“You know what this place used to be?” Justin Beck asks. “This was Don Fury’s studio. He used to record everything down in the basement, and then this was his apartment.”
Like much of New York City, 18 Spring Street doesn’t look anything like it did when Fury was recording the most legendary punk and hardcore bands of the ‘80s and ‘90s, like Gorilla Biscuits, Agnostic Front and Quicksand. What was once the producer’s CBGB-adjacent second location is now a hip cocktail lounge that’s most definitely never seen any mosh pits or hardcore dancing.
But while punk and hardcore kids might not be the target audience for Mother’s Ruin, the Glassjaw multi-instrumentalist and I just look like two Jewish dudes sitting in the front window on a rainy Friday afternoon when his polite ask to peek into the basement gets turned down by the bartender. Instead, Beck gives a thorough description of what the studio looked like before breaking off into the scene that got him and his band there in the first place.
“It was the mid-to-late ‘90s, and all of the sounds were colliding: punk, post-punk, hardcore, post-hardcore,” Beck recalls, sliding off his navy raincoat in favor of a black T-shirt and orange beanie. “Don approached us during that time, and it was huge for us because he was such a legend. This physical place had so much output. It represented what we grew up on and the music that shaped our young minds, so of course we would schlep in three times a week to come here. It was dope legacy-wise and tangibilty-wise. It was aspirational for us at the time, and I would say this was where Glassjaw became a real band — or at least where we started sharpening our tool set.”
To be honest, I absolutely had been wondering why Beck suggested meeting in Manhattan — after all, Glassjaw has always been a definitive Long Island band. With the band’s publicist, I’d floated the idea of doing the interview somewhere relevant to Glassjaw’s history, but I expected to meet somewhere in Nassau County rather than the city.
“It was a magical time in music for us,” Beck continues between sips of his coffee. “I’m sure everyone has that perspective in their embryonic stages of absorption, but it was a cool time. A neighbor of mine — a regular dad who doesn’t know anything about hardcore music or Glassjaw at all — came to see us play the Paramount in Huntington. He was confused by the variation in both the crowd and the opening bands, so I explained everything to him with a movie analogy. It’s like if you just came to an Avengers movie, but you didn’t see the movies before it. The hardcore scene was like its own DC or Marvel [Cinematic] Universe. There’s so many connection points between individuals and bands with their engagement with the culture and politics and ethics of it all. There were so many layers to this universe, it’s like you had to start from Iron Man.”
From that MCU of NYHC in the late ‘90s, Glassjaw emerged as a unique breed all their own. Catching the ear of producer Ross Robinson to land on Roadrunner Records, their debut, Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Silence, presented an absolute rawness that couldn’t be faked. But as with many first albums, the band’s 2000 release mostly consisted of previously written material (including a demo recorded by Fury).
In 2002 — after a particularly bitter split from Roadrunner — Glassjaw returned to the studio with Robinson, their first attempt at creating a singular album that moved on from their past. What emerged was Worship and Tribute, one of the most revered and influential post-hardcore albums of all time.
From emo to punk, hardcore to stoner metal, Worship and Tribute’s impact can be felt across massive swaths of the rock landscape for the past two decades. SPIN spoke at length with Beck about everything that went into making the seminal album and what it all means 20 years later.
SPIN: Going into Worship and Tribute, you’d just left Roadrunner and didn’t really have a record label at the time. What made you decide that was the moment to create a second album?
Justin Beck: The original goal [for Glassjaw] was to have a record on Revelation [Records], tap out, get a day job and move on. So when we got approached for the first record — we had a practice space on Rivington [Street] where Ross [Robinson] came and signed us on sight — that was never the goal. We decided to try it out, and if it didn’t work, we figured we’d just go back sto school.
Truth be told, we were a fulfillment point to close out his last clause with Roadrunner, so the second we signed, he jumped ship. At that point, he was shopping around deals to move his production company, and he wanted to take his own subsidiary elsewhere. So first we were being used as leverage to fulfill a clause, and then we were an equity piece to re-establish his production company elsewhere. So we did pre-production out of my shitty warehouse in Long Island, and then [Robinson] was putting up the money to record, because he already had a label in mind for where he wanted to take us. He was helping fund the recording, but with an immediate goal to sell it off and start a new production himself.
Seeing as the first album was really just a combination of songs you already had from over the years, was there a cognizant decision to make Worship and Tribute more of a cohesive project?
The second record was definitely more of a cognizant effort. Glassjaw has always had a certain formula — as erratic as it was — where we touched upon certain things, but the songs always still worked within certain chord and musical structures, just with different BPMs and levels of tenacity. On the first record — because they were songs written from different eras and we took scraps from my other band, Sons of Abraham — Glassjaw’s voice wasn’t fully solidified. [On Worship and Tribute] it was like, “Alright, this is where we want to go, but we still want to have these ebbs and flows and peaks and valleys as far as structure goes.”
At first it was an organic thing. The best riffs were accidental, and then as you put them to the board, you start realizing these accidents are actual songs. As they started becoming songs in themselves, you start seeing buckets evolve — especially with Glassjaw, because we’d have our heavy ones, our sultry ones, our middle of the road ones — and you start seeing this formula in the un-formula, which gave us this interesting opportunity to curate a balanced vibe in the end. We could tone it down for a moment and put these songs here and tuck those other ones away.
Musically, there was a moment where we’d just gotten offstage during the Deftones tour and my fingers were bleeding. We’re in an RV and I’m just watching drum videos, specifically Carter Beauford from Dave Matthews Band on this shit VCR/TV combo. I’m watching these guys in turtlenecks with Persian rugs on their stage. I said to the guys, “That should be the objective — turtlenecks and Persian rugs. Let’s just have fun playing music, because playing these larger rooms is obviously a different arena than playing to our hardcore fans at CBGB’s.” I think that mentality became a subliminal thing.
Also, my partner at my day job was this horrible jazz nerd — like Chuck Mangione is good, but this was like fucking Michael Franks. “Popsicle Toes” was my partner’s favorite song. So I’d be at work and we’d have musical duels until we found an agreeable sweet spot of Stevie Wonder or someone like that, but I’d mostly be stuck with fucking elevatorcore music all day. It was one of those things where you’re in a fucking factory for 14 hours a day, and it gets into your subliminal mind. So there was definitely these aspirations to maybe do like a Chuck Mangione on some stuff. That was the next evolution of Glassjaw. There would have been a trumpet for sure on the next record had we not taken a hiatus.
It sounds silly, but these little anecdotal points played into [Worship and Tribute’s] composition. We could pull [Glassjaw’s hardcore energy] back and not have to be on the whole time, because it’s both artistically lazy and physically exhausting.
Do you remember anything from the rehearsals or the writing process for Worship and Tribute?
We were doing demos on Cakewalk in my makeshift office, and we were writing and practicing in a rehearsal space in Freeport, Long Island. Our friend Matt was filling in on bass, and he’s like an idiot savant. No matter what he does, he just lands on his feet. He’s this white guy with blond hair who looks like an underwear model, but you have to tell him exactly what to do for him to get it. One night, I’m like, “Dude, you want to get a cup of coffee because you’re falling asleep? Let’s go to the bodega.” So we go down the block, and he grabs an orange and a drink. We get back to the practice space, and he’s like, “Man, this fucking citrus. It’s amazing how it affects you. I’m ready to roll! Let’s get to these parts!” I looked down, and he’s literally still holding the fucking orange. He didn’t even open the fucking orange yet. I just remember that — and that there was no bathroom at the practice space, so it was just filled with empty water bottles and Gatorade bottles filled with urine. It looked like a murder scene.
Musically, we had the first five songs or so well ahead [of recording]. We had “Cosmo[politan Bloodloss],” “Ape [Dos Mil],” an unnamed song we called “Egyptian” but everyone fucking hated it, a song called “Grasper,” and a fifth song that escapes me. It was coming together, but it was still very much not where it needed to be. In a weird way, it sounded like a shitty Hum, and that’s not who we are, so we started losing some of that shit. But I think there was an aspect of letting it sit that was important, because when you sat on songs, there was a comfort to them even though the voice wasn’t quite right yet.
I think “fucked” as an adjective is the last part of Glassjaw’s formula. No matter how pretty or how sultry any of the musicality gets, there needs to be a certain level of sadness to it. At the time, those songs were just too vanilla.
What was that creative process between you and Daryl like? Did it change over the years?
Creatively, the formula was probably the same since 1993, and that was basically me and Daryl exchanging ideas via tape cassette and then showing the squad and going from there. I just think what happens as your band starts leaving the proverbial garage is more that the dynamics, personality-wise, among the group can make the process overly complicated. People get overzealous, and you want to protect certain things from egos and other detrimental factors. I’m not saying between me and him, just in general for any band. Even if you have other parties that are privy to the journey and are on the bus with you, when those people start fucking weighing in, it’s like, “Bro, don’t get it twisted. We like you. You’re cool. But shut the fuck up. Let’s just move on.” It might not be peachy keen, but everyone’s alive and still fucking civil. But you get into those artistic arm-wrestles with the supporting cast, and it’s just like “Guys, can we just keep it moving? Do we all need to put a thumbprint on things? Do we really need to move it up a half-fucking-step just to make you feel like you moved up a half-step when it makes no fucking musical sense?” It’s natural because people want to be involved. But yeah, let’s just say the formula for Glassjaw has always been pretty static since 1993, and that’s Daryl and I exchanging ideas.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but you were working 14-hour days while also keeping the band going and making that record at the time, right? What was that like to balance your musical career and your day job?
I think bands make the biggest fuckup when they chase the opportunity versus handling the opportunity presented to them. There are artists, and there are performers. The performer is someone who might leverage some artistic asset or equity they have, but they’re pushing it because that’s the role they want. They don’t want a fucking day job. To me personally, growing up in hardcore, there was a working class ethos. Hardcore was our Sunday Night Football.
After the first record, I’m like, “Guys, we all made like $8,000 the entire year. You guys might be delusional and think you’re a pop star, but I’m not cut out for that shit. I’ll tour when the opportunity’s there, but I’m going to go do my day job.” So from a young adult balance, it was a no-brainer because my parents taught me well. From an artist’s perspective, I think it’s vital to keep the art as just art. When people go, “I’m gonna cut everything else off and become an artist,” they inevitably don’t do shit because best art comes out of real life scenarios.
If you don’t have something at work fucking pissing you off, what’s going to push you to emote something? I think it’s intrinsic to authenticity that it’s coming from an emotional place grounded in reality. That was my take on music. I never took it that seriously. It’s the way any band should be conducted and any hardcore punk-derivative band should be treated. You don’t deserve these things.
When we got signed, I dropped out of fucking college. We did the first recording and went on the road with Deftones. Then, I quickly realized the fucking label sucks. There was no trajectory. I was 21 realizing that I might soon be 30 and just entering the workforce after touring for seven years and making fucking $8,000 a year? I was like “Nah. Fuck this” and started my merch company. I told the band that we’re not going to be able to sustain this, so I offered everybody a job, but nobody opted in.
What was it like going back into the studio with Ross again to record Worship and Tribute? Did it feel different compared to the first record?
I felt like we did a lot more preparation, musically speaking. We wanted to write interesting passages without overplaying, and we were — for the most part — more in tune with the instruments. That being said, Ross has this technique about building things up, driving personalities and trying to then wrangle in some type of chaos. I don’t like that type of recording. To me, it sounds like a fucking live demo. I’m down for classic live records, but watching a video shouldn’t be a requirement to reconcile what you’re hearing. I think Ross came in like, “This is great, guys, but it’s too polished.” But we stuck to our guns in certain aspects and said, “No, no, no. You don’t need to throw us across the room while we’re playing and then keep it for the sake of there being a flub in there. We want it to be musical and make sense.” That was definitely an interesting dynamic.
Were there any moments in the recording process that stand out to you as what made Worship and Tribute different from the first album?
Well, the first record is fucking rough for me to listen to. Looking back on it, I think there were a few things that were missing.
One is that I feel that my bass parts were linear, because I didn’t have multitrack devices, so I could only really evolve a part so many times. It was like “Fuck, alright, I’m doing this, but where’s it going?” The songs were done, but I didn’t get chills from them.
Another was with Daryl — who I think is one of the fucking greatest singers ever — Ross was gunning for him and trying to get him to just go crazy. He was done with vocals, and I just knew that Daryl had something better than what he did, but there was this moment where we didn’t know how to address it. Here’s Ross, our employer and the guy financing the whole thing, so we can’t shit on him. Then you have Daryl doing this very personal thing. It’s a weird spot with people just doing their work, but our work is making music, and the music is personal. Who wants to walk into someone else’s cubicle and be like “You’re a fucking dickhead?” We all have our flaws and our issues, and you don’t want to disrespect someone’s contributions.
But I remember, there was a car ride, and I was like “Yo, Daryl, there’s a lot of screaming…” and Daryl said “Oh, I thought you guys wanted that.” I was like “Nah, man, you have this whole other toolbox full of gems and talent within you. Do that.” There’s only one Daryl, so it’s like if you have these inimitable gifts, do that shit. The vocals were mostly done, and he went in and recut the whole fucking record after that. I don’t want to speak for him, but in my opinion, he recut that record in the way that only he could do — and he did it in like two fucking days. That was huge.
There were a couple of other major points. Even though Larry [Gorman, Glassjaw’s drummer at the time] didn’t play drums on the record, Larry is phenomenal at singing. The guy is like a fucking angel. Larry is doing all the harmonies in the background on Worship and Tribute. When Larry came in and threw all these harmonies in, and that brought everything to a whole other plane. To this day, I’ll be struggling to do any of that, whereas Larry just had that natural ability. To Larry’s credit, he’s in the background, and those little sprinkles are fucking genius.
Then once we had pseudo-recordings of all the tracks, we decided to bring in Shannon [Larkin] to do drums. During that time, I had to teach Shannon all the drum parts. It was Christmas time, and everyone went home for like two or three weeks while I was just in this fucking condominium with a shitty 8-track with some of these tracks on it. Now that I had some recorded guitars and drums, I could start to evolve my bass parts. So like “Two Tabs [of Mescaline]” and “Ape” have all these rolling, looping bass parts that, to me — speaking from my own egotistical, narcissistic perspective based on my contribution — created these mode changes or more depth in the music. All of those moving, rolling parts happened almost at the 11th hour, accidentally, because I’m in a room for three weeks and I’m just jamming by myself.
To recap, Daryl re-recording the vocals, the looping bass parts, and Larry’s fucking beautiful harmonies are when it clicked from like “Oh, this is OK…” to like “Wow! This is a good record. This is something I will probably listen to myself in the future.” First record? Not so much. This record? Yes. Because at the end of the day, my most selfish desire was that I just wanted to make music that I wanted to listen to because I couldn’t find it on the fucking radio. So to me, that was the most fulfilling moment.
What’s it been like having the rotating cast of musicians alongside you and Daryl in Glassjaw for nearly 30 years now?
The world that Daryl and I came from is that hardcore has a very democratic perspective. So even if someone just drives the fucking van, he’s part of the group. With these principles and this upbringing, the democracy of the band was always important to us.
However, it doesn’t always apply in real life. We were struggling, because internally and outwardly, we wanted to present that we were a fucking bunch of hardcore kids with hardcore ethos. We didn’t want to be like “Written by Hetfield and Ulrich.” We didn’t want it to come off that way, so we’d always just say, “Written by Glassjaw” and present it as a unit. That way, we were being diplomatic. But sometimes, being generous and diplomatic on paper can bite you, because then when you occasionally need to go “Hey, no, it’s not like that” when people get it twisted. They’re like, “But you said in that thing…” and it’s like, “Yeah, but we’re in a safe space right now. You know what the