"In the course of my atypical music 'career' I have erected recording studios amidst dilapidated horse stables, composed string quartets for my cat, resisted getting a "real job" throughout my 20's, successfully stalked my adolescent musical heroes and got them to put me on their payroll, played multiple gigs in Odessa Texas, slept on dusty farmhouse floors, sung spontaneous improvised Sam Cooke duets with Hurricane Katrina refugees at a Houston Whole Foods Market meat counter, made big band arrangements of old school video games, and founded a time-warping boy band."
Tim Smolens is a multi-instrumentalist, composer, recording engineer and producer that is/was a pivotal member of bands such as Estradasphere, I.S.S. (Ideal Social Situation), High Castle Teleorkestra and Don Salsa. Tim has also recorded and toured with various acts such as Secret Chiefs 3 and Amanda Palmer (of the Dresden Dolls). Tim is known for his elaborate, multi-layered recording productions/compositions and his keen insight into the advanced chord progressions that serve as the foundation for all sophisticated western music. Largely self taught, Tim has obsessively studied the harmonic progressions and unique production style of Brian Wilson (Beach Boys) and successfully employed them as a distinct element in his own sound.
Born October, 26th 1977 in Southern California (just miles from eventual musical hero Brian Wilson), Tim decided to take up the electric guitar after seeing the movie "La Bamba" at age 9, based on the life and tragic death of 50's pop star Ritchie Valens. After becoming a "shredding" glam metal guitarist by junior high, Tim decided to switch to electric bass after Nirvana slayed glam metal and "shredding" became frowned upon! He was tired of being snickered at in the hallways and being subjected to under the breath digs such as "kick-ass." In high school he formed a band called "Don Salsa" with his brother Doug Smolens (Fishtank Ensemble), childhood friend Jason Schimmel (Estradasphere, Atomic Ape), Jeff Atridge, and Rob Hondrick. Don Salsa was unapologetically obsessed with Mr. Bungle and spent 2+ years recording an album with 2 linked ADAT's (primitive digital 8-tracks) that they hoped would pay homage to their high school heroes. It was during this time that Tim emerged as a budding engineer and producer taking on nearly all those duties for the enormously complex Don Salsa album.
After high school, Tim and Jason Schimmel moved north to Santa Cruz, where Jason studied music at UC Santa Cruz and Tim just decided to study music on his own, taking a few jazz arranging classes from well known jazz instructor Ray Brown at Cabrillo College and studied music independently. At this time he also began playing in jazz combos, mediorcre community college orchestras, doing coffee shop jazz gigs, and rapidly progressed from nothing to something on the standup bass. At UC Santa Cruz Tim and Jason met up with other adventurous music students John Whooley (Tenor sax, multi-instrumentalist and composer), Timba Harris (Violin/trumpet), and Dave Murray (drummer who specialized in Death Metal and Jazz). They would ultimately go on to form Estradasphere. Estradasphere derived their eclectic sound from their collective upbringings and musical training in classical, jazz, rock n' roll, death metal, and experimental music and forged a novel new sonic universe. The members of Estradasphere were constantly evolving their sound by studying such varied styles as Romanian gypsy music, Bulgarian wedding music, 60s-70s Italian film soundtracks, the harmonies and production style of the Beach Boys, polyrhythmic metal, and Tuvan throat singing.
Tim successfully stalked high school idol's Mr. Bungle and befriended guitarist/keyboardist Trey Spruance. Tim was able to impress with his keyboard/sample programming on the Kurzweill K2500 keyboard and was hired by Mr. Bungle to execute the exhaustive task of programming the dynamic, multi-keyboard setup for their "California" album tour. Estradasphere soon thereafter "signed" (shook hands) to Trey Spruance's (Mr. Bungle, Secret Chiefs 3) record label, Mimicry Records. Estradasphere played extensively in Santa Cruz and the Bay Area and toured the U.S..Canada with the Secret Chiefs 3 as both the opening band and supporting musicians for SC3. Estradasphere released 4 studio albums (Its Understood, Buck Fever, Quadropus, and Palace of Mirrors) between 2000 - 2006, as well 3 DVD's and a live album before they disbanded in 2008.
While in Santa Cruz Tim also put together I.S.S. (Ideal Social Situation), a time-warping boy band that could put their own spin on mid-60's Beach Boy-type productions to great effect. I.S.S. served as an outlet for Tim's more poppy side, which was not being fulfilled by the technically complex Estradasphere tunes. Although they had a few odd live performances here and there, I.S.S. is mostly a recording project.
Tim, with his old Don Salsa buddy Jeff Atridge put together a game music company called "Game Audio Magic," and did the music for a number of video games in various formats from 2002-2006. Tim also scored the music to Garrin Vincent's slap stick outer- space thriller "Star Slyderz."
In 2007 Estradasphere decided to collectively make the bold move from their familiar small pond of Santa Cruz California, to the larger pools of Seattle Washington, taking over an amazing warehouse (the chummery) from legendary band Sun City Girls. Burdened by nearly a decade of exhaustive work, little to no financial compensation for their efforts or means to make a decent living from music, Estradasphere was in crisis with an uncertain future. It was at this time Tim found out his wife was pregnant and hence the curtain closed on the incredible Estradasphere era.
In 2015 Tim moved from Los Angeles to Denver, Colorado with his wife and 2 kids (Prisca and Cruz) and works as an Emergency department nurse at a local trauma center. After a long hiatus (10 years) from recording music, Tim finally released the long-awaited follow up to the 2002 debut, by ISS, "Forget About the Girl." 2018's sophomore release by ISS, entitled "She's a Girl," may be Tim's best work in 50s/60s pop yet.
In 2019 Tim began a collaboration with a fan that he met online, guitarist Chris Bogen. The duo released a painstaking version of Steely Dan's lost masterpiece "The Second Arrangement." They enjoyed their first collaboration so much that they decided to form a new remote band, High Castle Teleorkestra.
High Castle Teleorkestra (HCT) is a remote music ensemble whose members have played in various ground-breaking bands such as Estradasphere, Mr. Bungle, Farmer's Market, Umlaut, Probosci, I.S.S., Don Salsa, Secret Chiefs 3 and more. Comprised of middle-aged collaborators scattered about the globe, HCT focuses on superbly-produced, pluridimensional, enigmatic recordings.
HCT's music is not unlike what might be expected from a group with such a diverse collective musical résumé, yet is somehow fresh, vibrant, and dare we say mature in its eclectic cadence. The musical terrain traversed by this largely instrumental group includes long forgotten European waltz's with untimely bursts of "Vaudeville Grindcore", Italian cinema erotica, Romanian gypsy metal, 50's sci-fi-surf instrumentals, various unorthodox uses of metal (including Stravinsky adaptations), songs in the 47/64 meter, non-standard tuning systems, a variety of special guests, and much more. There are densely layered productions enriched by obsessive attention to detail, starkly unrelated genre superimposition, unclassifiable styles, ultra-refined chord progressions, sonic timbres that Joe Meek would've been proud of, inscrutable metric modulations and more. Despite the wide array of styles, the recordings are surprisingly cohesive. There is an odd mixture of hi-fi and lo-fi components that converge to make aesthetically pleasing recordings that sound as if they were produced on a 1970's 2-inch tape machine. Despite the convenient aid of modern machinery in our productions, HCT cuts no corners, and even runs their final mixes to JH110B ¼ inch analog tape to round out their warm sound. HCT has released to deluxe double singles available on their website and is currently working on their first full length release, tentatively slated for Fall 2021 release.