Walk the Plank is the upcoming twelfth studio album by California’s punk rockers Zebrahead. This album demonstrates that this band formed in 1995 only improves with age. It is due for Release in Australia on the 16th of October and there are some pretty sweet preorder deals here.
Interview by Jen Rees. Interview written by Jen Rees and Callam Fletcher
Hi Ali, How are you going?
Great how are you?
Great, I met you back at Soundwave in 2014, great to have the chance to chat again. I totally love the album; I have listened to it more than I normally would for an interview.
I think it shows that ZH is moving in a new direction, as it seems that the sound is a little different. However that is not a criticism! Not by a long shot.
Thank you so much!
Was the title ‘Walk the Plank’ a reference to you taking a huge risk musically or have you always wanted to be a Pirate?
Ha, For this album we felt like we were pushing ourselves to see if we could create a different sound but still keep it something that is familiar to Zebrahead fans. We have a song on that called Walk the Plank and it was kind of like about the same thing, pushing ourselves out of our comfort zone and seeing what else is out there. So it was kind of fitting to call the album Walk the Plank as it was what we were doing musically as far as, well I am glad you feel the same way listening to it as you know sometimes what we aim to do does not come across different to other people have a chance to listen to the songs. So yeah it made sense for us to name the album after this song.
The songwriting process for this album, was that the same as the many other albums that ZH has released?
Yeah for the most part,we tend to write a lot of songs, I think for this album it was almost like 55 songs or 56 songs that we were working on in the preproduction for the album. But we kind of write a lot of songs and go through them and pick the strongest songs and try to figure out what songs that will make the album and it is like all five of us write together, we have always done that ever since we started so it is a group effort as far as the song writing for our album goes for us.
How did working with Paul Miner, a new producer influence how production decisions were made?
You know we just worked with Paul on a song called Lockjaw which we released two months ago and we had a great experience with the guy is very good at not only playing all those instruments but he has like percussion ideas so it was really cool to work with him on our entire album. He came up with a great ideas throughout the writing process and a lot of the time he would say you know this part is stronger than that part and he would say you guys need to work together to make sure that all the parts as strong as the parts he really liked. He had great ideas as far as melodies go and as far a rap parts go, like he gave me great rhythms to work with and that for me personally never has never really happened before, as producers have kind of just let me do my own thing and have not ever said you know why don’t you try this pattern and he was really good with that.
OK that sounds good.
Yeah I really enjoyed working with him, he is very talented.
It is not often that a band writes a song that could have been written for me personally but “Keep it to Myself “ is one song that could have been. I live my life like this, I have an illness that causes pain and I keep it to myself. As it is just easier that way. So I guess thanks for that! Also a really catchy song, I really love it. Anthem has always been my fav Zebrahead song up until I heard that one. Although they are completely different songs.
They are really completing different songs. But for me it is the same thing, like growing up, what ever experience I am going through, certain songs just kind of stuck out for me and I related to them, more intensely than others and I am sorry that you are going through that.
Thanks, thats life hey.
(the line cut out here for a few seconds)
Is there one song of the album that you connect to the most?
One song that turned out different from the way I had expected in a good way, was the song, (although there is a couple) Walk the Plank. This song really stands out for me for all the reason that we talked about earlier that we were trying to step out of our comfort zone to see what else we can do and the way that song turned out kind of reiterated that for me. So that song and I would say the song called ‘Worse than This’ that I also thought turned out pretty well. But over all it changes for me, like every few days a different song will stand out and I guess that is a good sign that I am not bored with it yet. (laughing)
This is a Callam question for you. Would you agree that “So What” goes back to ZH’s roots, Waste of Mind?
Yeah you know I guess, few of the songs go back certainly the way I remember, like we have the Calypso part of the song and it completely changes the vibe of the song half way through that. ‘So What’ does that I think. ‘Who Brings a Knife to a Gun Fight’ has that feel to it too, there are a few songs on the album that remind me of old school Zebrahead songs. I actually do agree with Callam.
What was the inspiration behind the animated video with words for ‘Save your breath’? Each time I watch it I see more in it. Not yours or Matty’s eyes though!
You know when we decided to do a lyric video we thought that that song was the way to go, it was heavier and we also thought lyrically it was a strong song. We wanted to incorporate that artwork for the album and so we kind of took that route with the ship and the waves and everything as well as the sea creature in it. To be honest with you we had no idea how it was going to turn out, it was just presented like that by the artist and we said yes go for it and then he submitted it when it was done we were kind of blown away by how good of a job he did.
It is a great music video, he did a great job.
You have announced a massive tour that even though Ben was quoted in an interview lately that Australia was his fav place to tour, Germany they seem to get the majority of shows on this tour.
No hard feelings towards Germany…. No I am lying there is!
My fellow Aussie ZH fans are hoping for a tour next year, is that a plan in the works?
Yes! I mean that Ben was not lying! Every time that we come to Australia it is more like a vacation for us. It is so cool and the shows are so much fun, we would definitely love to come back, we have not been back in a while but that was because we were writing and recording so hopefully once this album is released we will come back and bug you guys for sure!
Any time! We will be here waiting for you!
You just added MXPX to some of the dates, that would be great to see!
Yeah they are a great band.
How do you think touring has changed since the early 2000’s? (another Callam question)
Touring personally for me, the fact that, you know, computers and phones have made everything so much easier. Before we went to a city we didn’t know where anything was, it was even tough just to go and get a cup of coffee or do anything let alone site seeing. and was much harder to do. Nowadays we will bring up the area on our phone and we can go and do pretty much anything before soundcheck. So for us I guess we have become more like tourists, we will literally wake up all of us and pick out places that we want to go and see. We can go out on the town and get back to our room about three and you have had a full day experiencing where ever you are at and you see everything that you want to see and before it was just like we would see things if we stumbled upon them. It is way more fulfilling than it used to be, to plan everything out any experience in that way and not leave it up to chance such as the bus would park somewhere and we would only see around where the bus was. Now we can plan if we want to go and see the Sydney Opera House and we can plan it out before soundcheck you can full on have a tourist experience before you play, which is really cool.
You would have more interaction with fans now with Social Networking?
Oh yeah I mean as far as being a musician and artist we can really know what fans think because you talk to them and that has been a huge game changer I think for all artists and also in far as labels go you don’t even need a label any more you can release your music online and people are going to get hold of it.
Was your experience of doing a Pledge Campaign an experience that you think you will do again? As I need so much more Zebrahead merch in my house………
Yeah it was great! It was a very positive thing for all of us and it was something that we can show our fans that they were actually helping us make an album and also the incentives for the fans were really cool. I know we have talked about it that we definitely want to do it again so hopefully next album we might do another campaign.
Awesome! I loved reading the updates, seeing the video’s. I have Matty’s message as my phone answering message which my friends hate but I love it!
Can you name one artist that if they did not exist, you would not be in the music business?
I would have to say a Hip Hop group called A Tribe called Quest out of New York and the reason I said that is that I knew all of their lyrics to their raps back in the day. That is how I started playing in Zebrahead, they were playing music and they wanted me to rap and the only rap songs I knew were A Tribe called Quest lyrics. So I guess it was not for them I would not be able to have gone up and rap with the guys.
Another question from Callam and it is a silly one!
Would you rather fight one George Clooney-sized mustache, or 1000 mustache-sized George Clooneys?
I would want to see a large George Clooney sized mustache
and would probably piss me off so much that I would want to fight it! So I will go with that one! (laughing)
Dylan wants to know if you can dig it.
Yeah I can (laughing)
Thanks Ali for you time, I wish you all the best for your album and for your tour. Say hi to the rest of the band from us Aussies.
Thanks for your interview, if it was not for you guys and other fans we would not be able to do what we do. I appreciate it so much and the guys appreciate it so much too.
Thanks Ali, we look forward to you coming to see us down here.
Yeah we can met up for a beer.
Say hi to Callam for me!
Special thanks to Callam Fletcher!