When Luwayne Glass touched down at LaGuardia just over a year ago, they had never been on an airplane before. Glass had, in fact, never spent more than a day outside Wichita, Kansas, where they were born, raised, and, ostensibly, trapped. As a black, trans, genderqueer artist operating out of a rural town where everyone knows everyone, Glass turned to the same place most of us young rural freaks did when we wanted to find something that would take us far, far away: the internet. There, Glass found music, and soon after their noise project, Dreamcrusher, was born.
Nurtured by the history available to them online and a supportive noise scene in Wichita, Dreamcrusher became a space for Glass to evoke fear and wonder in equal measure. Their music exists smack in the axis of connection and alienation, a gesture of inclusion and love in a society that gets more malicious, surveilling, and threatening with each passing day. But sonically, it is borderline unlistenable at times, malicious and industrial. Not industrial music, though; straight industry, like trash compactors and car assembly lines. It sounds technological and unfeeling, but its purpose is all human emotion. It’s a contradiction, and in embodying all these, Glass is a special artist. Rare, even: a seer, acting on feeling and instinct, in a generation of people with the greatest capacity to self-educate that we’ve ever had in human history.
Last month, around the one-year anniversary of Glass’s spontaneous move to New York, Fire Talk Records re-released eight early Dreamcrusher EPs, only one of which, Quid Pro Quo, was written here. Since then, Glass has been working on a debut album and playing a staggering number of shows throughout the boroughs. In anticipation of a packed weekend of live performance — the Bell House on Friday, SUNY Purchase on Saturday, and, on Sunday, a 24-hour drone festival at Basilica Hudson — the Voice talked to Glass about their unusual, riveting presence in New York’s noise scene.
Village Voice: How much of the music that you’re playing live now have you written since you’ve been here?
Dreamcrusher: Pretty much all of it. I’m hesitant to re-release anything, because I was going through a lot of shit when I put out those eight records, and I don’t want to think about that stuff. When Incinerator came out, my mom was in the hospital, and I couldn’t promote it. Later I dropped out of school to do music full time, and it was a really stupid decision — I was working at a deli sixty hours a week, and those old records just take me back to those places, and I didn’t want to be associated with it. The main material I perform live is from Hackers All of Them Hackers and the newest one, and other miscellaneous stuff that I’m workshopping for my debut album.
And who’s doing that?
I don’t know — I’m working with Fire Talk right now. I think they think I’m going to put it out really quickly. I’ve never worked on an album before, and I really want to pull a Sade, but I know that’s not really the best idea.
Well, one, that’s the reason I came here, and the only venue for income I have. But also, I get really depressed when I’m not working on music. I’ll probably have an extensive wealth of material before I pick any songs. The debut albums that I like are really refined and not necessarily short, but confined to certain time periods, eight songs or ten songs, and sometimes I just want to put out, like, a 27-track album or a double album, and that’s not good for marketing. These are all things I consider when I’m thinking about performing certain things.
When your art and your life are the same thing — when it’s your only avenue — then you really have to think about every single aspect of it as it relates to your livelihood.
And that’s what I’m really struggling with. I should not be struggling with it anymore — I’ve been performing for a long time — but it might be more of a struggle now than it’s ever been. I think in that aspect I’m a real New Yorker, because I’ve been homeless, [eating] chewable vitamins and Clif Bars for a couple weeks, that type of thing. I’m very seasoned in struggles of art versus life, so I guess that makes me a real New Yorker at this point.
Are you just ready to be in the music industry, like full-time in the game?
I really want to. Because everybody in Brooklyn’s a graphic designer. I went to school for graphic design back home, but you come here and everyone’s not as qualified as you but getting better work than you. And doing subpar work that’s less interesting, but getting, like, $40 an hour. And then you realize, Oh, wait, I’m going to have to do something else.
I feel like that’s characteristic of the noise scene: People less talented than you are getting more work and making as much if not more money. It’s a damaging trend, especially for people like you who make music that is specifically confronting themes of violence or marginalization.
I notice when I try to book shows with bands that I like [but] who happen to not look like me — wink, wink — I notice that they only book shows with their “friends.” Certain bands in the scene only play shows with people on surrogate labels or things like that. The shows are not interesting — they’re playing the same material and not doing anything interesting with it. What I do, what I make, isn’t new — I’m regurgitating what I’m inspired by, and I feel like that’s kind of obvious in what I do. But then I get bros who say, “Hey, you sound like Death Grips.” And I don’t listen to Death Grips, but… you can guess why they make that comparison.
Because you’re black and yelling?
Yes. Pretty much. And I feel like that’s obvious, that I’m not necessarily doing something different but something niche enough that it would appeal to people that I am trying to target. I’m trying to target people who grew up with Einstürzende Neubaten, and people who listen to Ligeti, because I sample Ligeti on a song. This particular record, the Quid Pro Quo record, it’s mainly inspired by Stanley Kubrick and how he used soundtracks to start and end scenes. Though I guess that’s hard to understand because everything’s drenched in feedback.
It’s interesting that you bring up movie scores, because you also give people in the audience something to look at. There’s a visual component to your performance.
That’s why I really want to play more shows with punk bands. People who actually interact with the crowd. Because noise people — I’ve always found this to be a general thing — they don’t want to be seen, they don’t want to talk to anyone, they’re antisocial, they’re quiet.
Do you think that’s because they’re secretly boring?
Yes. Totally. I was playing a show [recently] and this dude pulls out this box of gear and opens it and there are cords everywhere, and I’m like, Ah, this is going to sound good, yay! And he’s just like [mimics bad droid noises]. Then he starts banging on things and shouting. I didn’t know if it was intentional or not. After a while he noticed that no one was into it and got mad that we weren’t into it. It’s not that we’re not into it, it’s just that you’re not doing anything. He played way too long, spilled his beer all over the place, and yelled, “Somebody clean this beer up, eh?” He was like, “Fuck New York, yeah?”
I was laughing, because I thought he wanted us to laugh, but like, no, you’re just a drunk idiot and you don’t know how to interact with the crowd. Gotcha. So I shut off. He said thank you at the end — it was so weird. And there are so many bands like that, and they get booked for everything and are getting the biggest turnout.
Here we are saying, “The noise scene is so bad, these people are jerks, they aren’t nice to each other and they aren’t nice to me.” But you never know — am I supposed to allow everyone to be a dick to me now because in twenty years they will be the next Thurston Moore or Steve Albini?
That’s what makes me nervous about wanting to tour, because I feel like as an out trans person, my only safety is in larger cities like New York and L.A. Everything in between is a fucking crapshoot. And obviously, like, being the only spot on the dalmatian most times, especially in this scene, it’s going to work against me in almost every way possible, even though I feel like I put off a lot of positive energy.
That’s another thing I want to get across to people: I’m really nice. The thing with the performance is that I just have a lot of energy. I just love punk. I love the attitude and I love the sense of aggressive camaraderie it’s supposed to embody. I like to perpetuate that in my music and performance, but I think it comes across as “Oh, you’re this thing that looks different from everyone and you’re taking that out on everyone,” and that’s not really the case.
I’ve heard you describe your own music as “comforting” and “reaching out to people,” but the music itself is borderline unlistenable at times and unfeeling in a lot of ways. But the way you refer to it is always in this sense of calling in or connecting with people.
I think what I mean is that I want to bring together the weirdos. There are more weirdos than norms — I feel like a lot of them are just closeted. They’re forced into a closet because everything sucks, and that’s kind of what “Codeine Eyes” is about. That’s another thing about my lyrics: I try to make them as simple as possible so there’s one obvious meaning, and then the interrelations of those meanings come into different circles, so people can understand them the way they want to understand them.
That’s a good thesis for gender, too.
That’s another reason why I make things as simple as possible. I want to shut out the right people, and bring the right people in, and I think [keeping it simple] is a really easy way of doing that. It makes it difficult to write music that way, because you have to find the right words and put them in the right order and say them in the right way. That’s why I keep putting out EPs. When I do write, it’s a weird, dedicated thing where I write an entire book of random words at two a.m. and sleep until four, then I go back to that book and pull out certain words and put them together in ways I think sound interesting. And it also sounds a lot like a conversation that I’m having with people through the song. I feel like it reaches more people that way.
So though the music you make is, as you say, if not about connection then at least in the service of connection, you have to be alone when you’re writing and recording?
Yeah. That’s the funny part. That’s how I discovered the music I make… in an isolated space, in a small town, where you had to make your own fun in order to have fun. It’s kind of like my mom’s association with smoking. She smoked because that was her rebellious cool thing in the Sixties. She still holds that sacred.
I think people would be shocked to find out that the title of Hackers All of Them Hackers is basically a reference to your childhood.
Everything from Snowden and Wikileaks —
To Anonymous. I do really appreciate that culture, and I think the title also has something to do with “life hacks” and broadening the definition of that. When people usually think “life hacks,” they think tutorial-type shit. Surviving is the original life hack. I thought it was funny because it was the first widely produced record I put out and it was sort of my life hack.
Are there instructions for living on that record, or was making that record your life-hack survival technique?
That was part of my survival technique, was Hackers. It was the only time I’d ever made an actual amount of money making music. So it was, like, kind of a life hack in a way. I do apply for work all the time. I think — let’s be honest — I am choosing to make art. I probably dedicate too much of my time to that instead of looking for a real job. But I feel like, at some point, it will actually pay off.