Water." The gun thing felt enticing to me as a younger person, but in the end that type of endemic violence is just misery.

You've lived in a bunch of different places, does the energy of a place seep in to you, if so what propels you to choose to leave?

I've been thinking about that a lot this year, since I haven't really been going anywhere. I like having a good base, and then getting to explore the world out from there. In LA I lived in Venice and got hooked on being able to bike to the ocean to surf. I'm not sure if I would be able to give that up anytime soon, but it's a good organizing principle for making decisions.

How are sound systems different in different places?

I spent a year researching sound system and street dance culture in 2010 across the western hemisphere. Consistently sound systems seemed to be places for cathartic release, where queer culture flourished, and where communities were able to reimagine their daily lived reality for something exceptional. I guess you could say they kind of operate as Temporary Autonomous Zones. Obviously most places are less focused on fidelity/clarity as they are on volume and impact, in my own practice I'm trying to understand what parts of audiophile culture are worth borrowing from for maximum vibes. ​

How good was Black Thought's freestyle?

Black Thoughts Hot 97 freestyle basically made me revisit the entire Roots catalog and all of his guest verses and then Though vs Everybody came out last year and I just had my mind melted. I guess for me the top 5 (no order) is Erykah, Ish, Jay Elec, Mick Jenkins, and Black Thought. For me the timeless feeling is hearing a song you've been listening to for 15 years and finding new clues and meaning in it.

The images you sent over mix S&M and surfing, not necessarily connected in most people's minds. What was the connection in your mind?

I designed a small capsule collection of beach towels and shirts that were connecting global infrastructure, weapons manufacturing, spirituality and surf. I'm very interested in kind of the systems behind things, so global military industrial forces as a sort of reimagining of geopolitics and governance - and the sort of oroboros of state violence- in the same way I'm interested in like, what is the world one might be accessing with DMT - that collection called Ancient of Days - I wanted to shoot with a sort of exploration of these different ways that S&M and fetish seem to be a lens through which you can organize the whole world- and especially the kind of darker side of surf culture which is this kind of supreme joy in approaching unimaginably massive and fundamentally uncaring forces of nature.

You've worked with 360 video, AR & VR what is the next techy kinda thing you're looking at incorporating into your work?

I spent a year as a creative director at an agency that was working on a lot of "future tech" stuff, and kind of maximizing the herd mentality in advertising that everyone wanted to be a part of this new thing- which at the time was AR and VR/360 video. In the end very few people adopted VR and it's kind of remained this niche thing. After that year I basically turned down job offers telling people VR was worthless and not worth investing in. I felt so burnt out on screens and screen time.

My next thing I'm excited about is learning more electrical engineering and seeing where I might want to integrate tube amps into my soundsystems and speaker designs. Which to be honest - are almost completely just me replicating and exploring older designs in audio engineering and seeing which ones I enjoy and can make in a DIY type way. After taking a couple years to focus on documentary projects, I’ve also decided it’s more sustainable to get back into the culture machine, so i’m looking for a new agency home that wants to contribute in meaningful and equitable ways to culture.

What are you working on now and where can people find you?

This year has been a big reset, I've been looking for new global partners and collaborators to get a couple of dream projects done, and looking for new opportunities to do commercial creative work that matters.

Realms Manifest Website