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By Phil Bonyata
Coming full circle
Michael Glabicki - Rusted Root
"One on One"
July 14, 2009
Who would have guessed that Rusted Root recently celebrated their 20th anniversary or that the band prefers the intimacy of small clubs to the mega festivals littering every street corner in the world? Rusted Roots' music is distinct both spiritually and sonically. The band shifts musical styles as adeptly as a chameleon shifts colors. They go through band members at a furious rate, but each new musician adds their own voice to their musical evolution and journey. Michael Glabicki is the constant...no the anchor that glues all of the disparate colors into a musical rainbow.
Livewire's Phil Bonyata recently sat down with Michael to chat about truth, tennis and the Rusted Root way.
Livewire: You formed Rusted Root in 1988 - what's it feel like now that you've passed the two decade mark?
Glabicki: (laughs) You know what it honestly feels like...we're just getting things together. You know it feels great, like right now we have our new record and we feel rejuvenated and the fans seem rejuvenated as well. It's that cycle where the audience feeds off of us and we feed off of the audience. Everything is really, really accelerated right now. In general where the industry is at right now and where we are in a band - we're really excited because everything is hitting us really nicely right now. Right now we seem to be standing out in our live shows - it's who we are.
Livewire: Of all of the former band members of Rusted Root - whose talents do you miss the most?
Glabicki: Umm...It's hard to say really, I mean everybody has played a role and played it well. Let me think here...People come and go and it seems to be synched up with a natural force. When the sound changes everything has already prepared itself for that change. So, like with our new sound right now - it's similar in a lot of ways, but everything is filled and filled very robustly right now.
Livewire: There's a million talented bands who never "make it" Why do you feel Rusted Root has been blessed?
Glabicki: I think that there is a real spiritual element to to the song-writing and to the chemistry of the band. Our intentions on playing music is to really open up doorways within ourselves and our audience. To explore other dimensions and other realities. I think that we've accomplished that and it's become sort of a proven thing with us. It's taken us years to make it a lasting thing and that's a lot of hard work. I think realistically it's a combination of that spiritual vibe, but it's also a combination of coming from a blue collar town where work is really the only thing.
Livewire: If you have to be labeled - what would you label your music?
Glabicki: Oh jeez...
Livewire: Alright, gun to your head - you have to do a label.
Glabicki: (laughs) Alright...umm...I would say world, soul, shamanistic, aggressive dance music.
Livewire: Alright, what's your definition of a jam band? I mean you've been labeled a jam band by many.
Glabicki: My definition is longer guitar solos, intertwining guitar solos which we do maybe 1/2 percent of the time. Maybe that's why we're labeled incorrectly - we are improvisational, but the band flows together - the drums, the percussion, the guitars - everyone moves in different realms. It's not those guitar solos that go on for 10 minutes at a time. But I think that's why we are incorrectly labeled.
Livewire: When you're off doing your solo work - do you feel it's more of a diversion or more of a liberation?
Glabicki: Oh, it definitely connects to what we do as a band. A lot of the songs on the new album were formed solo for a couple of years. What I was able to do there is explore the lower dynamics. It's not that the band can't do the lower dynamics - it's that we never do that because there is always different and free ideas going on at once. For me it was like "wow" listen to this and see what I can do and then bringing that to the band and "hey guys listen to this" and the guys would say "hey, that's really cool" and putting the lower dynamics with the louder, aggressive stuff that we do. It really opened up the whole spectrum and emotion of what the band can do now.
Livewire: You've performed at Bonnaroo and, I'm sure, many other major festivals - Do you think that the proliferation of so many festivals worldwide has diluted fan interest? (I saw you at Hedgpeth Festival in Wisconsin a few years ago and that was a one and done).
Glabicki: I would have to say yes. We're really excited what we've done and looking where the industry is at and we decided let's go back and be a small band again. Play as many small clubs as we possibly can - I mean we're still going to play the bigger venues, but part of what we are doing now is going to these little secondary markets and really generating this grassy roots type vibe with our fans and that seems to be way more exciting then playing any of the big festivals. It would be like seeing a big band you've loved all of your life and see what it feels like to see them in a small club. It's amazing!
Livewire: You've been on the road quite a lot over the years - tell me one of the strangest things to happen to you while on tour.
Glabicki: It's when we played with Page & Plant...we played with them a month and a half on their No Quarter tour - I think it was '97. I guess we were at the Gund Arena that just opened up in Cleveland and I was out with my brothers and celebrating my younger brother's birthday and I got back to the venue and I was running a little bit late and I was in a light jog at that point - got to the venue and the security lady said that my pass was fake. I said "no, no if you call my manager, here's the number, blah, blah, blah..." she actually called more security on me and they threw me out (laughs). So, I was running around outside this big arena looking through every little window I could find to see if could see someone I knew. Luckily I found the wife of our percussionist at the time and she was able to convince them to let me in. We were two minutes late on stage and I actually saw the woman who wouldn't let me in and she went scouring away.
Livewire: Give me some new bands out there today that strike your fancy.
Glabicki: Umm...I have to be honest I haven't been listening to any music for at least a year now. I've been in the middle of writing, not only the record we just put out, but I'm writing two more albums right now. When I'm in the writing phase I don't listen to anything else.
Livewire: I wasn't going to ask this, but what are some of your musical influences?
Glabicki: Talking Heads were huge...before that Cat Stevens, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. John Lennon solo stuff...like the Plastic Ono Band are one of my favorites. The record really is so punk. And then there's Radiohead with bubonic type of guitars that they do that inspired us to go out and get another electric guitarist.
Livewire: What's your favorite Radiohead album?
Glabicki: Umm...I'd have to go with Kid A. I really like Kid A a lot.
Livewire: Yeah, it seems to strike a passionate chord among Radiohead fans on which is their best - Kid A, The Bends or OK Computer.
Glabicki: Yeah, it's funny like I was in Spain years ago and had the same conversation with the bartender and we almost got into a fight. (laughs)
Livewire: I think that your latest record Stereo Rodeo is pretty amazing. What was the bands' muse in creating it (and I think you've partly answered it already)?
Glabicki: Yeah, performing solo for awhile seem to give it it's foundation. We knew where we should take it and not take it. We all had a long break before recording it and that really rejuvenated our juices.
Livewire: How would you compare the mood changing ability of color to the mood altering ability of music?
Glabicki: The same thing. (laughs)
Livewire: C'mon it's visual versus audio!
Glabicki: I would say that music is the color and the color represents the music.
Livewire: Now there you go...that's the answer I was looking for. It's very philosophical...almost redundantly philosophical. (both laugh)
Livewire: If you were to look into a magical crystal ball - where do you see Rusted Root in 10 years?
Glabicki: I think that we're going to be one of the most successful bands out there. In the sense that there is a cycle coming around where false and superficial music is starting to fall away right now. We're setting ourselves up, from the ground up, to be recognized as who we are - the creators of healing music. I don't know exactly what it's going to look like, but I know it's going to breakthrough in a completely new kind of way. I just think it's going to jump to a new level.
Livewire: Tell me something your fans would be interested to know about you that you've never revealed before.
Glabicki: Never? I'm a pretty open. honest guy, I don't know. (laughs) Well I just starting playing tennis and I really love it! And nobody knows it!