Ted Phelps of Imperative Reaction interviewed about “Mirror”

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A decade after their last release, Imperative Reaction has finally returned with a new album, Mirror. More diverse than their previous albums, Mirror is very much an evolution of the electro-EBM sound Imperative Reaction have become known for. The sequencing and arrangements are polished yet retain a raw power behind them, laying the perfect foundation for dark, emotionally charged vocals. In an email interview, founding member Ted Phelps discussed the making of Mirror.

What are the reasons behind the long gap between your last album and Mirror?

Ted Phelps: From about 1996 to 2012 I ate, slept, and breathed IR. 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 my 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.

Does the material on Mirror span this past decade, or was it mostly written recently?

Ted Phelps: I wrote a lot of material in 2013 that will remain unreleased officially. It sounds dated and though there is some cool stuff mixed in, it’s too “paint-by-the-numbers” in my opinion. Most, if not all of the material on Mirror was written between 2016 and 2020.

Do you feel your approach to this album differed from previous releases?

Ted Phelps: Yes, certainly it differed from the last album. On the last album I had the band members come in to the studio and record parts (guitar, backing vocals, etc.). This time around it’s just me. The album was written and recorded on a laptop this time. I actually enjoyed working this way quite a bit as it enabled me to work on the album wherever I wanted to.

Along with the “Mirror” album, you’ve put out companion releases of Demos and Synth Patches/Cakewalk Session files. Could you discuss the motivations behind doing those?

Ted Phelps: As a music fan, I love stuff like that. When we started the band, I was a kid and one of my favorite things to do was to go to record stores and try to find live bootlegs of the bands I liked. Now, I like to collect remix kits.

On your website, you mention having used Cakewalk products since 1994. Musical tools, in general, have evolved quite a bit since that time. Are there any changes (such as new features) that have particularly impacted your workflow / creative process?

Ted Phelps: If you step back and look at all the changes as a whole, the entire process is drastically different than it was back then. We didn’t have access to ADATs or even DAT machines in ’94 so everything we recorded then was recorded live to cassette tape. Some of those recordings are featured on our first album. As the band progressed and technology became cheaper and more available, we started recording to DAT and eventually hard drives. It’s crazy to think about it now but we had to drive 30 minutes to a friend’s house to burn the CDs we sent to labels in 98 because he was the only person we knew who owned a burner at that time. Now, everything is much more streamlined and much faster. I find that as long as I keep in mind what I’m trying to accomplish, I can do it much faster. If I don’t keep that in mind, it’s easy to get lost in endless possibilities.

Are you currently the primary member of Imperative Reaction? Did you work with any other musicians on Mirror?

Ted Phelps: Yes, it’s just me in the studio. Clint Carney from System Syn and Lisbeth Phelps (my wife) from Mercury Lust lent me their ears and great feedback but in terms of writing and recording, it was me this time. This has been the setup since the second album with a few exceptions.

While live shows are not happening right now, is there currently a live line-up that you are planning on touring with when able to?

Ted Phelps: Yes, I have been in touch with a few people and we are throwing around ideas now for when things open up again and we can put on a proper show and tour.

For more info, visit : https://www.imperativereaction.net/.

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