With the release of A Fragile Mind, the powerful progressive metal ensemble known as Zero Hour are back on the radar screen once again. Sea of Tranquility's Murat Batmaz caught up with guitarist Jasun Tipton recently to discuss the exciting new CD, line-up changes, and the future of the band.
Read on for the full interview!
SoT: Hello Jasun, what was the reason for the long break between The Towers of Avarice and your new album The Fragile Mind?
Jasun Tipton: Mikey (Guy, drummer), Troy (Tipton, bass) and I had finished recording our tracks in Feb. of 2003. Over a year went by and Erik (Rosvold, vocals) maybe finished about half of the CD and it just got to the point where we needed Erik to really finish the material. We would call and email Erik to setup a band meeting but he wouldn't respond to our emails. He probably answered 2 of the many, many, many emails we sent. The label said we were becoming a financial burden and we couldn't wait for Erik any longer. It just got to the point in order for Zero Hour to continue as a group, we needed to find a new singer.
SoT: That's interesting. Erik was one of the guys who really defined your sound.
Jasun: Erik had some unfortunate events that would be hard for anyone to handle. Erik wanted to do it but I just think mentally and physically things got to be a little much. I have emailed Erik after parting ways and he's trying to get himself back in order. Erik is a good guy and a great singer. He was a huge part of Metamorphosis and Towers and I'm very proud of what Mikey, Troy, Erik and I created together.
SoT: Did you tell Erik you'd found a new singer? What was his reaction? Why wouldn't he
respond? Was he busy with another project?
Jasun: Erik wasn't busy with another project. As a matter of fact I don't think he'll be doing music for a little while. Erik fell into some very depressing times and I don't think he's quite pulled himself out of it just yet. I think he didn't respond because I think he just didn't know what to do. In some ways I think some days he wanted to do it and others he didn't. I know he wanted to finish the CD but who knows how long that would have taken. I can tell you right now it wouldn't be finished if Erik was still in the band. After we emailed him saying he's no longer in the band I told him I have no hard feeling towards him and that we put together two great CD's together. His response was what we did he'll never forget and now that you guys are using a guy maybe he can sing the start of "Demised and Vestige" right. Which was pretty funny because Erik could never get the start of that song right (laughs) because the timing always messed him up.
SoT: How did you find your new singer Fred Marshall? Was he part of another band?
Jasun: Fred used to sing in a couple of bands here in the Bay Area and we really dug his voice. We contacted a few people and they gave his number and everything was a go.
SoT: Fred's style is quite different from Erik's- How would you compare the two singers and how has Fred's lyrical work blended with your new sound?
Jasun: Fred is more direct and straight to the point where Erik thinks more outside the box. Both are strong singers and have their strong points, similar approaches in areas and sound somewhat alike in areas. Both sing very well and have a metal vibe but different mindsets.
SoT: There are a lot of vocal harmonies on A Fragile Mind which render the CD more melodic and warmer than Towers. Was this a conscious effort?
Jasun: Fred is pretty strong with harmonies and can rope them together fairy quick. This was not the case for Erik at all times but like I said Erik has things over Fred as does Fred has his strong points.
SoT: I've read mixed reviews on A Fragile Mind. During Towers you were criticized for being too cold and technical, yet with A Fragile Mind some people think you've softened up? What causes these contradictions?
Jasun: That's a great question. When we came out with the s/t (Metamorphosis) we created a big buzz from that CD. It was a warm disc with a lot of keyboards to blanket the Heavy sound. Towers which really had nothing on the keyboard end was just straight up technical: Heavy guitars, drums and bass. The Towers of Avarice kept a progressive vibe with long compositions and a conceptual story line. So you have people who loved the s/t and Towers yet people who were just fans of Towers and not the S/T as vice-versa. A Fragile Mind is a mix of The Towers of Avarice and Metamorphosis. It's warmer than Towers but more technical than Metamorphosis. I feel it's still a very heavy CD and has many technical formats. We change it up a little on every release but it will always have the Zero Hour sound. Zero Hour is in a genre that's very hard to please and the fans focus very much into the music. Zero Hour is thinking man's Metal and it's not always right away that the material will grab the listener. There's material on all the CD's you have to take a few listens to hear if the material progresses the listener or stays flat to the ears. Zero Hour has its own sound and we've been very fortunate to receive great reviews on all our CD's to this date. I just got word that A Fragile Mind received a 6 out of 7 from Hammer (Germany), 10 out of 12 in Heavy (which used to be called Heavy Oder was in Germany) and is number 2 on their sound check page. I just finished interviews with Aardschok, Rock Tribune, Lords of Metal and heard a lot of positive feedback from them. You gave us a great review and now we're doing this interview. Zero Hour loves creating material and we'll always make each CD a different listen from what we've released in the past.
SoT: Also, as opposed to Towers, there seem to be more keyboards this time around. Can we expect a full-time keyboardist in the band or are you just going to continue using them occasionally?
Jasun: We won't be grabbing a full-time keyboard player but we will always have some use for cold and warm tones. Like the last song on A Fragile Mind, "Intrinsic" is a cinematic piece. The keyboard tone is very lush yet has a dark contrast. Troy plays some amazing arpeggio sequences to create an amazing melody. It's the little change ups we've had with every release. Hard to say how much keyboards will be used for the next CD.
SoT: How was the songwriting done for your new record?
Jasun: Musically it's pretty much all Troy and myself. In the liner notes Troy didn't receive credit for A Fragile Mind and he wrote a lot of that material. The lyrics and melodies were all Fred and Troy.
SoT: How did "Somnecrophobia" come about? I seem to detect some Meshuggah influence there? Do you consider them an influence?
Jasun: Yeah we just had this mean riff that everyone dug and we just wanted to create a heavy instrumental. We love Meshuggah, Dillinger Escape Plan, Cynic and many other acts. So some inspiration always comes into play with our material.
SoT: As usual, you worked with Dino Alden as producer on A Fragile Mind. He is without doubt among the best in the world. How do you guys usually go about in the studio? What is the extent of his contribution to the sound and direction of the band?
Jasun: We've been friends with Dino for a very long time now and that kat is the best. I always look forward to recording because Dino is an amazing guy and he's one hell of a producer. Sonically it's all Dino. I just leave it up to him because he always delivers what's necessary for the material.
Was Dino part of the reason why A Fragile Mind seems to possess the warmth and melodic sensibility of Metamorphosis and the technical sides of Towers? He sure knows how to keep the classic Zero Hour sound fully intact.
Dino would be a part of the reason no matter what we do because he sonically glues together the sound. Dino's the best!
A Fragile Mind
SoT: With A Fragile Mind you've completed your contract with Laser's Edge. Have you decided yet whether you'll renew it or will you negotiate with other labels?
Jasun: Ken Golden and Sensory have been great to us and I have nothing but respect for Ken. Zero Hour does want to tour and the ZH crew will put our heads together and figure out what's best for the band. We may stay with Sensory or see what's out there for us, too early to say.
SoT: How did the Death Machine side project happen? For those unfamiliar with it, can you describe it a little and will you ever do a second disc?
Jasun: Well Death machine has added a female vocalist with Elle and the new material is very, very strong. Death Machine is only a band when Zero Hour is on a break so it may be a while for the next disc. You can hear a new song with Elle at www.deathmachine.net.
SoT: You also released a solo album during the long break between Towers and your new disc. Tell us a bit about how did you hooked up with the lineup from the Enchant guys.
Jasun: Yeah I finished Seduction this year and now I'm selling Seduction from my web-site and it's available through www.lasercd.com as well. I'm very, very proud of this CD, the players did an amazing job. Have my brother on Bass, Sean (The drummer of Enchant) on 4 of the tunes and John Perrine on 6 tracks who was the recent drummer for Dali's Dilemma. The production from Dino is just amazing and I couldn't be happier with Seduction. You can check out an mp3 at www.jasuntipton.com and if you're interested in purchasing a copy just email firstname.lastname@example.org on how to get your hands on one. Many thank you's for the much needed support.
SoT: What in your opinion are some of the year's best prog releases?
Jasun: The new Opeth sounds very good and that's what I've been listening to of late.
SoT: What's in store for Zero Hour in the near future? A lot of people in Europe want to see you live.
Jasun: Next year we'll be playing out and ZH does have some plans to play in Europe. . We loved playing in Europe and really look forward to coming back. 2006 will bring a NEW Zero Hour release and it will top them all in my opinion. (Towers fans I think will be very happy)
(Click here to read our review of A Fragile Mind)