Orlando Fashion Square Mall is a weird place for an interview with a member of a harsh noise/doom band. Like the isolation one feels in an empty mall that's set to close soon(?), Glenn Stefani's berating music has an unexpected peacefulness to it. Glenn, if you don't know, plays in the bands Ad Nauseum, Deformed, and Uh, makes drone/noise music solo under the name Temperament, makes digital art, and was responsible for Florida Is Loud, the three-day celebration of Florida fringe music that happened in December. He's an aloof character who doesn't like take well to the spotlight or having his face online -- which is why I'm so thankful that he was down to do this interview. Enjoy.
Photos by matthew warhol. Edits by Glenn Stefani.
matthew warhol: From what I know about you, it seems you’ve done a lot of good for a side of music and a scene in Orlando that gets overlooked a lot, that’s on the fringes of things. You did Florida is Loud. You’re in a bunch of bands. I was wondering how that came about?
Glenn Stefani: Um … my friends and I got into Metallica and Misfits when we were in like fourth or fifth grade. I’ve been on and off with it for years, depending on what's going on in my life, but I started hitting it really hard when we were getting out of high school. We had hardcore bands in high school, but when I got out and started meeting people who were older than I was and doing things, I realized that there is a mortality on who runs shows or plays in bands. I guess that’s when I started recognizing that I wanted to start really playing music. Initially, when people who book shows started moving away, people started hitting me up. I figured it wasn’t that hard to run a show. You stand there and hassle people for money, give them hard looks if they give you shit. Then you give it all to the touring bands and go home.
matthew warhol: Were you in a band at the time?
Glenn Stefani: When I was in high school, I was in a really short lived hardcore band. Grant [my roommate] and I started Ad Nauseum. That’s what I consider my first real band, and we’ve just been running with it since then. I like to stay as busy as I can at all times, so I kind of pick up whatever comes my way as I go along. If it sticks, it sticks. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t. We had one ligament band and I started jamming with people. Before I knew it, I was in four or five bands.
matthew warhol: You said since high school. How many years has that been?
Glenn Stefani: Four or five.
matthew warhol: That’s a long time for a local band.
Glenn Stefani: The person who has stuck with me the most is the vocalist, Justin. He’s also in a band called Burn to Learn. Him and I, since the day we met, have been really like-minded. We met my sophomore year of high school and bonded on like Slayer and Morbid Angel. He’s one of those dudes where if we didn’t talk for six months, we’d pick up right where we left up. His patience and willingness to persevere have probably been the biggest inspiration I’ve had being in any of the bands I’ve been in.
matthew warhol: You were saying when you were coming up, that you recognized that there is a mortality to what locals could do. Is that because you think that Orlando people will move on, or is it an age thing?
Glenn Stefani: Orlando is definitely a transient place. People kinda cut their teeth here, and once they decide they want to pursue a job in a different state or something, they leave. It’s definitely a training camp.
matthew warhol: You come here and then you go to a bigger city.
Glenn Stefani: All that is a positive thing because people are going off and doing bigger and better things. While I get nostalgic for the way things were — like for the band Knife Hits and their first demo — things change. All my favorite bands lived and died within a five-year gap in the 90s and 00s. Once I was getting into music and going to record stores, I realized a lot of these bands are very short lived.
matthew warhol: Do you think it’s something about the music they make?
Glenn Stefani: People get old. You might have to go get a big boy job and stop playing music or have a kid or something. But then there are people who keep doing it. I feel like when you’re coming out of high school, which a lot of the bands were, you have a different idea of what it’s going to be. You go on tour a few times and realize it’s not for you. People, as they grow older, get different ideas of what they’re going to do.
matthew warhol: What’s kept you in it?
Glenn Stefani: Stubbornness. And anxiety. I need music. Music is very important to me. If I didn’t have it I’d have no idea what I’d be doing. I’d probably be more of any idiot than I am now. It’s taught me to grow and understand different ideas and different things about myself. As far as the mortality rate, it was as seamless as someone hit me up and said, “Hey, my friend’s band from North Carolina is coming down and said to contact you because they’re not doing shows anymore.” At that point, I’d booked shows in high school and … I pretty much exclusively book at Lou’s because I love that place. It’s a home away from home.
matthew warhol: You kind of fell into it. You were kind of like the young person in the group and when the older people were gone, you were all that was left.
Glenn Stefani: Yeah, I was 17. I was going to see shitty metalcore, Hot Topic shows in middle school. Fortunately, I met people who showed me better stuff. That’s when I went and saw Knife Hits or No Qualms, two really important bands. That’s why Florida Is Loud was such a jarring thing because I brought Knife Hits back to Orlando.
matthew warhol: Had you known them before?
Glenn Stefani: I’d known Ben since I was in high school. Ben was their vocalist — he’s their bass player now. But I talked to Jake Smith the person who handles their booking. Florida Is Loud … I had the idea six months before it happened. And things maybe fell into place two months before it happened. I was lucky to have a more experienced promoter help me with the logistics of it. Like, “Hey, I got Will’s Pub for you.” I more handled booking Lou’s and getting all the bands together. But when it came to me starting to book shows, it was odd because I feel like there are way more charismatic personas in the community than I am. I’m more of a wallflower who’s having awkward conversations with people.
matthew warhol: You bring them together.
Glenn Stefani: Sure, and it’s fun. Nothing gets me more stoked than watching a room full of people watching a weird band from out of town. I enjoy that a lot of times more than playing.
matthew warhol: Was this the first year of Florida Is Loud?
Glenn Stefani: December was the first one. I was at work thinking, “Oh, I’ve met a lot of bands the past few years. Why don’t I try to get them all in a room.” Initially, it was supposed to be a two-day thing. I hate running shows with more than four bands. But with the response it was generating, by the end of the week I realized, “Oh man, I’m going to have to do bigger things with this.” I was nervous at first because I hadn’t handled anything that grand before. But it ended up okay, the worst thing that happened was when we knocked down the ceiling at Lou’s.
matthew warhol: And that’s pretty awesome. It’s shitty, but it’s like, “Wow I didn’t expect that to happen.” You’re making an awesome memory for someone.
Glenn Stefani: I was living purely off of coffee at that point. I hadn’t eaten anything the whole weekend. I wanted to pass out so bad and saw Niko bust out of Lou’s and drop his bass. I was like, “What happened?” I walked in and ceiling tiles were everywhere. That being the worst thing that happened all weekend made it a roaring success for me.
matthew warhol: There are certain bookers, I’ve noticed, that are more in it for themselves. They think that they’re the reason everyone is coming out. But you seem very selfless in the way you move. Does that come from your punk roots? There seems to be certain rules — like you said, the touring band gets the money.
Glenn Stefani: I’d like to go out on a limb and say that with any form of art, there’s always some degree of ego attached. I think I do a very good job of self-regulating. I think my personality to begin with — someone could throw me a compliment and I’m just going to subvert it entirely. From a very young age, I recognized that. If you’re booking a show, you help out the bands to the best of your abilities. From a young age, being exposed to Minor Threat and Black Flag and reading stories about them. Shit, these people are going far beyond where they’re comfortable to bare their hearts and souls to a room full of strangers. They deserve all we can afford to give them.
matthew warhol: Going from punk and metal to drone, how did that happen? What’s the progression there, I guess? They seem similar to me, but I don’t know the intricacies of the genre.
Glenn Stefani: There’s this band called Man Is The Bastard, probably one of my favorite bands just out of creativity. I related to people being like, “It’s cool but I don’t get it,” because that’s what I experience a lot with my music. Right when they started, they also formed a group called Bastard Noise which was focused on harsh noise. I liked a lot of the aspects of it because it reminded me of older movie soundtracks like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, where Tobe Hooper was banging pots and pans and bowing cymbals and bass guitars to make these really weird ambient soundscapes. I had that pure artistic interest in it.
matthew warhol: It seems like a logical step.
Glenn Stefani: I was also living in a house with friends from high school. One of my roommates had a girlfriend who would lay around all day and would complain when I came in after working all day and played guitar or listened to records. So initially, I thought it would be hilarious if I started doing harsh noise in the house just to piss her off. And Ad Nauseam had started, but we couldn’t practice all that often. I had all the pedals and stuff, so I started doing it myself. I kept it mostly a bedroom thing. And eventually, I got sick of listening to power violence stuff and started listening to John Caprenter and Brian Eno. I started forming more ambient stuff that was a little more pleasant to hear.
matthew warhol: What do you get out of that kind of music? Is it the atmosphere it creates? Because I was at the TMD/TWMT Counterweight event at the church and to me, sitting there, your music made me feel very isolated even though I was in a room full of people. What does it do for you?
Glenn Stefani: I’ve always felt like a weirdo my whole life. No matter how charismatic I try to be, I always end up sitting in the back of the room, staying to myself. I find it liberating to be able to — like you said — make people feel as isolated as I do sometimes. But that was kid shit when I was 18. Rather than trying to isolate somebody, as I grew older, I felt a tranquility within the introspective nature of the music. I would hope people feel a similar catharsis.
matthew warhol: There's definitely a peacefulness in all the static. What are you working on now?
Glenn Stefani: Right now, I play in a grindcore band called Deformed. We’ve finally started writing again. I’ve been working on a lot more visual art lately. It’s something I’ve always been interested in. I’ve been watching more movies lately so I’ve been trying to knock out more graphic stuff.
matthew warhol: When you say visual art, what’s your medium?
Glenn Stefani: Digital. I can’t draw that well, but I can sure shit manipulate stuff. I like doing collage stuff, Zerox looking shit. Reflections of old horror movies that I watch. But musically, I’ve been working on a more ambient album. I’m way too particular so it could take months to do anything.