“You know what this place used to be?” Justin Beck asks. “This was Don Fury’s studio. He used to record everything down in the basement, and then I think this was his apartment.”
Like much of New York City, 18 Spring Street doesn’t look anything like it did when Fury was recording the most legendary punk and hardcore bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s. What was once the producer’s CBGB-adjacent second location is now a hip cocktail lounge that’s most definitely never seen any mosh pits or hardcore dancing.
But while punk and hardcore kids might not be the target audience for Mother’s Ruin, the Glassjaw multi-instrumentalist and I just look like two Jewish dudes sitting in the front window on a rainy Friday afternoon when his polite ask to peek into the basement gets turned down by the bartender. Instead, Beck gives a thorough description of what the studio looked like before breaking off into the scene that got him and his band there in the first place.
“It was the mid-to-late ‘90s — I don’t know what the name of that era was, but it was like living in a Blade movie because people were all about their fucking leather coats — and all of the sounds were colliding: punk, post-punk, hardcore, post-hardcore,” Beck recalls, sliding off his navy raincoat in favor of a black T-shirt and orange beanie. “Don approached us during that time, and it was fucking huge for us because he was such a legend. This physical place had so much output. It represented what we grew up on and the music that shaped our young minds, so of course we would schlep in three times a week to come here. It was fucking dope legacy-wise and tangibilty-wise. It was aspirational for us at the time, and I would say this was where Glassjaw became a real band — or at least where we started sharpening our tool set.”
To be honest, I absolutely had been wondering why Beck suggested meeting in Manhattan — after all, Glassjaw has always been a definitive Long Island band. With the band’s publicist, I’d floated the idea of doing the interview somewhere relevant to Glassjaw’s history, but I expected to meet somewhere in Nassau County rather than the city.
“It was a magical time in music for us,” Beck continues between sips of his coffee. “I’m sure everyone has that perspective in their embryonic stages of absorption, but it was a cool time. You had all these really different groups coming out of that world, and it was like if somebody came to a show, he’s not going to be able to wrap his head around the conglomerate of opening bands and other people. I was just explaining that it’s like if you just came to an Avengers movie, but you didn’t see the movies before it. The hardcore scene was like its own DC or Marvel [Cinematic] Universe. There’s so many connection points between individuals and bands with their engagement with the culture and politics and ethics of it all. There were so many layers to this universe, it’s like you had to start from Iron Man.”
From that MCU of NYHC in the late ‘90s, Glassjaw emerged as a unique breed all their own. Catching the ear of producer Ross Robinson to land on Roadrunner Records, their debut, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence, presented an absolute rawness that couldn’t be faked. But as with many first albums, the band’s 2000 release mostly consisted of previously written material (including a demo recorded by Fury).
In 2002 — after a particularly bitter split from Roadrunner — Glassjaw returned to the studio with Robinson, their first attempt at creating a singular album that moved on from their past. What emerged was Worship and Tribute, one of the most revered and influential post-hardcore albums of all time.
From emo to punk, hardcore to stoner metal, Worship and Tribute’s impact can be felt across massive swaths of the rock landscape for the past two decades. SPIN spoke at length with Beck about everything that went into making the seminal album and what it all means 20 years later.
SPIN: Going into Worship and Tribute, you’d just left Roadrunner and didn’t really have a record label at the time. What made you decide that was the moment to create a second album?
Justin Beck: I’ll try to keep my Jewish legalese tendencies to the side, but it was all a weird ruse where we were just kind of a trading card in someone else’s portfolio. The original goal [for Glassjaw] was to have a record on Revelation [Records], tap out, get a day job and move on. So when we got approached for the first record — we had a practice space on Rivington [Street] where Ross [Robinson] signed us — we were like, “It’s cool. This is the goal.”
Truth be told, we were a fulfillment point to close out his last clause with Roadrunner, so the second we signed, he jumped ship. We were this redheaded stepchild, and whether he needed to or felt morally obligated — or if he felt there was more meat on the bone — he realized that we were not going to continue on Roadrunner. At that point, he was shopping around deals to move his production company, and he wanted to take his own subsidiary elsewhere. So first we were being used as leverage to fulfill a clause, and then we were an equity piece to start his production. So we did pre-production out of my shitty warehouse in Long Island, and then [Robinson] was putting up the money to record, because he already had a label in mind for where he wanted to take us — so it was more like a bridge loan. He was helping fund the recording, but with an immediate goal to sell it off and start a new production himself.
Seeing as the first album was really just a combination of songs you already had from over the years, was there a cognizant decision to make Worship and Tribute more of a cohesive project?
The second record was definitely more of a cognizant effort of, like, “Alright, you guys have been tasked to make an album. How do you want to present it?” Glassjaw has always had a certain formula — as erratic as it was — where we touched upon certain things, but they always still worked within certain chord and musical structures, just different BPMs and levels of tenacity. On the first record — because they were songs written from different eras and we took scraps from my other band — Glassjaw’s voice wasn’t fully solidified. [On Worship and Tribute] it was like, “Alright, this is where we want to go, but we still want to have these ebbs and flows and peaks and valleys as far as structure goes.”
At first it was an organic thing. The best reps were accidental, and then as you put them to the board, you start saying, “Alright, we got all these movements, these riffs, these songs, these ideas.” Then as they start becoming songs in themselves, you start seeing buckets evolve — especially with Glassjaw, because we’d have our heavy ones, our sultry ones, our middle of the road ones — and you start seeing this formula in the un-formula of, “Alright, from 1-12 or 1-10, how bounce do we want it?” That’s when we wouldn’t necessarily write songs to fill those buckets, but take things off the table because we don’t need 90 songs that sound like a fucking human abortion. We could tone it down for a moment and put these songs here and tuck those other ones away. I think that that was an interesting opportunity.
Musically, I think it was during the Deftones tour or some shit, we’re in an RV and I’m just watching drum videos. I’m watching Dave Matthews and shit in the RV on this shit VCR/TV combo. There was once when we’d just gotten offstage and my fingers were bleeding, and I’m watching these guys in turtlenecks with Persian rugs on their stage. I said to the guys, “That should be the objective — turtlenecks and persian rugs. Let’s just have fun playing music, because this is obviously a different arena than playing to our hardcore fans.” I think that mentality became a subliminal thing.
Also, my partner at work was like this horrible fucking jazz nerd — like Chuck Mangione is good, but this was like fucking Michael Franks — “Popsicle Toes” was my partner’s favorite song. So I’d be at work and we’d have duels until we found that sweet spot of Stevie Wonder or someone like that, but I’d be stuck with fucking elevatorcore music all day. It was one of those things where you’re in a fucking factory for 14 hours a day, and it gets into your subliminal mind. So there was definitely these aspirations to maybe do like a Chuck Mangione on some stuff. That was the next evolution of Glassjaw. There would have been a trumpet for sure on the next record had we not taken a hiatus.
It sounds silly, but these little anecdotal points played into [Worship and Tribute’s] composition. We could pull [Glassjaw’s hardcore energy] back and not have to be on the whole time, because it’s both artistically lazy and physically exhausting.
Do you remember anything from the rehearsals or the writing process for Worship and Tribute?
We were doing demos on Cakewalk in my makeshift office, and we were writing and practicing in a rehearsal space in Freeport, Long Island. Our friend Matt was filling in on bass at that moment, and he’s one of those guys who’s like an idiot savant. No matter what he does, he just lands on his feet. He just has good luck. He’s this white guy with blond hair who looks like an underwear model, but you have to tell him, “Alright, do this. Do that. Now do this.” One night, I’m like, “Dude, yo, I want to get a cup of coffee because I’m tired. Let’s go to the bodega.” So we go down the block to the bodega, and he grabs an orange and a drink. We get back to the practice space, and we’re just talking, and he’s like, “Man, this fucking citrus, man. It’s amazing how it affects you. I’m ready to roll! Let’s get to these parts!” I looked down, and he’s literally still holding the fucking orange. He didn’t even open the fucking orange yet. I just remember that — and that there was no bathroom at the practice space, so it was just filled with empty water bottles and Gatorade bottles filled with urine. It looked like a murder scene. It was really dingy and grimy.
Musically, we had the first five songs or so well ahead [of recording]. We had “Cosmo[politan Bloodloss],” “Ape [Dos Mil],” a song which I called “Egyptian” but everyone fucking hated it, a song called “Grasper,” and a fifth song. Those were the first songs that we demoed on Cakewalk on a piece of shit PC. It was a moment where it was coming together, but it was still very, very not where it needed to be, in a weird way. It was like, “God this sounds like a shitty punk takeaway, and that’s not who we are,” so we started losing some of that shit. But I think there was an aspect of letting it sit that was important, because when you sat on songs, there was a comfort to them even though the voice wasn’t quite right yet.
I think “fucked” as an adjective is the last part of Glassjaw’s formula. No matter how pretty or how sultry any of the musicality gets, there needs to be a certain level of sadness to it. At the time, those songs were just too vanilla, but there was a comfort in the musicality, where it was like, “Alright, we’re laying low and we’re cool with it.” We didn’t need to force or smash them over the head from a pre-production standpoint, Other than that, it was the formula of me and Daryl exchanging ideas via tape cassette and then showing the squad and going from there.
What was that creative process between you and Daryl like? Did it change over the years?
I think, creatively, the formula was probably the same since 1993. I just think what happens as your band starts leaving the proverbial garage is more that the dynamics, personality-wise, among the group can make the process overly complicated and more difficult when it should be easy. People get overzealous, and you want to protect certain things from when egos and everything step in. I’m not saying between me and him, just as a general word. Even if you have other parties that are privy to the journey and are on the bus with you, when those people start fucking weighing in, it’s like, “Bro, don’t get it twisted. We like you. You’re cool. But shut the fuck up. Let’s just move on.” All bands do that. It might not be peachy keen, but everyone’s alive and still fucking civil. But you get into those artistic arm-wrestles with the supporting cast, and it’s just like “Guys, can we just keep it moving? Do we all need to put a fucking thumbprint on things? Do we really need to move it up a half-fucking-step just to make you feel like you moved up a half-step when it makes no fucking musical sense? Can we keep it moving?” It’s natural because people want to be involved for whatever reason. But yeah, let’s just say the formula between me and him has always been pretty static since literally 1993.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were working 14-hour days while also keeping the band going and making that record at the time, right? What was that like to balance your musical career and your day job?
I think it’s needed. I think bands make the biggest fuckup when they chase the opportunity versus handling the opportunity presented to them. There are artists, and there are performers, and the performer is someone who might leverage some artistic asset or equity they don’t have, but they’re pushing it because that’s the role they want. They don’t want a fucking day job. To me personally, growing up in hardcore, there was an ethos that it was working class shit. Hardcore was our Sunday Night Football. So to me, that was always the trajectory.
After the first record, I’m like, “Guys, we all made like $8,000 the entire year. Eight grand. You guys might be delusional and think you’re a pop star, but I’m not cut out for that shit. I’ll tour when the opportunity’s there, but I’m going to go do this fucking day job.” So from a young adult balance, it was a no-fucking-brainer because my parents taught me well. From an artist’s perspective, I think it’s vital. When people go, “I’m gonna cut everything else off and become an artist,” they don’t do shit — like they sit and smoke weed for fucking 20 years and scratch their ass.
The best art comes out of real life scenarios, so if you don’t have something at work fucking pissing you off, what’s going to push you to emote something in the form of words, a fist fight or an interesting note on an instrument? I think it’s intrinsic to authentic art that it’s coming from an emotional place. That was my take on music. I don’t need the artist’s loft because “I’m only doing this and I can’t be disturbed because I’m thinking about it all the time…” Like, get the fuck out of here. I never took it that seriously. So to me, it was natural. It’s the way any band should be conducted and any hardcore punk-derivative band should be treated. This music was never made to be that. You don’t deserve these things. It’s not the DNA of the music or the movement or all the semantics that are below the surface level.
When we got signed, I dropped out of fucking college. I was told it would be like six months, and then we did the first recording and went on the fucking road with Deftones, and I quickly realized the fucking label sucks. There was no trajectory. I was fucking 21, so what am I going to be, fucking 30 and just now entering the workforce after touring for seven years and making fucking eight grand a year? I was like “Nah. Fuck this.” So even before we went back to do Worship and Tribute, I started my merch company. I was like “Guys, we’re not going to be able to sustain this. You guys want to have a day job?” I offered everybody a job, but nobody opted in because they’re fucking lazy.
What was it like going back into the studio with Ross again to record Worship and Tribute? Did it feel different compared to the first record?
I felt like we did a lot more preparation, musically speaking. From a writing perspective, I think we were much more cognizant of trying to impose without over-imposing. We wanted to write interesting passages without overplaying. And then from an actual practicing standpoint, I felt we were — for the most part — more in tune with the instruments. That being said, Ross has this technique about building things up, driving personalities and trying to then wrangle in some type of chaos. I don’t like that type of recording. To me, it sounds like a fucking live demo. I’m down for classic live records and shit, but I want to make it seem like you had to watch the video to reconcile what you’re hearing. It makes it sound better when you’re seeing people flip off the stage. I was like “No, this is good music. Let’s go in and make a record.” I think Ross came in like, “This is great, guys, but it’s too polished.” But we stuck to our guns in certain aspects and said, “No, no, no. You don’t need to throw us across the room while we’re playing and then keep it for the sake of there being a flub in there. We want it to be musical and make sense.” I think that was definitely an interesting dynamic.
Were there any moments in the recording process that stand out to you as what made Worship and Tribute different from the first album?
Well, the first record is fucking rough for me to listen to. But me and Daryl always have this thing we call “the chills,” where there’s a moment sometimes when you watch a movie or you hear a great progression and you just get these overwhelming chills that go through your whole body — like you gotta piss or something. During the recording of Worship and Tribute we just didn’t get that, and it was like “What is going on?” Looking back on it, I think there were two things that were missing.
One is that I feel that my bass parts were fucking linear, because I didn’t have multitrack devices, so I could only really evolve a part so many times. It was like “Fuck, alright, I’m doing this, but where’s it going?” The songs were done, but I didn’t get those chills. And Daryl — who I think is one of the fucking greatest singers ever — Ross was gunning for him and trying to get him to just go crazy. Ross would always try to get the most out of everyone. He was done with vocals, and it was just not good. I knew that Daryl had something better than what he did, but there was this moment where we didn’t know how to address it because here’s Ross’s employer — who was the guy financing the whole thing, so you can’t shit on him. Then you have this other guy who’s doing his personal thing, so you’re in a weird spot with a lot of healthy egos and just people doing their work. Who wants to walk into someone else’s cubicle and be like “You’re a fucking dickhead?” We all have our flaws and our issues, and you don’t want to disrespect someone’s contributions.
But I remember, there was a car ride, and I was like “Yo, Daryl, there’s a lot of screaming…” and Daryl said “Oh, I thought you guys wanted that.” I was like “Nah, man, you have this whole other toolbox full of gems and talent within you. Do that.” The vocals were kind of done, and I feel like he went in and recut the whole fucking record after that. I don’t want to speak for him, but in my opinion, he recut that record in the way that he was made to do — and he did it in like two fucking days. That was a huge thing.
There were a couple of other major points. Even though Larry [Gorman, Glassjaw’s drummer at the time] didn’t play drums on the record, Larry is phenomenal at fucking singing. The guy is like a fucking angel. Larry is doing all the harmonies in the background on Worship and Tribute. When Larry came in and threw all these harmonies in, that brought everything to a whole other plane. Larry could be in a car and just start pulling out a third or fifth or seventh in perfect fucking harmony off the cuff. To this day, I’ll be trying to do any of that, whereas Larry just had that ability. To Larry’s accreditation, he’s in the background, and those little sprinkles are fucking genius.
And then after their contributions that I felt brought it over to the board, we had pseudo-recordings of all the records, and Larry’s drumming wasn’t there. We decided to bring in Shannon [Larkin]. During that time, I had to teach Shannon all the drum parts because everyone except for Todd [Weinstock, Glassjaw’s guitarist at the time] went home for the holidays. It was Christmas time, and everyone went home for like two or three weeks while I was just in this fucking condominium with a shitty 8-track with some of these tracks on it. In that moment, I now had some recorded guitars and drums, so I could start to evolve my bass parts. So like “Two Tabs [of Mescaline]” and “Ape” have all these rolling, looping bass parts that, to me — speaking from my own egotistical, narcissistic perspective based on my contribution — created these mode changes or more depth in the music. And all of those moving, rolling parts happened almost at the 11th hour accidentally because I’m in a room for three weeks and I’m just jamming by myself.
I think those three points — Daryl re-recording the vocals, the looping bass parts, and Larry’s fucking beautiful harmonies — are when it clicked from like “Oh, this is OK…” to like “Wow, alright. This is a good record. This is something I will probably listen to myself in the future.” First record? Not so much. This record? Yes. Because at the end of the day, my most selfish desire was that I just wanted to make music that I wanted to listen to because I couldn’t find it on the fucking radio. So to me, that was the most fulfilling moment.
What’s it been like having the rotating cast of musicians alongside you and Daryl in Glassjaw for nearly 30 years now?
If you’re a fucking L.A. metal band or a produced fucking hip-hop group and you’re this conglomerate, you enter the arena where everyone is trying to make it and coming in on like a temporary job submission — like “I want to try to go for the gig.” The problem with bands like Glassjaw and from the world we came from is that hardcore has a very democratic perspective. So even if someone just drives the fucking van, he’s part of the fucking group. That’s how everything was treated. So among our principles and upbringing, that was always a very coveted aspect.
However, it doesn’t always apply in real life. We were struggling, because internally and outwardly, we wanted to present that we were a fucking bunch of hardcore kids. We don’t want to be like “Written by Hetfield and Ulrich.” We didn’t want it to come off that way, so we’d always just say, “Written by Glassjaw,” and we were always very amicable like that. But sometimes, being generous and democratic on paper can bite you, because then when you need to go “Hey, no, it’s not like that.” People get it twisted. They’re like, “But you said in that thing…” and it’s like, “Yeah, but we’re in a safe space right now. You know what the fuck it is. Come on.” Like on Worship and Tribute, there was no bass player in Glassjaw, but I’ve always been the bad guy in the band, so the bad guy was the bass player.
Did you notice any boost in popularity after Worship and Tribute released? Was there ever any inkling that it could be a really significant album?
I think Glassjaw always was and is destined to be obscure and a failure. There was an important letter written by Mike Gitter, who was the A&R on the first record and on the last record we just did, Material Control. There was a Long Island guy who sent him our first demo unbeknownst to us because he ran a local club or something, and it said, “Gitter, you’ve got to sign this band Glassjaw — they’re the fucking shit.” Gitter wrote a letter back that said “Yeah, this is cool, but like so many of the bands they aspire to be,” and rattled all the fucking greats that I still wish we were half as cool as, “they are destined to fail. They’re not made for commercial success, and that’s just what it is.” I tried getting a copy of it from Gitter because I wanted to put it front and center on the last album, because I wear it like a badge of honor.
At the time, we used to clown Gitter like, “Oh, you thought we suck, but now we’re here because Ross says we’re good,” but he signed bands that were like The Rolling Stones of our scene — Orange 9mm, Jawbox, just a lot of these major bands for us. And when he wrote that letter, that’s when I was like, “You know what? Yeah. We were never built for that.” So at that moment — having that letter in the back of my mind — I realized that Warner [Bros. Records] is still a bunch of fucking corporate fucking toolbags.
There was never a point where things clicked, like, “Yeah, it’s happening.” Musically, I was fucking psyched. But I think I was sober in the sense that I knew we were never going to be cool. I’m a pessimist, so the cup is always half-empty for me. I’ve always felt like we just weren’t meant to be. It was always like, “Why is that shitty band that sounds like a shitty version of us from five years ago fucking selling out these bigger venues? Now we’re opening for them? What the fuck just happened?” And it’s like “Typical…” It’s very Larry David. Glassjaw is a cold brew. Yeah, it’s a cup of coffee, but you gotta wait fucking 20-something years to get to get the cup instead of just doing a quick press. I still don’t think it popped off for us at all.
Maybe not as far as radio success goes, but a bunch of people seem to like it a whole lot…
I’ll give it that. I can eat humble pie, but I can, in my adulthood, acknowledge that some people respect it — and it meant something to some people. That I can take away. Even if that’s only two people, it is what it is. But I’m proud of Worship and Tribute. I think everyone did a great job. I could put it on now and not cringe. I put on a lot of things from my younger years — whether it’s personal or something else — and Jesus Christ, a lot of shit does not age well.
Aside from being “a bunch of fucking corporate fucking toolbags,” what was it like to sign to Warner, particularly after your experience with Roadrunner?
So what happened was Ross fronted the money for Worship and Tribute as like a bridge loan to sell us off, and he wanted to take us to ARTISTdirect. It was like a failing… I don’t even know what kind of fucking platform it was, but it was one of these new future conglomerates for artists. I met with the owner — really nice guy — and Ross said it was a done deal. I was like, “Why would we go to a failing fucking DTC platform? I don’t even know what the fuck we’re doing.” And then I got word through somebody that some A&R guy at Warner Bros had a fucking hard-on for us. I took a meeting with him, and I was just like, “Nah, we’re good,” and he was like, “I’ll give you a crazy fucking deal.” I said, “Alright, yeah. Send it through to these people if you want to do that and get our name tattooed on your ass — which we never did.”
I go back to the studio and our dumbfuck manager at the time is like, “Get in here. We’ve got an important phone call.” So I get on ,and it’s the manager of Ross and them — and I remember so clearly being in the B Room of Sunset Studios — and they’re like “You ever hear the term ‘chasing the rabbit?’” I’m like “No, what’s chasing the rabbit?” “So pretty much…Oh, this is so great. You’re gonna love this. So there’s pretty much a way to kind of, like, set bait and, you know, get things going to land in your favor.” I’m like “OK… Where’s this going?” “Well, pretty much. you know, we found out you took that meeting with this A&R guy…and they took the bait beautifully! We got this blah blah fucking deal. X, Y and Z, and it’s fucking great!” And I’m saying to myself, “Oh, so I’m the rabbit? You motherfuckers…I own all of you. I’m a lot smarter than all of you goyim fucks.” I was like, “OK. Thanks. Right. Just like you planned. Thank you very much.” But I’m thinking about how Warner was “chasing the rabbit tail” and they were all just being cocksuckers since day one.
The best part about it is that I secured a significant advance, and then we got completely finessed and they took all of it. We got a fraction of the fucking thing. So again, it’s very Larry David-ian in the sense of like we were making a step forward and then like 20 steps back. That’s my business brain just looking at the deals and reconciling them, and historically they still do not reconcile.
We got a shit deal, but that’s how we came to Warner. One thing Daryl and I liked about Warner at the time was that all of these other labels are very culturally-driven — and that was one thing that we hated. We weren’t on Victory Records. We weren’t on Revelation. We weren’t on fucking Sub Pop. So we missed all the cultural benefits that came with signing to those labels. There were tons of shitty fucking bands that came out of Victory two years later, but because Victory had a built-in audience, those bands just blew the fuck up. Glassjaw didn’t get any of its hardcore accolades because people just knew we were on Roadrunner. We got lumped in with fucking Roadrunner people with shaved dreadlock heads, and that wasn’t part of our culture, so we didn’t connect there. We didn’t get that equity. We almost felt like we were tainted. So Warner Bros was interesting in the sense that it was agnostic. It was Frank Sinatra, random hip-hop guy and Madonna. It was “Alright, you’re just a band on it,” and it sheds this requirement to be part of a culturally-associated label.
What do you remember most about the months after the album came out, up until the brief hiatus?
I think “Cosmo” was the first song that went out to the radio or whatever, and then “Ape” was next. I think the videos were done intermittently during the cycle after, but I can’t recall if it was like two months or six months. I’d have to look at a calendar because all I remember was feeling like we had to practice and try to perfect it in preparation for touring. And I had to be a teacher because I was trying to find a new bass player. So I had to try out bass players while practicing and preparing to go broke for another two-to-three years while maintaining a day job.
What was it like to see that 2000s post-hardcore scene kind of form around music like yours a couple of years after the album came out, right as you were going on hiatus?
I think maybe Walter Schreifels would say, “Yeah, that’s fucking awesome,” but I think most people with a fair to healthy ego would say, “Ah shit, what the fuck?” I wouldn’t house it as jealousy or envy, because that more comes with the status where you want to be in that exact thing. I don’t think there’s a level where we were envious or jealous, but definitely kind of frustrated in the sense of like “Wait, how the how the fuck did that happen?” I guess I couldn’t reconcile it. Like, I could reconcile, “Oh, these guys went to fucking Victory and you fucking take a shit on a ham sandwich and a million kids are going to buy it just because it’s on Victory or whatever bullshit Christian fucking label that was just popping out bands and have automated zombie fucking fans.” That point I could reconcile.
It’s like the way Ian MacKaye is this godfather of such cool and great shit, but he definitely thinks everything that he influenced probably sucks. Except we’re not as cool as his shit. We’re a fucking garbage version of fucking his shit. It’s like [2012 film] Prometheus when [the Engineer] picks [the humans] up and they’re like “Why do you hate us?” and it’s like, “Because you’re a shitty evolution of what I am. You guys suck.” I don’t remember exactly what they say, but I imagine Ian MacKaye is like one of those guys, and we’re the shitty band X generations down from him. I can acknowledge and be humble like, “Yeah, our music is what it is,” but sometimes it feels like I went into the sleep chamber for fucking 500 years and came out like, “Wait, we’re connected to this shit? And if I was big enough, I would pick them up by the head and throw them across the room. But I will say that it’s cool when you find an artist that’s doing cool shit, and then you find out that you’re in their trajectory or their mental library. Those times are cool, but when it’s these trash bands, it’s like, “Fuck. Don’t cite us, please. You won’t want to be associated with a murderer who’s like your fourth cousin. Change the family name.”
Are there any songs on Worship and Tribute that stand out to you for one reason or another?
Musically. I think “Two Tabs” was a great song. If I need to pick one of them to leave on my headstone, that’s it to me. Just the musicality, the chord structure, the song structure, it just had the right modes and vibes. That’s a good representation of where I really wish we had more chops to do more of. Deep cut or not, that’s a good song from the drumming to the bass playing. The guitar was alright. Daryl’s vocals were fucking ace. That to me is like “Check this one out.” That’s my shit, although I like most of the songs. “Cosmo” not so much, and “Radio [Cambodia]” is a little too happy for me, but everything else I stand behind as good songs. As much of a curmudgeon as I am, I’m proud to have participated on that record.
Were there any regrets about going on hiatus seemingly just as you were building on Worship and Tribute?
Well, there’s always the optics for users versus end users, and it didn’t feel like The Rolling Stones were going to take us out and we’re gonna click into the next fucking Foo Fighters. I never got that vibe in the moment, and Daryl definitely wanted to pursue poppier stuff with Head Automatica, and the label was really gunning for it. So it was one of those things where I had a job, and I like being in New York, so I didn’t want to fucking tour six or eight months out of the year. It’s also crazy because for the fans in junior high or high school, it felt so long. But in adulthood, seven years feels like two weeks. So even at that point, we came back from hiatus like three fucking years later. Yeah, we went away from the traditional cycle of things, and we weren’t pushing out teasers or anything, but it didn’t feel like a forced hiatus. We were just doing this other shit.
I don’t think it hurt us because I never felt it was there. If anything, I think when we came back, it helped recalibrate and defrag the platform that we were on. It kind of reestablished like, “OK, this is where we honestly are, and we’re cool with it.” I feel like 2007-2012 — or at least 2010 — was a fun time. It was very fun and creative and low-pressure. We were doing it because we wanted to, not because we fucking have to. I think that came back to the essence of when we were in high school and college just doing a fucking band. We got to shed all of the management and the label and ancillary parties who were like, “You gotta go on tour!” It was like “Nah, you need to tour because you don’t have a day job, but we’re cool. We’re good.” I think that break was good because it allowed us to come back full circle to what the original intent was. Glassjaw is a fucking art project, and that’s it.
Is it weird at this point seeing kids in the mosh pit at your shows who weren’t even alive for your first run?
I’ll put it this way: I don’t really interact with fans, but there was this guy Cody [Hosza] who played bass this last tour. I’m collecting information because I’ve got to do work permits and shit for international and insurance, and I’m collecting motherfuckers’ IDs. I’m like “Jesus Christ. Glassjaw started in 1993 and this fuck was born in 1994!” I think that’s when it hit me like, “Oh shit, that’s real!” There was also somebody else who was like “I came to the show with my son,” and I’m like “Fuck, I’m fucking old old as dirt.” Wait… how old are you?
I’m 32. So I think I was 13 when I saw the video for “Ape” for the first time.
See, you’re a youngin. But that makes sense because I think that like 9-13 is the most impactful points for like musicality and identifying who you are as you advance in life. Not your job per se, but that’s the fork where you experience things that are naturally in everybody and put you on a trajectory regardless of environmental factors. But at that point, I was always into metal and inappropriate, heavy, brutal shit — like I was fucking listening to Anthrax in fucking first grade or kindergarten. But like 10-13 years of age, those records that you listen to then are like foundational cornerstones that I think influence even some musical decisions that I make as a fucking 40-year-old adult nowadays.
What do you think it is about Glassjaw that resonates with the youth even 20 years later?
I think like fashion, art, architecture, and anything, everything is relevant to a certain timeline, and there’s a nuance to that timeline. It’s not necessarily that the history books always acknowledge the first to something, but it’s like when something is organically and naturally created and has its own voice, inevitably that’s going to resonate. I think part of it is because maybe it doesn’t exist elsewhere, so there’s no other comps. And the other aspect is there aren’t reference points to be like, “Oh yeah, this sounds and looks like that,” because then you’re inevitably just an iteration of something else. I think people can take an essence or a voice that might have grown authentically, replicate it and get more popular in the moment and soar above commercially. But I think at the core of it all, people still want to go around a fire and hear a real story or hear something authentic.
I don’t like using the word “artist” with us because I feel like we were just students and this was our project. But we played by certain rules and guidelines, and I always said, “Think outside the box, but execute within.” It’s easy to be like, “I’m gonna go be a fucking collage artist” or “I’m gonna go fucking be a painter” or “I’m gonna go make a fucking bakery” or whatever and do something abstract, because you could go and superficially replicate shit. But I think when people are working within certain rules and regulations, and take those rules and regulations and the toolkit and make something newer and just more out of it, it shows more accreditation to problem-solving and intuitive engineering and creation.
It’s like if I gave you a handful of random shit and you made a car out of it versus the guy who already has a metal and plastic factory. It shows ingenuity. And when you’re working with confinements and attempting to make something new, I think, get a longer resonation out of it, because of that ingenuity. Anyone could build a house and make a fucking midcentury fucking ranch that looks like every other midcentury ranch. You’re not necessarily getting a voice, and you’re just using ingredients. But when you have certain rules and guidelines within that school of thought — or when you’re working within certain parameters — making new things is a lot more difficult and respected than just appropriating someone else’s toolbox and doing one-offs here and there.
That’s the difference to me between artists and performers. Performers can go and sing over anything. A commercial painter can paint over anything. There are people in China just painting and replicating the sickest painters, but they’re not artists. They have a skill set, but it’s not an authentic voice. I feel like performers could be performing — and they could certainly have that panache — but they’re malleable to the essence, which is the art. The art is secondary — it’s just a vehicle to move their performance agenda — versus wanting to create an authentic nucleus of art. I’ve always hated people who jump genres. Whether it’s a visual artist, an architect, or a musical artist, if you just hop from genre to genre, you’re just lazy. I can go do a fucking stupid hip-hop record, but it’s not authentic to who the fuck I am. Who the fuck wants to listen to fucking middle-aged Jew do fucking hip hop right now?
What was it like to play the first two albums all the way through on this most recent anniversary tour?
At first [Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence] was like “Holy shit,” because we hadn’t played 90 percent of the songs as a band in 20-plus years, let alone the whole album. I was sitting there relearning all the bass parts and guitar parts, and it took a minute to rework the songs to the point where they were mostly kosher. There were some things where it was just like, “We’re not doing that. We need to re-engineer this fucking thing.” So after we re-engineered that, I was like, “Alright, now we should go re-record this thing because now it sounds like what it would’ve if we recorded it with Don Fury.” Glassjaw with Don Fury was a different band versus Glassjaw now, so it was like this was what it would have sounded like had we still been on that trajectory.
But when we came to actually play it, there’s a certain physical energy that came with it. Like I don’t move when I play, but I’m gonna tap my fucking foot, and surprise, you tap your foot for fucking an hour and a half, you break a fucking sweat and get exhausted. Playing that record — even though it’s not more riffing — it’s more physically fucking exhausting than it is to play Worship. From a flow perspective, feeling it on stage as a collective and feeling the reciprocation from the crowd, Worship definitely flows so much fucking better — without a fucking doubt. You feel the physical energy reciprocating onstage from the crowd, and there’s a different essence for the second leg, by far.
Is there anything else you want to add about Worship and Tribute?
Well, I will say I’m glad that when I went back to Warner Bros to get the rights to put “Convectuoso” on it, I think that was a nice box to check. “Convectuoso” got fucking shelved because of Warner and Roadrunner being a bunch of fucking cunts — more Roadrunner at the time. When we recorded it at the time, that was the song after “Two Tabs.” So 20-plus years later, for it to finally come out as it was originally intended, I feel that was a nice point. That was cool. I think we were even up to mixing and mastering when we found out it wasn’t going to be on there, and I was like, “Wait, what? That’s the album closer.” It’s like going to work, and you got your fucking suit and tie on and then you realize you forgot your fucking pants. You got to really stop, drop and think about what the fuck you’re gonna do. I think in hindsight, “Two Tabs” was a fine closer and the record did what it did, but “Convectuoso” had a different effect to it, and it was nice to represent that now.