I have to say that I absolutely loved this record.
What I really reacted to was how Zero Down refers to themselves as a traditional metal band. As we all know, in the last 20 years or so, we'll blame thrash metal for beginning this, metal has really splintered into very different subgenres.
Many folks seem to act like the subgenres are wholly separate entities instead of just different kinds of metal. It's pretty funny. No one would say that Kiss is Arena Rock whereas Led Zeppelin is Blues-Rock and it mean something more than something to say, but here we are.
Lenny Burnett took some time to talk to me about that and other silly things I decided to ask him....
Glacially Musical: How did you guys get started?
Lenny Burnett: Me and Hawk our singer started the band over 10 years ago. We were long time friends and had been in different bands in the Seattle Metal/Hard Core Scene forever and we found ourselves bandless at the same time...so it was the perfect opportunity to work together.
We really didn't have a certain style or sound in mind at the time we just knew we wanted to see what we could write together and see where it would go. We went threw a few other members in the beginning until Ronnie Banner and Tyler Lindsley signed on to be the rhythm section. From there we just kept writing until we started figuring out what direction we wanted to go in musically.
GM: Metal has so many different subgenres, scenes, and the like. How hard have you found it to stay out of one of those scenes?
LB: I don't think we really worry about it. We just do our thing and everyone else can worry about what to call it or what sub genre it belongs in. To be honest I'm not even sure what separates some of these genres.
Like Power Metal. I see Accept listed in that Genre sometimes but they are traditional NWOBHM style band to me. I know our biggest influences are from the NWOBHM era and style.
GM: I heard some goodly amounts of Judas Priest influence in your music. Why do you think that there aren't a lot more bands that have that kind of sound, chainsaw guitars, tenor vocals etc?
LB: Well you know everything comes in waves and trends and it takes some ability and committment to really sing or at least be able to pull off some melodic type rough vocals for one. At some point Metal moved to a low guteral screaming attack to be more extreme and the guitars started drop tuning and being more rhythmic and syncopated instead of a more traditional riffing.
I like some of that for sure but its just not as musical or memorable to me as what came before in the late 70's to early/mid 80's. Priest are one of my fav bands of all time. Everything up to Screaming for Venegeance is golden to me. The amazing thing about them was they were able to constantly evolve and try different things during that period and still pull it off.
I mean Sin After Sin is miles apart from British Steel/Point of Entry. I'm sure that style will all come back around again because you can only ride a certain style and sound for so long until people want to hear something else. Hopefully that time is now and people will be open to that kind of throwback Metal that we obviously present.
GM: Over the past 20 years we've seen a revival in Sabbath style metal, doom, stoner, what have you. Why do you think there aren't more bands that got on the Judas Priest train?
LB: It's easier to play...ha...ha....Marijuana is basically legal. A bunch of stoners setting around listening to Sabbath, Trouble, COC and copping the vibe I guess...ha...ha...I'm kidding. Fallout post Grunge Scene? Its hard to say really.
I do think there is elements in bands like Soundgarden, Alice in Chains, etc. that may have made the transition from Grunge to that Stoner Metal thing easier and more accepting on an Alternative level. You know people like Heavy Music but didn't necessarly want to be associated with "Heavy Metal." I really liked that first Sword record and some other things here and there but it got so overdone so quick. Love those early and Def Jam TROUBLE Records. That band was soooo good and a lot of people missed out on that. Too bad really. GM: Tell me about the equipment you guys are using. What effects, guitars, amps, etc?
LB: Well for me I mainly play a Gibson Flying V (80s model) through a Peavey 6505 head with Marshall Cabs and Vintage 30W Celestian speakers. Tuner and every now and then a MXR Phase 90. It's all basic for me.
Matt our other guitar player plays through a Marshall 100W Head and Cabinets with a variety of classic pedals (Tube Screamer, Wah Wah pedal, etc..) He has a ton of guitars but mainly plays a 1982 Dean Markley ML live ....I think our sounds really work great together. I have a little more of that modern Van Halen saturation in my sound but he has that classic cleaner sound with bite.
GM: What was the first record you can point to that made you think, THAT, that is the kind of music I want to play?
LB: Playing guitar came late for me compared to some people. I didn't even start until my last year in High School and at that point it was all about the NWOBHM and then the Thrash Scene that came after. But I was always drawn to the guitar and the sound of it in harder rock as a kid. KISS and THIN LIZZY were my first loves.
Especially those harmony guitar lines in THIN LIZZY. Still to this day its the biggest thing I'm drawn to when playing guitar with another player and in our case, Me and Matt really work great together when it comes to making our harmonies really sing and set right together. So I would have to say Thin Lizzy "Jailbreak" is probably the record that drew me to playing guitar and eventually wanting to make this kind of music.
GM: When you're ready to start writing, what album to play for your inspiration?
LB: That changes all the time. Inspiration comes from everywhere and any where and you really never know when that is going to happen. I very rarely just set time aside to write. i want it to be very organic and just try to be open to being inspired all the time to make that moment just happen. I'm always listening to music so it literally can happen any time.
For instance, I had been really going through a Scorpions vibe a few months back and loved the fact that they had these big heavy transient type album cuts that really worked well to break up an album full of rockers and up tempo songs. China White, Animal Magnetism, The Zoo, etc...So I was really inspired to write something in that vein which ended up being "Leche De Tigre" on the new record.
GM: What about your process, what's your usual spark to get a song moving...riff...drums...vocal melody? How do you then flesh that out into a full song?
LB: It always starts with the guitar riffs for the songs I bring in. That initial riff may end up being anywhere in the song but its where it all starts. I have to have that one riff that I feel good about and then that opens the door for putting other riffs and movement around it until I feel I have a strong basic structure for the song. Then vocal melodies and all the icing parts come later. Let's face it. Metal music is based around guitar riffs. As important as the vocals, rythmn section, hooks, etc are if there aren't any good guitar riffs that stand up on their own and stamp out an identity of some kind its not going to cut it.
So its the power of the riff that starts everything for me. Before I even bring it to the band I have gotta have those riffs that feel big and mighty.