Sunday, October 2, 2016
A Ripple Conversation With Zed
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphany's since then, when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears. What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Man I've had a number of these personally. I'll go back to my very first. I was 12 and I heard "Lets go Crazy" by Prince and the Revolution and it sounded unlike anything my young mind had heard. I couldnt even break down and express how awesome it was to me at the time, but I absolutely loved the guitar in that song. I bought the Purple Rain album and fell in love with every song. Every song was like a different universe of sound and i got lost in them, even though I didn't understand the adult nature of alot of the songs hahaha... I remember singing Darling Nikki around my house and my older sister telling me I was gonna get slapped...I couldn't understand what could possibly be wrong with Master Bedding in a magazine...I thought he meant looking through a Sears catalog or something haha. The next one was Iron Maiden's Powerslave. A kid on my junior football team told me about this band with this monster and so I got a copy of it and it blew me away. Especially Steve Harris' bass playing. It was his playing that made me want to become a bass player. From there I went to Metallica, Slayer, Sex Pistols, the Cure, Misfits, and on and on. I ate it all up. It wasnt until my 20's that i started going backwards and getting my mind blown by bands that my faves had been influenced by. And I'm still on that journey!
Talk to us about the song-writing process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
As a band we are riff oriented so songs always start with a riff, then we write additional parts and riffs that fit while Pete begins to sonically work out rhythmic vocalizations that will become lyrics. We all contribute to arranging, as we try to be as pure a democracy as possible.
Who has influenced you the most?
That's a loaded question with us.We have so many varied influences but as a band we all meet around these bands: Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Clutch, Rage Against The Machine, Soundgarden, Thin Lizzy
For me personally, my motivation is to try to come up with as big a groove as possible. I'm always trying to write big riffs that make your head bob, as well as continue to lock in as tight as possible with Rich our drummer. I continually find inspiration in alot of our peers music as well as the music of the past. For me I like to mine the obscure and rare funk and rock from the late 60's and early 70's. Those basslines are some of heaviest riffs ever laid down to tape.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
So we're from San Jose, California, which is about 45 minutes south of San Francisco. Where as San Francisco is known for its vibrant and thriving art and music culture, San Jose is known for being Silicon Valley, the hub of technology. We've spent alot of time in this band and in previous bands going against the grain of what was considered cool and accessible. When Rap Rock was big, we were doing heavy groove hardcore, and we started ZED at the height of the screamo/mallcore thing. We just wanted to do things our own way that we felt was unique. Additionally, most bands from the cities around San Francisco, will eventually look to break in to SF to try to establish themselves there within that music community. For us, we took about 8 years of playing everywhere BUT SF before we tried to do that, just because there are certain places in SF that are like Bucket List venues for us that we just felt wasn't the right time to play yet.
Where'd the band name come from?
That's a two part answer. We spent a LONG ASS TIME throwing names around and bickering over them hahaha..we had some doozies too..... Jackson, Manos De Piedra, Ass Juice, Empires of Sand, but in the end we all liked ZED best. So the name has two meanings, one being it is kind of an homage to my all time favorite band Led Zeppelin, just flipping the letters around, then secondly its an homage to Tarantino and our love for his film Pulp Fiction. We're big movie buffs so that name just fit.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Star Wars hahaha.. at least six year old me would.... that or Requiem for a Dream, the music that Kronos Quartet wrote for that film is some of the most tortured, gut wrenching, accompaniment to tragedy you will ever hear. It's brutal, imposing and fearsome.
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000 word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
Damn that's a tough one. So hard to choose..Across the Universe or Let it Be by the Beatles? Wild Horses by the Stones? If I Were a Carpenter by Johnny and June Carter Cash? Axis Bold as Love by Hendrix? Ball of Confusion by The Temptations? Starman by Bowie? War or Redemption Song by Bob Marley? ugh man these are just the ones that popped into my head.... i cant answer with just one.. but if i have to I'm gonna go with Purple Rain... no wait.... something less obvious but still brilliant... Marvin Gaye's What's Going On. That song perfectly encapsulates the major themes of the late 60's early 70's and accomplishes something that few other songs could, which was speak for both the Anti-War movement AND the civil rights movement. Those lyrics are easily translated to both movements without losing any of their power. It is overtly political, yet delivered with a silky smooth and easily palatable chorus that stays with you long after the song is done. That song will live forever because its just as relevant now as it was then.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Haha, this one time in an old band that 3 of us in ZED were in we were playing a show that was pretty packed out, and the front row was all these 16 year old girls. We start playing and we're getting into it and I run up to the front of the stage to stand on the monitor, but instead end up tripping over the monitor and falling into the crowd taking about 4 of the girls down with me hahaha Pete loves to remind me of that one alot :)
Playing live is such a great experience. You get to get up in front of people and express yourself in a very primal and basic way, and in doing so you create a connection between you and a group of people, whether it's 5 or 50 or 500 people, and that connection takes on a life of its own, and is there even after the playing is done. When we play live, on a good night, we are connected with each other and the crowd, and there a symbiotic relationship where we are feeding off the energy of the crowd, while they are feeding off our energy as well. Even on rough nights where we are not feeling connected within the band, people have been gracious enough to connect to us. Bottom line is, it's all about the connection.
What makes a great song?
C-D-G? Hahaha... for me a great song is one that you take with you after you've finished listening to it. It's the pattern of chords and notes and rhythms and words that melds within itself to create something greater than the sum of it's parts. It stays with you and becomes a part of your mental landscape that you repeatedly go back to.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
I cant remember honestly.... probably some punk song when i was 16!
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
All of it. Even the early stuff that makes me cringe. I'm proud of it because it's a snapshot of where i was at as a musician at the time. but if i had to choose one, I would say a toss up between the ZED songs The River and The Mountain (haha there is a theme afterall) because I feel that the music and parts in those songs are some of the most epic sounding pieces I've ever written. I love them.
Who today, writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Man, another tough question. I feel there are more killer rock bands now than at any given point in the last 20 years! The bands that have kicked my ass this past year with their latest or recent records are La Chinga, Gozu, Shawn James and the Shape Shifters, Clutch, SATE, David Bazan... just a few that come to mind. They all play different styles of music, but they all exude passion, they all write catchy, hooky music, and they are doing their own thing in a world where homogenization seems to be king.
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
I do all three. I prefer Vinyl, but cant play a record in my car or while I jog hahaha
Whiskey or beer? And defend your choice!
Both. But i prefer Whiskey. I love feeling the warmth in my chest after a shot. And I love feeling giggly and ridiculous after about 7 shots.
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your home town, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
The Bay Area is home to GREAT record stores and chains even! Gotta give my first and biggest shout out to Rasputin Records who we have friends at and who prominently featured our and other great underground bands records when they came out. Next it would be Streetlight Records in San Jose and Santa Cruz, then Amoeba in SF and Berkeley... then the small mom and pop shops like Needle to the Groove in San Jose or MetaVinyl in Santa Cruz...so many good choices..
What's next for the band?
Well we start a West Coast tour in a couple of weeks with our bros in The Watchers, hitting the major and not so major cities on the West Coast, then next year looking to get over to Europe for some shows as well as dressing as beer truck drivers to sneak our way onto a Psycho Las Vegas stage. That's a BIG want for us! Psycho is hands down the BEST festival in the US and we wanna be part of it. And in between writing new songs, barbecuing, watching movies and shit like that.
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
Just a big thank you for not just supporting our band, but for supporting independent underground rock and roll. Rock has some tough times the past 20 years but it ain't dead and I have more hope for its future now than ever before. Cheers to you guys for helping make that happen!