Gary Zon creates visceral and aurally intense music with his band Dismantled. Now, armed to the teeth with bleak industrial soundscapes and harsh-yet-emotive melodies, Zon will bring his unique and diverse breed of sonic chaos to the UK as Dismantled support Combichrist this summer. We talk to Zon about the tour, his inspirations and the forthcoming album, ‘The War Inside Me‘.
Left to right: Jon Siren (drums), Gary Zon (vocals), TZA (keys)
“No one is going to be spared on this new material“
S] What is your biggest personal inspiration?
GZ] My biggest inspiration is society’s tension against me, I can always feel its insect eyes on me. I try to masquerade this tension and I’ve learned how to fit in but every time I’m out and about, it’s pretty clear that there’s something so off about the way I perceive people’s interactions and intentions that the only way to truly reflect on that is to clear my lungs once in a while. And that’s ultimately all Dismantled is – me channelling my tension into music as passionately as I can. I might be able to do more than just Dismantled musically but it is ultimately the clearest voice in saying what I feel. I only see two things right now and that is…the strong, and the weak.
S] Can you tell us about your opinion on industrial music now in 2010, and how that is different to how it was when you started out?
GZ] I went through different phases of industrial and I had no idea it existed until the Columbine murders in 1999, that is the only way I heard about bands like KMFDM. So through that morbid curiosity I discovered Front Line Assembly and was obsessed with that band’s sound because it was synthetic and unlike anything I’ve heard at the time. Only later did I get into Marilyn Manson and Nine Inch Nails because I actually started feeling more emotional when it came to my music and that’s eventually crossed over to bands like Bright Eyes, Jimmy Eat World, The Killers and even The Bled. So you can say that I’m pretty much out there in terms of influences and never limit myself to one genre.
I didn’t really follow the industrial scene because it was all about laptop bands and we would always have live drums and bass when we played and were the odd band out. The only band that impressed me during our early days was Psyclon Nine. They didn’t have guitar or drums at the time but it was still what I considered to be the closest thing to Marilyn Manson in his glory days. Now after touring with Combichrist last year, I got really excited about the industrial scene again since every band on the tour bill had a live drumset and tons of energy. So ever since that tour, I went back to respecting that scene more. I just want to take all that I’ve experienced to a whole new level with my new sound and that’s what I’m struggling with right now.
S] For an artist or band interested in making industrial music and starting out within that niche nowadays, what would your words of wisdom be?
GZ] If you’re solely into listening to only industrial music and shun all other types of music, I have no advice. If you’re into everything and want to put something into the music that hasn’t been done before, that’s when I’ll encourage you. Although I haven’t exactly started out unique either since I used Front Line Assembly as my template but ultimately I proved to everyone, for better or for worse, that I turned into something far different than what I started from. But ultimately I think what matters more is promotion right now and image. The equivalent of popular music these days is whatever’s popular on YouTube and that’s pretty depressing to think about. Trent Reznor and Thom Yorke both think that the easiest way is to give your music away for free and that makes sense if you’re trying to expose yourself initially but in the long run, you’ll just give up and do something different if nothing comes of it. So I’d say bang on as many doors as you can until someone cracks it open and pays attention but it’s kind of ugly out there right now.
S] What are you most looking forward to about coming to the UK with Combichrist and what are your plans with any time off?
GZ] We were in London back in 2007 after we played Wave Gotik Treffen in Leipzig and it really reminded me of New York City in some ways but European. It’s probably my favourite place in Europe by far and I love coming out of the subway and hearing ‘mind the gap‘. I definitely want to explore London more this trip and it looks like we will be overwhelmed by the UK looking at the amount of shows we’re playing over there. Our biggest fan, nicknamed ‘Brownie’, is going to show us around for a good time and I’d love to eat a burger and have a beer while I’m over there. Last time that happened I was visiting Abbey Road and I actually wrote something on the studio wall. But someone told me they keep re-painting it. That kind of upset me since I thought what I wrote was unique and special, just like all the other people that wrote as well!
S] What has been the most unusual thing that has happened to you on tour with Dismantled?
GZ] Well we had our share of technical difficulties but I guess everyone gets that. Once our tour manager left our keyboardist TZA at a truck stop in the middle of the night in Oklahoma. We were all asleep and she couldn’t get a hold of us because our phones were on silent. People were thinking she was in a domestic dispute because she was covered with body paint after playing a show and looked like she got beat up from a domestic situation. Eventually she called the cops on us and we got pulled over somewhere in Texas and separated until they figured out what was going on. We had to go about an hour back to find her. You can’t make stuff like this up.
S] Your vocals are particularly diverse, you have a melodic quality that turns into something quite harsh on the heavier parts – how did you first discover that you could balance both vocal styles?
GZ] Well, I known lots of people who took music classes and would always tell me how to do this or that but for better or worse, I always just end up trying things myself and seeing what works. At first I was really insecure with my voice and that could be heard on the first Dismantled album since everything was processed. But I knew later on that I had something more to express and that’s how ‘Post Nuclear‘ came about, with me learning how to use my voice more to get more emotion out since I was done with the synthetic sound. And that took a long time of sitting in my room and trying different ways to sing until I found out the best way for me is to layer my harsh vocal and singing vocal to get the balance just right.
I’m such a bedroom musician in the regard that it took me ages until I actually recorded myself in a proper studio and that was for another band. For Dismantled, it’s always just me in a room tinkering around and seeing what works the best. A room full of people seems to be the worst possible choice for me to express ideas although I’ve come to realise that is unavoidable to some extent if you really want to ‘break through’ or ‘make it’.
S] How is your inspiration different with regard to Dismantled in contrast to your other more pop-rock orientated projects Aerodrone and no.not.never?
GZ] Dismantled is my gut reaction to my environment and it’s the truest form of my expression. I never feel quite the same way doing my other projects even though I love them in their own way and I have to express other types of music besides just industrial to keep myself from getting bored – there’s only so much you can express in a niche of music. But, Dismantled is definitely true to form and the best way to describe it is when something fills your lungs and the only way to react is to spit all that out as fast as possible in order to just keep breathing, until it hits you again. That’s how I feel when I’m around the anthill called society is that even though I can fit in and be social, it’s just something I’ve been forced to learn to become part of the clique, not something that comes to me naturally. So while I can be a part, I always somehow look from a distance and laugh because all I see are insects looking for blood but dressed in such a way as to make it seem very polite and appropriate. As long as I’m aware of that, my heart keeps on beating and every morning I look at a big poster of ‘Breed To Death‘ that I have covering my window. All I can do is smile.
S] When you write, do you have a favourite location to come up with ideas?
GZ] I usually go out and about and mingle with society pretending I’m a part. That usually gives me a range of emotions to explore because I always see the difference between me and the swarm. The best thing that’s been happening lately though is earthquakes. Where I live in San Diego, CA, I’ve never witnessed so many in my lifetime and at times, I’ll be sitting in my bedroom and the walls start shaking violently and you never know exactly how long it will last and if some other city is ruined, like Los Angeles and we’re just getting the aftershocks. The first time it happened I had to run out and watch the windows as they kept vibrating as the quake kept getting stronger and worse as some speakers fell off my computer table. The other time I was working on music in my bedroom and the whole place shook just as I was getting down a groove in Maschine and it felt like the dead were rising because of the way it swayed back and forth. At first I was panicked and still get like that with new aftershocks but at the same time I actually love the instability and the fact that everything can collapse and the world was never meant to be stable to begin with. I’m also hoping for tripods to come out of the ground but we all know that will never happen.
S] How do the themes and ideas from your next record with Dismantled, ‘The War Inside Me’ show progression away from your previous work both sonically and thematically?
GZ] ‘The War Inside Me‘ is a brutal, dirty, ugly and f***ed up record. It’s meant to mirror the way a human body processes functions and how disconnected that process is from the mind. The words spoken, the time spent with someone, and the way someone interacts on a day-to-day basis can all be equated to an insect’s wings beating beside you. They are there for the moment but can disappear at any minute as proven to me endlessly over the years in gaining new musicians, losing them, gaining new ones, losing them, etcetera. And so I want to capture that emptiness and insect-like quality for the new record in a real brutal way and cover as much scorched ground as possible. I’m going to be as violent as possible and there will be songs about ropes covered with mud, cocaine, suicidal sex, crashing into fuel trucks, beating the s*** out of people, paranoia, hate, hands turning into saws and everything in between. I know that I have enough material to start a new religion, gain enough followers and then throw all of them off a cliff on to the shards of glass below. No one is going to be spared on this new material.
S] Can you take us through (as much as possible) your typically day and how you manage to juggle your various musical projects as well as day-to-day life?
GZ] My life is a chaotic mess right now which is a welcome change since I was locked in a stable relationship for about four years and ironically, as soon as that ended, the earthquakes in San Diego began which is a little more ‘support’ than I expected. I’m glad that has changed though because the best music that can comes out of me is when life is unhinged and unpredictable. Stability is what kills it for me and I felt my last album, ‘When I’m Dead‘ was uninspired because of that. As for day-to-day, music doesn’t pay the bills although I do have some dedicated fans that pay for me to do remix work. The best I can do is just have enough money to live in a rehearsal studio, maybe some iTunes sales here and there or an advance. But mostly it’s all about working on my new album in pure isolation which is easier said than done. San Diego always distracts me though and I end up at an after-party wasted. But sometimes good things happen, like me randomly jamming with Dave [Keuning], the guitarist from The Killers, at his house which is one of the coolest things to happen to me in a long time. But I really need to focus on one thing only and that is the new album and unfortunately the balancing act is not my greatest strength in life. I’ll have to press on and climb the ugly hill as best as I can but all the details I stumble over and analyse to death will be my pitfalls.
S] Your random question is, if you could take out any current film soundtrack and replace it with your music as Dismantled, which film would you choose and why?
GZ] I’d say ‘The Road‘, since that movie is the epitome of depressing and morose. I read the book as well and think Dismantled would fit in well, as long as it was all folky and acoustic. I’d love to re-do all of Dismantled in this type of sound if someone gave me the proper budget. Believe it or not, there’s actually an acoustic cover of ‘Dystopia‘ floating around that I recorded with a friend.
For more information visit the official Dismantled Facebook and MySpace.