A look in the mirror with Ted Phelps (Imperative Reaction)

A look in the mirror with Ted Phelps (Imperative Reaction)

Reaching through the glass

After the long-awaited release of the new Imperative Reaction album 'Mirror' (read full review here) I had the chance to ask Ted Phelps a few ques­tions on what he has been up to dur­ing these last ten years. Read on and learn about how his per­son­al exper­i­ences intensely affected the mak­ing of the album, why the theme of the mir­ror reoc­curs in every song and about the side-pro­ject he is cur­rently work­ing on with his wife. Thank you very much Ted for being so hon­est and shar­ing your per­son­al story with us!

1. It’s a pleasure to have you for an interview, thank you very much for taking the time. How are you?

I’m great, thank you. And thank you for tak­ing the time to ask me questions.

2. Congratulations to your new album! While I was writing the review, I couldn’t stop listening to it. You said yourself it was your most diverse release so far. What exactly makes ‘Mirror’ different from the previous albums?

Thank you. I do think it’s the most diverse album we’ve released. The reas­on is that this is the first time I’ve writ­ten an album where I decided not to worry much about the types of songs. In oth­er words, I didn’t try to write an album with a bunch of club hits, or hard songs, etc. If I loved the song, I included it.

3. ‘Mirror’ is released 10 years after your last studio album. What have you been up to these last 10 years, except working on your new album?

Imperative Reaction - Mirror
Mirror – Album artwork

From about 1996 to 2012 I ate, slept, and breathed IR [Imperative Reaction]. I focused most of my time on build­ing the band by record­ing and tour­ing. We last toured in 2012 here in the US. It is always nice to get home after a long tour but usu­ally, with­in a month or so, there is an “itch” to get back on the road. After the last tour though, that feel­ing nev­er mater­i­al­ized. I think that’s when I real­ized that I needed a break. I kept writ­ing and record­ing until 2013 but it just wasn’t click­ing the way it nor­mally did so I decided to make the break offi­cial. I figured I would step away for a year or so and then return once I had some time to gain some perspective.

I went through some big life changes and sort of lost my way for a bit. My wife and I went through a sep­ar­a­tion that las­ted a couple of years. We ended up get­ting back togeth­er in 2016 and it was her who asked me why I wasn’t writ­ing music. I hadn’t stopped to ask myself that ques­tion and figured I would sit down and start play­ing around with ideas to see what would hap­pen. I’d say in 2017 things star­ted to pick up and most of what made it onto Mirror was recor­ded between 2018 and 2020. So life took up the most time and the actu­al record­ing accoun­ted for about 2 ½ years.

4. Were there any particular changes in the production of your new album compared to the previous ones?

'Mirror' is the first album I’ve released that was entirely com­posed, recor­ded, mixed and mastered on a laptop so that is a big dif­fer­ence. It was lib­er­at­ing in a way as it afforded me the free­dom to write in whatever envir­on­ment I felt com­fort­able in as opposed to being stuck in the stu­dio all the time. This time there are no live instru­ments. That wasn’t really on pur­pose, I just didn’t feel they fit this time.

5. I couldn’t help but notice the very intimate and introspective lyrics, mixed with a certain melancholy, nostalgia and anger. Would you mind telling us a bit about what inspired you while writing the lyrics?

The concept of 'Mirror' began when I con­sidered my rela­tion­ship with my wife. We met when we were kids and we have been togeth­er for the bet­ter part of 28 years now. It starts with the way soul mates mir­ror one anoth­er and grow and evolve. From there, the concept expan­ded to include oth­er themes. I think as people we tend to focus so much on how we appear to oth­ers and fit into the world that it’s easy to lose sight of who we actu­ally are without all of that.

In my case, I spent a long time basing my sense of self on what I did and what I was able to do and it caused me to just kind of lose myself for a bit when those things changed. I tend to write dark­er music but I am not the type of writer who works well when I’m facing those types of things. I need per­spect­ive in order to work so it made sense that in the pro­cess of rebuild­ing my life and rela­tion­ship I had to look at myself and my world from many per­spect­ives. 'Mirror' pretty much doc­u­ments the entire experience.

I was 33 when the last IR record was released and I’m 42 now. A lot has changed in that time – not only extern­ally but also intern­ally. I think a lot of that made its way into the lyrics.

6. What are your personal favorite tracks on the album and why?

Currently, my top three favor­ites are 'Glass', 'Split' and 'Intertwined'. 'Glass' is the first time I com­pletely threw cau­tion to the wind and wrote a full-on love song without feel­ing weird about it. 'Split' is my favor­ite album open­er and (hope­fully) soon to be show open­er I’ve ever writ­ten. It star­ted life as three dif­fer­ent songs and I’m really happy with the way it came out. 'Intertwined' is the first song I recor­ded vocals for on Mirror and I just really like the mood.

7. Do you have a personal creative hotspot or a place that inspires you in particular?

I seem to get my best ideas while driv­ing to be hon­est. When I’m work­ing on an album, I will put the songs on my phone and go drive around and work out melod­ies and fix lyr­ics. I find it to be a good way to change the scenery when I’m tired of being in the studio.

8. Is there a band or an artist you would like to cooperate with in the future, for example record a song together?

I’m more into remix­ing than col­lab­or­a­tions. With that said, I’m work­ing on the debut release for Mercury Lust which is the band I’m in with my wife, Lisbeth Phelps, and I’m excited about it because it’s very dif­fer­ent from IR.

9. Do you have a favorite quote? (literature, song lyrics, etc.)

I have decided that what I see on the tv, what I read in those magazines means noth­ing to me. I am free from everything and any­thing you want me to believe

10. Which bands/artists were your musical idols as a kid/teenager?

Depeche Mode, Nine Inch Nails, Babyland, and Nitzer Ebb. I also listened to Leatherstrip and Skinny Puppy like crazy.

11. Imagine the following setting: The DJ in your favorite disco must urgently leave and he asks you to fill in for him. What does your spontaneous DJ set look like (please name 10 tracks)?

  1. Moaan Exis – Postmodern Therapy
  2. Aesthetic Perfection – Wickedness
  3. Horskh – Engaged and Confused
  4. Depeche Mode – Never Let Me Down (Aggro Mix)
  5. Nitzer Ebb – Control I’m Here
  6. Author & Punisher – Nihil Strength
  7. Imperative Reaction – Intertwined
  8. Empathy Test – Holding On
  9. Peaches – Lose You
  10. Covenant – Lightbringer

This of course would be my first and last DJ set but it would be fun while it lasts :)

12. Do you have some kind words for our Electrozombies testimonials section 'People who spread love'?

It’s amaz­ing to see the hard work and ded­ic­a­tion put forth by the people involved with Electrozombies. It really helps keep scenes like ours alive.

13. Any last words to our audience?

We are back and as soon as we are able to do it, we will be doing an extens­ive tour to bring the live ver­sion of 'Mirror' to as many people as pos­sible. Look for my side-pro­ject, Mercury Lust’s debut, later this year.

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