Steve BABB Fred SCHENDEL
Glass Hammer is a progressive rock band, formed in 1992 under the leadership of Steve Babb and Fred Schendel, all two multi-instrumentalists. At this time Glass Hammer doesn't seem to be a group per se, but rather a project. However the line-up of the last albums seems to be more stable. Recently our two acolytes have decided to reissue the album double "The Inconsolable Secret" to make a new version. In addition to we speak of this reissue Steve Babb and Fred Schendel discusses their project and upcoming surprises.
Recently you have released a new version "The Inconsolable Secret" in a 3 Cd format, what are the reasons for this reissue?
Fred: We had always felt that we got to a point making the album that we had expended all the energy on it that we had, and even though we were quite proud of it and felt we had achieved a lot with it we were never quite sure that it represented what we had initially conceived in some respects. And after a time the album went out of print and became a high demand item and a re-issue seemed like a great way to address the ideas we had concerning the original mixes. So, while we're not trying to rewrite history and say that the new mixes are what the album should have been, we view it as an alternate take on what parts of it might have been. You now get two different ways that the same pieces can be interpreted.
Can we think that there will be other reissues of your albums?
Fred: No, but there are some specific songs that I'm interested in looking at from several albums. Again, it's not meant to imply that the versions that exist are somehow "wrong", but with the perspective of time there are things I’d like to try differently. It's like doing covers of your own songs. There isn't always just one way.
What is the philosophy of Glass Hammer today? Is it the same as your debut?
Steve: You mean our way of thinking about Glass Hammer? Things changed drastically for us after our first album (Journey of the Dunadan). We were writing progressive-rock-influenced songs for fans of sci-fi and fantasy and were completely unaware that prog rock already had a network of fans. If we had known, the first album would probably have been produced differently. It was our intention to create a prog revival from the beginning, but we were using big Sci-fi conventions like DragonCon in Atlanta to do it. Fortunately the prog-scene caught on to us quickly and we jumped on the opportunity to do what we really wanted to do, which was to make prog for prog fans. Our second album “Perelandra” established us as a serious group. Since then our intentions have always been to make the albums we would most enjoy hearing ourselves. That really hasn’t changed.
In your early days, if had said you that you would be always present on the music scene in 2013, you would have thought it?
Steve: I didn’t think that far ahead then. I’m pleasantly surprised that we’ve made it this long. Most bands don’t. But we’re able to evolve in ways other bands cannot; primarily because we’re a studio group headed up by two producers. Each incarnation of the band takes form around Fred and I. As people come and go we remain consistent. To refer to your earlier question – that was an idea we had at the beginning and maintain to this day.
From the album 'If' it seems, according to me, Glass Hammer has lived an important turning point in his history. According to you what events or decisions that contributed to this change? If I’m right?
Steve: It was a turning point in that we became more of a four-member creative band when we added Jon Davison and Kamran Alan Shikoh. We also experienced a resurgence in interest in Glass Hammer. “IF” was a huge success for us and probably remains the most popular of the trilogy of albums we did with Jon.
With David Wallimann moving west after the release of Culture of Ascent we knew we were in need of a permanent guitarist. Alan was an easy pick for us. But with Jon, things evolved differently and that’s probably what led to the turning point as you call it. We drafted him to sing two songs on our remix CD of “The Inconsolable Secret” just to see what an Anderson-esque vocalist would sound like on that material. But we immediately clicked with him and he with us. So we decided to move forward with him as a vocalist. Susie Bogdanowicz had also moved too far away to record with us after “Three Cheers For The Broken Hearted”, and Carl Groves was busy producing a Salem Him album. Timing is everything. But the new album, the one we’re currently working on, will also represent a turning point. Things are changing again!
What are the factors that influence you when you write new songs?
Steve: Sometimes we talk in advance of writing, not just Fred and I, but also Alan. We talk about what kind of music might be interesting to make, what we’re listening to, what’s inspired us – that kind of thing. But usually we just begin writing music and then bounce the early ideas off each other. More than anything, it is mainly just the need to create something that drives me. I’m probably not too aware of outside influences – I just write.
Fred: You never know- sometimes new keyboard sounds, something you read or saw, things going on in life, sometimes it's just a random thought. There's no pattern.
You let me hear that there is a new album for Glass Hammer in 2014. Is it correct?
Steve: Yes! We are hard at work on it right now.
It will be the same line-up as the previous ones or there will be surprises?
Steve: With Jon tied up with his other band he cannot perform live with us at present. It seemed odd to move forward having him front the band on this album only to have Carl Groves fill in for him on stage. So Carl will be the primary male vocalist on this album. Jon will sing on this album, but his role is limited. Susie Bogdanowicz will also return if we can work out the logistics with her in Florida. Another classic singer from earlier GH albums also plans to return for a cameo. It’s our twentieth year of recording as Glass Hammer – so we thought it would be fun to combine singers from different eras of the band. Still, Carl Groves is handling most of the lead vocals.
Kamran Alan Shikoh is still with us and a huge creative force in our work now. Our new drummer, Aaron Raulston is recording all of the percussion tracks. He’s been a terrific addition to the band on stage, and I think the fans will really love what he brings to the table as a studio drummer too. Of course, Fred and I are still doing our thing!
I observed here in Quebec that progressive music is especially appreciated by people aged 40 to 60 years, it is the same phenomenon in the USA? Do you think that young people may be interested in this style of music?
Steve: I meet young people who have been turned onto prog by their dads. Beyond that, I don’t see much in the way of a young audience. That’s okay though. We all know that the old guys know how to rock! Our guitarist is an exception to the rule however. He’s only 26 and is very into progressive rock.
Is there any other projects shorter term?
Steve: We are slated to contribute a track on Sonic Realities’ Neal Peart Project. That’s going to be fun! We’re nearing the end of the writing process for our new album, so we’ll be starting that very soon.
What are your personal musical preferences for each of you?
Fred: Oh, mostly classic prog and classical, some funk and a lot of power pop.
Steve: I love classic prog (Camel, ELP, Rush, etc), sophisticated pop music (Todd Rundgren, Bjork, Hooverphonic, etc.) I listen to a good deal of classical music and still enjoy older metal bands like Black Sabbath and Judas Priest. Newer prog acts like Riverside, Devin Townsend and Porcupine Tree are favorites too.
Do you have a dream that you would like to make?
Steve: You mean besides going to Middle-Earth? Not really.
For you what was the most special moment of your musical career?
Fred: This might be a cop-out answer but they are all pretty special. Each concert is great because you get to interact with people that support what you're doing. Recording albums is always fun. The first time we got someone famous to sit in with the band was great- that was Rich Williams of Kansas at Nearfest '03, which was an amazing gig all around. Recently, doing the Cruise To The Edge earlier this was a highlight. Just getting to hang out with a lot of wonderful people, both fans and bands, and doing it all at sea was terrific. We're looking forward to doing it again next year with the Moody Blues. And then when we come up there to Quebec for the festival, that it will be the most special moment of our career, until the next one!
Steve: Performing live backed by 120 singers when we recorded “Live At Belmont” and “Live At The Tivoli” would be hard to top for me. I got to share that experience on stage with some of my favorite people in the world. Being backed by a large choir was always a ‘dream’ of mine, so that was literally a dream come true.
If there was no music, what is the business you would do?
Steve: I’d either be a writer, a history teacher or a professor of theology. I may still try writing, as I’ve done that on the side off and on for quite some time.
On your site you have a section that offers visitors the opportunity to purchase progressive albums and some rarities. Are you a collector?
Steve: Absolutely not. That’s why those albums are for sale! We did a trade with another company and lucked into those imports.
You have the final word, if you want to add something.
Steve: We are looking forward to coming to Quebec for the very first time with Glass Hammer for the 2014 Terra Incognita Festival. Let your audience know about this – we so rarely get to perform live. So this will be a treat for us and hopefully for prog fans in Quebec and Canada too!