/Profile by Duncan Woodbury, Mothership LA/
Vocalist and visionary performer Timur Bekbosunov is set to return to the LAX Festival, after helping to launch the festival in 2013. His band Timur and the Dime Museum will be celebrating their release of COLLAPSE on October 20th in the Bootleg Theatre. We spoke with Timur about his work, opera in LA and the future of the Dime Museum.
When did you first fall in love with performance?
I started to perform on stage at a young age. When I was seven years old, my parents enrolled me in a Choral-Singing School, which I attended alongside the public school. After four years of music studies, I was cast in a couple of musical plays for children, and ever since that I continued to sing. I really enjoyed wearing different costumes and I liked performing in front of the audience, never really feeling nervous. So that was probably the first step to falling in love with performance.
How did you come to work with your musical director Daniel Corral?
Daniel was recommended to me as an accordion player for my recording of the song “Autumn”, which served as a basis for a music film by Sandra Powers. The film was screened at several film festivals, and inspired me to form a small cabaret band, which eventually laid the groundwork for Timur and the Dime Museum.
Opera seems to be a universal component in your work. How did you come to study opera and what inspired you to take that approach to the medium of a rock band?
I am a trained opera singer, and I studied voice and contemporary opera at the New England Conservatory and USC. After a couple of years at CalArts though, I discovered that my voice is capable of many other sounds, which travel beyond the opera, and I loved singing with the mic and loud electronic instruments. I wanted to use my voice in a combination with a band, not just an orchestra. It was only natural to form a band, which also plays songs in many different styles, traveling between the worlds of art-rock, proto-punk, and cabaret.
Your staging, Collapse, has been met with praise nationwide. Can you tell us what it was like to take that to the studio?
It was a major challenge, which is why I asked Nick Urata, lead singer of DeVotchKa, to produce the songs. His insightful feedback as well as guidance from Nick Tipp, our executive producer, and Ryder Bach, vocals producer, really informed our sometimes painful but important decisions to change certain structures, cut or add textures, vocal effects, and most importantly, help to channel new vocal ideas in my interpretation. We’ve lived with the performance of COLLAPSE on stage for a while before we went into studio, so we definitely had a set sound already, envisioned originally by our songwriter Daniel Corral, and it took a bit to consider other options and come to the agreement. But in the end, I think we created a really great album, which certainly captures the spirit of the staged COLLAPSE, and goes beyond it into a song-driven atmosphere.
You’ve worked with an extensive list of collaborators. How has collaboration affected your process?
Collaboration is a vital part of my process, and with the band, it often involves a “meeting in a middle” type of scenario. But every collaboration is different, and sometimes I am asked to give more opinion, and sometimes, just to play my part. I am used to both, and always happy to take the lead, or to take a back seat, and often, it is quite back and forth.
Los Angeles has become an exciting city for new Operatic Concepts, where do you see it going?
It is highly impressive what Yuval Sharon of The Industry LA is envisioning for the opera in LA. It is equally as important to note the tremendous offering of contemporary opera, brought forth by the partnership between Beth Morrison Projects, REDCAT and LA Opera. And LA Phil is always creating something unconventional. Opera in LA is also following a more interdisciplinary and collaborative approach.
I hear you’ve got some brand new stuff to play for us on the 20th, can you tell us a little bit about that?
First of all, we’ll be joined a great duo of improvisers, Cardoo and an incredibly versatile Isaura String Quartets, who will play short opening sets.
We thought that it would be cool to start working with other composers, who could write songs for our band. We’ll perform one song from song-cycle “Capillaria” by Greg Vajda, an esteemed Hungarian composer, with words by David Hill based on the sixth imaginary journey of Gulliver, written in the style of Jonathan Swift. The piece is very unusual to what we normally do, and provides a modernist flair to the rock/space jam type of music. We’ll also play two songs from Point of Presence by Daniel Corral, a piece about the birth of the internet! This will reveal an electronic side of TDM.
Finally, I will perform two songs from my upcoming project The Permanent Revolution of Trotsky by Ori Barel, my songwriter collaborator, with Andrew Lessman Trio. This will be a pop-driven show, exploring the works of Trotsky, so I am certainly looking forward to it! What’s next, you might say – a dancing Trotsky? Well, there might be a little movement in the show, but it will definitely have a love duet between Trotsky and Frida Kahlo!
Photo by Javier Guillen
Timur and The Dime Museum are a Los Angeles-based rock band blurring the lines between opera, cabaret and art-rock. They have performed at REDCAT, Joe’s Pub (NYC), House of Blues LA and participated in the Lummis Day Festival, Next Wave Festival, Beth Morrison’s PROTOTYPE Festival and NOW Festival.