An Interview with Glitch Mob
Everyone in the crowd Sunday night at the Joy Theatre seemed fascinated by the black cloth sheets on stage. It was as if the The Glitch Mob’s custom-built set, The Blade, was a special gift, wrapped up just for them.
Intro music was starting to climax when an alarm sounded and strobe lights blinked around the room. Fans cheered for the start of the show, but they slowly realized it was not the opening, but only The Joy Theater’s fire alarm. After five attempts to start the show, and 45 minutes of fire alarms, the trio was finally able to reveal their musical contraption on stage for the first time in New Orleans.
I didn't think bass drops could be enhanced so powerfully by the banging of drums, but The Blade proved that it hosts an incredible amount of energy that can only be released with drum sticks flailing vigorously through the air. The crowd was surprisingly sparse, allowing for Mob fans to shuffle and thrash about in the unexpected (and welcomed) space around them.
The brief moments between songs allotted for only a quick rest for your feet before another hard-hitting banger blasted through The Blade and out the speakers. In the end, “One more song!” chants brought the gentlemen back on stage to play a 4-song encore. “Fortune Days” and “We Can Make The World Stop” prepped the crowd for the unleashing of full chaos with “Skullclub”.
Prior to all of the beats, bass, and Blade, I caught up with the guys to talk about their set, some story-telling, and what The Glitch Mob’s world is all about.
Where Y’at: Right off the bat, let’s talk about The Blade a bit. About how many people worked on creating The Blade? And about how long did yall spend working on creating this custom, interactive set/instrument?
Boreta: If you take everyone in total, like from the people who built it to the people who designed it, I would say it was like a 30 person team.
Ooah: Maybe 30 to 50. I mean it’s hard to say, because there could have been one guy who might have worked on one piece of video or something like that. There were a lot of people who came in and pieced it all together. Just the video crew alone, the guys who helped us design and create all of the content that goes with The Blade was like 10 to 15 people.
Boreta: From the moment we started the project to the time we left on tour was roughly a year. During that last month we were pretty much working around the clock. There was a lot of conceptual stuff and a lot of the software is custom made.
WYAT: In the Documentary “Beyond the Blade”, your Playback Engineer said “They’re using technology not to make it dummy proof, but they’re using technology to expand on something they wouldn’t be able to do with conventional stuff.” Though it may not be the intention, does new technology make it easier to create and perform, or actually harder since you’re having to learn new workflows?
Boreta: There’s a double-edged sword with all of it. Because we’re early adopters with all of this stuff, and we’re out there on the front lines testing things that haven’t been done before. The trade off is that it’s really unreliable. Like The Blade crashes and even during sound check today, we were working on finding a bug because there’re so many points of potential failure and so many variables. It’s like a living, breathing machine with the physical interlocking with the virtual software, so it’s a very, very unreliable system. If we wanted it just to work, then we would go play on CDJs. So we definitely trade off the reliability, but it does allows us to do things we couldn’t otherwise.
WYAT: The Glitch Mob has always been known to put on an incredible live performance and create an experience for the fans. With your sophomore album “Love Death and Mortality” y’all said you wanted to find a new way to perform the music, which resulted in the creation of The Blade. Is your plan to constantly evolve and expand on The Blade, or create an entirely new show in the future?
Ooah: It’s hard to say at this moment. We’ve definitely talked about expanding The Blade and creating a 2.0 version. That’s kind of been the general idea, but who knows. We haven’t gotten past 1.0 yet. We’re still out on the road doing it. After this, we’ll go into creation mode to write new music or come up with ideas and decide what’s next. Our process is very much about going with the flow with what’s available in technology and what we can come up with at the time.
WYAT: So when you first started touring with The Blade, y’all said you weren’t necessarily that good at it and were a bit sloppy. How have you progressed with each performance and are you where you want to be with it yet?
Boreta: It’s definitely still evolving. Every single show we learn something new. For us, that evolution is the goal in a way. Pushing ourselves outside of our comfort zone. If we ever feel like, “Alright, we got this! It’s just smooth sailing form here. Let’s just cash a check and hang out.” Then I think we would have missed the point for us. It’s all about doing new things and trying to find what ways are exciting for us.
edIT: Constantly pushing the envelope.
Boreta: For ourselves honestly. Our music, and the way we see everything, all comes back down to authenticity. If we’re all genuinely excited and all 3 are up there feeling like this is great, then people can feel that and sense that and subconsciously will vibe off of what we’re putting out too. We’re all about pushing this thing in a new direction and not resting on our laurels.
Ooah: Defintiely. And something Ed’s said a ton of times over the years: “It’s all about the journey, not the destination.” For us, it’s constantly finding new ways and new paths to express what we want and performance. If we just figured it out, “Oh yeah, this is the thing.” Then we would get tired and bored of it quickly.
WYAT: What percentage of your set is improv?
Ooah: It’s mostly not improv. There is room for improvisation, but just getting up there and performing the music as is, is already a lot of work. We’re not necessarily musicians who could just pick up, “Oh we’re in the key of C. Let’s jam on that.” We’ve created these instruments and we’ve taught ourselves how to play them the way that they need to be played.
edIT: Yeah, when you come to the show, you want to hear “Fortune Days”. You know, you don’t really want to hear maybe something that kind of sounds like “Fortune Days” a little bit, but isn’t quite that. You know what I mean? We’re really big on giving that to the fans. Giving them that experience.
WYAT: You three are very passionate about telling a story through your music. Is there an overlying story you're trying to get across to the fans? What feelings are you trying to evoke at your shows?
Boreta: Absolutely, but I think it’s all in the music. Ultimately, we tell the story through the music and through the sound, and we’d really be doing a disservice if we tried to express that in words. There’s a lot there and we have this evolution with everything. We have a very close relationship with our fans, and when you have someone come up and tell you, “Hey, your music saved my life.” or “Your music meant this to me.” I mean we all have that one song that means that much to you, and when people started saying that to us, we were like, wow. We take this stuff very seriously.
It’s a very high definition medium to express emotions and is really better than words, so we try to not really say too much because as soon as we define it and pigeonhole the message, then people will interpret only that. We actually learn a lot about our music from what people tell us they take from it.
WYAT: Music videos are often all about story-telling, but you’ve only created 4 music videos. What makes you choose to do a video for a track and can we expect a new one any time soon?
Ooah: None of us gushed over, or were that excited about music videos. When we see one that we really like, we’ll share it with each other. For us, it hasn’t been in the forefront of what we need to do to express who The Glitch Mob is. It’s kind of this side thing, like, oh it’d be cool to collaborate, and we’ve worked with friends. They’ve come in this very natural way, not like, “Alright, let’s make a video. Let’s hire whatever director, and this and that.” It’s been through a very organic process with homies in LA, where we live, or Justin met that guy Beeple. It’s very much how The Glitch Mob world works. It kind of comes out of being creative and open to ideas.
But, yeah, I’m sure we’ll do more music videos if it feels right.
WYAT: Can you talk a little about your newest EP, Piece of the Indestructible, and what’s the story behind the title?
Boreta: Once again, I think it’s in the music. The EP itself is sort of a continuation of the last record. We didn’t reboot our whole palette and go live in the desert, like we did before and really rethink everything. It was more like a sequel, or new chapter. We wanted to write music that picked up where we left off and say some things that weren’t said. And a lot of what we do comes from the energy from touring. So we go out and play all of these shows and we gobble up all of this information, and it goes back into the creative reserve tank. We wanted to put it back out in these 3 new songs. It came really naturally. It came really quickly to us because we were deep in the whole head space with that world.
WYAT: Can you explain a little about yall's process in creating a new song. Does any one of yall take the lead and the others work off of that?
Ooah: Usually…uh…well, there is no usually. Sometimes the three of us sit down at one station and we all three attack it at different chunks of time. Other times, we wonder off in our own zones and create as much content as possible, whether it’s a sound or rhythm or an idea. Then we pool it all and pick and choose from there. Pick the things that resonate the most with the three of us together. We don’t have a specific way we work. There’s been a few different styles and we all have our strengths in producing.
WYAT: Who is your favorite underground producer currently?
Ooah: My favorite underground producer would be this dude Buku. He’s kind of one of those young, up-and-coming…I don’t want to call it trap, but it’s like an energetic hip-hop, dance music kind of guy. He’s one of those producers that uses the same few patches every song so it has a very familiar sound.
Boreta: Eprom. He’s playing right now, actually.
edIT: This guy, Howie Lee, out of Shanghai. SoundCloud that dude. Absolutely killing it.
WYAT: Ooah, what’s your favorite thing about coming back and playing in your hometown of New Orleans?
Ooah: To hang with my brother and my family. There’s just something special and we’ve all played in our hometowns and, I don’t know, something between being very proud and excited to see friends and family there. I get to share what I’m off in California doing everyday of my life that they may not know. There’s only so many pictures that you can see, but getting to bring it back home and share it with people is a very unique feeling. And the food!
Boreta: We love New Orleans. We’ve played here a lot actually and it’s one of the coolest cities anywhere, really.