Senses Working Overtime
So, over a few jars in a quiet pub, I asked him to begin with how they found their new member bassist Suzi x?
“I don't know actually,” the Zodiac replies, straight faced. “I think Cobalt, the guitarist, brought him along one day. He had all the qualifications -- drug dependency and alcohol abuse. He fits right in.”The band are on a smaller, friendlier label, Musidisc, after their problems with Phonogram. Mr Mindwarp allows himself a little gripe at his ex-employers.
“I don't think they really knew what to do with us.”Where have you heard that one before?
“The amount of money Phonogram were investing in us was ridiculous. We would have had to outsell Guns N’ Roses before we made that back. But a good thing about this album is that we recorded it in 21 days and it was fantastic. And then I realised towards the end why it had gone so well... because Musidisc don't have any A&R department, There was nobody standing over shoulders, y’know (assuming plummy voice) ‘can you change bitch to witch please?”Do you still have that initial sense of enthusiasm? After all, you've been away a good few years. Some cynics might suggest you're doing it just to pay the bills?
“No, no,” he claims. “Because we are on Musidisc, and we didn't get any advances, so it's not the financial motivation. It's what we do, what we're gonna do for the rest of our lives. Nobody else will fuckin’ have us."Hoodlum Thunder is co-produced by the little-known Ian Richardson and Nick Coler, but Zodiac is full of praise for the pair.
“The best production team I've ever worked with.”They've all been good friends for five years, and three songs were written by the pair. There was no lavish production either, not that Zodiac’s worried.
“I listened to Alice Cooper's version of Feed my Frankenstein, and that was recorded in LA with Stevie Vai and what's the other widdly widdly guitarist?”Joe Satriani?
“Yeah, so they spent about 20 grand or something on that track. I think our sound is fuckin’ better. Sorry, Alice! I love that about these house records. They cost about £50 to make, and sort of go to, like, number one. Can you imagine what record companies must feel when they've just spent £400,000 on the last fuckin’ Johnny Arsehole record and it's stiffs at 80! And then these half-caste kids from East London come along and get a hit!”Having scrutinised Zodiacs lyrics, they seem to convey the thoughts of a man with a feverish imagination -- a wild mishmash of self confession, buried beneath the imagery he uses. Mean Streak in particular strikes me that way.
“It's about the mean streak in everybody, really,” he stresses. “U2 did God Part II and my version is Sympathy for the Devil Part II. I'm confessing for the human race more than anything, actually.”Interesting conceptL Zodiac carrying the guilt of the world on his slender shoulders.
You seem to juxtapose a lot of the imagery you use. He refers to Trash Madonna in response.
“There's lots of pornographic samples on that and it's about… “ he loses the thread of his thought. “It's difficult to explain really what the songs are about. If I could express it, I'd write a book, but I find it easier to sort of throw imagery together. Disparate images. I use references from all over the place; Greek myths to Elvis. I think Trash Madonna might surprise people. A lot of people that I know make-up samples, so I've gone a bit sample crazy on this album.”What kind of samples?
“Well, they're not musical samples. I've used a lot of William Burroughs (US writer). It's kinda like a concept album.”His lyrics also refer to the Gulf Conflict. Mention of this launches him into an anti-American tirade, not so much aimed at the ordinary American Joe, but at the mentality of the government.
“I just felt incredibly insulted that all those kids and women were being bombed to shit, and we weren't told that these smart bombs didn't just kill buildings. There's this creeping fascism that's taking over America… Their fuckin’ government is on a par with the Third Reich for the kind of shit they're doing all over the world. Hoodlum Thunder is kinda about that, but it's hard to put your finger on it. You're talking about semiotics really -- signs -- and so, like you were saying earlier, I use images from all over. The song is also about the way that Hollywood or more accurately Americans think that America is like what they see in the movies. They really believe that. There's this kind of Insidious propaganda coming out of that place. People who are in bands or who are not part of the mainstream do see these things.”It seems that Zodiac’s suddenly figured out what Trash Madonna is about.
“Trash Madonna is the whore goddess. It's like this woman as this kind of holy virgin or a complete prostitute -- like Helen of Troy in a wet T-shirt!”Do you think you're twisted, Mr Mindwarp?
“No, I don't think I'm twisted and warped,” he answers with a malevolent glint in his eye. “I think I see things the way they are. I just think everyone else is upside down.”Of course, if he’s not quite round the twist, he does have an alter ego.
“I have a lot of demons and occasionally they need a walk, so I kinda parade them around stage, but it's just a performance. You can't take that performance and be like that all the time."Time to get into more bass matters. Zodiac obliges.
"Feed my Frankenstein… it's about the essence of male sexuality. The libido is a fuckin’ monster!”He refers to Little Red Riding Hood and the Big Bad Wolf as a sexual metaphor.
“The libido’s a dangerous thing, and it needs a lot of control to stop it going out of control. I just thought I'd write a song, albeit, from the male point of view, about confessing your own sexuality. I know I'm a monster, but…”At least you admit it. A lot of people don't.
“Oh, the New Man,” he offers and then proceeds to debunk the myth of the New Man. “I'll tell you what the New Man is. It's a new ploy by guys that can't get it through the ordinary channels. It’s just another angle to get in a woman's pants. They're just kidding about being sensitive and caring. I think women know that as well. I don't think they actually exist, to be quite honest. It could be a media fabrication. I've certainly never met any.”Do you think you understand women quite well?
“No,” he says, flatly. “I would not purport to say anything in that kind of area because I don't understand women at all. To quote Thomas Laycock. hysteria is the natural state of a woman, and the mark of a man is how he deals with it.”He freely admits to being a touch ‘dazed and confused’ by the world about him.
“The lyrics mean all kinds of things. It's not about one specific thing. It means something personally to me. But because I've cloaked it in so many metaphors, allegories, and illusions, it's very difficult for most people to know what I'm even talking about. I don't really know what I think. I’m a 20th-century postmodern boy. There's too much information. I feel I don't have a point of view. I don't have any opinions on anything. But,” he stresses confidently, “I know what I feel.”Without prompting, he goes off on another tangent, reflecting on the experiences that are part of his mad, bad, creative alter ego.
“I think without acid I would never have transmuted into what I am,” he reasons. “I was fuckin’ scoffing the shit down my throat like fuck. In the end I completely lost my mind, and in that year, I found the band, really. I think the messianic came out in me. I narrowly escaped the looney bin. Y’know, put me in the Jesus Christ ward.”And what of the band's future? Does he think they can loom large again in the public eye?
“I think a band like us are destined for a cult pigeonhole,” is his realistic assessment. “The lyrics aren't accessible, really; the music's a little too raw; and it just doesn't seem to cross over. But I'm sure there's enough brain-damaged punters out there.”For a man who operates within the heavy metal/ hard rock genre, he appears dismissive of his fans. He also feels that it's mainly generic and describes it as formulaic and staid.
“I think the genre’s responsible,” he bemoans. “I mean your average heavy metal fan is not exactly the most intelligent creature.”So, are you happy to be branded heavy metal?
“It's the music that comes out when I pick up the guitar. I grew up with rock n’ roll. I think it's rock n’ roll and not heavy metal. I think rock n’ roll is absolutely dead, but we will fuck it's terrible, bony corpse one more time.”Zodiac a man of contradictions: cruel, well read, colourful, serious, trivial, and confused. But above all…
“I'm a rock and roll necrophiliac,” he gleefully exclaims.