Guitarist/bassist Justin Beck (left) and vocalist Daryl Palumbo formed Glassjaw in 1993, after meeting at summer camp. Sixteen other players have passed through the band since then, but the group’s core sound and approach have held to their artistic true north.
A lot of people don’t realize that when you’re in bands with labels and producers, everyone has an opinion. Something that should be a hobby becomes this weird black hole of emotional blackmail, and everybody hates each other. It just gets so much more complicated and kind of sucks the fun out of it.
So for this one, it was the cleanest way, in an emotional sense. If we had an idea, the judge and jury were two people. The objective we were going for is to put a record out to document what we were vibing at the moment. It worked because it was unfiltered, you know? A producer is filtering it. And along with that filtering comes process, time, cost, pressures, and expectations.
Your guitar parts on the album really give the bass a lot of room to propel the songs. Did you write the guitar parts with the bass lines already in mind?
If I had to break it down, I would say I’ve always been a bigger fan of the bass. If I was just a guitar player in the band and someone else is playing the bass, I might feel my ego was crushed. But because I was playing both, my ego isn’t hurt and I don’t mind my other personality sitting behind.
People have really neglected the bass, especially in metal. They think it’s just something to fill the subs in. But it’s melodic, it’s progressive, and it has so much power.
The power definitely comes through on the album. How did you get that grinding bass sound?
Back in the day, we used to play with SVTs and some basic overdrives. And then around 2000 to 2001, Line 6 came out with the Bass POD Pro. I ended up picking up that unit and emulating that tone. And that’s been my tone for the last 18 years.
But part of the tone is how you’re using the pick against the string. So it’s almost like you’re side-swiping the string. You’re yielding an almost slap effect when you’re constantly down-strumming. It gives a very direct attack. You look like a caveman playing, but it gives a certain tonality.
How do you see your role on guitar within Glassjaw?
I’m a songwriter first. When I first picked up a guitar and wanted to play in a band, Glassjaw was starting but already had a guitarist, so I ended up becoming the drummer. Then we found a better drummer, and our bass player left for India to become a Hare Krishna. So I switched to bass.
And then I eventually came back to guitar years later. Guitar is definitely my weakest instrument out of any I’ve ever played. The dudes in Animals as Leaders … they’re guitar players. I’m not a guitar player.
But on the album, you shift from intense metal riffs to something ambient to a clean-toned tapping passage. You cover a lot of ground.
On some of the older catalog, we were young and ambitious. You like so many different types of music and to try to cram it into one voicing. So, it’s like a poor man’s George Benson meets Dr. Know from Bad Brains. You’re trying to cover it all. But with Material Control, it’s creative discovery. For this record, I felt like the guitar is more of a background color. And it called for ambient coloring. The bass is kind of driving the rhythm, the melody. I feel like the guitar is 10 percent of the composition, if that makes sense. It’s more of a color and a timbre than a driving force.
What guitar amps did you use to get the heavy sound that sits so well in the mix?
I used an amp we picked up in, like, ’99. It’s an old Top Hat. It’s like a classic-Marshall type of tone that’s not too gritty. And we bi-amped it with an old Hughes & Kettner TriAmp, but the first iteration, before the Mark 1. It’s not as muddy as a Dual Rec. It’s got more balls than a Marshall. It’s right up in that middle zone—a good distorted rock amp.
Did you get all your drive from the amps?
Yeah. Unlike the bass, the guitar was done in a traditional sense. I’d say that using the Kettner was probably 70 perent of the blend, and the Top Hat was added for a little more clarity.
You’re known for playing Les Paul Classics. Is that what you played on the album?
I had a Les Paul Deluxe. My go-to for years was the Classic. And I would hype them up with EMG 81s because I always felt my amps on the road would always be shy on output. So I’d overcompensate with the active pickups. But it was little too much. So, on this recording, I took an old white Deluxe that I had for years, and the thing was banging. I didn’t need to fuck with it. I just left it as is.