John Zealey interview
John Zealey releases new single Dave? Funny Name For A Girl on November 6th, and to mark the occasion CD Times can bring you an interview with the man himself.
How did you decide upon a name for yourself? What made you stick with your own name?
It’s my real name! I always thought Zealey sounded a bit like a Disney character, Goofy or something. Z is always easy to find in lists too!
How long have you been a musician?
I always think of a ‘musician’ as someone who is really adept at playing an instrument, and don’t think of myself as one. Since I was 14, I’ve used and abused whatever I could lay my hands on to get the ideas out of my head.
How would you describe your music to people who have never heard you before?
They’re songs. If you are looking for polished production numbers, big long noodling solos and meaningless lyrics, go somewhere else. People frequently say I sound like Bowie, The Jam and Peter Gabriel. I’m definitely influenced by whatever I’m listening to. My tunes are a direct result of all the music I’ve ever listened to. It really p*sses me off when musos claim to be unique and say things like ‘we only sound like us’. It’s usually a good clue that they live mainly up their own arses and sound exactly like someone else.
What inspires you? Where do you get ideas from for your music?
Guilt, fear, love and the absurd. Mainly guilt. The ideas usually come from one or more of these…..but mainly guilt.
How important do you feel your image and your visuals are for your music?
My image is nonexistent unless you class a 6ft bald 40 year old as some kind of image. J As I’ve got older I care less and less about it from a music point of view. I am extremely interested in promoting the music with my own artwork and videos, it’s just really good fun, but I’m not worried about being seen as an old fart either. I’ve got no intention of doing a Gorrilaz.
How do you feel you are progressing as artists? Do you feel your music is changing as you grow older?
My songs have always been what they’ve been. If they come out as country-waltz, indie pop or prog, that’s what they are. I guess they’ll change as I listen to more new/different music. The thing that changes most is my technical ability. You know, getting to the stage where I only crash the PC 8 times a day instead of 10!!! I’m still learning, I can hear that in the recordings.
What is the best gig you have ever played?
Supporting my buddy Martin Grech with my old band Toyman a few years back at The Garage. I was very proud. I used to baby-sit for him when he was a kid and took great delight in telling the audience that!!J My other favourite gig was one we did in a fast food place inside a roller-disco. The audience just kinda rolled by.
What more do you want from your life as musicians? Goals and ambitions? Is there somewhere in particular that you have always dreamt of playing?
All I’ve ever really wanted was/is for people to hear and use my songs, it sounds corny but that’s the truth. I’m not a starving musician. I have no great desire to leave my family for long periods of time. I’ve been afforded a great opportunity to make music and I’m gonna take it. I’m not that interested in heavy gigging. As far as dream venues go, once you’ve played in a roller disco there’s very little to top it!
What was the first record you bought?
I think it was the soundtrack for ‘Close Encounters’. (I love film scores. I‘d love to do that. John Barry is my favourite dude for that kind of thing.) It could also have been an Abba album, I remember going halves with my brother on one at some point. The first single I bought was either that ‘ Lone Ranger’ record by Quantum Jump, you know the one with the really long word that Kenny Everett used on his show (Me and my mate Kirk used to play it on 33 to try and learn it.) or ‘The Devil Went Down To Georgia’ by The Charlie Daniels Band. I had to buy 2 copies cause Kirk was too embarrassed to buy his own! Ha Ha! Ponce!
What was the last record you bought?
Fionn Regan – ‘Put A Penny In The Slot’ as a download.
Favourite record of all time?
Arghhh..it changes everyday…….probably….. Stephen Duffy – ‘Postcard’
Top Ten records of the moment?
1. Branches by Midlake (and every single track from the album)
2. Worthy by Martin Grech
3. Chances by Athlete (the strings are so great)
4. Packing For The Crash by Tom McCrae
5. The Edge Of The Water by Jars Of Clay
6. Song For The Fields by Fields
7. My Head Sounds Like That by Peter Gabriel
8. The Box (the whole EP) by Orbital
9. One By One by Eyeless In Gaza
10. The Black Hit Of Space by the Human League
If you could have dinner with anyone dead or alive who would it be?
Stephen Fry….I prefer it if he was alive though.
What do you do to relax?
Drink beer, listen to tunes in my shed, Playstation with my son and write songs.
Is there a difference in audiences and the type of people who come to see you at each show? Are some more/less receptive than others?
Yes, sometimes there is more than one person in the audience! (You didn’t let the dog in for free did ya?) I’ve had a mixture of lukewarm reception, embarrassingly over-the-top flattery and people wanting to kill me.
What did you want to be when you were little? Or did you always want to work in music?
I wanted to be a conductor (orchestra kind) and then I wanted to build nuclear missiles….until I realised they were for killing people.
If you were stranded on a desert Island what 3 items would you take with you?
Just 1, Ray Mears ;-)
Ipod dj’s – sign of the future or waste of time?
It all makes perfect sense. More choice, smaller bag. Good luck to em!
Have you ever played a record backwards to hear what it said?
Yes. I went through a phase of playing everything backwards. I love backwards. One Christmas I made a track called ‘23 mins 30 secs’ or something like that. It was basically one long pop song on a cassette that I gave to all my family and friends. On the b-side I put the whole track on in reverse, parallel to the track on the A side. One of my friends preferred the b-side, she said she was addicted to it! Ha ha
How do you usually create tracks? Do you record through a Mac?
I don’t use Mac. They really p*ss me off. Trying to work with Mac-heads can be very problematic, compatibility wise. I use my ropy old Win98 PC and a very old version of Cubase and a most excellent bit of software called FLStudio.
How do you approach new songs?
I usually hide behind a tree with a huge net and then pounce on them when they’re not looking. (Sorry. Is there a prize for 1000000th person putting that down as an answer??) They either come out all at once, as a nearly finished thing, or in odds and ends over a period of time. I prefer the first kind as I can usually detect the stench of struggle in the second.
What can you tell me about the single/ep Is there an album on the way? How long did it take to complete?
The single ‘Dave? Funny Name For A Girl’, will be coming out on November the 14th. Track 2 features Martin Grech doing vocals and some additional guitar. The third track (The Moment Is Now) is probably my favourite on there, a song about ‘bad parenting by good intentions’. There’s also a video on there that me and my mate, Pete Benson made in about three hours one Sunday morning using the hands of a local drama group.