FLOORKILLER “Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Icon of Coil — a lot of that stuff is just 4/4 hard fucking dance music,” says Xavier Gath, “and I love it, and it’s dark as shit.”
When I met Xavier Gath in an alleyway on a dark rainy night in Cambridge a few Fridays ago, I didn't know what to expect. And I had more of an idea what to expect than most — after all, I at least knew his name, and knew he was a real person. And I knew that Gath releases music under the mysterious nom-du-DJ GL▲SS †33†H (pronounced "Glass Teeth"). Oh, and the music he releases would be enough to make more level-headed folks think twice about meeting him in an alley alone at night: it's vaguely creepy stuff, with icy beds of synth stabbings atop roiling electronic beats and a heady swirl of processed vocals.
It may disappoint the faithful to find that — rather than a hooded phantom generating beats from the souls of the damned — Mr. Gath is just a guy in his early 20s in a (black) Red Sox hat who smokes cigarettes, loves Britney, and aspires to make people dance. But such is the journey of the bedroom musician's career nowadays: in order to make the people shake it, you need to find a way to reveal who you are and step into the light.
"When I started," Gath explains, "it was the winter of 2009. I was in school in New York, and I was in this creepy, huge brownstone in Bed-Stuy. Just this huge creepy room, and it was dark all the time, and it just inspired me, it's where GL▲SS †33†H started."
At the time, a burgeoning wave of nameless artists were emerging worldwide, mixing a dark horror-movie vibe with electronic beats and indistinct vocals; artists like Balam Acab, Pictureplane, oOoOO, Salem, and Mater Suspiria Vision. The music had an occult-ish vibe, dark and psychedelic. Gath's GL▲SS †33†H project fit right in, and he soon found himself collaborating with the likes of ℑ⊇≥◊≤⊆ℜ of Mater Suspiria Vision and contributing to compilations of so-called "witch house" music. "I love giving my music an unsettling feel," Gath explains. "I want to make more trance club tracks, just make people dance, essentially. I mean, a lot of the dark stuff I love is also straight-up dance music: Skinny Puppy, Nine Inch Nails, Icon of Coil, a lot of that stuff is just 4/4 hard fucking dance music, and I love it, and it's dark as shit."
For Gath, what drew him to the scene, and what inspires him, is not just making dark music, but making music that combines the darkness with the dance and pop energy that he also loves. "Lately I also want the tracks I make to get poppier," he explains. "I grew up with dark music and dark progressive trance, but I listen to pop music, too, and I don't shy away, I'm not trying to be underground. If I could get on Top 40 radio, that would be my dream. I'd love to produce a Britney or Rihanna track, totally." One of Gath's favorite records of this year? Spears's Femme Fatale.