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Exclusive: Justin Beck - Off The Record

What I had intended to be a standard interview was a complete misinterpretation. I had managed to contact Justin Beck to see if he would be willing to conduct an e-mail interview with me about the current situation of Glassjaw. However, after being gracious enough to agree, Beck replied saying he would prefer to speak in person, at his office, Merch Direct.

As most Glassjaw fans already know, Beck established Merch Direct from scratch. Through it, he deals with some of the biggest bands around such as Brand New, Taking Back Sunday and of course, Glassjaw. With a new record people all over the world are waiting for, today I find out the truth regarding the current situation of Glassjaw.

Justin greets me at reception and brings me straight into the offices, instantly showing me how Merch Direct is run. Everything is done in house which requires Beck to be very hands on (throughout the day, employees constantly approach him with general enquires and ask for his approval of new designs.)

After a tour, we talk about the question which strikes curiosity amongst many: when is the new Glassjaw record coming out? As far as he is concerned, he has done his part. October 1st 2007, Beck had worked, re-worked and put his life on hold so he could get a new record done. Manuel Carrero (bass) and Durijah Lang (drums) had completed their parts and vocalist, Daryl Palumbo, had been in and recorded his vocals on five songs; the remaining songs are instrumentals. No titles, no names, just tracks. After explaining this, Justin asks me if I was hungry and invites me for a drive down to the local Subway to grab some lunch.

After picking up lunch, we arrive back at Merch Direct where Beck plays me a 13 track CD which could potentially be the new record (none of the tracks are in any intended order, it simply is just a mix of what has been recorded.) The first five tracks, which are yet to be mixed, are: ‘Natural Born Farmer’, ‘Jesus Glue’, ‘You Think You’re John Fucking Lennon’, ‘Star Above My Bed’ and an untitled song, where, I am told, the lyrics were free styled on the spot. These are nothing short of incredible (the instruments and vocals sound spot on!)

The remaining tracks are the instrumentals; my first impression being that this has not been done before. Agreeing with Tommy Carrigan’s (works with Justin, played in Silent Majority) recent statement, the songs do have a very Latin, Spanish feel. Beck goes on to explain that he had a lot of fun recording these instrumentals and feels this is where Glassjaw's music is at today.

After we’ve finished listening to the CD, I can’t help but feel that the first five tracks aren’t in coherence with the rest of the record. Beck informs me that these songs were written a while ago and that he can’t see them being released on the new record. With regards to the possibility of them formulating an EP, he doesn’t think it right to release just these songs, especially after all this time.

When everything is complete will the new record be released physically or digitally, he doesn’t know. What he does know is that it will almost certainly be released through Warner, despite Beck’s preference to release the record himself.

Why won’t he upload just one song online, to keep everyone happy? It wouldn’t be fair to the fans. It works both ways, sure it would please a lot of people, but after all this time to have one song; a lot of people would be disappointed (and have issues with the fact that it has taken years for them to have just the one song available.)

The last time Glassjaw performed was earlier this year at the Give It A Name Festival (in conjunction with this they also did two shows in Cardiff and Dublin.) Those shows will be the only ones this year, with no plans of future dates yet.

Pictures emerged of the band in a Cardiff recording studio but they were just there to practice, nothing was recorded. Anything new was recorded in Beck’s studio at his house. Oh, and the mystery where they keep their gear? All at Merch Direct.

When walking back into the Merch Direct boardroom, we speak about Glassjaw’s previous material. Why do they not play songs such as ‘Ry Ry’s song’? Simple, they don’t like to play them. How do they come up with their set list? It’s all done on the spot. Beck also reveals his two favourite released Glassjaw songs are ‘Two Tabs of Mescaline’ and ‘The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports’ (both taken from ‘Worship and Tribute’, which is his favourite of the two records). When touching on the supposed re-mastered release of ‘Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Silence’, Roadrunner had approached him and said they wanted to re-release the record but in the end, the two had disagreements and nothing at this stage will be released. Will any Glassjaw albums be released on vinyl (especially considering the cover for ‘Worship and Tribute’ is the record being played on vinyl,) no discussions have been made.

Beck, at this point, shows me his office; complete with fish tank and a few boxes of Glassjaw signature Nike Blazers. After answering a phone call, Beck pulls out a box of old mementos from his past. He shows me old pictures, including one of him at a day camp when he was younger (where he met Daryl) and lots of old flyers from previous hardcore shows. The box also contains old Glassjaw stickers, various pieces he made up at Kinko’s when younger and old fanzines he ran. One folder even contains an old track listing for ‘The Impossible Shot’ demo. Unlike Glassjaw fans, who try and attain whatever Glassjaw memorabilia is available, Beck doesn’t own (or feel the need to own) everything produced with their name on it; it is Daryl who keeps everything.

After this, Beck shows me the new line of Glassjaw merchandise due to be released soon; which sticks to the basketball, varsity motive – Est. 1993 New York etc. I notice that whatever he produces, Beck is always original. Testament to this are the New Era Glassjaw caps, which other bands are starting to produce, the sticker on the cap even states, ‘Providing Bands With Original Ideas since 1993.’ The reoccurring ‘88’ pattern, which is printed on various items, is not a reference to Hitler, regardless of an interview from years ago where he stated it meant ‘Heil Hitler’. Beck tells me that Daryl was always obsessed with the number 8 for example; if they were driving and saw the number on a licence plate, he would say it.

After spotting cases of various band DVD’s, I ask if there are plans of a Glassjaw DVD release. Nothing has been recorded except their Give It A Name appearance from this year, which he is trying to get hold of.

Once we walk back into the office, I wonder how Beck doesn’t let the little things, stopping the record coming out, get to him. From spending time with him, and as Beck himself has said before, I am aware that Glassjaw is a hobby; it is not his life. He is not a rock star; he doesn’t wake up every morning and hope that today is the day Daryl will call. In fact, Beck is the complete opposite to the whole ‘rock star’ stereotype. He runs his own successful business, is happily married with a child on the way, and acknowledges that when the new record happens, it happens; at this point in time nobody knows when anything is coming out. As far as he’s concerned, there is no reason why there shouldn’t be a release by the end of the year; regardless of the fact we are approaching November.

Beck has cleaned his side of the room, so has Manny and Durijah. People can point fingers and assume whatever they want but it’s not going to accomplish anything. It’s now, pure and simply, just a waiting game.

Photos of Justin Beck at Merch Direct can be found here.

- Jon Ableson

Alter The Press!