Greetings, friends, neighbors and houseplants. We are at the three-year mark of my time writing this column for the Kingston Times and it remains a wonderful experience. It means a great deal every week to get to spread the word on artists, venues and events that help keep the energy in our area kinetic and inspiring. I really value all of you who read this column and so consider yourselves deeply thanked.
I’m going to switch up the format this week. I can think of no better way to celebrate three years of Kingston After Dark than to plug a musician who is responsible for music that literally saved my life, guitarist Joey Z. of hard rock and hardcore legends Life Of Agony. Known far and wide as a rocker and producer (he even tracked local boys Painmask awhile ago), Joey has a new side project called Zire’s War who are playing an all ages show at local venue The Loft in Poughkeepsie (around the corner from The Chance on Crannell Street) on Saturday, March 26 with Mama Doom and Head Stomp Syndicate.
Life Of Agony’s classic River Runs Red album truly kept me alive during the deepest depression of my youth and I hope some of you will take inspiration away from this Q&A with a man whom I really respect.
Morgan Y. Evans: How did this Zire’s War project start? Were you just looking to show that you are a really capable singer as well? It reminds me of a lot of groove-heavy stuff like Static X or Ministry married with more hardcore — a sound not often heard but very cool.
Joey Z: I’ve always loved the sound of a down-tuned guitar — that deep growl that rattles your guts when riffed on. Around eight years ago, when my first daughter was just about two years old, I had put very heavy strings on one of my Jackson guitars. The low string was actually a 70 bass string. So, I’d sit around the house, take care of my little one, and constantly pick up that guitar and riff out some heavy groove riffs. It was a very inspiring time since I was also in the band Carnivore with my late great friend Peter Steele (Type O Negative). Peter had me singing, barking and screaming a whole lot in the band. He said that he loved my heavy voice and even had me take a bunch of the lead vocal parts in some songs. This is where I really figured out how to split my brain, play tight and get the vocals right. The whole experience gave me a lot of confidence. So, I literally started applying that new mindset and put vocals over some of those heavy down-tuned riffs I was writing. That’s when the first song called “The Saving One” came about and Zire’s War was “officially” born. Although very dark, I basically wrote it for my baby girl. It’s about the fear of not being there when she needed me the most, although the lyrics can apply to anyone you love. People ask me all the time what or who is Zire? The way I see it is Zire is my made-up name for another form of my/our individual self. It is the naked truth, who we really are in our core. It’s the warrior in us and it’s the imperfect person as well. The yin and yang. So Zire’s War is that constant battle we face daily with the struggles and greatest parts of our true selves.
MYE: Who were some of your favorite guitarists growing up?
JZ: Throughout the course of my life I realized that I was influenced by so many players. I used to name two or three in interviews, but now looking back on the big picture there are so many. Here are some that stick out for sure. Definitely Kirk and James from Metallica, Randy Rhoads, David Gilmour, Mathew Bellamy, Dave Murray, Andreas Kisser, Peter Steele and Billy and Bobby from Biohazard. I’ve been influenced by their different personalities, stage presence and pure raw talent, depending on the individual. I’ve realized that bits and pieces of these influences are what made me, “me” right up to today.
MYE: How does it feel to be coming back up here for this Poughkeepsie show? LOA did some recording in Woodstock, right? And I know that you have a long history of playing hardcore shows all over New York State.
JZ: I always loved playing The Chance and all of the upstate venues. The crowds have always been ready to let go and get rowdy, which I love. There’s nothing like a sweaty, crazy energetic show. Many of us know the audience plays the biggest role in that scenario. It’s always the best when everyone, including the band, walks away feeling they got “it” all out. We’re excited to share the bill with Children of Bodom, and expect those crazy Poughkeepsie and fellow upstate New Yorkers to go nuts! It’s going to be a great show.
MYE: How exciting has it been having LOA and now Zire’s War both gaining traction again and, for the first time, respectively? Your shows really are “‘A Place Where There’s No More Pain” as you named the pending new LOA album.
JZ: There are so many exciting things going on right now. I’m just so happy to be this busy musically. Life of Agony are about to embark on yet another chapter. It’s something we’re all grateful for and proud of. Zire’s War is getting ready for a total onslaught. Once this LOA record is wrapped up, I plan on beginning production for ZW’s debut release. Throughout the entire process, both bands will be playing out and that is key for great-sounding records. Keep that live feel in the tracks. Everything is in line and I’m ready to bring everything to another level. Besides all this, I’m still going strong producing and recording bands everywhere. Go to www.joeyzproductions.com if you want to contact me about recording, mixing, or mastering your project or band.