In the Spotlight with Glen Phillips

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Posted By Nathan Leigh

Continuing Denon’s 100th anniversary coverage,  Denon is proud to present an exclusive interview with Toad the Wet Sprocket’s, Glen Phillips.

In the Spotlight with Glen Phillips

All bands have a frontman, a singer, a songwriter, and a guitarist. In Toad the Wet Sprocket’s case, it’s all one man, a man named Glen Phillips.

Born in Santa Barbara, California, Glen Philips is a solo artist and founder or Toad the Wet Sprocket. Phillips began Toad the Wet Sprocket in 1986, at the age of 16. By 1988, they had signed with Columbia Records and recorded five albums and many major tours until 1998. During his time in Toad the Wet Sprocket, Phillips was involved in a pop rock project called Flapping, Flapping. Three years later, Phillips released his first solo album, *Abulum*, this was followed up by a self-released live album and solo touring, along with a reunion tour with his former Toad bandmates. Philips has been releasing albums each year since.

In January 2008, Phillips released an EP with Talk Talk and Peter Gabriel influences titled *Secrets of the New Explorers*; it was reported by Billboard that a new supergroup octet had formed. The genesis of the project came via a “Glen Phillips and Friends” evening hosted By the Sings Like Hell concert series at Santa Barbara’s Lobero Theatre in February of 2007. The ensemble reunited in Jim Scott’s recording studio a year latter and by September 2008 the collective settled upon the name, Works Progress Administration (W.P.A).

In its octet configuration, WPA features Phillips, Sean Watkins (guitar), his sister Sara Watkins (fiddle), Benmont Tench (piano), Luke Bulla (fiddle), Greg Leisz (various), Pete Thomas (drums), and Davey Faragher(bass). The group also performs as a quintet featuring Phillips, Watkins, Bulla, and bassist Sebastian Steinberg.
Denon is, again, pleased to present this amazing performer, artist, and overall musicman, Glen Phillips.
Tell us about yourself
I’m a musician from Santa Barbara, CA. Apart from tour, I’ve been here pretty much all my life.
When did you first decide to become a musician, & what inspired you?
My brother is a drummer and keyboard player, and he was my inspiration to start playing.
When did you first fall in love with music?
I fell in love with music in stages. As a kid, I was a dancing freak and listened to a lot of disco. In junior high I discovered Rush and metal, which really blew my head off. Then in high school I got turned on to Elvis Costello, U2, Husker Du, the Replacements and the Waterboys. That stuff really hit me in the gut, and probably influenced the way I write more than anything else.
Describe your perfect listening experience?
The perfect listening experience for me is with good headphones outside somewhere beautiful.
When did you first hear of DENON?
The name has always been there…don’t know when I heard it first.
Do you now or have you ever owned a piece of DENON equipment?
I had a Denon dual cassette dubbing machine, on which I made countless mix tapes.
Tell us about your most memorable DENON moment?
Making the first mix tape for the woman who would later become my wife. I miss the realtime aspect of making cassette mixes – you could sit back and think about the person song by song, and make sure the gaps were just right. I think there was a high speed mode, but that just didn’t feel right. Making mix cassettes was a kind of meditation.
Who are your favorite artists today?
Bjork consistently pushes the envelope. She’s delving deep into territory both sonically and lyrically that other people barely know exists.
Who is doing work today that really inspires you?
I’m enjoying Indie music right now – there are a ton of young bands who have extremely broad influences, and are coming up with some pretty mind-blowingly interesting music. I also like that you can make a great recording at home now. The barriers to entry have mostly been removed, and some excellent work is coming out as a result.
What are your favorite 5-10 songs that we would find on your music play list?
Hmm. Today? The list changes pretty frequently.
Lump Sum – Bon Iver
Ruby – David Rawlings Machine
I Envy the Wind – Lucinda Williams
In Germany Before the War – Randy Newman
You’ll Find a Way – Santogold (Switch Remix)
Ascension Day – Talk Talk
No Cars Go – Arcade Fire
Belinda – Ben Folds and Nick Hornby
Business Time – Flight of the Conchords
When You Know Why You’re Happy – Mary Margaret O’Hara
I’ve already changed my mind.
What do you think the future of music holds in store for us?
I think things will just keep getting better. People have an historically unprecedented access to an incredible variety of music. That’s going to inspire tons of creativity, and since the tools with which to record music have also become so much easier to use, there will keep being a flood of good new music. The difficulty will be in locating the good stuff amid the not-so-wonderful (of which there will also be more than ever). It will also be entertaining and exciting to see how the music business changes, and what might fill its place if it fails to adapt.
If you could own a piece of sound equipment that would enhance your music or home theater experience, what would that be?
I would love to have floating robots that played music quietly just behind my head. They’d be a great conversation piece. That or a butt-mounted subwoofer for watching action movies.
Glen Phillips continues to push on with his craft, his art, and his music, and is poised to go on well into the future. For more information on himself, his bands, and more, visit the links below.

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