Luwayne Glass, better known by the stage name Dreamcrusher, and I decided it would be best to meet somewhere “grungy.” Even though such places are becoming increasingly hard to find near the Jefferson stop these days. After less than a year as a Bushwick resident, Glass already has a tape out with Firetalk (Hackers All Of Them Hackers), is playing close to “three shows a week” (“because I’m a fuckin’ idiot”) and is garnering some much-deserved attention in the process. In light of so much underground success, it’s hard to believe that Dreamcrusher is a noise act from (actual) Kansas that wound up here essentially by accident. “I’d never even been on the subway before,” Luwayne laughed.
I was first drawn to Dreamcrusher by the music’s particular brand of grinding, rhythmic noise washed over with Glass’ ghostly voice. It’s nothing crazy new, this is the path most visibly (and most recently) paved by Pharmakon– an accessible, but no less harsh approach to noise music with a jarring live presence and cohesive aesthetic. But it was the mantra, “nihilist queer revolt music” that left me wanting to know more about the person behind Dreamcrusher. Luwayne appears in the video for “La Haine,” a gristly track with sharp edges and soothing, ethereal vocals, but is obscured almost completely by shadow– which was, of course, intentional. “It was like three hours of shooting and maybe four months of editing,” Luwayne explained. “I didn’t want my face to show, I wanted it to be sad and creepy.”
By the time we met up, I’d seen the video more times than I could count but still wasn’t exactly sure who I was looking for. But Luwayne walked up, wearing a leather punk jacket with pins and a big grin, betraying those Midwest roots, and I knew from a block away it had to be them. Glass was “born and raised, unfortunately” in Wichita, and attended college for fine arts at Wichita State University. Not surprisingly, as a person of color who identifies a queer and non-binary, they (Luwayne’s preferred pronoun) always felt like the weirdo amidst button-down conservatives and thinly veiled racism. At times during our conversation, Luwayne found it difficult to even talk about life in Kansas, devolving into “ughs” and frustrated moans.
“A lot of times when I’d do shows back home– I even hate thinking about it because it just makes me not want to go back home ever again– everyone would think I’m a rapper,” Luwayne recalled. It’s safe to say that Dreamcrusher doesn’t even resemble hip-hop or rap, at least not in any obvious ways. “Everyone would think I’m a DJ or some shit. Like, where are they getting this impression from? Oh, because mainstream media does this, they only want certain images of black people, and the other images of black people get pushed away.”
Though not even Brooklyn is absolved from this racialized labeling. “Every once in a while I’ll read things like, ‘Sound like Death Grips,’ or they call my music ‘beats’ and not ‘music,’ which I hate,” Luwayne recalled. “For me, that means you only think it’s good enough to be one aspect of a song. It’s really menial, catch-all shit. You’re underestimating the intelligence of your audience, I think.” I was surprised to hear the comparison to Death Grips and asked why critics might have made that association. “You know what it is?” Luwayne tapped their arm, indicating skin color.
But Luwayne is lucky in that even growing up, they always seemed to have a healthy understanding of a variety of different types of people, music, and ways of living and never felt they had to pigeonhole themselves. Growing up, Luwayne had a supportive, “big ol’ hippie” mother. Clearly, she’s an important figure. At one point, Luwayne said, she decided, “‘My child is not just going to listen to rap music because that’s what black people usually make,'” and instead turned them on to her record collection. “‘You’re going to listen to all this shit, you’re going to like it, and you’re going to ask me questions.'”
Luwayne owes their musical upbringing in part to their mother (she brought them to their first concert, ZZ Top), but also to MTV (Nirvana), and the “goth kids” at school (The Jesus & Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine). Luwayne recalled some formative moments in this noise education: watching BBC America late at night and seeing the German industrial outfit Einstürzende Neubauten. “F.M. Einheit was playing a fucking sheet rock with a giant medal coil and a violin string,” they beamed. “This was the first band my mom had never heard of.”
But it was Aphex Twin’s “Come to Daddy” that pushed them to the next level. “I think it was the thing that made me want to make noise music,” Luwayne said. “Some of my early records are me trying to sound like that and it’s so fucking bad.” And believe it or not, Luwayne had a hard time finding others who were into the same sounds. “I didn’t meet anyone else who liked noise music until college, which is sad,” they laughed.
It was Luwayne’s mother who encouraged them to let the New York thing just happen: “She was the one who said, ‘You need to do something,’ because she follows my career, and she knows what’s going on. ‘You seem like a really important figure in what you’re doing,’ and I said, ‘I guess, I dunno.’ And she says, ‘No, no, no– get the fuck out of here, go to New York. Do your shit and see what happens.’”
At 27, Luwayne laughed off the idea of making money as Dreamcrusher, saying, “It’s kind of stupid to make a living as a musician.” And so staying in New York depends on whether there’s more permanent work to be found– freelancing as a graphic designer has proven to be more difficult than it sounds, and odd jobs like house-sitting are just barely helping make ends meet.
“I think I stunted my own growth by not doing something like this sooner. I think if I’d done something like this when I was still in college, I would have been a lot more successful,” Luwayne lamented. “I was a scaredy cat, like a little weird Midwestern kid. I never knew of any contemporary acts in my hometown that were like me, but I probably should have escaped earlier.”
My feeling that Dreamcrusher is more engaging and emotive than most noise I’ve ever heard suddenly made sense when Luwayne cited a diverse array of influences that “change all the time,” including Busta Rhymes, Prince, Sun Ra, Coil, Pedestrian Deposit, and more recently 60’s and 70’s psych rock, Brian Jones, and early Rolling Stones. “Honestly, I only use noise as a catchall,” they admitted. “It’s not just noise, it’s all the stuff I like mushed into a weird play doe ball, I guess.”
Luwayne’s approach to noise– and also, to being a musician– is readily recognizable as something that’s quite, well, different from what we’ve come to expect of noise. “I try to give off as much positive vibes as possible. I notice that other noise people here, I don’t know if they like me or not,” they said. “I’m always bouncing off the walls, I’m in a new city and I’m having all these amazing new experiences. I saw Pedestrian Deposit play for the first time, I went up and hugged them and they’re like, ‘Uhh, thanks.’” Luwayne laughed at the memory of the awkward display of giddiness. “I guess in noise that’s not really a thing that you do, like go up and hug people, but I don’t fucking care.”
That same sense of giving oneself over to emotions no matter what the cost is rampant in Dreamcrusher’s music. While Hackers All Of Them Hackers is coated in a thick glaze of static and fuzz, a much noisier sound than is found on Dreamcrusher’s previous tracks, there’s something almost soft and shoe gaze to earlier songs like “Mirror.” And yet Luwayne’s live presence is hardly sedate, as evidenced by a performance at Baby’s All Right when they crushed a microphone into their face and then throttled some guy in the crowd. And then there are the shows when Dreamcrusher appears to be possessed by demons, completely enthralled in the music and outwardly aggressive toward the audience. It’s all very punk, and very, very Lenny Bruce. After spending a bit of time with them, I realized the contrast between Luwayne and Dreamcrusher couldn’t be starker.
I was surprised to hear Luwayne downplay a label I thought fit pretty well. “I know exactly what I want to do and it’s not experimental at all,” they said. Well, was this pop music, then? Luwayne hesitated. “Pop? I guess so. But, like, I’m not popular. That’s the thing about being in New York, is that no one gives a fuck who you are. You can have your anonymity still. You can do whatever the fuck you want.”
Dreamcrusher is playing two shows this weekend: Saturday January 9, Baby’s All Right, 4 pm (tickets, $12 in advance/ $15 at the door) and later the same day at Trans-Pecos, 8 pm (tickets, $15). Read more about the shows here.