Prog Sphere have published a new interview with Steve Babb and Fred Schendel of progressive band Glass Hammer. Conor Fynes conducted the interview and an extract is given below:
Your new album, Ode to Echo has been getting some heavy attention and acclaim from across the prog spectrum. How do you respond to the album’s reception thus far?
Fred: It is very gratifying, because it’s a bit of a departure from the preceding three albums. On one hand it’s a return to a shorter song driven format and on the other it’s a more democratic album than the immediate predecessor, Perilous. We wanted it to have a bit of a harder edge, and some more fusion oriented influences are there as well. So we’re glad people are responding to it.
Steve: Our fan base is growing, and that is exciting. Ode To Echo landed us a big distribution deal here in the U.S. recently. We didn’t look for it – they came to us after noticing the trend. It’s great incentive to keep moving forward.
What was the inspiration behind Ode to Echo, any stories behind the choice of name, writing of songs, planning of the album, anything that might help shed some light on this latest opus?
Steve: The cover art and the lyrics for at least three of the bigger pieces on Ode To Echo (Misantrog, I Am I and Ozymandias) speak to an important issue for me. It was in interviews like these that I hoped to explain it better. I wanted to call attention to Narcissistic Personality Disorder and to encourage people to do their own research in order learn more about narcissists, psychopaths and their victims. Practically everyone comes into contact with these monsters at one time or another. It is important to learn how to spot the disorder, and to protect yourself and your family from it.
The name of the album refers to the nymph Echo in the myth of Narcissus. She is the victim, and I dedicated my work on the album to victims of NPD and adult-children of narcissists – ACONs.
If you and your readers are not familiar with this dangerous disorder, a little time looking into it on google will reveal why you should be aware of it. Imagine a world where millions of people are walking around, living among us, blending in – but without consciences. They can pretend, but they have no empathy. That IS the world we live in! Scary, huh? I found out the hard way and would really like to emphasize that people educate themselves so they will know what to do when (not if) they find themselves employed by, related to or in a relationship with one of these twisted people.
What was the process of songwriting and composition like for Ode to Echo? I quote a YouTube user on the album’s sound that it’s “[s]o different, yet totally Glass Hammer”. What is new to the creative process this time around?
Fred: Nothing new really, apart from the fact that Kamran Alan Shikoh had a chance to have more writing input, and his jazz influence allowed me to explore some latent fusion leanings. For instance, shifting more emphasis to Fender Rhodes piano affected the sound a lot. We’ve been trying to have a stronger guitar presence for the last four albums and on this one it really started to work.
Steve: Aaron Raulston is our new drummer and Ode To Echo was his debut album with Glass Hammer. I think he has brought a new energy to the band and perhaps listeners are picking up on that.
Do you have any favourite tracks from the new album, moments that you’re particularly proud of?
Fred: I think mine would be Misantrog and Panegyric. Misantrog was a pretty successful mini-epic in my opinion, a song in that 10 minute butter zone that has a lot going on but doesn’t wear out its welcome. If you break it down it’s really a five minute song played through twice with a little embellishment but it works. Panegyric is a song with a private meaning for me with a very simple direct lyric where I wanted to have some old fashioned Glass Hammer grandiosity, a little dissonance and a grand climax and I think I basically got away with it.
Steve: I wrote the music for The Grey Hills in two short sessions. The lyrics really came naturally and in a way, just appeared on the page as I typed. Sometimes I write an opening line with no idea where it will go and the words just start flowing. That happened with The Grey Hills, which is perhaps not an epic track, but very much a Glass Hammerish piece of music.
Fred: Only because it sent us back to a multi-singer format which has always worked well for us. It’s really been fortuitous in the long run.
Steve: It is all about timing for us and Jon. It worked out well for him on Ode To Echo. As a rule, we would never alter schedules forGlass Hammer recordings based on another band’s work, no matter who they are. That might make things tough on Jon in the future – but everyone needs to have a job and we understand that.