[Interview] Gladkill's Foundations, Art and Inspiration
It’s a muggy night in Atlanta. The lights outside the club are hazy and a soft gray sky is illuminated by brief flashes of heat lightning. It’s early July and this summer is already sweltering. Once the sun sets though, people come out to enjoy the relatively cooler nights. Aisle 5 has drawn a good crowd for the show tonight. The venue is setting a great tone for the summer with their lineup.
Nocturnal Status opens the show. They are a darker duo playing bass and downtempo dub. GemNeye, a local “live performance” artist follows their set, specializing in improvisational edm. Liferoot Music, a great blend of what he calls “meditative hiphop” plays b2b Dopethrown who blends live instrumentation and electronic sounds. Gladkill closes out the evening with a passionate set that reflected his desire to not conform to any one specific genre, but instead to draw from multiple influences to create a sound uniquely his own.
I met Boris Gladkill in the green room at Aisle 5 to interview him before his set. He is immediately comfortable to be around, laid back and all smiles, he leads me into the room where everyone is playing Pokemon Go. Some look up and wave at me, others are busy grinning at their phones. I ask Boris is we can step outside, so I can record the interview and he obliges. He has a scarf around his neck and this amuses me. The California native isn’t used to southeastern summers.
How is Foundations coming along?
Evan Sugarpill and I started Foundations a couple of years ago. We did the label thing in a time when collectives were coming up, we were trying to do the anti-collective thing, really just share music on its own. Where you didn’t have to have any affiliation or a crew, you just shared what you liked. At this point the label is more so an outlet for us to release music on. I’m actually in the process of changing it. I’m gonna start doing a Sunday afternoon live Twitch stream with it. It’s still going to be a label, my new album is coming out on it and a couple of other things, but for the most part I’m changing it to a music sharing platform. That includes a streaming show and singles. Short answer, it’s going well. Long answer, it’s becoming a pet project to share things with.
Tell me about the new LP After Death
It’s technically my first full-length album. I really went for a cohesive beginning to end story. The whole thing flows. It tells a story of love, loss, drug addiction, death...the abstract version of death like purgatory. “Into the void” vibes then into the funeral at the end. I’ve been focusing on the duality of light and dark lately in my entire aesthetic. Embracing the darker side to show that it can’t be all love and light, one is the foundation for the other. As good as people are that is as bad as they can be. We really need to embrace both. With this album I embrace that theme a lot. It’s got a lot of different material, very melodic tracks, there’s a couple of tracks I sing on, a couple of tracks I’ve got a vocalist on, there’s trappy stuff, there’s bass stuff, there’s downtempo stuff. It’s a really good collection of sounds. It’s coming out in September on my label Foundations.
So you sing?
I used to sing in a lot of indie rock and punk bands when I was starting out in high school. I’m working on a lot of other stuff that isn’t just Gladkill. Music is my life and this is just one of the outlets for it. I’m working on more live electronic stuff and non electronic stuff entirely. I don’t really want to talk about it until it’s ready.
Not even a hint?
Well, I do have a project that’s more a four on the floor project that I actually premiered at this year’s Lightning in a Bottle. The first album for that should be done at the beginning of next year and I’m really excited to share that. It’s really fun, it’s really different. I enjoy writing different genres. I’ve noticed that Gladkill fans really just wanna hear what they’re used to and I don’t want that to define me, so I’m working on different outlets.
Your album art is very particular, is there symbolism behind it?
I’ve actually always done my own graphic design for my art. It takes as much stress to make art to the song as it does to make the song sometimes. For this new album I have a UK artist Matt Bailey doing this black ink work. It’s all hand drawn stuff and it’s really cool stuff. Again, I’m touching on the darker aesthetic, the duality, embracing both. Beautiful death. The beauty in the morbid. Death is the only guarantee in life and it should be embraced as a beautiful eventuality.
How did you come to hold such distinctive beliefs?
Reading a lot, being very over anxious and analyzing throughout my high school and formative years. I listened to a lot of proggy stuff that really pushed the “think for yourself” agenda. I’m a fan of a lot of literature and philosophy and I love horror and sci-fi and I just started implementing that in my work. Everything I’m taking in is bleeding out through my art. It’s nice to combine all my interests into one. Foundations Recordings, the label name, It’s a series of books by a Russian sci-fi author named Isaac Asimov. The whole idea of that is the institution of logic fighting against a dying empire.
This is your second time playing in Atlanta. How was your first?
I played Terminal West a few years ago with G. Jones, it was a fantastic show. I’ve got a lot of friends who live in Georgia who are actually all working in live production, so it’s like ships passing in the night. We are never in the same place at once. I’m really happy to be back here.
This is one of the first shows where I’m playing the new material, trying different things, combining different sounds. Some four on the floor stuff, some trappy stuff, some bass stuff, I’m taking it all over the place. I’ve had some really good reactions to the live stuff despite no one having actually heard the material yet. I’m looking forward to seeing how people react here. Should be a special experience for me and the people that are here tonight.
The crowd in there looks really cool, I really like this venue and of course, Funktion One is always a treat for myself as much as it is for the fans. It’s an incredible sound system and I’m looking forward to hearing my tracks on that.
It turned out to be a special night indeed. We look forward to seeing what new sounds you have for us the future.
Check out his most recent single “Higher” which is already garnering attention among fans.