“The backwards way.”
The phrase came as a bit of an afterthought as Ian Teeple explained his guitar technique. It’s a simple way of describing his upside-down, left-handed grip on the instrument, but paints a picture of how he operates as an artist.
Teeple took several semesters of audio recording classes at the college after leaving high school early and earning a GED. His time in the classroom was beneficial in the development of his audio skills, but far from the beginning of them. A four-track recording system was gifted to him for Christmas when he was 12.
“I have like 80 tapes in my closet that are just like hourlong four-track tapes. Just me, basically, making weird noises.”
Not all of Teeple’s early recordings closely resemble what most people consider music but his constant tinkering with the equipment slowly led to an understanding of the medium’s fundamentals. When he finally began taking formal classes at the college, Teeple was able to gain more experience with digital recording. One of his earliest bands, Yuck Ratz, once recorded a song for a class assignment.
“I kinda dropped out of high school and college to do music and I just do it full time just ‘cause it feels good, basically, I don’t have anything else to do,” Teeple said with a laugh. “I’m always working on something, even if it never gets put out.”
Now, at 23 years old, Teeple is living in a Midtown neighborhood that sits snugly on the perimeter of the Kansas City Art Institute — or as he refers to it, “the ‘tute.” Although he holds an interest in visual art and is well acquainted with a fair amount of students attending the school, he doesn’t foresee himself attending.
“I think it’s funny every time I do something with art school people because I consider myself to be an artist, but I will never go to school for it. I feel like it’s a resources thing. You kinda just go to art school to have access to all the nice equipment and stuff.”
A large amount of his free time is currently consumed with writing, recording and performing music, but those endeavors often open the door for him to create visual work. He often experiments with computer art and has created album art for a few music releases. An unusual job he stumbled upon has also given him an opportunity to be visually creative.
“I got a job selling comic books online on eBay for this estate sale person, so for the past year I’ve just been liquidating old comics. So all the time I’m scanning that stuff in and cutting it up and making fliers and stuff out of it.”
Teeple later revealed just how bizarre the circumstances of the job really are.
“They started taking stuff out of this hoarder’s house and cataloging it. Basically, this guy had a double duplex full of magazines and comic books and books and trash and sand and his own pee in jars. I started excavating all that and now I sell [some of] that stuff online … It’s the most bizarre thing I’ve ever done, but it’s super inspiring.”
The state uses the money from selling the possessions to pay for the man’s hospice care and Teeple gets paid to help them sell it off.
A zine compiling collages of images from his favorite comic book finds is one project he anticipates putting together. He’s not particularly attached to much self-publishing he’s worked on in recent years — he wishes he had more time to devote to it. Teeple does, however, cite comic book writing as one of his earliest creative passions.
“I made one that was about a teddy bear who was shocked into existence and becomes a samurai in grade school,” Teeple said. “That was like my magnum opus. And it was 100 pages, hand-drawn, front and back with pencil, so the more I would work on it, the more smudged it would all get.”
He also never made the front page of it.
Several years ago, Teeple left the college before completing a degree to move to Kansas City and spend more time working on music. One of his biggest mentors and collaborators during that time was J. Ashley Miller, a multi-instrumentalist and producer who has been active in Kansas City’s music scene for over a decade. Since meeting, the two have played in two bands together and worked together in Miller’s studio recording other bands. One project the duo worked on together was Quadrigarum. The group featured Miller and Teeple performing with instruments custom-made by Miller with materials sourced from his family’s farm.
“That was my favorite thing me and Ashley did together,” Teeple said. “We had these instruments that he built called chariots … It’s basically this rod-iron wheel that you spin and it has picks attached to it so it strikes the guitar, but basically sounds like super-shredder black metal.”
One of Teeple’s more recent collaborators has been Olivia Gibb. Teeple and Gibb began playing together in their band Warm Bodies near the beginning of 2016. Despite existing for less than a year so far, the band has become highly regarded nationally among hardcore punk fans and has already embarked on multiple regional tours.
Gibb, who handles vocals for the band, only began working with Teeple regularly after the band began but already holds him in high regards.
“I think he’s one of the more different songwriters out there and he’s really open to lots of different things and really is interested in lots of different types of music, which I think is really important,” Gibb said. “He doesn’t care about punk that much. I mean, we all care about punk, but the music that he writes just comes from a place that is more organic and not very concerned with any type of label.”
Warm Bodies drummer Gabe Coppage has known him since high school, but it took him time to adjust to writing music with Teeple due to his unorthodox style.
“Ian’s riffs and his brain are super crazy and I just wasn’t used to playing along to music like that, but after a while I found my groove with Ian and know what to expect now and how to make his riffs sound good,” Coppage said.
It may not be possible to zero in on exactly what makes Teeple’s art and music so unusual, but he did offer an anecdote on the subject.
“I love that freak vibe. My first favorite song ever was “In The Hall Of The Mountain King” because it was on an advertisement for Jim Carrey’s “The Grinch” and that song is still one of the scariest, most compelling — I don’t even like classical music — but that’s a weird-ass song. It’s super dark and scary, but also has a goofy vibe. That’s what I strive to hit — “In The Hall Of The Mountain King.” I feel like I’ve never not been into weird stuff.”
Whether you’re viewing his goofy doodle work or watching him fire off zig-zagging guitar solos on stage, that’s what you’re guaranteed to get: “that freak vibe,” the backwards way.