Exclusive Interview with Bethany and Shreddy on Culture of Ascent

As ususal, Steve has been pretty tight-lipped about the new album. So GHfan.net decided to ask a few questions of band members Bethany Warren and David "Shreddy" Walliman for their thoughts on the latest album, entitled "Culture of Ascent".

Rumor has it the new GH album will feature a new, "heavier style".  What are your impressions of it so far?

Bethany: "Heavier sound," in my opinion, doesn't quite do the new album justice. I think adjectives, like "edgy," are more appropriate. Word around the campfire is that Matt and Steve have really stopped musically restraining themselves to fit into a session band dominated by two keyboardists, really unifying the sound of the group as a whole rather than each of us adding our individual tidbits. Adding ol' Shreddy has really altered the sound of GH, but this album takes on a new dimension that I think fans will really find impressive.

Shreddy: The new album does sound heavier than what the band has been doing so far, but I don't think it will throw off the fans. When I listen to the new tracks I can still hear a lot of what makes a "classic" Glass Hammer album. I really don't think that old school classic prog fans will be dissapointed.I think that the direction the band is taking will actually reconcile the hard core progheads with the new metal prog generation.


So it saddens us fans to hear that Walter won't be joining you for this album, but how is the band adjusting?  More multi-vox?  More ambitious solos from Susie?

Bethany: It should be known that Carl Groves is an insanely fun person to work with in a musical environment. He is lighthearted and absolutely hilarious, but knows when its time to focus. That being said, it is saddening to see the loss of Walter's talent, but I hope everyone recognizes that the changing of the guard is just as amazing. Carl really has a superb gift in music and GH is blessed to have him as a part of our core group. He, along with Susie, will be handling outstanding vocals written by both Carl and Steve. And as far as the multi-vox: Imagine "Run Lisette" times ... I don't know, a lot more. There will be tons of vocal layering on this album.


What's it like working with Fred and Steve?

Shreddy: Working with these guys is a true blessing. They give me a lot of liberty writing all the guitar arrangements. They are always open to new ideas and I feel realy trusted by them. The way we recorded this album was one of the best experience a musician could have. They basically gave me an instrumental version of the tracks to take here into my studio and told me to come back when I got some ideas recorded. Then we just listen to what I came up with and go from there.

Bethany: I don't get to witness much of the inner workings of their minds, but when we are all together in the studio, the vibe is something like this: Fred and Steve mishmash ideas to get one fairly homogenous concept. I do my best to interpret this idea, and then we sit around and gab like school girls until its time to move to the next idea. As intense as the music itself might be, the work is quite laid back. The environment rarely pressures the musicians, which really makes it an ideal creative scene. Working with them, although it requires accuracy and understanding what they want, is not at all stressful. They are both perfectionists, and I'm sure no one would have it any other way.


It seems like Glass Hammer has become more of a group effort, as opposed to just Steve and Fred. Do you see it this way? How does this affect the creative process?

Shreddy: Yeah, I agree with you. I think we're all given a great oportunity in the band to express ourselves musically and give our input. I think when you  hear the album, you'll be able to hear the difference.

Bethany: GH has definitely developed into something more of a group effort rather than a two man job. From time to time, Steve will call me into the studio to inspect his latest lyrical or musical creation. Carl is now working with Steve on writing lyrics, and Matt and David both are given creative space to develop their parts in the music. That, in turn, has grown Glass Hammer into a different band than what it was just even a few years ago.


What are the vocals like? Are there any big choir songs?

Bethany: There will be choral parts in Glass Hammer's next album (and the people rejoiced.). However, it hasn't been decided if the choir will be a featured aspect, as it was on the DVD. The vocals are moving in a different direction, courtesy of Robert Streets, new co-producer of GH vocals. Vocals will be honed until they are exactly what the big guys are wanting.

A few questions to Shreddy: Do most of the songs shave keyboard intros?  Or do any songs start with other intruments?

Shreddy: As for now, all the songs but one start with some kind of synth or piano. There is one track however that starts with Steve, Matt and I. But that could change before the release. We'll see. That track I'm talking about is quite different from what you've heard with Glass Hammer before. Very grungy sounding. Not sure what was in Steve's head when he wrote it, but I think it's really good and fun to play. Can't wait to do that one live. :-)

Were you involved with any of the writing on this album?

Shreddy: I was more involved in the arrangement part. But the actual writing was handled by Steve and Fred. However they did write accordingly to the member's style and influences.

Are we going to hear a lot of guitar./keyboard duets on this album?

Shreddy: Yes, a lot more interactions between us are present in the album. Even more than that, I think all the instruments blend together even more that the band's previous musical works.

Who can play faster, Freddy or Shreddy?

Shreddy: Fred told me to answer that he is the master of speed, no doubt. He also asked me to say that he comes up with the most impressive licks and that no one can compete with him. :-)

Is the new GH work you're doing now very different from the other work you've done?

Shreddy: Yes it is. Glass Hammer is the first band I've been in where keyboards have such an important place. Working with Fred is very refreshing to me. It forces me to play differently than if I had to double another guitar part. Another big difference is that all the band members really care about everything that's going on in the songs. Some of the band I've been involved with in the past didn't have that. It's nice to know that what you are playing is taken seriously by the other members and that you can rely on them to support you when you are taking a lead.

Finally, tell us about your side projects.

Shreddy: I'm spending most of my free time finishing my next album. It's called Evolving Seeds of Glory and is a concept album that explains how God's glory is seen for the most in times of pain. The songs are written, but I keep tweaking the arrangements. I'm very excited about the way it sounds. Matt is on drums, Randy George is playing most of the bass parts, Steve and Fred will more than likely be part of the project too. A few surprise guests will appear as well.

Other than that, I am working on a few tracks for a videogame demo for the new XBox.

We're also talking about fininishing Young Earth's first opus.


Now to Bethany: Have you been working more on this album?  As the youngest member of the band, do you feel that your voice is significantly different now than when you first started practicing with the band for NEARfest?

Bethany: Even though I'm the youngest member of the band, I've done a lot of growing up musically. My voice has really developed into that of a contralto, where I used to be more along the lines of a mezzo soprano (huge contrast, I know! It was like hitting puberty.). That being said, I've been afforded the fun luxury of getting to sing the low female vocal parts, like on "Run Lisette".  That doesn't mean that Steve doesn't try to stretch my vocal range, though. He still likes to see how high he can make me sing.

So there were some rumors earlier about Glass Hammer working with Yes.  Did anything ever happen with that? Have they actually met with Jon?

Bethany: Fred and Steve are BFFs (best friends forever, those that don't know) with Jon Anderson. Well, I'm probably reaching with that statement. But Steve paid a lil' visit to Jon (the two spent plenty of time in the studio talking about music), and the three have been talking for a few years now. Both Steve and Fred are writing with Jon - there are several works they are joint producing as well, from what I've gathered. Jon is something of a big fan of GH work, and the respect is obviously mutual. Both GH guys are huge fans of the work of Yes and Anderson.