Steve Babb is a long time musician who got his start as a pianist in church. Since then, he has played and toured with multiple progressive rock bands, and he currently owns Sound Resource Recording Studio in East Brainerd. He is a founding member of the band Glass Hammer, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year. Glass Hammer will be playing at The Camp House on Saturday, May 6th, where they will perform their latest album in entirety from beginning and end, as well as songs from other albums.
What rock groups did you play for?
Steve: In the 80’s there were a couple of local bands that I played with. I played with the Wizards from ‘80-’82, who were a similar style to Rush meets Black Sabbath. When I went on the road, I played with different bands ranging from Top 40 groups to different metal, pop metal, and big hair metal groups. I’ve been a full time musician outside of the 2-3 years of odd jobs. I’ve never had to have a real full time job.
What was the inspiration for the name Glass Hammer?
Steve: Even when I played metal in the 80’s, my favorite style of music was progressive rock. My favorite bands were bands like Kansas, Yes! and Lincoln Palmer. I met a keyboard friend of mine in the late 80’s and started trying to figure out how we would start a revival of progressive rock, and in 92 we started recording. We came up with a name pretty easily; it’s the name of a science fiction book neither of us have read, but after finding the name, we knew that it fit us well, especially if you hold it up to our music and how it has developed over the years.
How have you seen your band transform over the 25 years that you’ve been playing?
Steve: We started when the internet became a thing and we began promoting online almost immediately after our start. We were one of the first bands to start doing that, so it was a surprise when our music became a hit. We became very popular outside of Chattanooga pretty quickly, which was enough to get a full time studio going and to release albums in quick succession. We’ve never really stepped back from that.
We’ve had times where we didn’t play concerts, but the band has maintained popularity in our genre. With only four or five big prog-rock groups active in the country right now, we are considered the top band in our genre by some critics. There are not a lot of people in Chattanooga that know about this, but that’s ok.
Richard Winham from WUTC mentioned that you’ll be in Europe this summer.
Steve: Yes; it’s not exactly a tour. We’re going to headline some high-profile festivals in Quebec City at the end of May, another festival in Italy, and by the end of the summer, we will probably start recording a new album. Supposedly, we’ll be performing for about 5,000-8,000 at each festival, which is not typically what you get at American festivals. Later this summer, we’re going to headline another festival, and in about a year from now, we’ll go on something called Cruise to the Edge. It’s a big cruise with older groups from our genre like Yes!, whose current lead singer sang with us on 4 albums. We enjoy performing in front of crowds that specifically go see prog-rocks bands, so the cruise should be a lot of fun for us.
Do you prefer to headline for festivals over touring?
Steve: We have toured before on a small scale across 5 cities in the northeast, which is a hot spot for the music we play. We could tour more often, but I don’t like the amount of risk involved. If we wait to play a show in Italy, we’re guaranteed to make more money than if we play 5-6 bar shows. The festival promoters are responsible for bringing us over to Europe and covering our expenses, so it’s a win-win for us.
I was on the road on and off for four years. Sometimes I would be away from home for eight months at a time. Sometimes it was great and we lived large and sometimes we slept in cars. Now that we’re getting older and have families, it’s more difficult to drag band members across the country for extended periods of time.
What is the inspiration for your most recent album?
Steve: It’s called “Valkyrie,” and it’s about surviving trauma. It’s a story about a soldier who is lost in battle and can’t find his way back. There’s a girl waiting for him back home and the album is a dialogue between her coaxing him to come back and him slowly descending into depression and insanity because of the things he has seen in war. Eventually, she has to come to him, which is why we use the image of a valkyrie, or an angel on the battlefield, who comes to the fallen soldier. Our female vocalist sings most of the big songs on the album. It isn’t just about war though; it’s about people surviving from any kind of depression. We dedicated this album to trauma survivors and those who love and support them. We’re trying to explain to people that you can’t expect some people to come out of depression or trauma easily. Sometimes you have to go to them. I didn’t know if it would be received very well, but it has. We try to make every word in each album count.
Can you tell me more about Sound Resources Recording Studio?
Steve: We’ve had it since 1994, and it was during that time that ADAT Recording was made accessible. People like me could finally own a sixteen-track recording studio and eventually, I owned a twenty four-track studio and a space that could hold that. We began by recording Glass Hammer albums there, but we expanded to include more people and realized that it’s actually a business. Our take on it was that we are musicians, not just engineers, so we understand basic musicians’ needs. Between me and two other friends of mine that are involved, we know almost every instrument. We produce a lot of singer songwriters that don’t have a band and need extra background music.
What advice would you give rising musicians?
Steve: You have to enjoy promotion at least as much as you do writing and recording and then make sure all of your work is excellent. Don’t look at local artists as your competition unless that’s what you want. Think nationally and market to them.