A conversation with Glaciers at the Kilowatt Bar in San Francisco's Mission District
Interview by Wallace Mills
Wallace Mills: I know a little about where you guys came from. A lot of it’s more hardcore, not based lyrically on anything, all instrumental. Does that come from SF? Hanging with the Wig here in the early 90’s, Neurosis split from that, so I guess I’m curious if Neurosis is an inspiration?
Wig: If you say, Neurosis, the four of us will say, yeah, Neurosis; they are amazing. It goes on from there. A bunch of bands that splintered off that are inspirational for us.
Chuck: We were just playing; we never really talked about having a singer or vocals and we naturally acclimated sans vox. It just didn’t seem like the songs we were working on needed a singer. We had all been in bands that had singers. It just seems like in 2009, it’s not that big of a deal anymore. Maybe 15 years ago it was weird. Nowadays… whatever. Especially for me, I came from an avant-garde jazz background, so it wasn't a big deal.
Dennis: For me, 15 years ago, it came from not wanting to have a singer. Nothing against singers I was involved with, but I’d already done bands that were fronted by aggressive music with aggressive front men. The more I did, the less I wanted to repeat myself. It was a new challenge to do it. But now, I guess tons of bands do it...
Matt: You guys were coming from more of a HC background. Now you're more interested in atmospheric music. For me, I’m coming from the opposite background. I’m now getting more interested in louder stuff. My background was growing up on more jam band music. Grateful Dead, that kind of stuff!
Also, I was into metal as a kid; I’m against their grain. I’m getting more into heavy stuff now.
Chuck: I was actually going back and listening to some old tapes lately, and when I was in college, I did a radio show of all instrumental bands. It was kind of a surprise. 13 years ago, there weren’t tons of instrumental bands. Tortoise... early Don Caballero…
Matt: That was just getting relevant; those bands were doing tons of interesting things. Now you hear instrumental bands and it’s automatically called post rock. That’s just generalizing to me. I just think there’s lots of ground to be broken there.
Another band I wanted to throw out, as far as thought process, obviously with instrumental stuff you are thinking more technically... Shellac is one of those bands… Do you nerd out on technical stuff? How gnarly do you guys get?
Matt: yeah, like BATTLES.
Chuck: Especially for Shellac and BATTLES, there’s a certain intellectual vibe that comes with recording and performance, but I think for us, it’s definitely more of a casual dude vibe. None of us can afford $7,000 guitars. Those guys have awesome equipment. Bob Weston and Albini do it for a living. I'd be hesitant to say there's lot of technical thought process for our band.
Matt: Definitely, it’s more emotionally driven for us. Not as nerdy. I think Wig has a little bit of a background in music study, but we are more feeling it.
Chuck: To be clear, I love Shellac! (Laughter) I just feel that genre has a lot of the angry nerd musicians. There’s a lot of Chicago Touch 'N Go bands. For us, there’s more of a California thing.
Does location play into it? You guys are here in the bay area...
Wig: We live in California. Two of us live in Oakland, two of us live in SF - two of the most expensive places to live. This is not the number one thing we do, but we all love every single time we get together. But the crazy thing is, just so you know, Glaciers writing process happens at 10pm, 11pm, midnight on a Wednesday night. We have a few sodas in us, we feel good and, I’ll tell you right now, it's a cool process.
So you aren't the Rolling Stones, who gives a fuck? So what do you do?
Matt: I'm an architect. That's what I do everyday. It's super important to me, but I love hooking up with these guys.
You guys practice every week?
Chuck: Family permits once a week.
Dumb question, when you are drawing, do you listen to your music?
Matt: I have my headphones on a lot during the day and I have been listening to us lately. We just put out this record, but I’m kind of sick of it now! Ha! I get inspired a lot during the day; I hear things and I want to bring it to practice, or take it home and work on it.
Chuck: By day, I work in the music merch biz.
Like batman! (laughter)
Chuck: actually, in the morning, I am a shrimp fisherman (HA HA), and in the afternoon I make merchandise for rock bands.
Matt: MILT WALSH!
Chuck: What was the other question? Oh, I do spend a lot of time listening to our music. Like these guys, I listen to our recordings and demos all the time, especially guitar demos.
Do you ever zone out and dissect your guitar?
Chuck: I do a lot of our demos in Garage Band of just guitar, so yeah, I listen to it over and over, just my guitar playing. One of my fave things is just listening to Dennis drumming, though I don’t want to embarrass [Dennis], I love our drummer! I love my dead gay son!
Dennis, what do you do?
Dennis: I’m a graphic designer by day. For me, I've always been a musician in some form. And on a certain level, I can see it related to design. I used to have a label and part of the joy was creating and coming up with designs that people enjoyed. I just learned through music that I had this passion for design. I still have a shitload of records. I just loved looking at the covers. I liked playing drums… and records. The label ended up falling part, but I went to school for design.
Give me a couple of album covers you have stuck in your brain…
Dennis: I’ve talked about this numerous times with my friends... Black Flag Damaged... Back when SST did radio spots on KROQ. I don’t know how I talked my mom into, but I convinced her to buy the record for me. I saw that cover and it was so intense. As I got older, it was the Dischord singles, things like that. In my eyes, 7" was great. So many… Pink Floyd Dark Side of the Moon, Joy Division’s Peter Seville was a big influence on what I’m doing visually for the band now.
Chuck: A lot of the early Factory Records stuff was a huge influence on how Dennis and I looked at graphic design. Especially during the 80s when we got into punk, it wasn't as graphically oriented, it was pre-computers. I grew up outside of Washington DC in West Virginia, Dischord Records and the band Government Issue was always stuck in my head. Then it was SST Records… Husker Du artwork, for sure. Even the Replacements artwork, then in the 90s it became very computer oriented. It seemed like in the 80s album covers had original artwork, like Gang of Four, Adolescents, and then in the 90s the band typeface stuff took over.
So Wig, we were talking about what you do during the day…
Chuck: Wig is a very professional man
Wig: Well, these fellows have the Wig on a lease with an option to buy. I don’t really have time to do this band. Notwithstanding my beautiful children, the best part of my week is the band. I like what I do in Higher Education, but it’s still a job. 10pm to 1am on a Wednesday night when I do this with these three great guys…. Man, honestly, no kidding, this is the coolest thing ever, less my wonderful kids. It’s the next best thing. I’m a Dad, lots of responsibilities… Glaciers keeps me sane. Love these guys.
Stay tuned for Pt. 2