Australian born, British Resident DJ, and Electronica Artist HAAI (Teneil Throssell) has been working on the label Mute as a protege of the same people who gave us Depeche Mode, Erasure, New Order, … Nuff said. She has released an album of new material that is wonderful, and made it a point to have as many people from our community as she had room for showcase their talents on it. ‘Baby We’re Ascending’ is a wild ride. I want to thank her for her time with this interview as I had a great time as our ADHD was fed off each other and created such a wonderful energy.
Jeremy Hinks: Hey Teneil, thanks for your time, it was chaotic lining this up I’m glad we got to talk now, at least you are in the states at the moment.
Teneil Throssell: Yeah, the schedule these last few weeks has been chaotic, but yeah, similar timezones.
JH: So, your publicist will send me something wonderful all the time, When I got your press release, I saw you have ADHD too, so, nice to meet someone else in the family.
TN: Oh, you’re part of the family? Yeah, it’s a lot for others to be around.
JH: But we get so much done because of it.
TN: Absolutely, except for things that NEED To be done. My brain kind of swerves.
JH: So, I heard your music before I read anything about you, I just had it on my phone, listening to it while doing yard work, working on the car, kind of thing. And I just “heard” this total Chemical Brothers vibe.
TN: It’s great that you say that, I have become friends with them over the last few years, I actually did a remix for them recently, the first single on their album, I did it AS WELL AS the Blessed Madonna. They reached out to me through a friend and asked for my details, then all of a sudden I’m talking to Tom from the Chemical Brothers. They said I was the first person that they had asked, and we just struck up this friendship. They took me out to dinner when I played with them, and your younger self is trying to be cool. And there they are, one of the most successful electronic artists out there.
JH: I remember seeing them in Holland in 98, they were fantastic, then they stopped playing anywhere near where I lived. I think it’s great that you are playing the same festival with those guys at Glastonbury.
TN: Yea we are both performing, but not together. But, any day I get to hang with “The Bros” is a good day.
JH: So, the new work, I love how the album started off with a cassette playing, I remember teaching my daughter how to play a cassette, it was AWESOME. What made you decide to pick that, I knew what the sound was.
TN: That came about once I had landed on how I wanted the album to be structured and feel, like a “mixtape”. It had all been written and recorded over the pandemic, for me at that time, I wanted it to be the experience. So I walk into the room, you hear me hit “play” then the sound widens and you are locked into the sonic space. I wanted it to be nostalgic, but I don’t think I’ve told anyone this but that it was an Alessandro Cortini cassette, I am a big Cortini fan, and I had this cassette, and I thought, “This is the one”.
JH: I knew what was going on. Do you remember the band Camouflage? They opened the CD with the song “That Smiling Face” and it was on CD and they recorded a needle being dropped on a record with all the static?
TN: Yeah, that is how I wanted it to feel, once you heard the play button the album is starting now.
JH: So in your song “Bodies Of Water”, I kind of paid attention to the words, but then the sounds and music took me to other places, I realized I wasn’t listening to the lyrics anymore, you made them not important, more like, background noise.
TN: I wrote the composition around the vocal, that came first, I just mumbled a few lines into the phone, then wrote the music around that. I enjoyed working on that, Daniel Miller came to me asking if I had anything else I had been working on with vocals, and I said “I have this one track with some ideas”, and he encouraged me to do more vocal tracks on it.
JH: Well, if you have Daniel Miller, who has been in since the early days of Depeche Mode asking you to do something, you just say yes.
TN: He asks so extremely politely, he says, “I REALLY LOVE THIS, would you like to try something”. And because you said it’s Daniel Miller, I want to. But our conversations are like an artist to artist not, an artist to label boss.
JH: Yeah, I have to say I just respect him, because I love everything on the Mute label, he and John Fryer, I know they have crossed paths, those guys have touched so many incredible albums with their magic. I loved how you built the music on the lyrics, then took a life of its own, you were more saying, “Hey follow the sounds”.
TN: Yeah, I try to make things as wonky as I can sometimes. I think it’s important to have a psychedelic trip on a record like this.
JH: Well, you do clash a lot of styles, you were taking a lot of familiar sounds, then you pull all these other elements in there that I wasn’t expecting. You pulled so much together for an electronic record.
TN: Yeah there were a couple of pieces that had a nod to “It Doesn’t Matter” by the Chemical Brothers for them asking me to collaborate with them last year.
JH: Then the title track “Baby We’re Ascending”, I dissect everything, and that one, I was feeling how fast it was going, without a beat. I can feel it, we are moving quickly, but no beats, with the intensity, that was very well done, is that what you were trying to do?
TN: Yeah, I think what happened with that, was a collaboration with Jon Hopkins, I was part way writing that track, composition was 90% there, but I feel like there was more space for it to become more immersive, and I was working on other pieces of the album, so I put it on ice for a couple of weeks, expecting the ideas to come back. John and I had been doing some late nights at his house with my partner, listening to his album before it was finished. It’s called “Music for Psychedelic therapy”, so, I knew he would like that track of mine. But it’s not in my character to reach out and say “Hey can you help me on this”, because I want to get to the solution myself with my music. But I put a little snippet of the track on my Instagram story, and John messaged me straight away and asked “What is this?” and I told him it was just a little piece I was working on. Then he reached out to me a few days later saying “I’m really sorry, can’t stop thinking about this bit of music that you put online”. I told him I was in a bit of a funk with it, and he asked me to send it over to give the whole song a listen. I sent it over, and he called me immediately asking to collaborate with me on it. And then it became this nice wonderful exciting process for both of us. I had never collaborated with anyone, he had never collaborated with a friend, and it was really lovely, we are so proud of what it became and that people enjoyed it so much.
JH: Oh yeah, the whole “Just let it slide, it’s a state of mind, why am I complaining if baby I’m ascending”, I felt the whole thing like you described it.
TN: Yeah, it had a good feel, emotion to it.
JH: SO, looking at the roster for this album, you had so many people from the community working on it, you had this trans-visibility activist, everyone else? What made you decide to do this album as a “Queer community-centric project”?
TN: The main reason is that these people are in my family and community.
JH: Where are you on the community spectrum?
TN: I’m queer, I have a partner, she is a big part of my life. But, Kai Isaiah Jamal, the poet, and Trans activist is a good friend of mine, they used to live downstairs from me. Most of these people are in my circles anyway. Francine the engineer at Mute, is queer, Across the board was someone that I knew. For me, it was important to cast my net wide with this project. Just the nature of this industry, it’s so easy to find the established engineers, producers, whatever, and they are all great, but I wanted to give space and inclusion to so many of the wonderful queer people in the industry. And I wanted to make music with people in my community.
JH: Well, you didn’t need to look that far then.
TN: No, they were downstairs. (laughing)
JH: Well, talking about a fangirl, like you were with the Chems, your publicist got me to interview Andy from Erasure, and there I was talking to the guy after listening to him since I was 13 years old. That was full circle for me, but if you have so many talented people in the community around you, and you get to just walk downstairs and knock on Kai’s door.
TN: Yeah that is the beauty of it, based more on happenstance, where I was just discussing Detroit Techno with Kai, and the queer, black, roots of techno. It was something we both wanted to work on with each other for a while, but these conversations have to happen when the time is right. Kai was saying “I want to do something creative with you”, and well, “Funny that, I have this track, that I made for you”.
JH: So it’s like you have all these great people coming to you to make it happen.
TN: I feel very fortunate to have these friends and the fact that it all came together organically, instead of the label trying to get people together. That never really felt right. This is a big win.
JH: So this is a total win. SO, the work you did with Daniel Avery, “New Faith”, I loved it, you have been very busy.
TN: Yeah, I did “Chaos Energy” with him.
JH: Wow, makes my job easy, thanks for bringing that up, that one had these throbbing basslines, then the drums kicked in. That was a bit out of your wheelhouse of sound. And it had some bleak lyrics, and I felt the intensity.
TN: Yeah, I sang the end of it, but it was Dan writing.
JH: Well, the lyrics, took me to extremes there, “The Reprise of Promise here, atop a shadowed mountain burns the fire of better days”.
TN: I did those vocals towards the end, he is one of my best friends, and getting to work together in such a way, he had asked me to sing on previous pieces, but it never worked out with timing, but now the two biggest singles from it I got to sing on.
JH: So the song “Purple Jelly” I have not gone and played the message backward yet.
TN: You will hear the message when you do.
JH: There is something there then…
TN: Yeah that song is the pinnacle of ADHD energy, going in so many different directions, and I wasn’t traveling, so I had my brain having to spin all this off.
JH: Well it worked for me, ’cause I got it.
TN: It was one for the family.
JH: Tardigrade, that was so bizarre, … Are you a Cocteau Twins fan?
TN: Yeah, can you tell with that track?
JH: YES!!! but this was the weird thing, that song was like the sonic … photo-negative of “Pearly Dewdrops”. It was like an “inverted” version of that song, it was fantastic. I went through that one about 10 times.
TN: That was the first track that I had sang on, and sent over to Daniel. I was kind of nervous cause all that they had heard me do vocally was the electronic driven. It felt freeing to sing on something again, and still have space for this noisy electronic sound design in the middle. It was complimentary to mix the ideas together.
JH: Well, it was a masterpiece, the world needs to know you for that song. So, what would you say to the young queer kid in the closet, in the vulnerable state?
TN: I would say take your time, and that there is a community waiting for you with open arms. There is always the family out there, it took me a long time to learn, I wish I had known that when I was younger.
JH: Well, Teneil, thank you so much, I wish you all the best with this new work.
You can follow and see Teneil Throssell at: