Q&A with Joey Z
Sheila Rene': Joey darlin'! Thanks for the call. You've got one great album here.
Joey Z: I've been listening to it awhile myself.
SR: Did you wait a little while before you listened to the final mix as it was recorded?
JZ: I'm a fan. I listen to it every day. (laughing)
SR: That's wonderful to hear. A lot of artists claim they never listen again.
JZ: They always do, I assure you. As a matter of fact, we had a long drive day before yesterday from Detroit. We listened to the whole album on our way to Denver.
SR: Where are you calling from today?
JZ: I'm in Denver on a mobile phone at a golf course. I just played nine holes.
SR: I figured you were a golfer since you thank Tiger Woods on the album. He has it all. He has a great smile a great arm along with some common sense and he's smart enough to do anything he wants.
JZ: I'm a fan of his and I play myself.
SR: Did you cut your tour of "Ugly" short?
JZ: We toured a year and nine months. We started writing with our new drummer, Dan Richardson at the end of that tour. We've never been able to write on the road before. It gave us all a chance to give our input into the new material.
SR: New drummer, old friend. You can't do better than that. You're communication over the years gives you a leg up.
JZ: That's right. It has a lot to do with communication. We've known each other since childhood. It has always been a special relationship and now we've brought my brother on the road. My younger brother does the lights for us. We have a good time out touring. It's a lotta laughs and a great show.
SR: You also thank Kirk Hammett in the CD booklet.
JZ: He's my friend. I love Kirk. I've known him since I was 13. He's the guy who got me into playing. He has given me a lot of inspiration and encouragement all along the way.
SR: And technique, I assume.
JZ: Of course, let me tell you something. Now when I have the chance I sit down and talk to him. He's had me over to his house and we went out when he was in New York. We went to Las Vegas together once. I met him there and we went to dinner and played craps.
SR: And what a house he has.
JZ: Oh, my god, it's amazing. He let me play all his guitars while I was there. He's a great guy.
SR: Speaking of guitars, you have some good news for your fans.
JZ: First of all every guitarist wishes they could make the ultimate guitar for themselves. I've finally done it. What happened is that Jackson Guitars approached me at the Milwaukee MetalFest in July of 1996. I told them, honestly, that there weren't any Jackson models that I liked. In reply to that, they would allow me to make my own model >from scratch. Any wood, any colors and any printing. My answer was I can make my own Les Paul, my own Joey Z custom Les Paul? Hell, yes was their reply. You could never refuse that.
SR: What happened next.
JZ: I went out to their place in San Bernadino, the headquarters. The factory is there. I sat down and designed the guitar with Tim Wilson, who's such a nice guy. It took hours for us to come up with a design. I took all the specs I've had in my head and everything was considered down to the last nut and bolt. There are only four of them in creation and they're mine; and you can't get buy one yet. I, personally call them the JZLP (Joey Z, Les Paul). They're very special to me.
SR: How much of this guitar did you use on this album?
JZ: I'd say about half the time and I used a couple of Gibson Les Pauls. I used several models of the Gibson and the Jackson just to get different tones and textures.
SR: I'm always curious about what decided what guitar you use.
JZ: The thing is we let it go naturally. When it comes to the writing and planning things, we just throw the book out the window. We don't plan anything. Some days you're in a mellow mood and you come out with some more melodic songs then on the other side of that coin, you're aggressive. It's determined by my mood day-by-day.
SR: From Rivers Run Red into Ugly, you guys took a quantum leap in the mastery of your instruments.
JZ: Honestly, this is how I see the whole progression of all the records if you want to include Soul Searching Sun. Rivers Run Red was a collection of all feelings and emotions up until our late teens. It was very aggressive and we're proud of that record. Now we needed a bridge to connect these two albums. Ugly was that natural bridge we built from Rivers Run Red to Soul Searching Sun.
SR: Absolutely the way I perceive it.
JZ: Ugly was a confused time for the band. We weren't mixed up but ...
SR: You were growing up.
JZ: Exactly, we were concentrating on ourselves more than the band as a whole. That's what speaks through the Ugly album.
SR: And that puts you at a level where you can do a Soul Searching Sun.
JZ: Right up until today.
SR: Dan really kicks some ass, no pun intended. Was he a factor in the strengthening of this group. I know him from Pro-Pain.
JZ: Oh, my god. He came in to join us and he's such a sweetheart. He's a huge guy. He looks like he could tear the head off a wildcat, but meanwhile he's just the most awesome, down-to-earth dude that you could ever meet. He just releases raw powerful aggression on his drums. He really helped to shape this band in a new way, I believe. Along with the maturity of the rest of us and our own instruments, I think we've got the right combination now. I think everybody should watch out!
SR: I think they better keep one eye pealed in that rearview mirror indeed. This is not an album for wimps. You've gotta be tough.
SR: While it shows a gently sentimental side the rush is still there. ...A look in the mirror and what do I see? What a great guitar opening on that track, "My Mind Is Dangerous."
JZ: (laughing) You know, you know. I love that song.
SR: If you asked my fav, it would be "Hope." Alan gets credit here.
JZ: On the lyrics, when you see Alan it just means the lyrics. We all wrote the music together. If you read the credits it'll say all music written by the Life Of Agony and then lyrical content is divided between Keith and Alan.
SR: I find that to be the standard translation of work
JZ: I'm proud of that. We wrote this album together finally.
SR: "Gently Sentimental" ...mushy me, mushy me. What did that reverb come from?
JZ: It's my wahwah peddle. I got it from Kirk, Hendrix. Randy Rhodes and others. Once you use it you never want to let it go. It's a great asset to lead guitar playing.
SR: "Tangerine" ... I'm your fruitful whole...take a bite from the fruit of life. Hey, this says hey, step back, this band is moving on.
JZ: Exactly. That's what this album is all about. It's not about ambition an forward motion. Hence the title of the album. We're soul searching. We're on a mission. I hope it hits people the way we expect it to.
SR: If they're not listening deeply enough they might miss tracks 14, 15 and 16 so I caught the unnamed tracks first time through. If I like my first listen I immediately enter the song titles. So if I get a call about an interview I can see right away if I liked it.
JZ: That's what our manager does. Michael is another asset to all this. Getting a new manager has been the biggest key for us business wise. He is king.
SR: That whole Concrete bunch is amazing.
JZ: Walter O'Brien is go wonderful. He has given us a lot of help over the years.
SR: Track 14 is a new rendition of River Runs Red. I don't recognize 15 but 16 is another version of "Weeds." Am I right?
JZ: Track 15 is "Let's Pretend" from Ugly.
SR: Yes! Two out of three ain't bad.
JZ: That's pretty good. We did "Let's Pretend" with some cool samples. We just experimented a bit. Smoke a little j and ease on back with a trippier version.
SR: The opening to "Heroin Dreams" is amazing. Dreamy as hell.
JZ: Right on. Thanks. It's a very positive song about fighting the drug because our families go so screwed up on that stuff. It's very clear when you look over the lyrics.
SR: What's "Hemophiliac" about?
JZ: It's about pain that comes from within. It's hard to fight and there could be other meanings. All these songs can be taken many ways. There's not one set meaning to any of these new songs.
SR: If I may, mention the great guitar solo on that song. I've never criticized anyone showing off their style of playing on a solo. I admit they get too lengthy at one point.
JZ: Oh, right on. Thanks.
SR: What is your take on the music biz of today?
JZ: I think the industry is always full of changes. What I'm noticing more is that so much attention is being given the bands that can get airplay on AOR. It stinks in a way because there are a lot of groups out there who just want to do their own thing and they're not getting any attention. A lot of good bands out there. Like us, it'll be tough to get airplay but we don't want to lose our identity. Some bands are willing to lose that identity for the money. A lot of fans are upset about this. We don't want to ever do that to our fans.
SR: U2 is an example I can personally speak about.
JZ: Exactly. Whether our album is played on the radio or not, we've got a good record here and we put our heart into it. The fans should know that.
SR: The fans will know. I have to talk to you about this Brothers thing. The Dust Brothers, the Butcher Brothers, etc. You worked with Phil Nicolo who has credit comes from The Rolling Stones, Urge Overkill, Dishwalla and Fig Dish. Not exactly a hardcore dude.
JZ: Let me tell you something, he's one incredible guy. We have never worked with anyone so wonderful. What Phil did was to make it fun. It was 100% fun making this one. Every morning he'd come in and say 'Okay, guys let's just jam on some music.' It was his idea to take Life Of Agony this really hard, aggressive live band and just lay it down on tape and make it sound really good. He let us know he didn't want to change anything or turn us into a different band. Let's just put the sound down as it would be in your rehearsals and put it on tape. We own him a lot of credit because he allowed us the freedom to try anything we wanted to try. He had no limits, no walls and no boundaries. We were a great team.
SR: It takes balls to experiment in today's market.
JZ: Yep, that's what we did.
SR: You're havin' fun on the road I bet.
JZ: As soon as we hang up I'm teeing off on the 10th hole. We'll hit Texas in January or February.
SR: Go on and tee off. Fore!
JZ: Thank you for getting the word out to our fans.