i am timeI Am Time - Jeremy Gluck (Glass Modern)

This is one of the few times I cannot quantify a musical release. I cannot answer the question: “How many bottles?”

Really? For this? No, you may as well say “I Am Time” is as high as that thing over there, or as round as it is long. 

“I Am Time” is a rather startling career overview of the tempting output of one Jeremy Gluck - and, yes, we're all aware of the sniggerment possibilities of Jeremy's surname, so if you quit cackling at the back there we might be able to get to the meat of the matter at hand.

Why such an elliptic response? Well, Jeremy is nothing if not a gleefully anarchic soul, dipped in the well of ambition and steeped in the fragility and beauty of destruction and loss. Before we go further, this is a man who was recently quoted as remarking; "Some people find God - I found The Ramones. Well, I found God, too, but He proved unreliable. Whereas 'Sheena Is A Punk Rocker' has yet to disappoint me."

But Gabba Gabba, Gluck didn't go down the Ramones path ... 

Well. I know Jeremy as a presence on the Interwebs, and we've ... spoken. Mmm? By way of introduction, if you're not familiar with the man's work (and you've every right to claim ignorance, here in the cultural backwater of 'Dahnunda rhymes with chunda'), he was the initial driving force in The Barracudas, a ‘60s teen-pop band which formed in late 1978, just in time to have a brief yet improbable flirt with fame and fortune as, while they veered into psych-garage pop, yer actual football-terrace street-punk went overground in a big way despite the music gurus saying that punk was dead. New wave broke, spread, splintered and by the time The Barracudas split in 1984 we became (not always comfortably) familiar with synth pop, gated drums, gimmick bands and The Police

I'm hoping The Barracudas' later albums will again be reissued, preferably in the style of the recent reissue of their first, “Drop Out With The Barracudas”, which now occupies three glorious CDs courtesy the music-history fanatics at Cherry Red Records. Oh, and by the way, that deluxe edition above merits a no-question-buy-it-now six or seven bottles. (ED: Reviewed by Bob Short here.)

Just so we're clear, okay, I'm not losing my perspective with music. Just with this extraordinary collection, which Jeremy has described as 'the fruits of curating a very prolific and impulsive output'. 'I Am Time', indeed.

Now, the website sun-13 sums up his subsequent convoluted career better than I can, so: 

A (non)conceptual artist, performer and writer with a unique vision, he has worked with artists such as Brendon Moeller, Lydia Lunch, Dub Gabriel, Mick Harvey, and Bristol-based trio The Carbon Manual. Jeremy’s song ‘Burning Skulls Rise’ was covered by Lydia Lunch and Rowland S. Howard and his 1987 album 'I Knew Buffalo Bill' created possibly the first alt-country supergroup – Nikki Sudden (Swell Maps, Jacobites), Epic Soundtracks (Swell Maps, Crime and the City Solution, These Immortal Souls), Rowland S. Howard (Birthday Party, These Immortal Souls) and Jeffrey Lee Pierce (Gun Club). Amongst many other things Jeremy works as a fine artist in NFT art, post-digital visual and sound art, installation, and performance. He has exhibited in London, Sydney, Bath, and Swansea.

Incidentally, “I Knew Buffalo Bill” was reissued for this year's Record Store Day (on the same label above). Pester your dealer.

If you're getting the impression that Jeremy is a little ... not-of-the-zeitgeist ... you'd be correct. Nor were the Beatles when they started (do you recall the mythical 'guitar groups are on their way out' quote?), nor Kraftwerk, nor The Saints ... the world would not be the same had Ric Ocasek not taken a shine to Suicide (uh, the band). 

Hmmm. I've listened to “I Am Time” (the length of a double-LP), and I've decided that I am not, in fact, going to discuss any specific songs. The link to the Bandcamp page is below, and all I really want to say is that this is a collection of songs which may as well be a compilation of a dozen or so entirely separate bands over some 30 years. Some might say that it's “eclectic”, but hell, your musical, literary, and artistic tastes should be eclectic, if not downright Catholic.

Give you some idea: I love Man Ray's work and, after initial interest, have come to loathe Dali, finding his work redolent of poisonous narcissism. Warhol, I like his car crashes, his concealed yet overt yearning for experience and a lived life. Miserable, pointless bloke. Bach, though, Bach - magnificent, shame about the reasons he was writing but without them ... you know? “Les Miserables” the musical, I'm sure it's spectacular, but I wish I knew enough French to read the original book (the English translation is epic, and I must reread it). Jane Austen, the Brontes, no, no, no. What some of us now think of as Jane Austen's “horrid novels”, yes please. Charles Dickens - when he wasn't being paid by the flipping word he was bloody good, otherwise, matey it's love's labour's lost and life's too short to wade ... and, while I'm at it Sonic Youth and the Doors? I'd swap 'em both for Chrome any day (including the Damon Edge “French” records).

Yeah? Sue me.

Right, then. There are 20 songs on “I Am Time” ... and they're all pretty stand-out. They'll get your attention and keep it. 

But you want to know more?

Okay. Mr Gluck unwisely agreed to allow me to ask him a few questions.

jeremy gluck 1988

I-94 Bar: I'm very curious to know the emotions which came up as you selected tracks for this compilation... 

Jeremy Gluck: In private, I wept. In public, I rejoiced. But, spuriously, it was more a clinical exercise than an emotional one. The work spans over a quarter-century and the curation was quite painless; I suppose an artist (that's me, incidentally!) knows which of their work they feel is superior and deserving of attention. Of course, each track has its own resonance in my memory, particularly those created in collaboration with people now resident on what seance-goers refer to as "the other side".

I suspect some of it might've been bittersweet, and some joyous, and some downright saddening...

Jeremy Gluck: Yes, indeed. As I say above, in the bizniz there are many I've worked with who have predeceased me. My cover of Nikki Sudden's “Road of Broken Dreams”, for example, was done when he was still alive; in the wake of his death it carries more freight with me, perhaps. I've been hideously prolific, needless to say, but it was still relatively easy to know and choose what stands out to me from my work, and thinking on it now possibly I leaned unconsciously to choosing material emphasising various pieces that span life and death. On the other hand, what doesn't span life and death?

Your career can't really be described solely as that of a “singer” ... I remember when I discovered that advertising agencies would refer to singers or hosts - with their contempt barely hidden - the 'talent' or the 'creative' ... yet you've spent most of your time (ha) mulling over reality, realities, what ifs, whys and why nots. ... Do you compartmentalise these shards of yourself...?

Jeremy Gluck: It's not possible to compartmentalise them, although it does happen in a way. I characterise my being and my art as "dysregulated perfection", and I think that “I Am Time” captures the spectrum I travel...in peace.

Why use the title “I Am Time”? I realise you're getting asked this, but you must know how pompous the title sounds (there's a gleeful imp perched on your shoulder, isn't there?)

Jeremy Gluck: I don't find the title pompous myself, but I can understand why it might seem so. The title of the album is from a song on it, from a text I wrote around 1998. Using the song title as the album title was in fact not my own idea, but that of the fellow whose label released it, Dave Barker, and I found it a very good idea as it seems to embody the spirit of a retrospective and, to me, answered to some of the perspectives and contexts I hold about life, death, and whatever else people consider important. And, yes, there is an imp perched on my shoulder or, rather, a monkey, and I am holding an organ that I am even now grinding. 

It's pretty much a double LP, isn't it? did you select the songs with that in mind - the changing of the sides, I mean, and the ability to listen to the same side ad infinitum?

Jeremy Gluck: I didn't give a lot of thought to the sequencing of the album, I admit. However, I wanted to open it with my cover of Nikki Sudden's “Road of Broken Dreams”, as I consider it one of my best solo recordings and also because of the significance to me of my friendship and collaborations with Nikki. I closed with “Walk to the Sea” because it is somehow a forlorn and fitting coda, although “Travel in Peace” (apparently a phrase from Chinese culture used to send off the deceased) would have been more fitting in some ways. 

Nicked from another website: 'I won’t pretend that Rowland and I had much personal chemistry; he once bemused me when, in rehearsal, in retort to my calling his playing “wacky” he said that if I repeated it he would impale my child’s head on his machine heads.' Now, how much of a child are you? How much of an adult? How much of your serious work has an underlying element of mirth at the busyness of humanity, and our lack of progress?

Jeremy Gluck: As Brian Wilson put it, or maybe as was said about him (I am not sure which) I might be considered an "adult child".  There isn't a great deal of mirth in my work. I am bemused by humanity and am occasionally disgusted by its backwardness and ultimately - rooted in non-dualism - consider myself "non-sapiens": non-human. Being human is a temporary and often regrettable condition, and some of my words point to this, albeit usually laterally. 

If the Victorian and Edwardian, and the Boomer zeitgeists saw themselves as progressive in terms of arts, manufacture, civilisation ... what could the current zeitgeist be said to be? Culturally xenophobic?

Jeremy Gluck: I spend a great deal of time, for my sins, making NFTs and to that end, having in my view realised that NFTs are not "art", made a piece entitled 'Sordida Cultura' (Dirty Culture), the text on which can be applied more generally: " NFT art is not actually art...whatever it is is new and needs a new name, not "art". Which isn't to devalue or dismiss it, but calling it "art" is grossly inaccurate. I am using "sordida cultura", Latin for "dirty culture", provisionally as a starting point to describe this new "art" that isn't. This piece, a crude hack of the famous 1969 poster created by Yoko Ono and seen all over the world at that time, comments simply on the theme."

What creations are you most proud of?

Jeremy Gluck: Am I now God?

What creations are you least proud of?

Jeremy Gluck: This isn't a question I would respond to simply because what I consider my work of lesser value is not for me to state. If someone likes or loves something I have done, that is what matters.

Did you ever hear from the extremely quiet and intense fan who appeared at the Barras reformation gig in Spain with an armload of vinyl? what exactly happened?

Jeremy Gluck: My take on this is at Sun 13's 13 Questions

After a show with a reformed Barracudas in Spain, I was relaxing backstage when a curious character approached me, two carrier bags filled with vinyl in hand, and then stood staring at me. A beat. “I love you too much,” he stated with great gravity, staring with his piercing, possibly psychopathic, eyes into my own, to which I replied, “You may be right.” 

Then followed an epic signing session as I worked my way through numerous Barracudas and solo releases, while my fan stood watching, silent and still. That was weird.”

I did hear from the individual in question, in fact, and am happy to be able to tell you that we are now ten years in a civil partnership, that he is an antiques dealer, and that we have plans to retire together one day soon to the former Outer Mongolia, inhabit a comfortable yurt, and deal in small sculptures fashioned from yak cheese. Is that enough information for you? (Oh, and he is a dab hand at crochet!)

Tell me about fandom. What expectations do you think people have of you - then and now - and, perhaps, what expectations do you have of people who enjoy your music?

Jeremy Gluck: I have no idea what people expect of me, how could I? I have no expectations of people who enjoy my music, but of course I am grateful that they do. What I always say in this regard is that it is a constant source of gratitude and wonder to me that there are people who feel the same way about some of the music I have made as I do about the music I love, it is strange to me but I know it is true. Somewhere, in the depths of Europe, especially, dwell many (perhaps thousands) of people who listen, for example, to The Barracudas and love them with a passion, in much the same way I listen to “Who's Next'” and love it. It's a great feeling to know this.

gluck in Japan

Did you ever tour Japan? what was that like?

Jeremy Gluck: Yes, in May 2012 The Barracudas played four nights at Fever there. I absolutely loved Tokyo and dreamed of living there. It is a remarkable city. As a friend of mine, it can feel like going to the future, and yet it is also grounded in deep tradition. The people are gracious and affable. Our audience was enthusiastic and their love of our music was evident. Visiting Tokyo, especially with the band, was one of the happiest experiences of my life, in fact, a whirlwind four days full of amazement at almost everything I encountered.

Could you tell us a bit about Nikki Sudden - he's not really known in Australia, and his music is damned good.

Jeremy Gluck: To answer this I am going to fall back on a piece recently published by Sun 13, to mark the Record Store Day 2024 re-release on vinyl (for the second time, the first being by a Spanish label in 2011) of “I Knew Buffalo Bill” my first solo album, that was created with, among others, Nikki and Rowland S. Howard. The piece contains a lot on Nikki, not least my obituary for him, and a lot of other relevant material. If you are a fan it will fascinate you but, be warned, if you are not it will induce abject narcolepsy.

Thank you, great answers. I’ll send a third and last tranche of questions later ...

Jeremy Gluck: Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, and the wee donkey!?! MORE?????????

Oh, alright, I'll let you off with a warning today, but next time it'll be a fine. ... by the way, I suspect yurts can be a bit crowded, especially when you bring the yaks in out of the cold… My god, grinding yak yogurt in a yurt … there's an image...

Jeremy Gluck: Send the questions. I can take it. 

What is it about Swansea Bay that draws you back apparently every day? I mean, I know you're keeping fit, but given the prolific number of photographs you take there, it's obviously a lot more than just a place to go each morning.

Jeremy Gluck: When first I lived in Wales (which is a beautiful place, largely, and which I have fallen in love with in many ways) I lived near Three Cliffs Bay, one of a string of gorgeous beaches studding the Gower Peninsula that is adjacent to Swansea proper. Later I moved into town, and have since lived close to Swansea Bay, along which the city runs for some miles. Three Cliffs Bay I always cite as my favourite place on the planet, and I stand on that.

Swansea Bay is my meditation, my sanity, my counsellor and my friend - and yes, I do embroidery, throw pottery, and read Plath - and I love the daily minor mutations it offers, from stunning sunrises to grim storms at sea - and documenting it and therefore integrating it constantly into my awareness and art. Living by the sea has proved transformative for me, and I wouldn't want to live far from it ever again. The nourishment and solace it provides in equal measure, its wisdom, patience, and generosity, are all inspiring and humbling in the extreme.

Come to think of it, what is it about photography, and the image of something, however distorted, which so clearly entrances you?

Jeremy Gluck: Sight presents a distorted image, though less so than memory, imagination, and thought. Dreams present distorted images. Life is itself a distorted image, and so is death. None of it is real, all of it is beautiful, and it's that beauty that is so compelling to try and capture or contrive. As William S. Burroughs put it, "There is in fact something obscene and sinister about photography, a desire to imprison, to incorporate, a sexual intensity of pursuit." 

The image can never really capture the real, but the reverse is also true: each photograph, each image, summons a distorted but also clear rendering of a sort of reality. In Zen they speak of reality being not a flow but a series - as in a film - of close frames, one after another, slices of time that when they cohere render what we call the real and life and experience. Photography is just a way of isolating a frame, a slice, and taking control of it, claiming back time, expanding space, owning the "real".

Possibility of the deluxe treatment (like the recent Cherry Red box) of the other Barracudas LPs? Or any of your other recordings?

Jeremy Gluck: Regarding The Barracudas, anything is possible given label interest, but by no means guaranteed, so fingers crossed. Regarding my solo work, yes, I intend to release a second retrospective in the autumn, on Glass Modern, with yet more bonus tracks, and hopefully even a third eventually. It's an ideal label for me and its owner Dave Barker and I go back a long way and have a very warm communication.

Last question (until you release something else I catch wind of): You have posted innumerable philosophic/ mystic statements, observations and quotations ... what is it about this area which affects you so much?

Jeremy Gluck: A former quest for Truth, which I feel I eventually found in the teachings of the late Advaita (non-dualist) sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj. But, more to the point, I found out eventually that - and let's leave the last word to the title of dear Nikki Sudden's final album – “The Truth Doesn't Matter”.

Buy "I Am Time" here.