Interview: Zaza, June 20, 2011

Danny Taylor

Danny Taylor from Oakzine. Photo by Therese and Joel

Following up on our gargantuan 2010 interview with Zaza, the Panic Manual recently (virtually) sat down with lead singer Danny Taylor to discuss their new release, Sacred Geometry.

PM: Your first EP, Cameo, was released back in 2008. In those three years, you’ve toured with Pains of Being Pure at Heart, Black Rebel Motorcycle Club, and building your own fanbase through solo shows. Did you feel touring helped you shape what Sacred Geometry would become, and how nerve-wracking was it to play stuff that you hadn’t (formally) recorded yet?

DT: We wrote and recorded Cameo before we had actually played a show and found it almost impossible to replicate the songs live between the two of us without drastic rearrangement. In the end, rather than sequencing backing tracks, we decided to have our live set / sound be a different experience than our studio work.

After touring on that, we caught the lessons of what worked and what didn’t and built our flow around them – a lot of Sacred Geometry’s instrumentation / arrangement came out of that…live drums layered on a strong electronic backbeat, Jennifer singing in unison, synths and keys taking a larger role.

It’s actually more nerve wracking playing songs that are released – as a band we really enjoy experimenting and evolving songs, both on stage and in the studio – when the audience has an expectation of what a song SHOULD sound like is when we bite our nails.

PM: Sacred Geometry is slick, nocturnal, and what I describe as a dangerous slow-burn. You’re not falling all over yourself aghast at first-listen, but before you realize it, you’ve grown addicted through three of four consecutive listens. I have to ask though, why the self-release through BandCamp?

DT: We’ve had the record done for awhile now but we haven’t found the home that we want for it…but we felt our fans wanted what we had on the shelf so why not just put it out there in the most accessible form. And we wanted to move on from under the cloud of “a pending release” so we could concentrate on writing new material / looking forward.  In regards to BandCamp, it seemed like a great / easy vehicle to let people listen or take home the record (/promo plug). Of course, we would love to do a proper release + physical pressing of the album but those cards will play when they fall.

PM: I help the Wedding Present sell merchandise whenever they come to Toronto, and have seen what huge impact self-selling can have for a band because the profits are theirs to keep. Do you think the future of being self-sustaining professional musicians lies in self-release for bands with smaller audiences?

DT: I toured opening for the Wedding Present with TPOBPAH through England – they always had a giant merch setup with Gedge pressing the flesh after every show. As you said, that’s how they kept / keep it going.

Being entrepreneurial is definitely important, but the frustration that we’ve experienced is just how much time is taken up doing “the business” rather than actually making music. If I’m going to have to chose between spending a Saturday coding a website / updating our Facebook layout versus working on an actual song…

I tend to think the loyalty and enthusiasm of fans is more important than size.

PM: To me, the album has a very dark 80’s dystopian soundtrack flavor to it, perhaps due to the electro elements. How do you think Cameo listeners will react?

DT: They’ll hopefully react by listening to it in full and then passing judgement…Music culture is in danger of being broken into so many countless micro genres / defining artists by a singular passing element.

We’re the same people and band on both records, just as we’ll be on the next release. Whether people want to continue listening to the path we continue to take is up to them. Formulas can easily turn into beartraps.

PM: Now that you’ve experienced touring through North American and Europe, what would you say the differences between the two continents are as far as listeners go?

DT: Not much…I think it would be better to ask that question after we’ve done a headline tour of both. But generally, I notice less of the of the digital monster having sunk into Europe, in both consumption and influence. Europeans also seem to be more receptive to electronic / dance elements in live shows, maybe due to their deeper rooted club culture. American and Canadian audiences still go to “ROCK CLUBS”.

PM: Finally, are you coming to see us in Toronto again?

DT: Of course, we love Toronto! When is just a question of if someone will let us tag along opening or whether we can swing it ourselves. Hopefully at Lee’s Palace – I like the old school / weird (in an endearing way) soundguy.

PM: Listeners can download Zaza’s debut LP, Sacred Geometry. For a mere $10, the MP3s are yours to keep, or you can sample the album stream.

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