This Halloween composer, producer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Glampire is releasing his fourth full-length album entitled The Soft White Ghetto, a mix of goth drama, glam flamboyancy and well-crafted pop aesthetics.
Concert Livewire's Tony Bonyata caught up with the self proclaimed 'Glitta Nigga' to discuss his influences, 'glambient' writing techniques, worship of the 'material girl' and other things that go bump in the night.
Livewire: First of all, why the name Glampire?
Glampire: Well, why not? Naming a band, or naming a record or book or movie or yourself, for that matter, is a very arduous task. In the history of rock n roll and pop music culture we've seen and heard so many different types of names. It just came to me. I was working on my first record "The Beginning of Terror"and it just hit me in the middle of the day when I was thinking about the music and the style. I wanted a name that could give me the freedom to do happy music, sad music, dramatic, loud and soft (acoustic and electronic) music.
Livewire: Have you created Glampire as an alter ego for yourself, similar to Bowie's Ziggy Stardust?
Glampire: First of all, thank you for putting me in a pantheon such as Ziggy Stardust. Basically, this thing Glampire is who I am - it's all my faculties and capacities as a human being. I think my real close friends know it's a name that suits who I am, where I've been and where I'm going. Someone once said to me that you don't know if it's going to be a joke or not, and I said 'but isn't that always the best, when you're thrown off guard like that.' I've done enough shows where you get on stage and the first thing people do is look at you. I learned a long time ago that before you even utter a word, before they ever hear the first note, they are going to see you. That's the strongest presentation and I've always wanted to have a strong visual presentation. You always get the one or two people who are 'nudge, nudge, wink, wink, look at this.' And then I open up my mouth and launch into a song and it's amazing that you see the prejudice completely turn. Because I'm not a joke. I can actually sing, write songs, play - I have a sound, I have hooks. And people can feel that. The bottom line with Mr. Bowie is that he really cares about the music. He really cares about putting something out with culture that has a flavor of risk. You can label people like him and Madonna as rehash artists, but I don't really think that's the case. I think they're the conduit between the street and the mainstream. I look at myself in the same way. I'm definitely not mainstream, but I'm making enough noise in the gutter so hopefully someone will hire me to be that conduit.
Livewire: How would you describe your music?
Glampire: The new record is a continuation of what I was calling my music last year, and that's 'glambient.'
Livewire: But there doesn't seem to be a lot of ambient music on this album. There are soundscapes and textures in the back, but it's the pop that really seems to stick out.
Glampire: Well there you go, soundscapes and textures in the back. There's really two ways to approach a song. The one that is most obvious, and the one that most people take, is to write the song and let the recording capture the song. The other way is to write your song and say, 'okay, now how do we deconstruct it. How do we throw something in here and still keep the essence.' It's really like making a good salad, you know. You've got your greens and dressing, and then all the stuff you're going to put in it. And salad can be this amazing meal in itself. Well it's just like writing songs and producing them. The ambient stuff is like what you said about that stuff in the back. Maybe it starts as an intro, maybe it becomes an outro, maybe it drops into the middle of the song, maybe it's just little bullshit that gets peppered into the verse. The song "Halloween in July" is just like 'here it is, baby. Here's the five parts - verse, chorus, bridge, chorus, end.' I remember writing that song in the course of an afternoon. I was sitting on my fire escape in July, wearing makeup and the title just hit me. I went in my house, picked up my guitar and just banged it out. A song like that didn't really require anything else but the song and the instruments. Sometimes, though, you want put a little extra on, even though it may be a really good composition. A song like "Shooting Your Mouth Off" is a very good indication of the "glambient" formula. A lot of the stuff I do just boils down to taking a risk. I love artists who are willing to take risks. The last band to really do this was Jane's Addiction. I get thrown in Perry's (Farrell) company a number of occasions and I'm breathless. He's the last rock and roll superstar who I saw and I was like 'all hail this guy!'
Livewire: Your new album, The Soft White Ghetto, blends dark goth images with undeniable pop. Do you think that packaging the dark side around catchy pop melodies will help spread the Goth faith to today's youth?
Glampire: People say that Goth is waiting to come to mainstream, but only in terms of the music world. I mean, hell, Anne Rice, how many books has she sold? Who' s she selling them to, Buffy the Vampire Slayer? I mean there's about five or six T.V. shows that are about witches, warlock, devils and demons.
Livewire: But I don't ever see Goth hitting the mainstream in the music world.
Glampire: Well, I think it has in pockets. Look at a band like The Smiths or The Cure. And The Cure was a band that was selling out stadiums. There's a lot of closet Goths. So I think that Goth is already in the mainstream to a degree. It seems to be some sort of taboo marketing and buzz word. Obviously in the wake of things like Columbine and the propaganda that surrounds the culture, it's never going to hit the true mainstream.
Livewire: You've added the breakneck drum n bass rhythms of jungle to songs like "Night Time" and "Burning Bridges." Do you see this as a force in the future of your music, or is it just a passing fancy as it was for Bowie on his Earthling album?
Glampire: Brian Eno said a great quote in Wired magazine when they asked him what computers need to have in the future? and he said 'more Africa in them.' And I couldn't agree more. If you look at the rise of drum n bass and all this computer generated music that utilizes syncopated African rhythms, they listened to Brian Eno. Someone was paying attention.
Livewire: Where do you see the future of music going?
Glampire: I think we're into the beginning of the digital cyber artistic revolution. The battle has just begun. The days of dinosaur forms of touring are not going to go away, because everyone wants to see it in the room as it's happening. And that's great, because we do need to carry on the tradition of live performing and take all this technology and bring it to people on a scale of what Kiss or Bowie did. Enough with the flames and fireworks, though. I have my own ideas about how to present a rock show in an arena and not have it look like the last ten bands that just played.
Livewire: Your look is eerily similar to that of Marilyn Manson. Are you at all influenced by either his music or his image?
Glampire: Well that's only because he's the closest guy in culture to wear makeup. Him and the guy from Orgy. I've met all those guys. We've all been at the same bars at the same time. All I can tell you is that we're in the same graduating class by two or three years. We grew up on the same shit. What can I tell you, you know, everybody probably told him he looked like Alice Cooper. But I want people to have that surprise of 'look at that, he's not wearing the same shit as everyone else.'
Livewire: Do the comparisons piss you off?
Glampire: No, not at all. The difference between me and Marilyn Manson is he is an actor playing a musician and I am a musician playing an actor. And I'm not taking anything away from his music or what he does, but that is how I perceive it. Hey, he got his. I know how hard it is to get into the business and to stay in the business, I wish him all the best. As a matter of a fact, he's better for business than Britney and all those other motherf**kers.
Livewire: Could you share a little pre-Glampire history about yourself? Who turned you on to music?
Glampire: I was raised on Motown and funk and Marvin Gaye. My mom and my little sister were really into all that. And then the dinosaur '70s rock was there, of course. I remember when punk and new wave happened only because I was big Kiss fan. All of these different people and these different ways of expression had to inevitably come out of me like that. Now I am the biggest Madonna fan you'll ever meet.
Livewire: Madonna? Is it the music or the packaging?
Glampire: Everything. When I was younger my mom got a promo copy of her first album through a DJ friend. I remember I looked at the cover and I threw it on and I was immediately hooked. You could feel her soul, you know, she's an Italian girl. You could feel the black in her. You could feel the spirit.
Livewire: I see that you studied guitar under Robert Fripp? Did his tutoring affect your style and approach to playing music?
Glampire: Yes, it was a guitar craft seminar in West Virginia and it was a probably the most tense 5 1/2 days of my life.
Livewire: I hear the Fripp influence on your guitar on a number of songs from The Soft White Ghetto. Is that intentional?
Glampire: When I'm making my records I'm channeling, writing, engineering, producing, making brown rice. I'm literally doing a hundred things at once. It's guerilla warfare. So these influences are bound to come out.
Livewire: If you were going to a Halloween Ball this year, what would you dress up as?
Glampire: That's a good question....I'd probably go as Madonna....why not .
Livewire: But which of Madonna's looks would you choose?
Glampire: I still have got some time to decide, right?
Livewire: The majority of your albums are released on Halloween. What's the reason behind this?
Glampire: Halloween is the best holiday. Nobody gets prejudice against Halloween. It's for everyone of all ages, creeds and colors. It's a time when you can just do your thing - just let it out. That's why I release all of my records on Halloween, because everyday for me is Halloween. It's my mindset.
Livewire: What does 2001 hold for Glampire?
Glampire: Spring tour. The release of "Halloween in July" video. But the main thing is to get out and tour - by hook or by crook. Whether it's just me with a digital 8-track and my guitar or a band. I'll probably get out there in every capacity I've been known to tour in throughout the year. I really want to get it out. I think it's time.