Gray Wolf: Making his way

by Mike Roe

Some artists play by the rules. They follow those that have come before them, and “sound like” all the other bands in their genre. Once in a while a songwriter breaks the mold and creates music that is outside the box; conventional wisdom goes out the window. Zack Pierson, aka Gray Wolf, is this type of musician. Hailing from Bellingham, he has been making a unique brand of instrumental electronic music for over a decade, breaking ground and evolving along the way.

From the get go, Pierson liked to go against the grain. “When I was really young I started taking piano lessons,” he recalled. “I remember writing songs on the piano instead of practicing what my teacher gave me.”

Pierson, who plays piano, guitar bass and drums, took this love for songwriting to the next level during his freshman year at WWU  when he began writing electronic music on his computer. “I started teaching myself how to work with synths, between my microKorg and VSTs like massive and a number of free synths,” Gray Wolf said.

A variety of instruments are utilized to create his sound. “What drew me to writing music with my computer was that I didn’t have to be confined to any certain genre, so from project to project I try to bounce around as much as I can,” he explained.

Listening to music constantly, he shows influences ranging from hip-hop and electronic to bands like Rage Against the Machine and The White Stripes. Pierson uses long walks and his iPod to spur musical creativity. “I really love going on long walks and listening to all sorts of different music.” He continued, “I wait for the right song at the right place to hit me and give me an idea that will turn into a track when I get back home.”

Lately, Pierson has been getting back in touch with his roots and creating heavier music. His most recent release Remembrance is a four-song EP consisting of four “chapters” with titles such as Death Bed and Post Mortem. It starts out deep and dark, bouncing epic synth lines building on one another. As Pierson states on his Bandcamp description of this album, it is “Loud, dirty and all over the place.” There are some really awesome quotes and samples dropped throughout this album, and it helps to further draw the audience into Pierson’s unique world of twisted textures and manipulated microKorg synths.

Pierson is currently planning on creating a double album, and getting a live performance worked out to do shows locally.

“I much prefer house shows to bars,” stated Pierson. “Whenever I have a new song or a new album, I get my roommates together and play what I’ve got for them. If it’s a slower piece we sit and they give me useful feedback, and if it’s a rager, then…well, we go hard and rage.”

LIVE SHOW AND MORE INFORMATION: For more information about Gray Wolf, see zackarypierce.bandcamp.com.

Published in the September 2014 issue of What’s Up! Magazine