With many forms of heavy metal seeing lots of acceptance here in the US, quite a few International acts who inhabit the realms of technical, power, progressive, and extreme have had much success in recent times as far as CD sales and touring goes. With that being said, it's about time that some homegrown bands step into the limelight and show the rest of the world how things are done. West Coast technical progressive metallers Zero Hour have a released a string of very strong albums over the last decade, and are back with perhaps their most powerful platter of them all, the monumental Dark Deceiver. Sea of Tranquility Publisher Pete Pardo caught up with guitarist Jasun Tipton, who shared some insight into the making of the new CD, a little band history, and exactly what makes Zero Hour so damn good.
Sea of Tranquility: Zero Hour has been one of those rare progressive metal bands that has an extremely rabid fan base that clamors for each and every
release, and expectations are always high. With the release date of Dark Deceiver right around the corner, what can you tell to fans as to what they can expect from this new CD?
Jasun: They can expect a very balanced disc. Heavy, dark, plenty of technical and clean tone passages to create dynamics in the music. Plenty of solo passages from the Bass (and I have to add Troy just brings it on this disc!), lots of guitar sequences, guitar solo passages, great drumming from Mike, as well as great vocal melodies that at times twist and turn into each other. Having experimentation in regards to having 3 part harmonies that intertwine with a main vocal line. Lots of good storylines in the lyrics and actually "The Power to Believe", Inner Spirit" and "Resurrection" follow Part 1, 2 and 3 storyline.
SoT: The addition of Chris Salinas to the line-up really seemed to be the key that should help take this band to the next level. How did you guys meet up with Chris and how has it been working with him so far?
Jasun: We met Chris back in 2001 when his band at the time (Power Of Omens) and us played the 1st annual Progpower USA edition. I chatted with Chris for 45 minutes and had a very good conversation. After "A Fragile Mind" we were looking for a singer to play out live. I contacted Chris and he said "I would love to do live shows with you guys" as Chris was fan of Zero Hour. He called me a couple days later and said Power of Omens really is no longer and if the band is looking for a singer to join ZH he would be into it. Once I heard that I thought this is a great opportunity for everyone and the band is strong to this date.
SoT: The tunes on the new CD are perhaps heavier and more technical than anything the band has done before. Was it a conscious effort to kind of 'kick things up a notch' for Dark Deceiver?
Jasun: After getting a really positive response from Specs my bro and I knew that everything needed to be stepped up. For us it was all about making a better CD not trying to make a better CD. Everything was well thought out in making sure the material to our ears had longevity. If we wrote a part and it didn't have the same excitement 2 weeks later we would replace the part with something that would have a long lasting effect to our ears. I think the biggest thing is Troy and I took control over Dark Deceiver. That wasn't by choice but we knew we had to keep moving forward with the material and not let it come to a standstill. We had that happen before in the past with "A Fragile Mind" and didn't want to fall into to that same state of mind for Dark Deceiver. For instance my brother and I wrote all the lyrics and melodies to "The Power to Believe", "Dark Deceiver", "Resurrection" and over 90 percent of "Inner Spirit". These were the last four songs written for the CD. We had the music written for "Lies" , "The passion of Words" and all of the music and lyrics written for "The Temple Within" before "Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond" was out to the public. Chris fell behind due to having personal issues he needed to deal with in his private life. Troy and I knew in order to get this CD done and out to the listeners that the both of us had to step up and finish the lyrics and melodies.
SoT: You and Troy are both extremely accomplished musicians-can you talk a little bit about your musical training, and influences?
Jasun: Troy and I actually took a summer workshop when we were 7 years old. Troy tried the drums and I gave guitar a shot. Since I couldn't be Randy Rhoads over night I decided to stop and I know it's hard to believe but Troy quit too. I played saxophone and baritone for the Middle school band in 6th, 7th and 8th grade. In High school I took piano classes during freshman, junior and senior year and private lessons doing a lot of reading. Troy started Bass lessons in 8th grade because a couple of our friends were starting a band and they needed a bass player. Just after High school is when I finally picked up a guitar and played 6 to 8 hours a day for the next 3 years. Even though I started late the training I had from playing baritone, sax and piano helped a ton.
The guitar players that really inspired me and helped me craft my style is Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Pat Metheny, Buckethead and Shawn Lane. These are the guy's I really ripped a page out of their book and still love listening to these cats. There's a ton of players I love such as Michael Hedges, John Doan, George Benson, Greg Howe, Wes and so, so many more player but like I said the guy's I really grabbed from were Jason Becker, Paul Gilbert, Marty Friedman, Pat Metheny, Buckethead and Shawn Lane. My brother is my biggest influence. Seeing the amazing things he would do on the bass would inspire me to practice like crazy.
Bass players who inspired my brother were Wally Voss, John Onder, Michael Manring, Jonas Hellborg, Jaco, Billy Sheehan, Tony Choy, Sean Malone, Doug Keyser, Vail Johnson that I could think of off the top. Troy really gained a sound of his by putting together his own techniques for arpeggios, tapping and speed plucking. He really has a voice of his own.
SoT: Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond was a hit with both the fans and critics-how happy was the band with that release, and was there anything you all wanted to improve upon that you feel you have with Dark Deceiver?
Jasun: "Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond" is a very strong CD but we knew in order to make a better CD we would have to step up our playing and the lyric writing. That was the main concern and we accomplished that with "Dark Deceiver".
SoT: Progressive and power metal seems to be really gaining in popularity here in the US right now, and bands like Symphony X, Dream Theater, Opeth, Meshuggah, and many others are actively playing live shows around the country. What are the chances of seeing Zero Hour on some of these types of tours, either as a support or headline act?
Jasun: That's a great question and that's a hard one to answer. Our popularity has grown and we would definitely gain attention by getting on a tour with one of those great acts. We would love to tour and have expressed that with a couple booking agencies. I hope something will come our way because it would be great exposure for the band and we do bring it live.
SoT: The Towers of Avarice is usually regarded as the band's 'classic' album, but after hearing Dark Deceiver I think this new one has a good chance to unseat it in the long run. What are your thoughts on Towers and how the latest release stacks up?
Jasun: That's great and I think "Dark Deceiver" is a very, very strong disc. "The Towers of Avarice" is really what put us on the map and I think this CD is another positive chapter for the band. The reviews and reaction from the listeners have been amazing.
SoT: You've got a solo CD out called Seduction-can you talk a little bit about that?
Jasun: Yeah Seduction is a instrumental CD that has hints of Rock, Jazz, New Age and progressive elements all in one. It's great night music and very atmospheric. I was lucky enough to have my brother play bass on the whole disc. He's just the real deal and as good as it gets on Bass. On drums I had two amazing drummers in Sean Flanegan (Enchant) and John "the Machine" Perrine (Dali's Dilemma). I have to add again both amazing drummers. Dino Alden did all the recordings and mixing and it's a CD I'm very, very proud of.
SoT: Parts of Dark Deceiver are more aggressive than material we've heard from Zero Hour in the past. Is the band considering taking things into even more extreme territory on future releases?
Jasun: I would like to do that and we'll see what happens. There's a lot of material running through my brain and it will all come together when I start putting material down for pre-production. Always interesting to see what areas we'll push further and I look forward to it.
SoT: If you had to pick one song from the Zero Hour discography (new or old) that you feel best represents what the band is all about, what would that tune be?
Jasun: Wow that's hard just to pick one song. I'm going to cheat a little bit and say "Voice of Reason", "Demise and Vestige", "Evidence of the Unseen" and "Inner Spirit".