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They're back, they've changed, and they're defiantly not dead yet: Jacek of Zaraza shares an in-depth look at what's been going on with the band over the past 15 years.

Interview with Zaraza.
"Zaraza: if you have any passing interest in brutal extreme Doom, you surely must have heard of them at some point. The Canadian-based duo laid down two classics of Industrial/Symphonic/Experimental Death/Doom with their 'Slavic Blasphemy' and 'No Paradise To Lose' albums - in 1997 and 2003, respectively - before peacefully disbanding in 2006.

They were one of the first bands ever to be interviewed on this site, and we were delighted, on hearing of their reformation and new album, to be able to renew that acquaintance, and catch up on events of the past fifteen years. Many thanks to Jacek for taking the time to give us a solid look at what's shaped Zaraza - past, present and forthcoming - in this in-depth interview."

Zaraza, 2017: Brian Damage (keyboards, samplers, vocals) and Jacek Damaged (vox, guitars, bass, programming).

(1) Welcome back, both to the underground scene in general, and to Doom-metal.com in particular! It's been 15 years since we last spoke in interview, so I suppose it would be nice to start with the usual introduction - or perhaps more of a refresher - to our readers: who are you and where are you from?

We are ZARAZA, consisting of me (Jacek) and Brian Damage.

We met for the first time in 1991, when I immigrated from freshly collapsed communist Poland to the freezing snow banks of Montreal, Canada. Shortly after arriving I started being a radio DJ at the local CKUT community radio station. Brian used to do an industrial show there called “Late Night Atrocity Exhibition”.

We started chatting at the station, realized we both shared a passion for eccentric Eastern European industrial (Laibach, Holy Toy, Borghesia, In Sotto Voce, etc) and became friends. Brian was very active musically in his main group Phÿcus:
Phÿcus Bandcamp.
and he had a ton of side projects going on at the same time. Probably every industrial musician in Montreal had at least one side-project going on with Brian in the 90s. I think he was putting out a new tape nearly every month on his own label.

I was already mildly into metal at the time when I arrived in Canada (huge fan of 80s thrash, especially the more progressive type like Mekong Delta or Voi Vod). But being exposed to death metal in Montreal slowly turned me into an all out bona fide metalhead. There was an incredible show on CKUT at that time called “New Republicanz” run by a DJ called simply Uncle Norm. He was one of the top metal DJs in the entire world. Bands from all over the world used to send him promos. If you look at the liner notes of Napalm Death’s “Utopia Banished”, they thank only 2 DJs in the entire world: the legendary John Peel of BBC Radio and Uncle Norm of CKUT. It was on his show that I first heard Protector “Shedding of Skin”, Autopsy “Mental Funeral”, Winter “Into Darkness”, Bolt Thrower “IVth Crusade”, Pitch Shifter “Industrial”, Treponem Pal “Aggravation”, Carcass “Necrotism”. Most importantly, it was on his show that I heard the first My Dying Bride album and then later “Turn Loose the Swans”. Uncle Norm made the entire metal scene in Montreal...we all owe him. There would have been no Zaraza if not for all the Saturdays I spent glued to the radio soaking in early 90s extreme metal. Remember, this was a few years before Internet became common….local radio was all we had.

So one day I suggested to Brian we should start a musical project together, blending our common industrial interests with my new found love for death metal. And in January of 1993, on a typical Montreal -20 Celsius freezing weekend, we got together for our first session and thus ZARAZA was born.

The first song we wrote was pretty fast (sort of like a death metal version of Ministry), the second one already slowed down to mid-tempo level...but we were not doom yet.

I was already listening to plenty of Winter “Into Darkness” and Autopsy “Mental Funeral” so the seeds of doom were slowly being sown. Then My Dying Bride put out “Turn Loose the Swans” and our brains exploded in an epiphany of cosmic proportions...industrial doom/death metal became our goal. We had found our focus and have not looked back yet.

We slowed down to a crawl (which already fit well with our love of slower Laibach and early SWANS material) and everything started coming together. We had found our niche.

(2) Kostas did a pretty thorough job of covering the band's history and technology back in 2002, but I guess plenty of things have changed since then. Hope you don't mind revisiting some of those as a prelude? How do you feel about self-distribution and giving your music away free these days? It was certainly an indication of artistic purity back then, nowadays, it's actually quite hard to filter the wheat from the chaff: a reasonable price tag and/or a label actually helps me as a possible indication of quality - do you find the same thing?

Distribution is the easy part. If you want CDs, you can use CDBaby to get it in all the stores. If you want digital you can start with Bandcamp and then use DistroKid to get it out to all the major players (iTunes, Google Play, Amazon MP3, Spotify). Piece of cake. Takes 15 minutes.

The difficult part is getting noticed that you put anything out. All labels, mags, blogs are drowning in promo requests from bands on a daily basis. It’s virtually impossible to get noticed on your own (unless you are already well established).

So a lot of costs have to go instead into proper promotion: hiring a decent metal PR agency (with good contacts and personal relationships with magazines), running Facebook / Twitter ad campaigns to raise awareness of your album, etc., etc.

All those costs run into hundreds of dollars (or thousands, depending how far you want to go). But without this investment your album will most likely die unnoticed.

This is the hardest lesson we had to learn from our comeback.

From our initial PR release that we did ourselves, only doom-metal.com has responded. No one else. All the dozens of other recipients on that original press release ignored it, pretty much.

So now we have hired a proper PR agency (actually two...I just fired the first one after they failed to get expected results in the first 2 months of promotion efforts), run Facebook ads, etc..

Hence, we have to charge something for the music, but it still does not even come close to covering those expenses.

The level of piracy these days is brutal for independent, self-released bands. Within 24 hours of getting released, “Spasms of Rebirth” was already on like 20 Torrent sites and it was only growing with every day.

That’s the ugly reality of trying to be in a band today. Be ready for it if you want to get into this.

Zaraza - 'Church Of Gravity' (2017) (Official):

(3) There's obviously no need to fix things that aren't broken, but have you updated your audiophile recommendations in the intervening period? With digital storage so cheap now, are you using lossless formats for everything, or is the smaller size of lossy encoding still a good trade-off for a lot of equipment?

I actually store all my new Bandcamp purchases in high quality Ogg Vorbis format. It is excellent for my ears, I do not notice any differences between it and lossless FLAC. So yeah, Ogg Vorbis (or a modern codec like AAC) at a high encoding rate is the way to go IMHO.

(4) What happened to Corridor of Cells, in the end? Is there an archive version of it anywhere? - the original site name has since been picked up by some guy claiming to have made millions from selling tow trucks and passing on his financial expertise!

I got tired of it. It became like a job, rather an a passion. I was getting sent all these boring, typical metal promos of average bands. Out of 100-200 albums I would get every year, there were maybe 2-3 that I would actually want to own/buy on my own.

So I just gave it up. I believe there may be some backup copies on the Wayback Machine in archive.org. I don’t know, I don’t like to live in the past. What is done is done and you need to move forward.

Discography: 'Life Is Death Postponed (Demo 1995 - Reissued 2004/2012 - Remastered 2016), 'Slavic Blasphemy (1997), 'Live On CKUT 90.3 FM' (1997), 'No Paradise To Lose' (2003), 'Montrealska Akropola - A Tribute to Laibach' (2003), 'Farewell To Doom' (Demo 2005), 'Spasms Of Rebirth' (2017).

(5) Back in 2002, you were still working on getting 'No Paradise To Lose' mixed to your satisfaction. As it happens, we all have some idea how that worked out, but it was still over a year later when it saw the light of day. How hard was it to get finally completed, and how satisfied were you with the results?

Yes, we finally completed it and put it out. I am reasonably happy with the mix. Back then there were very few online resources to help with the mixing, so I did it all on instinct and by trial and error.

If I still had the original source material, I would have remixed it from scratch today, as I now actually understand the mixing process. Spent nearly a year learning audio mixing techniques are great online sites like Audio-Issues.com.

Went from having hardly a clue about mixing (an incredibly complex process) to understanding concepts such as subtractive EQ, compression, multi-band compression, side-chain compression, boosting, cutting, high pass filters, low-pass filters, etc. It took me a good year of self study during the recording process for “Spasms of Rebirth”.

Unfortunately, the source files for “No Paradise to Lose” perished somewhere around the mid 2000s when my hard drive got fried. So it is what it is.

I am however planning to issue newly re-mastered editions of “Slavic Blasphemy” and “No Paradise to Lose” in the next few months and I have to say they both sound great. So be on the lookout for that.

(6) So what happened after that? The official band split was announced, I think, in 2006, without anything further than the Laibach tribute being released - and that just as an ultra-limited supplement to 'No Paradise...'. Did you ever compose or record anything during that period?

Oh yes, we put out this little thing called “Farewell to Doom”, basically a demo with 2 covers (SWANS and Danzig). It was a farewell gift to our fans:

It was a very important release actually, in hindsight.

You may say that we pivoted in a different direction on the new “Spasms of Rebirth” album. That is only partially true.

We actually pivoted first in the 2003-2005 timeframe: stopped using samplers so much, switched to predominantly live instruments (bass, guitars), stopped using orchestral samples & symphonic elements.

If you put “No Paradise to Lose” and “Spasms of Rebirth” back to back...then yes, it’s a huge stylistic difference.

Put “Farewell to Doom” and “Spasms of Rebirth” back to back...and suddenly the difference is not that large any more. The blueprints of a new Zaraza were already sown back then. We just refined it when we got back together 10 years later.

But the “change” happened back then actually….the Bryce 6-string bass guitar I used to record the bass tracks for the cover of Danzig’s “Pain in the World” is the same guitar I used for bass tracking on “Spasms of Rebirth”. It has been with us for that long.

(7) And what eventually triggered the split? Was it amicable and mutual?

Oh yeah, me and Brian have known each other for a long time. I don’t think we’ve ever quarrelled, he’s just a very calm guy. It’s me that’s usually the raging Eastern European inferno of human emotions.

A few things happened that compounded themselves.

First of all, the release of “No Paradise to Lose” was not well received. It’s nice to see people calling us “cult” and “legends” today but back then both Zaraza albums were mostly ignored. No one wanted to distribute the CDs, only Relapse took some on consignment (and never paid us).

I think the final straw was when I contacted Firedoom in Finland, a distro that specializes in doom metal after all. They listened to the promo and told us something along the lines of “well. it’s interesting, but we don’t think anyone will buy it, so we won’t take it”. Getting ignored by typical metal distros (who only issued a collective WTF when they heard our material) was bad, but getting rejected even by doom distros was somewhat disheartening.

At that time we had released two albums we were very proud of, that we knew in our hearts were original and ground breaking and well written...but hardly any one was interested in our work. So that does take some wind out of you after a while.

I am actually amazed that these two albums have managed to find new audiences in the years that followed...for all my ranting about the impact of piracy on new releases, all that online sharing actually helped those two albums get noticed...slowly...over a period of many years.

So that was the first reason for our dissolution….a slow rise in pessimism as to whether we would “make it”, whatever that means.

The second step was far more important.

Seemingly, overnight...all of my inspiration dried up. Usually Zaraza was brimming with new ideas...we always had so much song writing ideas, the challenge was constraining them.

I started working on new songs for a third album (if I recall I think we wanted to call it “Abyss of the Primitives”) and those songs were, putting it gently, crap. All of a sudden I could not write good songs any more. It just stopped. As if someone had turned off the faucet of inspiration.

That is why “Farewell to Doom” is two covers...I could record 2 inspired covers of someone else’s work, but not come up with good new material of my own.

I realized this may be it. Zaraza had no interest in existing if we were not able to create killer material. Anything less than killer (at least in my mind) is not acceptable to me. I have high quality standards for myself and my own work.

One day in 2006, I think I just called up Brian and said that I think we’re done, he said OK and that was it. No drama.

Zaraza - 'Half Life (SWANS cover)' (2005) (Official):

(8) Given that you told us on the site forum that the development of Sludge was one of your main motivations to reform, is it safe to assume that you stayed in touch with the extreme metal scene post-Zaraza? What were your main musical discoveries and inspirations over the next ten years or so?

Well, first of all, I nearly stopped listening to industrial, in general. It has gotten quite boring during the last decade. It’s either gone into a somewhat predictable dronish death industrial style (which is not very exciting to me) or into pure noise, which gets boring fast too. Worse, if you check the “industrial” section on Bandcamp, it’s a lot of really dancey goth stuff….I hate that. Don’t want Zaraza to be in any way associated with that.

It’s been a really long time since I heard an industrial album that could equal something as brilliant as Einstuerzende Neubauten’s “Halber Mensch” or Test Department’s “The Unacceptable Face of Freedom”. You know, bands that wrote REAL SONGS using industrial aesthetics, not just produced bland walls of meaningless noise.

Really, the only industrial that I listen to is from artists that incorporate that as part of a larger style. In particular Chelsea Wolfe has mesmerized me with her latest two albums “Pain is Beauty” and “Abyss”. She has joined my personal pantheon of greatest female singers of all time, together with such legends as Elisabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins), Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance) or Diamanda Galas. Chelsea Wolfe is the new goddess of our times.

The other industrial artist I really want to mention is Gazelle Twin and her stunning album “UNFLESH”. The change in vocal style (less growling) came from THAT album. She only whispers...but the things she whispers make my skin crawl and send shivers down my spine. Made me realize how words can sometimes have a lot more impact than sheer brutality. It is thanks to her that I focused on writing lyrics that are supposed to have a more emotional impact on the listener and slightly mellowed out my vocal delivery so that they are actually audible.

On the doom metal front, I have heard few bands that have really moved me recently. A lot of them seem to be really just repeating to death what was already explored in the 90s (at least in the death/doom or funeral doom genres). I can’t even remember the last time I heard a band as stunning or original as Unholy.

As for the whole retro stoner scene, if I want to listen to Black Sabbath, I will just listen to Black Sabbath, thank you very much. I prefer the full bodied flavor of the original instead of current pale imitations. You just can’t beat Tommy and Ozzy at their peak of 1971-1974 (see the concerts on YouTube from that era...what a band that was at that time).

However...the bright side is the emergence of female fronted doom bands, which have really breathed fresh air into the scene (and not just because they look much better than Messiah Marcolin).

If I think of my favorite doom albums of the last few years, they’re all from female fronted bands: Demon Lung (“The Hundredth Name”), Kroh (“Altars”), Universe 217 (“Change”), Avatarium, Show of Bedlam (“Transfiguration”), FVNERALS (“The Light”), Darkher (“Realms”). All brilliant albums. As good as anything I had heard from the doom scene in the glory days of the 90s.

Seriously, the ladies have been wiping the floor with the male-fronted doom bands...kudos to them for making doom vibrant again. Guys, get your act together and do something exciting for a change.

And that brings us finally to SLUDGE...yes, that ugly stepchild of doom and punk/crust. Lots of great bands here, the 2 ones that have really inspired Zaraza are Disrotted (“Demo I” and “Disrotted” LP) as well as the first Meth Drinker album.

Last, but not least I want to mention a band that probably no one knows. A lot of the atonality on the new album comes from them. Namely Fever Dreams from Salt Lake City and their utterly brain melting opus “Life Has Departed”. I have listened to that one one repeat many times. “Spasms of Rebirth” owes a lot of gratitude to this album. Go get it now, it’s FREE:
Fever Dreams Bandcamp.

There is a ton of other bands, mostly in dissonant death/black metal genres and in the crust genre. Instead of me listing them all just have a look at my Bandcamp profile:
Bandcamp fanpage.

It’s all there. All these totally unknown underground bands I discover as part of my music addiction...they have all influenced Zaraza’s return in some way.

And of course Gorguts and Voi Vod. That is a given.

I am actually a huge fan of Voi Vod’s mid-period, when they went really heavy with new vocalist Eric Forrest. “Nanoman” and “Phobos” have gotten a lot of listens from me over the years. I actually wish he had stayed instead of Snake returning (I know, that is a blasphemy for most Voi Vod fans). Pity about that car accident on tour in Switzerland that nearly killed him (and the rest of the band), which caused him to leave due to all the medical complications that followed. That line-up of Eric, Away and Piggy was destined for greatness….alas, it got brutally interrupted.

(9) So, whose idea was it to reform, how long did you spend considering making a return, and what finally convinced you it was the right thing to do?

Mine. After 10 years of absence I suddenly started feeling that hunger again...that hunger to express various traumas of my personal life via music. The question was whether the inspiration would come back.

Around early 2015 I picked up my guitar for the first time in 10 years and started practising again. I had to start from zero. There was nothing. Even my most basic muscle memory was gone (outside of basic power chords). It was a long, deep black hole to dig myself out of as a musician. Sometimes I wondered if I would ever manage to come back. It seemed hopeless to start being a musician again...in your mid 40s. I guess I am stubborn….and driven...when I need to.

Sometime mid 2015 the opening riffs of “Maskwearer” came out from underneath my fingers...for the first time since early 2000s I had created something that was up to my quality standards….I knew there was hope.

I contacted Brian a few weeks later and asked him if he was interested to get back together. He too had some trauma he wanted to get out of his system (I think), so he seemed onboard. The rebirth had begun.

(10) Was it an easy reunion? Were you both pretty much on the same wavelength as far as direction and desire were concerned?

Easy. At that time my work in Houston, Texas had finished so I went back to Montreal for 2 months prior to my current move to Ecuador.

At that time Godflesh came to Montreal (I think it was October or November 2015) as part of their reunion tour. We met up before the gig, had a few beers together. It was not easy, as the concert was in the middle of Montreal’s gay village. So after passing a few bars with good looking muscular men (and no girls) we finally found one where we think we could sit down without getting hit on (since we’re both such good looking alpha males). We discussed music, life, pain...all the necessary ingredients for being in a doom band.

After the beers we went to see Godflesh play live. We has to suffer an opening act from one of those new industrial artists that put on a few distortion pedals through delay loops and scream out the contents of the phone book (or maybe he was screaming a really tasty guacamole recipe….who knows, it was horrible and boring either way). But after that torturous opening (see my previous comments on the current state of industrial music), Godflesh came on stage and delivered. It was a good day.

It was that simple. Zaraza was officially reborn that day.

(11) How long did it take you to create 'Spasms Of Rebirth', once you'd decided to do it?

The full songwriting process took around 7 months. The first song (“Wulkan”) I composed while still in Montreal, hence it has some of the more traditional metal riffs of the entire album. “Church of Gravity” came next and its atonality really provided the focus for what we were supposed to do for the rest of the album. That is why it is such an important song for the new Zaraza.

The next 12 months or so was spent recording the album. I really wanted to get a professional sound and there is no else but me to do it. Hence, that is why I took a lot of time to study professional mixing concepts. For the first time I actually understood mixing with all of its details...and mixing a band like Zaraza is not easy. We have a lot of things going on, across the entire frequency spectrum. Getting all of these sounds to fit together cohesively and still provide good clarity and separation is one hell of a challenge. I spent 2 months just learning how to get that roaring brutally distorted 6-string bass guitar sitting in the mix with all the other instruments. Now I know why so many bands just put the bass guitar so low in the mix (or remove it altogether like on “And Justice For All...”). I really wanted the bass guitar to be audible in the mix, unlike most metal bands.

I actually re-recorded all the snare and bass kick drums after one of my early mixes got reviewed by the nice people on the Audio-Issues.com Facebook page. Both of them were tuned too low and just fighting with the bass guitar all the time. Hence I had those drum samples tuned to a more higher tuning (typical in most metal albums today) so they all started to fit together. It was a lot of learning, but well worth it.

The main issue that the recording took so long was also the whole process of re-discovering myself as a guitar player.

During those 10 years away, I only had a 28” scale Agile baritone guitar tuned to B (standard baritone tuning). It was great for all the heavy chugga-chugga and playing the entire GRIEF “Come to Grief” album but I started feeling increasingly dissatisfied with the monotony of such a low tuning (and how one-dimensional it was). It was not my sound any more.

By trial and error, I got to the point where I realized C# tuning is the one I really like and the best compromise between liveliness and heaviness. So for that, I really did not need a baritone (or so I thought). Hence, I bought a regular 25.5” scale guitar (which is easier to play), slapped typical .056 strings on it, tuned to C# and started playing. This is very standard in death metal, this the exact same tuning and string gauge Erik Rutan uses in Hate Eternal, for example.

But, as the riffs were getting more and more atonal, it got really important for the low and high notes to interact with each other with equal weight. The thicker low .056 string is usually pretty bass-heavy and somewhat overpowers the higher strings when I tried to make them ring out together. You can try to account for it by playing with pre-EQ prior to the amplifier, but it never really sounded the way I wanted it. So by trial and error again I went back to thinner .052-.011 strings on a regular scale guitar. That was better.

All the songs were composed using this setup.

But when I got to the actual recording of the guitar tracks, it became obvious this combo resulted in somewhat floppy strings and I did not like that part of the sound as much either. Back to square one.

So by thinking it through, I decided to go with a setup that as far as I know few have done before.

On one of my trips to the US, I got a regular ESP 27” scale baritone (i.e. the guitar neck is 1.5 inches longer than a typical traditional guitar, which provides better string tension for low tunings...but is more difficult to play). Ripped out its stock bass-heavy pickups (good for nu-metal, but not much else) and replaced with much better (and clearer) Lace Drop & Gain pickups. Threw out the thick strings it came with.

Then I UP-TUNED the baritone to C# (instead of B) with the thinner .052 strings I like. So Zaraza now plays in C#, using relatively thin (for doom metal) .052-.011 strings on a 27” scale baritone guitar. Probably very few bands play with that type of combination. We finally had the setup that made me happy and provided the right balance of tuning, string gauge and string tension.

All of that back and forth experimentation took a while. I already had half the album recorded with the old setup. Had to redo it from scratch once our final guitar arrived on the scene.

So there was a lot of self-discovery process during the recording to finally reach what we wanted. I have been playing with this setup for over a year, so I think it is here to stay for future Zaraza recordings.

Overall, the entire process took over one and a half years. I had all the music recorded by then, but not the vocals (since I did not have a proper vocal booth in my home studio). Realized that is best recorded in a professional setting, so during one of my trips to Houston I rented out a professional studio for one weekend and recorded all the vocals for the entire album there.

(12) It's quite a singular thing for a band to reform, but then adopt a very different style. Did you have to deliberately force yourselves to think in different ways, or change your compositional processes, to avoid slipping back towards the 'old ways'?

Not at all, the way Zaraza creates music now is very different.

Our two first albums were created mostly in the electronic domain, so most of our time was spent sitting with samplers, sequences, keyboards, capturing it all in MIDI, etc. Standard way most electronic music gets created.

Now it is much more typical. I sit down with a metronome or a basic drum pattern, pick up my guitar and start jamming. I do not even have a keyboard or a MIDI controller any more. Sold all of my electronic equipment in the year or so after “No Paradise to Lose” was released. Zaraza is now a pure typical guitar-based band.

Nothing is forced in Zaraza. When I started working on the new songs, all I knew is that they would be slow and heavy. Everything else was up for grabs. I did not even know if we would have any industrial elements at all. All the early songwriting used very minimalistic, stripped down drum-and-guitar demos, nothing else.

As I mentioned, the creation of the song “Church of Gravity” was pivotal. We always had an atonal streak (I was heavily influenced by the orchestral works of Krzysztof Penderecki and Witold Lutoslawski during the “No Paradise to Lose” era), but this is the first time we really applied it to guitars. All those years spent listening to that classic Gorguts combo of “Obscura” and “From Wisdom to Hate” were rearing their ugly head. Once that song arrived, it really clarified what the new Zaraza style was supposed to be like and provided a basic blueprint for all the other songs that followed it.

The very last song we wrote was “Roadkill to You” and that is probably the most atonal and experimental one on the entire album. That is probably even more of a blueprint for our future recordings that will come.

(13) Back in 2002, you were describing the difficulties of getting decent digital equipment at affordable prices. What does your studio look like now, compared to then?

I used a free open-source DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) called Ardour to record the entire album on my Linux box. All the drums were programmed in a free Linux drum machine called Hydrogen. So I guess my digital setup is very cost effective these days.

All of my money really goes into guitars, guitars, guitars and all the guitar equipment that comes with it. I went through an endless array of different preamps, pedals, digital modellers, etc.

But overall, with the advances in technology it is getting more and more affordable. There is a digital guitar modeller called Bias FX, which you can get on an iPad (yes. IPad) for less than $50. The PC/Mac version cost $200. I’ve heard demos of it and it sounds impressive. I think the guy from Animals as Leaders uses it. There are now DAWs on an IPad for less than $50 and they actually sound good (once you add an outboard high-end soundcard for the IPad). These are gigantic leaps in cost effectiveness for musicians.

Even the high-end guitar digital modellers (like the Kemper Profiling Amp, the Fractal Audio Axe-FX, the Atomic Amplifire) cost much less than what a high end amp + cab would cost. And are far less frustrating to mike up and record in a studio. I recall how Justin Broadrick was complaining in interviews how unreliable his beloved Marshall JCM 800 was on those early Godflesh albums. You record on it one day, it sounds killer. You come in the next day to the studio, nothing has changed, switch it on and it sounds like crap. But the studio hours are piling up and you have to record because you have a set budget, so like it or not you have to record on the day when your Marshall does not want to sound good. Those days are over now.

For guitarists, there is now a wealth of affordable options for getting world class tone in recordings.

I suspect tube amps will be relegated to a niche market within the next 10 years. You see guys like Mitch Harris (Napalm Death) switch to Kemper, Steve Vai uses Axe-FX on tour, so does Chris Broderick (Megadeth). When guys of that calibre use tube amps only at home, but go on tour with all their digital amps (because they’re so much lighter and easier to feed into a PA for a good live sound), the writing is on the wall for tube amps. Digital technology has caught up (especially the revolutionary Kemper Profiling Amp) and the sound advantages of tube vs digital have been diminished to the point where no one can tell the difference. There is a hilarious video on YouTube from Anderson’s Music in the UK where the do blind A/B testing of various tube amps vs captured digital profiles of the same amps from a Kemper. In most cases they got it wrong. They hear some minor imperfection in the sound and they assume it was some digital artifact of the Kemper, where in reality it was some tube issue in the original tube amp. The Kemper profile sounded better and more consistent than the original tube amp it profiled. At the end, the owner of Anderson Music throws his hands up in the air and exclaims “I have a million pounds of inventory in tube amps...who is gonna buy that now?”. When two guitar players who’ve been playing for 30 years cannot tell the difference between a tube amp and a digital profile of the same amp….that tells you something.

You may see some innovative combos, like what Hughes & Kettner is doing, proving very versatile tube amps with on-board digital technology (e.g, built-in effects) to marry the two. Or the Polish company Taurus Amps that can stuff an entire amp (preamp + power tubes) into a device the size of a pedalboard and provide built-in cab simulation for direct recording in a studio.

But the “giant wall of Marshalls” we see at Slayer gigs is just for show. Gary Holt recorded the solos for last Slayer album on his Kemper profiling amp. It's a digital device the size of a large lunchbox. He profiled his favorite tube amp at home, it reproduces it exactly digitally, took it into the studio, plugged in and recorded directly into the mixing console.

You can have the same devices the biggest pros in the world use for anywhere from $600 (Amplifire) to $1800 (Kemper). So digital techology has made a world of difference for guitar players, especially those like me that record in a home studio.

(14) I understand you're now in Ecuador, and Grzegorz aka Brian is still in Canada, is that correct? Presumably the Internet's collaborative potential is to thank for that? And, as an aside, is the change of credited names linked to the change of band direction - another shedding of older identity, if you like - or something more to do with getting older and possibly wiser?

Yes, Brian still lives in Montreal, I moved to Ecuador with my family 1.5 years ago. I live high up in the Andes mountains, away from most civilization. It’s a long story, but it is what it is. You will see some of the stunning scenery from here in an upcoming video for our song “Inti Raymi” which will be released soon, once our PR agency gets all the press releases ready. And yes, Internet of course is the only way we can collaborate.

The change in names was just due to us growing up, I guess. We’re not 25 any more. Adulthood and entry into middle age has wiped out most of my sense of humour. Or maybe it has just made it darker and blacker. Who knows.

(15) We've reviewed 'Spasms Of Rebirth' now - indeed, that's one of the things which prompted this follow-up chat. I firmly believe that artists should have a 'right of reply' to people who are offering criticism of their work, so is there anything, good or bad, you'd like to put 'on the record' concerning that coverage?

No, I think your review was very fair and balanced. I would probably have described it the same way.

Yes, it’s not “Slavic Blasphemy Part Deux”. We were not interested doing that at all. That was 20 years ago. Our musical tastes changed, a lot. If we tried to match those old albums using the same style it would probably be a losing proposition. Your mind is in a different place.

Look at a band like SWANS. They have gone through 4-5 MAJOR style changes since the 1980s. That is the way they have stayed relevant. No one accuses Michael Gira and SWANS of living in the past or living off past glory. He is still hungry, still looking to discover new plains. He is a role model for all of us older musicians who have no inclination to live in the past.

There is no way Metallica today could match “Master of Puppets”. No way Slayer could match “South of Heaven”. No way Voi Vod can match “Dimension Hatross”.

The best you can do is go on a different, new path and hope to make something exciting there that will be of the same quality. Something that is fresh, at least for you.

Only that way you can convince listeners that your return was worth it and you’re here to stake new ground. That you still want to be relevant and not just live in the past and use nostalgia to recapture past glory.

Sure, some are not happy that we did not continue our previous orchestral style. It is what it is. I am not the same person (especially in terms of my music preferences) that I was in 1995.

Zaraza on Bandcamp

(16) Have you had much in the way of other feedback on the album? What's the general feeling about it - and, perhaps more importantly, how satisfied are you with it?

I am very satisfied with the songs. Especially the lyrics. Probably the best I’ve ever written, the most personal ones.

I am always dissatisfied (to some degree) with the sound. You always think you can mix it or record it better. But then I thought the same about our 2 first albums and most people still see them as classic. Mixing is an art form. It is the part of the artistic process I hate most. You can totally destroy an album during that.

If Metallica had a bad producer on “Master of Puppets” or Slayer didn’t have Rick Rubin for “Reign in Blood”, those albums may never have had the impact they had.

For all the long term Zaraza fans, I used to post snippets of work in progress on our Facebook page, so they had a clue what is coming. Our new stripped down, uglier sound was no surprise to any of them.

I’ve seen some complain on the Internet that it is not the same as the first two albums. Tough luck. We’re not in the same space any more.

The first two albums were inspired by Laibach and My Dying Bride.
The new album is inspired by Crowbar, Gorguts, Voi Vod, Disrotted and all the other bands I mentioned previously.

There is no way you could end up with the same end result if you’re starting from a totally different point.

Zaraza - 'Planetary Re-Install' (2003) (Official):

(17) Zaraza's never really been a live band - is that something you would ever consider now that technology's caught up, to a certain extent, to the limitations of needing live musicians? I've seen plenty of bands using laptops and suchlike to handle an awful lot of the workload in recent years, especially in genres such as Power Electronica...

I would actually love to, but living so remotely and far away makes that somewhat impossible. I think that train has left.

Don’t get me on the whole laptop thing. I already told you what I think of Power Electronica artists (see earlier comments).

We actually played live once in early 2000s, opening up for Merzbow in Ottawa. During his live show, he sat down in front of his MacBook. Opened it up, pressed some buttons. Gargantuan levels of noise came out of the PA. He did not move. Every now and then he would stand up and jiggle some home made distortion device. I hardly heard any difference it made in the sound. For all I know, he just replayed a WAV file he had recorded earlier.

Our friend Knurl (who is also a noise artist), played before him. He destroyed all sorts of equipment on stage, banging at it, crushing it, scraping it. Very physical. Now that was a show! I got my money’s worth.

Someone else sitting in front of a laptop for an hour? Sorry, not my thing.

I respect artists like Author & Punisher that build their own instruments and have managed to make the one-man band something really amazing to watch. That guy is an engineering genius.

(18) Perhaps the crucial question - you're back, and undeniably not dead yet. Do you have any further plans to continue the Zaraza renaissance?

Absolutely. This is just the beginning of a new journey.

The constant for us is change though. So we don’t just go into another album and continue. I always think now that I have explored one area, what do I change on the next album? This is how Zaraza operates, this is how we work. Every album is a separate chapter and we don’t want to really repeat the previous ones.

I already have some ideas for the next album, style-wise. I think it will be nastier, heavier. Maybe some keyboards / synths will return, but more experimental sounding, definitely nothing symphonic. Some parts of it could be faster though, I am starting to have an inkling to do something more brutal. Been listening to a lot of Iron Lung in the last 2 years, their brand of violent power-violence really appeals to me...brutal blasting sections mixed with passages of totally spine destroying sludge. Some of that may leak into our new material. I am forever influenced by others and mangle what I learn from them into something uniquely Zaraza in the end.

Right now our main focus is on promoting the album. I just spent the last month editing the video for “Inti Raymi” late at night.

Zaraza is a totally 100% DIY shop. We write our own songs, record them, mix them, master them. Then we do our ow graphic design, our own videos.

Only the promotion part we’ve now outsourced to a proper professional metal PR agency. That is a lesson we learned quickly in 2017.

And of course, at this age you have far more other responsibilities and far less free time then when you were 25. So it all takes longer.

But a new Zaraza album will come. There is no shortage of inspiration or ideas.

A few months ago I bought this little wonderful guitar pedal called the TC Electronic WireTap. It’s basically a riff recorder. Every time I come up with some good riff while jamming or practising, you just press it to record and it preserves it. I probably have 100-200 riffs on it by now, which can provide a starting point for new songs. Obviously not all of them are great….we will apply strict quality control (as we always do) and narrow them down to the few best.

Even a collection of good riffs is still a far road from having actually finished good final songs. So I suspect a new Zaraza album is 2-3 years away. At least the mixing process should be faster and less painful, since I learned so much during the “Spasms of Rebirth” sessions.

I do have a lot of lyrics already written though, which is first for Zaraza. We usually wrote lyrics for at the very end. The lyrics for “Every Day Is a Funeral” from our first album were actually written the night before I was due to record them in the studio.

Zaraza - 'Every Day Is A Funeral' (1997) (Official):

(19) And, maybe as an appropriate final question: you've seen a lot of changes to what constitutes Doom over the years - as an old, and perhaps somewhat reactionary, site with firm links to the past, how are we doing at keeping up with the zeitgeist? And does that, in any way, reflect your own experience of staying relevant within an ever-changing scene?

I think you’re doing just fine. Back in the 90s, “doom” used to mean either death/doom, traditional doom (whose fans hated death/doom) or later funeral doom.

Now it’s an explosion of sub-genres, with sludge and post-metal and an endless variation of all those mixed together. You seem to be doing a good job of keeping up.

(20) To close, I hope we've covered Zaraza's unexpected and welcome rebirth pretty thoroughly, but if there is anything you'd like to add, the last words are yours.

I just want to thank doom-metal.com for all your support over the years.

You were one of the first sites that supported us and gave us good reviews and exposure. We hosted our site here for a while (zaraza.doom-metal.com), even had our own forum here (before Facebook was invented).

And now in 2017 you are still leading the way, letting so many people know of our existence.

Eternally grateful.

(-) Then it only remains for me to thank you again for your time and participation, and hope that we'll have a lot more from Zaraza to look forward to!

We promise to do our best and not let you down. We may not always deliver what you expect, but we always put our heart and soul into it and try to make it the best we can.

Click HERE to discuss this interview on the doom-metal forum.

Visit the Zaraza bandpage.

Interviewed on 2017-06-08 by Mike Liassides.
Thermal Mass
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