Finally, what the world has been waiting for! An album made from field recordings at Guitar Center! Well, another album made from field recordings at Guitar Center!
Glassine, a.k.a. 30-year-old Danny Greenwald from Maryland, recorded about 40 hours of tape of other people trying out instruments at Guitar Center, and mixed samples of that together into seven tracks of atmospheric soundscapes. He is not the only person to have recently made an album using this concept, although Noah Wall’s album is a little less easy to listen to (and reminds me of a less professional version of Soloing Over Alanis Morissette meets Creed Shreds).
No Stairway (props for naming your album after Wayne’s World) is available on Bandcamp, and will soon get a cassette release from Patient Sounds. We spoke with Glassine about, well… recording an album at Guitar Center.
What do you do for a living?
Danny/Glassine: I am a special needs paraeducator at an elementary school. Basically I hang out with little dudes all day who call me Mr. Greenwald. It is very strange to be called that by anyone.
Do you like Wayne's World or Wayne's World 2 better?
Definitely Wayne's World. However, Wayne’s World 2 totally ruled. Especially the half-naked Indian and Jim Morrison. And definitely the part when Christopher Walken is like, "My girlfriend is in there." And then Chris Farley is like, "Hey. A lot of people's girlfriend's are in there."
What is your favorite scene from either movie?
My favorite scene is definitely when Wayne is like, "A gun rack... a gun rack. I don't even own a gun, let alone many guns that would necessitate an entire rack. What am I gonna do with a gun rack?"
Give us a full run down on the recording process. What did you do it on? Was it hidden or out in the open? Did you go to one or multiple stores?
It was a very fluid process. I walked into Guitar Center with my iPhone and I recorded people playing music. Surprise! I didn't record the source sounds with tape. The recorder wasn't out in the open. I didn't walk around pointing my phone at people. I would kind of follow sounds that I thought would be useful. Not all of them were pretty or alluring. The project started in Brooklyn and then it moved to Baltimore. So, two locations. I would go record for some time in the stores. Sometimes for hours. Then I would come home and sift through the booty. Kind of like a kid coming home after trick-or-treating. I kept the Twix and I threw away the black licorice. I organized the sounds, fed some through a four-track, looped some things, picked out teeny sounds that I could use as synth patches, created more loops, fed them back through a few old pedals, drank more coffee and continued on my journey. The end results were recorded onto Pro Tools. I didn't use any plug-ins. Well, no. I used some EQ, but not much. My laptop was really only used for the actual "recording." It was like 99% outboard.
How did you edit this all together?
There was a lot of panning. There was a lot of trying to connect things that were seemingly un-connectable. A lot of times I would think that a track was finished, but then I remembered that I had some other sound I wanted to use so I would comb back through it and add some fetching little tone somewhere. The editing and the recording processes were married. The studio was very much a part of the instrument.
Do you shop at Guitar Center?
I do not shop at Guitar Center. Mostly because I have been using the same gear since I was in 10th grade. Also, every time I walk in there I get stalked out by salespeople. I have never bought a used car, but I can imagine it feels very similar.
Have you sent this recording to Guitar Center's offices?
I have not sent this to Guitar Center. Though my mom, among other people, suggested that I should do that. A musical hero of mine told me that maybe they would put a bunch of money into a billboard donning the cover or something.
How does your album compare to Noah Wall's? And have their been other "Guitar Center albums," and if so what did you think of them?
I find Guitar Center to be pretty unpleasant - sonically, aesthetically, and commercially. I wanted to take something unattractive and be able to extract beauty from it. I wanted to make that environment float on a cloud. I wanted to inspect little nuances, capture them, and paint with them. I'm not sure about Noah's intentions. However, I must say, he had a wonderful idea. They certainly sound very different. I had no idea about any other "Guitar Center albums" when No Stairway was being created. In fact, Patient Sounds and I, the label who is putting it out, found out about Noah's album just as we were hammering out the release details of my project. It was so serendipitous. It made me feel kind of gutted that an album with a similar concept was being released at the same time. I almost didn't want to put it out. We reached out to Noah to let him know that my project existed and that it was created completely independent of his. Noah was totally supportive and enthusiastic. His reaction, and the reactions of others, sort of encouraged me to move forward as planned. So we did.
Ignoring the Guitar Center itself, are there other recordings that you like that have been made in a similar way?
I use field recordings to achieve a certain ambiance. There are other artists who I really respect in terms of their abilities to create sonic landscapes. Artists like Jason Urick, Grouper, William Basinski, Boards of Canada, etc. I don't know exactly how they realize their art, but those are a few examples of influences on my process. And Joni Mitchell.
Do you have other music projects?
Yeah. I front a warm-core, post-flannel project called The Hens. Which is mostly me, but sometimes others. Most of the time when I play with others we are just covering Dire Straits songs in a living room.
Is this being released only online, or in any other medium?
This album is officially being released on Patient Sounds on August 6th. Beautiful cassettes will be available. You can download it on bandcamp now, though.
Any sort of ambitions or hopes for this recording?
Yeah. I hope that one day Phil Elvrum or Jason Urick or Grouper or Bjork or MF DOOM hears it. And I hope they think to themselves, "Oh shit, I'm trying to collaborate with this dude." And then they email my agent. Who is my mother.
And I sincerely hope to play Waynestock 2016.