No Stranger to the Past, No Stranger to the Future
An Interview With Progressive Rock Group Glass

by Jeff Fitzgerald
Photographs courtesy of Glass

From Aural Innovations #21 (October 2002)

Progressive rock group Glass has an unusual history. Hailing from the US Northwest, the band formed originally in the 1970's, during the original heyday of progressive music. Brothers Jeff and Greg Sherman joined friend Jerry Cook to play a brand of instrumental rock that drew on classical and jazz influences, sounding less like their American contemporaries, and more perhaps like some of the bands out of England's Canterbury scene crossed with King Crimson and a dash of Yes. Yet they also had their own unique sound, due in part to their willingness to experiment with the new technologies of the time. But although they recorded at least two album's worth of material, they had difficulties finding a label. This of course, was before the rise of the independent labels. After Jerry Cook left the band, Paul Black joined them on drums for a short time, but frustration set in, and the band reluctantly decided to break up near the end of 70's, going their separate ways and leading their separate lives.

That is, until recently. Bolstered by the resurgence in popularity of progressive rock in the 90's, and the ability to self-release their music, the original trio reformed and issued a double CD of their 70's recordings called No Stranger to the Skies (reviewed in AI # 18). It was on the road again, playing prominent gigs at West Coast prog festivals and garnering positive reviews from the press. So, nearly 25 years later, Glass is back in full force. They're not only working on a brand new album, but both Jeff and Greg Sherman have released solo CD's as well.

It seems the lifelong dream of the Sherman brothers is finally coming true. Via e-mail, I had a chance to talk to Jeff and Greg about the past, the present, and future of Glass.

AI: Your band has quite an unusual history, having been together 25 years ago, recording but never releasing an album until recently. Now you're back together again and have released a double album of old recordings, and you're working on a new album. What prompted you to get things back together and start performing and recording again?

Jeff Sherman: I think the idea of reforming was in the back of everyone's mind for some time. Years even. But you know how life get involved with other things, have families, and take on new responsibilities. Having the necessary time to devote to a true reformation-by that I mean one where we could at least honor the legacy we had created by playing the older material credibly-was something that had to come about of its own accord. It's all about timing really-everyone being in the space where they were ready. Every year or so I would send both Greg and Jerry my classic "Why Glass Was Our Single Best Destiny" letter. Usually both of them agreed to some degree, but the timing wasn't yet right. The actual decision that started the reformation process was a small, simple one. After examining some of the original analog Glass Master tapes, it was discovered that the tape oxide was literally falling off! I told Greg about it and we knew then it was time to archive what we had to digital format. Fortunately, we didn't lose anything-we acted in time. Much of the credit for the archiving really goes to Greg who bankrolled the project (and it wasn't cheap!) Being the Official Glass Historian and Keeper of The Sacred Photos and Tape Masters, I jumped at the chance to get Greg involved with Glass music again. He hadn't been playing music for a while and wasn't that interested in the old music. But I had this feeling that if I could get him into a studio and working with it again, something would happen. In any case he agreed to try. I think initially it was the newer digital technologies and the ability to edit in new ways that appealed to him. He's quite a perfectionist and the promise of being able to go back in and fix the odd "bad" note had a strong pull. I'll let him answer for himself though on that point! Anyway, once the archiving was started, a funny thing happened-we began to realize that there was something special about this music we created so many years ago. For one thing-it really sounded original. If you listen to Glass music it's difficult to tell who our specific influences were. Sure, there's an overall sonic quality that's traceable-we did have the only Mellotron in Washington State at the time for one thing! And thus our tunes with Mellotron on them sounded texturally like say, King Crimson or Yes. But if you listen to the structure of the song-the melodies-there is a unique quality there that wasn't anything like anyone else around. Especially there in Port Townsend, Washington! Or even Seattle. Anyway, to answer your question more directly, it was one night late in the studio-Greg and I were working away with our sound engineer and Greg turned to me and said "You know, we should release some of this on CD...the best of it" It was all I could do to stifle my cry of joy and I just thought to myself "YESSS!" I knew the rest would fall into place if Greg got back onboard. And it did. Jerry was now in the right place to consider reforming-the last of his kids now off to college-and when we called him about doing a CD he was right there with us. Reforming to play the songs and promote them to some degree was a natural next step.

Greg Sherman: When you are in the middle of doing something, any creative venture, you are never aware of how that venture rates in importance to other things. It's always very subjective. After years pass, you gain a perspective that you didn't have when you were younger. Although the three of us went on to do a variety of other music projects, we realized how special the music we created together was. We realized how special the chemistry was between the three original members, and how that chemistry made the music special. In a more down to earth sense, we were also in a better place financially to make the music happen. We had all gone on to be successful at something in the business world, and we had outgrown the idealistic fantasy that we would support ourselves financially through our music alone. Today, our goal isn't to "make it" in the music business world (although having some sort of financial rewards are always nice). It's to expose the greatest number of people to our music.

AI: What have you guys been doing in the intervening years? Were you still involved with music?

JS: Well, after Glass disbanded (that's another other interview!) Greg and I came back to Seattle from New York where Glass had been living and took some time off to "recuperate". It had been pretty trying living in New York and the end of Glass brought with it a lot of things to deal with emotionally. You must remember at that point we had been together over seven years. We had persevered through some very tough times. And like any kind of "marriage" disillusion there was a lot of baggage to wade through. Eventually I started my solo career there in Seattle. I wrote songs on my acoustic guitar and played coffee houses and such getting my feet wet as a solo performer. And trying to adjust to a career based solely on my own creativity. It was very difficult. When you've been in a band like Glass-a true collaborative effort-it's somewhat of a letdown to be out there on your own. I don't know how guys like Peter Gabriel do it. For one thing when things are really on in a band like Glass, the resulting effort is larger than the individual parts. There's almost a mystical quality about the music that's created. Living with the knowledge of that while continuing to create new music alone can be daunting. I came to understand why none of the Beatles ever really went on to be in bands of any merit (sorry Paul, "Wings" does not count!) Anyway, Greg and I went on to play in various cover bands in taverns and the like in the Seattle area. At the time (1977 - 1979) there really wasn't an original music scene up there that was supported financially by the public. It was weird going back and doing rock covers for tavern crowds. Kind of a step backwards. But we learned a lot through it. For one thing we learned about the business of music. One of our bands-The Sherman Brothers Band-became quite popular in Port Townsend and the surrounding area. Kind of a "hometown Beatles" and ironically enough the popularity we had always dreamed about for Glass was finally within our grasp. But of course, it wasn't the same because we weren't doing music of any merit really. We did hone our performance chops though, I must admit. It was during this period that I really learned how to entertain. And about the importance of trying to establish a connection with your audience every time you play. To this day I think that's one of the things that sets Glass apart from other progressive bands that are also actively playing-we don't just set up our gear and "allow" an audience to watch us rehearse. We play for our audiences too...draw them into what we are doing and hopefully-if the elements come together-leave them with something they can take with them when the concert is over. Later on in the Eighties I made a career move to Los Angeles to re-establish my solo career on what I then felt was the World Stage. I've lived in Southern California since. Greg can tell you in his own words what he's been up to...

GS: We did the usual things that people do when they get older. Get married, have children, buy houses, give up some of your crazier dreams to have a career so you can pay for #1 through #3. Then spend ten years trying to get back what you gave up to get to where you ended up. Jeff stayed the most in touch with playing and writing music throughout the "dark ages". I took a long hiatus from writing, started several other careers, then around 1995 or so, started writing on the piano again. The music that was produced in those first several years of re-emergence can be heard on my solo CD "Zutique". Jerry became a successful business owner in Seattle, and has dedicated the last several years attempting to open some doors for Progressive Rock music in the Seattle area, not an easy task if you know anything about the music scene in that area. "Progman Cometh" was the latest efforts in that direction. He is also in the process of building a state-of-the-art 32-track recording and rehearsal facility in West Seattle.

AI: Just out of interest, what was the idea behind calling your band "Glass"?

JS: Wow. Haven't been asked that one in years! Well it's a funny story... Jerry Cook and I had been playing in a couple of little cover bands for a year or so when we invited Greg to join us (at my mom's suggestion!). We then became a band called "The Vaguest Notion". That was the actual start of our professional careers as musicians. At the time (1967-68) we were just playing the odd dance and school function and doing songs by The Beatles, The Byrds, The Doors, and other popular bands of the day. Then there was that watershed night in August 1968 the three of us went to Seattle to see Jimi Hendrix and The Experience play the Seattle Coliseum. It was a homecoming of sorts for Jimi and he was so on it was unbelievable. They were so good! BUT the band that opened up for him-The Soft Machine-was to have an even greater impact on our lives. We had always had trouble keeping a bass player in our bands, and when this power trio took the stage and totally filled the Coliseum to the rafters with this incredible, powerful sound without a guitar player, something resonated with us. When we got back home we decided we didn't need one. I moved over to bass guitar and the band that would be Glass was born. Then we needed a new name. In the typical Glass way, we had a band meeting to discuss a new name and ideas started to get tossed about. No one liked anything the other guy suggested. It was at that point Greg made some suggestion, which I didn't like (I really don't remember what it was) and I yelled, "that's a ridiculous name! We might as well call the band rock, nail, tree or ...GLASS!" Everything stopped. You could have heard a pin drop as we looked at each other. That was it. We just knew it. There were plenty of single word band names out there at the time-'Cream' comes to mind first-so it was a kind of in-vogue thing too. But as time went on friends and people describing our music all commented how the word "Glass" fit the sound of the band. And also was a fitting metaphor for music in general.

AI: Jerry Cook left the band back in the 70's and was replaced by Paul Black. Of course, Jerry's back with you now. Was it easy getting him back onboard with the band?

GS: It was actually Jerry's idea when it happened. Jeff's and my mother passed away in 2000, and Jerry brought his whole extended family to her service, which was in our hometown Washington state called Port Townsend. We had grown up there, being next-door neighbors since I was 12 years old, and our families knew each other. After the service Jerry started talking to me about wanting to play again. It was a process that he had been thinking about for some time. Jeff had been trying to light the flame for many years, and had talked to Jerry off and on. So it wasn't a conscious decision that was driven by an agenda. It was more of a sub-conscious process that had been going on in each of us for years and years. Like ex-patriots returning to their homeland after thirty years in exile.

AI: How did the differences in Paul's and Jerry's style influence your music?

GS: Jerry's and Paul's styles are very different. Paul came from a rock 'n' roll background, having played in rock bands before joining Glass. He too, was a childhood friend. He also had done many road gigs, touring god-awful places in British Columbia, Alaska, and all over the extended area. The kind of gigs where you play cover songs six hours a night, six days a week-something Glass never did. Our music was far too outside the commercial vein to play in bars and clubs. His approach to playing was very refreshing to us at the time. Paul brought many different styles of music to our awareness, like Reggae and Funk. He would sneak them into the songs in original ways-for instance a simple ballad-like song on the piano that would normally be played with a backbeat on the snare (on the 2 and 4) would be played with a reggae feel (with the snare accenting the 1 and 3). The whole song wouldn't sound reggae, just the feel of the drums. He was also very good at improvisation and just listening to what was going on and "going with the flow", wherever it took you. A good example of this is the song "Changer" on disk two of NSTTS. A large part of that song was improvised on the spot.

JS: I agree. Furthermore I would add, Paul's single biggest asset to Glass was the fact that he was a songwriter and brought a songwriter's sensibilities to the music. By that I mean he actually wrote entire songs on the acoustic guitar for his own career years before he was in Glass. And in fact being two years older, he was a mentor of mine in a way, for the acoustic guitar. He used to sit with me for hours on end when I was about 15 and drill these very complex fingerpicking patterns into my head. And then make me play them back to him. And he was no easy teacher to please either, I can tell you...quite the perfectionist, he! He was also the guy that showed me all about Open Tunings on the acoustic guitar. One of my best pieces from the 70's is a song called "Home" (also featured on "No Stranger to the Skies' Disc 2, Track 3). That song was written in an Open D tuning that Paul taught me. One of the first he taught me, actually. Anyway, the idea was we had just finished this trip to Europe to promote the band and Jerry had to leave. I had made a few contacts and we were driven not to lose the impetus we had worked so hard to create. Paul was right there and made himself available like the Pro that he is. And because he had always been a fan of Glass he knew what would be expected of him as Glass' drummer. Not easy shoes to fill given the complexity of the musical arrangements and Jerry's very formidable physical talents on the drums. But he jumped right in anyway and for no money either. But then Glass music was never about money obviously.

AI: One thing that gives Glass it's unique sound is the dual keyboard attack. While Jeff does play some guitars, it's not the main focus of your sound, as it is in many other progressive rock bands. What was the inspiration to focus on keyboards, rather than bringing in a lead guitarist to augment the sound?

GS: The 60's was a very guitar-dominated time in rock history. Every band that made the charts had one, two, and sometimes three guitars. Keyboard players were usually in the background on their knees begging for a solo here or there. (That's why there's an "ist" after their name. Like Racist, Sexist. GuitarIST!). Then the Doors and Keith Emerson came along and things began to change. The idea that a keyboard would even share equal solo time with a guitar shocked a lot of people. We wanted to be different all along. I can say the single biggest inspiration was undoubtedly seeing The Soft Machine play backing up Jimi Hendrix in 1969. After that concert we had no doubts that a band without a guitar could succeed.

As to the two-keyboard attack, that didn't happen until later, around 1974. Jeff had written a song on the piano (Jeff wrote many of his ideas on the piano), and brought it to the band. I came up with a synthesizer melody/solo that went with it, and it was decided then that Jeff would play piano on the song. (That song became the end of "Patrice Mersault's Dream"). It happened all quite naturally.

We were always searching for something new. A way to "re-invent" the music constantly. One way we did this was through shaking up the instrumentation in the band. We were always buying new keyboards and new instruments to experiment with. There was even a short period in 1972 when I had a set of vibes on stage.

JS: I'll further detail that by adding that I can remember the very day I made a conscious decision to add the electric piano to my "arsenal" onstage. As Greg has noted, Jerry lived across the street from us. He was a prime motivator when it came to pushing Glass to try new things. Because of both his natural role as Glass "arranger" and his onstage presence as a physically gifted drummer, we accorded him a bit more leeway with song pieces we would bring to the band to be worked up than most songwriters probably would have. He had proven time and again that he had this very unusual and original way of hearing how our songs might sound pieced together in certain ways. We trusted that unique way of his. In fact, we counted on it. Anyway, one day in, must have been in ...let's see '74, he comes over to the house and sits down across from me in our kitchen and announces, "we need a change. I don't know what yet. But we need to do something ...our sound is getting stale". Prior to this point in time we had only tried having me play Greg's piano on one part of one song-"Patrice Mersualt's Dream" (No Stranger to The Skies, Disc 2 last track). In fact, it was kind of funny the way we pulled it off live. I would literally cross the stage and play Greg's piano back to back with him in his keyboard setup. We also had done the first of two "Arcadia Sessions" the year before and I had also played piano then on "Patrice..." Buying some kind of piano of my own was just around the corner.

A year later as fate would have it I did just that. I had been thinking of going to the guys and suggesting that I play this little Hohner Pianet I had gotten (just like the one Soft Machine used!), in the band. Then when Jerry made that was like a light bulb came on in my head. "All right' I thought, "I guess now would be the time to try this" This marked the first conscious decision on my part to integrate other non-matrix (guitar) based instruments into Glass. And as Greg mentioned I had been writing little things on his piano for some time. I'm sure they both remember the very first time I played my own piano with them but it was in this little old ladies garage-Mrs. Gregory was her name and her son had been letting us use it to rehearse in-next door to Jerry's house. I set up the Hohner and played this song I had written which later got incorporated into this piece that was one of the first we worked up with Paul as a matter of fact. It was called "The Vanishing Point" (and available on the Relentless Pursuit Records companion CD "No Stranger to The Skies Vol III, track 7). It has this pretty little melody and is in something like G# Minor I think. I literally sat down one day at the keyboard and it just came out. I remember I was just playing around with the black keys for a change.

AI: I read in the Gibraltar Encyclopedia of Progressive Rock that Fred Trafton thought you had a sound similar to the German group SFF. I can hear a bit of that similarity, though you claimed you'd only first heard of them in 2001! What did you think when you heard them?

JS: Well, I had heard the comparison enough by the time Fred had done the GEPR spread on Glass and was compelled to buy the double SFF CD "Symphonic Pictures" the Collected Works of Schicke, Furs and Frohling (The Lasers Edge LE 1017/18). I awaited its arrival with high expectations and when it came, though I did like some of the pieces on it, I was again a bit baffled at the comparison. I mean if one is considering only the sonic texture of each band then yes, I can see the similarities. But if you consider the actual compositions I think both bands definitely had their own style. Of course there is the two-keyboard-with-the-bassist-being-one-of-them thing but Glass was much more melody-driven, I think. That would be a reflection of the influences of bands like Soft Machine and even Yes. I'm willing to bet SSF started out with much more of a "blueprint" of what they wanted to sound like. And a big part of that blueprint was trying not to sound like other bands. Glass had a much more evolutionary development. You must remember we were together for something like eight or nine years. To my knowledge, SSF were only together for a few years. It still is quite amazing though that there was obviously some parallel development going on by these two bands on opposite sides of the globe that had no knowledge of each other.

AI: What were some of the influences on your music in the early days? What kind of stuff did you listen to when growing up?

GS: My parents were big jazz and big band fans (Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Duke Ellington) - so I grew up listening to that from a real early age. Later, in my teens, it was The Beatles; Procol Harum (Matthew Fisher's organ playing-unparalleled); Cream/Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix (I learned more about soloing from guitar players than actual keyboard players); Beethoven is my Classical composer of choice, followed by Stravinsky and Debussy. More jazz-Dave Brubeck; Soft Machine was huge. So was Keith Jarrett's solo piano works.

JS: I'd have to agree with all that. Later on we both branched out and developed different musical tastes too. I will credit Greg still, with turning me on to the "Great Classical" composers like Beethoven and Stravinsky. And just recently Erik Satie whose music I love. You know this answer wouldn't be complete if it wasn't mentioned that Jerry used to turn Greg and I on to a lot of the bands we liked back in the late 60's and 70's. He used to go down to Port Townsend's only record outlet run by a great guy named Nick D'Andrea and get all the very latest LPs when they would come in. In fact, it was Jerry who bought the very first copy of "The Soft Machine Vol. 1" owned by a Glass member after we had seen them play with Jimi. And I can still remember Jerry excitedly bringing over Jimi Hendrix' "Are You Experienced" and "Axis: Bold As Love". And Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy'. He always had the latest stuff.

AI: Are there any newer bands you've discovered in recent years that have impressed you?

JS: Boy, that's a hard one. I would have to say that my personal listening habits have been more influenced lately by the earlier works of Brian Eno circa his EG Records re-releases from the 70's. Those and some of the early avante garde recordings of Terry Riley that have resurfaced recently as re-releases on CD. Not many new bands have caught my ear. Though there are some interesting things I've heard by "Spocks Beard" "Echolyn" and "Universe Zero". And a few others. I am trying to keep an open mind and have been fortunate enough to have fans and friends send me "Neo-Prog" stuff to listen to. Though I must be honest and admit that a lot of what I hear in the "new" progressive music seems to be song sketches that aren't finished yet. Either that or what I call "muscle music"-blindingly fast note playing for the purpose "proving" you can do it. That kind of thinking is pointless and immature to me where I am in my life now. How fast you can play-what's the point if there's no melody that is carried away by your listener after he puts your CD away in its case?

GS: Not many. Although they are virtually unknown, I heard Akineton Retard (from Chile) at BajaProg last March and they blew me away. We tried to get them up here for "Progman Cometh" but due to all the customs and immigration issues, it fell through.

JS: Yeah...Akineton Retard were awesome at BajaProg this year! I haven't been that blown away by anything new in years. They were like a cross between Soft Machine, Miles Davis circa his "Bitches Brew" period and something totally original. Young guys all of 'em. Couldn't believe how solid they were! Highly recommended by this reviewer! (Their two CDs can be found at: on Mylodon Records).

AI: What kind of things are you listening to these days?

GS: Keith Jarrett's "Koln Concert"; Beethoven's Ninth (the best piece of music ever written); "Above and Beyond", my brother Jeff's solo album, is the best new thing I've heard in years. I'm also listening to an advance copy of a recording by Richard Sinclair and David Rees-Williams, done in a church in Holland. David is playing a 150-year old pipe organ, Richard is singing his lovely melodies, and Jimmy Hastings is playing the clarinet. It's beautiful. Hope to see that released as a CD by someone soon.

JS: Honest Folks, I didn't pay him to say that! Well, let's see...this morning it's "A Short Break" by Robert Wyatt on the Voiceprint label, Erik Satie's "Gymnopedies" on the Tring label and "Soft Machine Vol II" on One-Way Records. Had that on because I got an email response from Hugh (Hugh Hopper-Soft Machine's bassist for five of their nine official releases) and we were talking about the lyrics on "Dedicated to You But You Weren't Listening". I told him I thought they were brilliant poetry and was asking him how they recorded that piece way back then. He confirmed what I had always thought-that indeed it was he playing the acoustic guitar on the recording.

AI: You're currently working on a new album. How's that going?

GS: It's going fantastic, but it's taking a long time. When we were younger, when it was time to record, everyone would stop doing what they were doing for a couple weeks, and we would hole up in a barn out in some rural area off a Washington road and just record for 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until it was done. We can't do that anymore because we all have lives that are very involved. Nowadays, it's a longer process. We have to actually plan things. We actually have to set an appointment to practice. So it's happening, but it has it's own pace.

We have around an hour of new material, so far. We played about half an hour of it at Progman Cometh. The next CD will have a few 'guest artists' playing throughout it. We are exploring with instrumentation again. One set is tentatively titled "The Border Suite". With parts that were written when we were in Mexico, at BajaProg 2002. It has electric and acoustic guitar throughout it. We are bringing in Pete (Pete Pendras, guitar player from Seattle) to play the guitar. Another set is a 'retro' thing to the old Glass days of Hammond Organ, Bass and Drums. It sounds like old 'The Nice', except musically it's pretty dark. It's all very minor-modal sounding-very gothic. It's also got Mellotron on it, for those 'Tron lovers, and some sampled sounds.

Yet a third set in the works will be very jazz-oriented. The plan is to feature Elton (Elton Dean, ex-Soft Machine) on it. Elton loved Seattle when he was there, and expressed an interest in coming back to record. We are exploring many directions, musically. Which is basically what we always have done-explore.

JS: Yes, I'm quite excited about our "guest artists". You know, back in the "Old Days" where we lived isolated in Washington, there was just nobody around (Paul Black and Pete Pendras excepted) that even "got" what Glass music was about. Let alone had the mental framework that would allow them to play with us. Now it's quite exciting that we are getting the opportunity to play with other like-minded musicians. I mention Pete because he was a friend from that early time that really did understand what bands like Soft Machine were about. And hooking back up with him recently and having him play with us at "Progman Cometh" was a real treat. We were all left with the feeling "Gee...that worked well! Wonder why we didn't try that years ago. ." But then, everything happens in it's own time, I guess. And having Elton Dean play with us? What can I say? It was the realization of a dream come true. To have someone who was one of your seminal influences rehearse and play on a couple of your own compositions? It doesn't get any better than that. The guy is one of the world's only remaining links to John Coltrane and that level of musician. A great thinker too as we were to find out in conversations with him.

AI: Would you say your sound has changed at all from the recordings you made back in the 70's? If so, how?

JS: Wow. You're intent on throwing those hard ones at us, huh? Well, we're all grown up now aren't we? Back then as Greg said, we lived breathed and worked around Glass and its music. Nowadays there's a bit more methodical planning that goes into every aspect of rehearsing and recording. And of course the Digital Revolution has been just that-a revolution in the way things are recorded. Also, the technology of musical instruments has changed too. In the 70's Glass owned instruments that were considered state-of-the-art at the time. Like the Mellotron and Greg's ARP 2600 Synthesizer. By today's standards those instruments are really quite crude. BUT they do have a sound that is their sound and we are quite aware of this. So we still use some of them. No digital patch sounds exactly like a Millerton's strings for instance. That scratchy, noisy mono signal has its own unique personality. So we try and incorporate the best of BOTH worlds-The Digital and The Analog-into our sound.

GS: Of course the viewpoint here is so subjective, but I'll try to answer that as objectively as I can. Mostly, the overall sound hasn't changed. Not consciously, at least. We still write the way we used to. Jeff and I bring song ideas to the band rehearsal, and we work on them together, with Jerry adding his arranging talents to the mix. The instrumentation is the same, more or less. It's hard to say on that level, because the instrumentation never stayed the same for more than a year back in those early days. Because we are older, we play with less adrenaline then we did in those days. Adrenaline does not help you be more musically together, such as playing a song the same tempo live as the recording, or not overplaying on your solos. In that sense, we are much better musicians now than we ever were. In the near future, the one thing that will probably stick out is our use of other musicians to augment Glass' sound.

AI: Are you still using vintage instruments, or are you exploring the possibilities of the new technologies available now? If so, what equipment are you using and what new things are you trying out?

JS: Well, as I mentioned in the answer to the last question, the answer to that would be "yes" and "no". Both Greg and I have availed ourselves of the possibilities presented by some of the newer digital samplers-Korg makes an excellent series-yet I still retain my 1973 Rhodes Suitcase Piano because it just has a sound and feel you can't get anywhere else and Greg still uses a Mellotron. Though it is the latest iteration-the Mk 4000 I think it's called. They've gone through it and improved it's servo-motor so the notorious going-out-of-tune-problem that everyone from Fripp to Wakeman to Greg had with the thing has been corrected. Still uses the most ridiculous tape and capstan arrangement that you could possibly think up, though. It seriously looks like a fictional Rube Goldberg invention when you take the lid off and first see it. And of course I'll always use the lowest tech-instrument around-my acoustic guitar. It was after all one of my very first instruments I learned how to play. Greg and Jerry tease me about my side of the stage in Glass being the "Low-Tech Center" of the band.

GS: Both vintage and new. For a while we got sucked up into MIDI-madness, and started to go in that direction, but our sensibilities finally caught up with us, and we have regained a good balance. There are many attractive things about the new equipment, like reliability and convenience, but in the end, you can't lose sight of the fact that the equipment doesn't make the musician. Great musicians never let the instrument play them.

In the old days, I used to use a Mellotron and an ARP 2600, and I remember doing concerts where I would spend four or five minutes between each song frantically flailing patch cords to prepare for the next song, and tuning - everything needed tuning constantly. Each oscillator on the 2600 had to be manually tuned, and the Mellotron was constantly going out of tune. Thank god, those days are gone. The new digital equipment never goes out of tune, and they store patches digitally, so you can change patches between sounds in seconds. That part is wonderful.

But there are some analog sounds that just can't be replaced by digital gear. We still carry around an old Fender-Rhodes for 'that' sound. We have acquired a new Mellotron also. The same sound, the same design. All the electronics have been improved though, and the speed control for the capstan drive is far improved.

For new sounds, we are constantly exploring. Jerry has an electronic drum setup, with MIDI triggers on the drums and a set of MIDI trigger pads. But we aren't using them in a conventional way-to get digital drum sounds. We are trying some new things-using the drum pads to trigger sound samples. Some sounds that you wouldn't normally associate with drums.

We still plan on using a sequencer (as on the middle section of 'For Ursula Major and Sirus the Dog Star') too. It's all a process of experimentation.

AI: A lot of prog bands in the 70's were innovative musically, but not so innovative with the new technology of the time. One of the things that set Glass apart from the other band was the experimentation you did with synthesizers and technology. What were some of the experiments you tried out that were the most successful or produced your favorite results?

GS: I am a modular thinker. From the beginning, I was into the synthesizer not as an instrument in itself, but as a processor of other sounds. I saw each section of the synthesizer (oscillators, filters, amplifier, etc) as a separate module. The oscillators were only one sound source. The way the 2600 was setup, with the sounds being 'pre-patched' internally but override-able with external patch cords, it didn't take long before the other instruments were being used as sound sources, and being put through the synth.

I also was no stranger to the soldering gun. One afternoon, Jeff and Erik (Sound Engineer Erik Poulsen) came home to find the 2600 spread out on the floor in pieces. It was taken apart, and I was re-wiring the internal patches to my liking with a soldering gun.

One of my favorite sounds was a blend between innovative synthesizer patching and old analog rock-n-roll anti-technology. When we recorded "No Stranger To The Skies", for the synthesizer solo at the end, I took the ARP 2600, patched so that the output of the ring modulator was fed back into its input, in a recursive way to modulate itself, then tuned in a way to get some strange overtones. Then that output was fed into an old Fender Bassman amplifier that the engineer put out in the hallway of the studio. We threw a blanket over it and cranked the volume up to ten to get a very warm tube distortion sound. Fortunately, it was at night and no one else was in the building at the time.

JS: I still say with pride that that synth solo on "No Stranger..." was one of the greatest synth solos ever recorded by anyone. Anytime. Anywhere. It was a very synchronistic moment-everything seemed to come together. In the control room we were all watching Greg in the studio. He'd already fluffed one or two takes and I know everyone was thinking "Uh Oh, this could take awhile..." Greg was renowned for doing as many takes as he had to to get something perfect by his reckoning. It might be just one or it could be fifty takes. As he climbed in intensity with the backing track blasting in his headphones, it became apparent something very special was happening. It's hard to put into words not being a soloist really myself, but as the end of the song approached something intangible could be felt in that control room air. A kind of electricity. But also palpable. Solid. The song is in some really bizarre time signature like a measure of 13 and a measure of 12 alternating back and forth. He's soloing over this and everyone in the room was thinking the same thought I bet "How's he know where the hell he is? ...He's never gonna make the cue back in..." Just as his solo hit a high note he does this long SWOOP-the cue comes up and he's right on it! We all literally fell over! Paul Black's head hit the recording console and I was on my knees!! We just couldn't believe what we had witnessed.

AI: What gave you the idea to process the Mellotron through the ARP 2600 synthesizer?

GS: As I mentioned above, it was just part of a process of experimentation with the synthesizer as a signal processor. Another musical goal in those days was to always do something original, to invent some sound that you had not gotten before. The unsaid rule was to never use the same sound again on another recording, but to keep inventing new ones.

AI: You've been playing some of the big west coast prog festivals lately, including Baja Prog and The Progman Cometh. What's it like for you performing in front of big audiences like that? What have been the audiences' reactions to your performances? What kind of audiences are you seeing, older prog fans, a younger generation of fans, or a mixture of both?

GS: It's very special for me. Over the last twenty years, I played in front of other audiences, doing other types of music, not Glass music, so the mechanics of playing-the interacting with the crowd, the soloing, the improvising, etc. came all pretty naturally. What is special is being on stage with the two guys that I started playing with when I was 13 years old. Playing music that I've imagined playing a hundred times, but never, until several years ago, ever imagined I would get to play in front of an appreciative audience, and to be playing it with the very same people who I created it with thirty years ago-well, there aren't very many words to describe the emotions.

The audience reception has been wonderful. We are seeing a real variety of fans, some older veterans who were around in the 60's and 70's, and some new fans. I would like to see more new, younger fans, though. It's a challenge to all the promoters and record producers of Progressive music to find ways to expose it to younger people.

JS: My answer to that might seem a bit...Hmmm....a bit "metaphysical' and belie my true nature but, I've always felt that Glass was Greg, Jerry and my "best destiny". By that I mean that of all the paths we could have chosen individually, this one has brought out the very best in each of us as artists. It's hard to describe but when things are really on as I mentioned earlier and the three of us "click" whether it be in rehearsal or in front of a couple hundred people at BajaProg, something larger then the sum of our three musical contributions is created. Some value greater than the sum of the parts. A "higher form" of Math takes place. It really is quite magical. And to be a part of that? doesn't get any better than that for this humble bass player!

I'd also like to add that for me, a wonderful part of the Reunion gig, ProgWest, BajaProg and Progman Cometh is getting to see our oldest fans like Bob Carlberg and Bill Cartmel to name just two, get to finally meet each other and come together with us through the medium of our music. As far as playing in front of new audiences-well, for me it just seems like we never stopped. It feels totally natural. Though I will admit I was a little nervous at the Reunion Concert at first-the first time we had played together in 24 years. But as soon as we launched into "Give The Man A Hand" and I looked over at Greg and Jerry and made contact, I said it seemed as if we were doing another Pep Dance at Port Townsend High School. Except that this time the crowd was truly ours.

AI: You had a chance to not only meet, but perform with one of your musical idols at this year's Progman Cometh Festival, namely Elton Dean, formerly of Soft Machine. What was that like?

GS: I found every musician there, with the exception of one or two, to be very real and very interested in interacting with everyone on a real level. There were very few ego problems usually associated with musicians who have reached some degree of 'fame', if you want to call it that.

Having grown up on albums like Soft Machine's "Third" and "Fourth", knowing how much they influenced the creation of our music in the first place, playing with Elton was a dream come true, as you can imagine. I've played the solo on the end of "Patrice Mersault's Dream" a hundred times, and to hear it with Elton playing the saxello, the same one that's on "Slightly All The Time" or "Kings And Queens", on your's hard to describe.

JS: Boy you nailed it there bro...playing with Elton Dean and also with Pete Pendras was a dream come true. I only wish we had had the time to work up something with Hugh Hopper. Getting to meet those two-Elton and Hugh-was really one of my personal reasons for wanting to be involved. I mean beyond just the fun of playing a great venue like The Moore Theatre in Seattle (where Greg, Jerry, and I had seen the original "Return To Forever" amongst other influences in the 70's) Progman Cometh was a TON of work. Especially for Jerry. And his dedication and energy truly were the driving forces for all of us to make it happen. He was unbelievable and to a man, the gathered performers all loved the guy. He is as genuine as it gets and I think they all picked up on that.

I mentioned before how I felt about Elton not just as a player but as a thinker. As I talked with him in the Green Room the night of the festival that he played with Software (now called "Softwerks" by the way), and he talked about experimenting playing with a guitar player in England named Mark Hewins who sometimes uses inaudible subsonic frequencies with his midi-guitar-synth setup, and how because of the physics of how the human ear work, he could play any kind of note that was in a "relative or diminished triad" or something like that over it and it would always be in-key to the listener, it really hit me. I thought "this guy is on the same plane as John Coltrane or Thelonius Monk-mentally he was that far above where I am now-just out there...And there was one point in between our two sets where Greg had to do a Mellotron tapeframe change. It was suggested that I play this new song of mine "Miles, Monk and Mom" (which will be on the new Glass CD) as a duet with Elton. Well I gotta tell you...after I got past the rehearsal jitters with him the prior afternoon, it had to be one of the high points of my entire musical career. Playing that with him on-as Greg said-the saxello? Life just doesn't get any better.

AI: Any other interesting stories from Progman? It sounds like you had a great time there.

JS: Well...I will tell one little story. I'm not sure how meaningful it will be to you or the general populace who read it, but here goes. As I mentioned previously, the day before we played at Progman we had a rehearsal, which Elton attended. Jerry had rented the Moore Theatre for the entire week so we were set up and getting to rehearse in this beautiful old theatre that's reminiscent of an old European Opera House. No one was around except Jerry, Greg and I and a couple sound guys and someone sweeping up in the back. We're going over this new song we're going to have Elton play on which I wrote almost as a tribute to Soft Machine-I mean the thing could have been on Soft Machine "Third" as part of "Facelift" or something it's just such a blatant rip-off-

Anyway, I see this figure emerge from the shadows down by the seats. It's Elton. And he's carrying his two horn cases. He slowly sauntered down to the front row and sat down and watched us for awhile. MAJOR butterflies in my stomach now appear! Then he slowly strolls up the stage ramp with his cases and sits down on a chair that's there and ever so slowly opens up his saxello case. THERE it is! And you can tell it's the One from seeing it so many times as a kid pouring over the liner notes and searching through every detail of every Soft Machine album that you could get your hands on. The case! Oh my god, the case itself was SO cool...all covered with these ancient stickers from clubs that you just know don't even exist anymore.... anyway, he finally puts it together and is strapping on the reed with the ligature and I look over at Greg and I'm telling you there was a moment or two there of real, true telepathy between two human minds. We just both knew something special-a once in a lifetime feeling-was just about 8 bars away from becoming reality for both of us. And sure enough it did...he starts playing and for a moment our pasts, the present and an unlimited future echoed through that empty theatre balcony. Soaring there along with our reincarnated I said, it just doesn't get any better than that.

You can visit Glass at the web site:
For a review of Jeff Sherman's new solo album, Click Here.
For a review of Greg Sherman's new solo album, Click Here.

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