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Progressive Rock Interviews

Glass

Interviewed by Gary Hill
Interview with Greg and Jeff Sherman of Glass from 2006


MSJ: For those not familiar with the band, could you give us a bit of a rundown on the history? This is sort of a second coming of the group, right?
Jeff Sherman: Well, Glass was originally together in the late '60's early to mid- '70's. We evolved out of a cover band in the Pacific NW called "The Vaguest Notion." We were all childhood friends in a small town in Washington called Port Townsend. There were originally four of us, my brother Greg (on organ and electric piano), myself (on guitar), our next-door neighbor Jerry Cook (on drums) and my longtime friend Mark Hawley (on bass). We were just your typical circa- 1967 cover band doing songs by bands like the Beatles, The Byrds, The Doors, Traffic, etc.

We used to play high school pep dances after the school games and the occasional Teen Dance. We had problems with Mark getting to play out of town though. His parents were quite strict. So. . we were searching for some situation that gave us a little more freedom.

That change arrived one fateful night in August 1968. Jerry, Greg and I had gone to Seattle to see The Jimi Hendrix Experience at the Seattle Center Coliseum. It was one of Jimi's victorious "coming home" tour finales as I recall. Unbeknownst to us at the time he had a very special support act - a band called The Soft Machine. An unbelievably talented trio that played a brand of power-trio rock unlike anything we had ever heard. They blew us away. Seriously. Re-arranged us and our concepts of what was possible in music at some sub-atomic level. And they did it without a guitar player.

That night was the start of Glass, though we wouldn't find that name until a bit later. We came back to Pt. Townsend that night with opened minds and the kind of raging enthusiasm only the energy of youth can sustain. Anything and everything seemed possible. Their sound was so huge! It incorporated everything - elements of jazz. . heavy music. . even pop. We immediately moved me over to bass and started writing and playing all our own music. Much-influenced by Soft Machine needless to say.

As a newly minted power trio we decided we needed a "power trio name". . like "Cream". . . "Glass" was decided on and that was pretty much that. Our new original music incorporated elements of everything we liked in Soft Machines music. . and more. Mostly instrumental in nature and heavily centered around shifting time signatures, complex arrangements and extensive soloing on both Greg and Jerry's parts. Glass remained together in this original configuration until the summer of 1975. At that time drummer Jerry Cook was forced to leave the band for personal reasons and longtime friend Paul Black was brought in as his replacement. A subsequent career move to New York yielded no fruits (a couple of us had shopped a demo tape around Europe the preceding year to no avail) and in the fall of 1976 Glass called it quits.

All through this period Glass grew artistically, developing our own unique blend of jazz-rock and adding new elements of symphonic rock as brother Greg became an equal songwriting partner. The addition of new "cutting edge" instruments such as the Mellotron and multiple ARP synthesizers to Greg's keyboard setup further allowed Glass' music to grow and take on new shades and colors. I started writing on and playing keyboards as well with the addition of a Fender Rhodes electric piano. I also contributed songs written on acoustic guitar (my very first instrument) and electric guitar. Glass' musical canvas became quite large. In 1978 Glass had a brief reunion with drummer Jerry Cook for a recording project that later became the track "For Ursula Major and Sirus the Dog Star" on our self-released archival debut CD set "No Stranger to The Skies" in 2000. "No Stranger . . " did so well it was picked up and re-released my our current label Musea Records in 2002. Glass final permanent reunion happened in 2001 with a reunion concert in May in our old hometown of Pt. Townsend. The concert was held at the Port Townsend Legion Hall - a fitting venue, as it was one of the last concert venues Glass played before their breakup in 1975.
MSJ: I know artists hate to have their art described or pigeonholed, but how would you describe it?
Jeff Sherman: I would say if one had to define our music it would fall somewhere between "jazz-rock" and "symphonic rock" with experimental flourishes. We've always considered ourselves firmly within the "progressive rock" label. In the end it's really up to the listener to decide for themselves though, isn't it?

MSJ: What are your musical influences, both personally and as a band?
Greg Sherman: On the band side, the obvious influence is Soft Machine. Other influences include Yes, Mahavishu Orchestra, Egg, Emerson Lake and Palmer. On the personal side, Keith Jarrett's solo piano improvisational work, and Beethoven's symphonies.
MSJ: Where did the various members of the group come from - any other musical projects we might be familiar with?
Greg Sherman: We all grew up together in Port Townsend, Washington, up in the Pacific Northwest. We've had many other musical endeavors, all of them obscure. "The Sherman Brothers Band" was an attempt to break into the mainstream rock scene in the Pacific Northwest in the '70s. Jeff and I both have solo CD efforts in the last few years, also.
MSJ: Are there musicians out there with whom you would like to work in the future?
Greg Sherman: Doing something with Robert Wyatt has always been a dream. We also plan to do a joint recording project with Richard Sinclair in the future. We did some rehearsals with him at a Beach House in Ventura a few years back, and found he had killer electric guitar chops. It fit in quite nicely with the Glass sound.
MSJ: What do you see as the differences between the music world since you started?
Jeff Sherman: Well needless to say, the advent and growth of digital technology has allowed many more musicians to be able to afford to release their music on CD. Combine that with the power of the Internet to "level the playing field" in regards to competition with the larger record companies and you have heretofore unknown artists being able to establish a fan base - and, thusly, sales. When Glass was first together the major record labels controlled everything - manufacturing, distribution and promotion. Unless they believed your music was a viable commodity, you were - like Glass - out of luck. The big problem of course was it was extremely frustrating and depressing to know your music is good and that there are people out there willing to pay to own your records and you have no way of delivering it to them for the financial benefits that are necessary to keep any long-term band situation together. With digital technology - and the ability to self-release your own music on CD and promote it on a website- an artist can actually get their music out. This is in essence what Glass did. We took what started as a simple Master Tape archiving project - our analog tape Demo Masters were actually falling apart - and released the music on our own little record label, Relentless Pursuit Records.
MSJ: Do you think that downloading of music is a help or hindrance to the careers of musicians? It's been said by the major labels that it's essentially the heart of all the problems they are having in terms of lower sales - would you agree?
Jeff Sherman: Well. . of course they'd see it that way. They no longer get to be in total control of an artist's career! In answering this I must first confess to your readers that in part my view of this is shaped by the fact that I have never made a lot of money with our music. We're lucky to break even. The thing that drives us is our art. And the satisfaction we receive knowing that people all over the world are enjoying the fruits of our hard labor. Personally, to me having someone write me an email - a total stranger - from say, Siberia (this actually happened) and thank me profusely for making music that makes their life more enjoyable through their long hard winter - well it doesn't get any better than that - the human connection. But that said, it would be nice to actually think we could totally support ourselves and our families someday with just our music. Needless to say, each of us has a career and life outside of our art that feeds and houses us. And artistically I think keeps us uncompromisingly honest in our music.

OK, to answer your question now - I think that the dissemination of music through the Internet and the downloading of music by fans is a huge boon to an artist. I know we all read about how record sales lag because of it but in my own experience And in the research I've done on it, people who download free music almost always buy an artists CD as well. For one thing - the downloaded MP3 file a person can get from the Internet is not the same audio quality as the same song on a CD. Now to some people that doesn't matter. But to the more discerning listener - and there are a lot of them in progressive music and to musicians - it is noticeable, in my opinion. It is to me anyway. I think all the flap about downloading music is really about frightened "middle-men" in the "music distribution business" - i.e. larger record companies. My advice to them is "go back to used car sales - you have no business interfering in the growth and nurturing of any artist". Downloading music is a great way to promote any artist. And fears that people won't buy the same song on a CD are groundless in the bigger picture. I mean exactly how much money do Metallica and those bands that are wasting their time suing fans - how many hundreds of thousands of dollars do they need? The arrogance of some of these acts shows just how far they have fallen - how disconnected they have become from the real world. And from their fans (who I might add are the reason they can drive around in Mercedes and own mansions). Enough of that rant.
MSJ: What's ahead for Glass? Touring, more recording?
Greg Sherman: The concept of touring in prog music is not a sustainable one, due to the lack of any venues that offer any money to play. We continue to set up a gig here or there - the most recent ones in the Los Angeles area with the band "Forever Twelve". As for recording, I think we would like to finish writing and record a concept CD called "Europa" about the history of Europe that we started several years back. It's an immense effort though. It will be a double CD with lots and lots of tracks.


Jeff Sherman: I think the way we feel as a band is that we've had more than 24 years "off." And that we've been unbelievably lucky to get to do our "dream" again. That almost never happens in someone's life. Because it has for us, we value each and every day that we are together again. We want to spend as much time as we can creating Glass music and sharing it with the world. You know, we waited a long time for this to happen. To be "known" (to whatever extent we are known) worldwide. We are currently writing new material for the next Glass CD and also playing selected gigs here on the West Coast to support our Musea "Illuminations" release. Fans can keep updated on our gigs at our webpage. We have an unconfirmed gig coming up in March where we will support two of our Canterbury music friends ex-Caravan and Hatfield and the North Legend Richard Sinclair and his new keyboard player Alex Maguire. We met them at Progman Cometh in 2002. They are great and it is an honor to get to support them musically while they are here in The States to headline BajaProg 2006 in the reformed Hatfield and The North. I'll even tantalize our fans a little and say there is some talk about a small European Tour this fall. But until we iron out the details I'll keep that close to the vest. We have also solicited the good folk that put on "Progday" in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for a spot there this coming September.
MSJ: What was the last CD you bought, or what have you been listening to lately?


Greg Sherman: Robert Wyatt's "Cuckooland" was the last.


Jeff Sherman: The last CD I purchased was "Robert Wyatt and Friends Live at Drury Lane Theatre" which is a cleaned up release of the oft-bootlegged concert by Soft Machine drummer Robert Wyatt and friends in 1972. It was one of his only concerts after his tragic accident that left him paralyzed from the waist down. And it is the only one I believe that contains the entire "Rock Bottom" album. "Rock Bottom" is an amazing work - an all-time high mark in progressive music, in my humble opinion.
MSJ: What has been your biggest Spinal Tap moment?
Jeff Sherman: Well you are mentioning one of my all-time favorite movies so how can I not answer? Hmm. . .well. . as I recall my brother Greg - like Tap's Nigel Tufnel - always played his solos at "11". We were definitely one of "Washington's loudest bands"
MSJ: Finally, are there any closing thoughts you'd like to add?
Jeff Sherman: I think I've pretty much covered it. It might sound a bit cheesy, but I'd like to thank all our friends and fans - both old and new - for allowing my Glass brothers and me to "live our dream" again. It is quite life-affirming to know that our original artistic vision didn't end up relegated to the dustbins of history.
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