Bill represented the uncompromising artist I always dreamed of being. He didn’t care if anyone appreciated his music (to the point where he never bothered to share it with anyone). He only made music for himself to listen to because he couldn’t find the type of music he wanted to hear anywhere else.
Its hard to describe that attitude without it being perceived as arrogant or selfish, but he made the music he wanted to hear the same way he would cook food he wanted to eat. He needed to hear something and since no one was giving it to him, he gave it to himself. When he did share his work with interested parties, he never presented his music as if it were a product of his own personality or talent. He judged it by whether or not it satisfied him as a listener rather than toot his own horn as the creator.
I first began recording songs when I was around 13. The songs were honest and personal but also attempts at making music to satisfy my specific tastes. I had melodies stuck in my head at all times and the only way to get them out of my mind was to record them. The recordings never sounded like they did in my conscience, but much like any other virus the only way to kill them was to introduce a weaker strain, so when they were properly recorded, they’d stop harassing my thoughts. This happened for years.
The concept that no one would hear any of my work afforded me the luxury to experiment. I toyed with every sound I could and attempted to fuse styles and genres I’d dreamed of hearing to together.
Composing & recording (aka “producing” or whatever) was a form of therapy. I never shared them with anyone because I didn’t need recognition from others to feel satisfied, nor did I want to impose. If anything, sharing them with others would have felt arrogant.
When I first met Bill I confessed that I had recorded close to 2,000 songs since I was 13 and had only let a handful of people hear them. He reassured me that he had 13,000 unreleased songs.
One of the first things I ever put out was a video of me and him making a beat. Bill didn’t care for my music but I didn’t expect him to. He recognized what my process meant to me as I did his. He had been programming classical songs using MiDI starting in the early 90s and his entire collection stood in his apartment behind his desk, burned onto CD-Rs.
When I put out that video of us “making music” things changed for me. I started getting fans and attention for something that for years I had never bothered to share. Suddenly i dealt with other people’s feedback as if they were the audience I was trying to appeal to. People who didn’t necessarily care about my inspirations were giving me feedback, not knowing where I was coming from. Instead of chasing the ideal songs I heard in my head I’d catch myself chasing what I thought would impress a faceless audience that I knew absolutely nothing about. As my career progresses, critics continue investing energy and expectation in my work and whether or not I care about their opinions, the knowledge that someone is picking through something I made as a secret to myself is always off-putting.
If you’re naked in a room full of mirrors you better be comfortable with your body, but if you find out that those mirrors are windows for a crowd you cant see, staring at you from behind them, you better be really comfortable.
I’ve been doing fine with criticism (and haven’t drifted too far from my original habits to be honest) but I know that I will never experience the purity of being able to do something without others expecting anything of it. Im proud to have experimented in secrecy for about a decade and I owe all of my musical knowledge to the space I was afforded in that time. I have thousands of obnoxious songs as reminders of how weird things could get if society isn’t there to reel me in.
Bill managed to live his entire life that way. He wrote his first song when he was 17 and died in his late 80s. When I tell people about his story they often assume he’s cowardly for never releasing anything. I personally have never met any artist as true to his work. Bill was the realest producer I’ve ever met and an irreplaceable inspiration to me.
R.I.P. William Glenn