Glen Brady is a former DJ and former member of indie act The Glass, a man who’s lived all over the world, eventually giving up a fairly hedonistic lifestyle for sober veganism and a new act, one he’s entitled ‘Def Nettle’.
Brady describes Def Nettle as ‘funk punk’, and in his lyrics, he explores his own stories and those of the people around him: wild stories and varied experiences; a deeply personal take, all things considered, on his own life experiences. In new single ‘War Machine’, Brady pairs up with former Smiths man Andy Rourke, and sets off on what promises to be an artistic odyssey. He took time out of what sounds like a frantically busy lifestyle to tell me all about it…
First of all, congrats on the new single. I understand characters you’ve met are at the heart of a lot of your music. How do you use them in your lyric writing, and are they aware of it?
This is true. Much of my writing is based around characters I’ve met in my life and on my travels. In terms of how I use them technically, there’s usually an emotional connection. I might have some anger towards them, I might be writing about someone who has passed away. They have to have had some place in my heart. I have to have felt something deeply about them for a story to come out. Of course, this isn’t 100% conscious at first. Something they said to me or certain habits they have usually dictate something that I might find lyrically clever or useful and that’s usually the starting point. Once the characterization is up and running and I’m inspired to write about them I usually then dig deeper into who they are.
Do you think you have a tendency to meet odd people, or do you exaggerate a little when you write?
I definitely have had a tendency to meet people who live outside what most people would consider ‘normal’ society. I’ve worked in music for over 25 years now in different capacities and I’ve been exposed to a lot of people in the arts, fashion, dance etc and a lot of us work odd hours and lead lifestyles slightly estranged from what we might consider the 9-5 mentality. I must say though, there’s a lot of weird characters in what we think of as normal society too, no? I think I’ve always felt a little bit of an outsider myself. I’ve never taken the direct route. I’m even unpredictable to myself a lot of the time. My wife is like that too so our marriage works in that respect.
However I do NOT exaggerate when I write. If anything I tone things down sometimes so people don’t feel called out or embarrassed. I rarely write something so that the characters themselves would 100% know it’s them, though I’m making an exception of that just now on one song…he deserves a good bashing. We’ll see if I ever release it.
Most of the songs start being about one person but by the time I get to a third verse there are several characters that share similar traits being included in the story. I might be referring to the main protagonist as a ‘she’ but the characters could have been different sexes but share perhaps drug addiction or some other compulsion.
How was working with Andy Rourke, and how did it come about?
I first met Andy sometime around mid 2000’s in San Francisco at a great club night called ‘Popscene’ which was one of America’s premier Indie nights. I was on tour with a band called The Glass back then and Andy was on the bill that night as a DJ. He came right on stage and danced with me while we played our set.
I ran into him a few times in New York after that as we were both living there at the time. When I was living in Berlin (2007-2011) Andy remixed my DJ Wool single ‘The Dark Snuggler’, then years later I engineered and mixed an album he did with Dolores O’Riordan called DARK and I ended up in the touring version of that band. So we have some history.
Andy knows what he is doing on a bass guitar and in terms of how a record should sound. Working with him is always a simple process. He plays. I love what he plays. Then he usually has one or two points about the mix and he is always right about what it should sound like.
I mean, The Smiths literally saved my life from fairly dreadful teenage years so working with him is beyond a dream. I couldn’t be more grateful for that or for my life in music in general. What a trip! On top of it all I just like Andy. When I asked him to play on War Machine I was super nervous writing the email. He just emailed me right back and said he’d be honored. So…. Who wouldn’t be grateful for that?
You clearly feel the world is a bit of a mess right now (I’m inclined to agree). How do you bring themes like that into your music?
I don’t know how you can create and not bring those themes in somehow. Most people don’t want to know the effects of industrialization on our planet. Most people don’t want to know the effects of hyper processed foods and drinks on their bodies. Life is difficult enough already. So I try not to force them into accepting my ideas on the effects of animal agriculture and fishing and the like.
I just try to make references and start the thought process. I used to drink a lot and party way too hard. I used to eat animal products. It took some big scares and deaths and personal tragedies for me to open my eyes…but you know, I always knew…. I just needed to get the inspiration and motivation to change. You can’t tell people to do things. They have to decide themselves. Still…. Go Vegan! …chuckling to myself….
How does your DJing background play into your sound?
Technically I like loud kicks and snares or at least impactful kicks and snares and I definitely think that has a lot to do with my years playing on club sound systems.
On another level, I lived and deejayed mostly through the vinyl period where I got vinyl promos in the mail every week. This impacts my process in a couple of different ways. First, I remember the power of having music that no-one else would have yet… even for months. This feeling of a song being special and people coming to see you play just because you are the only one with certain records.
This made and makes music exciting for me and for the listener and that feeling is never far away. Secondly I have listened and gotten to know thousands and thousands of arrangements on an intimate level. When you’re mixing and beat matching you really have to learn your records. It’s a little different now because with digital deejaying you can sync the tempo so fast. I feel like I learned how to see a song up close but also to take a bird’s eye view of arrangements by deejaying so much and getting so intimate with individual songs.
On another level, there’s some irony in the fact that a lot of the music I make as Def Nettle doesn’t sound like much of what I played over the years. Admittedly though the vernacular and lyrical dexterity of hiphop has a huge influence on Def Nettle so it’s a vary complicated question!
How much more music do you have ready to go, and what’s the timescale for its release?
I have recorded and mixed about 12 tracks under the Def Nettle name so far. I have about 20 more recorded waiting for either live drums or guitars or a vocal to be added or updated. I’m writing and recording every day. I never stop. It just comes.
I train a lot as I do triathlons and I have to stop when I’m out running or on the bike every 15 -30 minutes to write ideas. Like we talked about so far, I’ve lived in a lot of places and had some experiences. There’s a lot to write about and I’m just getting started with Def Nettle. This could go on a while. I have 2 more singles ready to go. I have an EP of covers and I’m not sure how many of the 12 tracks that are finished and mixed will be singles, part of an EP or an album just yet. I”m not even sure an album is a good idea anymore. I can definitely see 3 more singles and an EP being released over the next year.
Also I am in the middle of a series of videos that were heavily influenced by 1980’s skateboard graphic artist Jim Phillips and that era of Batman comics… I’ve just finished the 2nd one which is the video for War Machine so the release schedule depends a little on my ability to finish those videos. Again I make them with my wife, Lindsey who shoots and edits them.
Can you tell me about the kind of themes that will appear in your music in the future?
I’m finishing a song right now about my ex-girlfriend who was murdered by her boyfriend 4 years ago and about the impact and inspiration for change that tragedy has had on me and how it has shown me respect for life in general and has taught me gratitude. That’s a big one. It’s also the first song I’ve written and arranged completely on acoustic guitar without even turning on any technology.
Honestly though, there’s still so many characters and stories from my life to get out on to paper or wave form… I think I have a life time of tales to tell.
I feel there are some new themes appearing as well. The idea that music isn’t about ‘ME’ or ‘I’ but is more natural, imaginative and emotional than that. I feel like we are sold something false by social media and marketing, like the star or the artist is so important. I’m starting to feel like that’s a big lie and that the most important thing is the human connection between themselves, our creativity and our ability to communicate with the world outside.
I’m just finishing a track called ‘Piss Take’ that tackles that question through my feelings about artists or ‘wannabe’ artists throughout my career that have put me down or not taken me seriously. Maybe I’m trying to find out if I’ve done the same thing and and if I can escape the idea of ‘Me’ & ‘Them’ and just focus on the imaginative side of things, somehow relieve myself of the burden of dated opinions and also to allow other people’s forgotten feelings to fade away.
How did lockdown impact on your work?
Lockdown solidified the act now known as Def Nettle. I already had several songs started before lockdown but I wasn’t sure I was going to ever turn it into an act. I was planning on using the songs for TV shows and ads and some other music business stuff that I do but somehow during lockdown I started to see Def Nettle as an outlet for my whole life of writing. Deep down I always knew I’d do at least one album of vocals. So I guess lockdown was when I decided it was time to put that dream or inner vision into action.
You played your first show only a couple of months ago. How do you see your live show developing?
I think the live show will follow the releases. More songs will come out and hopefully and inevitably, that will lead to gigs. Performing the songs is a cathartic experience and deeply tied with being sober. I feel like one of the reasons I never really fronted a band or put my vocals at the center of my music was because of my own personal insecurity. Giving up alcohol and though it’s hard to say, weed, has shown me who I really am and now I don’t care as much about people’s opinions.
I feel like doing these songs sober is so REAL. This is 100% me so it’s convincing, not just to me but to the audience. If I were to drink before a performance I think it would flop, like people would see right through it, like I was acting. But it’s the opposite of that. I am telling true stories of real shit, scary shit that I’ve seen and witnessed. It’s serious business….even if it is funky as fuck.
What are your hopes for Def Nettle in the future?
I hope I can tap into my imagination and come up with some songs that speak to me and others, have as many people listen to them as possible, play as many shows as I can and appreciate and savor every second of it because it’s all so precious and heartbreaking and finite.
‘War Machine’ by Def Nettle is out now.