With "The Passing of Time" Glacier have really left their mark around here, Top Album for Frank, and several mentions on the Top Ten at the end of the year 2020. Since we didn't do it in occasion of the album release, we finally give voice to their singer, Michael Podrybau, with whom we examine the past, the present and the future of this U.S. band.
Sergio: It is a pleasure to have you for this interview with Metal.it, how are you, it's all ok from your side? Especially with Covid-19 pandemic spreading around?
I am doing great, we are in lockdown here in Oregon. Hopefully, the United States will get Covid under control and we can all get back to our lives. I know that Italy was hit incredibly hard, and I hope that the Italian people, as well as people worldwide, are in better health. I am sorry for all of the losses.
Sergio: How are you dealing with this Covid-19 crisis as a band? Have you had to rework your plans at all?
Well, we have the new album, but since we cannot play any shows or festivals, we are currently writing some new material, and we plan to release a few singles.
Frank: We loved "The Passing of Time" and in the review, I wrote a disclaimer "if you love classic metal, buy this album". Damn Michael, you did a great job and you have been included in many year-end charts (in ours too, of course!). Did you expect such a response?
Thank you so much, I truly did not expect how incredible the response to Passing has been. I am very excited about it though. It was really great to see all the phenomenal reviews and critiques.
Frank: How did you manage, so long after and with a new lineup, to keep a direction, to make the record sound a certain way? I mean, it doesn't sound like a copy of another band, it sounds classic but there is the Glacier brand!
I really can't attribute it to one certain element. I have a wicked passion for classic Metal, so I am inspired by many bands possessing that sound. The other guys listen to all kind of different music - and they are much younger than me. I'm sure the new music definitely has way better production than our previous releases, but I understand what you are saying as far as it still having the "Glacier feeling". The guys are all incredible musicians, and our drummer, Adam Kopecky, is such an incredible writer and talented multi- instrumentalist. When we play the older material live, everyone adds their own magic to the songs, while still keeping true to the original compositions, and I think much of that came into play when we were working on “The Passing of Time”. We honor the past of the band and the history of Traditional Metal as a genre, while we seek to recognize each other's skills, and use that insight to move Glacier forward.
Sergio: Do all the compositions come from the same writing sessions or period, or do they belong to different moments, perhaps something coming from your past?
Three of the songs, "Sands of Time", "Live for the Whip" and "Infidel," are originals from the 1985 Glacier lineup, but they had never been recorded. We contacted Tim Proctor, our original bassist who now plays in Axecrack, and Loren Bates, our original drummer, and asked if they wanted to help out with bass and drums on those 3 songs. We all met up together in Chicago for recording sessions. It was pretty cool having them on the new album, and they really enjoyed doing it.
Sergio: Did you approach anything differently when writing and recording the songs for the new album, compared to the MLP that was released in 1985?
Most of the songs were already written when I joined Glacier in 1983, and I had only minimal input. The new album was written by all of us working together and adding in our ideas and inspiration along the way.
Sergio: What was the key that convinced you to make the decision to try again before as Devil in Disguise and now as Glacier?
The Devil in Disguise concept was just a tribute to Glacier, and we were only going to play one show, Ragnarokkr in Chicago. Then it just took off after that. Other festival promoters started inviting us to play festivals too. Eventually, in 2018, we received permission to officially use the Glacier name and move forward. We were actually already writing new songs after just a few shows.
Sergio: Taking a step back in time, what happened after "Glacier"? This MLP is evaluated, now as in the past, very positively in the Heavy Metal scene but despite this you broke up. What can you tell us about the early years of the band? What didn't work at the time?
We had a lot of fun back then, as the 1980s were incredible for Heavy Metal. We were playing lots of gigs in Portland, Oregon, and it was definitely one of the best times of my life. Unfortunately, the guys decided they wanted to move into a different vocal direction, and they asked me leave the band.
Sergio: Still regarding your MLP, can you clarify the reasons why were there guest vocalists singing on the two songs on "Side A"?
Back in the 80s when I was still in the band, we had been approached by a few labels, Parr Records and AxeKiller. We had already recorded 3 songs, but after they asked me to depart, they needed 2 more songs to get the record deal. So, they brought in Keith Flax to sing "When Heaven's at Hand" and Rex McNew to sing "Vendetta." They are both talented singers and really great guys. So that's why the EP has 3 different vocalists.
Sergio: But the history of "Glacier" wasn't limited to just 1985, as there have been several reissues, right?
Shortly before his passing in 2016, guitarist Sam Easley organized a re-release of Glacier's '84 EP with Cult Metal Classics, a spectacular record label in Greece, with whom we still work because they are so supportive of Traditional Heavy Metal, and Manos and Kostas are just fantastic guys. In 2018, with permission from all remaining previous band members, we released it again; that time, because the feedback was so positive, we included an instrumental bonus track, an early version of "The Sands of Time". Another CD repress came out in 2019, but I think the only difference between that and previous versions is the photos on the back cover. More than anything, we want to remaster the EP, and give it the kind of attention it deserves, but unfortunately, Thierry Wolf and Axe Killer Records, a subsidiary of his FGL Productions in Paris, France, refuses to return our original master tapes, which were supposed to be back in the US (and in our hands) in April of 1988. Actually, truth be known, any correspondence that Sam and his attorneys made with FGL/Axe Killer either went unanswered or was met with "language comprehension issues," although as an international businessman with numerous partnerships in the United States (and world-wide), Mr. Wolf seems to have a pretty good mastery of a few languages. Regardless, because of Wolf's breach of contract, we are left without our master tapes to re-work, but I would absolutely love to hear those songs digitally remastered. And honestly, it was one of Sam's final wishes to have those tapes back. In 2016, Cult Metal released 100 hand-numbered box sets that also had a bunch of Glacier merch in it. Just a couple of days ago, we received the latest EP re-pressings - this time on two different multi-colored vinyl records, and they look amazing. I have to say, Andreas and Chris over at No Remorse, our current label, are also very supportive, patient, and insightful guys, and they have done an excellent job with "The Passing of Time". We are extremely fortunate to work with so many great people.
Frank: The songs on the album are never too fast and thanks to good riffs, good hooks and the right atmosphere, they hit the mark and your singing is always convincing. In the last 35 years have you only sung in the shower or have you kept busy with your voice?
After Glacier, I went back and reformed my original band, Harlot. We started writing songs, and we had recorded one specifically for a radio station contest. Eventually, that all fell apart and we went our different ways. I moved to LA for a while, but ended up back home in Oregon. I really had not been in a band since 1986 until around 2010 when I started playing with a few friends. And I didn't really do anything serious with music until 2016. When I started singing the old Glacier songs again, I sounded horrible - I thought, "There is no way in hell I can do this!" But with practice, determination, and support from friends, I was back in the game.
Frank: The lyrics of your songs often deal with valor, courage and also with the inexorable passing of time. Tell us a little bit about the lyrics of the record, who took care of them? How did they come about?
Adam Kopecky wrote most of the lyrics, I wrote a couple, and guitarist Marco Martell and I wrote "Valor" together. As far as inspiration, there's a running joke of most lyrics revolving around life, death, liberty, enslavement, God, Jack the Ripper, sorcery of many sorts, and the struggles of good versus evil.
Frank: It's undeniable that also the artwork of the album captures a lot of attention and catapults the listener effectively inside "The Passing of Time". Did you have a role in the choice of the cover? Are you satisfied?
I was friends with a tattoo artist named Daniel Charles from Alice, Texas. He was a Glacier fan and we chatted quite frequently. When we began searching for an artist to create the cover artwork for “Passing…”, I was determined to find someone like Eric Larnoy (RIP) who painted a few of the early Manilla Road album covers or Ioannis's work with Fates Warning. I had seen a painting on Daniel's Facebook page and I asked him if he was also a painter. He sent me a few photos of works he had done, and I knew I had found my painter. I sent him the lyrics and song files to 3 of our original songs, and within a couple days he came up with a sketch of the album cover. It was killer so we hired him. He was really great to work with and just an awesome person. There are a few more albums coming out in 2021 that don his fantastic work. Unfortunately, he recently passed away from the Covid virus, and while we are saddened that the world will only see just a small amount of his talent, we are utterly heartbroken that we have lost our friend.
Frank: You're the only original member left of Glacier and some people have maliciously said that today's band shouldn't even use that name because it's totally different. What answer do you want to give them?
I really hope they change their minds after listening to the new material. Three original members played on the new album, and I think it is great music.
Frank: The year 2020 saw the return of several bands that seemed buried in history and came back with truly amazing albums. On your label alone, No Remorse, we have Hittman, Shok Paris, Sacred Outcry, plus you of course. Is there anything you all have in common?
We are old - Hahaha. Also, we love the music and sharing it with you.
Sergio: Surely, you have plunged back into a completely different market than when you left. At that time there was no streaming, no YouTube, no Facebook and other social media. How did you find your return from this point of view?
It is really great to be able to discover bands on YouTube. I have found many that I had never really heard of back in the 80s. If you didn't hear it on the FM rock station or find it in your local record store, you would never know. Also, sharing music files as a band over the Internet is really helpful, especially since the guys are in Chicago and I'm in Oregon. I appreciate the convenience of being able to drop ideas into the band chat and receive immediate feedback.
Sergio: Do you believe that your music could be successful in wide, or is it limited to a small (but TRUE!) community?
I would be very pleased to have Glacier grow to the next level, but I do really love the underground Metal Festivals. I have met so many awesome people along the way, and I am grateful for the many new friends I have gained.
Sergio: Thanks for your time and is there anything you would like to say to our readers and your fans?
Much appreciation to both of you, Frank and Sergio, for this opportunity. I would also like to extend a huge thank you to all of our family, friends, and fans around the world. I feel very blessed to be doing what I love again in this life. If it wasn't for all of the fans and their support, none of this would have ever happened.
Interview by Sergio Rapetti and Francesco Gozzi