Focus on Głós

photo by Christian Kopp

The Berlin-based musician and label owner Głós has created his own Non-Print label in recent years, whose music builds bridges between bed and club. Since I have been dealing with this approach for a long time, it was interesting to exchange ideas personally.

J: Can you tell us a little about how your project came about? How and when did “everything” start? When did your love for the production of Ambient music emerge?

G: Truth be told, I might have loved Ambient music already before I even knew it was an actual genre.  Looking back at things, I must have been 16 years old when I got my first Electric guitar, coming with an  amplifier and a multi-effect pedal. I was into Shoegaze at the time, Loveless by My Bloody Valentine was  basically my religion, and I used to lock myself up in my room, plug headphones into the amplifier and  just create blurry walls of sound, totally getting lost in them. It was highly meditative and I remember I  always wished people could enjoy this kind of thing, but I wouldn’t know better. It wasn’t until my early 20s when I discovered the existence of the genre through a friend, introducing it  to me with the words “Ambient music is the kind of music that heals the pain inflicted by other kinds of  music”. Before that, I was listening to video game music a lot when I was a kid, or film soundtracks. I  mean, obviously I still do. That was, however, until I discovered Rock music, and even then, I always  tended to like the interludes and album skits almost more than the actual hits and singles. That friend I mentioned, he showed me music from The Leaf Label, like Colleen, he showed me Tim  Hecker, Jan Jelinek, introduced me to the Kompakt Pop Ambient series. Before that, I thought  ‘Treefingers’ on Radiohead’s Kid A was an extraordinary thing to put on an album. I loved discovering this  kind of music so much, it sort of felt like having an actual soundtrack to my own life that wasn’t tied to a  specific video game or film. And the 16-year-old inside me, he was so pleased with that there was a  scene for the music he initially made with his guitar in his bedroom.

Głós then came about only a bit later, when I finally decided to actually indulge in a solo music project. Although I already was into partying and, subsequently, Electronic music at the time, I kind of struggled  with making the step to make such music myself for the sole reason that seemingly everybody suddenly  became a DJ over night. That was around 2008, when all the people surrounding me started to shift their  musical interest from Rock and Indie towards Electronic music—either because of partying, or because  of the Electroclash hype of that period. Literally everyone swapped their guitars for CDJs that year. I remained in a band and was stubbornly active as a VJ instead for a while, struggling with the usual  problems that would accompany me for a life time: my ambitions and musical ideas were too  extraordinary for the band I was in at the time, and VJing was a bit unfulfilling because nobody cared for  visuals in Dortmund. Then, all of a sudden, Dubstep and Berghain became a thing on the internet—and I  say internet deliberately as either of those two things might have been a thing in cities like London and  Berlin, but surely not in Dortmund where I was living. Still, discovering this deep and atmospheric type  of dance music pushed me over the edge. After listening to Appleblim’s Resident Advisor Mix and discovering Scuba’s A Mutual Antipathy, Shed’s  Shedding The Past and Sten’s The Essence pretty much simultaneously, I gave in and started my first  attempts in creating music at home on the computer. It just put the right images into my head and this  would also be the first time for me I could actually create a final musical product in the form of a song  without relying on anyone else and without having someone talking into my creative process and making  me compromise the ideas that I had. 

My first release came about in 2013 after meeting Ekserd—also over the internet—and perhaps a bit too  early in hindsight. I was living in Cologne at the time and had a very clear vision of where I wanted to go  musically, but I still lacked the skills of getting there. Only as of 2016, having moved to Berlin already and  after my first little underground hit entitled Cut Throats, I felt that I have really found my voice. With  Filling The Scars With Light, I also brought out my first Ambient release that year, an EP inspired by the  work of William Basinski and Angelo Badalamenti. For most of my musical career, I have been a Techno artist first and an Ambient artist second. But as  time goes by, Techno becomes more and more difficult to enjoy for me. The scene has made a huge shift  towards “harder, faster, stronger” and it becomes more and more impossible to get people interested in  music with content that isn’t about raving your tits off. And don’t get me wrong, I do like raving my tits  off once in a while, but there is more to music than that. If you’re an artist and you’re basically stuck to  only being able to do one thing and nothing else, it becomes enormously frustrating. It’s like being a  painter and being forced to only use the color red for a lifetime. Ambient became more and more fulfilling because of that. There is no expectations. Nobody expects an  Ambient track to be a hit, nobody expects it to make money and to fill a club. It’s also not about being an  influencer on Instagram as much as with Techno, and surely not about posting the right selfies either. It  leaves actual room for being artistic and for expressing one’s feelings. When Techno is the music that  goes with being out, pumping your fists in the air and being surrounded by people, then Ambient is the  music that goes with being in bed with the person you love, doing the things you love. In the end, it’s all  about the mood and the right soundtrack. 

J: You have just released a new album, entitled When Things Cast No Shadow. How would you describe the musical development compared with others? I can tell that the pieces are a lot shorter in average than on the previous albums. Was that more of a coincidence, or was it consciously?

G: I think the core difference is that while I had a very clear vision and a concept in mind that I wanted to  achieve with Music For Sleepovers and Music For The Morning After, the music for When Things Cast No  Shadow I sort of just created piece by piece, without actually having an overarching idea of what it might  become at some point. Sometimes, when you induldge in a musical project and got it out, all you want to  do is to turn around and make the complete opposite. I did so in creating a Techno  album—Wounds—that got released on Diffuse Reality earlier in November.  Before that, though, the first lockdown hit Berlin in March 2020 and I just so happened to be in the  mood to make music almost every day as I had very little to no distraction in doing so. I made one track  after another, some Techno, some Ambient, as per usual. And even while I was working on Wounds, my  attention also swayed towards making Ambient sometimes. Suddenly, I had a significant amount of  finished Ambient pieces that I probably couldn’t sign anywhere, so I decided: Let’s make it another  album. Because why the fuck not.  

The pieces on When Things Cast No Shadow are indeed mostly shorter, and I feel that the album is more  diverse due to the lack of an initial overarching theme. The theme of the previous two albums was the  loss of who I thought was the love of my life, an event that made me loose the ground below my feet. I  struggeled with this enormously, to a more than worrying degree, and creating those albums helped me  out of it. This is why the music on that albums turned out extremely long and painful overall—because it  came from a dark place. If I would now have to name an overarching theme for When Things Cast No Shadow, it would be finding  peace. Sure, a lot of the pieces still sound dark or gloomy, but in the end, they’re neither hopeless nor  about pain. They’re about acceptance, about finding your place in the world. About moving towards the  light. There is also some sort of cyberpunk imagery going on, one can hear the humming of spaceship  engines and consoles bleeping, which isn’t all that typical for me. But I guess, in a way it’s about moving  towards the sun and away from what’s keeping you down.

J: You have been playing live for some time, how is your set structured, what are the main differences  between the setup and the way you work in the studio?

G: There is a fundamental difference for me in playing live and working in the studio, or rather bedroom, in  my case. In the studio slash bedroom, I don’t care about functionality or how to reproduce any of the  music I make, I just create whatever occurs to me or what I’m in the mood for. Anything goes, really. I  would sample a saxophone for a break within a track and not think about whether I would bring a  saxophonist on stage—which of course I wouldn’t anyway—or just play the same sample via a launch  pad. In a live environment on the other hand, efficiency is key. I made some unpleasant experiences with  suddenly unfunctional hardware in clubs and decided to go with a setup in which as little as possible can  go wrong. It’s been a gradual way of stripping down all the tools to the most acceptable minimum to  ensure I can still pull off playing with people dancing in the booth and pouring beer over my back. Please don’t do that, by the way. For the last years, I therefore never travelled with anything else than a laptop and two small AKAI  controllers, not only because I wanted to carry as little as possible, but also because a lot of clubs only  offer limited space for live setups in their DJ booths. I had to grow accustomed to the fact that I needed to  put controllers on one record player and the laptop on a tiny square of free space where people usually  put their drinks.  

It similary works with the content being played live. My pieces are very complex and although I tried it in the beginning, it’s next to impossible to actually play every little aspect of them live. I would need one or  two additional people to play every element of every track. So now, I either play the melodies or the  drums. However, I feel like for the future, I might in fact try making more stripped-down music that can  be played in a live context entirely without any cop-outs. On a side note, I often come across people with incredible expectations towards live acts. I had dudes  standing in front of me telling me I wasn’t a real live act because I only play drum parts while I loop  melodies, or vice versa. They expect you to have fifteen arms and sixteen legs to play keys and turn  knobs, preferably also ten dicks on top to push your pads with. Sole live acts who can pull that off are  great and deserve deep respect, but one should keep in mind that the music is structured accordingly for  such settings. For me, the music comes first, then comes the thought of how to perform it live.  In the end, I feel like I owe the audience that everything goes without hickups and interruptions, to avoid  breaking their immersion. I want people to have fun and to be in the moment, and not think about me  standing there and playing for them. Contrary to what some people might mistakenly think, playing  Techno in a club is unlike playing a concert. People only care for you standing in the DJ booth when  you’re super-famous, but when you’re me, nobody gives a fuck, people just want to dance.

J: Which main components (software / hardware) characterize your work? Are there any tools or certain  procedures that have become established with you? 

G: Definitely Ableton Live. I do everything in Live for at least 10 years now, for efficiency reasons. When I’ve  got an idea for a piece, I want it finished in one go, preferably within a few hours. My work is heavily  based on samples as I spend a lot of time on the internet, absorbing different forms of media.  Sometimes I watch a film and there is this one phrase that inspires me, sometimes I see a weird Youtube  video with weird sounds in it. It could basically be anything and I rely on that far more than on specific  instruments, plug-ins or hardware.  

I’m glad you’re using the word “tool”, by the way, because there are recurring habits or mannerisms that  repeat throughout my catalogue. The most obvious ones are heavy use of reverb and sidechain  compression, other habits are the use of field recordings such as rain or the sound of passing cars in  empty streets. All these are tools to me that help keeping my work together. Regardless of how different  my style will be in the future, there will always be those things that will keep it “glossy”. I think it’s safe to say that the leitmotif within my work shall for ever and always remain intimacy. At  least as of now, I can’t think of anything that would have greater value for me than the moments you  share with people, the encounters you make, the relationships you have. And even should it be the lack  of intimacy, like when partying and being in crowds, it’s only a part of the bigger picture for me. Which is  why I don’t distinguish so much between Techno and Ambient. For me it’s the same: a soundtrack to  special moments.  

J: Some time ago you founded your own label, Non-Print. Is there an overarching concern or concept  that you are pursuing with it? 

G: The overarching concern and the concept of Non-Print are best explained with the long history of  personal failure that lead to its creation. You see, I’ve had the idea of starting an own label for at least as  long as I’m active as Głós. And I can’t tell you how many times I was on the verge of making it happen,  with releases planed out, the music already being mastered, the artwork ready and done—and then, it  wouldn’t happen, because of either financial struggle or other higher forces. Honestly, it’s as if I were  cursed, there was just always some sort of little catastrophe around the corner dooming every attempt  of putting the first 12″ out to failure.  

It was in 2018, when I came to the realisation that if I’d want to start a label it would have to be digital  only or it was probably never going to happen. That thought depressed me a lot and I struggled with it  initially—because especially in the Techno scene, there is this mindset that a digital release will always  be inferior to a physical release. I mean, you know how it is, the vinyl industry may be struggeling, but in Techno, you basically still need to put your music out on vinyl for people to consider it worthwile listening to. This perception might probably be more and more shifting with newer generations of  listeners, but for as long as I can think, this has certainly somehow been the case.   Then it occured to me: what if I just let go of that whole inferiority concept and flipped the table  entirely? What if my label would instead celebrate the fact that it was digital and find a way to make it  look like it’s not a compromise at all? What type of content could I produce that would in fact be inferior  in physical form? It was almost like having an epiphany, because 2018 was also the year in which my  debut EP on Ressort Imprint would celebrate its fifth anniversary—and as I mentioned earlier, I wasn’t  necessarily very happy with how it turned out in hindsight.

I came up with the idea of reworking my older music that I thought wasn’t realised ideally. And it  wouldn’t take long until all the re-working, re-writing and re-making would turn into something that  would exceed the average album length. And while working on it, I realised how many limitations I would  face if I were to optimise this album for physical formats. I would always come to a point where I needed  to cut content or to adjust the music to make it fit to a specific medium. I decided to entirely ignore any  of it and make an album that would exist completely outside of those boundaries.  That way, I wouldn’t have to think in four or six 15-minute blocks for the sake of making it fit on three  12-inches or anything like that. I could allow for tracks to be overlength, structure them how it felt  natural and make the tracks grow and expand, letting them breathe freely.

And before I knew it, I found  a sort of freedom for myself that I didn’t even know I was lacking. With easier ways of digital distribution,  I could even make it come out at the exact same date as my EP just by uploading it to Bandcamp. I tried to expand on this idea with Twenty-Three Stabs, a single that was exactly 23-minutes long and that  would be non-sensical on a CD, vinyl record or casette release. And I took it even further with Music For  Sleepovers and Music For The Morning After, albums that exceeded the 80-minute mark by far and that  would have pieces on them that were almost an hour long. I could literally go bloody bonkers with this,  and I liked it. This concept made me challenge my own understanding of what music could be, and I  found it incredibly satisfying. Finally, the name ‘Non-Print’ derives from the idea that there is no need to print any paper sleeves or CD  inlays because they wouldn’t exist in a purely digital world. It’s become about turning limitation into a  place of non-compromise, and I began to fully embrace everything that had to do with it. It’s a place for  all my ideas that wouldn’t find love on any other label, almost like a dog shelter. Whenever any label  would say No to my music, Non-Print is the place I could say Yes. I’m still looking into new places I could  go with it, and I’m also already working on a line-up of upcoming releases for 2021—trying to find new  boundaries that I could push for myself.

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