Interview: Zombi

After Cosmos was released we realised that the metal crowd is super open-minded and supportive. A friend once described us as “easy listening for the discerning headbanger,” or something to that effect, which is pretty good.

It would be fair to say that Zombi might be one of the consistent bands around. In their twenty-plus years of existence, Steve Moore and Anthony E. Paterra have put out a wealth of cinematic prog-rock gems that pay tribute to the masters that came before while carving a niche that could only be filled by them. They’ve returned with maybe their most audacious (and bodacious) outing yet in Direct Inject so to celebrate the occasion, David Bowes caught up with them to talk movies, independence and why they might be one of metalheads’ most beloved non-metal bands.

E&D: Hi guys, I just wanted to say thank you for giving me your time and this opportunity. The new album is sounding fantastic so I guess that’s as good a starting point as anything. How long has this record been in the works and what was your intention with it in terms of sound and tone?

Steve: Thank you! The majority of this record was written after our tour with The Sword in Spring of 2022. It was a special time for a lot of people following the darkness of the pandemic. The mask restrictions were lifted while we were on the road and folks were just super excited to be able to gather again. Lots of people, myself included, thought we’d never get back to the place where we could go see bands play again. The shows were filled with energy. It was inspirational to us, and after that tour – our first full US tour in over a decade – we were brimming with ideas. Regarding the sound and tone, we wanted to expand the boundaries a little. The intent was to create our most diverse, mature album to date. The heavy parts are heavier, the sexy parts are sexier. We love a wide variety of music and wanted the new album to reflect that.

E&D: You self-produced this album once again (which I think you have done with pretty much everything you have recorded). What have been the benefits of taking this approach and is there anything you’ve learned over the years to smooth out the process?

Anthony: We’ve definitely learned so much working this way, our process has become much more streamlined.  I’ve certainly learned a lot about recording and production, it’s given us the opportunity to learn while on the job.

E&D: There are a few curveballs on Direct Inject, with maybe the most striking one being ‘Sessuale II’. It has such a smooth, sultry feel, yet it kind of fits when considering your style. Could you maybe say a little on how that song came together? Did the material you previously covered on Zombi & Friends have any influence on this one?

Steve: ‘Sessuale II’ and ‘Sessuale I’ are the only two tracks from the new album that weren’t written following our Spring ‘22 tour. We wrote both of those songs back in 2002 or 2003, but never officially released them until now. At the time we didn’t think they fit with the rest of the music we were writing so we put them on a shelf for 20 years. I think the Zombi & Friends covers proved that people are ready for “smooth Zombi”.

E&D: On the flip side, you have shorter cuts like ‘Bodies In The Flotsam’ and ‘The Post-Atomic Horror’. These songs feel much more sinister and stripped back than anything I’ve heard from you in a while. Were there any doubts about putting material that showed such stark contrasts together on the record?

Anthony: No doubts at all.  These are also two songs that we can easily play live. They’re minimal in a way that allows us to just play and not have to worry about dealing with the machines!

E&D: You brought in Phil Manley and Jeff Gretz to work on this album. Did your experiences on Zombi & Friends leave you more open to working with collaborators, and is it something you can see becoming more of a permanent thing moving forward?

Steve: Phil Manley has played on our last couple releases (2020 and Liquid Crystal), he basically has an open invite. He’s such a phenomenal player, a true “guitarist’s guitarist”. And we’ll definitely be hitting up Jeff Gretz again as well. It’s fun working with friends – especially when those friends are monster players!

E&D: ‘So Mote It Be’ is a phrase normally attributed to Freemasonry, but I suppose it has more of an esoteric meaning now. Is that something of a common interest with you both and does it have anything in connection with the themes and direction of the record as a whole?

Anthony: We’re definitely not into Freemasonry beyond anything more than a slight curiosity. This title is essentially an Easter egg, that if figured out, will clue you into another one of the song titles.

 

E&D: Your last full-length 2020 was an understandably dark album given the title, and the time. It feels like there is still some holdover from that record but there are more moments of brightness and life. Was that a desire not to retread old ground or is it more an overall shift in mindset from the people you were then?

Steve: We typically try to do something at least a little different with every album. 2020 was probably our darkest, heaviest album – totally understandable given the conditions at the time. The new album was written following our first tour back after the pandemic, and the world seemed new again and full of possibilities. It’s a much more optimistic record, a celebration of life.

E&D: While Steve is well-known for his scores, to the best of my knowledge you’ve never scored anything as a duo. Is that something that is strictly off the cards and, if not, what kind of movie, or even a particular director, could you see working well with your sound?

Anthony: We have scored a couple of films, but they were low budget affairs back in the day.  We’re always open to the opportunity.  I’d love to do it again if time and budget allow.  From what I know about the process from Steve, it’s usually a hurried and all-consuming affair, which is something that would be a challenge when working together as the band.  Certainly, films that live on the darker/sci-fi side would lend themselves well to our sound.  Working with a director that would allow us to do our thing would be the ultimate project, but with the days of the auteur long gone, I imagine our sound would get pulled around and distilled by all of the hands involved and it’d end up being “Zombi-Lite”.

E&D: The track record that you have with Relapse is so strong and has seemingly worked brilliantly for everyone involved. What were your first impressions of them as a label? Was there a particular point where you realised that this was going to be your ‘forever home’?

Steve: Relapse has treated us so well for 20 years now, it’s hard to think of Zombi with any other label. We were just a little apprehensive at first, given the fact that we aren’t a metal band, but after Cosmos was released we realised that the metal crowd is super open-minded and supportive. A friend once described us as “easy listening for the discerning headbanger”, or something to that effect, which is pretty good.

E&D: You’ve spoken in the past about your interest in socially conscious movements, most notably doing things like fundraising for causes like Black Lives Matter. Do you feel like being an instrumental band limits how vocal you can be when it comes to your personal perspectives?

Anthony: It certainly does, so the best we can do is try to personally make the best choices we can and help others along the way.  I’ve always seen live music as providing an escape for just a little bit of time, which is valuable in its own way.

E&D: On a lighter note, you are both damn prolific artists so when you do get some downtime, what’s your ideal way to relax?

Steve: I don’t get a lot of down time, but when I do I mostly just love hanging out with my kids and watching TV and films. I play a lot of video games as well, currently playing through the Resident Evil 4 remake for PlayStation on professional mode.

E&D: You announced some shows in the US/Canada for shortly after the release. How are you feeling about those shows and do you have any plans for further tour dates?

Anthony: We’re very curious as to what this band can do on the east coast as a headliner.  While we did just do two monster tours with The Sword and OM, it’s difficult to gauge how we’ll do on our own, so in that respect we’re very excited to get out there.  We’re currently trying to book a European/UK tour, which are two areas that we’ve not played nearly as much as we should have, so it feels like a wellspring of opportunity, especially because the attitude towards instrumental music is more positive than in the US.

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