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Synth life: Interview with Teeel

February 19, 2012

Teeel has been kind enough to do another interview with me. His sophomore album, University Heights, will be available 2/22/12. For those of you who don’t know too much about Teeel, take a quick minute to read my interview with him from last spring, HERE.

Teeel is the solo project of Jim Smith,  from NJ.  Be sure to check out how to stay updated on Teeel, purchase his music, & even stream his new album in it’s entirety below.

“University Heights is kind of like an album I would have made in high school or college: Dark, disturbing, chaotic and sinister, which was the type of person I was back then.”

HF: I love the new album. The new songs are quite a bit darker than on Amulet. Was that the intentional direction you had planned on going initially or did it just kinda happen after writing a couple songs?

JS: This album was a personal project to represent my younger years. In the late 90s, I was listening to a lot of metal and dark drum and bass music, playing in bands, snowboarding, driving around in cars and hanging out. This album was a concept from start to finish. Most of the the songs were named after movies I watched over and over in the 90s.  “The Lucania” is an ode to a close friend, Chris Lucania, who had a big influence on me, from writing electronic music to playing in bands. The final track “Marx on my Heart” is a song for my wife. Her maiden name is Marx.

HF: On the song ‘Zoltan’ the guitar is sounding really metal. Did any of that song come from your metal band days as a youngster?

JS: Yeah, I’m a huge Deftones fan and I’ve had so many people mention that I sound like Chino. This was the album to put on a song like this. It would have never worked on Amulet. I wanted the concept of this album to be pretty rocking and driving. I plan to have each of my albums in the future take on a different role. My first album Amulet was very chillwave and dark electronic, University Heights is kind of like an album I would have made in high school or college: Dark, disturbing, chaotic and sinister, which was the type of person I was back then. My next EP will be pretty dancy.

HF: I’ve got all all your song title references on the new album. Where did you get the title, ‘University Heights’?

JS: University Heights was a neighborhood in my town. All of my closest friends and wife grew up there. I spent a lot of time there in high school and college and had some of the best times of my life. I lived a pretty adventurous life on the edge and just constantly had fun. I reminisce all the time about it. This album represents my teenage years.

University Heights’ track names & references:

1. “Crystal Lake”- Friday The 13th

2. “Moogwai” – (mogwai & Moog snyth combo) Gremlins

3. “Deadites” – Army of Darkness

4. “88mph” – Back To The Future

5. “Centauri” – The Last Starfighter

6. “Wraith” – The Wraith

7. “Quaid” – Total Recall

8. “Zoltan” – Dude, Where’s My Car

9. “The Lucania” – friend (see above)

10. “Shadowbrook Road” – The Monster Squad

11. “Marx On My Heart” – wife (see above)

HF: Love the artwork on University Heights, I understand your nephew painted that. Care to give any other details on the creation of the painting or your nephew? 

JS: I have a nephew, Hayden that just turned 1 year old. I recently visited my Dad, Stepmom, Stepsister and her husband out west. I asked to have him paint me a picture. I was so blown away with what he painted that just had to use it for the cover art. It really represents the sound and I couldn’t have painted it better. I absolutely love it.

HF: You had a limited run of cassettes released for Amulet, are you planning on doing the same for University Heights?

JS: I just set up a bandcamp page to purchase both Amulet and University Heights on CD. I might do the cassette again with the tape label, Otherworldly Mystics.

HF: Congrats on booking SXSW this year. When & where are you going to playing?

JS: Yes, I’m so honored to be playing this festival. I’ve always wanted to go, so this will be a real treat. I’m playing at Buca Lounge with Tesla Boy and some other really great talent. I go on around 11pm. I’m beyond excited to be a part of SXSW.

HF: Do you have a tour or any other shows in the works right now?

JS: The best thing to do is check my website. Sometimes shows pop up at the last minute. Right now I’m focusing on the new release and some new remixes. I plan on playing a lot more in the spring and summer.

HF: Since last year, you have started a new label, released an album as part of Silver Sea, created a synth blog, & now your new album is out. I didn’t even mention your mobile DJ business or your design job. How do you find the time to keep up with everything?

JS: I’ve been busier than ever this year. I really haven’t been able to sleep much, to be honest. I’m not complaining though. I love every second of my chaotic life. I have to thank my wife for putting up with me. I’m always getting into something. I’m pretty maxed out with the new label right now so I’m taking it easy on any new projects.

HF: According to my quick research on your blog, iheartsynths, you own 23 synths. Is that correct & up to date?

JS: As far as hardware synths, I’m at 12. The others listed on the blog are Virtual instrument plugins. I’m quiet obsessed. There are about 20-30 more I need.

HF: What is your ‘dream synth’ that you’d like to own, ignoring cost & size/storage?

JS: I really really want a minimoog one day. I’d also love to get a Dave Smith Prophet 08.





HF: What was your favorite film last year?

JS: I really loved “Drive” I think that movie was written for me. It was dark, mysterious and the soundtrack was pretty much stolen from my iTunes playlist. Kinda eerie. I was also psyched “A Clockwork Orange” came out with a 40th Anniversary Blu-Ray.

HF: Some hypothetical questions-

HF: If someone actually made a working hoverboard what would be the max price you’d pay to rent it for a weekend?

JS: I would probably spend $1000 but wouldn’t return it. They’d have to hunt me down to get it back.

HF: Marty McFly’s jacket from the future or the Nike’s with power laces?

JS: Oh the Nike’s for sure. I’m a sneaker guy. That jacket was pretty awesome though.





HF: I know your real answer would probably be a Delorean, but how about the Turbo Interceptor from The Wraith or KITT from Knight Rider?

JS: D) All of the above.





HF: Your studio is on fire, but you still have the time & some help to move out your 2 favorite synths. Which ones do you save?

JS: My Sequential Circuits Six-Trak and Moog Little Phatty Bob Moog Tribute Edition and then I’d run back in to get my Yamaha DX7 II-FD. I’ll take some burns for that one.

HF: Zombies or aliens?

JS: Oh, amazing question. I really love both but I’m obsessed with aliens at the moment. I think I’ve watched “Ancient Aliens” season 1 about 5 times in the past 2 months.

HF: Droogs or Goonies?

JS: Droogs all the way. I have them tattoo’d on me. 🙂

You can purchase University Heights, HERE.

Follow Teeel on:

Teeel’s website




Be sure to check back for my review of his new album, which I will have up very soon.


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