Songwriter and electro pop star Ani Glass shares with us her relationship with creativity, how to interview Croatian football legends, and why Paul McCartney says it all.
Where are you from and how does it influence your work?
I’m from Cardiff and it certainly has had a profound influence on my work. However, I would say that the influence has been far greater after having lived away in England for a number of years then returning to what felt like a completely different city. The scale of the changes that had taken place in Cardiff had altered my perception of what and where I felt was home. It was therefore a gradual process of getting to know this new yet familiar place, and so this process had a huge influence not only on my work as an artist and a musician, but also on my approach to creating in general.
Where are you while you answer these questions, and what can you see when you look up from the page/screen?
I’m in my studio/office at home in Cardiff. Beneath the screen are a number of post-its with endless to-do lists, and around me is my musical and recording equipment which mostly consist of synths. I recently completed a PhD and so I have a number of books relating to my research that are lying around, some still waiting to be read! (I hope my supervisors don’t see this).
What motivates you to create?
I wouldn’t say it was anything in particular. For me, the urge to create happens quite sporadically and not as frequent as I would like – which is probably why I take so long to create a body of work. It requires an alignment of a lot of physical and mental energy which generates the focus required to create something that I feel would be of value. When I’m not motivated to create, I spend a lot of time collecting ideas for lyrics, themes, and visuals, and this helps to focus the mind when I’m motivated to create.
What are you currently working on?
I’m currently working on my second album; it’s coming along very nicely and I’m really happy with how it’s progressing so far. I’ve been working really hard to push myself both creatively and as a musician. Inspired by Arthur Russell, I started taking cello lessons this year and I can honestly say that it’s the first time that I’ve ever truly felt connected to an instrument. I absolutely love it (though I don’t suppose that the neighbours feel the same!). So, safe to say, the cello will make an appearance throughout the new record.
When do you work?
When I get my rare bursts of energy to create, I try to do my best to take advantage of them. I wouldn’t necessarily say that I work better at any particular hour but when I do work, they tend to be long hours. I get lost in the process and time tends to fly.
How important is collaboration to you?
In all honesty, other than being in bands, I haven’t really collaborated all that much as a solo artist. Initially, I felt that it was important for me to find my feet and my sound, and to get to know myself a bit better creatively before embarking on any collaborative projects. By now, working alone is more of a habit than anything else and one that I’m trying to challenge. I recently travelled to Canada to take part in events and workshops hosted by the Global Network for Women Music Producers, and this was my first real opportunity in a number of years to collaborate in a creative environment and I must say, it was really liberating.
Who has had the biggest impact on your work?
I always say this and probably always will but for me it has to be Martin Rushent. We (The Pipettes) were fortunate enough to record our second album with Martin at his home studio in Pangbourne and the whole process from start to finish was such a rich learning experience. From learning about recording techniques and how to achieve the best performances, to creating a comfortable, creative and friendly working environments – it was such a gift. We were practically living with him and his wonderful family for a number of months, it’s a period of time that I will never forget.
How would you describe your oeuvre?
I’d probably say that it’s an ever-evolving, work in progress. Whilst my output varies in approach and in the method that I might choose to use – be it music, photography, art – I’d like to think that most of it has been built on a solid foundation, as in; it has depth, value and meaning (to me at least!).
What was the first book you remember reading?
We were lucky enough to have a lot (and I mean a lot!) of books in the house when we were growing up. Our Dad used to write Cornish stories and poems which he would read to us each night before we went to sleep – I used to love that. Having said that, I don’t remember being an avid reader as a child but one book in particular that I do remember coming back to time and time again was a book of children’s poetry called Drws Dychymyg (Door of Imagination). It was full of poems and wonderful illustrations and there was one poem in particular that I remember called Traeth y Pigyn by T. Llew Jones which, if I remember correctly, was about the poet asking a friend to come with them to the beach – and I absolutely loved it.
What was the last book you read?
I just read a book about the history of the Balkans as I was preparing to interview the Croatian footballing legend Davor Šuker as part of the Wal Goch festival (which is an annual festival for football fans). Given the relatively recent historical events that led to the Croatian national team being established, I felt that it was really important to have at least a basic knowledge of the political context of that country. I love interviewing people and hosting panel discussions, learning about where people have come from, where they’re going, their hopes and dreams – it’s really rewarding.
Is there a painting/sculpture you struggle to turn away from?
I don’t think there is one in particular, because for me, the art that I connect with all depends on what kind of day it is, the weather, my mood, where I am etc. For example, when I’ve been lucky enough to visit St Ives, there’s nothing better than experiencing the splendour of Barbara Hepworth’s sculptures in the space that they were created and in the place that inspired them. It really is quite magical. My favourite artists are Joan Miró, Alice Neel and Agnes Martin so anything by them brings me great joy. Martin is good for times of contemplation, Miro for those times that are more hectic and Neel for when you feel that need to connect to people.
Who is the musical artist you know you can always return to?
It has to be Paul McCartney. Beyond all the pop music that I was listening to as a teenager, The Beatles were the first band that I ever really connected with. I remember that we had the Anthology at home and I’d rush back from school each day to read it – I was completely obsessed. It was Paul’s sense of melody that I connected with the most, even in early songs such as All My Loving, not only is the melody itself wonderful, but the bass has its very own melody too. It was because of Paul that I picked up a bass. But even beyond his musical genius, I am absolutely in awe of his boundless energy and his need to continue creating – much that same as one of my other heroes Philip Glass. I hope to have even just a tiny fraction of that when I’m older.
During the working process of your last work, in those quiet moments, who was closest to your thoughts?
I started working on my upcoming album during lockdown – a very bizarre time indeed – and so there were many quiet moments for me. I suppose loss was a theme that was overtly present in all of our lives and so I would spend a lot of time thinking about those who had left us. More recently, and strangely enough both myself and my sister have been thinking a lot about our Grandma and the time we had spent with her in the Isle of Wight when we were younger. Christmases there were magical – she used to have huge wardrobes in one of the bedrooms and I genuinely believed that they would one day take us to Narnia.
Do you believe in God?
By traditional measures, I’d probably lean towards saying no. I don’t attend church (though I used to as a child), and I don’t pray to any God in particular, but I’d be fairly willing to accept that there once was a good man named Jesus that lived around 2000 years ago. But the overall principle of trying your best to be a good person, to treat other people well and to make fair and balanced choices is of course something I can get behind, religion or no religion.
Do you believe in the power of art to change society?
Of course! Art both reflects and influences culture and society and studying it is always a good way of measuring the momentum and direction of change at any given time. It can inspire us, anger us, challenge us or even just pass us by but it will always manage to leave its mark on us in some way. And of course, it comes in so many forms so, technically speaking, there’s something out there for everyone – a medium that helps us to understand or explain the world, to communicate with one another in a way that reflects us as individuals but also connects us as people.
Which artist working in your area, alive and working today, do you most admire and why?
That’s a really difficult question, there isn’t one in particular that jumps out so I’m more inclined to name a few as it feels more representative of my creative experience in Cardiff. In terms of sheer volume of output, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone more proliffic than Gruff Rhys. I think he’s released three or four albums in the time that I’ve released one! Quite remarkable! In terms of creativity in her exploration of sound, I would absolutely say Teddy Hunter. She’s such a fantastic artist. Dave Bull and Esther who run Paradise Garden on City Road in Roath do such a wonderful job of creating the most wonderful, open, interesting and dynamic environment to be in both as an artist and a music lover. They’re also great DJs and musicians too!
What is your relationship with social media?
It’s something that I don’t particularly enjoy and would rather avoid if I could, but I think as an independent artist, it’s difficult to find more effective and efficient ways to promote your work. The environment on these platforms has most certainly changed over the years, and not in a positive way either – I’m sure most of us would agree with that. But most of all, it takes up so much of our time, time that could be far better spent elsewhere.
What has been/is your greatest challenge as an artist?
For me, I think maintaining a sense of motivation and discipline, especially when you’re creating alone. It’s quite difficult to get things over the line, especially when you’re very nearly almost there with a project (which I am at the moment).
Do you have any words of advice for your younger self?
Just get on with it, make the thing!
What does the future hold for you?
I’m really excited about my next creative chapter. I’ve been working hard to develop ideas for my new album that try to push the boundaries of the traditional format for releasing music. It’s taken a long while to build a sonic and visual world that I feel proud of and that I think people will find interesting and eager to engage with, but sometime next year I’ll finally be ready to share what I’ve been working on for this whole time. I’m interested in many aspects of the arts world, from music and photography to fashion and painting and I’ve always been keen to try to pull these together somehow, so hopefully this next album/project will take me a step closer towards realising this.
You can find out more about the music of Ani Glass here.
(Header image by Rhodri Brooks)