Abuse caused Alice Glass to Depart from the Crystal Castles

By Anisha Moquit, Photos via metro.

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Ethan Kath, who is ten years older than Glass

co.uk and flickr.com

Crystal Castles, the Toronto based electropunk band, garnered attention with their debut self-titled album in 2008, which quickly became a seminal work for the genre. Crystal Castles spawned several sub genres, and arguably changed the sound of electronica today. They continued to release two more self-titled records (II, and III respectively) to even more acclaim. They were beloved critically, but you could also find ‘Crimewave’ playing in a Topshop ad and feel a brief sense of kinship. Crystal Castles consisted of Alice Glass and Ethan Kath, who were known for being enigmatic, (aliases: Glass and Kath aren’t their real names) and aloof in their interviews, the mystery only adding to their appeal. Despite their critical and commercial success, Glass left Crystal Castles in 2014 and has now spoken out about the real reason why.

In 2006, their first single ‘Alice Practice’ garnered interest after the band performed the song in an episode of UK sitcom, Skins. Alice Glass’s mercurial voice was unveiled with its ability to go from angelic-sounding to grating in an instant. A voice that initially seemed like an exercise in masochism became a new standard to be emulated. ‘Alice Practice’ was apparently an impromptu vocal exercise of Glass’s‒a mic test that Kath captured and used, building upon the mythology that the band was clearly cultivating, that of effortless art‒natural, unpractised and real. Glass was the fearless front woman of the group, while Kath worked in the shadows, supposedly the figure that was harnessing and releasing Glass’s energy and voice onto the world.


Alice Glass, December 2007

Glass should be considered an integral factor that made Crystal Castles so interesting. Her unconventional style and larger than life personality was inspirational, especially to young women. One could often catch her face caught in front of a mic mid snarl, dark makeup smudged, on various laptop screen savers. You’d read about her antics at shows, such as the time Glass climbed up onto the speakers at Glastonbury in 2008, and got their set cut. Alice Glass was somebody many looked up to, embodying all the characteristics of a life that was lived freely for the art and nobody else.

So Glass’s departure in 2014 after the well-received III came as a shock. What could prompt a core member to leave at what was arguably the height of their fame? Glass cited a “multitude of personal and professional reasons” for her exit, reigniting the darker rumours behind the band’s success– that of Glass and Kath’s relationship being slightly more sinister than the average band trope of members grappling for the most recognition. Speculation was cast on Glass’s age when first beginning to work with Kath, and Kath’s motivation to work with her‒rumours previously dismissed as ‘gimmicks’ typical of Crystal Castles. The ensuing back and forth about Glass’s role and impact on the group’s music became a source of contention, not only for opinionated fans and online trolls, but grew to a public affair wrought by the ex-members themselves.

In 2015, Kath released “Frail”, the first Crystal Castles song without contributions from Glass. In the Soundcloud description of the song, Kath, completely downplayed Glass’s role in their project. This led Glass to defend herself, and her contributions to the group on Twitter, followed by a statement later that year revealing that she suffered from abuse at the hands of a partner, though never explicitly naming Kath. Kath, interestingly enough, retracted most of his statement after Glass called him out. This vitriolic back and forth seemed like an inevitable outcome of Glass’s departure and an uneasy peace was reached. Glass continued as a solo artist with the release of “Stillbirth” in 2015, and finally her EP in August of this year. Kath released Amnesty (I) in 2016 under the banner of Crystal Castles with a new frontwoman, Edith Frances.

However, in October 24th of 2017, the persistent rumours that lurked beneath the 8-bit surface of the group’s past came to a shattering conclusion as Glass released a statement on her own website alleging Kath responsible for her years of abuse, both emotional and sexual, beginning at the age of fifteen, when she was in the 10th grade. Ethan Kath is ten years her senior. Glass also alleges that Kath both erased her role in contributing to the band and subsequently gaslighted her, the most egregious example being with ‘Alice Practice.’ The infamous story of the mic test was just that–a story, that Kath “concocted” for the press when in actuality, Glass claims she wrote most of the lyrics and melodies. Kath was in fact not the lone figure that was able to properly utilize Glass’s voice, but ‘Alice Practice’ was the result of two artists collaborating.

Glass also states on her website that Kath’s behaviour was “normalized” in the Toronto punk scene where they met and that several of her friends were similarly taken advantage of by much older men. This account does not seem out of bounds as can be observed with repeated instances of such news (that even end up reported) in the DIY scene as evidenced by the 2015 Johnnyland controversy. It’s clear that an insidious problem persists in a scene meant for art and self expression. A scene where safe communities should be forme is where the vulnerable are preyed upon by those who should know better. Glass says Kath forced her to have sex with him or she “wouldn’t be in the band anymore.” A terrifying ultimatum that can be found in varying degrees of extremity in such places — and in too many others.

A glimmer of change can be seen with the Danforth Music Hall’s swift cancellation of the Crystal Castles show following Glass’s allegations. This fast reaction should be applauded and continued by others. There should be zero tolerance when it comes to sexual abuse and violation. The last track off of Amnesty (I) was originally entitled ‘Decide’ and featured the lyrics “If you are being used/ You should remain confused/ To keep them amused.” Ethan Kath later changed the title of the track to “Their Kindness is a Charade” turning the “Sidewalks & Skeletons” remix of “Decide” into the album closer, and the lyrics now can be heard as “You shouldn’t be confused.” The previous lyrics, in retrospect point to a startling mentality, encouraging  doubt and shades of grey to sink into what should be a clear cut ethical position, and Kath changing the lyrics itself speaks volumes.

As of November 2017, Ethan Kath is suing Alice Glass for defamation of character over some of her more recent claims.

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