Top L-R: Doug Graves, Cunnus (The Metal Witch), Fancy Cymballs,
Bottom L-R: Kandi Moon, Wendy Stonehenge, Lorfin Terrafor
Photo Credit: Tash de Valois (New Pleasure Photos IG: @newpleasure.photos)
Glitter Wizard is both a dream come true and an utter nightmare for a music journalist.
On the one hand, the long-running San Francisco-based band’s sprawling musical vocabulary and eclectic discography are enough to make even the most jaded scribe stand up and take notice. On the other hand, how in the ever-loving hell does this journalist even begin to do the band’s esoteric explorations justice with mere words? Simply put, Glitter Wizard is something you need to listen to and see live—and not simply read about—to fully understand.
With my nifty get-out-of-jail-free card of an introduction out of the way, please allow me to direct your attention to the band’s latest release, Kiss the Boot. Out now on Kitten Robot Records, this six-song EP is simultaneously the most accessible and most head-scratchingly unconventional chapter in the group’s history. A drastic departure from the band’s past efforts (which at times have sounded like Master of Reality-era Sabbath jamming with Fun House-era Stooges), Kiss the Boot finds Glitter Wizard in full-on Sweet-meets-Slade ’70s Glam mode—complete with a cover of “Suffragette City” (a tune by some guy who had a hit or two back in the day) and a suitably outlandish image that straddles the line between piss-take and sincere homage.
What do Glitter Wizard’s Kiss the Boot’s originals sound like, then? Oh, Christ, here comes the tough part. Okay … imagine The Darkness covering The Supersuckers with Kim Fowley in the producer’s chair.
Yeah, that’ll do.
To take in some of the Kiss the Boot phenomenon for yourself, check out the freshly baked video for “Glitterati”—which sees the band transformed into puppets performing on the fictitious (and brilliantly ’70s) variety show Pop Toppings—below.
(Seriously, watch this thing. This is the best video you’ll see this year. Trust me.)
Although Kiss the Boot is unlike anything else Glitter Wizard has ever conceived, guitarist Lorfin Terrafor sees it as just another example of the band’s moving-target nature.
“[Our fans] are seeing a different chapter, and that’s kind of the beauty we’ve always had with this band. If you sat down and listened to each album, they’re all quite different. The excitement the fanbase is having is, ‘Wow, this is something completely different!’”
Delivering “something completely different” is the spirit behind the Glitter Wizard’s annual “Hallorager” events—full concerts that pay tribute to a specific artist each year. Past honorees include The Damned, Funkadelic, The Piper at the Gates of Dawn-era Pink Floyd, The Seeds, Blue Öyster Cult, The Cars, The New York Dolls, and Alice Cooper. Currently, the band boasts more than 100 songs—including the most extraordinary and original rendition of a Black Sabbath song this writer has ever heard—in its covers repertoire.
“Every time you cover a song, you learn about how other people play,” bassist Kandi Moon explains. “You can get into their mindset, which helps us switch gears but not force it.”
Kiss the Boot was conceived during the COVID-19 lockdown, which found the members of Glitter Wizard trading demos remotely instead of their traditional practice of writing songs together in person.
“It was cool to experiment with the songwriting; it was more melody-based instead of Lorfin coming up with crazy riffs and [singer] Wendy [Stonehenge] trying to figure out where his vocals go,” observes Moon, who relocated to San Diego during the pandemic. “[This EP] was kind of built around his vocals, and we got to demo stuff—which we hadn’t really done before. Regardless of the direction it goes from here, I’d like to continue the demoing, because I think it roots out a lot of bullshit and you can really hear what works and what doesn’t.”
Paul Roessler, a veteran musical alchemist whose career has included stints with The Screamers, 45 Grave, and his group, Twisted Roots, recorded Kiss The Boot at LA’s Kitten Robot Studios.
“Being Screamers fans, we were stoked!” Moon says of having Roessler involved in the project. “It was like, ‘Seriously? Paul Roessler from the fucking Screamers is going to record it?’ I just wanted to go hang out with him. (laughs) He still has the synth with all the broken keys and stuff from The Screamers in the studio. Paul was great; he was very easy-going, super-accommodating, and willing to try everything.”
Roessler speaks well of the experimental—and ultimately liberating—nature of the Glitter Wizard sessions.
“When they came in, they said, ‘We want to record two different drum sets. We want to record a really live drum set, and then we want to record really dead drums.’ I try to be super-efficient—getting people in and out and saving them money. I was like, “For your six songs, we basically have to completely change the drum sound?’ (laughs) I thought to myself, ‘Oh, okay … that’s fancy,’ but I’ve got to say, it was fucking awesome. For the dead drums they made, they put towels over them and taped the shit out of them. It sounded so great; I didn’t even want to change them. It was cool that they had that much vision. Some songs had a Ringo, dead drum sound, and other songs had big, live, bombastic drums. I would have done a lot of that stuff on the back end [with mixing], but they wanted to do it on the front end—and that was revelatory and awesome.”
This approach is exemplified on the Kiss the Boot track “Sugar Beat,” an instantly memorable slice of ‘70s-style Glam.
“[Glitter Wizard manager] Bruce [Duff] and I kind of researched different tonal qualities for the drums to give it that muted-tom slapback mixed with the clap—like that classic Gary Glitter sound,” Moon recalls. “We tracked six tracks of all five of us clapping, so there’s like 30 claps on there drenched in the slapback delay. Bruce [who mixed the record] was like, ‘The feedback from the delay is louder than the clap,’ and that’s what gives it that weird, crunchy, slapback delay sound to it.”
Not surprisingly, the bassist left Kitten Robot Studios thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with a kindred sonic soul.
“Paul definitely has a lot on his plate [at the studio], but he was in it. He was picking up on stuff that I didn’t even notice […] He’s got a great ear.”
Kiss The Boot isn’t the first time that Glitter Wizard has worked with a Punk legend in the studio. The group’s 2011 album, Solar Hits, featured none other than Stooges saxophonist Steve Mackay on the tracks “Mirror Man” and “Summertime.” Mackay, who previously played with Glitter Wizard keyboardist Doug Graves in the band Liquorball, was a very welcome addition to the album sessions.
“When we found out that Steve was an option, it was basically a no-brainer,” Terrafor says. “It was like, ‘Are you kidding?!’ [The Stooges] was my favorite band growing up; that was what brought me into music. The moment he walked in, I just giggled!”
Naturally, Mackay’s appearance on Solar Hits stood out a mile—and not just for the obvious reasons that any Stooges fan would expect. While recording “Mirror Man,” he hit a bum note but soldiered on through the end of the track. Although Mackay was initially upset with himself for the goof, Terrafor and the rest of Glitter Wizard were pleasantly surprised by how well it fit the song.
“We listened back to it and said, ‘You know, we’re not too bothered.’ Sometimes, mistakes are hidden gems!”
The guitarist adds that Mackay suddenly dropped his sax and started yelling during the recording of the raucous freakout ending to “Summertime.”
“He was like, ‘I’m sorry. I was caught up in the moment! I felt the song really hard. I just wanted to yell.’ We were like, ‘That was perfect! You couldn’t have done anything better at that moment.’”
Twelve years after sending a sonic charge through a Stooge’s body, Glitter Wizard is still delivering the same experiences to audiences. With Kiss the Boot already the most acclaimed release of the band’s career (and with talk of European dates in 2024), this assemblage of try-anything musos is poised for an adventurous future—in whatever unpredictable direction it decides to go.
As Terrafor says, “Right when you think you get to know us, there’s a wild card!”