Jun 2024 13

Daniel Belasco channels his brother’s love for rock & roll with a new Glass Apple Bonzai album that breaks the band’s past mold.
 

 

An InterView with Daniel Belasco of Glass Apple Bonzai

Merv Uzzell (Muzz79)

Signing to Distortion Productions for the release of his fifth album under the moniker of Glass Apple Bonzai, Daniel Belasco is taking his music into new directions. Having already established the project through rigorous touring and solid dancefloor-friendly electro-pop, the band has played upon a distinct love for the ’80s before shifting from the rhythmic and melodic synthpop of past releases toward a more emotional and organic blend of darkly electronic-laden post-punk. Released this past April, Brother Bones also presents the artist’s most personal material to date, serving as a tribute to his departed sibling. ReGen‘s Merv Uzzell had the opportunity to speak with Daniel Belasco on the writing process behind the new album, touching on his stylistic evolution, working with Combichrist and Striplicker guitarist Jamie Cronander and drummer extraordinaire Galen Waling, memories of his brother, a bit of gear talk, and more.

 

Your new album, Brother Bones is very organic sounding, with a lot of emphasis on guitars and live drums. There’s even, dare I say, an undercurrent of post-punk in there too, so all very different from your earlier synthpop days. What was the catalyst for this change in direction

Belasco: During the pandemic, I was spending more time playing guitar and bass guitar (the latter being my first instrument I learned when I was 10), and spending less time with synthesizers. It felt fresh, more aggressive, edgier. Something I think a lot of synth oriented bands often do is go through a phase where they aren’t as in love with keyboards as they once were and start branching into the organic world. It happened with Depeche Mode. Hell, one of my favorite bands, Men Without Hats dropped the synths entirely in the early ’90s and became a straight-up rock band. I felt it was GAB’s time to move into different territory and shed some old rusty shackles in the process. It’s all in search of the perfect mix of synthesizers and organic elements.

You’ve also introduced some of that organic element to your older more synth-based material for live shows. What, if any, challenges did you encounter reworking these songs? Were there any tracks you tried to rearrange that didn’t quite work out?

Belasco: It’s always a challenge going back into your own past and trying to make it fit your present and future. There’s a natural feeling of, ‘Nah, fuck those old songs! They’re the old GAB.’ But that would be a bad move. The old songs are good songs and just as deserving as the new ones. So, I went back and retooled a few fan favorites like ‘Radio’ and ‘I Can’t Stop Running’ and brought them up to where I am at the moment. With that, it sort of unlocked a new set of rules to follow. It stretched the border out further and allowed me to see just how far the older material could be taken before it didn’t work.
Also, some songs just can’t be and don’t need to be changed, and will continue to be performed as they are. It’s all been an interesting mental workout.

You worked with Jamie Cronander (Combichrist) and Galen Waling (Julien-K) on guitar and drums, respectively, for the new album. How was that experience?

Belasco: GAB toured with Jamie’s other band Striplicker back in 2019, and we became fast friends, so working with him on anything is a joy. Jamie is a consummate professional, amazing guitar player, and all around rad dude. The same can be said about Galen Waling. He was just a bright light in a dark tunnel while working on this album. I’d send him something with a programmed drum idea, and he’d send me back almost exactly what I’d had in mind. It was like he was right there with me the whole time. I can’t say enough positive things about either of those dudes – just awesome, talented, amazing people.

The album is dedicated to your late brother, who tragically passed away at just 48. How does such an event affect you on an artistic level? Did it alter the tilt of the album at all?

Belasco: Yes, it most certainly did. Part of my decision to do something more guitar oriented lies heavily upon my oldest brother’s own love for guitar. I wanted to make a ‘guitar album’ for my brother… something I knew he’d be totally into. Not that he didn’t already like what I was doing, but he was a rock & roll guy, and for him, I wanted to be a rock & roll guy too.
Shayne, my brother, was eight years older than me, and it’s almost solely because of him that I’m even into the music I’m into at all. My first Bauhaus CD was his. The first CD I ever had, Men Without Hats’ rock album Sideways was given to me by Shayne for my eleventh birthday.
His death changed my life in so many ways, and I just had to pay tribute to him in the best way I could… by writing some dark guitar and bass oriented new wave.
I also used one of his paintings as the cover art, and even the album name Brother Bones is a reference to him, in that he used to draw a skull and crossbones on things with ‘S.CULL’ written underneath.

 

 

Being someone who likes to constantly evolve artistically, are there any boundaries in terms of the direction you’d take Glass Apple Bonzai’s sound in the future?

Belasco: I don’t really have any strict rules about what not to do with GAB; just things that I have no interest in doing. Like, making a country album isn’t in the cards, or making hip-hop. I love old classic country and a lot of hip-hop, but I don’t feel classic country and hip-hop. All I know is that bass guitar and synthesizers will always be involved in what I make.

Is your music influenced by any non-musical forms of art like film, painting, or literature? If so, can you elaborate?

Belasco: Up until Brother Bones, most of my songs were influenced by life and emotions pertaining to things like emotional struggles, heartbreak, etc. But there are two songs on the new album about reading, which has become a somewhat newer source of inspiration – not the books themselves, but the act of reading to fill your head with new information, or to let your imagination free; both things I’ve spent a lot more time doing in the last few years.

I know you’re a huge Tears For Fears fan. Are there any new artists that excite you at the moment?

Belasco: I don’t really listen to a lot of new music, honestly; not because it isn’t good, but because I keep finding things from the ’80s and ’90s that I didn’t know about that, to me, sounds new. However, there are a few newer acts that fuckin’ rule like ACTORS, Girlfriends and Boyfriends, The Gathering (sadly now defunct), Kindest Cuts, and the new songs by The Hellacopters are rockin’ my stereo system a lot these days.

Do you have any favorite pieces of gear or gadgets when recording or out on the road?

Belasco: I suppose my laptop, audio interface, and bass guitar are all I technically need to perform a set, so those would be the most important. In the studio though, it’s definitely FL Studio. I’ve been using it since it was Fruityloops 1.7 or something like that… long time.

What do you miss most when you are away from home and on tour?

Belasco: I miss my dogs, the silence of my own bedroom, the comfort of my own bed, and being able to use the bathroom whenever I want to.

I recently discovered your now-defunct sci-fi/industrial project Defence Mechanism. Any chance of revisiting the project one day?

Belasco: Eh… probably not. Though I can’t say no for sure, since no one can predict the future. But it’s highly unlikely. I do miss it from time to time though, so who knows?

 

 

As we are all absorbing Brother Bones, what do the next 12 months look like for you, what can we expect?

Belasco: Well, at the end of July, we’re performing once again at Terminus Festival in Calgary, Alberta, which is always awesome. Dickens, where Terminus takes place, is like a second home to GAB. We’ve played there so often, it’s always like a homecoming.
I had to unfortunately cancel shows in Pittsburg and New Jersey that were scheduled for early May due to me hurting my back, because I’m an old fart, so hopefully, those will be rescheduled for later in the year, as well as a few other shows in the eastern USA.
Touring is being planned for 2025 as we speak, so look for details on that when they’re made public.

I appreciate you taking the time to talk with us. Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?

Belasco: It’s been a pleasure, thank you!
Stop fighting about stupid shit on the internet, and go out and enjoy your life. Also, let people love you the way you love them. It’s okay… you deserve it.

 

Glass Apple Bonzai
Facebook, Bandcamp, YouTube, Instagram
Distortion Productions
Website, Facebook, Bandcamp, YouTube, Instagram

 

Photography provided courtesy of Glass Apple Bonzai
 

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