Exclusive Interview with


by Rachel Mitchell

Don’t miss Telesma’s Winter Solstice celebration Friday Dec. 20th


Telesma, a genre-transcending group of musicians, have been enthralling spectators with their unique style for more than ten years. Telesma‘s genre-defying music is hard to describe without an insulting number of slashes (ie. Trance/tribal/psychedelic/spiritual/rhythm/dance… you get the idea). Audio alone provides a near symphonic, multi-cultural presentation; but only a live performance can capture Telesma’s signature style. Body paint, elaborate stage art, authentic instruments, and live collaboration with fellow artists demonstrate their artistic mastery of combining auditory harmony with visual delight.

Despite the band’s very demanding schedule, they were gracious enough to allow this happy fan to conduct a face-to-face interview with the entire group. Jason, Joann, Mike (Kirby), Chris, Bryan (Jonesy), and a non-painted Ian all sat down to discuss the band’s past, present and future. Eventually, it became hard to tell who was enjoying the Q&A more. Experiences were shared for the first time, timeline gaps were filled in, and I loved every minute of it. Several personal stories and one very random joke about a zygote later, I was imparted with a better understanding about how Telesma came to be and how the members reflect upon their beginnings and look toward the future.

Question: How did you guys get together as Telesma?

Jason: Ian and I met at an open mic in 2002 and  the next day got together and started a ‘project’ that remains together.

Question: What was your project?

Jason: It was pretty amorphous in the beginning, but we found mixing different world cultures and music together worked very well without forcing it and having a pre-conceived idea of how it would turn out.

Ian: I think for me anyway, a main philosophy is anything created by a human  from any culture no matter what period of time will always resonate with any other human being in any other culture from any other period of time because they were created from the same basic human spirit. The philosophy gives you the confidence to be able to grab any instrument you want.  If you’re expressing yourself genuinely and honestly with other human beings, it’s always going to work.

Question: When did you guys nail down the name “Telesma”?

Jason: Telesma was what I was pushing for from the start. I’d been working on music, things that became Chapel Perilous, and Egyptian Sun that we solo pieces I recorded in ‘99 in New Orleans.

Question: What would you say your [cultural] influences are?

Bryan:  Everything. I think we all have different backgrounds as far as when we started to play music whether we’ve trained or studied, and our personal tastes and where we draw from. That’s we it’s so diverse as a group, its six different personalities and six different experiences of how we came about as individual musicians and then once you take all those six and put them together it becomes something else. We all say the sum of our whole is greater than our parts.

Ian: I picked up a didgeridoo a long, time ago, about 17 years. I was real into it and about a year later I had a friend who [played the didgeridoo] and couldn’t make the gig. There was a solo acoustic guitar player  and he usually has a didgeridoo accompaniment for a few songs and [friend] called me up and said “Hey man, there’s gonna be this guy, Dominic, coming into town, can you sit in with him?”. That’s my little story. And he had a wife who was an airline stewardess and the next thing I knew I was flying around the country playing at colleges and various things. That’s when I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.

 Joann: We did an interview recently for this UK internet radio and I learned stuff about my bandmates. I guess we don’t usually talk about what are backgrounds are. Sometimes I don’t think we are clear on what any of us believe. It is not about that its  more of an unspoken thing that we all bring. I lived in an ashram for ten years so I learned a lot about mantra meditation so the first time I ever heard Jason and Ian it was just the two of them at the Funkbox. It as just rhythm and I was out in the audience and I was chanting, singing and dancing, you know? Not knowing I was going to be playing music with them but it was just natural. There was so much rhythm and it was just really fun to sing on top of that.

Question: So, it was these two guys and then you?

Kirby: It was like a snowball

Joann: We showed up at the same time at the gig. They [Jason and Ian] won this contest at the Funkbox. That’s why I had went to see them. It was a competition every week and they had won and the prize was a gig at the 8×10 and by that time I wanted to join the band and they said come to this gig. I had never been to a rehearsal or anything. And Chris was there, and Bryan and Kirby played a gig with us summer of 2004.

Ian: We consider that the birth of Telesma because before that there was no kit drummer, it wasn’t really a band per-se it was big jam mish-mosh.

Jason: Nine to ten members at a time but different line-ups.

Joanne: But there would be different member each gig, different songs. It was great. It was disorganized. I found it to be very liberating at the time. It was like a freight train that you couldn’t stop.

Kirby: I wasn’t even aware I was in the band for the first few gigs. Bryan and I played in this band, Naked Jungle. Two drummers and a bass player and we played this gig at the Patterson and then regularly at the Royal. So it was Naked Jungle opening for Telesma and then it just became this hodge podge kinda of thing and then yeah, I became the stopper of the freight train.

Chris: I hadn’t really thought about this but if the Patterson hadn’t been set up the way it was two bands setup at the time this may never have happened. The set up allowed us to take turns and then jam together.

Question: What kind of venues do you like and what do you think can be done at venues to enhance the experience?

Joann: Its great when there’s big audiences but we even did a house gig one time. They were all older, Republican, but they loved it, they went crazy.

Bryan: We try to pick venues we can transform. We come do as much as we can so when people come in it its like they’re coming into our world. I think that helps nurture them. It’s like a safe place not like the bar you were at last night, you know, where the cops came in, ballgames on the TV  and the drunks a**holes. People who are coming to experience this are coming to our world.

Kirby: It’s an alternate reality for all.


Question: What do you want people to take away from your performances?

Bryan: We love to connect with the audience and share what’s on stage. It’s very back and forth. Even if its one person in the audience, that one person has enough attention and they’re giving it back to us, there is nothing like that in the world. It’s that connection that happens.

Ian: You can feel when that connection is made. It’s like a real form of telepathy.

Question: What kind of messages do you see in your songs? How would you describe your mantras?

Ian: There’s always some sort of uplifting background theme that carries through most of our songs. Sometimes we get pretty heavy with it about something deep. Each song has its own message.

Joann: They are Sanskrit. I like having to distill a verse or a lyric. Some come from the Bhagavad-Gita. That sort of became the theme of the album Action / in / Inaction. Dichotomies and opposites and paradoxes and such.

Chris: I can’t speak for everyone but one of the messages is that we think this is cool and we really enjoy playing this and this is best possible thing we can do with this. It imbues what’s happening with a certain ecstatic quotient you can drink in and do something with. I have no idea what’s going on [on stage]. I’m singing or playing guitar with my eyes closed. I’m doing that and it [makes me] insulated from what’s happening so we are inviting people to witness this thing we are doing and it is so simple, genuine, and honest, the[y] can take something from that that is like witnessing a revival. We put it out there and let you take it…

Ian: If you want to you can look into it more. There’s never a preachy thing about it.

Jason: The lyrics I’ve written I would never want to interpret them for you, get in to the reasons why I used those words. I do think people take different meanings from the exact same song.

Chris: It’s funny, because when we started the voice was just another form of the texture. One of the things I originally loved about the band was there were no words. As words got added, not that many are in English, and the ones that were are universally positive. My favorite example of this is in the song “Give”, ‘to have that which is worth having you must give”. There is no religion in there. This is what we are saying.

Never preachy but always inspirational, Telesma symbolizes a blend of creation, expression, sharing and wonder. Thought there music is thematically positive, Telesma has had a very strenuous year encompassing an album release, performance, Ian’s near-fatal heart attack, and the video collaboration with Adam Scott Miller. Action / in / Inaction was a very symbolic album for Telesma. Shortly after finishing the studio recording Ian suffered a major heart attack, 93 minutes of CPR and multiple electric shocks were required to resuscitate Ian. Ian’s experience has helped reshape the band and even give inspiration to collaborator Adam Scott Miller. Rather than remaining ‘inactive’ the band continues to move forward as they discuss wrapping up their last albums and visions of the next.

Joann: We were at Spoutwood Fairie Festival, one of our favorites. I decided I was going to have the best time I had ever had because I knew that’s what he [Ian] would want to do. Fortunately, we already knew he was getting well if it wasn’t that way it would’ve been much more difficult…

Chris: Honestly, if he wasn’t getting well I don’t think we would have been playing any shows…

Ian: I’d still want you guys to play to shows…

 Question: Any reflections on the action / in / inactions recording?

Ian: We are very proud of it.

Joann: Recording was fast and easy, unusually so and then things started happening….

Kirby: It’s definitely strange to listen to now. Things have changed. It’s very powerful.

Chris: We’ve got this band called Telesma basically a mystical, sacred object; and we write this album that’s turn out to be about the cycle of life. We didn’t plan it that way but we put things together and arranged it and as we kept thinking about it and doing it it became clear that this was what was going on. And then Ian dies… and I just kept thinking, “If you were writing this like a movie: Ok, so we got this band called Magical Amulet, and this guy is gonna die BUT he’s gonna come back to life…” I just think people would say, “that’s bullshit!”.

Ian:It’s incredibly moving for me. You can’t have an album mean more than what this means to me… I’ll start to ramble… There was that brief period I didn’t remember it. I remember it now except for the two weeks before I dropped.

Bryan:  The order of the song is intentional based on the time we were living this weird thing and so hopefully that is still there, that it makes sense to people who don’t know anything about us. That they get the flow. It’s like this big story that goes through cycles. Hopefully, the people will take away the underlying power that’s there.

Chris: I think as a result the music we are doing now, has lived through all the stuff we’ve gone through and hopefully the stuff we will be recording in December builds on the stuff that happens but also relaxes into our natural tribal self. Who knows what it’s gonna turn into.

Ian: Most of what we write is organic in the way it develops and there’s a lot of synchronicity since the beginning of this project. It was a snowball in the beginning but solidified when it needed to. It has been a charmed adventure… We are all being directed by this “telesmic” entity…

Question: Any information on the Chain Lotus video you would like to share?

Joann: Adam Scott Miller is an artist we began working with in 2010.

Bryan: We get each other. He gets our music, we get his art. And he definitely visualizes our music for us. We’ve been very lucky he wanted to do this video project. He’s made us graphics for our video shows. He puts us in motion, it’s exciting for sure.

Ian: it will give us a chance to share some of the flavor, the experience to people who can’t make our shows.

Chris: We’ve only seen a tenth of what there will be….

Question: How about plans to wrap up the year?

 Bryan: We are actually going to do our five year anniversary of the Solstice Show. The day before the solstice. Its been five years since that first big show with Alex Grey. That was really our first big production and we always hear from people around here that they saw that show and it was one of the first big multimedia shows they had been to here. You know they had heard of them in San Francisco but at the time for us, it was a huge undertaking. So, we are going to do it again but smaller scale.

Question: Any teasers for the Solstice show?

Bryan: New music…. I guess we can commit to that.

Chris: Every aspect of this, the people, the music, has evolved. We all had to go through things…. It’s funny to sit here and [stress] about new music but EVERY night used to be new music. For three hours.  If we don’t have new music by the Solstice we will just f***** jam. People don’t think of us as a jam band because we jam and then turn those into tunes and then we have so many tunes we mainly play the tunes simply because we love it.

Kirby: It’s funny because it’s the whole cycle thing. It drove me nuts in the beginning… this a-morphus f***** blob I have to reign in. It’s like herding cats, musically, every night. And now  its like, oh my god, there’s song structure and intros and tight endings. I’m sure all that’s going to change again now that I’m back…

Bryan: We write a certain way for awhile and then change. We just do whatever comes through us. We embody the spirit of this Telesma. We are this thing “it” that comes through. We don’t try to control it or dictate where its gonna go or what it’s gonna do, we just sculpt it, do our thing and put it out there. If people who get it love it, great. If not, we’re gonna have more behind it that you might get because its gonna be different. Just wait for the next song!!


Questions: Any ambitions  for next year?

Joann: I want to go to Europe next summer. But we need a promoter… when that missing piece is there we will go. I think our music will be appreciated there. I did want to say something: one of the things that’s fascinating about this band, besides playing with these guys (and that’s so much fun), the audience, the kinds of people who like our music is so unpredictable. One of my favorite experiences is when we were playing at Maryland Faerie Festival and there a little girl, 2 or 3 years old, and we had done our first song, came in real hard and then just stopped. The girl started wailing and I thought we had scared her but she was upset that we had stopped. I see that a lot with kids. They feel it and they are not ashamed, or confused, they just dance. Then there are these older people who say, “Oh, this takes me back to when I was young in the 60’s-70’. Its really sweet. And there is everyone in between…


Hailing from Baltimore, Maryland, Telesma now travels the country appearing at some the year’s most popular festivals as well as the local venues that gave them their start. While their performances are sensational and almost over-whelming it is important to see Telesma as more than just a “shock and awe”, trippy for trippy’s sake exhibit. Their multi-cultural synergy allows harmony and spirituality to flow seamlessly from meditative to exuberant dance states. From multiday festivals to single night events Telesma creates a vibrant universe that embraces creativity and invites audience members of all ages and backgrounds to join and participate in the manifestation of art. No matter where they perform, the reason is you.

Telesma has had an eventful year of concerts, festivals, albums, and videos. This year we have seen the spread of their 2012 Album release ­­Action / in / Inaction and the launching of a video collaboration with Adam Scott Miller. Despite prior struggles and scares, Telesma has seen their friends and fans rally behind them and giving them the will to continue spreading positive energy and revitalizing the arts just as their band name implies. Just be glad Ian was not allowed to name the band.

Be sure to check the details for their Winter Solstice performance to be the first to hear new, debatably organized compositions.