Glitterer: Ned Russin Speaks on the Necessity of Connecting With Others Through Art

(Photo credit: Toby Hughes)

Last year, Glitterer released their sophomore album with Anti- Records, contemplatively titled Life Is Not a Lesson. While most of you probably recognize Ned Russin from Title Fight or one of his numerous other bands, including Bad Seed and Disengage among others, he’s been sticking pretty solidly with Glitterer in the last few years. He serves as the band’s primary vocalist, bassist, and songwriter. 

Glitterer’s electronic-tinged brand of alternative rock takes influence from various subgenres, while still keeping an edge of the raw punk sound that Russin grew up with. The result is something truly distinctive and individualized, and I’d be hard-pressed to tell you another band that sounds just like them.

This interview was held in early 2021, as a part of Resonating Zine #4. After many requests, I’ve decided to publish this one for everyone to read, as I really enjoyed my conversation with Ned. Keep reading to hear some insight on Life Is Not a Lesson, switching from more collaborative projects to having more creative control, writing his first book, connecting with others through art during the pandemic, and more.

This interview was originally published in Issue 4 of Resonating Zine, released in May 2021. It appears alongside interviews with Raw Life, Draw the Line, and Fake Eyes. There’s a handful of them still available in our online shop if you’re interested in picking up a physical copy!

(Photo credit: Chrisy Ivette)

AA: Please introduce yourself with your name, what you do in Glitterer, and a random fact about yourself.

NR: Sure! My name is Ned, I play everything but the drums in Glitterer, and an interesting fact about myself is that...  My middle name is Basil.

AA: Though we’re not focusing on one of your hardcore projects, this is always an interesting question to me. Who played your first hardcore show? What impact did that have on keeping you involved in music in general?

NR: The first show I ever went to was a benefit show that my brother booked for our cousin who was in a car accident. My brother Alex is 7 years older than me, so he was getting into punk and hardcore when I was just a kid. So, I went to my first show when I was 7 years old, and it was all local hardcore bands from Wilkes-Barre, and I didn’t really understand it at the time. I don't really remember much of the show firsthand, but I have a lot of secondhand memories from, you know, talking about the show, from knowing the flyer very well, from having seen pictures and stuff. 

I think the biggest thing for me is that it felt approachable. It felt realistic in a way that, at the time, being a kid, other music didn’t, because it was being played live in front of me, by people I knew, because they were my brother's friends. It just felt like it was something that anybody could do. And, to me, that was cool, and as I've gotten older that's become... I don't know, really empowering in a way, so that's something I've always taken from hardcore. It's something that I still think is important to this day.

Album art

AA: What does the title Life Is Not a Lesson mean to you?

NR: The title of the record comes from the title of the song, which comes from a lyric within that song.  I don't usually like explaining the meanings of lyrics because I think it’s usually just a really difficult task, one that makes me, I don’t know... Talk in circles around something that I feel like is concise and specific to begin with. Like, I can never say it as well as I said it in the song, you know? 

But the idea of Life Is Not a Lesson...  To me, it makes the most sense in the context of the record. The record has a lot about want and desire for a lot of different things, and Life Is Not a Lesson is kind of looking at the reason for those desires. Maybe not the reason, [but] the way in which those things can make us feel inadequate, the ways in which those things feel separated from one another, the ways in which those things can make human beings not feel like they're human beings, like they are just some sort of example or something, and I think that's a dangerous route and one which can lead to a lack of empathy. I think that can be particularly harmful, especially in an era like this one.

AA: After years of being in bands where you collaborate with multiple people, what is it like to do a project where you hold a majority of the creative control?

NR: It's difficult, for sure! It requires a lot more...  Worrying. I enjoy collaborating with people, I think that's the best thing in the world to do. And I didn’t really set out on doing Glitterer to free myself of that or not have to deal with it. It was merely circumstantial. I was living in New York, I was busy with other things, and I didn't really have the time or the space to work with other people, so I just started working on these songs and kinda kept going from there. 

Now, there are certain aspects of it that I enjoy. I like being in charge of every aspect of a band, everything from the songs, to the artwork, to whatever kind of logistical decisions have to be made. I like being responsible for that, but at the same time, it's nice just to spend time with other people, to build something together, to work towards some sort of goal - and the goal is just playing music. I don't think that I'm going to continue to play music by myself for the rest of my life, but I enjoy doing it, you know? And, ideally, I could do both. 

AA: Is that burden lessened a little when you work with other people? For example, I know you’ve worked with producers, Alex G for a little while, your brother [Ben Russin], and so on.

NR: Yeah! Those kinds of things are great, and they kind of allow me, who is really close to the songs and the overall project that I'm working on, be it a record or something else - it allows me to have some space from that, and also [for others to] just give some affirmation, which is really helpful. Even when you have an idea that doesn't change, one that is good to go or is just an idea that's totally fine, just the act of having someone else tell you that it's okay is actually very helpful sometimes, you know? It's just having someone there to bounce ideas off of, even if they're just saying “cool.” It kind of lightens the mood in a way that is very beneficial. Working on a record completely on my own was difficult because I’m not used to making all those decisions. And, at the very least, someone just giving the “okay” can help. I kind of had to figure out a way to step out of the project, outside of the record, and give myself the okay at a certain point.

AA: When you’re working by yourself and you come up with an idea you’re not too sure about, it’s very easy to say, “Well, I could throw this away and no one could ever see it.” So, that outside affirmation does help with accountability sometimes. 

NR: Yeah, yeah. You know, it's a difficult line to walk, because there are certain decisions where you want to go against what anyone else is telling you, you're so sure in it, and then there’s times when you're just... I don't know, it's an idea that for some reason makes you feel a little bit uneasy, and just having someone say, “it’s good,” can really ease that apprehension. 

(Photo credit: Toby Hughes)

AA: You’ve been through a lot of different bands, creating several genres of music. Has any project felt more natural to you, or do you feel equally connected to all of them?

NR: I’d say I feel equally connected to all of them. I don't know, I like music, and to me... I don't really think about the styles, I just kind of think about the music itself. I'm not really interested in genres or separation. I don't know, I like different sounds and I like different tones and styles and whatever, but to me, it all makes sense together. Playing in different bands is kind of tapping into those different parts of the same thing to me.

AA: I’ve always been really fascinated with the shorter song structure that Glitterer tends to follow. Are the songs short on purpose, or is that something that happens naturally?

NR: At first, it was pretty on purpose. I felt like I didn't want to bore people. I didn't want to be excessive, and to me, having, like, 3 choruses, felt extremely excessive. I don't really feel the need to repeat a part just because that's what is normal within songwriting. I felt like, I have these parts, they go together and they’re good, and that's all I need to do. That also probably came from some sort of insecurity, I think, just from doing something by myself and never having done that before, and trying to mess around with some new instruments and stuff. but eventually it kind of came to a point where the song structure and the song length felt sensical in a way. I would write a song and assume that it was a little bit longer, and when I sat down to record it, it turned out that it was only, like, a minute and fifteen seconds or something. And I feel like I just kind of had this kind of subconscious clock that I was just working around. It felt like, when I got to that moment, the song was done to me. Certain songs have been a little bit longer, and maybe it's not going to be short songs forever, but it's just what feels right and what I'm writing right now.

AA: What is your process when mapping out music videos for each song? Is that also something done by yourself, or is it more collaborative?

NR: The music videos are not really my thing - the videos that I have worked with were in collaboration! The last record, all the videos were done by Chris Tharp, who is a really good friend of mine and a talented director and cinematographer. We kind of discussed certain things, some visual thematics, but he kind of came up with the things and I had final say on specific shots and specific ideas but I wanted it to be his project. I wanted it to be his way of expressing himself and I was very much into letting him do that. Chris did another video for this record, he did the title track, the video on the beach.

I was a little bit more involved in the video my brother Ben did [for “Are You Sure?”], but I wasn't really involved in coming up with shots. Him and I were kind of going back and forth about very loose concepts, and we both talked about doing the zoom-out kind of video. That was kind of the basis of the whole idea. He kind of came up with the very loose concept and I had veto power over certain things, ‘cause I was trying to push for a certain kind of non-narrative video that had some kind of consistency, but that was another example of wanting to allow someone to use the video as kind of their own art.

That was exciting for me, because Ben is my brother, and I like working with him a lot. He’s really into video editing, has been since we were kids, but it's not something he's ever done in that capacity. Like, you know - we used to make movies when we were kids, and he's done some montage editing and stuff - he did one for Title Fight for the world tour video, he edited that, and he's done some stuff with my family, but he's never done anything in this capacity,  so it was really cool to work with him like that.

AA: It's probably kind of interesting to kind of give the music over to see someone else’s perception of what the visuals should be, you know?

NR: Yeah! No, no, exactly. 

Photo from Specialist Subject Records

AA: Have you been working on any other creative projects over the pandemic?

NR: Yeah, I'm working on a book that should be out hopefully at the end of this month [to] early next month. We’re in the final stages of that. I've been working on that for, like, three years now. So that'll be coming out on Shining Life Press out of  DC, and that's been a lot of work. We’re at the very end stages of working on that, we’re just kind of proofreading at this point, trying to get some proofs of the book in to approve them, and then, as soon as that's all good to go, we’re going to put it up.

Other than that, no. I've been working on more music for Glitterer, trying to always be active with that, just kind of for my own sanity. Just having something to do. But other than that, no, I don't know. I've just been kind of  staying put, reading, listening to music... I got a job, so I go to work 9-5, and then come home and just try to be a normal human being, enjoy the things that I like, and pursue the things that I wanna do, and... Yeah, you know? [laughs] Just kind of living just like everybody else, I guess.

AA: What are some pieces of media you’ve been enjoying lately?

NR: Hmm. That Killing Frost demo just came out, and I've been listening to that quite a bit. Worn put out a LP that I've been listening to. I read a book by this writer Percival Everett called Telephone recently that I really enjoyed. That was really great, that came out last year. I'm trying to think of what else... Oh! I just read this comic by this writer Alex Graham called Dog Biscuits, she did that over COVID and just posted it all on Instagram, and she collected the whole story in a self-published book. That was really really good. That’s kind of all. 

I try and engage with contemporary stuff as much as I can, ‘cause I think that's really important and I just enjoy keeping up with stuff. But then, also, like... I've been listening to The Beatles kind of non-stop, and a lot of their solo projects and stuff. So... Yeah, that's a pretty good mix of what I've been enjoying over the last I don't know month or so.

(Photo credit: Toby Hughes)

AA: For sure! I think it’s nice in a way, because of COVID, stuff has still been coming out, but maybe not at the rapid rate that it used to, which gives you time to revisit things - like The Beatles - that you’ve been loved for a long time, because there’s not so much of a rush to check out other things.

NR: Yeah! It’s an interesting time to be putting out music, movies, books or anything, just because  it really is important, but at the same time, I feel like so many people are looking at this from a business perspective, and looking at how to make the most money off what they're doing. And putting out something in any form right now is probably just, like, the “wrong” time to do it, because if you’re a band, you can’t go on tour, which is really important to a record, you know? Like, if you're putting out a movie. you can't put it in theaters right now, which is obviously really important. If you're a writer, you can't go on a book tour to bookstores, which is really beneficial. So, all these things are just put on hold, and you kind of just have to hope people are going to seek out whatever you're doing and engage with it as if, you know... [laughs] As if what is happening isn’t happening, to some certain extent, you know?

And it requires a lot of faith in that, but also just being a human being that also exists in this, having something new to look forward to has been really beneficial to me. Having new music and books and movies to engage with over COVID has...  [laughs] I don't want to say it’s made things better, but I've enjoyed just, like, having something to do. Having something to talk about. Having something to sometimes just distract myself with. I think, like, all those things are really important. So yeah, if you wanna play the real...  Whatever, business game of things, this is a bad time to be involved in creative endeavors. But at the same time, it’s a really great time to be involved with it, because people have time, people need it, and it's important for the people making it, and for the people receiving it.

AA: Yeah! So, I used to just do a blog, but I started my zine back up sometime last year because I felt like people weren't really connecting over music as much, maybe because it felt like kind of an inappropriate time to a lot of people to seek out things like entertainment. And that’s what was cool, doing zines, bands putting out music and stuff - it provides a way to connect, even though we obviously can’t go to shows and catch up like we used to.

NR: Yeah. Yeah. It's so weird. [laughs] It's something that I've talked a little bit about before, but... I  don't think of the music I make as “fun.” And I don't engage in music for “fun,” I feel like I kind of have an antagonistic relationship with the word, just because, to me, it connotes as [having] an impersonal kind of relationship with whatever it is that you’re talking about, you know? So, I feel like the things that I do and the things that I wanna be involved with are things that are a little bit more challenging than just “fun.” But, given all that's been going on for, like, a year now, it's like... Sometimes I kinda just want fun at the moment. You know?

AA: Yeah. You’re still human at the end of the day.

NR: Yeah! And if somebody wants to listen to the music that I've made for “fun,” and not to like, analyze the lyrics and think about the melodies and stuff, that's totally... I mean, it should always be cool with me. Maybe I have a little bit of, like, a snooty attitude towards that, and maybe this was a good wake-up call. But, yeah. People just need to have something to focus on that isn't COVID, and the death count, and police killings. I think the stuff that you engage with should be aware of that, hopefully involved with it, like, you know - attempting, if not to remedy it, offer some sort of solace, but there’s also nothing wrong with just sitting around and not thinking about that, you know?

(Photo credit: Farrah Skeiky)

AA: On a brighter note - once shows come back, is there a particular place you’re excited to come back to? Or, you know, are you just excited for the whole thing? [laughs]

NR: I’m just excited for the whole thing. To me, the most important shows are shows at home for me in Wilkes-Barre, that’s really always been really just important to me. But there are so many places that I enjoy going to, there’s so many people that I haven’t seen in so long, just spread across the country and the world, who normally I was able to see pretty often from playing in a band and going on tour, and now they’re people that I haven't gotten to see for a long time now. So, you know, going out and just doing that again is something that I’m just really looking forward to. Obviously, some places I have a sentimental connection to, but really, the most important thing to me is just always playing music. So if I can play music anywhere, I'll go there.

AA: Hopefully this doesn’t sound like too existential of a question - it wasn’t meant to be, but reading it back, it kind of sounds like one. [laughs] What does the future look like for you at the moment?

NR: Hmm. That is a fairly existential question, [laughs] but I think I'm just taking it like everybody else. I’m kind of just taking it one day at a time. Seeing what is right to do, with regard to whatever kind of new protocol [there is] for how to interact with other people. [laughs] Ideally, when people can gather again, I'll play shows! And I'll work on new music. I mean, I’m doing that already, and I’ll just be able to continue doing that... Continue working on things that I’ve been working on, music and writing, and whatever. I don’t know. I don’t think too far into the future. Especially not right now, you know? But, to me, it’s just always kind of been the same goal. Go and play music.

AA: For sure! Again, apologies for the existentialism. [laughs] 

NR: [laughs] Oh, no, that’s nothing to apologize for.

AA: Any last words you want to close on?

NR: Ahh... No! Thank you for talking to me, I really appreciate it. 

AA: Yeah! Same goes for you, I really appreciate it, thank you.

Thank you again to Ned for speaking with Resonating. This was one of the last few interviews I did before shows came back, almost exactly a year ago, so it’s kind of interesting and nostalgic to see us discussing how we were both processing music then. We both ended up revisiting older favorites because music releases had slowed down (the exact opposite of how it is currently), we both searched for a way to reach out to others using our art, and we were both very excited for shows to come back. It was a very solitary time for most people, but I think a lot of us who are heavily invested in music ended up having a lot of the same thoughts and desires.

 As I said above, I really enjoyed having this conversation, and I hope everyone else enjoys reading it.

If you’d like to keep up with Glitterer online, you can do so via the links below:

Twitter | Facebook | Instagram | Bandcamp | Merch

Listen to Life Is Not a Lesson on Spotify below:


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