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INTERVIEW: Zach E. West

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Infectious Magazine had the opportunity to interview Zach E. West, a musician who has been immersed in the music scene for 12 years. He has released his final album, 28 Years Later. He spoke with us on everything from the music industry, to a special someone who is the center of quite possibly his final song. Read on for the entire interview!

To hear Zach E. West’s final album, You can purchase a CD here.

Infectious Magazine: Are there any specific musical influences that helped you create 28 Years Later?

 

Zach E. West: Yeah, a majority of it I was really inspired by movie scores. For instance in the first song “Home” I was really inspired by the movie gravity, and if you listen to it again you might get that because gravity has a really intense score to it. There are certain parts of the movie where it feels like your head’s going to explode, the way they recorded everything. I just wanted these really huge orchestral sounds in there. Also Daft Punk, that song Contact, meets the movie Gravity. I wanted to incorporate that more metal or rock or whatever you want to call it. Also there’s really no band, what I mean by that is, I was listening to it a lot before I released it trying to figure out where I pulled influences from, and when it comes to the rock or metal stuff there’s really nothing I can think of. No bands in particular. Just a lot of movie scores like Gravity, 28 Days Later, John Murphy the movie Sunshine. Really a bunch of stuff. He’s one of my favorite composers. He has this dirty rock stuff put into his scores, and I wanted to do that, but make it actual songs with the vocals and structure everything. That’s what I set out to do, and the song “28 Years Later” is super inspired by the 28 Days Later franchise. “The Instrumental Guide to the End of the Galaxy” is one I wanted to just sound like the end of the world. I was even inspired by Star Wars, and all kinds of super epic space movies, like how the whole song just builds up. At the end of the song, just where it gets really huge – the big drums and all the violins and everything – I wanted to create that. But, I still wanted to have some more songs that were more online radio sounding stuff, like the music industry. It’s the most mainstream of the songs for sure. I wrote that song a few years ago, and I had the music for it already and I just really liked it. Since this is my last CD, I wanted that on there as my last “fuck you,” to the music industry I guess you could say. After everything I’ve been through in the last 12 years I thought it was a funny, yet correct point of view of what really goes on

 

What has been your biggest goal with the release of this final record?

I really wanted this to not just be a solo record but I wanted it a lot of things all put together. There are times where my albums have been more guitar driven and I really wanted it to be everything because I’m definitely not just a guitar player. I mean I was a drummer before I was a guitar player, and I was a singer before I was a drummer, and I played piano before I played drums so I really wanted to do everything I wanted. All the different parts of the CD I wanted different things to stand out. There’s parts where I wanted the vocals to stand out, there’s parts where in “Stand Strong” I wanted the guitar to stand out. There’s that 2 minute guitar solo. Then there’s parts where I wanted the drums to be super huge and stand out. I wanted it to be a really good, well-rounded musical and vocal CD and not just driven by one or two certain things, which for me was usually vocals or guitar. I definitely feel in my opinion I did that. I think the drums stand out more than they usually do, and bass too. Bass has always been quieter on my CDs and I feel that it really hits harder and I wanted it to. But yeah, I wanted it to be really well rounded. I wanted it to be a dirtier sound, and I wanted there to be more guitar feedback. I didn’t want it to be super over produced, like how a lot of things just sound so plastic and so fake I wanted there to be, you know… things where it sounds different. Not sloppy, just more raw and more live. You’ll notice that too, there are some parts where the guitar won’t be totally tied together and that’s how I wanted it to sound: almost like a live band was playing it.

While I reviewed the album, you mentioned the importance of listening to it from start to finish. What is the biggest gain by listening to your album this way?

I don’t really write singles, I never have. I’ll write two really cool, catchy songs and then I’m going to right a few more songs to throw on there just because I have to. It’s supposed to be more of an experience, or I like to call it an escape. I did a 16 song album a few years ago, and that whole thing went from start to finish. It never stopped anywhere in between. I felt that when I was a kid, and a teenager, and even in my twenties, when I listened to an album I wanted to escape. I wanted to not think about whatever the hell was going on in life, whether it be good or bad or anything in between. I wanted to disappear into an album and really experience it. I feel, for me, bands like Between the Buried and Me are really good at that. You get lost in it for a half hour, or hour, or however long it is and then whenever it’s done you’re like “oh shit what just happened.” You went on a different journey, and for me I replay it and replay it until I have to do something. I especially feel like this being my last CD, you can hear a lot of changes because the last ablum I did before this was kind of depressing. It was a lot slower with tons of piano and stuff. That was a weird point in my life, and things have changed so much for the better. Ever since that came out, my life is about ten times better at this point. I’m so much happier and I’m more optimistic for the future and just in general and, I think you can really hear that in the CD especially in the way it builds up in the last song that I wrote for Parker, my son. It was definitely the greatest thing that ever happened to me and it really leaves it on a good note ending with that song. Ending really dramatically at the very end I love all the orchestra and all the crazy feedback and everything that’s going on it just feels like some of those movies. Exactly like how really big build up in movies just goes black and its over, that’s how I wanted the album to end, because I have no idea at this point in my life what I’m doing (laughs). It’s not even scary really, it’s exhilarating and fun because I’ve been doing this for so long and I’m at a point now where we’re good for a while. Good financially, and everything, and we don’t have to worry and now I have to figure out what I’m doing next. That’s kind why the album ended like that. It was just done because I have no idea what I’m doing now, but I’m excited for it.

How many different instruments are involved in the album? Did you play all of them?

Yes I played all of them. Let’s see; there’s obviously guitars, mainly electric some acoustic, but I play all the guitars on every track (since some songs on there there’s like 10 guitar tracks). All the bass, I played all that, drums I played all that, piano I played all that. The vocals, keyboards, all the orchestral arrangements I wrote and I have a pretty cool program that helps since I don’t have hours to spend on an orchestra. And then, there’s also a lot of percussion which is something I don’t do a lot of. I once worked with this producer in this band I was playing and he was really big on adding in percussion. I saw how much it added to an album and most people don’t even notice it, so there’s a lot of shakers, tambourines, and even bongos. Everything I threw in there and some people don’t really even notice it. Sometimes in the background it fills in some gaps, and makes things interesting, so there’s a lot more percussion too. I went out to guitar center and bought a bunch of random stuff in the percussion and drum departments, and made it work. There’s a little bit of live sampling which I did a lot my last CD, where I take a handful of quarters and go to the corner of the room and I’ll roll two out and I record it, and then you rewind it a few times. So yeah, there’s a few times where I do some live sampling in there, some of its just with paper and some of its just with random stuff I find in the house so there’s some of that on there as well.

Can you elaborate on the meaning of “Change it, Replace it”?

That song was going to be the first single but the guy who mastered the album convinced me to make the “Music Industry” the first single so that’s going to be the first one, but I was inspired by the 28 Days Later franchise and the John Murphy scores. Also, the book 1984 I was inspired by that as well. I mean I feel that I’m at that weird age where I’m a part of the new generation, but I’m not at the same time. I see all these different things happening, all these kids who are addicted to their iPads – which I refuse to let my kid be that kid by the way (laughs) just want to throw that out there. But, people can’t even get through a dinner together without checking their phones or checking their Facebooks, Instagrams, all that other shit. It’s so sad to me because people can’t even hold real conversations anymore. When you find someone who actually can have a conversation, and can shake your hand with a proper handshake, and look you in the eyes it’s like… you just found a unicorn! When I see someone who can write text messages with punctuation and this and that I’m all “where’d you come from? Where are they making you?” All these people I meet are so consumed by everything in front of them that its honestly pretty terrifying I like nice things just as much as the next person but I’m not consumed by social networking and I’m not consumed by random games. There’s people who sit on Farmville for 3 hours it’s like “what the fuck are you doing with your life? go make a real farm! go outside and fucking plant something!” I mean that whole song is talking about that, and I just think it needs to change. I really hope it does. I think in some way, the internet is always going to be a part of our lives now (unless the internet gets bombed if that’s even possible), but I do think that people are going to stray away from it. Maybe this younger generation that’s starting now will be like “let’s not waste our life on that lets be more productive let’s do things in the world for ourselves,” and I hope that’s the way it’s going to go but it’s hard to tell. That whole song is pretty much about how everyone’s just consumed by all of that.

Another song on the album is title “music industry” and my question is, what do you believe the music industry will be like 10 – 20 years from now?

I started pretty young when it came to music. I started touring when I was 16 and when I first started it was a hustle if you really wanted it. You really had to bust your ass in real life, not just on a computer to be successful. I did well younger than I am doing now and that’s because I went out in public and I had actual CDs, and I would sell them to people in the streets. I would stand in front of hot topic at the mall and talk to people and sell my CD and then the first shows, I would print out all the stuff and get people to go to them. It got to the point where I was selling so many tickets for local shows that I would be able to start playing for bigger bands that would come in town. one of the first shows I ever played was opening for Chavelle, Killswitch Engage, and all that. I was feeling really good when my first CD came out, and when I was 18 I sold a shit ton by like almost 25,000 copies of that CD just from my own hands. I was stoked, and then that was right around when MySpace took over. That’s when everything started to change, and I would go online and see all these poeple I’ve never heard of who had a million friends or fans or whatever it was on MySpace. I was like “What has this person even done?” and you look into them. They’ve never played a show, they’ve never done anything, the recording sounds like it was done on their laptop. There are all these bands just blowing up for no reason and really put no effort into it. they got lucky. From all this I pretty much think one of two things might happen with the music industry. I think it’s going to get so bad to the point that real musicians are going to start dropping off and not caring (like what I’m doing right now) and the Katy Perry’s take over. Or, there’s going to be some type of revolution for lack of a better word. People are going to be so tired of the fakeness, and people are going to really figure out that this is all constructed by 50 year old men in an office somewhere. They’ll want to hear real music again and they want it to be like the 70’s, 60’s, and the 50’s. There would be something like a whole new influence of bands that come out, that are more influenced by older bands, and that will be the new trend after this dubsteb pop bullshit thing blows over. I’m honestly not sure where its going, but I know either way it’s definitely not something I want to be a part of.

If you could change things, how would you change them?

I would make people work for it without a doubt. If I was say, someone made me executive of a record label, and they said I can change things, I can make this happen. I would make bands work their ass off for it. I would make them do their own tours, do their own everything! Prove they can do things on their own, with and without the internet. I know the internet is a part of our lives now and forever, that’s something I have to accept as much as I hate it. I would see who can do all that, and do it best. Plus stay together and not have 50 band member changes every three weeks. Whoever does that that’s who I would pick, and most of all who can perform the best live in front of the best live show. Who can put on the best show by themselves and sound the way they’re supposed to sound, because that’s the other big disappointment I’d say within the last 10 – 12 years is the lack of good sounding bands live. On top of that, the amount of bands that are using backbeat tracks is blowing my mind. It’s not even the bands that people would assume it’d be you know? It’s tons of metal bands are just running backing tracks now. I mean it’s like Milli Vanilli took over the metal scene.

You said that after 12 years of touring and recording this will be your last CD you are EVER going to do. What prompted this decision?

This is probably the most important question because I think a lot of people think I’m stopping music because of having a kid, but it’s very much not that. Before we even found out Meg was pregnant we were actually talking about it and we were both just over it and over the music industry. That was right before I was going to Australia, and I was like “I’m done after Australia,” I didn’t want to do this anymore. It was my last final hoorah of playing music and when I was in Australia is when I found out she was pregnant. I came back, and I moved to Las Vegas. I was feeling like I don’t want to end my music career on the last CD so that’s why I started writing more and more. I wasn’t even sure when I was going to release it, or what I was going to do. When I wrote “Stand Strong” it was for Parker from the beginning, and I was definitely feeling I got a good song. It’s definitely one of my favorite songs I’ve ever written and then I started writing the whole album around it and then I got addicted to that movie Gravity, and this was when I started adding way more of the orchestral stuff and the synth stuff and everything to the album. When it all came together, I felt like I definitely had to release this and make this my last one because I really don’t think I can top it, and I just don’t really have the same inspiration I used to when it comes to writing music. A lot of it feels lost and somewhat hopeless. Even if I spend all this time writing new songs that I think are pretty great, because then I have to worry about trying to hustle it out there on the internet. That’s all that matters. you got to get all these hits on your YouTube videos and all this stuff I just don’t give a shit about. People aren’t going to listen to it for the most part, and you go to your video and you only have 150 views and 4 likes or whatever. It’s such a dumb and stressful thing to have to worry about, but unfortunately that’s where the world is at. That’s where the music industry is at and I talk about in that song the music industry, “How many hits can you get on the little screen.” I just want to do that, and get it done, and put my last piece out there. I also really wanted to release that song for Parker more than anything. Any money I make off of it is all going to straight into his bank account that I made for his school at some point when he’s older. It’s already direct deposited from my distributor straight to his bank account. Any money that I make off this is going to him, so that was another plus to it. Especially because it doesn’t cost me anything to record, since I can do everything myself and engineer it, and write everything.

Even though this is your last album, will you continue to make music?

I don’t know I haven’t even played guitar that much recently. I’ve gone through the phase a few times before, that was also a different point in my life. I had this side project I did for a while called the Silver Tongued, and I’ve got a bunch of stuff I wrote for that, that never came out so there’s a chance I might release that at some point if I ever finished it. I just got to do some vocals and bass on it and I might just release that too. I already have a title for it I might just have 29 songs on it and sell it for like 5 bucks and then same thing would go straight into Parkers account. Maybe in the Fall or something but other than that, I don’t know. I feel like this has definitely been the best style and best sound I’ve ever had and I just can’t really see being able to do it again. But, maybe in my mid 30’s or something I’ll have an epiphany and write another album, “35 Years Later” or something (laughs). I mean it’s possible, but I don’t see it happening right now. I got a couple different avenues I could go as far as career wise, but right now I’m just enjoying being a dad, going on hikes, and kicking it.
As a musician looking back, would you do anything differently?
Definitely not. Not at all. I’ve always been asked you know “were you ever criticized for moving so much and doing whatever the fuck you wanted to do for 10 years of your life?” well that depends. I feel the people that criticized me the most were the people that settled down immediately after high school anyway, and absolutely hated their lives. They never really did things with their lives, and never got to experience the chaos and the things that are being in your 20’s. I spent the majority of my 20’s just being a crazy person, partying, traveling, going to different countries, and going on tour and moving. I lived in NYC and Georgia and Florida and Texas and Utah and all over California up and down the whole coast and Las Vegas. I’ve seen and met all these different kinds of people and I think it was the greatest thing I ever did, because now that I’m a dad, and now that I’m settled down a little bit more, I’m really happy with my life and I have no regrets at all. I don’t look back like “I wish I did this,” or “I wish I did that,” because I did that. I did those things and I experienced them. A lot of the things I did I wouldn’t want to do again, in a sense that if I never did them I wouldn’t have known that. So I think it was a really good call. I definitely don’t regret anything

My favorite song on the album is “Stand Strong”, the one about your son who was recently born. What importance does that song hold for you?

That was actually the song I recorded last the vocals for, because I was trying to emotionally prepare for it. I’m not a very emotional person, but that song definitely hits my hearts strings a little bit. Even writing it was difficult to get because it’s weird to think about. The weirdest thing about being a parent is that, you know, this person is born and they know absolutely nothing at all. They’re just this little sad cute blob, and you’re like “holy shit you’re going to learn almost everything from me and your mom,” and it’s a surreal feeling. He’s even got a better personality than any kid I’ve ever met at only 8 months old. I also wanted it to hopefully be a song where in my mind, something that he listens to throughout his life. He already absolutely loves it. Even when it was just an instrumental, and every time the full song starts, just the piano, he gets quiet. Super quiet. And he just focuses for the entire song. He’s so into that song since he was born. There’s this one video on my Facebook from when he was three weeks old, of me recording that guitar solo. He was just napping next to me as I was just shredding. But yeah, I really want that to be a song where he listens to it throughout his life. When he goes through all the things that kids, teenagers, and adults go through, I hope that he can have an album through it. I think it’s a pretty important thing to have some guidance and god forbid anything happens to me, I would want it to be my thing left for him. To help him through whatever he has to go through. Hopefully it helps him feel strong through it all.

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Caitlin Shores

Writer and Photographer

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