Knife the Glitter – Closing the ChapterThursday, 22nd February 2018
People always talk about music as having a timeless quality to it. The instrumental act of Knife the Glitter is one that can be used as evidence for said point. An album that was written over 8 years ago at this point, the band’s full-length debut (and swansong) has just recently been brought into the light of day. It’s a credit to the band that it sounds just as fresh and invigorating as any other new release you might check out within the genre.
As noted, their self-titled debut also marks the end of the band. Due to some reasons discussed below (such as a lack of time), the band’s only offering is also their last. But it’s still worth an investigation, due to the lively and energetic approach of their djent/progressive attack. There’s chaos and intricacy, but there’s also some fun and playfulness as well. We talked about the finality of the act with drummer Eli Litwin, who also caught us up to date on a few other things he’s been up to, such as John Frum and some metalized versions of kids’ songs.
Dead Rhetoric: Is there a sense of finality now that the album is out there?
Eli Litwin: Yeah, there really is. I’ve been saying this for years – I’ve been waiting to close the book on the band basically. We’ve been inactive for most of the time that we have been working/recording the album. This was the final document that took way too long to finish.
Dead Rhetoric: So is it strange to have the release coming out, and at this point having the band defunct?
Litwin: It is strange; I feel that in some ways it’s frustrating. I wish the album had come out like 6-7 years ago. I still think that the music is strong enough that it’s still relevant coming out as a new release, instead of sounding like it was written 10 years ago. So I’m really happy about that. Where we are in our careers now puts us in a better position for the music to be more widely received. So in some ways it worked out for the better that it took so long for this one to come out.
Dead Rhetoric: If the album had come out that long ago, would it have potentially caused something to change with the band? Would you have done more with the project or was it a matter of just getting the release out?
Litwin: I don’t think the band could have lasted much longer. I was living in Philadelphia for the entire life of the band. I’m from New Jersey, but I went to college in Philly and continued to live here after school. I was driving an hour and forty-five minutes every weekend to practice and record and it became unsustainable with my life, responsibilities, work, and other bands I was playing with, as well as eventually having a family. Our guitarist Kevin [Antreassian]’s recording business was picking up a lot and is thriving at the moment. He was guitar teching for Dillinger Escape Plan and then joined the band and spent the last 2 years traveling all over the world with them. It was just not feasible to keep the band going, even if we had finished the album earlier.
Dead Rhetoric: With the album being pieced together in recordings over 8 years, do you feel that some of the music shifted from the way that it was originally envisioned, or was it just a matter of getting the time to sit down and record?
Litwin: All of the tracking was done in the first 2-3 years of that 8. More than 95% of the music was exactly how we had written it in the two years leading up to that when we were writing the songs. There’s only one part in a song where we re-wrote the guitar riff that was there. There’s also a few scattered parts where something was embellished. For example, there were a few sections there that have a lead guitar melody now that wasn’t there originally since we were just a trio.
Once we recorded it, the thought was that we could put a little more something to make it stronger. Since we knew that we weren’t going to be performing anymore, so there wasn’t a thought about how we would be able to do it live. So we just as many tracks as we felt like it needed without having to worry about that. That was a little liberating actually, to be able to get as intricate with those extra tracks to make it as best as it could be and focus on the recording of it.
Dead Rhetoric: So did it allow you to have the best possible end product?
Litwin: Yeah – there was no way with that amount of time that anything less than what I wanted it to be was going to come out. It had taken this long, if we needed another round of mixes, we were going to do it right because it’s the last chance.
Dead Rhetoric: Was there a fear that after all this time, people would just be like, “eh, whatever?”
Litwin: Maybe a little bit. Over the years, we have gotten the occasional email or Facebook message saying, “When is your damn album coming out?” I was like, “Thanks for still caring six years later, and I’m glad you are still waiting for it.” I wish it would have come out sooner – if it had come out within a year, then we are on the minds of people. The difference between coming out 4-5 years later instead of 8…the people have already forgotten about us. At this point, it didn’t really make that much of a difference. It was like, “Whoa, I remember this band! They are still together?” But no, we are actually not, but here’s the album.
Dead Rhetoric: Being able to look back, how do you feel that you have personally progressed since doing the drum recordings for this 8 years ago?
Litwin: Since we wrote that album…my current band is more extreme [John Frum], it’s a death metal band, so my stamina has had to increase a bit to record that album. But I don’t think a whole lot has changed in my playing. These days I don’t play drums as much as I wish I did, because I have a full time job and a family. Life is just different now. So there has maybe been some slight growth in my playing, but not a whole lot. I feel like I have sort of plateaued and been in the same place for a while.
Dead Rhetoric: With an instrumental release – how do you come up with some of the titles of the songs?
Litwin: Maybe half or more were written when we had a singer. They had written lyrics and give them titles, so we used those titles even though there were no lyrics. That was the name of the song, so there was no need to give it a new one since we aren’t really lyricists. So those we just kept. The newer ones…we are just a bunch of weirdos with a goofy and bizarre sense of humor. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. It was like, “Ok, the song is finished, let’s give it a name. What do you think?” Then whatever random phrase that someone came up with, like “Permanent Baby Snowpants!” You know how babies have those big, chunky fat legs…it’s kind of like they have snowpants on, but it’s permanent. So it was like, “Ok, sure!” [Laughs] It makes no sense – it has nothing to do with the music. “Highly Electric Squirrel,” I don’t even remember where that came from!
Dead Rhetoric: Do you feel that John Frum is more of an extension from what you did with Knife the Glitter?
Litwin: An extension certainly in that Knife the Glitter was the vehicle for my own creative expression at the time and those songs were a true collaborative process between myself, Kevin, and Ryan [Newchok]. It was really our voices combined. John Frum was written in the same way. Me, Liam [Wilson], and Matt [Hollenberg] in a room together hashing out ideas. It was our three voices combined and melted together. There are very few parts on the John Frum record where we could point out who wrote which part. That’s the music I’m writing now, so it’s part of my voice now. John Frum came more from my intensive solo project. It was a studio project and I wanted to start a band in that style. Even though John Frum doesn’t really sound like Intensus, the thread is extreme metal and the incorporation of improvisation.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you also talk a little about your Metal Kidz release, and how that came to be.
Litwin: [Laughs] I have a toddler, she’s one and a half. My wife and I have a playlist of children’s songs and Beatles songs that we use to get her to bed, when we are rocking her to sleep. Just hearing those kids’ songs over and over again, 2-3 times a day for a year, the mind goes places. I just started imagining metal versions and hearing death metal vocals and blastbeats in these songs. I could hear it in my head, I wanted to hear it with my ears, and I’m fortunate enough to have easy access to a recording studio now. My summer project was to get some of these things out of my head and into my ears. That was for my own creative fulfillment and enjoyment. When I listen to those songs, I have a big smile and laugh. I think it’s hilarious. I’m also proud of the music that I played. It’s kind of silly, but it still rocks pretty hard at the same time.
Dead Rhetoric: I can completely see where you are coming from there, with 2 young boys myself. You hear those songs so much your head just wants to explode sometimes.
Litwin: From that, I had this ongoing list of recording ideas and projects. Metal Kidz was the first one I crossed off the list. Then I had two Beatles songs that I had wanted to make metal versions of that I finished. The next thing on the list was to start a new Intensus record, so I’ve started that now. It’s just getting through the things that I want to do gradually.
Dead Rhetoric: I checked out the covers of The Beatles songs too and thought it was cool that you ‘metalized’ them in a certain band’s style. What do you enjoy about doing those with a distinctive way?
Litwin: I guess that’s just when I was having these moments of hearing them as metal songs, that’s how I heard it. The song “I’m Only Sleeping” is a slower, very minor chord song. I just started hearing it heavier and slower. At first, I was thinking Torche, but as I was recording, it felt more Neurosis, and Neurosis is one of my favorite bands. That sound just came from my love for that kind of music. That was how I was hearing that song.
With “Dear Prudence,” I was thinking it was such an epic song. It’s certainly the most epic Beatles song. The way it builds, with solos and then harmonies at the end. I wanted to hear it with 10 times more guitars and vocals to make it even more epic. I love Blind Guardian, at least classic Blind Guardian…I don’t really follow them much anymore. But Nightfall in Middle Earth and A Night at the Opera are two albums I know well. At the time, I was listening to those albums a lot, and that is the most epic stuff. That’s where that one went also.
Dead Rhetoric: You mentioned crossing things off your list as you go. As you get older, do you find that it’s tougher to balance time in a band with responsibility?
Litwin: At this point, it’s whenever we have time and can. John Frum is a band where everyone has a lot going on. Whenever we can, we will. That John Frum album, from starting the writing to getting it released was 6 years. We knew from the start that it would always be a gradual thing, which is fine. It’s just the way it is.
Dead Rhetoric: What plans do you have moving forward with any of your projects?
Litwin: John Frum is currently rehearsing. We have two gigs this month. We were invited to play a festival in the Netherlands called Complexity Fest. So we have that and a Philly warm-up show for it. We were trying to get a couple other European dates around the festival but it didn’t work out. So we are heading over there for one show. So we figured we would at least play a show in Philly. Our singer Derek [Rydquist] lives in LA, so if he is flying out to play, we may as well play two shows. We have just started our first new ideas for a new album. We are itching to get started in a second album, because the first one was written so long ago at this point.
I’ve started a second Intensus record, which is something I have wanted to do, and have had a few false starts over the past few years. A record came out in 2011 and took two years to make. So John Frum and Intensus are two things on the ‘let’s get done as soon as I can’ list.