Tony Glaser : Artist You Should Know
The Artist You Should Know series highlights local artists before they show their work somewhere awesome, it’s our way of supporting the creative community and helping to keep San Francisco a strange and wonderful place.
Tony Glaser is a musician, with his own band to boot. I met Tony at a SF house party where he was playing stand-up bass, while guests made up songs on the spot. Artists, singers, eccentrics, came and went from the makeshift living room stage to perform, laugh, and applaud. There was a revolving door of San Franciscans, waltzing to the beat of Tony’s bass. Later Tony told me about his upcoming show at the Great American Music Hall, and I asked him, “what should I expect from a Tony Glaser concert“, and he said, “well, everyone who comes to my shows gets laid.” Now, I don’t know if he was joking or not, but I certainly wasn’t going to take the chance that he wasn’t. I said, “GIVE ME ONE OF THOSE FLYERS!” So meet Tony Glaser, he’s got his own band now, and he’s an artist you should know…
Why do you live in the Bay area?
I can’t seem to get away, it’s like a magnet. I’m from here, grew up in Danville, and even though I’ve traveled a good amount all over the world, something always brings me back. Perhaps it’s the vast amount of affordable housing.
Describe your style of music these days?
“I call it a funky dance party that rocks and makes you feel good.”
I like to bounce around from funky tunes to rocking face melters, all with a danceable pulse and catchy hooks. Being a bass player, I write from the perspective of making people move and groove. My last band, Alma Desnuda/Naked Soul, always had a message of being in the present moment and writing about things that had some meaning. I carry that with me into my solo project, but I don’t take myself as seriously, so you’ll probably laugh at my show. I think my song “Don’t Suck (Be Cool)” is a good example of the levity regarding important issues. I like to crack jokes and make myself laugh. Basically, I do what I want to do, play what I want to play, and people seem to enjoy it.
I heard you played for the Troops in Iraq,but here’s a more important question, what is your favorite color?
Red, white, and blue of course.
As for the entire Iraq experience, it truly was a privilege that I was honored to be a part of. It’s hard not to respect and feel for our troops, regardless of politics and opinions of our military. They brave conditions that a civilian like me would rather avoid, and most do it with courage and selflessness. I mean, can you imagine going into combat weighed down with heavy gear and in 130 degree heat? Carrying just my bass in a tank-top while in safety was draining enough!
I could talk at length about that tour, but perhaps that’s better over a beer. What I will say, however, is that flying around in Blackhawk helicopters is probably the coolest thing ever. I also got to wear a dog suit and get attacked by a massive german shepherd, play around in a tank, shoot machine guns, rock out in one of Saddam Hussein’s old theaters, put shoes on the feet of Iraqi children of POWs, and share some quality meals and stories with our troops.
Often people comment on how hard I like to rock out and how into the performances I get, and I credit a lot of it to my time in Iraq. I figured, if they had to go out into combat and face hell everyday, I could at least give everything I had to put a smile on their face and give them a taste of home.
Your weirdest night out in San Francisco?
I guess it’s all relative. Weird is when I hang out with my more “conventional” friends at some generic dance club listening to generic whomp whomp, paying for overpriced drinks and everyone seems to be trying so hard, yet no one is smiling, except maybe the girl trying to get someone to buy her a drink.
The weird story that perhaps you were asking about…well, I don’t share those publicly.
What was your first band’s name and what did you cover?
I was a freshman in high school when my first real band started playing gigs around town. We were called Pucker Up, which came from a conversation with a couple of my brother’s friends talking about what we wanted to be when we were older. I said musician and one buddy said, “Well, you’re going have to kiss some ass to make that happen, so pucker up!”
We covered Recipe by G-Love and Special Sauce, Imagine by John Lennon (which I always f’ed up the chords, sorry Davey G!), and Chameleon by Herbie Hancock, which Davey would rap Can I Kick It by A Tribe Called Quest over.
We would just do those songs on repeat until we wrote our own! Seriously though, if you stuck around for more than like 15 min, you’d hear the same songs again.
Do you have a nemesis band?
I read once that when AC/DC was grinding their way up, they didn’t think of any other bands, just themselves. To them, it was only them and everyone else didn’t matter.
I kinda feel that way now, in that I am bursting out the seams with drive so I simply don’t give a shit about the others. There are so many bands who I love and respect, but at the end of the day, right now it’s about my music and that’s my focus.
In my younger days, I used to be a hater. I think as kids it’s easier to identify with what you aren’t than what you are. It’s not easy for anyone, young people especially, to be confident enough in oneself to not be threatened by others’ success.
And boy did I hate other bands and genres, and I talked a lot of shit. Boy bands, country, pop, and anything I deemed lacking in musical merit. At the time I figured, if you truly love something, naturally you are going to truly hate the opposite.
Now, my tastes have evolved after listening to a lot more music. And after years of the grind, I respect the game so if you can make it, more power to you. I guess where I draw the line is with negative lyrics, especially in regards to degrading women. I believe words have weight and power, and so if you’re spewing essentially crap all over the world, perhaps you should consider another legacy to leave on our planet.
Hardest night you had on tour?
This one time, the taco shop was closed and I couldn’t get a burrito. It was heartbreaking, I still don’t think I’m over it.
Who’s a performer you’re embarrassed to like?
I rocked Let It Go from the Frozen soundtrack hard when it came out. After the bridge when the music cuts and “Let it go” comes back in, quite breathtaking really.
Who do you like performing with in the Bay Area right now
I am so fortunate to play with some incredible musicians who I’ve had the pleasure to engage with in all sorts of circumstance, and whom I also consider my dear friends.
Here is a short list (and I know I’m leaving some out!) : Brett Hunter, Drew Southern, Pamela Parker, Hibbity Dibbity, Jordan & The Ritual, Robin Applewood, Lou Evans, Daria Shani Johnson, Kenny Crowley (although he just moved to Asheville), The Sugar Ponies, Tom Finch, Honey of the Heart, Evan Lanam, Bicicletas pro la Paz, La Gente, Yonat, Ziva, Michael Thomason, MJ’s Brass Boppers, Con Brio, The T-Sisters, OK I’ll stop now…
Have anything coming up?
I am headlining The Great American Music Hall on Saturday August 29th and would love for everyone reading this to come out!
I am also heading into the studio this month to record some new tracks, I currently only have two recorded so far, which are FREE to download off my website: www.tonyglasermusic.com
After GAMH, I will be headlining a Halloween show at Leo’s in Oakland.