Cool as three Fonzies.
Early in 1995, William Arthur (guitar, vocals), Marc Lynch (bass) and Jason Kingshott (drums), were good enough to meet with me over pizza, beer and a tape recorder on Brunswick Street in Melbourne. This was in advance of a gig at the sadly missed Punters’ Club, in the almost tropical heat of a humid Melbourne night. They chatted about their album Open Up and Croon, upheaval in the band and the coolness of Fonzie, amongst other things.
The original interview appeared in issue 3 of Blast!, a fanzine that I was involved with at the time. I’ve republished some of the articles I did for the zine on this blog previously, with only slight editing. However, rereading this interview, I wanted to rewrite the piece as it didn’t really seem to do justice to the music of Glide, so I didn’t want to republish my juvelinia verbatim, but to try and put more context to their story.
A Sydney based group, Glide formed in 1990 and released the Pretty Mouth EP in 1992. This record earned them decent radio coverage, with tracks such as “Bug” and “Thin Faced Man” being played extensively on Triple J. This in turn burdened Glide with the dubious honour of being dubbed a “Next Big Thing” band. With a lot to live up to, in 1993 they released another EP, Shuffle Off to Buffalo, which featured the outstanding song, “Waterfalls”, and then a single Wake 1994. After the hype surrounding Pretty Mouth, it was perhaps not surprising that the subsequent records didn’t whip up the same level of support, even though the music was still damned good. Later in that year, Glide returned with a single called Why You Asking? with a cover of the Lemonheads song “Ride With Me”, as a B-side. This was a taste of what was to come from their album, Open Up and Croon. The next recorded move for Glide was to put out a five track EP in late May 1995, featuring the track “Something”, from the album and also some bonus tracks recorded for a Triple J ‘Live at the Wireless’ session.
It was with this background that I, along with my friend Greg, met Glide on a balmy Saturday night on Brunswick Street in Melbourne. In advance of a gig at the sadly missed Punters’ Club, the tropical evening guaranteed that Brunswick Street was buzzing with diners, punters, musicians and buskers. At the time, it seemed to me that Glide were a fairly happy band, enthused about the prospect of working hard again, supporting a brand new album in which they obviously believed in. In hindsight, their banter and enthusiasm for their music hid a tension with trying to be an original, indie band and making it pay.
I started with, “Say something to Blast! Magazine readers, William.” To which the guitarist/vocalist replied in a faux monotone, “Hello. We love you. We love coming to your town.”
It had been their first visit to Melbourne as a three piece, as they had recently parted ways with guitarist Paul McDonald. At that stage, they had considered acquiring a new guitarist, however since then decided to continue as a trio, although they later returned to a dual guitar configuration. As Jason explained, “We’ve done a couple of shows as a three piece and they’ve gone all right, so we know (what to look for) now. People have been saying that you can hear the rhythm section more and so we know with the new guitarist, he’s going to have to pull back and just fill in the gaps and…” “Not over play.” interjected William.
Later on Jason said, “Things have gotten a little easier in the band since Paul’s left. There was too much competitiveness between Paul and William and Paul was going in a different way”. “He was going to eleven and wanted to go to twelve.” added Marc. “Exactly, he just wanted to get fucking louder all the time.”
“So what do you think of how the industry pendulum swings in and out of favour? Does it piss you off?” Jason replied, “I know which way it’s swinging now, and it’s going to stay that way…It’s just like flies to shit now for us at the moment. For want of a better analogy.” “For want of a poetic analogy”, added Glide’s frontman.
It’s like the industry didn’t want a bar of us beforehand and now they know what we’re capable of. I mean, we always knew. We always knew we’d have this album coming out and that it was going to be good. But I guess other people didn’t know. I guess that if you don’t have material coming out, you can’t expect people to keep believing, and keep coming to gigs. You’ve got to put up or shut up.
We want to be a full time band definitely. You know, it’s cool with Marc; he’s got the best of both worlds. He gets to do what he wants during the day (graphic design) and what he wants to do in the evening. Whereas during the day, I have to drive a truck around for the old man. Sooner or later, if we can pay our way…I mean we still have to pay for things that we shouldn’t have to be paying for, rehearsals, beer. Well not beer.
The response the album’s been getting now, we’re going to be doing a lot of touring and stuff, we’re just gonna have to shift it around our jobs. When it comes to doing big tours and going overseas and stuff, the band has got to pay for it. We can’t drop our livelihood for that.
Kind of prophetic words, as within a couple of months of the interview, a further spanner was thrown into the works with the announcement of Marc’s departure. With a career in graphic design (he had created all of the Glide CD covers), he felt that he needed to devote his time to that rather than the rock and roll lifestyle. I called Glide’s manager, Joe Ryall, to ask about it and he said, “We’re obviously disappointed, we thought that he may stick it out a bit longer than that. But he’s made his decision and everyone’s still on good terms”
In retrospect, the response to my question “How long have you been in the band?” could have been seen to foreshadow Marc’s departure…
“About 4-5 years now, 5 years in…” says Jason.
To which Marc added, “Dog years.”
“…5 years in September.”
“Feels like dog years doesn’t it!!!”
Any unease was again camouflaged by some more band hijinks. Towards the end of the interview, William had to leave to meet someone, which was the cue for the rhythm section to run amok. “OK, now what can you say?” I asked them.
“That guy mate, that guy. How is his form? It’s all Jason, Jason does everything, he writes everything. William’s the puppet, the big head out the front. We tell him what to do! We started the band. We put an ad for a singer and guitarist…we put an ad in for William. Someone to play the guitar, because we were writing all the stuff at the time.” concludes Marc with both he and Jason dissolving into laughter.
Finally, I used one of my favourite end of interview clichés… “Any last thoughts for the tape?”
“Something memorable?” asked Jason
“Think of something memorable, Marc.”
“Skate to Hell! That’s skate as in S.K.A.T.E.” the bassist replies.
“I like Melbourne.”
“That’s a drummer for you isn’t it?”
“You got another one?”
”OK, how about, Cool as three fuckin Fonzies!”
The photo at the top of this article show Jason and Marc holding a copy of Open up and Croon, the lens cap for my camera (as I had forgotten to take it off, initially) and a copy of the first issue of the fanzine. To my regret, William had taken off before I remembered to take a photo.
So what happened after that? Between our interview and the demise of the band, they released several more quality recordings but never really achieved the level of success that I think they deserved. Despite playing at South by Southwest, they didn’t manage to really expand out of Australia and then faced diminishing interest from their record label, that further led to strangling the band financially. The untimely death of William Arthur in 1999 was the end of Glide. Despite the bombast of the rhythm section during the interview, William was the undoubted leader of the group, .
It now seems that Glide’s place in Australian music history, is of unfulfilled popular success (as compared to You Am I, for example) but extreme talent. They have influenced lyrical guitar bands and music fans since then, yet few outside of those circles have heard of them. If you search for “Glide (band) “ on Wikipedia, you get redirected to Will Sergeant’s (Echo and the Bunnymen) entry, as it is the moniker he used for his foray into “experimental, ambient and psychedelic instrumental music“. If you Google “William Arthur Glide”, you get a series of articles about “the greatest band you’ve never heard of”; kind of like this one.
Whenever Glide came to Melbourne I would invariably make a point of going to see them. Still, I regularly listen to their music and am astounded at how good the songs still sound. although many have labelled them “shoegaze”, that comparison never struck me. To me, as a Kiwi music fan, it seemed more relevant that Arthur was partly influenced by Flying Nun bands such as Straitjacket Fits.
I wish it had turned out differently, though it seems I’m not quite alone, as a tribute to William’s songs and to mark the 20th anniversary of the formation of Glide, was held in 2010. Jason and Marc combined with Tim Kelly (guitarist in Glide before the one mentioned in the interview), Andy Kelly (Marc’s replacement on bass) and Toby Martin from Youth Group on vocals for a show in Sydney and one in Melbourne. I would have loved to have attended but was living in the UK, at the time. Fortunately, some of their performance at The Annandale in Sydney is viewable on the Moshcam Youtube channel. Martin doing a great job of showing how well Arthur’s songs still sound.
For more background, here’s an interview with Jason K via the Digging a hole blog, about the tribute shows. It’s interesting to read what Jason thought about the band’s career.
If you’re interested in hearing more, you can find the links to the reissued Glide back catalogue in the Australian iTunes store
and also listen to a few tracks on their website.