Interview with Zoroaster: De La Tauromaquia

On their third full-length, Matador, Atlanta, GA, trio Zoroaster have thrust themselves into the upper echelon of the American metal underground. Their hyper-psychedelic, crushing doom is further driven into the reaches of sonic space than ever before, and aided by the production of Minsk’s Sanford Parker and the promotion of new label, E1 Music (the band had released everything prior on their own Terminal Doom imprint), there’s little doubt that when Matador hits streets next week, it’s going to become one of the year’s highlights.

Currently on a tour with Dark Castle and Black Tusk that will bring them to the Studio at Webster Hall on Friday, July 9, when I spoke to Zoroaster guitarist Will Fiore, the band was about as far from Atlanta as you can get and still be in the U.S., in Hollywood, CA. We discussed the short year it’s been since Zoroaster’s last album, Voice Of Saturn, was released, as well as the recording of Matador, signing to E1 and touring life.

You guys went for a totally different sound on this album.

You always want them to sound a little different from each other. I think having Sanford on board—we talked about going a little crazy with the guitars and putting some really nasty sounding stuff on there. I think it still sounds like us, but with a little twist, I guess.

What did you end up doing to the guitars to get that sound?

On the other records, I would just do the basic tracks and had always doubled, sometimes I’d do a third guitar, but usually we’d just double them. Typically I’d use two different heads, but the core sound would pretty much be the same. But this record, we got some different guitar tones that maybe aren’t all that good sounding, maybe a little abrasive and over the top, but when you put it in the mix, you just kind of make it sound nasty and awesome. Some of these songs, we put maybe four guitar tracks, used two different heads, different distortion pedals and whatnot. I’m really happy with the way it turned out.

Have you been playing much of the new material live?

Yeah, actually the whole set is new tunes, and then we’re playing like ‘White Dwarf’ and ‘Spirit Molecule’ off of Voice Of Saturn. We just said ‘fuck it.’ We thought about that, the record’s not out, but we were like, ‘Screw it, man. Let’s just play these new songs.’ More for us, I guess, than anything. But yeah, we’re playing most of the record, except for ‘Trident.’ We play ‘Matador’ every once in a while. It’s been fun. You get into this groove where you play all these songs and you get so used to them, and now we’re playing a set that the majority of the songs we’re not really used to playing them. It’s kind of weird. You have to pay more attention (laughs). You play those older tunes and you can just go on autopilot. It’s been real fun. People seem to dig them, too. A lot of people at every show that really dig the new ones. So that’s a good thing.

How do the tracks translate for you to the live setting, after putting all those layers on the songs in the studio?

Nah, it’s fine. The songs were written pretty much how all the songs are always written. They’re written in a three-piece format, so they stand on their own. They’re played in a live setting. The extra guitar is not like a whole new guitar line running through the song. A lot of it’s just emphasis here and there, a little peak at something in certain spots. So that’s not a big deal. Our records, even with Dog Magic and Voice Of Saturn, we kind of threw extra little bells and whistles on the records, then live it’s just gonna be loud and heavy—which I tend to like anyway. I think the songs should sound a little different live than they do on the record, or why make the records? We have the opportunity to do something cool and special with the tunes, then live it’s just rocking them out.

Do you have a sense of the momentum you guys have coming off Voice Of Saturn?

Definitely. We’ve been doing this since 2003, and once you’re playing together that long and you’re committed like we are to touring and putting out records, eventually good things will start happening for you. You just stick it out. I think all that stuff’s finally paying off. Go out and do a bunch of shitty tours, put out some records, and eventually people start noticing. It feels really good. You start seeing more people at the shows, and start seeing your name out there more on the Internet and stuff like that, and you feel like sleeping in all those shitty hotels and sleeping in the bus, all that stuff’s finally paying off. I’m really excited about that.

How long does it take you guys at this point to get into the groove of a tour?

It’s really weird, because this time, we’re coming off the longest break we’ve ever had. Our last tour was that European tour in November. We got home, took a break from each other for the holidays, and then it was probably not even until February when we got together, working on the record and stuff. Then doing the record, it’s pretty much all we did. We came out on this tour, I think we rehearsed twice together, and that was really weird, especially with playing a bunch of new songs that we’d never really played in the live format, just rehearsing and then recording them, which is really different. I was a little worried about it, but one, two shows, and it comes back. You’re right back into the swing of things. It doesn’t really take too long.

What comes after this tour?

We go home, then the record comes out. We’ve got a CD release show at home, and then I think in September there’s gonna be another U.S. tour. I don’t think that’s hasn’t been announced yet, but in the next week we’ll announce it, and then October, we go back to Europe. After that, I’m sure we’ll probably do another U.S. run or something like that. Of course, I’ve already got songs I’m working on for the next record, so we’ll get into that at some point.

Right. This album’s not out yet, so you’ve started writing for the next one?

Ah man, I’m always writing songs (laughs). Even with this record, three of the songs were written in 2003 when we first started. You go through a couple drummers, and songs always get lost in the mix. You end up not teaching them what you’ve got or whatever. I’m always writing, recording songs on my four-track, and then every once in a while a song pops into your head or you find an old CD and it’s, ‘Oh man, I totally forgot about that tune!’ So you pull those out and there’s probably four tunes that I was working on for Matador that just didn’t—not that they didn’t make the cut—but you start seriously figuring out which ones you want to work on, and it’s like, I have a better idea of where I’m going with this song than that song, so I’ll work on those and the other ones I’ll just put by the side for a minute. I’ve always got a backlog of songs that’ll be on either the next record or the one after that, or who knows.

Do you think you’ll be able to keep the every year/every other year pace with albums? Is that going to change working with E1?

I don’t know. I would like to. I’m not sure how they are with how long they want in between records, but we’ll see. There’s still the whole Terminal Doom route. Maybe we can do a little small vinyl release or something like that. I love Matador and all that, but you’re always looking forward into new things. Even when you’re recording a record and all of a sudden you come up with a song or a riff, it’s, ‘Oh man, this is better than any of the shit on this record, I wanna work on this now!’ and you can’t because it’s like, ‘No you have to do this record now.’ We haven’t talked to them yet, but I would definitely like to, maybe, start doing some demos in a couple months to get working on the new record. Hopefully next year they’ll want to do another record with us. It’s all I do. I don’t have a girlfriend or anything (laughs). When I go home, if we’re not out on the road, I’m either playing guitar or I’m drinking, and I’d rather be playing guitar and not blowing all my money on booze.

Zoroaster will be playing the Studio at Webster Hall on July 9 with Black Tusk and Dark Castle. Matador will be available July 13 on E1 Music.

JJ Koczan thinks bullfighting is one more example of man’s true capacity for empathy, but Zoroaster is dandy.