Guy Griffin - Glimmer
On the phone with Philip Anderson - Fall 1999
 
Bands have come and gone through time as much as so many styles and trends and sounds. Every so often a band or a style will either stick around or have a resurgence of some sort. The most popular sound to keep coming back (or one that hasn't really ever left, one might say) is the 1960s pop rock sound. It's full melodies with insistent verse and chorus lines always kept the listener on the edge, waiting to see what would happen next.
 
As it is, most of the really good bands from the 1960s came and went without too much notice and those who were exceptional - or had very good management - have had their records played over and over, sometimes to excess. Some of the best pop rock to ever hit the radio was created in Britain and was fanatically accepted in the States. During the late 80s and into the early 90s, a few bands hit the scene that really nailed the sound that forged a generation. Of some of those "resurgence" bands, Cheap Trick was amongst the more popular acts while such bands as the London Quireboys were a bit lesser known. Now we come to the end of the 1990s and again a few bands have left us. London Quireboys was one of those bands. From the demise of that promising group came Guy Griffin who has now resurfaced with a newly tooled band named Glimmer. The name is apt in the fact that, musically, they offer a glimmer of hope that the classic styles will continue into the 2000s.
 
We recently had the opportunity to chat with Guy on the telephone and get a little background on the formation of Glimmer, his own past in the London Quireboys and what has kept him busy in the interim. He seems very hopeful that this new band will take off and make it's own mark. From the sound of it, it very well could happen.

K2K: This is the first album out now with Glimmer?
GG: Yes, the first record.
 
K2K: And before that was the London Quireboys?
GG: That's right.
 
K2K: There was another band called the Quireboys too, right?
GG: Yeah, there was an Australian band called Quireboys. The Australian one is the one we were having problems when we released an album. They had already released an album. It was spelt differently, obviously. Hence we were called the London Quireboys in America. Everywhere else - Europe and Japan - we were called the Quireboys.
 
K2K: So what happened to that group [London Quireboys]?
GG: Well, it split up towards the end of '93 or 94' maybe. It was just one of those things where we were burnt out from doing the second album, we had problems. We had business problems and we were starting to pull in different directions musically and stylistically and stuff. So basically it was a mutual decision. Also, we had, not so much in America, but we had a lot of success with our first album and it did well. We got gold records and platinum and all that. Basically we got to the point where we got to living in different places. A couple of us were living here in L.A., a couple living in London, one guy moved to Canada. We basically lost the deal after the second album, after it had been out for a while. We were talking to other labels and stuff, but it was going to be too costly to pick us up. Then we were all living in different parts of the world, it was going to be tough to get together to rehearse or anything. It was kind of difficult. Within the bandmates, we were kind of losing interest. I guess if we had been more willing to stick with it then we would have done whatever we needed to do. Myself, I was trying to pull into a different direction.
 
K2K: When did the London Quireboys form?
GG: It's hard to say. When I joined the band, they had been going for about three years maybe. Maybe a little more. I joined the band just before we came out to L.A. to do the first album. I think it was like in 1990. They had an EP out around '88 or '89.
 
K2K: What would you call the style of music that you were doing then?
GG: Well, it was sort of the British roots rock 'n' roll really. It was just rock 'n' roll.
 
K2K: Well, it was in the end of the heyday of bands like Hanoi Rocks. Well, they were more glam, but that style of "Glam Western" I guess.
GG: Well, it was a little later than Hanoi Rocks but we were stuck in the middle of all the stuff that was coming out of America and all that kind of thing. The only thing contemporary would maybe be the Black Crowes. We were kind of doing it before the Black Crowes were.
 
K2K: Were you doing any projects now in between that and this?
GG: Nothing really. Trying to get things together. I kind of tried to get something together with the bass player from the Quireboys, briefly, and that kind of fell through. I was a little jaded before my time about the business. You can get pretty burnt out on it. I've been lucky. I sort of walked into a band. I was out here in L.A. doing a record and was about 19 years old. It was pretty exciting time. Here I was doing a record and I wasn't even old enough to drink. (laughs) It was pretty funny. I was doing that and by the time I was 20 we had supported the Rolling Stones in Europe and Aerosmith and people like that. I guess when the band split up it was almost like a reverse "paying my dues", if you know what I mean. Although I felt like, at the time, "I completely deserved to be in this position. I had been playing around since I left school and I'm the best for this job." I look back on it and I was very lucky. Last few years it's been hard for me to get a band together. When you leave a band that has had success and is a good live band, you kind of take it for granted. When you leave, you realize how hard it is to actually recapture that kind of chemistry and get that right balance of personalities and talent where it works and makes something good. It was so hard. Especially in this town, in L.A., it was hard to get a band together because there were so many fly-by-night musicians. Anyone who's any good is playing with about three or four different bands at any given time. They spread themselves a bit thin so they make sure that they get into a good paying situation. It's hard to get any commitment. They are playing with a lot of very good other people as well.
 
I wasn't playing the kind of music that was the "flavor of the month". I wasn't interested in doing some sort of Nirvana knock-off. There was plenty of other people doing it.
 
K2K: And that's probably what will save you now.
GG: Yeah, it's funny because hopefully if things work out with this record, it will be satisfying from the standpoint that basically the music scene has come back around to what we're doing instead of ourselves molding into something that we're not.
 
K2K: One of the quotes in your bio stated that you're "not associated with the bands that are around today but are closer to the bands of the 70s". The retro scene came out around the time when you guys [London Quireboys] did originally and I have to say that there is a huge influence of Enuff Z'Nuff in your music. That, of course being a current band.
GG: Really? (laughs) It's funny that you would mention Enuff Z'Nuff. That was a good band. We've played some gigs with them in the Quireboys. I'm not really aware of their stuff now. I'm aware that they're making records but I haven't followed them. It's funny that the guy who mixed our album is the guy who did their first album.
 
K2K: I have to say that, compared to the latest Enuff Z'Nuff CD, Glimmer sounds a lot alike.
GG: Really? I'm not saying that we're like so stand apart and different from everyone else. I just think compared to what's going on, in the mainstream rock, we don't have so much alike. I just don't think that we're in the same mindset.
 
K2K: So, you're not associated with the mainstream of today. It would be nice to see your style come back with the upbeat pop sound.
GG: Lyrically, people tend to write stuff when their backs are against the wall but I like to put a spin on things rather than a lot of stuff that's gone on in the last four or five years where "I'm a middle class suburban white kid and I'm so hard done by..." sort of lyrics. That's never really washed with me. I've moved to America and lived here for a few years. There's a lot of hard stuff going on but when these Seattle bands are going on about how miserable and dreary their lives are, I don't get it. It's like, "Snap out of it!". There's got to be some kind of positivity to it. There's got to be some kind of light at the end of the tunnel instead of getting so self-absorbed and so over-analyzing everything. If you're some Mexican guy who's just crossed over the border to try and get work because he's got family to feed back home, I would say that then he's got something to complain about. Meanwhile, suburbia, I don't get it. You go up to Glasgow or to some parts of England and there's people living in much worse standard than some of these places that they call a ghetto in America. At the same time, a lot of music that comes out of England, you'll find a lot of the lyrics still kind of have a positive suave to them. I'm generalizing of course.
 
K2K: I've found that, around the country, there are a lot of areas - industry towns with hard working industry people - in which people are complacent making minimum wage and seemingly not having any hope for the future. Work, marry, eat and sleep.
GG: Oh yeah! The thing I find is that people who are creative, who make music, are not those kind of people who are going to be limited. They're not willing to settle for that. In America, from what I can see, they don't have to settle for that. Not everyone is getting off on an equal start, but there's not a limit to the possibilities of what you can do here. If you're a creative person, which most musicians tend to be that kind of person, you're not going to sit around and stay in that town where you're going to make five bucks an hour. You'll do whatever you can to get out of it. As far as I can see, if you've got your s*** together enough to go out and buy an amplifier and a guitar and pay to rehearse and that sort of stuff, you're obviously making an effort to brighten your life up a bit.
 
K2K: Do you think that some of these people just misinterpret the light at the end of the tunnel, that they just don't see it the same way as other people do?
GG: Oh yeah. I'm just speaking from my end. I can't speak for other people.
 
K2K: California really has the money for anyone who wants to work but you see these people come out to Hollywood and think that everything is handed to you. It's the "I'm the one!" mentality.
GG: Oh yeah but you get it knocked out of you pretty quick after living here. You either become a victim of the way things are here and get sucked into it or you move. You move home or you move on and try something else.
 
K2K: I guess your example is a good one, coming from the Quireboys and then not doing much for a bit. But, perseverance is the key and now you're in the next thing.
GG: Really, to me, L.A. is just a place to [hang out]. I never had any aspirations about coming to L.A. I joined a band that happened to make a record out here. Then I found, when I was out here, I just met a lot of people when we toured, we toured with American bands who lived out here, I just got to know people. Whether it was musicians or girls or whatever. I just ended up here. I actually moved back to England, by way of New York, to get a record deal. It actually didn't have a lot to do with being in L.A.
 
K2K: How long have you been down here now?
GG: I don't know. About seven years. I went back to England. I've been back here for about a year and a half now. I was in England for about a year trying to get the band. Basically I was pulling my hair out. I was by myself with my drummer, Martin. We had been sort of playing as a three-piece with a constant revolving door of bass players. So we were just pretty unsatisfied with the way things were going in L.A. We had a couple of near-miss deals that we were told were going to happen and everyone was throwing contracts out. It happened twice. After it happened, I said, "F*** this. I can't live here." I needed a drastic move and so I made a drastic move back to England. That's when we got Luke into the band. At the time he was playing bass. He played some of the bass on the album as well. After we had done the album over here, we decided to add the bass player. He's someone we've known for a couple of years.
 
It's kind of a roundabout story of how we got it. We went to England and started getting some good reviews, but I realized that it was going to take a while. I kind of needed to get back to England anyway because of my Visa and Green Card. I didn't want to jeopardize that.
 
K2K: Are you still a British citizen or have you switched?
GG: I'm a British citizen. The U.K. is one of the only places where you can keep dual citizenships. I'm not an American citizen yet. I'm a taxpayer. I'm what they call a Resident Alien, so I'm paying taxes the same as everyone else is paying.
 
K2K: I guess the taxes in England are a big reason why a lot of people move to the U.S.
GG: Yeah, that and there's a lot more possibilities out here. That's why most people move to America.
 
K2K: I've heard that before, you can tour Europe your whole life but you haven't cracked the ice until you've come to America.
GG: It's kind of the Holy Grail is for most English bands to make it in America, even though most of them won't admit it. (laughs) Europe, culturally, is probably more interesting to tour in because there's so much history and you can go short distances and play and places are so totally different from one another. In America you go state to state.
 
K2K: What is your favorite place that you've played?
GG: Generally, I would say America. I used to like playing in New York and a really cool club, years ago, in Baltimore called Hammerjacks. That was a good one. Sometimes you remember gigs from the party and the closeness, in those days. I enjoy any if there's people in the club and it's full and it sounds good. You're in your own world when you're up onstage. There's been some really interesting places. Japan is really great to visit and play. Places like Spain and Portugal were really great to play as well because the fans were so nuts. The Quireboys went there and it was nuts with rabid fans. It was great because we had never been there before. We played for a couple of thousand people. Those were really good. England is always good. Scotland is good. Places like Glasgow and that. Now that I'm thinking about it, I've played in Belfast. Derry was a pretty interesting place because that is such a wartorn town, more so than Belfast. A lot of fans won't go there because they're going to get blown up. We went there and it was great. It's appreciated when people make the effort to go. There's still a few bands who won't go there. I think the last place anyone's going to make a statement is with a rock band, you know. (laughs)
 
K2K: When you weren't playing, what does a guy from England do to pass his time in between bands.
GG: Oh man! For a while, I was OK. For a couple of years I was alright. Quireboys made a bit of money. Anything, really. Anything from printing T-shirts to working in bars. I've DJ'd. I still kind of DJ. Anyplace where you can work and it's alright if you don't show up everyday. Musician-type jobs. It's hard enough to try and concentrate on getting a band going without having a really good job going. If you had a great job, you wouldn't take as much time doing the music thing.
 
K2K: Did you ever do the typical L.A. thing of telemarketing?
GG: No. A couple of the guys in the band did that. I've never done the telemarketing. I've never done the phone sex thing either. (laughs) They do all sorts of things. There's all sorts of scams.
 
K2K: So you never thought about doing the phone sex operator thing?
GG: (laughing) I'm English.
 
K2K: You could be the specialty for the older ladies who might call in.
GG: Yeah, the reserved English guy. "Phone the reserved English guy for silence at the other end of the phone."
 
K2K: Outside of the music that you're doing now, on you planning on evolving or want to stay standard rock 'n' roll?
GG: This first album is mostly just me at home writing songs on an acoustic guitar. A lot of the stuff was what I did at a studio on my own before I had a band. They were written more from that standpoint. The second album would be more the personality of the band. Probably more collaboration with Luke the guitar player who is a good songwriter. The rock 'n' roll thing that we're doing now is based on not really seeing the bands that I want to see. The sort of bands that I've been into back then when I was starting out are still the bands that I'm into now. The difference between the type of music that I listen to when I'm home or the music that I play when I'm DJing is what I would want to see live.
 
K2K: Outside of what you play, what do you listen to?
GG: I listen to a lot of different stuff. I'm trying to think of what I've bought recently. If I tell you what I've bought recently, I'm going to sound like a standard "rocker" guy. The last three albums that I've bought were a couple of days ago. Where I DJ, it's not just rock. I could be playing anything from Moby to Gus Gus through to like Sex Pistols. Anything, all kinds of stuff. Curtis Mayfield, James Brown, all kinds of stuff. Fun Loving Criminals and Afghan Whigs. I really like the new Iggy Pop album and Charlatans UK album. Even the Stone Temple Pilots album is really good.
 
(We get on to talking about STP's definite need of a second guitar during live performances and how well bands like Green Day pull off the three-piece thing.)
 
K2K: It's like you said though, getting all the talents to mesh.
GG: Exactly. It's a team effort and a lot of people forget that. A lot of musicians aren't into the "team" thing. They're like, "Look at me, look at me." That's why it's so hard to get a decent band together.
 
K2K: How has your album been doing so far?
GG: Sales-wise it's been starting slow but we've been getting some good radio.
 
K2K: How about a tour? Are you going to be doing anything on the West Coast at least?
GG: I don't know. It's pretty quiet on the West Coast. The East Coast and Midwest, down through Texas is where we've been getting most of the play currently. I don't know. I'd love to play in San Francisco. I love it up there. I would think we'd do well up there. It always seems like the British bands do well there. There's kind of the scene for that there.
 
K2K: So, you're on a new record label too [Straight Line], right? Are you the first band on the label?
GG: They have another band called The Violets. I'm not sure how that's doing.
 
K2K: Off the cuff, as a final question, since you're from England, have you ever played with Motörhead?
GG: No, but I've hung out with Lemmy a couple of times in London. He used to go to the same club I used to go to called the San Moritz, down on Waldorf Street. He's a character. We see him around in L.A. We played this party for Hustler magazine and it was at the Rainbow, which is kind of Lemmy's hang out. That was pretty cool because we were like the first band who has ever played at the Rainbow.
 
With that ended our interview as the day was getting on and we each had to get on our merry way. Watch for Glimmer to be coming around your town sometime in 2000 and listen for them on the radio. For that matter, don't be shy about calling in to request them either.
 
Written by Philip Anderson

Philip Anderson is a musician, in addition to being a writer/photographer. He has performed as a guitarist/vocalist, as well as songwriter, in several bands over the past 20 years. As a writer and photographer, he has been published by several magazines and in several books, and had his works appear on television.

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