Every Wednesday is Heritage Hump Day! That's because every Wednesday from now to the end of the year or before someone really big stops us, Heritage Hump Records (a temporary subsidiary of Onus Records) and New Times will be bringing you a limited edition collector's item of a much beloved Phoenix band that walked the scorched earth of Arizona before the year 2000 A.D. Or maybe a little after that. We will honor that band with a commemorative digital single that you, the digital public, will have only seven days to download to your computers and smart phones before this single gets marked up to an exorbitant price as determined by the mp3 collector community. When that happens, a new Heritage Hump subject will be chosen and the free-for-a-limited-time-only cycle begins anew.
Thus far we haven’t featured any electronic music in our Heritage Humping. So we’re going to correct that this week by only going slightly way back in our time travels,. Back to when Miley Cyrus was still a minor nuisance, Jessica Simpson could make news just by gaining weight and crying, and Olympian athlete Michael Phelps was (Chong forbid!) going viral hovering a bong!
The reason I’m so expert on the events of January 2009 is because I hosted a monthly vidcast and on the episode where these were all “Barely News” lead stories, my special guest was Ryan Breen of Back Ted N-Ted .
I’ll save you the trouble of weeding through the first five minutes and 25 seconds to find out how the band got its odd name from a cardboard box Breen stole from the back of a Safeway which had "Back Ted N-Ted" written on it. Actually, when the flattened carton was unfolded, it read “Send Back Sorted and Oriented,” which doesn’t make a helluva lot more sense when you think about it.
I’d also profiled the one-man recording project for a January 15, 2009, New Times article, which pretty much spelled where Breen was at the time, entitled “Back Ted N-Ted’s Ryan Breen on the Hookie EP and an Upcoming Full Album.” Breen was also working as a staff producer for Ben Collins’ Modern Art Records, then an Epic imprint. Breen had been a rhythm guitarist for Collins’ band Chronic Future in 2004 and had worked on the Lines In My Face demos that landed them a deal with Interscope Records.
But back to Back Ted N-Ted:
"Until this year, Breen's individual musical profile has been largely abstract and instrumental, but he's allowed a backlog of personal feeling to filter in to Back Ted N-Ted. Which makes the group's — or rather Breen's — new EP, Hookie, such a pleasant surprise. First off, it is hooky, filled with stick-in-your head choruses and vintage drum machine slaps. The title track's lyrics explore heartbreak as if coming off the ether in the middle of a dance floor, to where even sudden light-bulb epiphanies like "I left her for better" and "I know it's gonna be hard now" might feel less painful. Ditto for the bubbly kick of "999 Buttons," a song that recalls a relationship from a safe distance of 10 years after its demise. Having made electronic music for the 10 years, it's a big step for Breen.
"I got into writing lyrics because my dad [Mike Breen] is a songwriter. He plays folk and country," says Breen. "He always used songwriting as a way of dealing with shit, as a form of psychology or counseling. A lot of songwriters do that as a way to process stuff and articulate it. There's a lot of dance. I loved glam and I loved all the Justice stuff but it seemed to lack that soul, that personal what-are-you-thinking-what-are-you-feeling."
"I did a Back Ted N-Ted full-length that was just instrumental three years ago," he continues. "The structure was, like, whatever. Sometimes a song would have 13 parts, but I got lost in a sea of musical whatever-ness. I think I've just gone the other extreme."
Breen attended Conservatory of Recording Arts and Sciences in Tempe and right out of school started working with Japanese singer Coppé, who moved to the Valley in the early '90s and hired Breen him to run her studio. They made two albums of trance-y dance music together.
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Which leads us to this week’s Heritage Hump track “Opening Credits,” which originally appeared on Back Ted N-Ted's first full length "Pop Animal" and featuring Coppé on vocals and Jacob Koller on the Rhodes.
Says Breen today, “I started the song when I worked for Coppé and was in Shibuya recording. We recorded with Kris Weston and the pro marijuana activist Buddhist monk named Taka Ryu. I was listening to a lot of Prefuse 73 and exploring Tokyo. Musically it's chopped into a million tiny little bits, lyrically it bends and cuts up Coppé’s Japanese lyrics.”
These days Breen has been channeling his energies into another experimental electronic music brand called D3PTHS that have released some tracks on Onus Records, most notably “All I Have is Music” and “So Sad Bro” and is now getting ready to release a full-length D3PTHS album.