11 Questions: Zach Zinn

interview by Brent Cole

I remember the first time Zach Zinn really came on my radar – I’d heard the name talked about, usually by people I respected – but it was after his 24 hours of music installation at Jinx (now Make.Shift) that I knew Bellingham had a serious artist in their midst. Zach is probably the only guy I can think of who has the sense of humor to run karaoke nights and talk about early 70s German psych rock (like Ash Ra Tempel). It’s that duality that makes him so great. That, and he’s just one of the nicest guys I know.

Who are you? Tell us about yourself, including musical projects.
I am a Capricorn, 5’11”. I play in the bands PRND, Navigator/Communicator, and Oracle Cop. I used to be in other bands too like Sunshine, and Mary Mary. I like to keep things diverse.

Along with musical projects, you’ve become the king of karaoke in Bellingham. What is your favorite moment from your past couple of years?
Oh that’s tough. I would have to say the first all ages karaoke that I did. My friend Daisy worked with an organization for at risk kids (I can’t remember the name of the organization) and they wanted to do karaoke for graduation. Kids start out so shy and then next thing you know they all want to sing Katy Perry songs. And twinkle twinkle. Also, Christmas karaoke at Cap’s. If you don’t know, you should know. It gets weird.

When it’s all said and done, who is your favorite band and why?
That’s not nice. If I really have to pick, I am gonna say Fairport Convention / Richard Thompson. They were a sort of like the Grateful Dead of England in that they fused traditional British folk with electric instruments and created something intensely familiar and far out. Richard Thompson went on to record a bunch of records with his wife Linda, converted to Sufist Islam and put out a couple of records of love songs to Allah.

If you could have a drink with any musician, alive or dead, who would it be?
Brent Cole.

It’s midnight on a Saturday night, where are you and why?
It could be a number of places. If I’m not bartending at the Shakedown I could be at Glow dancing the pain away, or at Cap’s you know, having a conversation. Earlier if I can catch a show at the Alternative Library I will because they got a corner on the awesome weird sounds happening right now, and for that I am grateful.

Is there a musical time period that calls to you over any others?
This is a tricky question, but I’m gonna say that there is constantly good music happening. Yes mainstream culture dips up and down, and we may be in disco days again, but if you dig deep enough it’s always there. For every Bananarama there is a Black Flag ya know. So eat it Daniel Rupert.
But I am partial to the 70s. The 60s hangover was happening and there was a lot of loneliness in the early 70s. Acid causalties putting out fried stuff. Punk was born out of that and hell, even the disco was good. Germany was killer, and Prog was secretly the punkest of all.

What album is in your record collection or on your ipod that might surprise even your closest friends? What is the story behind it?
Since I’ve started hosting karaoke I’ve developed a minor obsession with Lionel Richie. It’s just so smooth and decadent. Growing up in Flint, Michigan I grew up with some serious slow jams and I’ll never ever stop loving all of it.

What was the first album you ever had?
CD single of Meatloaf doing “Two out of Three Ain’t Bad” backed with Paradise by the Dashboard Light.

Do you have any musical regrets?
I wish I’d tried harder in my 20s. I was always really shy about my music and I lacked the confidence to really push it. I don’t have a copy of anything I recorded solo from that era and it sucks because I really like it now. I shed my yuppie job at about 29 so I could focus on music more and I may be broke but it was totally worth it. On the other hand you can check out the band Iyez on bandcamp. They are still rockin in New York and still putting out quality stuff. I am on the first EP on bandcamp. Also find the Sentinel page on facebook. I was the bass player.

What is your all time favorite novel and why?
Little Big by John Crowley. It is the most fantastic mysterious book. It’s actually really hard to explain but it has all sorts of hermetic themes, but it’s a love story, but it’s a story about old time religion. I guess it could fall into the Magical Realism category.

Please tell us your top three musical inspirations and why they inspire you.
Number 1 – Dad. He taught me to play guitar, and had a gigantic record collection. I remember the first time I remember him swearing intentionally to me was after I got into The Sex Pistols he got me into the MC5. He screamed “Kick Out The Jams Mother F#$&ers!” He is still intensely supportive.
Number 2 – Nature. Nature don’t care about pop songs. Just close your eyes and listen sometime, man. This can also apply to just ambient noise that is always there.
Number 3 – Brent Cole, duh.

Any last thoughts?
Make music for yourself. If you follow your convictions, people will come around.