Let's start the week (and morning!) off with an interview from Pittsburgh's groovin' hard rock outfit ZOM. It's a rock 'n' roll town with a love for good riffs and great hooks, and ZOM deliver both in spades. I've been crankin' their debut--Nebulos--over the weekend, and can safely say that it is, indeed, worth a listen. With their formula, it's hard to go wrong--particularly when you're packing as much experience as these guys are.
Big thanks to Gero von Dehn for stepping up and knocking our silly questions out of the park. As always, we appreciate endlessly the opportunity to get into the nitty-gritty with bands about what they do and how they do it. Without further ado, read on...and then be sure to give ZOM a well-deserved listen.
Sleeping Village: Thanks for taking the time to chat! Firstly, how are you all doing in the midst of the current situation? I know it’s looking rough out there for a lot of artists.
Gero von Dehn: Well, like everyone it just kind of stalled everything. Most of our day jobs have been halted so that's an obstacle, but since bars and liquor stores are closed at least we're saving some money there! We have some touring plans that are still a few months away but I'm getting nervous already with this growing crisis.
SV: Describe ZOM for those unfamiliar--both the mythical component, and the band itself!
GvD: ZOM is synonymous with a creation that was born only to destroy. That's it's only purpose. As for our earthly component, we are a rock n' roll band. In my world, groove is the key component in all that we do. We play heavy rock that has to have groove and melody. Melody is a work not a lot of hard rock bands use but I find it is vastly important. Anyone can ride out riffs or big chords but we want people to gravitate toward the hooks and chorus' as much as those drippy riffs.
SV: While listening to both Nebulos and your prior EP, I’m reminded of a lot of different artists, given your brand of groovy stoner rock, but nothing feels directly derivative--always a pleasure to see! That said, are there any bands that you directly idolize and attempt, in some way, to emulate in your work?
GvD: I appreciate you saying that. That always makes me happy to hear. We know we aren't Frank Zappa or Mr. Bungle, inventing a totally new style of music, but we are hopefully cooking up a fresh new dish with some old, familiar recipes. We definitely don't emulate anyone when we are putting material together. When I write it's just about what cool parts I come up with on guitar and then building around it. It starts with my hands on the guitar, not with me sitting back and thinking it up in my head.
Where the influences do get involved is in delivery and feel. I want our music to make people feel the way COC, Nebula, or Rhino Bucket makes me feel, live and on record.
SV: Does hard rock always start with the riff, or do you typically approach songwriting from a more fluid perspective?
GvD: As I alluded to, writing always begins for me on the guitar. That can be a badass, catchy blues riff or some chords that go together in a way I hadn't previously considered. As soon as I feel that "ooo, wait a minute" feeling, the process kicks in. From there it's about finding a fluid entry into the next part and of course finding a worthy chorus. Never sleepwalk through the chorus. I'm an old school rock guy in that regard. Everybody loves Eddie Van Halen's guitar playing, but those guys wouldn't have been nearly as huge without those epic choruses. Same goes for AC/DC. Not to remotely compare us to those bands. Just making a point.
SV: From what I gather, you all have had experience in previous bands. In what ways has working with a variety of different outfits in the past molded your ability to work as unit?
GvD: I started ZOM as a recording project with my good friend, Andrew D'Cagna (Brimstone Coven, Ironflame). After we drew label interest I decided to build a real band so we could go have some fun and press forward. Andrew has plenty on his plate so Ben Zerbe from my other band Monolith Wielder was an obvious choice to play drums. He is the total package with great feel, versatility and knowledge, being that he has a music degree. After that I wanted some great players who are also really good dudes and that is how Matthew Tuite (ex Penance, Blackfinger) and Sam Pesce (Del Rios) got into the mix. They are all local buds with a ton of experience. Matt (guitar) has more experience than all of us, much of which from his time in a 90's band that some may remember called Wicker Man. The list is long though and he's a few wikipedia pages by himself. Sam just has great feel and he's one of those bass players that always seems to find the perfect parts and groove. I've never told him anything except to do something cool. And he always does.
It's been great to not only just jam with these guys but to have their input in building songs. They each bring so many different backgrounds and influences to the mix that I don't see us growing stagnant anytime soon. Ben played in Mandrake Project, which was borderline progressive jazz and had three percussionists. Matt has played in a bunch of punk rock outfits and Sam has done rock, metal and doom so between us all there is quite a soup to be made. The most important thing to me though is, we just have a blast together. Having quality people in your band means everything to us after we've all been in countless bands with personality conflicts, drama, etc. We are way too old to deal with any of that bullshit anymore. Collectively, we appreciate that fact and it keeps it loose and fun. We toured Iceland last August and it was as much fun as I've ever had. Great travel mates!
SV: Picking a favorite track can be a bit of a Sophie’s Choice, but if forced to choose, what track(s) are you most proud of having created?
GvD: If we're sticking with ZOM, I guess I'd have to say the song "Solitary." I am just really happy with the way it all came together. Keep in mind, when I recorded that track, as well as the first 5 songs on Nebulos, they had never been performed or even jammed. They were just ideas in my head that were tracked in the studio, part by part. You never really know how a song is going to sound until it's played. I was happy the way all those songs turned out but if I had to pick one, it would be that.
SV: How’s progress on your new album? I saw that you were set to start recording about a month ago--are things currently on hold in that department?
GvD: Man, I am so excited about the new record. It's the first batch of tunes that the four of us have worked on together and it's the first new ZOM material in a few years. We started tracking at the beginning of March at Plus Minus in Pittsburgh but then as we all know...we did get most of the drums, bass and much of the guitars finished before we stopped. Matt and I are still putting some solos together (we're both tracking guitars) and I still have to do all the vocals. We had to hit the pause button but we'll get back at it as soon as we can. It's gonna be different than the last record, obviously. Same attitude but I think it's going to be a huge step forward for us as a band.
SV: In what ways will the forthcoming album differ from Nebulos?
GvD: To continue on that point, some of those songs on Nebulos were written as far back as 2013. That's a long time ago so naturally things are not going to be the same. Andrew D'Cagna played drums and bass on the first batch of ZOM tunes so the new record has all new players, aside from myself. All in all I think this one has more emphasis on groove and riffing than the last record. But fear not, we lost nothing in the heavy department. It's still going to be stonery, groove heavy rock. I just feel like the songs are that much better and we're really growing into what we are now as a unit.
SV: From a band’s perspective, how has it been working with Argonauta? As a listener, I’m always routinely impressed with their roster.
GvD: Argonauta has been great from the beginning. Gero Argonauta, who shares my name in all of the weird coincidences, is a tireless worker. That poor guy has been in lockdown in Italy during this crisis and he's still keeping up with news, shipments, promoting, etc. He keeps adding great bands to the roster and we're proud to be listed among them.
SV: Besides yourselves, obviously, what are some other bands in the greater Pittsburgh area that we should check out? We’re not gonna be going outside for a long while, and can always use the listening material.
GvD: We in Pittsburgh are spoiled with great bands and even better people. I'm going to forget at least a few but let me name some that come immediately to mind from the area. I'll include Brimstone Coven even though they're from the Ohio Valley because it's only a half hour away and they are part of us all. For hard rock and metal, Ironflame, Lady Beast, The Long Hunt, Horehound, Molasses Barge, Cruces, to name a few. Derketa and Argus are great too. When it comes to more heavy punk type stuff, I really dig Mud City Manglers, Killer of Sheep, Mower and the old stalwarts, Submachine. There's always a great show to be seen. Well, until now...
SV: Thank you again for taking the time! As always, we’ll leave the last word to you--is there anything you’d like to add before gettin’ out of here?
GvD: We don't have a release date for the new record but we still anticipate it being out this year. Nebulos is still available on our Bandcamp page as well as through the label (Argonauta Records). Go and follow us on the usual platforms (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., link below) Thanks for giving us the time! Let's all get through this shit as fast as possible. I can't wait for the restart of shows. What a celebration it will be!
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry.
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