Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Shawn Zappo of Changes

This interview was conducted on Sunday, March 13th with Shawn Zappo of Changes after eating at Blackbird Pizzeria.  Later that day his newest band Changes played the Barbary with Snake Road, Halo Of Snakes, Troublemaker and She Rides.

Donny Mutt:  Please introduce yourself.  What is your age and where are you from?
Shawn Zappo:  My name is Shawn Zappo, I am 36 and I am from Brick Town, NJ but I live in Bradley Beach, NJ now.

DM:  How was your pizza?
SZ:  The pizza was good.  Blackbird gets two thumbs up.  I was stoked on it and the FDR photos were nice as well.  

DM:  Do you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet?
SZ:  Vegetarian.  I have been a vegetarian since November of '91.  I am also a vegetarian cook.  I have cooked at a few different places over the years.  I am currently cooking at Kaya's Kitchen in Belmar, NJ. 

DM:  What motivated you to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle?
SZ:  Hardcore.  I would say a few things that initially put the thought into my mind was skateboarding and hardcore.  I grew up skating and surfing, so Ed Templeton and Mike Vallely were kind of outspoken about vegetarianism, so that implanted the thought in my head.  The Boogie Down Productions Edutainment record had the song "Beef" with KRS-One.  That song was definitely a spark.  Then you have all the bands like Youth Of Today and Burn who had songs about vegetarianism and that also opened my mind to it.  Then I read A Diet For A New America.  I was also involved in the Hare Krishna movement.  All those things sparked the vegetarianism for me.

DM:  For me, when I first went vegetarian, it was totally the hardcore thing to do at the time.  I was straight edge, going to hardcore shows and I went to a show and saw a PETA pamphlet.   I pick it up and was horrified with what I saw, but it was directly related to what is the next step of being a hardcore kid.  So I said to myself "I'm straight edge, I like hardcore and punk. I have to go vegetarian!"  This is my third time in my life that I am vegetarian and it is 100% for me because I want to be healthier and not have to kill an animal just so I can survive.  You have a more interesting story than it was the hardcore thing to do haha.

SZ:  It is funny because I am at this point in my life where I am deconstructing a lot of things that I have been into.  Vegetarianism is one of them.  Not that I am not vegetarian, but I always think about it like there was a time in my life when I thought human beings are suppose to be vegetarian and human beings aren't suppose to eat meat for various reasons like our intestinal track is three times the size of our body, therefore the meat sits in our body and putrefies and releases toxins into our body.  There are a lot of various things I picked up reading that initial book A Diet For A New America.  You have to eat healthy.  I think if you are a vegetarian or a vegan, it is important to educate yourself on what you are eating.  A lot of people just eat fake meat like seitan or wheat gluten.  That is all fine in moderation but I think being aware of being and eating healthy and not just it's vegan and I just ate a vegan cake.  It is total shit. I don't back dietary fanaticism so don't get me wrong. I like my junk food as much as anyone. But it is important to watch what you are putting in your body. Just because it is Veg or Vegan doesn't mean it is healthy.

DM:  Haha yea, cake is definitely not the healthy choice.
SZ:  Being healthy.  I have had ups and downs with my health.  When I am on it, I am feeling good.  When I fall off eating well, I notice it.  That is one thing I think when people are vegetarian, they should try and eat healthy.
DM:  I know when I was growing up, I knew many people who were vegetarian or vegan and they would only eat pizza, french fries, peanut chews and/or whatever else is the standard; typical "Oh, that's vegan/vegetarian?  Cool, I can eat that," but they didn't know anything about preparing food for themselves, which I think is very important.

DM:  Besides where you work, do you have anything like Blackbird back home in NJ?
SZ:  There are a few spots.  We have Good Karma Cafe, which just opened.  It is owned by someone who I worked with at Kaya's, Tiffany, who use to also cook at Down To Earth, which was in Red Bank.  Her husband Mike owns the tattoo shop called Electric in Bradley Beach He also played in a bunch of bands like Full Speed Ahead and Splitting Headache.  That is her restaurant with this woman Gail.  That place is really good.  We also have Twisted Tree in Asbury, which is a smaller cafe-type spot.  There is Yoga Basin, which is a yoga studio/juice bar, so they have juices, smoothies, wraps and things like that.  There is Crust & Crumble, which isn't totally vegan or vegetarian, but they have those options and that is in Asbury.  There are other spots around, but those are pretty much the main ones.  Cinnamon Snail, which is this dude Adam and his stuff is really banging.  It is a big truck and I know for a while he was in Red Bank, but I don't know where he is at now.  There are definitely a lot of good spots.  There is probably a lot of spots I don't know about because I kind of go to the same ones.  I try to support people I know and am friends with. 

DM:  What was the first band you identified with as being "your music" opposed to the music you hear as a child growing up with your family?
SZ:  Well, I will give you a couple of bands.  There were stages of my musical growth.  Two things I distinctly remember as a kid are Stevie Wonder and The Beatles a lot and Bob Dylan from my dad.  The first cassette tape I ever had on my own was in third grade.  It was The Police Syncronicity and that was the first tape I really loved.  Then I got into hip-hop and like a lot of people did back then in '84-'85, Run DMC were really big for us.  Run DMC was the main one then we would listen to radio shows and tape them.  The first tape hardcore or just music?
DM: Just music in general.
SZ:  I mean I was listening to The Cure, The Smiths, The Dead Milkmen and I still love all that stuff.  The first time I heard punk was the Repo Man soundtrack and that was like Fear, Circle Jerks and Black Flag.  I'm going to say The Police.  That was the first band that I really loved and they were my own thing. 

DM:  Tell me about the first live band or performance you ever attended and how that affected your interest in music. 
SZ:  The first legit live show I ever saw was Bad Brains and Leeway at City Gardens and that was the head cracker.  Even when I just got the Bad Brains cassette, someone handed me a tape, it didn't even have a cover.  It was a yellow tape with red writing and I thought, "This is fucking cool looking."  I had never seen a yellow cassette.  I played it and it sounded like the most fucking crazy thing with HR's voice.  The tone of everything was crazy and then to see them live with Leeway.  I was always looking at photos and it was '86 when I first started listening to punk and I didn't get to my first show until 1990, so it was just pictures for me.  I am seeing the pictures and thinking, "This looks crazy," and then to go see the show and see the madness.  It was insane  Once I saw it, that was all I wanted to do.  That is what got me through school: waiting for a hardcore show on a weekend.  I had surfing and skating and then it was going to shows.  That is what kept me sane.  That is what spoke to me.  Hardcore spoke to me.  School didn't speak to me and nothing that was being given to me through the normal outlets was speaking to me.  The only thing that really did was hardcore.  

DM:  From that point in time till now, what are some bands that inspired you to evolve from a music listener to a music performer?
SZ:  There is a lot of different stuff that influenced the music I have played in different bands.  I would say what influenced me specifically as a vocalist would be HR from the Bad Brains, Richie from seeing Into Another a lot.  He was a big influence.  Although I play an instrument, bass, and I sing in a band, I was always more captivated by the frontman then the players.  That was always my focus.  HR was a big one for me and Richie was another.  Ray Cappo was also another.  I think Ray Cappo was a great frontman.  The bands that I could see, not the ones I saw later in a reunion or a video… those three, HR, Richie Birkenhead and Ray Cappo, are the most influential people as vocalists.   As a bass player, I would say Sergio from Quicksand is probably the person who influenced my bass playing the most.  Eric Avery from Jane's Addiction or Orange 9mm and stuff like that that is more groove oriented.  

DM:  How were you first introduced to punk and hardcore music?  I know you kind of touched on that earlier, but what were the circumstances around it?
SZ:  Skateboarding and surfing.  I really looked up to my cousin.  He was a few years older than me and he was the one who got me into hip-hop and breakdancing as a kid in 1984.  Skating and surfing in '86 is when I got into that stuff and with that came the punk rock.  Like I said, the first thing I heard was the Repo Man soundtrack.  Then I got a cassette from somebody and I still have this cassette.  It is funny, when Greg and I started doing Charge, he gave me the cassette back.  I had given it to him in high school and it was Judge, Crippled Youth, Uniform Choice and Lemonheads Hate Your Friends.  That was the cassette.  A specific memory is my cousin giving me Dag Nasty Can I Say.  When I heard that, that was another real mind opener and a mind blower and just, "Holy shit, this is amazing."  Nothing sounded like it and it was kind of just a soundtrack to go shred the streets or waves.  This dude Jay's mom would do all the ESA contests, which was the Eastern Skateboard Association.  They would have big contests and all the ramps would have BOLD spray painted on them or Youth Of Today.  If you were into skating you are gonna hear punk rock and hip-hop.  Public Enemy and BDP were just as standard as Youth Of Today or Minor Threat.  

DM:  That is how it was for me.  I got into punk and hardcore through skateboarding.  A kid I stopped going to grade school with in third grade, somehow years later we reconnected.  It was like, "Oh, we use to hang out in grade school.  You skate? I skate.  Let's skate!"  He told me to go buy these three tapes: Pantera Vulgar Display Of Power, Sick Of It All Scratch The Surface and Nine Inch Nails Broken.  That was my first taste of hardcore.  I got the Pantera tape and I loved it.  I saw a video on MTV with a clip of one of their live concerts and it scared the crap out of me because these metal heads are just beating each other senseless.  I was like, "No way am I going to THAT!"  Years later, I kick myself because I could have seen Pantera, but I never did.  Growing up, skateboarding is definitely how I got into punk and hardcore.  I know a lot of other people that got into punk and hardcore the same way.  I always loved that aspect of skateboarding.  

SZ:  Skateboarding also opened me up to bands I wouldn't have listened to as a kid like Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, AC/DC and the Stones.  Shit that I thought was corny when I was a kid, but then when it was put to a Toy Machine video or something I was like, "This is fucking awesome!"   Skateboarding has changed a lot and it doesn't seem to stop progressing.  The vibe of skateboarding is a lot different.  We were talking about it before. You go to a skateboard park and everyone is wearing their iPod with their headphones on.  It separates them into their own little bubble.  When we used to skate, we used to build our own shitty ramps and bring them to a parking lot and you would have your boom box.  Everyone would try to next level someone with a tape like, "Oh you played this.  Well, did you hear this or that?"  That is how I first heard Fugazi.  I remember I played Minor Threat and this dude Morgan was a really good skater and he put in Fugazi.  I didn't know what Fugazi was yet cause I have never heard them.  I was like, "What is this?  This sounds like…." and he was like, "This is Fugazi.  You don't know?"  And I'm like, "No, I don't know"  That was just how you learned about the stuff.  It was passed down through word of mouth and the older generation.

DM:  Yea man, gone are the days of going to a record store and looking at a CD or record and thinking, "This is a cool-looking record.  I want to listen to it."  Now you just download it.  I actually downloaded four records before coming to the show.  

SZ:  Yea, it is definitely a lot different
DM:  I miss going through a bargain bin just looking for new $1 CDs.  I remember this one time I was in a store just looking to see what was cool.  I picked up four CDs, but I could only buy one and it was a choice between the four judging on what it looked like.  I remember it was Instead Bonds Of Friendship, Vision and two others I don't remember.  I went with Instead because they were thanked in Youth Of Today's thanks list and they looked cool.  It turns out that is how I got that record because it was the coolest-looking one.  Another record I found that way was my first show at the First Unitarian Church in Philly.  I was looking through the 7-inch records and just picked out the coolest-looking record.  It was the Infest Machoism 7-inch.  The cover is a guy being impaled by an American flag.  I was like, "This is bad ass.  I'm buying it!"  I got home and I was floored by it.  It was the fastest thing I have heard at the time.  It seems that younger kids don't have those kinds of stories now growing up in punk and hardcore.

SZ:  Yea, it is definitely different.  It is the time.  I remember for a while I was not bitter but just feeling like things must kinda suck for kids now.  It is different, but I guess for a young person listening to hardcore for the first time is just as cool as the first time I heard it.
DM:  Oh yea, it is just a different era.  

SZ:  I guess what makes it different to me is that it was a little more hard fought or earned.  I don't know what the word is, but like you said, I would go to Vintage Vinyl when it was still in Monmouth County.  We would buy stuff by the way it looked or like you said the thanks list.  We would always go through the thanks list or if it was on Revelation Records, I am going to buy that.  When I got into Ebullition Records and all the Old Glory bands.  If it was on that label, then I am going to buy it.  Now it is like you just go online and download it, which is good and bad.  If you are in a band and you record a record now, everyone can hear it because you can put it online for free.  Changes made CDs still and hand-screened our sleeves and tried to make it at least have the feel of when I got something that was special.  I feel that the connection still means something to me, so maybe someone else cares.  I think there is a difference from just downloading something online and having an actual physical copy in your hands. 

DM:  Who were the current local bands at the time when you first started going to shows?
SZ:  Local bands?  Hogan's Heroes were the big band.  Tony the drummer lived around the corner from me and he was a really good skater.  He was a couple years older than me and I had this little shitty makeshift bank ramp and he would come by and kill the thing, so I thought he was the coolest dude ever.  He was the dude that turned me onto a lot of music.  There was this band React and they were a straight edge band.  React were a really good band.  Honestly, I don't know how well they were received back then because I only saw them locally.    They would play backyard ramp shows.  I don't know what it was like to see them at a bigger place like City Gardens or something.  They were a really killer band.  Their guitar player is actually a crazy jazz guitar player now.  So they were a great band.  Disruptive Behavior.  I use to work with this dude Bill who played drums in that band.  I was into the local bands but it wasn't the same to me. Hogan's Heroes and React were both tight, but a lot of the other bands were not that great and it was apparent.  When you see Bad Brains as your first show, everything else just seems not as good.  Also, Sick Of It All Blood, Sweat and No Tears was real big for me.  A lot of people were into hardcore and collecting records and having every little thing.  I was always very particular about what I liked.  I like this and I am not into that.  That is just how I have always been about music whether it is reggae, hip-hop, rock music.  I like what I like and I don't like what I don't like and I have always had the bands that I liked.  Local bands were cool, but the only ones that stand out and made an impression on me live are Hogan's Heroes and React.  

DM:  What was the first band you played in and what instrument did you play?
SZ:  The first band I actually ever played in was Charge.  That was the first band and I was 27 and that was the first time I played an instrument.  So Greg, the singer, and I went to school together and the way we met was he was into hip-hop and I was into hardcore.  I was into skating and he was one of only three black kids in an all white school.  I was into skating and hardcore and that is like, "You're a freak," and there are only like three or four kids into that.  We instantly connected just by being outcasts.  I was into hip-hop, but he was way more knowledgeable about it than me.  He was interested in punk, so I gave him the Sick Of It All record Blood, Sweat and No Tears because of the KRS-One intro.  That kind of made the connection for him.  Charge was the first band that I played in and we started in 2001.  It may be a generic thing to say, but we were a reaction to the whole 9-11 bit.  I had kind of grown away from hardcore around 1997-'98.  I have seen all the bands that were left over from the '80s.  Then I saw Quicksand, Supertouch and Into Another and all those bands, which was phenomenal.  Then you had the youth crew rehash like Ten Yard Fight, Floorpunch and In My Eyes.  I liked all that stuff too and I saw Floorpunch so many times.  Eventually, I just felt like I was wearing a costume.  I can't really explain it.  I felt like, "Here I am.  I got my cargo shorts on and my running shoes on and my straight edge shirt."  I was around a bunch of people and I even felt that my own friends were judgmental assholes.  I was a judgemental asshole.  Everything was really weird.  I can't pinpoint exactly what it was, but I felt like I needed to go away.  

DM:  I had that same feeling feeling after One Up broke up.  For me, I put everything I had into that band.  It was like being in a serious long-term relationship being in the band.  I put everything I had into that band and I did everything I could for that band.  We never quite got the attention I thought we deserved for how much work we put in.  I would see bands showing up late for shows, playing sloppy, not put any effort into their band and not even care get signed to bigger labels all around.  At the same time, we couldn't even get a "no thank you, we are not interested in your band" from any of the labels we sent our demo material to for an LP.  After that, we broke up and I needed to put some space between me and all things hardcore.  Now, I am back and I love hardcore just as much as I did the day of the last One Up show.  

SZ:  Charge was a rough experience for me because I put everything into that band.  We came out and we had all this hype initially.  I guess we were the only band at that moment that was doing that sound.  We had that early '90s Burn/Inside Out thing happening and whatever people were saying.  Maybe a little Bad Brains Quickness feel.  Nobody was doing that at the time.  We just were doing what we grew up liking.  Inside Out was a band that blew my mind and Burn.  Those were the bands we loved like Bad Brains.  Naturally we wanted to do a band that sounded like those bands.  Then we did the Universal Tribe EP and we tried to do our own thing and establish ourselves as our own band and not a rip-off band.  Some people got it and some people didn't.  We would go play Syracuse and there would be 200 kids going crazy and we would play New Jersey and there would be no one.  It was really weird and we didn't get a lot of support back home.  It was weird because we were not a huge hardcore band but then we were having interest from multiple major labels based on some shows A & R guys saw us open at CBGB's.   I thought we were a good band, but we weren't popular in the world of hardcore by any means compared to the bands that were out at the time.  On top of that, we had these major labels showing interest in us and that fucked our heads up.  It fucked mine up.  It was a crazy experience and I take it all as learning.  I can enjoy music so much more now then when I was in that band.  That was my growing pains and learning all the mistakes I made on the way.  Now I can just do music and take it for what it is and not have any expectation.  That was the thing.  There was so much expectation with Charge and that kind of ruined the whole experience.

DM:  Yea, you just want to go out, have fun, do your thing.  You don't want to have to worry are there going to be 150 kids showing up?  If only 50 kids show will they even watch us?  There are so many things about doing a band that are just so nerve-racking.  Some people get it and some don't.  
SZ:  I think the New Jersey thing was a really rough one for me.  We were getting respect everywhere else, but we weren't getting much back home and it was hard to deal with.  But it's the past and it's just something to learn from.  Some people are not going to like what you are doing and they don't have to. What is important is if you like what you are doing. I should have never worried about what other people were saying.
DM:  The last listed show for Charge was April of 2010.  Was that the last official Charge show?  I know by that point you were no longer with the band.  How come you weren't in the band for their last album Who's In Control?
SZ:  I don't know when the last show they played was, but I think it was in New Jersey with Soul Control.  That was when I wasn't in the band and Brian's brother Miles played bass and Kingshot from Floorpunch was playing drums.  Neither myself nor Steve were in the band at that time.  We were going to do a reunion show.  It was my idea to go and play Syracuse, NY because that was the spot we were always showed the most love We always knew if we play Syracuse, we would be playing to 150 people and they would totally be stoked on it.  Myself, Brian and his brother were doing a band called Overstand and that band kind of ended in 2009.   Brian was moving out to Arizona so he wasn't able to play the Charge reunion.  Steve still lived in Indiana so he couldn't play.  We had Kingshot who already played in Charge and Chuck Treece was going to play guitar for us.  It never really came together and we ended up not playing.  Now I realize Charge is Charge.  Brian is such a unique guitar player and if there were ever to be a reunion show, it should be Steve, myself, Greg and Brian.  But I was stoked to play with Treece.  I can't lie about that.  We became friends when I was doing Overstand.  We played with McRad a lot and Chuck is just a great guy.  It would have been fun, but it wouldn't have been fair to the original members of Charge so we just bagged the idea.

DM:   What kind of gear were you running while you played bass in Charge?
SZ:  Sometimes I had an Ampeg 8x10 and other times I had a Genz Benz cab .  The main thing I had was my Mesa Boogie M-Pulse 600 head.  I was more influenced by reggae and bass players that had a fat/round sound.  Even the bassist for Rage Against The Machine was influential.  I wanted a fat/round sound, so I looked around to see what a lot of reggae guys were playing.  It might seem kind of stupid for someone who is in hardcore band, but a lot of the reggae bassists that I liked were playing this Mesa head, so I bought that Mesa head.  I never used any pedals unless maybe in the studio I would use a Rat pedal if I wanted some distortion.  I had my Fender Jazz, the Mesa head and various cabs.

DM:  When I was younger I just wanted that high/trebley Floorpunch bass sound.  Now, the more I play bass, I find myself wanting to have more low end and bass, so you can feel it, not necessarily so you can hear it cut through the music.  I think that is what you were going for, right?
SZ:  Yea.  I started late, so it was not like I grew up playing bass and I am not some great bass player.  I started late and I was just learning from what I was listening to.  When we were doing Charge, I wasn't really listening to hardcore.  I was listening to reggae, hip-hop and a lot of rock and roll.  That is what influenced my playing and learning how to play with Steve playing drums, I became a very percussive and locked-in player.  I wasn't very concerned with what the guitar was doing because Brian was always doing something with the pedals layering over the music.  That is what gave us the feel that might have reminded people of an Orange 9mm or a Quicksand.  Those bands were very rhythmically-driven bands and that is how I got that sound and by playing with Steve.  When we first started jamming we didn't have a guitar player for a long time and it was just me and him playing.  I was a bass player that learned to play with a drummer.  I was really into playing with the drummer and locking in with the drums as opposed to just following the guitar.  

DM:  In my opinion that is what bassists are suppose to do: lock in with the drums.  They are called the rhythm section for a reason.  They are supposed to lock in and be one unit of two instruments forming a solid wall of sound.  Sadly, a lot of bands don't do that.  

DM:  Why is it whenever I look to online, I can't illegally download any Charge records?
SZ:  Probably because the band is almost completely forgotten about.  I think Charge is a band that isn't remembered.  It is remembered by the people that saw us and got it.  For a lot of other people, the average hardcore kid now, and I don't mean this in a negative way.   I would have to guess a lot of people just don't know about Charge.  I want people to hear the music because I feel it is still relevant music.  I think the music and lyrical content are both still good and relevant.  I also think we were one of those bands that had potential to have had some longevity but we just kind of disappeared.  

DM:  What led to the formation of Changes and your decision to pick up the mic instead of the bass?
SZ:  About 2008, Greg had asked me to come back  and play in Charge again.  I said OK because I wanted to play music, but it was weird what we were doing.  We had two bass players, me and Miles, and John, who plays in Changes on drums and Brian on guitar and Greg on vocals.  We were writing some songs that I had bass lines for that were more riffy and Sabbathy.  Basically what happened was Greg wasn't into it and he had a lot of stuff going on and was kind of burnt out on the band so it eventually evolved into Overstand.  That was Brian from Charge playing guitar, his brother Miles on bass, John who plays drums in Changes and me singing.  We did that band for about a year.  We did a 7-inch on The Essence Records, which is my friend Adam Malik from Poland who now lives in the UK label.  We put out another split 7-inch on Cobra Records with this band Sirens from Germany.  We had recorded more stuff that we were going to put out as a CD on another European label, but by then the band was already over.  I put it out myself as 100 CDs with everything we recorded minus the title track from the Kali Yuga 7".  That band ended kind of on a sour note. We had a tour booked for Central America and as it got closer to the dates half the band was into it and the other half was not into doing it.   We ended the band and John and I wanted to do another band so we started the search to find new people.  I met Mike who plays guitar in Changes at an H.R. show.  We started surfing together and became friends.  I asked him if  he liked hardcore and gave him a CD of Charge and Overstand.  I told him I was trying to find people to do a band with and we started jamming.  At first we were trying to do a DC-type of thing.  I really wanted to do something that was not as aggressive as Overstand, which was pretty brutal sounding.  It just didn't feel right.  We had a different bass player at the time and it just wasn't coming together.  Then, Tyler came back from chiropractic school.  When he got back, we started jamming again and it was very apparent that my vocal style was better suited for heavy music, so we went with the heavy vibe.  Mike had a couple of songs and I wrote lyrics to them.  Once we tried it, we decided to do this and that is how it all came together.  Eventually Dustin came on to fill out the sound on Guitar as well. Dustin has played in a bunch of bands; Burn The Tyrant with Tyler.  He also played in Seasick and The Banner which are two great NJ bands and he also did guitar tech work for Madball.  We wanted someone who had experience and the proper approach.  Dustin made a perfect fit and honestly this is the happiest I have been with a group of individuals in a band.  We all get along well and everyone add's their own flavor to the band.  Sometimes there are difference or things to work through but that is given.  It actually helps the whole process.  I really like the energy between us and I feel by creating the music we are also creating solid friendships beyond the band.

DM:  On a sonic level, how would you describe Changes and what bands directly influenced the music you create as a band?
SZ:  It will be hard for me to say what bands directly influenced us.  Everyone is into different music and we have a good age range of people in the band where I am the oldest.  The other guys are younger and we all have different influences and came into hardcore at different times.  I can't really even say what specific hardcore bands are influential to the band because everyone would give you a different answer.  I will definitely say Sabbath is influential, not that we sound like Black Sabbath.

DM:  Yea, you definitely have riffs that are reminiscent of Black Sabbath.
SZ:  We definitely have riffs and are big into riffs.  We also want to keep it fast and driving.  We are not trying to be a stoner rock band even though I love that stuff.  We just aren't trying to do that.  We are trying to do what we want to do with hardcore and punk, which is raw with some heavy riffs.  There is a Bad Brains influence.  

DM:  Reignition?
SZ:  Yea, that is a total Reignition tribute.  We aren't lying.  It is right in there.

DM:  Are there any musical influences that people might not associate with Changes that might people?
SZ:  I think that everything you listen to influences you.  Everyone in the band is into different music.  Mike likes a lot of old/classic blues and likes a lot of bands I have never heard of.  I think that is really cool.  All the guys turn each other on to different kinds of music which is cool.  If we are doing the riffy stuff, I might say, "You need to listen to these Sabbath records or Goatsnake or Kyuss or this or that."  Everyone is into all kinds of music, but we all have that common thread which makes it cohesive.  We all like hardcore and heavy-riff-based hardcore.

DM:  We talked about that before when I found out you were doing a new band and we were discussing our new bands.  Quiet Arcs for me and Changes for you and the way I described it was we took all these different sounds we liked like Sabbath, Handsome, Melvins, Nirvana, Ink & Dagger and Deadguy and ran them through our vision of what the hardcore filter is and what came out is the music we write.  I think that is very similar to what you are saying.  

SZ:  I think that is why I am excited about your band because it sounds different.  Different doesn't always mean good, but your stuff is both different and good.  I think that is important.  You can follow the blueprint and there is nothing wrong with that.  There are a lot of bands that follow the blueprint and they do it well.  I never want to follow the blueprint.  We didn't follow the blueprint in Charge.  We had congas and other non traditional hardcore instruments in Charge.  Obviously, we had our influences that were apparent and I am never going to lie about that like Bad Brains, Quicksand, Into Another, Orange 9mm, Burn. We didn't follow the blueprint with Overstand and we won't follow it now. We are going to write what we want and hopefully some people will like it. So far, everything has been going great.

DM:  I remember when I first got the Eye For All demo.  I was online talking with George, who sings for Blacklisted, and we were talking about our love for Burn.  Eventually he asked me if i heard of this band called Charge yet.  I told him I had the demo but didn't listen to it yet and he said "Dude, go check it out.  We are talking about Burn here.  You will love it!" So I put it on and definitely heard a strong Burn influence and I was floored by it.  I really liked the demo when it came out and I haven't really heard anything else, which was why I asked you how come I can't illegally download anything.
SZ:  It was like we did the demo and we just didn't want to be another one of those bands like, "Oh, they sound like Burn".  

DM:  The Burn of 2001.
SZ:  Yea, that is lame.  Burn is Burn and Burn was great.  We didn't want to be the Burn tribute band.  That was how it was in Overstand as well.  There are influences you will hear that are apparent like Sabbath, Cro-Mags, Bad Brains.  I also think that band had it's own sound and with Changes, we aren't reinventing the wheel but again I feel like it has it's own vibe.  I feel that if you hear it, it sounds like us where as a lot of bands sound like everything.  I don't care what other people do.  People do what they want and they have a good time.  That is what I want to do, but I always try to make a point to have our stamp on it musically and have it not be a rip-off tribute band.  That is very boring to me and a lot of people really love that stuff.  

DM:  What are some of the topics you like to address with your lyrics?
SZ:  I don't have a lot of pretense when I write the lyrics.  It is kind of just what wants to come out when I hear a song.  It is what comes out as a stream of consciousness.  It is kind of dark when I hear the Changes demo.  It is almost a very high contrast from what we did in Charge.  I didn't write the lyrics in Charge.  They were very positive and this band has darker lyrics.  I think it was the last 10 years that has made me have to write darker lyrics.  There are a lot of things going on around the planet.  I think people for the most part are asleep at the wheel heading towards a brick wall, not paying attention.  I feel the lyrics I write are observational type of lyrics.  I have always been interested in the end days and things like that.  Darker stuff like the first song "Victims."  That song is about people who are self-loathing people and they have a victim mentality.  When you have a victim mentality you are sure you are going to be a victim.  I have lived through numerous depressions in my lifetime and it is nothing that is cool and it is nothing to be glamorized.  I think people that live with real depression know that the shit sucks.  I am so tired of the fake cynical bullshit from a bunch of rich kids who are spoiled and talk about how bad their life is.  Every song is about something different but there is the theme of the darkness in there.  "The Shark Pipe" song is our fun song because at the same time I don't want to take ourselves too seriously.  If I have this ultimate serious record, that is not a very good representation of who I am.  I don't sit around and think about serious things all day.  That is part of me and another part of me is joking around, having fun and going surfing.  That is a real song.  That happened to me this summer while giving someone a surf lesson.  It is an exaggeration, but I was chased out of the water by a six-foot shark.  We figured we would write a song about it because it was kind of funny.

DM:  When you listen to music what is the first thing you notice?  For myself, the first thing I notice are the drums.  I always wanted to be a drummer but I have never played drums or taken a lesson in my life.  For some odd reason, I play drums on my steering wheel to any record I hear.  If I have a song in my head, I air-drum along to it.  What is the first thing you notice when you listen to music?
SZ:  It depends on the band.  I think it would be guitar tone.  I don't play guitar and can't play guitar, but that always seems to be the first thing that grabs me is a band's tone initially.  I am a bass player and it sounds weird, but I like the warm, heavy, riffy sound.  I am very into a warm bottom guitar sound and notice guitar a lot.  It depends on the band really.

DM:  It is funny as a bassist and guitarist myself that drums are the first thing I notice on any record.   If there is a bad drummer I turn the record off immediately.
SZ:  Well yea, that is the foundation.  If you have a bad drummer, the rest of the band can be stellar, but the bad drummer will kill it.  I have been lucky that every band I have done, we had a good drummer.  Steve is a phenomenal drummer and he could play every instrument.  Jon is a great drummer and is another guy who can play every instrument.  He rips at bass and is a better bassist than me.  Steve was a better bass player than me.  He rips at guitar and he can make hip-hop beats.  He is one of those guys that can play saxophone haha.  He can play anything.

DM:  Larry and I were talking on the way home from the second show Changes and Quiet Arcs played together at the Bands On A Budget in Asbury Park, NJ about how much of a beast Steve was on the drums.  We later were talking to our drummer Kenny and Larry was like "Yea, he was a beast, not to say you (Kenny) are not.  He plays a different style."  Is he doing any new bands?
SZ:  He is playing in a new band now playing guitar.  A lot of people don't know this but he wrote a lot of the Charge riffs.  He had a lot of input on the guitar as well.  Brian always put his own flavor on the songs.  Steve is doing a more indie rock-type of band now from what he was saying.  I am excited to hear them.  I think he just wanted to do something different other than drums.  He played drums for so long and was always "I hate being the drummer.  I have to carry all this shit around."  Now he has the craziest guitar setup with pedals and all that.  We will hear his new band soon I hope.  He is back in New Jersey and playing music.

DM:  He was at the Bands On A Budget show.
SZ:  He brought all the PA and everything to the show.

DM:  On my way home from dinner last night we got into this conversation and I figure I will continue it with you. What are your top 5 favorite hardcore records?  What is it about each record that makes them so special to you?
SZ:  My top five are always Bad Brains at #1 for me.  They are in my opinion one of the best bands of all time.  What album will change from day to day though.  The first three records (Roir, I Against I and The Quickness) depending on the day I would say one of those is my favorite.  Today I will say that today The Quickness, which a lot of people wouldn't pick.  I think that is an insane and mind-blowing record.   When we first heard it in '89, it was so good.  That record is insane.  HR's voice is phenomenal and the music is mind-blowing.  Cro-Mags Age Of Quarrel is a flawless LP.  Sadly, those lyrics are still relevant.  I say sadly because it seems like things are getting worse. You can put in Age Of Quarrel and the imagery/lyrics are just as relevant today as it was when they did it.  You look at the cover and you got the mushroom cloud and you read all those lyrics and it is all still relevant.  Shelter Perfection of Desire was an important record for me.   There are various reasons and I was a big Youth of Today fan.  You had Youth of Today and specifically Break Down the Walls because the record sounded so gnarly but the lyrics were so positive.  I always thought that was cooler to me because I wanted to feel good.  I was depressed.  I could listen to a Black Flag record and be like, "Man, I feel like that."  I wanted to get out of that so to hear gnarly music that was speaking about trying to be a better person and to live a better lifestyle really appealed to me.  I never got to see Youth of Today, but I did see Shelter from the get-go.  Perfection of Desire kind of had a DC sound to me.  I don't know.  Again, that is another record where those lyrics are very relevant whether you were into Krishna  or not.  I  think it was a very heartfelt and sincere record.  Dag Nasty Can I Say again was a hardcore record with positive lyrics.  The music was still driving, still kicking ass and also melodic, but not in a cheesy way.  That was the first time I had heard melodic hardcore.  Avail Dixie.  I saw them at the Cabbage Collective when that record came out.  It was them, Policy Of Three, Iconoclast and it was probably one of the funnest shows I have ever been to in my life.  The whole place was singing.  That band had such great energy.  Every time I saw them, they made me feel so good.

DM:  Out of music in general, do you have a favorite song lyric?  My favorite song lyric is by Sheryl Crow and is "It's not getting what you want.  It's wanting what you've got."
SZ:  My favorite lyrics or line?
DM:  Just one line that you love that really says something to you and don't say "Don't Blow No Bubbles."
SZ:  Haha, we can talk about what that is about.  There are many different theories.  Don't Blow No Bubbles… the bubbles on the end of a heroin needle?  Don't Blow No Bubbles… Michael Jackson's monkey?  Or Don't Blow No Bubbles… a homophobic song?  We don't know what it is.  It could be anything.  I think it is all three of them and it is weird.  I am just going to go with the Bad Brains "I don't care what you say.  I don't care what you do.  We got that attitude."  I think that is punk rock.  Fuck you, I am living my life and I am going to be who I am and that wraps the whole shit up right there. 

DM:  Favorite Metallica album and why?
SZ:  Here is a story about Metallica.  I have a little OCD and I was always very superstitious with things when I was a kid.  I would skate and if I was wearing a shirt and I got hurt or broke a bone I would be like "I can't wear that shirt anymore because I am going to get hurt when I wear that shirt."  I had these little superstitions and Metallica plays into this.  I was wrestling with a friend on the beach while we watch the waves build.  It was a northeast storm and we are talking about surfing the next day.  Before all of this, we were listening to Master Of Puppets.  We are wrestling and it is getting kind of rough so I am like, "OK, we are getting kind of rough.  We gotta chill out."  He flips me and I am laying on my back and he jumps on my back and breaks both my collar bone and shoulder.  For the next four months, I had to wear a wrap and a sling.  I was all fucked up.  That is my Metallica story.  My favorite Metallica song is "Damage Inc." or "Disposable Heros."  "Damage Inc." because Ricky Oyola skates to it in Eastern Exposure 3 and it makes that song so much more awesome and better than it already is watching him destroy Philly while skating to that song.

DM:  Where can people check out Changes?
SZ:  We have the Bandcamp page if people want to download the demo for free.  We are on Facebook and we are probably going to do a blog down the line.  We aren't all over the internet or anything.  We have a Big Cartel page if people want to order the stuff through the internet.  We are going to be recording again soon in May with my friend Ryan Jones, who is playing bass for Today Is The Day now.  When he is done touring Europe, we are going to record in May for a split with Old Wounds.  The demo is cool and all, but I think it is more about the show.   We are really into playing live.

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Photo Credits:  Tyler Sladen, Chelsea Nitosso, Jane Flood, Jack Ryan, Karena Russo and Darlene Dobkowski.

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