Interview: Glorious Din - The Black Space That Cuts Through You
Updated: Jul 21
We had a chat with the members of Glorious Din several months back. On June 7th of this year we received the sad news of drummer Pete Herstedt's passing. This may be the only recounting of the fascinating history and legacy of the band that includes Pete, Jay and Doug. Eric has had limited access to internet while living in Uganda due to corrupt government policies. Half the year is spent on his 100 acre compound located in Northern California (also with no internet) where he is completing his interview responses that will be published at a later date. Eric has informed me that this interview has inspired him to write a book about his time with and leading up to the creation of the now iconic post-punk band, Glorious Din. We look forward to publishing his responses in a future continuation of this interview. - DarkestWave Magazine
"We suffered for our art, now it's your turn" - Pete Herstedt
Glorious Din started in San Francisco in 1983. Tell us how you all met and came to form Glorious Din and how the band name came about.
Jay: I put up an ad on the Rough Trade bulletin board on 6th street looking for other musicians. I was ready to be in my first band. I got a call a couple nights later from a guy who said he was a singer. At the time I wanted treally o play with other musicians and get a sound together. As it turned out Eric was the only one who answered the ad, I couldn’t say no. We began working on songs in his apartment on Divisadero Street.
We started to play together with acoustic guitars. His songs I liked. I didn’t know what they were about but I just seemed like we fit. Like I said, I’d never been in a band but even with my limitations Eric gave a lot of encouragement. All I could do was play single note repetitive patterns over the chord changes. That was about all I could do other than mimicking the chords he was playing, which seemed pointless. Limitations can define a style I suppose. In the next couple months we had written enough material to think about getting others to join in. Eric knew a bass player, Matt Hall, and asked him to join. He did. Six months later Matt left to go back to school in Iowa. But we did manage to record a half dozen songs at El Dorado Studios in
Oakland and with those tapes we had a document of his style. That contribution gave Doug a starting template and set the tone for some extremely weird bass lines. In addition Matt coined the name Glorious Din on November 26, 1983 at the Husdon St. rehearsal room. I remember because it was my birthday. The phrase was describing a song we just played. With Matt gone we had to scramble since our first gig booked at the Mab in about six weeks. We needed a bass player, at the time Eric was singing and playing a stand up drum. Eric emerged a couple weeks later with not only a bass player but a drummer too. In no time Doug and Pete got up to speed on the songs. I was impressed.
Pete: Eric, Doug and I were in another band together prior to Glorious Din. That band split up in January of 1983 and we went our separate ways. A year later, in January of 1984. Doug and I ran into Eric and Jay at a practice place we were both using. Eric told us that they needed a bass player and drummer for some shows that they had scheduled and asked up to play with them. I’m not sure if there were any upcoming gigs, but we agreed to this proposal. We didn’t know if it was something we’d do for almost three years.
Doug: The original bass player left just before the first gig. Eric and I played in a band in Davenport, Iowa, called White Front, with some other guys from Iowa. We moved to San Francisco as a group. Our drummer abandoned the group before the move, so we put up signs in SF for a drummer, and after a few ridiculous auditions we met Pete. He was a tall, gawky guy with glasses who never told us his last name or anything about his life. But, he was willing to rehearse and play shows, so we were fine with that. The band broke up after about five months and a few shows.
Pete and I were starting to play in a two-man act in a nascent psychedelic revival scene that was happening, and we were kind developing another band when Eric called for help. He had a gig set up, probably at Mabuhay Gardens, for the band he already called Glorious Din.
He needed a bass player to play songs he'd already worked up with Jay and the original bass player, Matt Hall (from Iowa City). Eric was playing a stand-up drum while singing, but he thought he would see how things sounded with Pete playing drums. He did NOT want a typical drum kit sound, though. So the first few rehearsals were really about finding a sound from the basics Eric and Jay brought in. I think we learned 8 songs for the first gig.
What was the music scene like in San Francisco when you first started playing shows as Glorious Din?
Doug: The scene was very diverse. Most of the bands that we played shows with had roots in punk rock one way or another, but came out of that with very different approaches. It was very open and creative, for better or worse! Every band had its own sound.
The music scene had some of everything. There were a lot of Berkeley punks, so there was plenty of leftist influence and post hippie flavor, especially for warehouse gigs and benefit shows, where we really got started. We played outdoors a few times for big benefits, often for women's issues, or collecting food for shelters. The outdoor shows were great because you had a huge audience of people from different backgrounds, and kids running around. Even though our music was dark, it was high-energy, and the tribal beat pulled some people in. We did the Castro Street Fair one summer, which was fantastic, right up to the moment a gust of wind tipped the backdrop over onto Pete's head. We stopped for a few minutes, then started again. It was a big event in the gay community, and the crowd enjoyed everything. I have a terrible head for names, but we ended up playing with some weird combinations of bands, including the Dead Milkmen. We ended up following them around the country, playing gigs at the same places a day or two later, even though we really had nothing in common with them; it was just a weird pattern.
There were a lot of warehouse and gallery gigs at that time, where you heard everything from the dankest punk or metal, all the way to sophisticated jass punk like Club Foot Orchestra. It was all just mashed together for shows.
The SF scene was pretty cool about race and other social issues, but as soon as we went on the road we saw you had to take each town a different way. Cops were bad in SF, especially towards Eric, but generally to all punks. Eric and I were harassed and roughed up by cops outside our rehearsal space at 4:30 in the afternoon one time because an alarm went off a block away. On the night when there were big shows, it could be pretty tense downtown for On Broadway or the Mabuhay Gardens. The club across the street, I think it was the Stone, was mostly metal, and the punks and metal heads had an uneasy relationship at times -- there was some racial crap tied up in that. Mostly it was cool.
Jay: I suppose like most places the San Francisco Bay
area had underground musicians and fans with their own particular scene. Some of the more recognizable bands at the time were: the DK’s, MDC, Translator, Snakefinger, The Residents, Flipper, Avengers and bands like that. But there were many, many bands knocking about and not recognized beyond the local scene. At least in SF there were clubs, warehouses and storefronts to play. We weren’t a big draw but what we did have was a group of like-minded bands and we’d put together a configuration and approach a club or space with an idea for a complete show. To me it seemed like new spaces were popping up all the time. Places like Clubfoot, ATA Gallery, the VIS, the YMCA, Swedish American Hall, 10th St Studios were all doing shows. This complimented the kind of famous North Beach clubs like the Mab and On Broadway, the I-Beam and Nightbreak in the Haight, Church St Station on the way to the Mission and Graffiti in the Mission. I may have botched some of these names since it’s been quite a while. Suffice to say there was energy in alternative spaces so the commercial clubs in no way ruled the scene. Space seemed plentiful and cheap and there were a lot of people making the scene happen. What I particularly liked were the shows that mixed media: films, visual and performance art theater and spoken word in the same space as the bands. It made for an interesting night. We rented spaces and put on shos so we could control the price of admission and allow people to byob. That way pretty much anyone could get in and feel right at home. Many of the audience was other musicians and artists. And after the shows you’d find out about other things going on around town musically or in galleries and get invited to their show (or parties) and the scene would grow. In this way our group of friends in bands managed collectively to get enough people to the shows. Eric loved making flyers and we’d glue them to street poles all over town. Endlessly.
How did you guys approach songwriting? Where did you guys rehearse and record?
Pete: We shared a rehearsal studio at 3rd and Hudson in San Francisco with FNM and various other bands. When Doug and I joined, Eric and Jay already had worked out quite a few songs together along with Matt Hall, the previous bass player. We started rearranging those right away, and also started working together on new material at the same time. Often Eric and Jay would start something together and bring that in for all of us to complete. Once we figured out what each of us was going to do, the song was finished and for the most part wouldn’t be changed. The songs that Jay sang evolved more over time, as Jay would rewrite lyrics pretty regularly.
Occasionally a song would come together differently. For example, one rehearsal I arrived first and started playing guitar and was in the process of working on a song this when Eric arrived next, made some sort of positive comment on what I was playing. Jay took over the guitar, adding his own flourishes, Doug, as usual, came up with a great bass part, and that was “Another Train Pulls In.”
Doug: Songwriting was always an iterative process. Jay or Eric would usually come in with a riff or a snippet and play it over and over until something gelled. Usually Pete would get a drum pattern going while I was trying to follow the underlying chord progression, if you could call it that. Eric mostly brought in 1- or 2-chord patterns he wanted to sing over, while Jay would bring in really abstract lines that were not tied to western music. There was always a lot of yelling, as Pete and I tried adding things that kept the original spirit but added some order and structure. A typical Eric-led songwriting endeavor would involve him yelling at Pete to stop playing the cymbals as much, while imploring Jay and me to just keep playing even when it was complete chaos. After a half hour or 45 minutes, we usually had a riff and some structure, but we had to play it a hundred times before we really knew what it was going to be. We were minimalist by design, with a punk disrespect for tradition. Pete and I spent
a lot of time refining our approach as a rhythm section, to give it energy and structure without submitting to stock rock 'n roll habits. We had long bus rides to and from practice at Hunters Point to work out the sound. Pete and I both lived in the Tenderloin neighborhood, so we rode together, and walked the last half mile home past hookers, junkies, and newly arrived Vietnamese and Filipino families. I think the grittiness of our environment was an influence. The overall sound was intentional by the time it was produced, but it was mostly by stripping away artifice that it had that sound. I think the sounds nested together in a way that was both harsh and beautiful, somewhat industrial, but sometimes approaching other-worldly. Sometimes it makes me think of walking past a factory on a dirt road -- it has some of each. Besides punk and garage rock, I listened to Gary Numan and Skinny Puppy and early industrial music. I used to sneak into foundries and factories in Iowa, and I think that influenced my playing. The albums do a fine job of capturing what we were doing, but to be in the rehearsal space, with the instruments unbearably loud and the drums thundering -- it was unreal. There were sounds happening that we did not make. There's no other way to say it.
We used to rehearse twice a week, sometimes more. We were all broke, and rehearsing was almost free (paid by the month). We would play for hours. So, whatever you heard on the albums had been played and replayed hundreds of times. We ended up with a long list of songs, probably around 50, and rehearsal was rigorous, almost like a sport. We rehearsed when it was 110 degrees in the space, and when it was 50 degrees. We treated the band as an art and a discipline, and Eric would let you know. No complaining was allowed, and no excuses. The environment could be rough, but we understood we were working towards something that was difficult and valuable, even though while we were together there was very little appreciation in the clubs or on the radio for what we were doing. We were hard to label, and even independent record labels weren't sure what to do with us. It felt like we toiled in obscurity, but that resonated with the art and literature I loved. Our music was not created for commercial or critical success -- it was a music that came from the bones of Eric and the heart of Jay, with Pete and myself creating a foundation. We did it because we needed to, and the audience was along for the ride (or not).
Jay: The songs were pretty simple. Usually with just a few chords. Eric would usually play songs and strum chords on a guitar. The rest of us would join in, but not playing chords. Once Eric’s rhythm guitar was removed from the picture you had a lot of single notes and drum hits weaving through each other. Eric would also bring in melody lines for me to play while he sang Depending on your state of mind it could be kind of trance-like.
On a few songs we actually do have guitar chords but for the most part, just repetitive patterns of drums, bass, voice and guitar. The first recording we did with Matt Hall was at El Dorado studios in Oakland. I don’t remember too much about the place other than it was a punk rock studio I think. Then we recorded our set at Jump Street studios in San Francisco.. The recording engineer just mic’d the instruments and the room and we played all the songs we knew. No mixing. Just document of our playing I suppose. Next we heard about Matt Wallace in Oakland at Dangerous Studios. ( is that the name?). We recorded our two albums there.
We rehearsed at Hudson St. Studios in San Francisco between an area called Dog Patch and the neighborhood Hunters Point. It was in a warehouse district far away from downtown and even further away from where most of us lived in the Mission, Castro, Haight and Avenues. It took me about an hour to get there by bus. There was a store a few blocks away and they served fried chicken --still on the bone-- with a piece of white bread wrapped around it. Delicious. They also had a good selection of 40oz malt liquor and my favorite, Olde English 800. The rehearsal room was like a tomb, no light or air. We shared the room with other bands. It was all we needed to work out a sound. We may have migrated into the Tenderloin to rehearse at the Turk St Studios in 1986, I can’t remember. I was playing there with Archipelago Brewing Co. but not sure if GD practiced there.
What are some of the most memorable shows you played? Also, tell us some of the bands you played with.
Pete: We opened for Faith No More at our first show in February of 1984 and played many shows with them after that. That show was memorable since it was our first, and I think it went well, but also it was the first time I had seen FNM. Courtney Love was their vocalist at the time.
We played with Trial, MJB, Paranoid Blue, Thought Factory, and many more SF bands. During our one national tour in 1986, we opened for the Swans in Minneapolis and were scheduled to open for the Golden Palominos at CBGB, but our van broke down and we missed the show. Playing the Rat in Boston was fun due to its history and also Boston is Jay’s hometown, so we got to meet his family, who were very cool.
We played outdoors just a few times, including at the band shell in Golden Gate Park, which is a beautiful setting. That show was recorded through the sound board and as far as I know is the only really sort of decent quality live recording of Glorious Din, although we also were broadcast over KUSF opening for Faith No More again, so maybe that exists somewhere. We also played at the Castro Street fair, which was our largest audience ever, although I can't say how many of those
present were paying attention to us! The back drop fell on me while we were playing. It’s hard to forget something like that.
Are there any bands you recall from this time period you feel slipped through the cracks and didn’t get the attention they deserved?
Pete: Besides us? Ha. Paranoid Blue was a pretty interesting three piece instrumental group that never released a record. There were a lot of bands that were worthwhile.
Did you encounter any racism during this time in the music scene?
Pete: This is one for Eric, but when we were on tour and staying with friends of Jay’s in the LA area, Encino maybe, Eric and I went into a grocery store to get some snacks for the preschoolers or day care kids that Jay’s friends were taking care of, and someone evidently called the sheriff. It was directly stated, but I don’t think the sheriff was summoned because of me, although maybe I looked a little scruffy with my unkempt hair and motorcycle jacket and a knife on my belt. The officer seemed kind of embarrassed when he talked to us.
Pete’s drumming, quite notably, omits the use of crash and ride cymbals to great effect. How did this decision come about?
Pete: Eric would sometimes make a specific request for me to emphasize certain components of the drum kit, especially the toms, or to avoid the crash cymbal, while we were creating songs. Mostly, though, the drum parts I created where just what was I felt was right for the song and that would complement what everyone else was doing. My drumming in Glorious Din was not based on the style of other drummers, but on what Eric, Jay, and Doug and I were creating.
Jay’s guitars and vocals, Doug’s bass, Pete’s drumming, Eric's vocals and additional drumming all seem to meld so perfectly and go far beyond what you would hear from typical punk bands Had you guys played together for long before you recorded ‘Leading Stolen Horses’? Did you all just naturally vibe off of each other? That’s certainly how it sounds to me and it's nothing short of magical.
Pete: That’s nice to hear. I think that the sum was greater than the parts in GD. I don’t remember it being much of a struggle to create and arrange songs. Leading Stolen Horses was recorded in 1985 after we’d been playing together for over a year. In March 1984 we recorded a demo, and in June 1984 we basically recorded every one of our songs, 28 I think, in one Marathon 8-9 hour recording session. At that Point we’d been playing together for about four months. Some of that still sounds pretty good to me. We were fairly prolific.
In 1986 the band did a six month long tour of the U.S.. I’ve done some touring myself and I can only imagine how trying a six month long tour could be. Do you have any interesting memories of that tour and do you think the tour ultimately ended the band?
Jay: We did tour in March and I remember being seriously underdressed, as far as warmth, for a tour that included the midwest and the east coast. (Pete has a pretty good recollection of our first week on the tour and our van’s first breakdown a couple hundred miles south of SF, close to where he grew up)
There were things like playing in So. CA, and the next gig in Austin TX and we didn’t have much time to get there, so had to drive straight through. I remember early on a Sunday morning driving in West Texas and marveling how I had not seen a car in either direction for a long time. The next thing I knew I was being pulled over by a cop for going 71 mph on a road with no one on it and our van had Texas plates. He made us follow him into town where we had to wait to see the judge. I couldn’t believe the irony. We paid some money, of course, and left town, slowly.
(Once again, someone else may remember better than I but I recall we got to Austin just in time for the gig that was at a university café?? In the afternoon? We all seemed quite out of place.)
Playing in Iowa City was a bit of a homecoming since both Doug and Eric had roots there. We got to see Matt Hall again, always a pleasure. And I found out many years later that a couple of the future Thinking Fellers were at the show.
Disjointed memories for sure……we were in Providence and playing scrabble one night very late and the rules were morphed so words were counted that weren’t necessarily in the dictionary. But if you could come up with a plausible definition, and there was consensus that this could be a new word in the English language, it was okay. As the early morning hours ticked by we got so good expanding the language that we couldn’t stop laughing and didn’t realize people were sleeping. The next thing we knew, a dump truck appeared in the living room and proceeded do unload seven yards or rock salt, iron, cat litter and golf balls on us. Needless to say the night was over.
Just after that we were close to NYC and stoked about playing at CBGB’s. We were heading up to Boston and stopped into a record store in New Haven CT. As I recall, Pete saw a Francoise Hardy record but didn’t buy it. We all know that gnawing feeling of sleeping a deal, so on the way back Pete insisted, we stop to get the record. So, we did and lo and behold the record was still there. Pete scored. We jumped back in the van, turned the key and nothing, the damn thing never started. For days the van sat in front of that record store. We couldn’t do a damn thing about it. When you have no money, there aren’t many options but to wait it out until a garage opened and could fix the van. I think we called the club or the promoter and someone yelled at us. We sat in the van and cried, and drank.
Pete: The tour was actually just under six weeks in duration. That seemed long enough! Four of us in a 1971 Ford Econoline van, sleeping on strangers’ floors, getting paid next to nothing, Doug eating brown sugar cinnamon Pop Tarts, Eric eating rice cakes, sometimes laughing, sometimes yelling, meeting new and interesting people and bands, seeing parts of the country I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, etc. I met Jay’s parents and siblings and Doug’s family, too, and they were all so nice. Doug’s mom played a cassette tape of Doug singing “Just the Way You Are” at his school; that was pretty cool! Or not.
I don’t regret any of it. The van threw a rod in Utah and that was the end of the tour. Jay flew home, and the rest of us rented a U-Haul and drove home, with Eric in the back of the truck, mostly. I remember when we got to Elko, Nevada, and I saw a San Francisco Chronicle and feeling how close we were to home. Everyone in Elko seemed to be pregnant, have a moustache, or both.
By the time Closely Watched Trains was released in 1986, the band had unfortunately broken up. I know you were all involved in other musical projects, can you tell us a little about those bands?
Pete: Closely Watched Trains was released in 1987. We had split up in December, 1986. regarding other projects/ bands, I think the Acid Chickens should be mentioned first. That was the four of us, with the only rule that couldn’t do what you did in Glorious Din. So I “sang”, played bass, or played guitar. We made up a bunch of songs and played a party or two as the Acid Chickens. It was very silly.
Doug and I were in the Koel Family (until 1989), Koel Brothers (acoustic duo), and Electric Koels (with Metal Mike Saunders on drums). You can find the Koel Family on Bandcamp and Youtube. Doug was involved in a lot of other bands/ projects at the time.
Jay: The last GD show in 1986 at the 10th St space was interesting because we shared the bill with Stiff Legged Sheep, from Iowa. Matt Hall, GD’s original bass player had moved back to Iowa and was now touring with Stiff Legged Sheep, so having him as a part of the last show seemed fitting. The space was a warehouse on 10th St. in SF. As it turned out my last GD show was my first World of Pooh show. I played in World of Pooh 1986- 1990 with Barbara Manning on bass and Brandan Kearney on guitar. Brandan saw me play “drums” in GD on the one night we closed a show (at the Farm opening for the Flaming Lips) with our alter ego band the Acid Chickens. The only rule in the Acid Chickens was that you could not play anything you played in GD. So I got behind the drum kit for a rendition of the VU’s “What Goes On”. After this Brandan asks me to play drums in WOP. I told him it was a joke and I don’t really play the drums. But he insisted. World of Pooh was another band that like GD is in the “one and done” tour club. Around the same time I was in Archipelago Brewing Co and Harry’s Picket Fence with Doug and Pete. After that I played drums in the Thinking Fellers forever.
Leading Stolen Horses and Closely Watched Trains have become Iconic post-punk albums; do you prefer one over the other and were there different approaches to the writing of each album?
Pete: I think that the songs are pretty strong on both albums, and each album has its merits. I prefer the production on Leading Stolen Horses as that album sounds like we did live. Some of the songs on Closely watched Trains were written prior to the recording of the first album, by the way.
We weren’t in agreement on the production approach to Closely Watched Trains. I’m sure that someone else will expand on this topic.
Back in 1983 when you guys first started writing music and playing shows did you think there would be such an interest in that music nearly 40 years later?
Pete: I thought that what were doing was worthwhile and should have had more exposure at the time. I certainly didn’t foresee the internet providing so much exposure for previously obscure things, like GD. I’m not really sure how interest there is in us.
Doug: I'm glad there is an interest in it after all this time. As Pete used to say, "We've suffered for our art, now it's your turn." Still, I think there is an underlying universality to it. The music and the words were not about things or places or people. The songs are about people moving through a vast indifferent universe, and that keeps it fresh to me.
Jay: No, the thought never crossed my mind. I suppose it is a lesson to document work in case there is interest sometime in the future. Thanks for being interested in Glorious Din.
Watch the full 1986 Glorious Din concert filmed at The Farm in San Francisco