Interview: Zig Zags
There were days when we would play in front of literally 1000 people and then, still covered in sweat, be sleeping next to our 40 year old male selves in a non-air conditioned French Hostel.
It’s the 24th July at Camden’s metal celebrated pub Our Black Heart on a hot, humid early evening. Jed and drummer Dane from the Zig Zags are tired, but friendly and humorous, and a sense is felt that they are even partly enjoying what has been thrown at them on their current European tour, as they inform how they have endured 15 hours’ van journeys, logistical difficulties, all before London welcomes them with a parking ticket. Later, this is put aside as they turbocharge their way through a ferocious, storming set of an integrated mash of proto-thrash, formative years thrash, and hardcore punk, like its 1983.
Then, post-gig horror, as realisation hits a huge technical failure results in a dreaded no recorded interview. Bloody amateur! However, thankfully, Jed is at the rescue, now back in California, he very kindly resumes to answer questions again for Echoes and Dust. This time he reflects on the European tour, the very positive response to their RidingEasy released third album You’ll Never Take Us Alive, an upcoming split single with Mike Watt, and then reveals, “It’s time for a shake up”. What does he mean? You know what to do to find out…
E&D: You have recently completed a European tour. How did it go?
Jed: Shows were fantastic and the crowds were amazing. We had a complete dumb ass for a tour manager/driver so he got fired two weeks on, and we drove ourselves the rest of the way like real “American Heroes”. This was the longest tour we have done at 5 weeks, we did about 3 and a half weeks earlier in the year. That went by really-quickly. 5 felt like a long time. There were days when we would play in front of literally 1000 people and then, still covered in sweat, be sleeping next to our 40 year old male selves in a non-air conditioned French hostel. And if you think French armpits are bad, wait till you see their hostels!
E&D: Any favourite places/shows which stick out in your minds and why?
Jed: I try to figure this out every time we go. What I like about each place, ya know? In Germany, the shows are great and the people are quite excited to talk about the music and buy merch and tell you their opinions, and I really like that interaction. Love playing the UK for the people, as I really like the humor and sarcasm, it makes me feel at home. Spain, the folks are really-fun, and the food is great and the countryside reminds us of California. I like how clean and proper it is in the Netherlands/Scandinavia and things seem to run on time and work professionally. France outside of Paris (where the shows are rad it’s just gnarly trying to deal with the van and logistics), I find very relaxing and I like to learn about all the regional foods and styles etc. Portugal, we loved for the seafood and the wild energy of the folks there. Everywhere is great, probably my favorite show was in a barn somewhere in Czech Republic.
E&D: I’ve seen you play twice now (London’s Desertfest and Our Black Heart on last tour) and the band successfully combines an explosive positive energy with an incredible tightness. It looks like your all having great fun, is it purely from the excitement and joy playing this type of music?
Jed: I think our music is more physical than mental, so yeah, maybe it’s like a high you get from working out? Like a runner’s high? We don’t take anything too serious anymore either. Except the songs, we’re not a joke band, the music is almost always serious. We like to be on time, play well, and put on a good show, but there isn’t a tortured soul or an underlying brooding energy to us, and if we came across that way it would be fake. I don’t really like silly music except for Ween, but Ween probably don’t think its silly so…uhh, I like a lot of fucked death/black metal and I’m a fan of a lot of dark isolated weirdos, but we’re just regular dudes from Southern California, trying to play fast.
E&D: Current album, the RidingEasy records released You’ll Never Take Us Alive sounds like a love affair with early 80’s hardcore punk/proto thrash metal and the formative years of thrash, and successfully captures the energy and excitement of that era. What are the key influences which forms the Zig Zags sound?
Jed: Some of the main bands right now are Metallica, Dead Moon, Wipers, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Slayer, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy, and then of course the punk staples like Minor Threat, Black Flag, Misfits etc….and then all the weird kinda bands that were hard to find when I was younger, but I started really getting into in my 20’s or so like Bobby Soxx, The Kids, Celtic Frost, Mercyful Fate, too many to list. We listen to a ton of jazz, country and Bob Dylan as well, but as for Zig Zags music, it’s like teenage punks trying to play metal, except we’re like 40. Oh, and Ween, fucking love those guys!
E&D: There have been a few line-up changes in the band’s career so far, how did the current line-up formulate?
Jed: Dane, the drummer, has been in the band for 5 years now. We met working in a restaurant, so we started practicing after work at like 2 am sometime, which you couldn’t fucking pay me to do now but we kinda have the same attitude of just heads down get it going, ya know, whatever it takes. We added Sean on bass, which is almost been 2 years now, but he has been a friend since the beginning and he has been recording with the band since some of the very early days, going on like 10 years now. He plays more jazz style and does a lot of scoring for film/TV so he is more of a musician than Dane and I. But, when we needed someone to step in he had such a cool Cliff Burton style approach to the bass, like the way guys used to play where he plays with his fingers and doesn’t just double the guitar, that it ended up being cool. Will probably switch the lineup again by the time we get back on tour. Maybe add another guitar player? It’s time to shake it up I think.
E&D: How did you come across the photo for the front cover of current album You’ll Never Take Us Alive? And why was this selected?
Jed: Well, we were trying to do something that wasn’t just the logo or type heavy, and I wanted to avoid a drawing, but photos can be really-hard unless you have something made specifically for the album art, I guess. This was a photo we found online and then we were-able to track the guy down. He took it when he was a kid and now he has since moved far from SoCal. I had to join LinkedIn or whatever the job equivalent of Tinder is called to track him down. After much pleading, he found the original photo in his garage and we went with it. I think it really represents the band, the sound, where we live etc…a time we all grew up in, and also it kinda reminds me of Frankenchrist by Dead Kennedys, so that’s fucking cool man!
E&D: The reaction to the album has been very good? How does it seem to the band?
Jed: Great, best reaction we ever got, people like it, we busted our ass demoing it and trying to make it as good as possible, I still think we could make it better but I always think that, so it’s more humbling than anything to put something out when you’re never really finished, and have a bunch of people say it’s their album of the year ya know?
E&D: You’ve got a string of US shows in the next couple of months, after that, what are the band’s plans?
Jed: Take as much time off to write the next record. We have tons of riffs and ideas banked now, we just need to assemble them. We recorded a split 7″ with Mike Watt that comes out here in a month or so, and I really like the sound we got on it. I’ve spoke to RidingEasy records about the next album, but I don’t think there is any rush on their part to put something out and no pressure on us to record. I wanna get the songs dialed, play the shit out of them live and then record with some friends and keep it DIY as possible! We might send it out to someone for mixing, I’ve been hearing that’s what bands do now? Maybe they always did that? I don’t know what the fuck I want till I hear it, maybe it’s best to not be in the room? We still don’t know what we are doing…after all these years!
E&D: Thanks for taking time out to the answer the above questions, Jed.
Jed: Thank you man! Cheers.
Zig Zags recently released a compilation with rarities, b-sides, and more which you can check out here.