James Elson talks with Zico Chain.
Zico Chain have been there and done that in terms of climbing up the rock ladder. A successful debut album, number one on the MTV video charts, opening Download Festival and a UK tour with rock stalwarts Velvet Revolver made it seem as if the band were one step away from stardom. However, the band left their label and took an extended breather before releasing their second album The Devil In Your Heart. Frontman and bassist Chris Glithero very kindly took some time out from the sound-check for a quick interview with Leeds Music Scene.
How's the tour gone so far?
It's been great, we've done 14 dates so far. There's been a bit of illness along the way. I pulled out after the soundcheck at Huddersfield, there was no chance I could do it. The lads decided to put together a show with some of fans and a couple of the support bands. They did some songs that I can't even play, stuff we havn't played for years. Turned out to be a great night I think.
What's it like to play new material on tour?
There's definitely a new vibe now as the latest album is very different to the last. We're playing tracks that people don't know as well, so it's harder to build up an atmosphere, but we feel the new stuff's a lot stronger, a lot bigger.
Musically or sonically?
Both. We messed around with harmonies a lot more. We also have an orchestra playing on some tracks (on the record). A lady called Audrey Riley, her quartet and a few other people she knew came in. She's recorded for the Foo Fighters, Muse and Fightstar. That was a massive step for us.
Were the ideas from the previous album developed, or did you start completely anew?
It all felt really natural. It wasn't a conscious decision to change our sound or anything like that. It was just me writing the songs on an acoustic guitar and seeing how far we could take them. These seem to have scope to be more adventurous, they're not as structured. We did it on our own this time, we didn't have a producer. We were recording in derelict houses and other places like that. We were making our own record. It gave us a lot more freedom in terms of time.
What happened once all the recording was finished?
We mixed it with a guy called Peter Miles. He's done The King Blues and We Are The Ocean. He's a young guy who's pretty new on the UK scene but we think he's great. We got him to mix it and then we sent it off to Howie Weinberg. We got some of the big guns in at the end! Obviously the music had to be good enough to interest them in the first place.
Once you sent the music off, did you get much say in the what Howie did with it?
Well we sent it back to him a couple of times because we just kept wanting it louder! You can really ruin a record at the mastering stage and we did. We actually went back on ourselves and accepted his second attempt. He's a great engineer. He's worked on some massive records that we love, such as Nevermind, so we really wanted him to master ours.
Was the final product true to what you envisaged?
I think so. I mean I'm a perfectionist so I don't think I'll ever be happy! As soon as I've finished that one I wanted to make another one! It's an amazing record, we're so incredibly proud of it to have done it ourselves.
Looking back on the situation, we recorded it in rooms like this. [Indicates the surroundings. Leeds Music Scene is conducting the interview in the basement of the gig venue for that evening, Santiago's, with all manner of buzzing, creaks and groans emanating from various fridges and generators]. There were noises which we had to cut out, we had amps under duvets, there were ants crawling everywhere. It was pretty horrible man. We were living in these derelict houses for 6-12 months.
Why did you decide to record in such an unforgiving environment?
Because we couldn't work out how to do it any other way. We had no money to record in a studio. We felt we could probably do it ourselves. We know enough about recording, we've been in plenty of studios before. All we needed to do was to get our hands on some equipment. We bought a computer and just started off not knowing what would happen but knowing we somehow had to make a record. It had taken so long to get to this point that none of us cared that if it came out grungy and horrible. It was desperate measures really, we had to do it. If there was the opportunity to record in a nice studio in Thailand, then we would! This was all we had. We're really proud of it.
What were the main musical influences?
I went to a few stadiums gigs actually. Foo Fighters and Green Day. I think it's really impressive when a band can own a stadium. There's nothing more incredible for me than that. I was just looking at the big bands and trying to work out what they do that's different. You get all these little bands that are great live that never managed that get on to a bigger level. I noticed that a lot of slower music translates better to the bigger stages. I was trying to write songs which had energy but weren't necessarily going at 100 miles per hour. I was inspired by the people that sell out arenas. If I'm honest, I want to do that.
Any non-musical influences?
I'm always influenced by what's going on around me. I got a bit addicted to Sky News at one point. Not a good place to be! I spent days inside wondering what was going on. You get a bit wrapped up in it. I think I almost forgot myself and what I wanted to do. I had to focus and say that all I needed was twelve ideas that mean something to me. There's art, music, I read a lot, there are many influences.
Back to the tour, what's been the highlight so far?
Nottingham Rock City has been the highlight. I'd just come back from my illness and it was a great feeling to get the show back on the road. We've had a great crowd every night. We did a tour a few years ago for which there wasn't a great turnout. For some reason it's been much better this time. We don't really understand that as we've been away for two years!
What do you think of the support bands?
All the bands have been great. Beretta Suicide helped us set up the tour and get in touch with promoters, as our booking agent was back-packing in Cambodia! Six Hour Sundown, the band of Steve Harris's daughter, we played some great shows with them. Also To The Bones are cool.
Plans for the future?
We're filming a video for the second single, which we think is going to be 'New Romantic', in a couple of weeks. Just setting up tours, getting our press team together, letting people know that we're back! Having the momentum behind you again is the best feeling ever!