Gil Assayas’ association with Todd Rundgren’s Utopia has certainly paid dividends — certainly vaulting the Israeli-born, Portland-based keyboardist to greater attention as he released his album Defective Humanity under the moniker Glasys this year. And it’s also led to a new video for the track “People” that features Rundgren, who played guitar on the song.
“Just the fact that (Rundgren) was into it and wanted to do it, the song and the video, that was a big surprise for me,” says Assayas, who’s currently part of the It Was 50 Years Ago Today Tour with Rundgren and others saluting The White Album. “I sent (the song) to him half expecting him to say, ‘I’m too busy, but good luck,’ something like that. The fact he first of all responded really quickly and then was really into it, that was a surprise — and a great one.”
Rundgren was introduced to Assayas via his youngest son, Rebop, who also lives in Portland, when Utopia was in last-minute need of a keyboardist for its 2018 reunion tour. “He was just an amazing discovery,” Rundgren notes. “I encouraged him to not think of himself as a session player and really work on building an identity around his own music.” Feeling that way, Rundgren was more than happy to help out on Defective Humanity. “I really love the music,” he says. “There’s something joyful about it. It sounds like he’s having the time of his life making it, and in a world where everybody’s trying to out-miserable each other, to me it’s just a great alternative.”
As for the “People” video, directed by John Thompson, Rundgren was passing through Portland on his The Individualist Tour earlier this year and was happy to accommodate the shoot as well. “We went into the suburbs of Portland, to the videographer’s house, and he had a tiny little studio set up in the garage,” Rundgren recalls. “I stood on a little turntable that was about two feet wide and that was pretty much all I did, stand on the turntable and spin around. That was fun.”
“People,” according to Assays, is “about the human nature of always looking forward to the next thing, not being happy with what we have and always trying to get something else in life.” The video, he adds, tries to convey that by illustrating the grind of consumer culture and other issues. “I think it turned out to be really interesting,” Assayas says. “It’s got this surreal quality, which I thought was right. I definitely wanted to go for colorful and interesting and surreal and take you on a trip.”
Assayas does much the same with Defective Humanity, an eight-track set filled with shimmering melodies and prog rock touches not unlike phases of Utopia’s career. Mixing older material with brand new compositions, he began recording it right after the Utopia tour — which he acknowledges “opened a lot of doors for me” — working with musicians from around Portland that he’d become friendly with after moving from Jerusalem. He’s been continuing to write songs and collaborate with others, including a standing relationship with rapper T-Pain, and Assayas hopes Defective Humanity proves to be just the tip of the iceberg for a prodigious career.
“I really wanted to get these songs out there and have something of my own,” he says. “I’ve always got ideas in motion and people to work with, so I’m looking forward to more, definitely.”