Justin W. Price, AKA PDXKaraokeGuy, is a freelance writer, blogger, and award-nominated author based out of Juneau, Alaska.
Originally published (with some slight modifications) in Capital City Weekly (January 20th, 2022), a weekly arts and entertainment insert for the Juneau Empire in Juneau, Alaska.
Reprinted with enthusiastic consent.
Audio and written transcripts can be found at the bottom of this page.
What Toad the Wet Sprocket means to me
So, here's' the thing. As stated above, this is a reprint that first appeared in the local paper here in gorgeous Juneau, Alaska. As a reprint, HubPages has flagged this as duplicate content-- which of course it is in part. So, now I'm tasked with making this different enough that the HubPages algorithm lets this trough. In many ways, this is great because it allows me to post polls and callouts and the like and because it gives me the space to share my own opinions on both Glen Phillips and on Toad the Wet Sprocket. Like a food blog, you probably don't care about my opinion, you just want to find out how much flour to put in your German Chocolate Cake. Skip ahead to the next section. It's fine. I won't be offended.
But, if you're wondering why this interview was so fun for me to conduct, feel free to indulge me for a few hundred words before moving on to the main event. My feelings won't be hurt. I get it.
I've spoken in this space before about my father. My father, Bill Price, was a Contemporary Christian recording artist in the 70's, 80's, and 90's. He now teaches music in Longview, Washington. Having a musician for a father, in addition to fueling my own musical passions and interests, had other advantages, one of which was that I didn't get the proverbial dad hating my music. Well, let me rephrase. Certainly he hated much of my grunge era bands and a lot of the extreme metal that I discovered as a tween. However, as a musician, he understood and it supported my musical interests and passions and would even let me play this music in front of him, whether we were driving or simply working around the house. He nurtured, and still nurtures, my musical interests and ambitions and that is something for which I am eternally grateful. He wanted me to develop my own tastes and interests.
One of those bands, however, that we mutually enjoyed was Toad the Wet Sprocket. I had, like most folks I imagine, first heard them performing "Walk on the Ocean", which may be their most iconic song. But I don't think I really got into them until someone had made me a cassette tape of the Dulcinea album, which came out in 1994.I listened to this album countless times, with many of those times being when dad would drive 14 year old me to school. The opening refrain of "Paul is making me nervous/Paul is making me scared" from "Fly from Heaven" offering a tepid sing along with me an my father.
Concurrently, my high school youth pastor, Bob, was also a big Toad fan. One day at youth group he pulled me aside and (bare in mind that this is before the internet, really, so shows were still promoted by word of mouth and fliers) and told me that Toad was coming to town with Hootie and the Blowfish and he was planning on going. They would be playing at the historic Arlene Schnitzer concert hall in Portland, Oregon. He asked if I wanted to go and said he would buy tickets for me and a plus one if I wanted to go. Very cool gesture, really, especially when you consider that Toad was not a group that was affiliated with Christianity (more on that later).
The only plus one I could think of was my dad.
So there we all were. Hootie put on a fantastic set and then out walks Toad. Glen was of course shoeless. The band started playing:
Paul is making me nervous, he sang.
Paul is making me scared
Walk into this room and swaggers
Like he's God's own messenger.
("Fly from Heaven"/Dulcinea)
And the show was off to a mellow yet confrontational start. The only other moment I remember from that show was Crowing which saw Darius Rucker sing the first verse and Glen the second. This happens to be my favorite Toad song and my dads too. To this day, whenever we get together we bust out our guitars and play together.
Toad has never been my favorite band, but they've never been out of my rotation either. More importantly, they provided a point of bonding between my father and I and between my youth pastor and I. My dad was thrilled when I got the opportunity to interview Glen and I was thankful for the opportunity... and I was relieved that Glen was as chill, kind, and genuine as his music indicated.
So, without further ado..
“I loved a lot of those bands. I mean Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana. Freaking awesome, I mean amazing music”
— Glen Phillips
And now... the main event.
“Oh it's too late now but no. Not in a million years.” Glen Phillips laughs when I ask him if he would still choose the name Toad the Wet Sprocket for the band that launched his career thirty-three years ago. “I’m both happy about it and proud of it. When we talk about nerd cred, Toad the Wet Sprocket taken from a rare vinyl-only Monty Python sketch, it's got a lot of nerd cred.”
Phillips formed the alternative band in 1988 in Santa Barbara, California with Todd Nichols (guitar), Dean Dinning (bass), and Randy Guss (drums) — all four years older than him. Phillips was still a freshman in high school with aspirations to be involved in the theatre arts. Toad released two independent albums and then signed to Capitol Records, embarked on dozens of North American tours, and several European ones throughout the 1990s.
Phillips, 50 [at the time of the interview], still very much has the youthful appearance of the man in his mid-twenties, during Toad’s early to mid-90s heyday cranking out such college rock favorites as “Walk on the Ocean,” “Something’s Always Wrong,” “and “All I Want.” At the start of our Zoom call, I remark at how young he looks, and he smiles and puts his face right up to the camera. “This is where you can see my age. Look at these bags under my eyes.” Much like the music he creates, he is at equal turns serious, playful, and sometimes painfully self-aware.
With a new album released in August of 2021, Starting Now, and a proposed tour barring COVID restrictions; Toad seems primed to enter the next stage of its careers with as much optimism and joy as those high schoolers had in the late ‘80s.
Toad has always maintained a loyal if modest fan base. Perhaps this was a result of being a folksy, upbeat, positive band that came of age during the nihilism and negativity of the grunge area. “I loved a lot of those bands. I mean Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana. Freaking awesome, I mean amazing music,” Phillips says. “It was strange being outliers. There was a lot of emphasis on this idea that you had to be edgy. That depth and edginess were the same thing …We had music that sounded happy enough. Lyrics that were,” a long pause ensues as he looks for the right words. “They weren’t trite ... but they didn’t really fit in. In a certain sense, we didn’t even really fit in with Hootie and the Blowfish or Gin Blossoms either. We had kind of our own flavor.” Toad did not fit in a neat little box, playing jangly pop with folk and alternative undertones, they are hard to categorize but impossible not to recognize with Phillips’ inimitable vocals residing against almost obsequious melodies, guitars that intertwine major chords and minor melodies against a workmanlike rhythm section. The lyrics touch on the deepest recesses of the heart but with a cheerful outlook, deep introspection, and the occasional story thrown in.
“I liked what we did and I think our audience stuck with us ‘cause we were speaking to nerds before nerds ruled the world.” He continues with a laugh. “You know, I’m sure there’s still school districts where you can get your ass kicked with liking math or science. We grew up in an era where that was normal and I think we spoke to people that were a little bit on the outside. And that was our audience.”
With Toad, though, the audience seem more intellectual, more educated, less angry, quieter. Wine over beer. Optimism over pessimism. Toad, in a sense, was it’s own subculture. “That’s the way social movements work, right? I don’t know when the first year was that people said punk was dead but I’m assuming it was probably 1977, right [laughs]? As soon as punk became popular, that was antithetical to the vibe,” Phillips says. While punk fashion and punk music are still alive and popular, proving the ‘Punk is dead’ naysayers to be less than prescient, the gunge movement was born and died within the same decade, even as some of the bands of that era are still putting out quality records — and they completely changed fashion too. Coming out of the glossy ‘80s, the ‘90s ushered in a fashion that was equal turns drab, functional, and comfortable.
Indeed, from 1991 until the end of that decade, one couldn’t go anywhere without seeing the plaid flannels, beanies, boots, and Chucks of the grunge era dominating fashion boutiques around the world. “I remember having a friend who worked at Nordstrom back in the grunge days. She was a young shop girl and they took all the girls and all the staff and were like ‘People will walk in and they’ll be wearing plaid and they’ll have things tied around their waists and you’ll think that’s not fashionable but it’s a statement and take them to this area where we have grunge. It became fashionable very quickly. I think any movement like that is also speaking to something authentic and speaking to something that needs to be spoken to.”
Unlike their peers, Glen was often seen in loose-fitting, almost bed style clothing, with cargo shorts and no shoes (because, in his words, he’s a klutz who couldn't reach his pedals with shoes on). The rest of the band wore bright colors and Randy Guss often tucked a buttoned-down shirt into slacks, looking every part of your friendly neighborhood accountant.
That’s not to say that there wasn’t a place for bands like Toad the Wet Sprocket. Having sold more than three million records over the course of their career, it’s clear that, while they may not have platinum records that bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Alice in Chains did, they did carve out a neat little niche for themselves. “In the same way, you can have that with things like back to Hootie & the Blowfish and, say, Norah Jones. You know, they’re very different artists.” Phillips recollects. “Norah Jones came out of an era where women were fighting for edginess. There was, like, ‘How gnarly can people be?’ And Norah Jones just came out and sang beautifully and people went ape shit for it. Same with Hootie & the Blowfish. In an era where people were trying to be as edgy as they could, hearing a band sing a song about holding your hand was really refreshing, you know?”
At this Phillips pauses again and smiles. Perhaps he realizes the edginess his band curated by not being edgy and angry aurally, but by being positive, meditative, and accessible. He has been attentive for this entire tête-à-tête but here, he seems like he is briefly elsewhere. Perhaps he’s back in 1994, on the Dulcinea tour where Hootie & the Blowfish opened. A tour where, by the end of it, Hootie was one of the biggest bands in the world. “You know, at one point we talked about flipping the bill and they didn’t wanna flip the bill. It was kind of amazing to see. We weren’t adversarial. It wasn’t like ‘why are they blowing up and we’re not?’ It was ‘Holy crap, dude! This is awesome!’ It doesn’t happen every day, right? It’s a curse and a blessing. They were simultaneously one of the biggest bands in the world, but they were also the butt of a lot of jokes. I think it really stunk. They were a bar band. They were a really good bar band, but I think they were as surprised when it happened as anybody. And then just getting made fun of all the time I think really hurt them.”
With Phillips, there is no hint of jealousy. No envy, no lamenting that it was the other guys and not his own band that went platinum 21 times over. He is still genuinely happy for them and appears to be content with the trajectory of his own career. Reflecting further on the tour with Hootie & Blowfish. Phillips has a sense of whimsy and nostalgia. “That was a fun tour though …We used to play Music Farm [in Charleston, South Carolina] way back when they used to come out and see us play. It was awesome to get on the road and really awesome just to see it all blow up.”
Toad the Wet Sprocket Live
Dulcinea is the best Toad the Wet Sprocket album"
— Glen Phillips
Eschewing the drugs and rock and roll clichés of many of their peers, Toad has always been stable and steady as the lineup stayed intact until 2020 when Randy Guss officially left the band. “The simplest way to put things,” Phillips says when discussing the departure, “His medical condition was at a point where the athleticism required to be a rock drummer [was too much for his condition].” Guss suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta [brittle bone disease]. Phillips’ says this in a matter-of-fact tone, yet there is a clear sense of empathy and compassion in his town. Perhaps his own medical issues (he had throat surgery after the Fear tour and was unable to sing for six months) factored into this. “There were years he wasn't touring with us but was still technically in the band.” Josh Daubin filled in on those tours and is now an official member of the group.”
Resilience is perhaps the word that could best describe Toad. Never the biggest draw or the top-selling band, they still continue to release new quality material. After releasing Coil in 1997, the band parted ways and, aside from a few one-off performances here and there, did not release any new music until New Constellation in 2013. In addition to Toad, Phillips has also maintained a solid solo career and has also worked with members of Nickel Creek on a one off project called Mutual Admiration Society.
Yet, when COVID grabbed the world by the throat at the end of 2019, the death knell for many bands and venues was heard. Phillips, however, like many of his peers took to virtual performances, both for profit and for raising awareness and funds for various charities.
Our call commenced just as he finished one of his Facebook livestreaming concerts. Gone are the days of the 10,000 and 15,000-seat arenas. The audience he’s playing to now is now older, smaller, and more intimate. Not only as a matter of necessity in a pandemic controlled world but also due to the fact that some of his political views have proven unpopular with pockets of his fan base. “I did a series of these live streams, and I lost a lot of my audience this year by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement,” he says. A little nervous laughter emits, but a massive smirk crosses his face, suggesting that he is unfazed by it. In fact the anxiety and division that have gripped the nation — and the world — on a macro level can also be seen on a micro level in Phillips’ interactions with fans and others. “I learned to have really deep and respectful conversations with people who had really different spiritual outlooks or belief systems. I really tried to figure out how to train myself to talk to people who were across the aisle now and it's more difficult than it's ever been. So, I thought that was something I was actually skilled at and the last two years have really brought me to my knees. It's been really humbling.”
Here, perhaps, we see the intersection between art and honesty. Honest art is powerful, fearless, and impactful. Yet, honest art can also leave the artist ostracized and maligned. Phillips, though, appears confident in his convictions and unfazed by detractors. The music is important, yet it is the impact of the music that is vital. He continues, “[Like most people] I want a level playing field, I want to feel safe in the world, I want the people I love to be okay. Just trying to get the conversation back there. If it goes back to love, I feel like that's the only thing they can come back to these days.”
Phillips seems unafraid to change and improve — perhaps based on his spiritual proclivities. He was raised by a Jewish mother and even had a Bar Mitzvah yet it was his dad’s background that perhaps had the greatest impact on spiritual growth of the burgeoning Phillips. “My dad was raised Presbyterian but he was a Zen Buddhist meditator, and he gave me books on Sufism and Buddhism and so he brought me into kind of a more eastern attitude. There are a lot of Jewish traditions that are extremely alive in spiritual and ecstatic in those ways in that direct relationship with God.”
Indeed, the simplicity of Judaism struck a chord with Phillips as a young man. “I remember thinking how magical it must feel to live in a world with a real God. I remember early on we were hearing Bible stories and I was like ‘I don't know if I believe it.’ Like as [a] literal fact, I had trouble believing it early on. I asked the rabbi, and he was like, ‘Don't worry. You don't have to. This is about being a loving person. It’s about treating people well. Being godly in this context is simply you know being ethical and being loving. Go first with love. That’s all you need to know. I was like ‘I can handle that.’”
He continues, “In Buddhism [I found] something that was not dogmatic but was experiential in terms of spirit and that kind of linking with the unknown and the ineffable, just with a moral context. I've always found a lot of appeal in that because in Buddhism you're not necessarily told that this is what you must believe.” Phillips takes these traits into his songwriting where he writes lyrics that are concrete enough to have some footing in reality but vague enough to be applicable to anyone. These traits also came across in my own interaction with him. Instead of being angry or frustrated that fans have left him over his political positions, he embraces them as just another facet of his life. He even seems to regret that these folks are missing out on the beauty of diversity.
“Instead of saying this is the way it is, if you see something different, you're wrong. If you think you've got it all figured out, you're wrong. Open [up] more. Your job is always to open more to the actual experience, to be more present and it's a constant learning, constant opening so that that lack of dogma appealed to me… It’s about being a source of light into a kind of nihilistic grit, right?”
This is the sort of outlook that is seen in many of his lyrics. While some have an overt spiritual bent —“Little Buddha”, and “Fly From Heaven”, for example — others show this dual nature of man and the relativity of it all. “All I Want,” perhaps the best-known song from their major label debut Fear, contains the lyrics: “The air outside so soft is saying everything … Though the air speaks of all we’ll never be, it won’t trouble me … Whatever happens will be.” These lyrics read like a man content to take life as it comes while understanding that the mysteries of the universe are too big to fully grasp. This is a concept — the unknowable God — that is prevalent in Judaism, Buddhism, and Christianity — spiritual ideas close to Phillips’ heart.
“Come Down” also has a similar idea (the duality of man) behind it, as Phillips explains. “It was about a number of things. More than anything, it was just about the process of morally failing and that need to start again. Get up where you fell from, right? That constant returning. The need for other people, the need for support. I mean you know in Buddhism it's the three jewels … Buddha, which is essentially the enlightened spirit that dwells in everything. Dharma would be practice and knowledge and Sangha is community. You can't be held without community. You need others. You need the reflection of those to love you, to nurture you, heal you. To send you back on the right path when you're going off the right path and in order for the Buddha nature, your holy nature, enlightened nature, to work.”
As he says this I can’t help but think about his online performances — a way to connect with his audience during a time when many of us are kept socially distant. It’s a reciprocal relationship. “You need teachings, you need some laws in there, you need some knowledge but you also, you know you can't do it without community. That song wasn't written directly from a Buddhist perspective either. More just about making a mistake, getting up, trying not to do it again.”
Toad the Wet Sprocket "All I Want"
Toad the Wet Sprocket "Dulcinea"
I wish it had been clear, and then again, I'm the person who's saying I want songs that are ambivalent."
— Glen Phillips
Likewise, he is also unafraid to revisit the past and lament some of his musical and lyrical mistakes, one of which is the highly controversial “Hold Her Down” from Fear. The song was inspired by the real-life experience of a friend who was sexually assaulted. Much like Nirvana’s Polly, released the same year (1991), the song is written from multiple viewpoints, including from the point of view of the rapist. “I wish I had gone about that song in a different way because it wasn't crystal clear. A part of that song, when it was written it's kind of switching perspective between [the] perpetrator of a sexual assault and a condemnation of sexual assault and it's meant to be angry and disturbing. And it is disturbing,” Phillips pauses. His legs are curled up on his swivel chair and he hugs them close to his chest. “I think some women heard it wrong and thought it was instructional and were deeply upset about it and that made me feel bad.” The song was acutely confrontational and written two and a half decades before the #MeToo movement. Phillips bemoans the fact that even as a twenty-year-old he didn’t know a single woman who had not been assaulted in some way. “That is astonishing to realize that. There was a lot of discussion when that song was written as to whether it was okay. Did we have the right to do this? Was it too confusing? I know it's done people some good and we did a lot of work with RAINN [Rape Abuse and Incest National Network] and I hope it did more good than bad but I don't know. I wish it had been clear, and then again, I'm the person who's saying I want songs that are ambivalent. To take on that topic in that way I think was cathartic and healing for some people, but I think, it's sometimes had the opposite effect and I do regret that. That was hard for me.”
What’s next for Phillips is anyone’s guess, though a reunion with Mutual Admiration Society, the band he formed with Nickel Creek (Chris Thile, and Sara and Sean Watkins). The band plans to tour the new record, COVID permitting, with Josh Daubin on drums as an official member of the band for the first time. More solo projects from Glen could also be on the horizon, though Glen cautions that a Toad record is just a Glen record with intertwining guitars and slightly less folksy undertones. In fact, the new Toad record was intended to be a Glen Phillips solo project. He decided to bounce the songs off of his Toad bandmates, who added contributions of their own, thus making it a Toad album.
As it is with most of us during the COVID era, the future is uncertain but one thing we can expect is for Phillips to maintain his positive outlook, and to keep working hard at being a better human.
Thirty-three years is a long time for a band to stay together and remain relevant, and Toad seems to have managed to do just that. Credit their ability to stay away from rockstar cliches, their ability to stay true to themselves, their lack of envy, positive outlook, and optimism.
Or, credit the music. As Phillips says, “You sing a sad song and then you're not so alone. I'll sing happy uplifting songs [and that] totally works too. It's like this secret weapon that I didn't realize I had access to.”
Toad the Wet Sprocket "Come Down"
Glen was kind enough to give me over an hour of his time-- far more time than this space would allot. However, he had a lot of great things to say that couldn't make it into this article. I have posted the YouTube below here shortly so that those interested can hear the conversation in context and in its entirety. Please stay tuned and check back for updates.
In the meantime, thank you for reading. I appreciate your time and, if you wouldn't mind, please let me know what you think in the comment section.
Glen Phillips: Toad the Wet Sprocket Interview Part One
Glen Phillips: Toad the Wet Sprocket Interview Part Two
Mostly complete transcript of the interview
JP: You guys formed the band when you were in high school, correct?
GP: Yeah. I was a freshman, they were all seniors. We were in choir and theatre together. Good lives two blocks down or so from my house. Same floor plan. (Laughs)
JP: Did you expect to be making music still at your age? What did you want to do.
GP: I thought I’d be in the arts. I decided right around then that I was more of a theatre arts guy. I thought I was gonna be a high school teacher. Teach some kind of social sciences and probably drama. I remember just teacher back then saying the reason he was a teacher is he loved the theater and he realized all his of students were going to go off to New York and Los Angeles for a lifetime of auditions and public scrutiny. He wanted the theatre but he didn’t want that and I was like “That’s me! I want the arts but wanna compete want to compete. I thought I was gonna do that but we ended up getting signed when I was eighteen so I never got got to. So I enjoyed the arts but I was planning on being a teacher.
JP: visual art?
GP: Performing arts. Theatre.
JP: I saw a quote once. I don’t know if it was you or Todd. It was like a VH1 special and Toad the Wet Sprocket had a clip on there and one of you said that you were just a high school band that stayed together.
GP: Probably. I mean pretty much it’s been twenty five years after he said that but still accurate. (Laughs)
JP: You guys came up during the whole grunge era. You were definitely a lot different. You had melodies and you were singing positive lyrics and introspective stuff. Was there a pro and con to doing that that you noticed, either from the or even from you personally?
GP: I think it was strange being outliers. And there was a lot of emphasis on this idea that you had to be edgy. That depth and edginess were the same thing. At the same time, I loved a lot of those bands. I mean Soundgarden, Pearl Jam, Nirvana. Freaking awesome, I mean amazing music.
We were kind of outside of what was going on in our own little corner. We had Music that sounded happy enough. Lyrics that were... they weren’t trite... but they didn’t really fit in. I. A certain sense, we didn’t even really fit in with Hootie and the Blowfish or Gin Blossoms either. We had kind of our own flavor. I liked what we did and I think our audience stuck with us ‘cuz we were speaking to nerds before nerds ruled the word. Before nerd culture was easy to come by. You know, I’m sure there’s still school districts where you can get your ass kicked with liking math or science. We grew up in an era where that was normal and I think we spoke to people that were a little bit on the outside. And that was our audience.
JP: which is interesting because grunge was supposed to be the outsider music and there you guys were doing something totally different and you’re viewing it as outsider music too. That’s an interesting perspective.
GP: And that’s the way social movements work, right? I don’t know when the first year was that people said punk was dead but I’m assuming it was probably 1977, right (laughs)? As soon as punk became popular, that was antithetical to the vibe. I remember having a friend who worked at Nordstrom back in the grunge days. She was a young shop girl and they took all the girls and all the staff and were like “People will walk in and they’ll be wearing plaid and they’ll have things tied around their waists and you’ll think that’s not fashionable but it’s a statement and take them to this area where we have grunge.” It became fashion very quickly. I think any movement like that is also speaking to something authentic and speaking to something that needs to be spoken too.
In the same way, you can have that with things like back to Hootie and the Blowfish and, say, Norah Jones. You know, they’re very different artists. Norah Jones came out of an era where women were fighting for edginess. There was, like, “How gnarly can people be?” And Norah Jones just came out and sang beautifully and people went ape shit for it. Same with Hootie and the Blowfish. In an era where people were like trying to be as edgy as they could, hearing a band sing a song about holding your hand was really refreshing, you know?
JP: I’m glad you mentioned Hootie because the one and only time I’ve ever seen you perform was in 1994 or 95... it was in the “Dulcinea” tour. Me and my dad— my dad’s a big fan. I saw you at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall in Portland and Hootie was your opener. By the end of that tour, they were one of the biggest bands in the world. What was that like touring with them and seeing that ascension? Did that change the tour dynamic at all?
GP: You know, at one point we talked about flipping the bill and they didn’t wanna flip the bill, you know, having us open for them. They just remained really good friends for a long time. They’re great guys. And that was about it. When we started with them, I dunno. They were friends. It was kind of amazing to see. We weren’t adversarial, you know. It wasn’t like “why are they blowing up and we’re not?” It was “Holy crap, dude! This is awesome!” It doesn’t happen every day, right? It’s a curse and a blessing. They were simultaneously one of the biggest bands in the world, but they were also the butt of a lot of jokes. I think it really stunk. They were a bar band. They were a really good bar band, but I think they were as surprised when it happened as anybody. And they were good people. Doing that well it was this amazing thing and then there’s imposter syndrome feeling like “Why is this happening?” And then just getting made fun of all the time I think really hurt them because they were always just to do good.
JP: One of my favorite Toad songs is “Crowing” and on that tour, at least when I saw you, Darius [Rucker] sang the second verse and yeah I can I can I can't unhear that and it's actually really cool like I hear you and then I hear him and was that every show or is that just every once in a while you did that?
GP: Yeah. That was a fun tour though. Once again they were really great guys. We used to play Music Farm [in Charleston, South Carolina] Way back when they used to come out and see us play. It was awesome to get go on the road and really awesome just to see it all blow up.
JP: Did you guys do the same set every night or just change it up to keep the keep it fresh?
GP: It depends. A lot of it is just technically getting the guitars ready and making sure the thing goes smoothly took tends to do a pretty set setlist.
When I go out acoustic, I tend not to have a set list Unless so tired that I can’t come up with songs. I like to write down 30 or 40 songs on a piece of paper in no particular order and then I can look down if I get stuck but that's about the extent of it. I kind of get spontaneity in other places.
JP: I don't remember the whole set by memory opened with “Fly from Heaven” which I thought was a really cool opener. It opened the album and it opened the tour two, so that was pretty cool. I
I was kind of wanting to back your lyrics a little bit and you sound like someone who probably reads a lot and try to stay up on literature and the news I mean it kind of shows in your lyrics is that is that a true statement for you and if so like what do you what do you like to read and whether you're reading now?
GP: What am I reading now? Well, I have going right now of all things, a leadership book. I'll get out of reading for a while and get myself back into it by reading sci-fi usually. I read a lot of Alistair Reynolds. I like the _____ books but I also like Mark Depot, David White, poetry or books on Buddhism I think are great. Kind of all over the map.
JP: You mentioned Buddhism. I've heard interviews where I think you said you were raised Jewish but your dad taught you TM or something like that. I don't know if that's accurate.
GP: Well I had a bar mitsvah, so I was raised in reform Judaism. Southern California reform Judaism is almost more like an ethical cultural basis. I mean, say you grew up with evangelical Christianity where heaven and hell are real. You know there is an actual shape to the universe, right? I remember growing up and always being a little—I never had that type of belief and I you know have kind of my own cosmology that I've developed over the years, but I remember feeling like how magical it must feel so live in a world with a real God. I remember early on we were hearing Bible stories and I was like “I don't know if I believe it.” Like as literal fact, I had trouble believing it early on I asked the rabbi, and he was like “Don't worry it's like you don't have to. This is about being a loving person. It’s about treating people well. Being godly in this context is simply you know being ethical and being loving. Go first with love. That’s all you need to know” I was like “I can handle that.”
So my dad, he was raised Presbyterian but he was a Zen Buddhist meditator and he gave me books on Sufism he gave me [indecipherable book on Buddhism] and so he brought me into kind of a more eastern attitude. Even the way that Buddhism tends to get filtered down by teachers like Jack Kornfield, West, Turner Brock, Jack Kornfield is great example or Alan Watts and you know coming from a Jewish background actually and having to fight the American assimilation attitude towards Judaism to be once again more cultural. It’s not this way let's say if you're you know Hasidic. There are a lot of Jewish traditions that are extremely alive in spiritual and ecstatic in those ways in that direct relationship with God. Just my upbringing wasn't like that but I think there are a lot of Buddhist teachers who came from that background and then found in Buddhism something that was not dogmatic but was experiential in terms of spirit and that kind of linking with the unknown and the ineffable, just with a moral context. I've always found a lot of appeal in that because in Buddhism you’re never you're not necessarily told that this is what you must believe. Instead of saying this is the way it is if you see something different you're wrong, in Buddhism it's like if you see the Buddha on the road kill the Buddha. If you think you know what you’re experiencing, if you think you've got it all figured out, you're wrong. Open more. Your job is always so open more to the actual experience be more present have and it's a constant learning constant opening so that that lack of dogma appeared to me.
Sorry that was a lot.
JP: It's OK! I came from an evangelical background. Actually, My dad was a Christian music artist in the 80s and 90s so I've kind of been immersed in that scene. The one thing I've been really realizing as I get older—I’m 10 years younger than you are—I’m realizing Jesus's main message was love your neighbor and love God and that almost sounds like what you're saying just maybe in a different with different outcome but same concept.
GP: I have a friend who grew up deep in the kind of Saddleback [Church in Orange County, California Pastored by Rick Warren] world as a kid. He talks about like you know having discussions with his you know friends from back in that world I mean it's that quote right? Which is there's only one teaching. It's two parts which are the same right? Love the Lord with all your heart, all your spirit, with all your mind yeah and the other which is the same: love the neighbor as yourself. Are they the same? To love God is to love yourself is to love your neighbor? With an attitude of possibly nothing is not God. God created it so there can be nothing that is not God. That's kind of in a non-deist, without the kind of personification aspect of God and that's a way of trying to explain gods people. We personify things. make them act like people so that we can kind of understand them. That idea of God simply being the sum total of everything and that if I am I'm willing to give my self belief or something that is more akin to faith in terms of that, which means something that I can't prove but I'm just willing to say I believe it is that there is some type of consciousness within that. A consciousness I can't claim to understand that you know in any way. But I like the idea that there's some kind of consciousness that I can't perceive that’s binding it together and that it's bound by love. Those are my irrational beliefs that I just feel like they make the world more magical for me and they're not going to make me do crappy things so I just live by them, you know? [laughs]
JP: That’s how lyrically you sound. I mean even even your more pessimistic tunes still have an optimism to him which is great. You don't claim that have know all these answers but you kind of have this outlook that's positive and love based and that's great.
GP: Yeah. Well you know western society is a lot of “Turn your frown upside down.” and sometimes that works. You know the last few years I’ve Been doing a lot of community choir leading. Like, living room choirs. There's no sheet music. It's not for good voices, it's for anybody. There's no there's no shame. There's no unwelcoming like anyone can sing and so I found as I've done that over last maybe five years kind of discovered this music that like wow as much as I've always been like “Oh you sing a sad song and then you're not so alone” I'll sing happy uplifting songs totally works too. It's like this secret weapon that I didn't realize I had access to but there's something about, you know, even if you're writing about pain or grief or loss, confusion, depression, a person's experience—
JP: (my dog barks in the background) Stop! Sorry. The dog is barking.
GP: It’s about being a source of light into kind of a nihilistic grit, right? And there’s an element you know you don't get, you know shadow, shadow and light or you know you don't get to notice just he light so that's why we have this duality. I was actually listening to somebody talking about kind of western you know most of the world or world religions. Most of the world religions are more of a holistic version of the [indecipherable] or good and evil but there is good and evil. There is right action and wrong action. Why does there have to be that darkness? So let there be a light that we can hold up and relief [authors note: this is a paraphrase. I was unable to make much of what was said here due to a bad connection]. So, kudos.
JP: Well, no one really can know for sure. I suppose.
GP: Some people think they do. That’s okay. [laughs]
JP: Well, it makes them feel better.
One of the questions someone asked was the song “Come Down” specifically and they felt like it was coming from a Christian perspective. I listened to it again and I was like “Yeah, I could totally see that.” Was that your intention with that song?
GP: (a long pause ensues) No! [both laugh]. Not a distinctive Christian perspective.
JP: What was that song about then?
GP: I’m trying to remember [laughs]. It was about a number of things. I mean, more than anything, it was just about the process of morally failing and that need to start again. Get up where you fell from, right? Yeah that constant returning. The need for other people the need for support. I mean you know in Buddhism it's the three jewels there's a lot of Trinity in religions. 3 jewels or Buddha Dharma sangha which are you know Buddha, which is essentially the enlightened spirit that dwells in everything. So God close to enough. Dharma would be practice and knowledge and sangha's community. You can't be held without community. You need others. You need the reflection of those to love you, to nurture you, heal you. To send you back on the right path when you're going off the right path and you know in order for the Buddha nature, your holy nature, enlightened nature to work need teachings you need you need some laws in there you need some knowledge but you also you know you can't do it without community. It's like in the top three or two in that song once again it wasn't written directly from a Buddhist perspective either yeah more just about yeah making a mistake, getting up, trying not to do it again.
JP: It’s a Confucius thing too. Another question I was asked, and I don’t know if this is true, but someone wanted to know why you don’t tour Canada anymore.
GP: Oh, I think partially it just it got more difficult to go to Canada as far as permits and border crossing. We also don't have a huge draw there so it’s not financially worthwhile in getting through the red tape and kind of the rigamarole of it. Yeah we should go there more. We did a terrible job of building an international audience that was sustainable.
JP: Moving on to the future of Toad has Randy Guss left the band officially right or is he just not touring?
GP: He's no longer in the band.
JP: are you are you able to speak about what happened there or why he left?
GP: Not in great detail. I mean the simplest way to put things just we his kind of medical condition was at a point where the athleticism required to be a rock drummer—He’s the only touring rock drummer I know of with OI, osteogenesis Imperfecta. He was just at a point where you know the fatigue and pain were kind of overwhelming yeah and so it was time to move on.
There were years he wasn't touring with us but was still technically in band.
JP: Do you have plans to tour once the pandemic is over and do you have a new drummer in place for that or just a touring drummer?
GP: We have a drummer named Josh Daubin. He has been touring with us for last few years and he actually recorded with us on the new record The band is on paper officially at this point it's Dean and Todd and myself. My friend Jonathan Kingham also has been touring with us for six or eight years? Eight years? Ten years? He’s been playing with us forever and he plays keyboards, slide guitar, kind of fills in the extra parts, extra harmonies so we do it as five piece live. The three of us are you know technically the band 'cause we were high school band that didn’t break up.
JP: When you are personally writing a song, do you know if it's a Toad or a Glenn song?
GP: I mean when I'm writing songs, it kinda depends. I mean back in the day everything went to Toad. I wrote about half the songs and Co wrote about half with Todd. About half of them it’s all his music and sometimes a couple of words. You know I’ll kind of take you know a line like [sings] “When will we fall down?” That worked and so I wrote the rest of the lyric around that. So about half the songs of his I’ll add like a bridge or something to. Half the music's full. and then the other half of the songs are mine. That's how it normally works.
When we got together to write New Constellation, I was mostly writing specifically for Toad there were simply because they were functional things like I've been writing songs that were folkier that didn't have much in the way of countermelody. A big part of the Toad sound is these kind of weaving melodies. So I started going like “Oh I can do countermelody and I'm gonna write songs for electric now! You know, songs that rock! And some folkie songs!”
On the new album, actually I was 80% of the way through a solo record and I just decided I'd like to hear these songs with Toad so we moved the songs over and I wrote a few others. I mean the weird thing is you can take pretty much anything I write and if you have kind of Deans like very melodic bass happening and you have our harmony countermelody, and if you have Todd’s guitar, which just doesn't sound like anybody else, it sounds like a Toad song. So, it's not rocket science to make it Glenn song into a Toad song. Just have Toad play it.
JP: Well you have a very distinct voice as well so when I hear your voice I always assume it’s a Toad song anyway.
GP: The difference is for the most part is does Toad play it? There's certain songs that are more in my folky realm. Even back in the day there was you know “Little Buddha” or “Silo lullaby” or “Windmills” and just there were these songs that were much more off to that but the band kind of brings them all into—“Are we afraid!”—The band just kind of brings it all into center you know. “I will not take these things for granted” the songs that are a little more like my hippie side or not you know the heart side or whatever. So the new album, we’re hoping to be on the road after Labor Day through a lot of October, and by then it's all pretty much all ready to go/ We’ll see if people think it sounds like Toad.
JP: Are you gonna tour Alaska at all on this next tour?
GP: Man I would love to. Alaska and Hawaii—just you know the cost of getting out there. I mean I played a few solo shows up there. It was great! People are so happy when a band comes! I hope we can make it back to Hawaii. One of the wildest shows I ever played wa sin Honolulu. Again, people are just so happy when people make it out there.
JP: Did you ever take your children on tour with you?
GP: Yeah, some. When we were really young none of the others guys had kids. They wouldn't be out for the whole summer but they would come out some. Now, we take some road trips trips here and there. They’re all grown now, 19-25. The weird thing is, the last two years my girlfriend is a teacher. She gets off weekends and summers. I work nights, weekends, and all summer. Figuring out how to make our lives compatible is actually really interesting and honestly I'm really looking forward to this summer because just the first summer that we'll have together without a tour coming in the middle of it so thank you Covid for that.
JP: Who are you spending quarantine with?
GP: My girlfriend and I moved in last May. Her son’s with us half time and actually one of the big silver linings for me in quarantine was that each of my daughters ended up coming back and living with me for probably at least around a month. I had one that was supposed to go to Santa Cruz to go to college. That didn’t happen. So so she came back. One was in Brooklyn and she's you know was a chef. I have another one who teaches dance in a juvenile justice facility. Of course that got shut down and so she came visit. So it was amazing having them all back. They’re awesome kids. I mean, they’re awesome young adults.
JP: How you doing on time Glen? I don't wanna keep you waiting [Glen had alotted half an hour for this interview and we were already at the 32 minute mark]. I have a few more questions but if you need to go just let me know.
GP: It’s okay. I get a little long winded and require lots of editing.
JP: To me you kind of the soul of like a Bob Dylan where you're very you're in touch with how you feel and about how other people might feel as well is that something that just comes naturally for you?
GP: I mean I think there's an inclination I have. When I was a kid I couldn't understand how the world functioned because I felt like if everybody felt as strongly as I did— like I felt like I was just trying to hold it together a lot of the time. Even through my adult life I find myself a lot of times battling kind of an intensity of feeling. It’s overwhelming a lot of time. So, I mean with that I think there was you know solace in music because of that. But I also think that you know writing in particularly, like writing songs, it's an act of observation. I think there is a honing of attention to other people and imagining of other people’s internal lives, right? Like with a novel, when a writer is able to kind of flesh out these people and have an understanding of their individual internal lives. A songwriter I think, hopefully that's part of that too. And like everybody, you know, I have my blind spots in the places where my empathic imagination fails and you know stutters and sputters.
The last few years have been a real challenge. People become just you know more entrenched in knee jerk you know. If you're not like me you're bad. Left and right both just like counting heads and probably each side feeling the other is worse. Coming from my bleeding-heart liberal side, I realized I was becoming an angry and judgmental person. I couldn't stand some people. I try to hold on to what I believe is empirical fact, hold an ethical stand and my ethical beliefs but also keep it open mind and an understanding that it’s not possible that half the country are hateful, racist, jerks. That’s not possible, right? Which means that if I'm of that attitude, and my knee jerk reaction is that about people, I'm wrong (laughs). So I like to imagine like “OK. There’s certain things that I'm gonna disagree with” but I'm you know trying to see it through other people's eyes. shrink just assume that everybody, almost everybody, is motivated out of a desire to care for others, out of a desire of their own safety , to live in a world that is fair and that makes sense, and then once you come to any conversation with that—actually I did a series of you know is doing these live streams.
I lost a lot of my audience this year by supporting the Black Lives Matter movement and not understanding what all upset was against it. I just I lost audience in droves. I started you know having some conversations with people and really trying to figure out how to train myself to talk to people who were across the aisle now and it's more difficult than it's ever been. I mean I feel like code, because so many people thought that we came from a Christian background, I really learned to have really deep and respectful conversations with people who had really different spiritual looks or belief systems or people who are very conservative. So I thought that was something I was actually skilled at and, the last two years have really brought me to my knees. It's been really humbling. Sometimes I feel like it's intractable and so that's a big part of my work now is feeling like, how do we talk about any across those aisles? I started having, like in these conversations even, just having, like how about each of us would be run up against a thing where it's not opinion anymore but it's, like well it's having like I'm having trouble with this like just raise a hand rather than talking back and going like on either side. Like, raise your hand where we're dealing with a different fact set. Then end we do that can we come back to “what do you want?” “I want a level playing field” “I want to feel safe in the world” “I want people I love to be okay.” Just trying to get the conversation back there. If it goes back so love, I feel like that's the only thing they can come back to these days.
JP: Whenever I'm discussing politics or religion, I always ask a question instead of making an assumption. “Is this what you meant by this statement blah blah blah?” and then a lot of times you find that you misunderstood what they said in the first place, and you open up that line the dialogue and find that “Oh we're not that far apart and what we're thinking”
GP: Yeah, totally. I mean 'cause they get trained in my left bubble, you know, to see intolerance, to see racism, And I think you know people in the right wing bubble get training as to what liberals want and actually concerned about and to breakthrough that training and go “Actually listen to me when I tell you what I care about and I'm going to do the same with you.” That's, once again, where we start to understand but it's never been this hard.
JP: I always like to say that we all have the same game plan, just a different playbook.
GP: When you get to those, once again, individual policies if you explain, there is a lot of stuff with the two party system always just trying to ruin each other but a lot of things we agree on. We want good roads, we want the fire department, we want utilities that work, we want clean drinking water, fair play, fair wage for hard day's work. The hope that we can actually if you do hard day's work that you can have enough to get by with some degree of self-respect. Honestly, I think left and right to as much as you know there's the socialized medicine care, the idea if you if you get sick you don't wanna have your life be dependent on how pretty your GoFundMe page is. So things like that. The solution for how to get there we have a lot of discussion but I think people coming from the left and right having the discussions that’s what makes workable solutions. It’s collaborative. We don't collaborate anymore so we're there's a lot of opportunity lost.
JP: Well I tend to get on everyone's nerves 'cause I'm a libertarian so that means I'm insufferable on the Internet. I can like I can see validity on the left and the right and of course my solution is different than theirs as well. I think anyone that can be able to have an opinion but also see the other side I think will be a lot better off but you can't really have a debate if it's not two sides.
GP: Nothing has two sides. That’s non dualism as well. My best friend is a Libertarian and have we have a lot of fun finding common ground. I trust implicitly his goodwill he trusts implicitly my goodwill and we have, I think we have, partially because of our experience parts partially because of our philosophy, really different the ways where we will extend our trust and where we will extend our skepticism. I have more trust in the engines of government than in the engines of free enterprise. Everybody can have their lists of any of that and I just kind of default to that. Like, I don't want to create a private system to do that for the profit motive. I want functioning government. I’m well aware government is broken. I won't be down for more when they go to government. I want efficiency, I want intelligence, I wanted to be pure servicing and I know that's not how it all operates all the time so I feel like I can get all his arguments. Anyway, we go back and forth on it we have a really good time.
JP: It's fun. I think the left and Libertarian probably closer just in terms of the social values so they can probably relate on that whereas probably more fiscal either more on the right which that might be where you have your bigger issues with your buddy I don't know.
GP: I mean a lot of it is once again it's the gray area, right? Which are you know questions we can find common ground on infrastructure and certain things like “Yeah, I don't want private sector doing, right? I think anybody would be afraid of to have done in the private sector: police, fire department. There’s stuff where there's power involved where it's like “Oh you didn't pay your thing, so you get to burn.” Private prisons I think are really terrible idea. We don’t want profit motive and then the rest of it is kind of a discussion you know which could handle what more easily or more effectively. He's all about low taxes but he knows you gotta have some taxes 'cause they pay for the stuff that government does do when we do need that. So once we'll get into particulars but even on the particulars we tend to just come around with modern society is really complex and difficult and nobody's figured it out and consequences are everywhere.
I remember Bill Clinton and there was this whole thing about CEO compensation, right? He kind of turned the tables on, I forget what the deal was, it was meant to keep CEO compensation low and it had completely the opposite effect. Unintended consequences opened up CEOs for all kinds of sideline comp. The idea was that the CEO was supposed to be the boring job, it's long term, stays with the company for awhile and the board is going to shift and do all these other things. And his re regulation of how CEOs are compensated had entirely the opposite effect of his intention. It happens all the time.
Sorry I keep talking.
JP: I know you've answered this because I've seen you answer it before but one of the questions people asked was the name came from Monty Python sketch and would you name would you still name your band that as a 50 year old man?
GP: Oh it's too late now but no. Not a million years. I’m both happy about it and proud of it. Once again, when we talk about nerd cred, Toad the Wet Sprocket taken from a rare vinyl only Monty Python sketch it's got a lot of nerd cred.
JP: A lot of your songs are very introspective and personal but some of them sound like actual stories. Specifically “Is it for me.” I've wondered if that was a real event with your buddies or if that was just something made up.
GP: “Is it for me” for me completely fictionalized. Most songs that are based on something real are a little bit fictionalized just for the purposes you know you'd rather have a song that works. A song like “Don't fade” you know. Especially from the earlier songs. We were writing a lot of songs all the time. It's like “Put something down” like “Walk on the Ocean.” I had recently gone up to the San Juan Islands and we'd gone to Doe Bay, hanging out. It’s just kind of a hippie resort with these hot tubs and look over the ocean. I was thinking a little bit about that, but not really, it's just kind of loosely fictionalized. I have no idea what the chorus is about. It was written in fifteen minutes 'cause Todd wrote the music and it's like, just put some lyrics down. Just go write something. I wrote that in fifteen minutes, then I rewrote it and nothing better ever happened.
That one has persistent rumors. I think there's a Christian camp up there that supposedly it was about going there but I went to Jewish camp so it's not about (laughs)
JP: I like to read genius lyrics.com. I don’t know if you ever go there but reading people's interpretation of that song just cracks me up because I've heard you say that before. It is funny that you can write something people get meaning out of it that you didn't even intend.
GP: That's the great thing about music. That how songs work. That's how poetry works. That's the beautiful thing. It’s this combination of vagueness and specificity that places you in the emotional truth of the situation. Emotion usually something even slightly ambivalent and ambivalence gets used a lot. I think people use it meaning “not caring,” but ambivalence has to do with feeling ways about something contradictory. I believe when I see my friend again, it's been so long with Covid, I really don't hear him talk about his talk about Dave again, 'cause man when he gets to talking about Dave, it drives me crazy but I really want to see him again. You feel two ways. You wanna see it, you're dreading it a little, but you really want it.
So I think you know songs place you in that—in these complex emotional states and you just need to be, I think, enough to kind of anchor somebody in a place in a narrative where they fill it in with their own experiences. In their own feelings and once again it contains that slight dissonance of feeling that I think makes things feel real. You’re almost never all one thing.
JP: Ben Gibbard is one my favorite songwriter. He's the same way. He writes about specific things but in a way that I can relate to even if I didn't have that happen. The trick to good song.
GP: That's why I feel like the songs that age the worst with bands, and it's something I'm happy about with Toad, is I feel like we not write a bunch of it differently but I feel like our songs have aged OK. But you know if you're writing about a specific girl, who can relate to that? I mean, I know some people do. But like, I can relate to like 2112 or something that is just a totally fictionalized rock opera than a rock band singing about touring.
JP: Everyone loves AC/DC but it's like it doesn't really resonate. You listen to it, you have a good time and then you're like “Alright, well that's all over.”
GP: AC/DC is great.
JP: I was telling my buddy “I love them because every end exactly the same. You can just play it and know what you're getting and have a good time.”
JP: They’re awesome. They are a great band. And the thing about them, as well, it’s a different thing. For me, I like vulnerability. For me, it's nice when people are cheering but if I see someone in the audience start crying like that for me means that I won. That’s like tonight, you wanna move someone. I want them opened up and unembarrassed. That’s the job. You open up so that other people feel free to open up, you know, in my case. That’s the job.
JP: Are there any songs that you've written that you wish you had not recorded and, conversely, are there any songs you have recorded that you have not performed live that you would like to or don't think would work live?
GP: I’ve forgotten so many songs or not played or recorded. Just so many songs. I wouldn’t even know where to start with that. The answer the second half the question is yes. [laugh] There’s a lot of them.
JP: Are there any you stopped playing for whatever reason?
GP: Little Heaven. It has such a huge vocal range and it hurts my throat over the years. I threw out my throat. I had to have surgery after the Fear tour. We played a hundred shows. All of the songs were at the very top of my range and I completely shredded my vocal cords. I'm very protective of my voice now. So, play a lot of songs lower and very careful about songs. Rare bird is like that too. Rare Bird just has this crazy like octave switch. Little Heaven, it's a combination of there's a big octave switch and there are these [sings] “ah ah ah ah” harmonies that kind of sit on 7th so if they're all flat, their hideously sour. Between me shredding my voice and the background vocals sounding sour like anytime we try it we’re just like “Screw it. We can't pull it off.”
Songs I wish I hadn’t written? I wish I'd gone about “Hold her down” in a different way because it wasn't crystal clear. A part of that song, when it was written it's kind of switching perspective between perpetrator of a sexual assault and a condemnation of sexual assault and it's meant to be angry and disturbing. And it is disturbing. I think some women heard it wrong and thought it was instructional and were deeply upset about it yeah and that made me feel bad. There's also some idiot frat boys who, during shows, will yell “Hold her down! Play hold her down!” If I hear that we’re not playing that fucking song. It just makes me wanna take a little time out.
JP: “Polly” by Nirvana came out the same year and Kurt Cobain said he had the same stuff happen. Where somebody actually perpetuated a sexual assault while singing “Polly” to the girl so. I guess that’s kind of a similar story.
GP: It is. It was written from the experience of someone close to me. That was written when I was probably just twenty years old you know where I suddenly realized I didn't think I knew a single woman not experienced some kind of sexual assault and being violated or just compulsion and having to go feeling like they had to go along with something they didn't like. That is astonishing to realize that and it was mostly centered around you know a friends’ experience that was just absolute brutality and I couldn't understand it or cope with it. There was a lot of discussion when that song was written as to whether it was okay. Did we have the right to do this? Was it too confusing? And we kept it and at the end of the day, I know it's done people some good and we did a lot of work with RAIN, Rape Abuse and Incest National Network and I hope it did more good than bad but I don't know. I wish it had been clear, and then again, I'm the person who's saying I want songs that are ambivalent. An authentic feeling is really disturbing. To take on that topic in that way I think was cathartic and healing for some people but I think it's sometimes it had the opposite effect and I do regret that. That was hard for me.
JP: One thing about that song it's one of the few where you actually use profanity. Would you change that aspect as well?
GP: I don't care about the profanity. I think basis of the song is so—and I’m a trash mouth—so I don’t know if it helped or hurt. I just think if the song wasn’t constructed in that way then it would be a pamphlet and the problem about writing songs that are do you know based on an deep and disturbing issues, or just based on complex issues, is you know this is part of my problem with some of the later John Lennon stuff is like a like I'm listening I'm listening to a pamphlet instead of hearing a song. You’re saying all the right things. You're saying them decently well enough—that I know I'm never supposed to slag John Lennon I get that too. I love John Lennon's work. But you know there's a thing of hearing some songs and you're like “Yeah, that's about the right thing but it doesn't move me. It’s just telling me something I already know about the right thing.” I think the way you get actual change is by making somebody feel something. It makes them inquisitive or confuses them or makes them ask something. You know that's “Hold her down’ was for. As opposed to like a song like “One Little Girl” which is more just this is how it is. We live in a patriarchal society. It just kind of lays it out for her.
So in trying to kind of create that tension, I feel like I wrote a song that I have very mixed feelings about it.
JP: Understanding the bulk of your work you knowing and where you're coming from is important. That’s why I’m an album guy and not really an individual songs kind of guy 'cause it's a story that.
GP: We’re living in the age of you know crazy incel stuff. A kind of wild, men's rights movement stuff that is like wildly over the top. For that song to be treated with no sense of irony, no sense of that tension-- that that kind of thinking is frighteningly mainstream and out in the open at this point. In a way to have done a song like that back then was unthinkable. It's scary, the trolling and hatefulness. I was talking to some friends who work in retail saying this year it's like everyone’s he's been living a lie. Just seeing like amount of rudeness, hostility, verbal violence. Now what's kind of considered normal is like social media is like taking our dialogue down to the lowest common denominator, just, you know, erasing it. Once again, I don't know what we do about that.
JP: Do you have a favorite album and/or top three or four favorite songs that you've written and performed that you're most proud ever that you are performing or anything in that regard?
GP: I love Dulcinea. I think Dulcinea is probably the best Toad record. I think New Constellation is probably a close second. And of course, the last thing we just did.
There’s the saying that there are three perfect songs in the world: “Let it be”, “Amazing Grace” and the thing I just wrote.
I loved the last solo record followed by the new, as far as the body of work, I think that's for me the most kind of important material It’s made me happy to see as much as you know, commercially it doesn't even really exist, but the impact that those songs have had on people made me really happy. I feel that for people who are experiencing loss whether, it's divorce, the death of a loved one or loved one or a life change, I like feel like that album has, [with] how few people it reached, it reached more of them more deeply than anything I've ever done. That’s something I’m really proud of.
JP: How did the Mutual Admiration Society project come together? Do you anticipate ever doing that again?
GP: As far as getting together, that would be amazing if it ever happened but it's not totally likely. Everybody's got so many projects these days. That just came together. Nickel Creek, I met before their first record came out. Sean had written “Let it fall” and he wanted me to sing on it. He met a guy who knew me at Four Corners Folk Festival, a mutual friend John Lee's guitar tech there. He had a Toad the Wet Sprocket sticker on his guitar case and then we started talking Toad. Sean was like “I got this song that I always thought I'd love to hear him sing on but I don't know how I'd ever reach him” and John was like “Oh we're friends! I'll get it to him!” So that's how we met.
I had been playing at Largo in L.A. Welcome Family Hour’s been going for 20 years now which is crazy. It was like right around 2000. They came up I had never met them before they were still just kids. They sat in with zero rehearsal on like 8 songs in my set and I never encountered anything like that in my entire life. We ended up just being friends. And then it weas like “Hey! let's do a record in my garage 'cause we can!” It was all leftover songs. Like we rehearsed for one day or recorded in two days. It you know it was like total leftovers but it's mostly my songs because they're quicker study then I am. That’ll probably never happen again.
And then the WPA record was with Sean and Sarah. I love the WPA record. That was kind of a bit of an offshoot because a lot of the same people were playing also Welcome Family Hour. I had met Pete Thomas and had him record on the summer album. That was just an amazing experience. Once again we weren't able to play a lot of shows for that. Sean and I may do another project called WPA. Sarah may guest on it or something but I think WPA as kind of our thing now.
Mutual Admiration Society Tour was the craziest thing ever as well. 'cause they were corners Folk Festival they met John Paul Jones and just let me know in a bass player should be called CNPJ and she Thomas happy Thomas cone have GPS pulling that be amazing at these two like gods is our rhythm section and she said yes it was like commenting like oh I've never really been on a bus tour since the early 70s we always like and we would stay at you know Howard Johnson 'cause he was already go that I believe I could find this picture of him standing outside the above like looking up at like the Howard Johnson signed like like the fat what was I thinking use the most precious wonderful guy like any such a musicians musician and that was the thing I think she just wanted to study with that man's trade and you know we we had the story always telling that to assume we had like a day off in New York and I saw a sheet music store break near the hotel they all ran out of the bus and came back with these giant piles of sheet music you know like so not as classic ones like and they're just handing them back and forth and learning inside reading and playing and like there such a music nerd and like he and Chris were just you know a match made in heaven for that and so it was it was a crazy week I feel like I was not a big enough Led Zeppelin fans who have been at all worthy of the that experience but it's still pretium lovely wonderful total bucket list yeah I can imagine playing with with him and be previous find yourself going back too?
I posted some questions to some of my followers on Facebook and one noted that the lyrics to “Come Down” seem to be very rooted in the lexicon of Christianity. Many of your lyrics seem, in fact, rooted in spirituality. What is your relationship toe spirituality?Dennis goes wild Scroll down here mate tried asking everything I wanted to but that kind of those are the main ones I had I guess the I kind of want to ask maybe a nonmusical 1 which is what do you enjoy doing when you're not music like David daylight for glenfield what's that look like I mean I mean I really like music honestly what I can do for you simply it's like trying to learn all my scales and never learn how to play solo guitar yeah I'm doing that too doing like the rudimentary you know like yeah Sonic scales down which is fine I like to cook love seeing friends doing more of that very soon black running like hiking going to the beach yoga pretty simple stuff like hiking in the beaches you come visit Juneau without a beach and hiking so I'll even buy you a beer next time you come come through town I had started writing a short story called about the 20 best road trip albums but by me actually going in visiting the artist in them and one of them was actually you and I pictured I pictured you in your yard barefoot doing yoga overlooking the beach and so it's kind of funny just mentioned that those are kind of your hobbies pretty much how it is yeah actually I'm gonna go my girlfriend she teaches 8th grade English but she also teaches yoga down to park on the Mesa that overlooks the beach and well the last question last question I really had for you I'm sorry breaking up building the app beach tonight well my store would be true then kind of the last question I had one they've always wondered was how did performing barefoot come about and you still do that I often do sometimes I don't but sometimes they do it just because I don't want the person in the front row just don't regret for sure not really but the yeah the thing with the shoes I don't know I'm I word flip flops a lot for bold like that you know around the summer I go barefoot a lot and and then on stage part of it was it was just comfortable and part of it was I such a klutz listed guitar player and I would never hit the right pedal and I could feel better where my foot was it misuse were off, nature just little bit of hippie and a little bit of class that works well I appreciate your time today I mean sounds like we keep talking for hours but I know they got stuff to do I appreciate your time if there's any way you can send me maybe some pictures I can use for an article otherwise I'll just find some ferreus ones but can appreciate your time and if you're ever in Juneau I'm happy to show you around a little bit thank you I hope I can make it up yeah well good luck with the new record then the family full of questions that can I'll shoot you a message but I think I'm OK yeah I appreciate it Glenn have a good day
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