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Hello my fellow proggers, here is the second of my many interviews with 70's unsung prog heroes, Glass. This time with Greg Sherman, the band's main keyboardist.
My thanks again to Glass for yet another insightful interview.
- How does Glass approach writing a song in 2002 as opposed to 1972?
- Greg Sherman:
- For the most part, it is the same. What has changed are logistics, Ol' Man River, and technology. In 1972, we practiced two or three times a week, for a couple hours a night. Jeff and I always wrote apart. We didn't (and still don't) collaborate on songs until the whole band is together. Jeff and I would write songs and bring them to the rehearsal. In addition to songs, which are whole musical pieces, we would write dozens of 'licks', simple riffs on the bass, or the synthesizer.
We also rehearsed in the house we lived in, right in the living room. All the equipment was set up, all of the time. When one of us had an inspiration, all we had to do is walk in the living room, turn the stuff on, and play. A lot of writing got done, a song at a time, a lick here, a lick there. When the band rehearsed, we would start playing the new song, and automatically, everyone slipped into their role. Jerry played a pivotal role in arranging the song, being the 'third eye view', and not being a 'writer' per se, he always saw the song in a different light that Jeff and I did, and always had original suggestions. He could also put song ideas together, sewing together, for example, this theme and that lick. He had a major role in sewing together multi-part songs like "Give The Man A Hand" or "Domino".
As for song titles, they were usually afterthoughts - impressions of how the song made us feel, or events shaped by a personal experience we were going through at the time, a book we were reading, etc. That's with the exception of "Broken Oars", which was written as a concept piece from the very beginning.
In 2002, we approach writing for Glass the same way. But, due to time, many things have changed. We no longer practice twice a week. We schedule a rehearsal in advance, and Jeff and I fly to Seattle for a week, or Jerry comes down to California. When we rehearse, we rehearse for a week straight, eight hours a day. The rehearsals are fewer, but more intense when they happen.
We also don't do it in our living room. Since we all have separate houses and families, we rehearse in a studio. Currently, we are rehearsing in a studio in West Seattle that Jerry is building for his production company, Two Monkey Finger. Jeff and I still write exactly the same way we used to, alone, sitting at home, with headphones on. I write on either a piano or a Korg 01W keyboard, with a sequencer to record parts to the song. Jeff has a variety of instruments he writes on, including the Rhodes, a Korg 01W, or his bass.
With the new digital technology, we'll sit at home and write song ideas, record them, and convert them to MP3 files. Then we upload them to the Internet, to a web site that just the three of us have access to. That way, Jerry can go to the web page, click on a link, and hear all the latest song ideas we are working on. We will also burn a CD of all the ideas and send it to everyone. When we get together to rehearse, we have all heard the rough ideas. We work on the song together much in the same way we always have, with Jeff and I showing the band the new ideas, and Jerry listening from an objective viewpoint and adding his arranging talents to the mix.
As for titles, Jeff and I are more conscientious as to what the title will be. We are less frivolous and more serious about what the song is about, and the emotions that came to pass as the song was written. We are better song writers today than we were back then. That's not to say the music itself is better, but we have honed the 'craft' of songwriting within us for thirty years.
One more thing that has changed- in 1972 we would write new material without much thought to what the total creative output was going to look like, as a creative vision. We just wrote and wrote, somewhat unconsciously. The decision to go into the recording studio was another process, made sometimes months after the song was written.
Nowadays, we are constantly tuned into what the vision for the music is. When we write and rehearse new material, we are rehearsing FOR the new CD. We are aware of the vision of what we want it to look, sound and taste like while we are creating it.
- What influences a song to be written?
- First of all, the basic creative drive is always there. Jeff and I both wake up in the middle of the night with a song idea, and have to get up out of bed and turn the keyboard on and record it, for fear of waking up the next morning and not remembering it. I write driving in the car, or taking a shower. The actual creative drive is happening all the time.
Daily Events and the flow of life do effect our music greatly, though. We were in Baja California in March 2002, and driving through the filth, and the gut-wrenching poverty of a place such as that effected us. It's good for your creativity to get out of your little cocoon sometimes, to be moved emotionally has an effect on our music. The next CD will have a few songs written in Baja when we were at BajaProg 2002.
Another event that affected us was the opportunity to play with the great Elton Dean during the 'Progman Cometh' festival in Seattle. Our next CD will hopefully have some contribution from him on it, god-willing.
Another, less philosophical aspect, is the fact that we are constantly attempting to do something new, to re-invent the music. We are constantly searching for something new to do. Since our basic writing is the same, the actual song itself, we strive to do something different with it, to make it different. That, to us, is one of the definitions of 'Progressive Rock', that it is constantly being re-defined.
- What band(s) today are influential on the molding of Glass music?
- Nothing new, unfortunately. There's somewhat of a void. We really want to go where no band has gone before, not to paraphrase an old cliche. We are going to be bring in a few 'guest' musicians to augment the sound of the three-piece. Elton (Dean) is one, hopefully. Another project might be done working with Richard Sinclair. These are all just in the talking stages, but there is a lot of enthusiasm for it on both sides of the Atlantic.
October 1st, 2002
~ Ron Fuchs for ProgNaut.com