Zach Hill is an innovator. Booming out of Sacramento in the late 90s to make a name for himself playing drums with Hella, Marnie Stern, Wavves, Team Sleep, Boredoms, and countless others, Hill plays the drums like David Lynch writes movies--- frantic, perplexing, troubling--- but ultimately, completely euphoric. Earlier this month, Hill released Face Tat, the follow up to his first official solo album Astrological Straits.
It's a bit hard to say what Face Tat sounds like, as its constantly changing forms and songs will take an infinite number of listens to truly grasp, but the feelings one can get from listening to the album make it as addicting as some type of all consuming Entertainment. But this is more than just entertainment, this is Face Tat. And it rocks. And rolls. Really hard.
I was able to speak with Zach about the album, including where he got the title "Face Tat" from, and some other endeavors via e-mail. Check it out after the jump!
Face Tat, like Astrological Straits, is a very collaborative album, with contributions from people as varied as Guillermo Scott Herren from Prefuse 73, Dean Spunt and Randy Randall from No Age, Greg Saunier from Deerhoof, Devendra Banhart, and several more. How did these people get on board? How important is the collaborative approach to the way you have crafted the albums that have been released under your own name?
For the most part, my excitement toward collaboration with other artists is based on discovery, self realization, and what kind of escape from reality we can make and share together, or how can we heighten this reality for ourselves and other people. Like DNA, you change one micro aspect to it and you've got a different animal or person, thats the aspect of life I believe to be actual magic. Not just with humans but with the chance physical make up of everything known to be a thing in general.
Day to day, we all interact with the same people in different and unique ways, so I'm also somewhat fascinated by that socially, and how it works or transcends into the creative process. Everyone who contributed to this album I had pre established friendships and musical relations with but that didn't make it any less unpredictable, I just get psyched on playing with people and being amazed by them, what they've got going on inside and how they get it out specifically, its crazy!
There seems to be a sort of cyberpunk influence on the record, with titles like "Burner in the Video" and references to technology tied into the lyrics on other songs. There is also a track titled "Total Recall", and while Philip K. Dick isn't exactly cyberpunk, I think it ties into that mood. How does the influence of things like cyberpunk and Philip K. Dick come into your work?
I've never read a Phillip K. Dick book. I'm only aware of his ideas through Hollywood's reinterpretations of them in films, so I think my understanding of him is pretty vague and probably inaccurate. I would say that futuristic concepts and themes are something I'm definitely influenced by though.
The future is here now. This is that future in a crazy transitional state so its natural for that influence or tone to show up in the music im making I guess. I just draw from my surroundings and then my imagination goes off on everything thats going on within that same environment that I'm unable to see. But to me, punk just means being a Realist with an imagination, an intuitive thing and a person who can listen to her or himself without being distracted and compromised by all the noise or other people's shit.
Being a very accomplished drummer, do you ever fear that listeners may rest on the more technical aspects of your music as opposed to the songs themselves?
No, I don't fear it, someone relating to any aspect of my music is a rad thing to me. There are no rules in my mind of how someone should or shouldn't relate to me expressing myself. You either feel it or you don't.
But I'm totally aware of all the bias and stigma that comes along with not compromising your abilities while expressing yourself with an instrument or in music. I think we are just threatened by unfamiliar things as people and then we react strangely, or it seems common for people to get some false sense of how they think you think of yourself but it's actually a total projection.
I think that's a bummer regarding just about anything, not just music. Being closed off because of your own unfounded notions about whatever, I'm guilty of that too in certain areas, of course. It sucks, that type of thinking and worrying can really hold you back from expressing yourself honestly or gaining an amazing experience out of something, repeatedly. I've tried to stop thinking like that or thinking about that...
On that same note, what do you do physically to prepare for a live performance? I'm sure the drumming could really beat you up a bit sometimes.
I do more mental preparation before a performance than physical. I definitely warm up my hands and stretch a bit but mainly I'm focused on erasing my head. I want to be open and blank so I can limit my everday mental static from clouding up the channel between me and the audience and the performance.
For myself, I've learned that a big part of endurance and physical and positive energy comes from turning off a certain tone of thought or mechanism and then falling into these other states that I normally cant detect. It's an elusive thing, difficult to explain but "I'm not trying to be 'here'" is the best way I could put it.
Why did you decide to call the album Face Tat? It's a cryptically awesome title.
I read an article about facial tattoos and suicide. It was based on statistic, so its not meant to be taken literally exactly, but it was really interesting.
It seems like if you have one you enter this whole other dimension of perception or of being perceived. It's like you enter a different reality on many levels, commitment, judgement, projection. That's a super intense change for me to imagine, but inspiring and relatable as well.
Like what we are all creating for ourselves by using the internet regularly documenting ourselves in this abstract and incomplete way, then we are judged by our own design outside of the context we are creating the "dual" image in. Just like how theres another one of me floating all around right now, digitized but simultaneously as "real" as it gets. When I hear or think of the term "face TAT" my mind defines it as colorful or vibrancy.
The sound of Face Tat to me is much different than the sound of Astrological Straits, having a much warmer yet frantic sound. What were you musically inspired by when you were making this album?
I was thinking a lot about visual and emotional based thoughts on the future while writing this stuff. Action and reaction ideas.
I wanted this record to sound like if you where running away from something, and this music came on, you would then know that it wasn't even gonna come close to catching you, or if it did, you were gonna destroy it or confuse it without even having to touch it.You could just delete "it", as simply as the things running this world can do to you or me, or grow 1,000,000,000 times to scale on another plane, super scale, and make noise up there.
I imagined all the songs being for skate videos of the future, like 150 years from now or working well with GIFS and animated work by Dadaist internet bloggers, artists, etc. but still sounding like a somewhat traditional type of band was generating the music.
You've also played on Marnie Stern's most recent album. Did the creation of both of your records affect one another? Do you consider yourself a member of "Marnie Stern" as a group? Will you be playing with her as she tours this album?
I'm not really a member because Marnie is Marnie Stern so obviously she knows exactly what that feels like and how she needs to convey it. I'm just a friend she collaborates with and she trusts to help make the music a little more realized. We have a great connection, because we are so different as individual people I think we have really great insight and perspective to share with each other as friends and creatively. I love working on and playing her music.
You've recently played with Justice Yeldham as well. How was that experience?
It was amazing, Lucas (Justice Yeldham) is just captivating. It's incredible how he can flip the feeling of a room upside down and sonically theres just no other sound like his, I hope to improvise together again soon. It'd be great to make some recordings together as well.
The video for "The Sacto Smile (feat. No Age)" from Face Tat
Zach Hill playing with Justice Yeldham in Sydney on October 13th, 2010