"I decided to be a solo artist. There's no reason why the name Art Department can't continue to survive and continue to make music and to do what it's been doing. Why should it stop?" Kenny Glasgow contemplates from the confines of his London studio. His space is pristine, his apparel black, and his demeanor more chill than a poolside piña colada. He intermittently puffs smoke toward the computer screen while we speak.
After spending six years in the duo Art Department with fellow Torontonian Jonny White, the pair announced in April that Glasgow will be striking it solo under his given name again; to the chagrin of some of their fans, White will continue on as Art Department alone. While he understands their disappointment at seeing the partnership end, Glasgow expresses, "everybody has different things that they want to do in life and if two people aren't thinking of the exact same thing, it's time to make that move. But that doesn't mean that the name has to be destroyed or defunct."
Tackling interviews was a task usually delegated to White, so it's hard not to wonder if Glasgow feels comfortable being in the spotlight and interacting with the press again. "Whether you like it or not, if you feel like you want to get to the next level of where you're at these are things that you have to do. So I'm quite comfortable talking to people and, you know, telling them a story, telling them what I'm doing...Jonny's very good with words and he's good with talking to the people. He can be controversial at times but that's part of the Jonny White thing," he laughs.
"It's good to be able to have [my] own voice, especially because this is my project. I can't have anyone else speaking for my project. I want people to understand what I'm doing."
Glasgow admits to having a lot more respect for White now that all the responsibilities are back on his own plate again. "If I wasn't hiring everybody to do all that stuff that Jonny was doing, that would be a whole new ball game. My brain would probably explode. I don't know how he was able to do it," he confesses. He isn't daunted by the added obligations, though. With brand new social media pages to his name and a fan base to build from scratch, he enthuses, "it's exciting to have the fresh start."
He's also ecstatic to regain the control he previously had to relinquish. "When you play by yourself, you program the music by yourself. So if I want to play this song now and not play it in my next set, I can do that a lot easier. It makes me a little bit more creative, which then brings my creativity in the studio." His production process, though, has been completely unaffected by the decision to leave Art Department. "I'm quite versed in being by myself and able to function as a solo artist," he says.
This is likely because Glasgow has been involved in this scene since he was 18-years-old, spending the summers with his cousin Eugene. He was too young at the time to enter the clubs he heard about, though. "He used to get dressed up at like two in the morning. I would just be up doing whatever and I'd be like, 'Where are you going?'" Through Eugene, he learned about electronic music and underground culture, eventually tagging along when he was old enough. "It was really different. It was a combination of straight people, gay people, all kinds of people that I had never been exposed to," he recalls fondly of his first night out. "It was a little bit overwhelming. And the sound—it was my first time in a club hearing house music like that. I had heard it at his place when he played records and stuff, but to hear it in a club sound, it was amazing."
From there Glasgow began frequenting warehouse parties in Toronto, which led him to collect records. After he amassed enough to start mixing them, he jumped right into the ring, throwing underground parties as JMK with two of his friends. He landed a residency at The Buzz and later at Toronto's infamous and now-defunct club Industry, where he eventually met White. "He's done a lot for me and he's helped me get to where I am. I'm very grateful and thankful that I was able to connect with somebody like him," says Glasgow.
He is already being billed solo as Kenny Glasgow for most upcoming gigs, although he will still perform select dates with White as Art Department through to the end of this year. "I'll miss, just, traveling with him and having my brother with me and playing together and talking. A lot of the greatest times we have are after the show or before the show. We'd meet up at the airport and we'd just talk because I hadn't seen him in like a week or so. I'll miss that."
But their relationship is anything but over, as the pair has already started up a new imprint together called Social Experiment. The imprint is intended to be a more underground and dancefloor-focused offshoot of No.19, and will host Glasgow's forthcoming solo album later this year. "We were able to pull it [Art Department] off for as long as we did and I look forward to working with him again on music. It'll just be different now because we're in a different place," he adds.
Five years on and it seems poignant that the duo's first big hit together came in the form of 2010's "Without You." Released on Crosstown Rebels, Glasgow's eerie vocals repeat "I just can't make it without you" to a haunting effect. Fans of Art Department should take comfort in knowing nothing could be further from reality for either artist on his own, but it's back to the drawing board for them both. Where does that leave them in the meantime? "Just boys. Brothers."