Changing And Evolving Over Time – A Q+A With Joseph Rusnak of Glo Phase

Photo provided by artist

Glo Phase (real name Joseph Rusnak) creates pulsing, textured electronic music that plunges the listener into a golden hour environment for the eardrums, wherein winking sunlight and encroaching shadows intermingle freely. He was kind enough to answer a few questions for Bored In Pittsburgh; check it out below.

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First off, how are you holding up during social distancing?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say it hasn’t been more difficult lately. Whereas I’ve gradually become more of an introvert over the years I’m still very much a sociable person and enjoy being out and about, often in crowds. Overall, I understand the importance of what we’re all doing; once I remember to put that into perspective with the fact that what we’re doing is only temporary it becomes much easier. I’ve been mostly productive both with work and fun music, maybe a little aimless, but productive nonetheless.

Cliche question early on; who are your biggest influences, musical or otherwise?

I’m just going to rattle off a list in no particular order: Parliament, Squarepusher, Django Reinhardt, Röyksopp, Debussy, Boards of Canada, Lone, Stereolab, Agnes Obel, Portishead, Pete Rock, Casino vs Japan, Brazilian Girls, Air, Erik Satie, A Tribe Called Quest, Stevie Wonder, DJ Shadow, The Clash, Jon Hopkins, Broken Social Scene, Connan Mockasin, John Coltrane, Machinedrum, Duran Duran, Cornelius, iamamiwhoami, Evil Needle, Todd Terje, Björk, King Tubby, Daft Punk, The Meters. I realize most on this list are older acts. Whereas I do listen to and draw some influence from all sorts of newer music the aforementioned are what I’m thinking had the most effect on my musical development. I feel as if I’d need some time to pass in order to see what newer music I’m absorbing influence wise.

The Glo Phase sound is simultaneously propulsive and dreamy. How do you view the relationship between these two impulses in your music?

Some Glo Phase gear, painted by @theeesoviet (photo provided by artist)

I’m not overly considerate of how that dynamic comes through in what I create, or what I create for that matter. From a listening standpoint I think it’s a fun juxtaposition though. Hitting a few moods simultaneously might elicit something more unique than just a basic, macro emotion (which are great as well). I suppose a simple answer is that I’m a fan of pretty music that has a bit of a mood to it but also love the way that dance music quite literally brings people together.

What role does texture play in your music? Whenever I listen to your stuff, it always seems like I can feel it as well as hear it. 

I suspect there’s both technical as well as more abstract answers to this question. Regarding the former I’d say a combination of ambient noise as well as production. Without getting too esoteric I allow some imperfections, sometimes slight and other times not so subtle, in multiple senses, in multiple steps throughout the production process. For my taste this approach lends itself to much better results than just cranking up the “lofi” knob on a master plug in (which I totally might do as well).

In a more abstract sense I’d say having drift or automation on aspects of the production so there’s always some change, even subtle, can help create something similar to texture. Whether it’s turning knobs on hardware or setting automation changes in software I’m generally always doing this. I think this can give some semblance of texture whereas sterility and lack of even subtle change in music doesn’t really give you anything to grab on to. This is especially an issue with some electronic music in my opinion. 

How did your collaboration with Jocelyn Rent (2019’s Fall Deep) come about? The first time I heard your music, I thought she was a member of Glo Phase, since her voice meshed so well with your sound. 

At one point Jocelyn and I played in a band, lived, and worked together so suffice it to say we became close. We were able to get all the passive and not so passive aggression out a while back and so are able to work very smoothly and efficiently together, and have fun while doing so. I had recorded some short vocal phrases from her on some earlier Glo Phase material for the purpose of mangling and chopping.

With Fall Deep I was originally planning on bringing her more into focus but not quite into full blown “song” territory. Shortly into recording Fall Deep it naturally went the “song” way, which turned out great.

Joesph Rusnak and Jocelyn in the Ice House Studios on Sunday June 16, 2019 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Jared Murphy/Pittsburgh City Paper)

Aside from some basic common musical influences I’d say the reason Jocelyn and I mesh well would be that we can relate to each other on a base level and are dear friends with a history (not that kind). We’re actually sitting on an EP that’s ready to go, the release show was scheduled for that second weekend in March when everything was shutting down. Hopefully we’ll be able to safely hold a release show later this year.

If you could join forces with any artist, living or dead, who would it be?

Hope Sandoval of Mazzy Star. Or maybe Gorillaz so that I could be immortalized as a cartoon.

Who are some of your favorite Pittsburgh-area artists right now?

A few that come to mind immediately would be Buscrates, Ky Vöss, Morgan Erina, and Mrs. Paintbrush

Is there anything that I forgot to ask that you’d like people to know about you, your music, or anything in general?

Some more Glo Phase gear (photo provided by artist)

I’ve been asked what the name “Glo Phase” means in a few interviews but never really went into much detail. Initially I wanted this project to have a fitting name, something that captured the way music sounded. The word “phase” appealed to me more and more as it can elude to the sound changing and evolving overtime without being too boxed in by a genre, etc. A lot of producers of electronic music (I honestly don’t even like describing my music as such) will set out to create a very specific genre. Often this seems to be a person that comes more from the orientation of DJing, and so produces music from that particular viewpoint. I have to emphasize that there’s nothing wrong with this approach or mindset. I think especially in the context of dance music experienced live it can probably yield better results, only in that it’s created fully aware of the context in which it will be heard, and from a perspective of an individual that understands what works best and what they’re trying to do. It has a very specific objective. I’m sure this can be said for other genres as well. Regardless this isn’t something I’ve ever wanted to be overly considerate of with Glo Phase. It’s entirely possible that Glo Phase should’ve been broken into two, three, or even more projects. Whereas I’m entirely too lazy to run that many social media pages this isn’t the main reason I avoided doing so. I’ve always wanted the sound or feeling that I’m chasing to transcend genre or category. I would hope that whatever my sound is would be defined more so by this feeling/mood/vibe/whatever you’d like to call it. I want a recognizable musical identity to come across to a listener more than anything.

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Many thanks to Joseph Rusnak for taking the time to answer these questions. Make sure to check out more from Glo Phase and to follow him on social media.

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