Interview with Phil and Maria of GLASS WOLFE
First of all it is a pleasure that you found some time to do an interview with me here on The Metal Fields.
Maria K. Glass – Thanks for asking us – the pleasure is ours.
Philip Wolfe – Thanks Metal Fields
Let’s start with the beginning. Can you tell us about the history of Glass Wolfe. How did it all start ?
MKG – Well, I started out writing some lyrics for a project that Philip was doing called Lifeforce. I also at one point had sang back up vocals in a duo he had that was doing cover tunes. That led to us writing songs together. From there, we decided to form a project together and Glass Wolfe was born.
There are a lot of different sounds that I can hear in your music. But the opera vocals make you near to bands like Epica. Would you agree that your influences lie there, or what bands or music are you influenced with ?
PW – My influences are mostly prog rock like ELP and YES and classical including Bach, Beethoven, Chopin and others.
MKG – Our music has progressed over the years from commercial hard rock on “Glass Wolfe” to hard rock/metal on “Predator” and now to the more symphonic rock/metal on “Xotica”. And we love bands like Epica, Nightwish, After Forever and Within Temptation, so there are some influences there. However, the symphonic metal style of music really suits our musical tastes and feels like a great fit for us so that will probably influence our next CD as well.
Your new album is called „Xotica“. Does this mean that you describe your style as exotic music or does it reflect some kind of your lifestyle. Is there a special reason why you chose this album title?
MKG – Well, it was more about the fact that some of the songs have a little exotic feel to them and lyrically take place in various time periods in history. Philip came up with the idea to spell it with an x to make it different.
Maria, you are responsible for all the lyrics. On „Xotica“ you wrote a lot about historical happenings and venues. Is this you main interest in writing songs or just to give the album a straight theme?
MKG – I am interested in a lot of history – European primarily. I read a lot as well and so if a story really touches me, I will sometimes write about it. Marie Antoinette’s life is an example of that. I have read multiple books on her and seen many documentaries on her which drove me to write about her tragic life, which I did with “Queen of Tragedy”. “Rubicon” was from lyrics I had been asked to write for Keith Emerson of ELP for a song he had written for an CD they intended to release. After all my hard work, he never did anything with those lyrics except demo out a song that never got released. So, I decided to use those lyrics on a Glass Wolfe song. But I do write about various subjects, not necessarily historical themes. It just so happened that I had three or four historical lyrics that we used on our new songs. We decided to put them all on the same CD. We are contemplating a concept album for our next endeavor which would also delve in historical realms – but not just European.
If I take a look at your bandpictures I would like to say that you both are very interested in natural life. Can you agree with that ?
MKG – Sure, we are interested in nature. We were trying for different looks on “Xotica” – greek, roman, gothic, etc. It was our great photographer, Stephen Manley, that came up with all the locations for those photo shoots. He lived in the Los Angeles area most of his life and is an actor, so he knew which locations would provide the best background for the era/time period we were going for. And since I hadn’t been to most of these places before, it was a new and interesting experience. The Los Angeles area does have some great nature places.
PW – I had a lot of backpacking and mountain climbing experience in my younger days. the Grand Canyon, Mt Rainier, The Olympic Rain Forest, Rincon Mt. Sabino Canyon and Mt Lemon in Tucson and of couse Yosemite and Yellowstone are all places I have hiked and camped and had many wildlife encounters and grand adventures.
On a short message last time you told me that Phil is having a rehearsal with several musicians. So do you work mainly with session musicians or is there a plan to establish a real band for your upcoming works?
MKG – We do both actually. Glass Wolfe has been around since about 1999. Philip and I are the mainstays in this project – it is our baby and we work very hard on it. We write the material, do the promotion, etc. We have worked with a lot of great session players, but they all have other projects they are working on and are quite busy and aren’t always available. We like the idea of having a band of guys we work with for live and have been rehearsing with a couple of players – so far, it has been working out good.
PW – Yes ! we have had a few rehearsals with a new guitar player and drummer who’s names we will announce in the very near future.
You both have a huge background in music and worked with well known people in the music business. For example Phil played keys in bands like Keel or Impellitteri and Maria wrote lyrics for Keith Emerson. What was the main reason to start together founding your own band?
PW – I remember playing the piano at a resort in Bermuda when Maria and I were on vacation (1999) and she started singing along . So we started to develop some songs for her. At first it was a lot of experimenting with styles, and keys to find her vocal range and sound. Was she gonna be a Stevie Nicks, a Pat Benetar, or Ann Wilson ? We had no idea. techno was not a fit, ballads did’nt work out too good, and blues was not an option …..
MKG – Well, I initially started out writing lyrics for one of Phil’s projects called Lifeforce. I only wrote on a couple of songs for that CD, but it got us on the road to writing material together. Interestingly enough, our first writing attempts were along the lines of techno music. We realized very quickly that techno was not a direction we wanted to go in and so we added heavy guitar on some of the songs and they have appeared on our CD’s. We have very similar tastes in music and so writing together works very well for us. Given the fact that we like working together and have gotten quite a bit of positive feedback on the CD’s, we will be moving on to our next one.
On your web site there is nothing that I can find about touring. Do we have to see Glass Wolfe in these days more as a project or are there plans for touring in your region or even in other countries?
MKG – We have gigged around the Los Angeles area and intend to do so again. We hope to eventually branch out to other areas.
PW – We are looking to tour as soon as we are ready and I can’t wait to come back to Europe and Rock some festivals.
The cover artwork of „Xotica“ is very impressing. The symbiose of colors and moods looks fresh and positive. If I read it right Ed Unitsky is the person who is responsible for this artwork. Can you tell anything more about his works and how did you find him to work with you?
MKG – Yes, Ed Unitsky is a very talented artist. You can check out a lot of his artwork on his myspace page, which is in our top friends. We were fortunate to find him on myspace and thought his work was amazing. He has worked with many different artists. We thought he would be the perfect artist for our “Xotica” CD. But before Ed could really get started on his part of the artwork, we needed to get the photography sessions finished. That’s where Stephen Manley came in. He had done most of the photography for our “Predator” CD and really took some fantastic pictures. For the “Xotica” photoshoots, Stephen came up with all the locations that were scattered around the Los Angeles area and we shot over a period of six months. We then turned the pictures over to Ed Unitsky who transformed them into the artwork on the CD. We are really happy with the results.
PW – A very special thanks to our photographer Stephen Manley and our incredible graphic artist Ed Unitsky.
Where was your new album recorded? Do you have something like your own home studio or external?
MKG – It was recorded in a home studio. Though some of our guest musicians recorded their parts in their own studios and then forwarded the tracks to us.
PW – We have a home studio that has the same quality of gear that you would find in a major studio. See the bio page of our web site http://www.glasswolfe.com for an equipment list.
As we know the United States is not the best place for music like you play since many years. Did you get more feedbacks about your work in europe or other continents than in the states? Or do you also receive a lot of reactions in your home land?
MKG – I’m not sure the United States has ever been big on the symphonic metal genre. I know in Los Angeles, a lot of musicians we know are doing cover bands, tribute bands or reviving bands from the past. That’s all fine, but doesn’t interest me. We do see some of the European symphonic metal bands come through this area and they do have a following, though I don’t think they have really broken through. We do get great feedback from Europe and other continents as well as some from various areas of the U.S. Los Angeles is a tough place to break out since there are so many bands here, but I really love the symphonic metal genre. It is a great fit musically for Philip and I. And being in a band is so much hard work, that I wouldn’t want to waste my time doing it unless I was doing something I love.
PW – We have been carefully following the tours of Nightwish, Epica , and other SM bands across the US and Canada and there seems to be a lot of cities where we could play. Also reports of our airplay indicate the same cities have been playing our material so hopefully we will have some great shows.
Are you both working in civil jobs outside writing and playing music ?
MKG – I am a Legal Office Support Assistant for a Los Angeles County agency that used to be part of the District Attorney’s Office when I started. I prepare the legal documents for the attorneys for cases going to court – subpoenas, motions, workers’ compensation liens, bankruptcy proofs of claim, response to motions, notices of continuance, notices to produce, etc.
PW - I teach private piano lessons and compose music for TV and Film
When you were kids, what was the point that let you decide to live for the music and play in bands?
MKG – I have always loved music growing up. It was and still is my passion. I’ve dabbled in a couple of different instruments (violin, drums) but never really progressed very far. However, I had been writing since I was about seven years old, poems and short stories mostly. My family was convinced I was going to be a writer when I grew up. So, I started out as a lyricist. Eventually, I was asked to sing backup vocals for a project doing cover songs. It was then that I realized I liked singing and, with work, could at least become accomplished enough to demo my lyrics. I started studying with a great vocal coach and with a lot of practicing and hard work, I continued to improve and made the leap into fronting a band. The singing really became an obsession of sorts. It was a perfect fit for me with my love of music and writing.
PW – As a child I was a boy soprano and the lead of the choir . I would sing along with classic rock on the radio but at about 14 my voice cracked and changed and it took a long time for me to recover so I started playing various woodwinds. Flute, Recorders, Clarinet, Oboe and Sax.
Phil, when did you start playing keyboards and what was the reason learning this special instrument ?
PW – I was in college playing flute in the orchestra and I went to see an Emerson Lake and Palmer concert . I was so blown away !
Outside of Glass Wolfe do you also work in other music projects or are you complete concentrated on your own band?
MKG – I pretty much concentrate on Glass Wolfe. It is really what I want to do musically. And it keeps me plenty busy!
PW – Right now I am 110% concentrating on Glass Wolfe but in the past I have played in a few “tribute bands” to have a little fun on the side. Several years ago I had an Emerson Lake and Palmer Tribute called the Endless Enigma and Keith Emerson came out and saw us play and shook my hand afterwards and said “Well done” . http://www.myspace.com/theendlessenigma
What can we expect from Glass Wolfe in the near future? Is there any plan recording new stuff or are you still continuing to promote „Xotica“?
MKG – We have a number of new songs in the works that will be again along the lines of symphonic metal. But we are still promoting “Xotica” as well. We may put out a few singles in the meantime.
PW – So far we have 16 songs written and demo recorded for the new CD which may turn out to be a concept album. On a Mac Dual 2.3 G5 with 4 Gigs of Ram, I am using the Real Les Paul software to demo the guitar parts thru the Amplitube Duo with 2 UAD cards hosting UA plug in’s .. LA2A, Pultec EQ, 1176LN and the Nigel Processor. I also use the Superior Drummer with the Metal Foundry kit and the East West Quantum Pianos (the Steinway is my favorite ) and Orchestra and Choirs . Also the Arturia Modular Moog, Minimoog, Arp-2600 and Yamaha CS-80 along with my trusty analog synths Oberheim OB-8, Nord Modular and Minimoogs sound incredible layered together. The VST host DAW is Cubase and it’s all recorded into Nuendo on a 2nd Computer via Lightpipe at 24 bit – 48 K with 48 tracks mixed thru a Yamaha 02R mixer.
Can you say that you now found your own style of music you want to play or are there any plans in changing of your sound?
MKG – I think so. It really feels like the most comfortable fit for me vocally. And since keyboards are such a big part of our sound, it allowed us to take our music to the next level. There are no plans to change the direction of our sound, but you never know what the future holds. For now, I’m happy doing this genre.
PW – Well …as an artist I am always trying to push the limits of what I can do musically, but I do think that we have found our style and our niche in the genre of symphonic metal.
What music or bands do you listen in your private life?
MKG – I mostly listen to the symphonic metal bands – Nightwish, Epica, After Forever, Within Temptation, Luca Turilli’s Dreamquest, Leaves’ Eyes and Imperia, to name a few. But I also really like Kamelot, Masterplan, Lacuna Coil, Evanescence, Ayreon, Queensryche, a lot of the 80’s metal and also a lot of the 70’s music like Earth, Wind and Fire and Chicago. I mainly listen to CD’s in my collection and rarely listen to the radio.
PW .. mostly the classical radio station KUSC 91.5 and my CD collections of my favorite symphonic metal bands and my favorite 70’s prog.
Is there any song on „Xotica“ that is very special for you or would you say that the whole album has it’s special moments in every song?
MKG – All the songs have a special meaning for me. Whether they are set in historical time periods that interest me (Queen of Tragedy, Helen of Troy, Rubicon), deal with feelings many of us have (Second Sight, Free to Fly, Rise Above, Caught in the Crossfire) or tell a story (Emerald Lady, The Tempest), I like them all. One special song for me would be Reflections. Reflections was dedicated to the memory of my uncle’s wife, Janet Glass, who passed away after a long battle with cancer a few years back. She was a wonderful lady who was always encouraging of our musical aspirations and band and never complained about the terrible pain that she had to live with. I was honored to sing the song at the memorial for her, which took place in Rhode Island.
PW – For me it is “Helen of Troy”. I started writing this piece many years ago before I could play the piano. In fact several of the sections were composed on the flute. I later transcribed the wlole piece from memory while sitting on a park bench in Santa Monica overlooking the Ocean. I later recorded the song on a 3340 Tascam 4 track reel to reel with a 3 piece prog band in 1980. We called ourselves Ariel and performed the piece then called “Machine Age” in several clubs in Tucson Arizona. The crowd reaction was incredible ! Some people loved it and thought we were the next ELP and 1/2 the crowd hated it and wanted to kill us and almost rioted.
Lots of bands now play symphonic metal with female vocals. Describe what your music makes it different to all of them and why the people should buy „Xotica“.
MKG – Well, we have a dynamic that crosses a few different genres – symphonic metal, classic rock, progressive – and I think that makes it interesting. We are not really trying to compete with any other bands – we just love the genre and are doing it to the best of our ability. Hopefully, people like it and want to get behind the band.
PW – We are in the genre but we still have a unique sound all our own …
Thanx a lot Phil and Maria.
MKG – Thanks to you, Kerb, and the Metal Fields for the interview!
PW – Thanks Kerb
Interview by Kerbinator for METAL FIELDS