My First Interview: January 1st, 2002|
The Jeff Sherman Interview
It seems that the Crimsons, Yes'es, Floyds, Genesis, etc of the Prog World are either getting more dissonant and unstructured or becoming more like mainstream rock. This seems so out-of-place in modern times – the creative output being what it is now. And then of course there are the countless others that lost their fire decades ago.
Yet amid this sea of banality a beacon has suddenly appeared, burning brightly. Awakening from the nether land of obscurity like some Neolithic Cavemen frozen in ice for eons, comes the band Glass.
And none are truer to their original form than these "relics". They will be bringing to the present time, the integrity of what Progressive rock is all about simply because they were never jaded by the major label "raping" of their music in the first place. They were born in the fog shrouded Pacific Northwest, existed, were enjoyed by a few thousand and faded away. Apparently into obscurity or so it seemed at the time. But destiny had other plans for these Prehistoric Progmen and The Internet with its truly free, communicative environment provided just the warmth needed to melt their icy prison.
To me they are not really a comeback band, they are just a bit ahead of their time... a band that was there during the Golden Age of Prog that sadly was overlooked. An Emerson, Lake and Palmer that didn't have location and its attendant opportunity on their side. But that was then - now is the time for Glass! Happier than ever and ready to take the world by storm these "Rip Van Winkles of Prog" have re-awakened into a world they dreamt about but weren't allowed to fulfill until now. What follows is a brief phone interview I did with Glass-man Jeff Sherman composer, bassist, guitarist and second keyboard player.
Ron: So tell me Jeff. . from your unique perspective how has Prog changed or evolved? And where do you see Glass fitting in?
Jeff: Well. . .I'm not so sure I can claim to be any kind of "expert" on the Newer Prog music. Having basically been busy with other pursuits for the past couple of decades (laughs out loud). But I can venture some opinions based on observations. And people can take them or leave them. And these are just opinions to be taken with whatever seriousness one allows a Progressive Music Snob such as myself! (another laugh) Ron: Please do. .
Jeff: Well for one thing. . what I call "The Bar" - that relative system of measurement by which I benchmark test the creative works I'm exposed to, seems to have fallen quite a bit. In fact I'd say it's near the ground when it comes to what is heralded as "genius" in Prog now days. At least in a strictly musical sense. Prog has always been about experimentation this is true. BUT great Prog is also about knowing at least some fundamentals of basic music theory. And having a creative vision "outside of The Box". It seems to me that many of the younger Prog musicians that I have heard want all the fun of the "experimentation" part of their "job" as Prog musicians but balk at the work of learning their theory. And there also seems to me to be a dearth of truly great melody writers out there. I mean where are the Mike Ratledges when we need them?
Ron: Could you explain that a little for us?
Jeff: Sure. I speak of course of the one and only Mike Ratledge keyboardist of Soft Machine fame. That man could write the worlds longest and most memorable "hooks". You know those musical melodies you can't get out of your head long after you've heard them on some radio station. Or at a friends house at a party as background music? AND do it in the strangest time signatures. .
Ron: Oh yeah. . now I know what you mean. And speaking of Soft Machine were they one of Glass musical influences? And who else would you call influential in regards to the bands development?
Jeff: Well yes. . it kind of started with The Soft Machine in some ways. My brother Greg and our best friend Jerry Cook were playing in a band called The Vaguest Notion. Doing covers of the Top-Forty Hits of the day. You know. . music by The Beatles, The Byrds. . The Doors. And others. Doing little dance hall gigs and High School Per Dances after the big football game. That kind of thing. Then one August night in 1968 we saw this trio open up for Jimi Hendrix in Seattle. They blew us away. We had never heard anything that sounded even remotely like these guys music. And so full! Only a trio and they rocked the entire Coliseum (The Seattle Coliseum)! When they started the lights were completely down and you could have heard a pin drop in that full 20000 seat venue. Suddenly these bass notes start rumbling the floor beneath our feet. I didn't know what the hell it was at first. Except that it was LOUD! I looked down at the stage and for only a moment I could see someone's silhouette climbing over some speaker cabs and getting on the drum set in the center of the revolving stage. And I remember blinking 'cause I couldn't believe my eyes – the drummer (Robert Wyatt) had only a vest, a bathing suit and a hat on! Then they continued the build up into what would become "Why Are We Sleeping". I also remember Kevin Ayers strolling up to the mike and dryly announcing "We call this the Rise and The Fall of The American Empire". WOW!! All that sound and attitude as well! I looked over at Greg and Jerry and there was some kind of magic that happened that night between the three of us. A bond of some sort. An Unspoken Understanding that this was The Direction. The Way. We went home fired out bass player the next day. . moved me over to bass guitar and never looked back! We eagerly waited for The Soft Machines first album "The Soft Machine Vol. 1" to arrive in our little corner of the world and snatched up the very first copies. We learned every song on it. And started playing them at those Pep Dances! Needless to say the little Port Townsend of 1969 wasn't quite ready for avante guard Progressive Rock. I can remember these jocks trying to dance for 20 minutes straight while we did our rendition of "We Did It Again" and finally walking off the gym floor in disgust. And of course not forgetting to flip us the finger as they did so! We loved it! We could have cared less. Because we now had "The Way". We were like some religious converts or something. .
Ron: WOW! That's quite a story! So when did you start doing your own material?
Jeff: Oh soon after that. It was of course very Soft Machine derived. In fact, there are a couple of tunes from that time on the companion CD to "No Stranger to The Skies" (No Stranger To The Skies Vol III Relentless release RD4238VOLIII) if people want to hear Glass in it's formative years.
Ron: And those other influences you were going to tell us about?
Jeff: Well. . the door had pretty much been blown off it's hinges at that point – and we were very fortunate because the rock music world in general was in a Renaissance of sorts. All types of really interesting things were being tried. And experimentation was the order of the day. We just got into the flow of that huge stream of creativity. Somehow even in the backwater where we were it reached us. . Soon after we were getting into bands like The Nice, Emerson Lake and Palmer of course. Pink Floyd. And Yes. Believe it or not Yes had a *huge* influence on us. Though they weren't a trio they had Rick Wakeman. And he had The Mellotron! An all those glorious analog keys setup around him. It was amazing to watch him play! My brother Greg went and bought the first Mellotron 400D in Washington State after being influenced by Wakeman.
Ron: I take it you saw Yes perform back them?
Jeff: Oh yeah. . a couple of times. . and The Mahavishnu Orchestra – the original four man lineup. Another influence especially to Jerry . .he loves Billy Cobhams playing. .
Ron: Well I'm almost out of time but I'd like to finish this with your particular vision as to where Glass fits into Prog Music today. .
Jeff: Geez.. that's a question I could go on days answering. . and people that know me will laugh and agree. And probably warn you against asking me things like that in the future unless you have three or four hours to kill on an interview! (laughs) Well I'll try and be succinct. . I think Glass is going to bring the best of the Past into the Present and turn some heads doing it. We really are like three guys from the Seventies that have been in suspended animation. The good side of that is that we bring the standard of quality that was Par for The Course during the days Soft Machine roamed the earth blowing peoples minds into a climate that I personally feel really needs it. It is so wonderful people are discovering Progressive music in such large numbers. Now lets give them something worth the long wait. . Glass is ready willing an able. And because we're an entity that is practically untouched in regards to Corporate Music Manhandling we are still fresh-faced young lads so to speak! Eager to please and extremely grateful for the opportunity to do so!
Ron: And on that note I'd like to say thank you for your time and I'm looking forward to your performance at BajaProg 2002!
Jeff: Thanks Ron. . bye.
I remember Jeff also mentioning in another conversation that Glass has always been very "equipment driven" in regards to the "sounds we produce". Which to me is such a plus, as that means Jeff, Greg & Jerry are willing to embrace any new technology. In a way as Prog artists, it's their responsibility and a birth right to a lesser degree.
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