Glassjaw – Interview

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Legendary metal producer Ross Robinson was listening to a stack of demo tapes and was immediately drawn into Glassjaw’s energy and emotion after hearing only one song. Ross took the band’s undeveloped talents and turned them into an explosive group of musicians, making their debut record, Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence, one of the best hardcore/metal releases of 2000. The Glassjaw story got even better when the Deftones invited the band on the opening slot of their major US tour. The band recently made a stop in Rochester, New York and hip online was there to talk with guitarist Justin Beck about the struggles and joys of being in Glassjaw.

Congrats on the debut record! All the reviews I’ve read have been really positive. How is national exposure treating you?

We are coming out into this new mainstream and this tour is one of the biggest next to the festivals going on this summer. People seem to be recognizing us at the shows, but outside of that I don’t know how things are. There is not enough emphasis on who the hell we are. I don’t know how it’s really affecting us, but the opportunity to get exposure is here.

Is that just more drive to go out there and just kick their ass?

(big grin) Yeah!

I’ve talked with other bands and security that have worked with the Deftones in the past and I have only heard good things.

Yes, they treat everyone with first class. They actually give a shit about who they take on the road with them, they won’t take out some bullshit band. They take people who they like musically and as people. They’ll sit on the side of the stage and watch our set, which is the biggest compliment you can get.

Pretty soon they’ll be heading out on the West Coast. Has the band ever played out there?

No. We recorded out there but never have played out there.

How did you like the recording experience with Ross Robinson?

Ross is very, very punk rock because he goes by his own rules. Most studios, everything is tight and precise. Ross does not give a shit about sonic sounds but he’s more worried about the emotion being put into the music. I have always loved metal records, and when I listen to Ross’s records there is something very distinct about his records’ sound. To watch the process is insane! He would like beat the shit out of us, he wanted to get the true emotions out. He wants to take you back to when the song was first written. If you have a song that’s five years old, after a while you kind of lose sight and are just playing the parts. Ross would sit you down and ask you, ‘What were you thinking about when you first wrote this song?’. He would really sit down with you and have a chit-chat about your work. He’s insane. He’s awesome.

I think that’s the best approach, especially with your style of music. Emotion supplies the energy. One thing I heard Ross say was ‘Adidas rock is over.’ What do you think about that? I’m fed up with rap/metal.

Korn actually did something new and brought a whole new sound to the table. Bands like Limp Bizkit and second-generation rap metal bands, they all tried to do what Ross did with like one or two albums. Ross did not go to set or start out Adidas rock; it just happened all on its own. He’s really not into that type of music, but everybody just lumps him into the genre. He called us on a Saturday and met us on a Sunday. I did not know who he was. I went online and did some research to see who he has worked with. When I looked at who he has worked with, my first question for him was, ‘What do you want with us?’. I told him, ‘We are completely different from anything you have done before and we hate that shit.’

Maybe that’s what he was looking for, a challenge. Some producers have a style or approach that works well for them and they stick to it, but I think it’s cool that Ross did not try to change the band.

If he did, I would have shot him in the face! (laughing) He wants to do death metal and indie rock.

How raw was the demo Ross heard?

The demo he heard was done by a guy who is losing his hearing. He has done a lot of great bands. His studio is a little punk rock studio in New York. It was not the greatest sounding shit I’ve heard.

What was the toughest song to record?

Personally, the album is us as us. What we do in rehearsal is us. There was no studio tricks to the record.

Everything done in a live-off-the-floor manner.

Yes. The only song that was hard was “Motel Of The White Locust”. We have done the song in the past with another drum and had a certain feel to it, and then the drummer on the album was not getting the vibe of the song, so it was hard getting the drum tracks down for that song.

Do you mind if I throw a couple of song at you?

Sure.

“When One Eight Becomes Two Zeros”?

I love that song. We enjoy playing every song on this record, except one which is “Ry Ry’s Song”. It’s an old song we had that always worked, but when it came to completing the album, it had a certain feel and composition to it, whether it be depressing or a minor guitar feel. “Ry Ry’s Song” does not fit the mold of the record and it just sticks out like a sort thumb to us.

Another song I love to crank is “Babe”.

I love “Babe”. It’s such a straight edge song.

A number of tracks have such a hardcore sound, while others seem to fusion hardcore/metal. Take “Hurting and Shoving” for example.

“Hurting and Shoving” stems from when me and Todd (guitarist) were in a band called Sons Of Abraham, we were a metal/hardcore band. The majority of that song is parts from that old band, which was pretty much based on metal. We take all our influences and subconsciously we don’t go out to write a song that sounds like Deftones, Bad Brains, and Elvis Costello. We just write. What happens, happens.

I always thought it would be cool to fuse a band together that had a lead singer’s mentality of Morrissey combined with a brutal band. If you look at Morrissey’s lyrics, they are pretty twisted, like the song “Bigmouth Strikes” is written about how he would like to sometimes punch his girlfriend in the face but never could. Does Daryl (lead singer) get a lot of shit for his lyrics because of the way they are written? I like his approach.

So do I. The reviews have been very positive, except one from AP (Alternative Press). This kid called us ‘rape rap metal.’ First of all, we are not rap metal, there’s not one element of that in our music. So, off the bat, he’s a shmuck. He can give his opinion, I respect that, but then he took the lyrics out of context and took one quote out of a song, ‘Fuck you whore,’ and put it into one paragraph. He botched the whole fucking thing.

Has the band finally locked up a drummer?

We got Larry Gorman from Orange 9MM with us. Going through members for Glassjaw has been fucking weird. We had people become Hazzanim, go to college and whatever. Daryl and me have been together since fourteen, fifteen years old, and the rest of the band now is strong and has come together. Manny, our bass player, is one of the best bass players I have ever played with.

You played drums on the record? Where did Sammy Siegler (drummer of CIV, Gorilla Biscuits) go?

There is a staple beat in Glassjaw that many could not do because of the endurance. I used to play drums in the band, and then our bassist left to become a Hazzanim, so I moved to bass and brought in the drummer from Sons Of Abraham. That drummer in Sons Of Abraham left because his other band, A Day In The Life, got signed. Basically what he said was, ‘Fuck off. I want to be a rock star.’ He left and we had no drummer. Our A&R guy worked with Sam Sielger and asked him to do it. At the time, he was working with Walter Schreifels in a band called Rival Schools Divided By Faith. Sam said he would like to work with us. Well, what happened was it was just too hard for Sam to be in two bands at once. It was inevitable because there was not enough time to be in two bands. That’s understandable, he’s been playing with Wally since eleven years old.

What Wally did with Quicksand and hardcore music, I don’t think people realize what a genius this guy is. For me, hardcore started with Quicksand.

He changed the face of the scene. He’s responsible for bands like Gorilla Biscuits, Judged, Youth of Today, he was a big part of that. Same with Sammy. Then Quicksand came along with his post-hardcore new sound that really changed everything. Wally is very talented.

I know you’ve been friends with Daryl for a long time. How did you take the news when you heard he had Crohn’s Disease?

I was relieved because doctors finally found out what was wrong with him. He was constantly getting sick and no one could figure out what was wrong with him. Every time we would have a big show, he would get sick, and we thought he was just wigging out or something. With this disease, the nerves trigger it. It’s like a giant ulcer.

Is the band worried about his health on the road?

He takes a handful of medicine every day. If you look at the cover of the album, that’s his pill box. That’s what he opens every day when he wakes up. Hardcore bands have always done their own tours, and we were limited to a few tours due to his condition. As long as he’s taking meds, eating properly, and he’s had some operations, that helps him.

Where did you meet Daryl?

I was fourteen and he was thirteen. I got a job working at a day camp in Long Island and I showed up with a Bad Brains t-shirt and he had on an Anthrax shirt, and the next thing you know my mom is writing me permission slips so I can take the bus home with Daryl to rock out.

Growing up, did you practice in your parents’ house? How did they enjoy that?

We did practice in my parents’ garage. We just played the Roseland (NYC) two nights ago. It was the first time ever my parents came and saw me play. Growing up, we would cram in a ten-foot by ten-foot garage with no heat in the winter and no AC in the summer.

Were they cool about the noise?

No, they were not! (busts out laughing) We rehearsed when they went out to get bagels or to do laundry or something.

Going back home, it must of have been nice to perform in front of your hometown.

On a tour like this, it sucks! Punk rock tours are awesome because you drive to the show and setup and perform. This is like a major setup, major production.

Yeah, you got to stick to the itinerary scheduled.

If you fuck up, you get in trouble, so you have to be on time for everything. So many distractions coming home, with girlfriends, parents, friends, and the label to attend to, it’s hard. You don’t even know the process of trying to get them on the guest list. I could not even get my own family in. It was a headache.

With the hardcore scene and going back home, do you ever get the ‘selling out’ business? Especially with hardcore music, because there’s a strong sense of community between the young fans and the music they listen to.

When I was fifteen years old and I heard Sick Of It All got signed to Atlantic, I was like ‘Fuck those guys,’ but when you’re fourteen and you’re living at home and your parents pay for everything, it’s so easy to say that. You think bands like playing in front of twenty people everywhere they go? I don’t care if I’m playing in front of one kid or million kids. Take Sick Of It All, for example. If you don’t want Sick Of It All to get popular, that means they are going to have to go to work and they are not going to be able to play in a band for you. Being signed does not mean you make money, unless you’re Korn, then you’re making money, but even a band like that still makes a modest living. We never went out to get signed; Roadrunner came to us. When I was in high school and even college, with Sons Of Abraham we were full-time students with jobs going out on tours. We saved our money to rent a van that broke down every two minutes. We would spend thousands of dollars and drove eight hours to play in a basement with fifteen kids. It was worth it, but unfortunately money is what the world revolves around. We are hardcore kids. When VOD got signed, I was so happy for them because they were from the same neighborhood we were from. I think where a lot of the animosity comes from with hardcore kids is that we don’t like the fact some jock is riding around in his Bronco listening to VOD. That’s our music. Who the hell does he think he is listening to our music?

Well, have fun on the rest of the tour. Do you have plans after this tour?

We might do a tour with Snapcase starting in September.

+larry sarzyniak

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