Thursday, June 30, 2016

Metal to the Nations: Diamond Head Hit 40 with Force

“If it wasn’t for Brian Tatler, there’s a pretty good chance none of us would be here tonight.” - Lars Ulrich, Sonisphere 2011

Everyone who loves Metal knows how crucial Black Sabbath’s 1970 debut album was to the development of the genre, but another album released a decade later had an equal – if sometimes overlooked – impact on some of the biggest acts on the planet. Ask Lars. Ask Hetfield. Ask Mustaine. They will all tell you that Diamond Head’s 1980 album, Lightning to the Nations, was the roadmap for American Thrash Metal. Fast-forward 36 years later, and these New Wave of British Heavy Metal (NWOBHM) cult legends – still led by founding guitarist Brian Tatler – have just released the best old school Metal album of the last six months.

Seriously. Just take a listen:

Released in North America on June 24, the self-titled CD is the band’s first release with new singer Rasmus Bom Andersen, who came on board after previous vocalist Nick Tart emigrated to Brisbane, Australia with his family in 2008.

“All we seemed to do was pay to fly Nick backwards and forwards for gigs,” Tatler recalls. “[We’d] just rehearse for the gig, and then Nick would fly back home because he's got a wife and kids and a full-time job and all that. Any kind of rehearsal for new music went out the window… So after a while, we decided to replace Nick because it just became so complicated and expensive. We started thinking, 'Let's have a look for an English guy or a guy who lives in England.' We ended up with a Danish guy, but he lived in London, so it's not a problem. He can get up and down on the train. We started working with him; after a while, I thought, 'He's so good, has such a great voice and does such a great job with the old Diamond Head material. Let's just see if we can write some new songs and at least have a go.'”

Interestingly, Diamond Head waited 36 years and six albums before giving a collection of their songs an eponymous title.

“We had lists on the rehearsal wall where I put up a piece of paper with 'name this album' and people would write down their suggestions,” Tatler explains. “A lot of them were stupid or pretentious; they just didn't sum up what I wanted, really. Very often, you call the album after one of the song titles. We didn’t have all the song titles until Ras did the finished vocals. I kept trying to think of a title, and I think Eddie [Moohan], our bass player, suggested Diamond Head.

“I thought, 'Well, this has been done before,’” he continues. “I know Genesis did it, and the Beatles and Metallica have done it. So I think it's okay to name an album after the band. It's a kind of statement, like, 'This is it and this is part of the story.' We were okay with calling it Diamond Head; it just seemed the best and right thing to do.”

Perhaps the most thrilling aspect of the new album is the fact that Diamond Head are still very much in the game and remain part of a special group of NWOBHM bands active in the present tense. What does Tatler see as the reason behind that scene’s durability after so many decades?

“I think it was a generational thing. All us kids who were 16, 17, 18 had grown up listening to these incredible bands of the '70s - like Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, Purple, Rush, AC/DC, Thin Lizzy - and that must've rubbed off on us. That was a fantastic period of music. My favorite period of music is the 1970s, so I probably wanted to do something similar and give something back and take it forward. We were trying our best to compete and push forward, and I imagine a lot of the other bands all around the country – Saxon, Def Leppard, you name it – were doing probably the same. A lot of us were aware of each other, but we were trying to make our way in the world. We'd got some stiff competition, because a lot of these bands are still going, of course. Like Judas Priest. You can go and see them at your local place of worship. I think the quality was there, and once it got established in Sounds and they got it on the front cover, I took notice and certainly thought, 'Wow! There's an opportunity here for Diamond Head to get signed.' We were formed in 1976; by '79 when it started happening, we were about ripe for something to come along and give us an opportunity to get heard [by] a wide audience.”

Of course, four of the guys in that audience were the original members of Metallica, who covered four songs off Lightning to the Nations (“The Prince,” “Am I Evil?” “Helpless” and “Sucking My Love”) at their early shows. This adoration carried into the studio, with their take on “Am I Evil?” appearing on both the 1984 Creeping Death EP and the Elektra Records re-release of 1983’s Kill ’Em All. Later, they covered “Helpless” on 1987’s Garage Days Re-Revisited and “The Prince” for the B-side of the “One” single in 1989. In 1998, they released their rendition of another Lightning to the Nations track, “It’s Electric,” on the double covers album Garage Inc. Not surprisingly, Tatler is quick to show his respect for the Metal giants.

“I'm full of admiration for what Metallica have done,” he says. “It's an incredible ride, I think. I've been to see them probably at least 20 times. To watch that band come from nothing to conquer the world and [be] the biggest Metal band of all time is an incredible thing to see. To have met Lars when he was just a Diamond Head fan – and he never mentioned playing the drums or forming a band or anything – and watch him rise to the top and headline the biggest festivals in world is something I've never seen happen before or since to anyone I actually knew and could count on as a friend. That was unbelievable. Yeah, they were influenced by bands like Diamond Head and Motorhead and Maiden and whatever back in probably '81, '82 or '83. But by the time Master of Puppets came out, I think they'd left that style and the New Wave of British Heavy Metal influence probably behind, and they pushed into some new territory that no one had been before. Then everyone started copying them, and now there's 100,000 bands that sound like Metallica.”

The release of Diamond Head coincides with its namesake’s 40th anniversary. Despite decades of lineup changes, temporary breakups and fluctuations in mainstream attention, the band’s sole remaining original member keeps the engine running with a genuine dedication to his craft.

“I like Diamond Head; it's been my baby since day one. I formed the band; I came up the name and I'm the co-writer, so I've tried to look after and protect the name. I also still play live whenever possible; I feel it's what I do best. I don't have a day job; I don’t have anything else I could do. I couldn't go and be a landscape gardener or something like that. I teach guitar as well, and I play in a covers band. I'll do whatever just to keep playing and keep it alive. Since our drummer, Karl [Wilcox], joined in '91, he's been very helpful to me and the band in keeping us on the road and doing a lot of the day-to-day running of tour managing and booking and flights – the stuff that needs to be done behind the scenes.”

Forty years after forming, Diamond Head continue to make some of the strongest sounds around. While they may not be selling out arenas, the group’s resilience stands as proof that the real thing always survives.

“I suppose Diamond Head is always trying to climb up the ladder, even after this long period of time,” Tatler says. “It would be nice to be playing some of the big festivals and get on a support tour with someone and just keep the level up rather than down. No one wants to sit in a transit van for 10 hours and play to 50 people. And we've done that, but nothing has seemed to have stopped my enthusiasm completely, and I don't mind doing the work. But if we could play to 5,000 people instead of 50 people, it would be very nice.”

Photo courtesy of Dissonance Ptoductions

Upcoming Diamond Head Tour Dates:

North America
11/02 - Slim's, San Francisco CA
11/03 - Whiskey, Hollywood CA
11/04 - LVCS, Las Vegas NV
11/05 - Brick By Brick, San Diego, CA
11/10 - Grizzly Hall, Austin, TX
11/11 - Concert Pub North, Houston, TX
11/12 - Rock Box, San Antonio, TX
11/13 - Trees, Dallas, TX
11/17 - Sellersville Theater, Sellersville, PA
11/18 - Fish Head Cantina, Baltimore, MD
11/19 - The Chance, Poughkeepsie, NY
11/20 - Webster Hall's Marlin Room, New York, NY
11/21 - Bug Jar, Rochester, NY
11/22 - Katacombes, Montreal, QC
11/23 - Brass Monkey, Ottawa, ON
11/24 - Garrison, Toronto, ON
11/25 - Token Lounge, Detroit, MI
11/26 - Tailgators, Chicago, IL
11/27 - Metal Grill, Milwaukee ,WI

7/30 - Barnet Ruby Club (Barnet, United Kingdom)
8/12 - Bloodstock Festival (Derbyshire, United Kingdom)
8/18 - The Robin (Bilston, United Kingdom)
8/27 - Skulls of Metal Festival (Jaen, Spain)
9/01 - The Brook ( Southampton, United Kingdom)
9/02 - Queens Hall ( Nuneaton, United Kingdom)
9/17 - Stormcrusher Festival ( Lamplauhlstrabe, Germany)
9/22 - Fibber McGee's Rock Bar (Dublin, Ireland)
9/23 - Voodoo (Belfast, Ireland)
9/24 - Dolan's Warehouse (Limerick, Ireland )
9/29 - The Waterfront (Norwich, United Kingdom)
10/04 - Fibbers (York, United Kingdom)
10/05 - O2 ABC (Glasgow, United Kingdom)
10/06 - La-Belle Angele (Edinburgh, United Kingdom)
10/07 - The Moorings Bar (Aberdeen, United Kingdom)
10/08 - O2 Academy 2 (Sheffield, United Kingdom)
10/09 - O2 Academy (London, United Kingdom)

(NOTE: Due to the high volume of emails received, a response is not guaranteed.) 

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

REVIEW - Bill Laswell/Bernie Worrell/Karsh Kale: Funkcronomic

Cover design: Yoko Yamabe

Every Bernie Worrell-related release is a work of art, but Funkcronomic is perhaps the most significant collection of songs the Wizard of WOO has ever delivered.

One of the greatest musicians of our time, Worrell is in the final stages of his battle with a host of ailments including prostate cancer and Stage IV lung cancer. As we say goodbye to such an incomparable creative force, we can find solace in the fact that Worrell spent his final months as productive as ever. Earlier this year, Worrell gifted the world with Retrospectives, an instrumental collection of reimagined Parliament-Funkadelic classics co-produced by longtime collaborator Bill Laswell and featuring the talents of drummer extraordinaire Don McKenzie. At the same time, he stepped up his work in developing Native American-infused Funk with his band Khu.éex', who are set to release a long-awaited studio album in the near future. (I was fortunate enough to catch Khu.éex' – with Worrell in tow – live in Seattle on his 72nd birthday in April. It was easily one of the greatest music events I've ever seen.) But it is Funkcronomic that is closest to many hearts these days, as it could end up being the final new Bernie Worrell music released in the man's lifetime.

Released June 10 on M.O.D. Technologies, the digital-only Funkcronomic is a five-song instrumental EP that finds Worrell taking a sonic voyage with Laswell on bass and guitar and Indian DJ / producer Karsh Kale handling drums. The festivities are bookended by “Woo Doo” and “Shochurolling,” two '70s-style Funk numbers that instantly recall the magic of Worrell's time in Parliament-Funkadelic. The power of this era in Worrell's career is reinforced in “Flashlight-Redux,” which finds Laswell and Kale putting down a bulletproof foundation for Worrell to showcase his trademark groove. Folks, you could get 100 of the world's greatest keyboardists to cover this P-Funk classic, and there ain't nobody out there who's gonna top the Wizard. 

A great Bernie Worrell song or live show is a sonic roller coaster that literally takes you somewhere else as the maestro works his magic. As each song ends, listeners and/or audience members (at least those truly paying attention and feeling it) are delivered back to Earth, grateful to have been able to take the trip. Funkcronomic's “Outer Woo” exemplifies this phenomenon, with Worrell's otherworldly keys opening our ears to the EP's trippiest and most mind-altering moments.

While the multifaceted Laswell is as known for instigating unadulterated noise with the likes of Praxis and PainKiller as he is for producing artists like Peter Gabriel and Mick Jagger, his playing on Funkcronomic is both conventional and inspired, offering a solid flow to Worrell's esoteric explorations. Kale's spirited drumming add a bounce and sense of looseness to the affair (especially on “Flash Back”), adding further evidence that three three gentlemen truly enjoyed making this music together. Flawless from beginning to end, Funkcronomic is not only another great addition to the Worrell canon, but an excellent way for the uninitiated to be introduced to a magical soul who is leaving us with a least one more way to enjoy his incomparable craft.

When I interviewed Bernie in January, he left me with these words: “Be careful out there; [it's a] crazy world.”

You too, Bernie. May your journey from this life be peaceful and full of the same beauty and joy you've given us during your time here. We will treasure you always.

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Thursday, June 16, 2016

For the Kids: James Williamson Rocks Hawaii

What do you do for an encore after you release the best album of 2014? You put out a children's single, of course!

Tomorrow, Iggy and the Stooges guitar legend James Williamson will release a new digital single, “I Love My Tutu” / “Never Far From Where The Wild Things Are,” with the extraordinary Lisa Kekaula of The BellRays on lead vocals. Although geared towards younger audiences, the two tracks (also set for release as a seven-inch single on August 12) offer a fun listening experiences for people of all ages and usher in a fascinating new chapter in Williamson's storied career.

“I Love My Tutu” is a fun “Jawaiian” song about the relationship between grandchildren and their grandmothers, while the rocking “Never Far From Where The Wild Things Are” is inspired by the book Where The Wild Things Are. Williamson handles bass and ukulele in addition to guitar, while Kekaula's niece and nephew join the always-stellar Petra Haden in providing backing vocals. Drums and keyboards are handled by Michael Urbano (Smash Mouth) and Gregg Foreman (Cat Power), respectively. Kekaula, Haden, Foreman and Urbano previously worked with Williamson on Re-Licked, his 2014 collection of modern studio recordings of Stooges tracks originally written with Iggy Pop in 1973-74.

“Urbano and Gregg Foreman are like my go-to guys for rhythm tracks,” Williamson says. “I just loved working with them [on Re-Licked]. Urbano’s rock solid, and Gregg Foreman brings something to the party. As far as the singers go, this particular [single] is with Lisa not only because she’s just an incredible, talented singer, but also because the A-side is a kind of Hawaiian - or Jawaiian - style song, and Lisa is part Hawaiian, so she had the pedigree to pull this song off. She did a fantastic job on it. She’s versatile enough to wail out on the B-side, which is kind of a rocker. She was the perfect choice for this record.

“I’ll always use Petra if I can, because her voice is so great,” he adds. “In fact – and you’ve heard it here first – the next single [I'm going to release] is actually with Petra, because I’ve always wanted to do a record with her as the lead vocalist, not a backing vocalist. Hang tight; in August, that one should drop.”

An avid visitor of Hawaii for decades, Williamson has chosen to donate the new single’s profits to Project Hawai'i, who assist homeless children in the state.  

“It’s patently obvious when you go to Hawaii, especially certain parts, that they have a huge homeless problem,” he says. “The big island of Hawaii probably has the largest homeless population of anywhere. I started to become aware of the fact that along with that problem comes a lot of homeless children. That's especially gut-wrenching, because they’re caught in the circumstance through no fault of their own. Frankly, every [homeless] person is to some degree… I just became aware of that particular program, which is very positive. They’re taking steps to keep reinforcing these kids to try and lead a better life.”

In addition to serving a great cause, the new single is also a family affair for Williamson, who wrote “I Love My Tutu” with his wife, Linda, and "Never Far From Where The Wild Things Are” with his son, Jamie. Their presence on the record is interesting in light of the fact that the Williamson household was once as far away from Rock ‘N’ Roll as it could get. After retiring from the music business at the dawn of the ’80s, he became a Silicon Valley executive thanks to his work in the electrical engineering field, eventually landing a position as vice president of technical standards for Sony.

An early retirement buyout from the company in 2009 coincided with an invitation to re-join The Stooges, who had initially reformed in 2003 with the late Ron Asheton (1948-2009) on guitar. But up to that point, there was nothing in Williamson's life and work in the corporate world that would have tipped his son or daughter, Elizabeth, off to what he had experienced and accomplished in his past life as guitarist in one of the world's greatest bands. So what was it like for them once dad strapped on his guitar and hit the stage with The Stooges for the first time in ages?

“It was a bit of an adjustment,” he reveals. “On the one hand, it was something kind of cool, like oh my God, old dad is all of a sudden a rock star! (laughs) Of course, my wife always knew that; she knew me back in the day, so it wasn’t anything new to her other than I started having to tour and so forth, and that took up a lot of time. But it had its benefits; she could kind of cherry-pick the nice places she wanted to go to that were on the tour. The kids also got to benefit; you get some bragging rights and get to go to some shows and enjoy all the trappings of the whole thing. On the other hand, I think they had to sort of relate to me slightly differently. But I think overall, they enjoyed it and it was a positive thing.”

James Williamson (left) with The Stooges, 1973 (Photo by Heather Harris)

Of course, much has happened in the world of The Stooges since Williamson made his return. The great Scott Asheton died in 2014, while saxophonist extraordinary Steve Mackay passed away last October. With Iggy currently riding high with a hit solo album (this year’s Post Pop Depression) and Williamson involved with his own projects these days, does the guitarist see a future with his longtime cohort, whether it’s under the Stooges name or in a different capacity?

“I doubt it,” he replies. “The Stooges is over. Basically, everybody’s dead except for Iggy and I, so it would be sort of ludicrous to try to tour as Iggy and the Stooges with only one Stooge in the band, and then you have side guys. That doesn’t make any sense to me. And frankly, I don’t want to tour anymore; I’m kind of done with it. I also feel like we’re getting a little long in the tooth to be doing these show anymore. I know he does them, and people seem to like them. That’s fine, but I feel like I don’t want to beat it into the ground. In 2013, we were still kind of kicking butt on stage, and I think we could hold up to most bands – young bands, in fact. But these days, I think it’s more of a memory than it is a reality. I’m good with not doin’ nothin.’ By the same token, I still feel I have some music left in me, so I’m enjoying doing these little projects and putting them out there for people.”

These “little projects” for the rest of the year include the aforementioned single with Haden on lead vocals and a third single with a singer Williamson describes as “someone entirely new that you have never heard from before – a fresh, young talent.” His focus on releasing singles is as much an aesthetic interest as it is a creative one.

“I think singles have a kind of purity to them because they’re very focused,” he offers. “There’s usually no fat in them, if you will. They’re either very good on the A-side and the B-side, or a least good on the A-side. They have a lot of effort put into them, and usually people who take the time to do that will make a good cover and so on. You get a concentrated effort versus albums, where you’ve got maybe two, three, four good songs if you’re lucky, and then there’s a lot of filler. On the other hand, I do plan on doing a lengthier piece – an EP or LP – later in the year, but we’ll see how that works out.”

After earning his place in Rock history more than four decades ago with Iggy and the Stooges' Raw Power and making an unexpected return to the international spotlight at an age when most people consider retirement, Williamson is now enjoying the freedom that comes from conceptualizing and releasing music under his own steam.

“It started out that I just wanted to get the songs [on Re-Licked] out there that we had written back in the day,” he says. “I just wanted to see the material that we had planned to do as a follow-up to Raw Power see the light of day. It wasn’t going to happen under the Stooges banner for a lot of reasons, most of all was just the comparison between us old guys and the younger guys who created that music. But in assembling a mixed bag of young and old and various really talented people, I think it did see the light of day in a great way. I really felt that the enthusiasm that those people brought to that album was really palpable. So I guess that was the beginning of that. Everybody always wishes they could have done something this way - or they would have done it this way and they were sorry that it got done that way and so on. I’m no different, although I’ve been a little more fortunate than most people in that I usually produce everything I’ve ever done except for Raw Power, and I have a lot of control over it. In a way, everything I’ve done has been mine. I’ve been gratified to continue in that vein with these newer projects and work with a variety of people. That’s the fun of it for me.”

Photo by Pacific Dream Photography  

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Love and Anger: Inside Steve Zing’s Blak29

Steve Zing and Dan Tracey of Blak29 (Photo by Steve Zing/Joe Simanello)

During a career highlighted by stints in Samhain, The Undead and Mourning Noise, longtime Danzig bassist Steve Zing has been a part of some of the most legendary moments in the history of Horror Punk and Metal. Now, he is taking center stage as the leader of Blak29.

Boasting some of Zing’s heaviest performances in years, Blak29’s debut album, Love And Anger, hits listeners with a perfect balance between Sonic Temple-era The Cult and How The Gods Kill-era Danzig. Fueled by Zing (who handles lead vocals, drums and occasional additional guitar and bass duties), Dan Tracey (lead guitar, bass and backing vocals) and some very special guests, Love And Anger is strong enough to stand alongside the classics in the Danzig/Samhain canon.

Blak29 rose from the ashes of Zing’s most recent non-Danzig project, Marra’s Drug. As much as he enjoyed that band while it lasted, he admits that musical differences eventually led to its demise.   

“Our guitar player in Marra’s Drug [Steve Falco] was amazing,” he says. “But when you're an amazing player, you want to play amazingly. That tends to lead to overplaying. The drummer [John Caton, ex-Electric Frankenstein] was great – and when they're great, some drummers are just in the pocket, and others just want to play a lot. I think there was too much going on for my taste. Everybody's got this perception of 'making it' or whatever you want to call it. It wasn't happening fast enough; everybody kind of got bummed by that fact. There were words spoken like, 'Well, you get to go play in front of thousands of people with Danzig.' I'd say, 'Well, okay...That's not my fault.' But I still talk to the guys all the time, and it's great. It was good while it lasted; it was a good era.”

Recruiting former Marra’s Drug bassist Tracey for the new project, Zing began putting Blak29 (named after Zing’s June 29 birthday and love of roulette) into motion. Recorded in Zing’s home studio over a three-year period, Love And Anger was first teased in a video clip of Hades/Non-Fiction guitarist Dan Lorenzo adding his touch to the proceedings. With the album finally out in the world, Zing is happy with where the endeavor ultimately ended up.

“Everything could not have gone better,” he says. “We have fun doing it, and there's no egos. We're trying to do what's best for the song. Although I'm the drummer and I play some guitar and some bass on it and am the singer, I'm not listening just for myself. Dan's not listening just for his instruments, whereas others would go, 'Turn the guitar up; I need more lead.' This is just for the song, and that's it.”

Love And Anger features a fiery cover of former ABBA singer Frida’s 1982 hit, “I Know There’s Something Going On.”

“When that song came out, I really liked it,” Zing explains. “I thought the drums were so powerful, and it’s just a cool song for the time that always stuck with me. I was like, 'You know what? Someday, I'm going to do a version of that song,' and that's exactly what happened.”

“I Know There’s Something Going On” features Lorenzo on guest guitar.

“Dan actually lives a few blocks from where I am,” explains Zing. “I got to know him because I knew his drummer from his band, Hades. When Hades did some shows, I went down to a rehearsal of theirs and we found out we were basically neighbors. We just kept in touch, and we met for breakfast and lunch a few times. One time, I was like, 'Man, I have a Hades 45 from the early '80s!' One day, I called him up and said, 'Hey, why don’t you come and play some guitar?'

“I Know There’s Something Going On” also features guest co-lead vocals by Leiana, a Philadelphia-based singer who currently fronts the band TheOne2s.   

“The girl can write; the girl can sing,” says Zing of Leiana, who was first crossed paths with him via New York-based vocal coach Melissa Cross. “When I was gonna do that Frida cover, I was like, 'I think it would really work best as a duo-type thing. I called her up and said, 'Hey, how'd you like to do this?' I thought she did an amazing job. She's really a great musician.”

Zing’s longtime friend and current Danzig drummer Johnny Kelly (Type O Negative/Seventh Void) also turns up on Love And Anger, bringing the beat to “I Know There’s Something Going On,” “Can’t Find My Way” and “Not Feeling Heaven.”

“When you're having fun, there's no pressure,” Zing observes. “Obviously, Johnny knew of the song, but I said to him, 'Play what you want.' With the other two songs he did on the record as well, he wasn’t given anything. He didn't have weeks to rehearse; he came down and I said, 'Do your thing.' I'm a big Johnny Kelly fan; he swings like no other drummer. Obviously, Bill Ward is one of his biggest influences. Bill Ward, John Bonham...he swings when he plays. He's got such a great feel.”

With Love And Anger now a reality, Zing is looking to build a band to showcase the material live.

“Obviously, I'll ask Johnny,” he says. “It's a two-guitar sound; I've been looking around and I have my eye on a few people in the area who I'll be asking soon to see what they think. I definitely want to play live. I love the art of recording; I've been into it since I was a little kid, but live is really where you get to show your wares, so to speak.”

In addition to a standard-edition black-and-white cover, Love And Anger has also been issued with a special full-color cover by Florida-based artist Dave Berns.

“I got turned on to Dave because he's done Danzig posters for certain shows over the years,” Zing explains. “I always loved his artwork; he's done some incredible posters for us.”

Almost all of the 250 copies of this version were already sold out at the time of this writing. Naturally, Zing has been pleased with the public’s response to the album.

“It's done better than my expectations,” he shares. “As you know, the music business has become stagnant; I think people have lost faith in music. What I mean by that is today's music is all programmed. Of course, there are a bunch of bands that are still putting out real music, like a lot of the Metal bands. But as far as anything else that even has a remote chance of being somewhat commercial, it's all programed instant-gratification music. I'm not putting any of those artists down. If you can make a living in the music business, I don't care who you are – good for you! But don't give me your bullshit; I don't want to hear your political stance and things like that. This ain’t politics. We're artists and musicians; we're not politicians. Leave the politics for the rest of the idiots and just concentrate on making people happy and forget their lousy jobs or whatever they have for the length of your CD or your show.”

The release of Love And Anger is the latest chapter in Zing's 36-year musical story. He first cut his teeth in the short-lived New Jersey Punk band Implosion, which eventually morphed into the Misfits-inspired Mourning Noise. The band's 1983 EP Dawn Of The Dead remains one of era’s most memorable releases, while the 1998 compilation Death Trip Delivery: 1981-1985 is an essential purchase. When the Misfits collapsed later in ‘83, Zing joined Glenn Danzig and drummer-turned-bassist Eerie Von (Rosemary’s Babies) in Samhain. While still in Samhain, he helped out his old friend (and former Misfits guitarist) Bobby Steele by playing drums in more than one version of the ever-fluctuating Undead. (His contributions to the band are best represented on 1985’s “Never Say Die!” / “In Eighty Four” single, 1989's Age Your Rage! LP and the 1991 compilation Dawn Of The Undead.) By 1987, he was out front singing lead vocals in Chyna, a Heavy Rock group that lasted 12 years and produced a series of independent releases. In 1999, Zing participated in the first Samhain reunion tour, alternating on bass and drums with November-Coming-Fire-era member London May. Following the trek's conclusion, he and May joined hooked up with Danzig touring guitarist Todd Youth (Murphy's Law/Warzone/Agnostic Front) and AFI singer Davey Havok for Son of Sam, releasing the album Songs From The Earth in 2001. (A second album, 2008's In The Night, saw Havok replaced by Ian Thorne and future Michael Monroe drummer Karl “Rockfist” Rosqvist replace May). In 2003, Zing formed Doomtree, releasing the album Down Below two years later. After the CD's release, a trademark dispute with a Rap act of the same name forced Zing to re-name the band Marra's Drug. An eponymous album under the new moniker was released in 2011. He also joined Danzig in 2006 as the band's full-time bassist and has remained with them ever since.

With the exception of a couple of tours where Kelly was temporarily replaced due to other commitments, the current incarnation of Danzig (completed by Prong guitarist Tommy Victor) has been together since 2008 – lasting longer than even the classic original lineup of Glenn Danzig, Von, guitarist John Christ and Chuck Biscuits. What makes the current version of the band work so well?

“Johnny gets to look at our asses all the time!” Zing jokes. “You know, it's a real blessing to be playing in Danzig, let alone playing with Glenn, Johnny and Tommy. Tommy is no slouch, for sure. You couldn't ask for better players and better bandmates. We have a lot of fun. You're talking about musicians who are up there because they love to play music. Johnny will play anywhere at any time. He just loves to play drums. He's one of those guys; it never gets old for him. You put a pair of sticks in his hand, and this guy just lights up and plays.

“When Danzig goes in to do a rehearsal, we plug in and in a half hour, it's like we’ve been playing every day, even though a year can go by,” he adds. “We know what to expect from each other.”

Love And Anger comes at an interesting time in Zing’s career, as this summer marks the 30th anniversary of his debut solo single, a cover of Del Shannon’s “Runaway.” Limited to a one-time pressing of 100 45s, the record has become one of the most coveted item in the Misfits/Samhain/Danzig collector universe.

 “Every once in a while, I find one on eBay or something for like $300,” Zing says. “I think I have like five left; I'm saving them for my kids.”

Another critical anniversary in Zing’s world hit two years ago, when Glenn Danzig called him up to inform him that there was an offer on the table for Samhain reunion show at that year’s Riot Fest to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Initium album. The success of the performance (which included Peter Adams of Baroness on guest guitar and May sharing drum/bass duties with Zing) led to a six-date tour under the name “30 Bloody Years.” The trek ended on November 1, 2014 at the Best Buy Theatre in New York City.

“It was bittersweet,” says Zing of the band’s (as of now) final onstage appearance. “The show was over, and security comes over and says, 'We're closing the building!' We kind of all scattered and never said goodbye. Obviously, I talk to Glenn and London all the time, but it was just a weird way the way everything just ended. It kinda didn't close the book for me; it left that last chapter open like, 'Wait a minute! This is not the way this is supposed to end!' But you never know – I never thought [’30 Bloody Years’] would happen. It never came up in a conversation [previously] between Glenn and me. Basically, he called me around March of 2014 and said, 'Hey, we got an offer to Samhain for the 30th anniversary.' I was like, 'Oh, shit...that long ago?!' It was one of those things you put out of your mind and don't think about.”


Of course, another reunion involving Danzig recently made international headlines. While new and old fiends around the world have plenty of opinions of the upcoming “Original Misfits” shows at Riot Fest, Zing’s perspectives on the subject are from a person who’s known Doyle since grade school and witnessed his first Misfits rehearsal (at Jerry Only and Doyle’s family home in Lodi, NJ) in 1978.

“If you were there and you got to witness them rehearse 39 years ago and watch that...As I've told the story before, Doyle brings me in the garage, and it's Glenn, Jerry, [original guitarist] Franche Coma and [former drummer] Jim Catania, and it changed my life,” he says. “I knew right there and then that I wanted to play music. I always had an interest in music before that, but that solidified what I needed to do, and I knew that I'd be in a band with Glenn. And I was all of 11, 12. So that's etched in my head. After listening to them, watching the image grow and seeing them live in the early ’80s, I kinda want to die with that memory. To see anything else...Look, I've seen Jerry's Misfits. I'm not knocking Jerry; he's keeping that alive, I guess. But it's kind of like doing the Ramones without Joey Ramone. The Michale Graves era was okay; I guess it worked. I saw it a few times. It's kind of like Motley Crue with John Corabi. Vince Neil was the guy. Again, I'm not putting them down; they're doing what they have to do, but I have my memory of what it was. I'm not sure [about the reunion]... I’m afraid that it might fail. It's a really weird feeling that I have about it.

“I love looking at old pictures that are online because that really fills a void,” he adds. “The Misfits created a war in music...When we do Misfits songs in Danzig when we do stuff with Doyle, I get chills because it takes me back to a place in time. I'm standing on stage with this guy who I used to watch when I was a little kid, and I'm like, 'Wow!' It's a real spine-tingler for me.”

Zing is reaching people these days with more than just music. In February, Zing appeared in a special video on depression filmed on behalf the You Rock Foundation. In the clip, he details his struggles with the condition, stressing to viewers who face similar obstacles that they are not alone. While some would shy away from publicly discussing such a deeply personal matter, he used his fame as a means of reaching people who could use words of encouragement.

Zing’s participation in the video came at the suggestion of filmmaker Pawl Bazile (Living The American Nightmare).

“[Pawl] said, 'Hey, we're doing this thing about depression. Have you had struggles with it?’” recalls Zing. “I was like,‘Well, are you living under a rock? Who hasn't?' He's like, ‘Would you want to open yourself up to something like this?' I said, 'Sure. I've got nothing to hide. If it can help someone, let's do it.'

“There are kids out there who are going through depression and think they're the only ones,” he continues. “I struggled with anxiety and depression when I was a kid. In today's day and age, there's so much help out there. Even if you go on YouTube and put in 'meditation,' there are ways to meditate to kind of calm yourself down. Those options weren't there for me when I was a kid; you'd go to the doctor and get put on a pill. I didn't want to do that. Music got me through everything, as it has for as long as I can remember. To this day, if I'm in a real shitty mood or feeling blah, I'll come down to my studio at one in the morning, put headphones on and listen to music. Sometimes I just need to go back to a place in time in my mind, and I'll put on a Misfits song or something. It brings me to a different place, and that's the great thing about music.”

The first thing Zing did before the video was posted to the public was send it to his daughters, Serena and Talia.  

“I thought it was important that they got to see it before anyone else,” he shares. “They were both in college; I talked to them and then I sent them the link. And they cried; they said, 'We had no idea.' I said, 'That's really nice, but it's okay. This is life, and life is nowhere near perfect.' I don’t care who you are – if you tell me that you have a perfect life, get out from under that rock. There's always a skeleton in that closet, whether it's in your head or whatever. There's always something there, but what's important is how you deal with it.”

The rest of 2016 promises to be a positive and productive time for Zing. In addition to performing at the June 17/18 Azkena Rock Festival in Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain with The Who(!), Gutterdämmerung (with Henry Rollins), Primal Scream and more, Danzig are setting up dates for South America and are considering another North American run. Closer to home, Zing is already recording new songs for Blak29 and continues work on a long-running (and currently unnamed) project with Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe. Above all, he is committed to approaching every creative endeavor (and day, for that matter) with positivity and inner strength – a mindset that Zing says has become even stronger in light of the recent deaths of Prince, David Bowie and too many others.

“It affected me and put a lot of things into perspective about how precious life is,” he reveals. “My girlfriend and I went to see Purple Rain the other night. I remember being on tour with Samhain in '84 and we went to see it in the movies when it first came out. It brought back a lot of memories.”

With an extraordinary new album available and a slew of great things in the works, Zing is happier than ever to be a part of the music world.   

“It doesn't stop; that's the great thing about music,” he says. “I'm going to be 52 [on June 29], and I just enjoy it. It's not a hobby; it's just in me. It's just what I love to do.”

No matter where his future takes him, there is no doubt that Zing will have a blast doing it.

As he says, “Never let an opportunity pass you by because there are no second chances or do-overs. There's one go-around, and you have to make the best of it.”

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