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Hadi Baba and Charles Anouzi who form Dubai-based band TeleChild channel the magical world of television as inspiration for their music. The two friends collaborated musically during their university days in Lebanon and then reunited in Dubai to invest time and effort in an album, their first, Turn On Your Favorite Show, which showcases their fascination for and in a way is a tribute to vintage TV shows from the 80s and 90s.
“As you listen through the songs with the different rock styles between them, you’ll get the same feeling of randomness as if you’re zapping through TV channels but hopefully you won’t be able to stop,” says Hadi.
Turn On Your Favorite Show has been created over 3-4 years, with most of the tracks written in Dubai, expanded during a trip to Thailand, and then recorded at Tunefork Studios in Lebanon across two separate sessions with studio engineer Fadi Tabbal at the helm. The album was mastered by Alex Gordon at the famed Abbey Road Studios of The Beatles.
We caught up with the duo to know more about their debut and how the UAE has been an inspiration for them as a band.
How did the process of reuniting in Dubai inspire you to create and release your first album, Turn On Your Favorite Show?
Hadi: Reuniting in Dubai helped a lot of course. Even when we were in different countries, the creative instinct always kicked in and we used to send each other whatever tunes we were working on. Once we were both in Dubai, it was an organic progression of events: we started jamming at each other’s places, then we proceeded to buy more expensive amps, guitars and pedals in search of a better sound.
Pretty soon, we ventured into recording and production so we purchased equipment for that. It was just a matter of time when we both decided that we have something in the making here and we decided to be serious about it.
How long have you both been in Dubai? Do you have day jobs or is music your full-time profession?
Hadi: Way too long, haha.. 10 years for Charles, and 17 for me. Music is our hobby, our passion, an escape from our daily routines and jobs. Charles is a Sales Director while I’ve recently lost my job in telecom which gives me ample time to work on the second album…
What instruments do you play and who makes up the rest of the band?
Charles: Guitar mainly and we dabble in piano and synth. I can keep a steady beat playing drums, while Hadi lends his voice whenever he can hit the notes. We both write, compose, and produce our music in terms of the song structure, the guitar parts, the melodies, the lyrics and vocal tunes. For the rest, we hire or collaborate with other musicians/secessionists, to name a few: Nour Nimri on vocals, Akram Hajj (from Kinematik) on drums, Marwan Tohme (from Postcards) on bass.
There’s a certain element of organised improv in our album if that makes any sense, since we came with ready-made songs and basically jammed with those amazing artists and hit the record button in the studio.
Growing up in the 80s and 90s you must have witnessed the world of television, music channels and videos evolve in a dramatic way. How has this evolution influenced your debut album?
Hadi: Television and Music became intertwined in those decades. A great music score always enhances the movie experience for example, or sometimes an intriguing music video lets you discover a band you have never heard of. The mediums are inseparable.
There’s definitely a TV motif in our art, starting with our band moniker TeleChild and album title Turn on Your Favorite Show. Our logo is a child with a TV for a head. Finally, our album embraces multiple styles albeit rock at the core but we wanted to create a sense of random zapping through TV channels as you listen to the songs one after the other. It’s kind of a roller coaster of upbeat tracks and equally mellow ones.
Bad Day was the first song we ever wrote and it’s reminiscent of The Black Keys’ dirty pop blues. Tarantino is a very catchy tune with a surf rock appeal to it and it reflects a toxic relationship most of us have been through.
Eye of the Sun is an indie song which we think is objectively our most beautiful track from a melody standpoint. The Act is a song on steroids and is very interesting musically speaking as it changes a lot in a very short matter of time. Veto Human has the coolest name for a track if you ask us and expresses our cynical view of the world in general. Father ends the album on a sad note that might bring a tear to the listener’s eye. We hope you enjoy the show :)
Tarantino is named after Pulp Fiction director Quentin Tarantino. Tell us more about this particular track.
Charles: The very first iteration of the main guitar riff was in a much slower tempo than what you hear now. When Hadi came up with it, he thought it sounded like one of those groovy songs Quentin Tarantino would use in his cult movies’ soundtracks. The song name started off as a joke whenever we referred to it and it just stuck. Fingers crossed the director listens to it one day and maybe picks it for one of his future movies...
What were your favourite films/television shows growing up?
Hadi: I grew up in Saudi Arabia and there wasn’t much to do besides being glued to the TV. I’d watch anything and everything: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Captain Majid, The X Files, Seinfeld, Jeopardy, NBA Action… MTV was on constantly. Movie wise it was Terminator 1 & 2, literally all of Disney movies, Star Wars etc..
It’s funny; Charles’ TV obsession ran opposite to mine in the sense he got into it more as an adult than as a kid. I think by now Charles has probably finished watching all of Netflix… and if you ask us, we’re part of a near-extinct breed that still watches cable TV.
As an alternative rock band how important is it for you to balance out musical styles with meaningful lyrics?
Hadi: It’s very important. You don’t want a good piece of music to be brought down by tacky lyrics in general, or vice-versa. To be honest, music comes to us way easier than lyrics.
Musically, if you listen to the album, it’s rock at its core but it’s very eclectic. The songs range from blues rock, to pop rock, to indie, to progressive... It’s definitely the result of both our distinct yet complementary tastes. The latter is responsible for the dreamy and ‘melancolique’ aspect of TeleChild while the former needs to inject a catchy tune to make any track memorable.
Initially when we started our journey we were searching for a singer/songwriter who could be in charge of the lyrics but unfortunately we couldn’t find one who is dedicated. So we took it upon ourselves to write the lyrics. Lyrics are very subjective at the end of the day and open for interpretation. We hope they will resonate with others.
What is it that motivates you to write songs?
Hadi: Musically, Charles usually gets inspired when he’s sitting alone with his guitar, usually at his lowest saddest point. Some of my melodies and tunes come to me when I’m taking a shower funnily enough. Inspiration can come at weird times and cannot be forced. But the process always starts when one of us picks up the guitar and just starts to play until we realise we got something special to work on.
Lyrically, we write about our life experiences and our beliefs. It could be an emotional state we’re going through or an actual event. Unfortunately, Charles’ dad passed away a few years back so we closed the album with Father in his memory. I went through a bad breakup so Tarantino emerged. Some songs carry more of a message on how we view society; listen to Veto Human and Too Much Trouble for example, and you’ll get what we mean.
The UAE’s music scene has expanded immensely, with multiculturalism being a huge influence on local artists. How has Dubai as a city inspired you?
Hadi: The UAE is developing at such a fast pace it’s hard to keep up with all the changes. With majority of its population made up of expats from all corners of the world, we believe there’s huge potential for artists and musicians to thrive here and make their own mark. I think the majority of bands here opt to play popular and familiar cover songs to please crowds. The number of artists who come up with their own original work can probably be counted on your fingers so the opportunity is up for grabs really.
Dubai is a second home and we’re grateful it opened its doors for expats like us to come and make a life here. There’s no denying the city stimulates a sense of materialism with all its modern grandiosity and ‘instagrammable’ spots.
So we released Too Much Trouble back in January to warn people not to get too carried away with social media as there’s more to life than just aiming for the perfect shot. Everyone’s busy and hustling in Dubai, symptoms of an ever-growing city, so we wrote Take Me to the Temples to express the need to escape that rush and to remind ourselves that it’s okay to take a well deserved break.
Turn On Your Favorite Show was mastered at the famous Abbey Road Studios in London. What was this experience like?
Charles: We were fantasizing about replicating the famous Beatles crosswalk like every other fan, but alas Covid squashed the TeleChild dreams and we had to do this remotely.
We worked with the maestro Alex Gordon who really put a spin on the overall sound of the album and made a noticeable difference with respect to the mixed tracks. Bless him for his patience with us.
The album cover is quirky with a child’s head being replaced by a TV. What does this signify for you?
Charles: It’s literally the TeleChild, it’s our logo, a graphical representation of a child who grew up embracing the world of television. Hadi was WhatsApping with his sister asking her to draw a kid watching TV and in a matter of seconds she sent him a sketch of a child with a TV head instead. He showed it to me and we both loved the simplicity of it. Kudos to Lama for not listening to her older brother as usual!
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