by Wilson Standish of Boy Kings
If you’ve been lucky enough to catch The Glamour live you know about their fun house party-vibe with influences of 90’s house and electro synth. The Glamour, which is made up of Richard Galling and Asher Gray, has been not had as strong a presence in Chicago electro as they deserve. The two are reuniting this summer to reclaim the night scene, and drop a full album while they’re at it.
The began DJing together in 1999 and that progressed into producing shortly after and by 2007 they were a household name in Chicago and Wisconsin’s dance music scene. I caught up with Asher and Richard while they were DJing at MOTC in Milwaukee. Asher, with blondish short red hair that fans out to the sides, was wearing a black-t with a large graphic skull under a red cardigan. Richard had specks of paint on his shoes, and his long black hair, parted in the middle, hung like a homage to Wayne’s World.
Even though they live far from each other at the moment and seem to be on different frequencies, they resonate when they come together. With Richard finishing his MFA at Yale and Asher working on music in Milwaukee the last two years, The Glamour had to put together songs through email, and only doing shows over Richards art school breaks. That is all about to change this summer when Richard moves back and the two are recording and playing live shows again.
Boy Kings: How did you guys meet?
Asher: Honestly, we met at a rave. I used to be a huge raver and Richard obviously…not necessarily a raver, but he was just into the music.
Richard: I think there was a smaller community of people that were younger, not 18 yet.
Asher: I was 16 and Richard was 14.
Richard: There was just a tighter crew of younger people, and we saw each other around [Milwaukee] regularly.
BK: What was the rave scene like in Wisconsin?
Asher: It was awesome back then. There were so many secret parties.
Richard: It was the tail end of the scene in general. Before things got outlawed in Chicago and here. The party we met at…I don’t know if it was really a rave. It was in the basement of The Rave, which is a big venue here, but that got closed down because there was a lot of drug problems.
Asher: People OD’d.
Richard: Some people got shot. A lot of people died in a matter of two or three weeks.
Asher: There was that going on in Milwaukee, and a lot of parties out in the woods. I would never go to the ones in the woods, but you would hear about them.
BK: You have been tied to the resurgence of modern dance music in Milwaukee 5 years ago. How has it changed since then?
Asher: I don’t think we were pioneering. We were just doing what we wanted to do. We came from a house music background. We obviously like a bunch of other music…Like tonight, you give them some top-40s or some classic jams, and start layering in the shit you’re really into. Now it’s a little easier to get people going with the proper house and techno. But Milwaukee’s a really hard sell with that. There’s specific venues, but even then it’s kinda weird because you have all the older heads from back in the day that are all into micro-house. It’s easier now because people are more into dance music, but it’s not like Madison. Where you play a banger and girls are body surfing…it’s a little bit harder. Milwaukee is a working class town, people like their PBR, rock and rap.
Richard: Well, I think the thing is that when we were doing a lot of that stuff here, it was a time when Flosstradamus was doing their thing at the Town Hall Pub in Chicago. There was certainly a community of people that were mixing a lot of things together from different backgrounds. Some of them came from more of a rap background some came from house and some kids came from the rock scene. What was really great about that was how it got people into dance music, but “mash-up” is kind of a dirty word now. But now you can go and legitimately play electronic music, and people are into it. You needed that crossover period, and rightfully so it was interesting, it evolved into something else now.
BK: Where’s the Milwaukee/Madison scene going?
Asher: I hope that it’s going in a more open-minded dance music oriented route. But it’s hard to say. I throw a monthly here at this little dive bar and it’s bananas. It’s spaced for 80 people, but they don’t even care. You can play Biggie or you can play Miles Dyson and they don’t even care, they’re just going nuts over the stuff. The music is getting more big club sound, but the venue for that in Milwaukee is the smaller places.
Richard: But I think what’s happening too is because of the economy, there’s a pretty big lull right now. People will go out for the big names, but a lot of the smaller parties…I don’t know, just a weirder vibe, people just aren’t as hyped anymore. It has a lot to do with just the condition of the time. I think one way to cure that is to bring it back underground. And I could see that happening again.
Asher: I think it’s going more underground and disappearing from the big mainstream.
Richard: Well I think there’ll be the big room that’ll be the success events and there’ll be the much more kind of underground acts. It’s what happened to disco, that’s what happened to a lot of different types of dance music. It got really big, almost too big, and to rectify it these people kept going and other people took it somewhere else.
BK: What was the goal when you guys started?
Richard: I think we always wanted to make electronic music together. We have a lot of different interests, and we have a lot of similar interests. We’ve been making music together for almost 10 years. We were really young, and we made a lot of shit for a long time. I think that sincerity to music is important, there’s a lot of people now…I’m not going to say bad things…but there are people that don’t know the history and are just into it just to be into it.
Asher: And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Everyones got to get into it in their own way.
Richard: It makes the scene bigger.
Asher: If a nuclear bomb goes off and Richard and I survive 10 years after that, we’re still going to be trying to play dance music somehow. It’s not going to matter if it’s super popular or if we’re making a lot of money or any of that. It’s just a passion for that type of music, that has really kept us going. The songs that we’re creating now I think we wanted to make when we first started, but we didn’t have the means to make that stuff.
Richard: We’re pretty much self-taught producers. A lot of it is trial and error and figuring our stuff out. I think now we’re at a pretty good point where we can actualize what we want to do.
BK: Your lyrics have a lot of humor to them. Where do you get the inspiration for your vocals?
Richard: Well, I think there’s a break. I think a lot of our earlier stuff was about the time it was written in. (laughs) I’m not going to say anything about other issues. But “Kids Night” and “Respect The Party” really represented the scene at the time and that’s what we wanted to talk about.
Asher: Just reacting to the vibe.
Richard: Now I think it’s hard to write songs that are like that. And now we’ve really returned to a lot to things that inspired us in the first place. A lot of the lyrics that we write now make reference to classic pop music or classic disco. A lot of that stuff is really quirky and humorous but also really tight and well thought out.
Asher: We’re more serious about it now, but still at the same time trying to maintain…we’re not trying to pretend that we’re from the streets. It’s dance music after all, so the main goal is to get people on the dance floor to dance. But at the same time I’m not going to write a pop song solely because I want it to be a hit. I don’t think we think about it that much. We’ll work on a track and come up with the lyrics as we go. I don’t have a notebook of poems that I’ve written from my heart. But right now it’s go with the vibe and go with what we’re feeling in the moment.
BK : How do you think your sound has evolved over time?
Richard: I think in a weird way we’ve returned to what we’ve always wanted to make. I think what happened was when we started to get a lot of attention…like I said, it was about the time, it was really about the necessity to make a track to get out so we could play it at the party that weekend. I think all those sounds are still with us, we’ve just started to focus them in a different place.
Asher: Yeah, nerding out a little more in the studio, taking our time and not rushing things. Not that we rushed things before, but really working on the craft of engineering. I think there’s so many people that would agree that everybody started making dance music because they wanted to, and progressively got better at it. Out of necessity started acquiring all this information about engineering and mixing.
Richard: You just become more refined with it.
BK: You’ve been DJing most of your shows recently. Are we going to see you returning to the live band format anytime soon?
Richard: Eventually we really want to put out an album, hopefully this year, if not, early next year. I think with the live thing you have to have enough shows in a row, kinda tour it out to have it make sense. When we did it was a one-off thing. It was a lot of fun, it was just a lot of work, because we had to practice for a while. It’s a little bit easier if you’re doing it consistently for a period of time. It’ll definitely happen again, though. I think it’s a matter of time. We have a lot of new material as it is right now but wherever it coalesces.
Asher: I feel that there is a push to do a live show, even if you’re not a live band. If we’re playing out of town, we’ll dedicate a part of our set to playing our own stuff, and I’ll go out and do lyrics or instrumental versions of our songs. But it’s not a truly live performance.
Richard: Back then we were, though.
Asher: We did one show in Chicago two summers ago, and it was totally live. We had our guitar player, my sister did backup vocals. It was awesome, but if we were to maintain the ability to do a live show anytime we wanted Richard would have to live in Milwaukee. He doesn’t right now so it’s just tough to get together and practice. You can approach The Glamour from a band perspective or you can approach it via a DJ perspective. We just figured instead of doing a half-ass live show, we might as well do our DJ set, which we’re really proud of and passionate about.
Richard: That’s what most people do anyways.
Asher: And do some vocals to give people a flavor for the live aspect.
BK: And you said you were working on a full album. Tell me about that.
Asher: I think we’re pretty close to having enough tracks to do an album. That being said, two months from now we might not.
Richard: I finish up school in like two months, and there’s a good chance I’m moving back, and between now and then we’ll work on a lot of stuff, we’ll work on a lot when I get back. We’re shopping a lot of material around right now, talking to a lot of people about it. I think it’s good to overshoot it. By the end of the summer if we have 18 or 15 tracks, and then we cut it down to 10 just so that we have a really good tight album.
Asher: A cohesive story.
Richard: Yeah, because what makes sense for an album is different…
Asher: It’s different than making one track…
Richard: You don’t do banger after banger.
Asher: I feel like an album has to tell a story even tough we’re not writing narrative songs, the album has to move along in a certain way.
BK: Besides the album what have you guys been working on?
Richard: We’ve been doing a lot of material. We both have little side projects too that we’ve been working on.
Asher: When Richard’s not around, when he’s at school, I’m going pretty much full time doing my solo DJ set. And I just started up this other little project with my friend OCD Automatic from Madison and another guy from Milwaukee that goes by Double Drop. We’re doing a little trio called Culture Culture (laughs), and right now it’s just for fun. But it’s going to be an all Ableton, total masturbatory, (laughs) nerding out. We’re going to use three separate computers…it’s all for fun. I’m excited to do that and make songs with Richard, and he DJs on the East Coast. We don’t like to limit ourselves to The Glamour, and I think it keeps things fresher.
Richard: A lot of our production has gotten a lot better…I don’t want to say we both have big egos, but we both have big ideas about what we want. When we come together now, as a result of having these side things it’s much fresher and more pure, not to be cheesy. I feel like a lot of what we’re doing now is a lot less forced and more focused.
Asher: Over the years we really learned to work as a team, as a duo. But if you heard our solo tracks you wouldn’t think The Glamour.
We went on to talk about Asher’s classical Irish musical training to accompany his pronounced red hair. Richard trying to push for an Irish set, saying, “one of these years.” He said that Irish music is dance music at its core.
I’d never been to Milwaukee before, but was tempted to pronounce it “Mila-Wau-Kay” every time I heard it said, since watching Chris Farley say it that way as a limo driver in Wayne’s World possibly 223 times. But despite me confusing every person that said Milwaukee in my presence I think I’ll be returning soon—especially come Cubs season.