Interview with GLASS HAMMER

Glass Hammer

First off- thanks for accepting this interview. It’s not the first time we’ve bounced questions and answers back and forth. I first interviewed Glass Hammer shortly before the release of “Ode to Echo”. Tell me– what have you been up to since then?

Steve: Album production always keeps us busy. Since we last spoke, we were asked to play with The Moody Blues on their cruise, then headlined the Terra Incognita Festival in Quebec City. Next, we went to work on “The Breaking of the World” and followed up the release with a few shows in New York, New Jersey and Maryland. We moved on to co-headline the final day of RoSFest with Enchant in Gettysburg, which we filmed and then released as a double live album and bonus DVD (Glass Hammer – Double Live). Last but not least, we began writing a new concept album. We’re currently rehearsing with an eye toward recording it live later this year. That will be a first for us. Our live sound is completely different than our studio recordings and we really want to capture something raw and full of energy this time.

One of my favourite things about Glass Hammer is the name, specifically why you chose it. In the last interview, you described the name as a sort of mix between fragility (glass) and strength (hammer). That dichotomy is certainly reflected in the music you play. Do you think certain albums favour one side (glass/hammer) over the other? Is that ever intentional on your part?

Steve: With songs, yes, but not with entire albums. My background is metal, and frequently I’ll write things where the rhythm section (bass and drums) is really driving where the bass guitar tone is overdriven and very grungy, yet we avoid doing that with the guitar and keys. So you could say we present the fragility of the glass on the top and the heaviness of the hammer on the bottom. That just kind of comes natural to us. It has little to do with the name Glass Hammer. It’s probably a coincidence that the band’s music really fits the name well.

The Breaking of the WorldGlass Hammer tends to get a rep (from fans and detractors alike) as a very Yes-influenced act. Between the breezy atmosphere and the obvious association you have with that band, I’d tend to agree at least in part. This new album seems intent on echoing other legendary prog groups however. On “The Breaking of the World”, I’m hearing everything from Rush to Gentle Giant in addition to the symphonic staples. What do you think accounts for this variety this time around?

Steve: What’s interesting to me is that most of the influences on Glass Hammer’s music are never noticed. A section of the opening track Mythopoeia that a couple of critics pointed to as “Yes-influenced” was actually inspired by a folk-pop song I heard on a television crime show. Other parts of that song had a Radiohead feel. There’s more than a couple of nods to music from the 90’s television show “Twin Peaks” on this album too. Some 80’s British pop influences make it into the mix, as does the jazz fusion influences of our guitarist Kamran Shikoh. There is also a touch of Todd Rundgren going on in one song. We love a lot of bands, movies soundtracks, novels– all manner of things cause us to write a song in particular ways. Still, we always hope we’re achieving originality. Of course we’ve played with the early 70’s prog band sounds of Genesis, Tull, Camel and a host of other groups we’re fans of. Some critics just got fixated on the Yes influence on the album “IF” and inexplicably hear it in everything we do.

We have always embraced our influences and with no apologies. I’m told (and I believe) that Glass Hammer has achieved its own sound, but we are really just trying to make great albums that we would want to hear and enjoy ourselves.

Here’s a favorite quote of mine from C.S. Lewis that really sums up how I look at this:

“Even in literature and art, no man who bothers about originality will ever be original: whereas if you simply try to tell the truth (without caring twopence how often it has been told before) you will, nine times out of ten, become original without ever having noticed it.”

On the one hand I dislike reading reviews which point out our influences over and above the style we have actually created for ourselves. On the other hand, I get it. Our object was never originality. We just want to make great albums.

Reception towards “The Breaking of the World” seems generally warmer than that for “Ode to Echo” the previous year. How would you compare the albums to one another? Do you think the former is a continuation of the latter?

Steve: The response was really good for “The Breaking of the World” which was released last spring (2015). We had a lot of guest artists appear on “Ode to Echo”, and we used some different techniques to record the drums for that album. I think we really improved the sound of the recording on “The Breaking of the World” and tightened up our songwriting a good deal. Otherwise, I think they are both very similar and represent one era, all be it a short one, of Glass Hammer. What we are working on now is more of a reboot for our sound. Glass Hammer is heading in a completely different direction in 2016.

Is “The Breaking of the World” a concept album in any sense?

Steve: In hindsight, not really. I may have seen some loose connections to some of the songs when we were in the process of writing it.

We’ve been polling fans to see what their favorite Glass Hammer albums are and why they love them so much. It’s clear that their favorites are the full-blown concept albums. It’s high time we did another one and we’ve been hinting at something as ambitious as “The Inconsolable Secret” coming up in the near future. I can confirm that we’ve written nearly an entire album’s worth of music and lyrics all directly linked to one storyline. In fact we’re in rehearsals now. “Perilous” was our last real concept album. None of us feel like doing those types of albums back to back. So it’s time.

You have a few tracks here that take the form of ‘three act plays’. What was the mindset behind writing the lyrics as such?

Steve: That particular song is “Third Floor”. Lyrically, it’s all really silly and intentionally overblown. It’s the fan favorite from the album and probably my favorite too.

Do you have any favourite songs from the new album?

Steve:Besides “Third Floor” I’d have to say “Haunted”. It’s based on something that really moved me on a trip I took with my wife and son to the mountains. We were exploring off the road in bear country at a place called Roaring Forks when we came across a child’s grave in the woods. The parents had left a marker with a very sweet, sad poem about the love they had for their child. The place just felt very sacred to me and I couldn’t get it out of my head for a while. It was like being “haunted”, but not in a bad way. It wasn’t a creepy place or experience, just a sad and lonely one.

Among the guest musicians on the new album are Michelle Lynn, and the well-known multi-instrumentalist Steve Unruh. What’s it been like having fresh hands in the stewing pot?

Steve: Fred and I run a recording studio full-time. So there is a steady stream of talent coming through our doors and into our lives. Michele only sang a couple of parts on “Third Floor” and “Haunted” but she also performed live with us last spring. She’s a great singer. Steve delivered and we couldn’t be happier with him.

Glass Hammer

What have you been listening to lately? 2015 recently ended; do you have any favourites from that year?

Steve: The most recent album I’ve enjoyed was Beck’s “Morning Phase” which I think came out in 2014. Beyond that it’s been everything from Muse to Dungen. My wife, Julie, and I listen to a lot of old Genesis albums when driving. I really love Bowie’s “Blackstar.”

There are only so many hours in a day. When we’re not cutting country tracks for up-and-coming songwriters or industrial pop for young singers, we’re working on Glass Hammer. I spent four hours yesterday just going over new music and working on lyrics for Glass Hammer. And that was my day off!

What do you think lies in wait for Glass Hammer in 2016?

Steve: Spoiler alert! This is something we are all committed to doing. It may be harder to pull off than we realize at present, but so far everyone is sticking to the plan. We have written an album’s worth of material and as I said, it’s a true concept album. Rather than work the parts out in the studio, we have agreed to rehearse the entire project as if it will be a live concert. Instead of a concert, we’ll be taking the band to a huge stage for a live recording session. What’s recorded will be the new album. We know we play harder when we’re live. The difference between GH on stage and GH in the studio is night and day. We’re edgier when we’re live. We’re not as polished but we’re just better; and we are going to attempt to capture that energy in a recording. It’s not a ground-breaking concept, but it’s new for us. There will still be some studio overdubs and careful mixing. Therefore, this may be a game changer for us with the fans and how they perceive us. The music is very intense and the concept is incredibly complex. Things happen, life gets in the way. If we are able to stick to the plan this will be a big deal for us.

Anything else you might like to add?

Steve: Just a reminder to your readers that we have over twenty years of material worth checking out. We’d love to have them order albums from our website at www.glasshammer.com. Our catalog is also available at iTunes, Amazon.com or their favorite Prog distributors. Don’t forget to get a copy of our latest release “Glass Hammer Double Live”, a limited edition double CD with a live concert DVD.

Thanks for taking the time to respond to this interview. Much appreciated!

Steve: Thank you, Conor!

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