Zero Hour Interview
by Matt Hensch
Thrashpit: First off, I appreciate you giving me a call so we could do this interview.
Jasun Tipton: Yeah man, no problem.
TP: When you making the new album (Dark Deceiver), what kind of goals did you have in mind?
JT: I think the goals we had in mind were after Spec of Pictures Burnt Beyond were something like this; my brother and I just had the mentality of making a stronger album – no ifs, ands, or buts about it – so we took a little different approach; because usually we are pretty organic in the process. We will jam material in the studio without any ideas or maybe taking an idea and taking it from there; this was something my brother and I would take in and out of the studio and write on our own.
So basically, this was really the first full-constructed album Zero Hour has done, so it just came to a point where I would take stuff home, I would come up with some ideas, then I would show them to my brother, and then we would kind of feedback on things and start constructing it from there and then bring it into Mikey and just say, "This is it. Let's get jamming to it." And our vibe was to bring more technical ability, but we also wanted to keep it melodic. We always wanted it to be melodic, but we also thinking about certain parts, which led to making layers for the vocals, for example, and just having a difference from the other albums. If you're doing a three-part harmony just like at the beginning with "The Power to Believe," it is right in the beginning; he has a line and he overlaps it with another melody, and we were doing a lot of that colliding with different melodies coming out of different instrumentation, and just making it work melodically while making it all sound like a lot was going on. That was our plan, and it worked out pretty well. It was a little demanding, but it all came out very well.
TP: How did Zero Hour make the music seem so chaotic, like the bass just going everywhere and guitar harmonies? How did you guys make songs seem normal while looking Cryptopsy-technical?
JT: You know, that is a great question. We always want to make things difficult while sounding really easy, so very flowing at the same time. We did not want it to be a jerky ride. I think it was due to the arrangements with my brother and me. We bounced back sometimes and thought a few things were getting out of the pocket. My brother would do a lot of crazy performances, just right off with "The Power to Believe." There are a lot of ghost notations, like it is in and out, but still right in the pocket; totally separated from the guitars, and also different in what the drums are doing at some point. Troy, Mike, and I have been playing music for over fifteen years now; that is a big help. You begin to see the ins and outs of one-another after so many years of whatever material you're going to bring. And I think that is a big help. My brother and I are also envisioning the same thing. We were thinking the same thing, yet he was going one way with it and a different way, so it would collide on the same page with this album.
TP: When you look at Dark Deceiver, do you think it's the best thing Zero Hour has done?
JT: I would definitely say it is up there. I think that it might be it five years down the road, because right now it is like favorite your child (laughs). Just for the moment, you are digging and talking about that, you know? Right now it is pretty exciting with how Dark Deceiver came out. It is definitely going to be there, but you can always go back to albums that will have that really cool flow for you, and something like were all the elements wok like The Towers of Avarice, which is a very good album in that way. I can go back to that and know it was really put together well. So I would say we will have to see in a few years, but I am definitely very proud of it. Our expectations were exceeded, and when you hit that, you certainly find something lasting to your ears as well.
TP: So how has the reaction been so far?
JT: Fantastic. We have had a lot of pres from Metal Hammer Germany, Heavy Magazine, Rock Hard, and even here in the States, we got in on Metal Edge, and a lot other really good monthly publications right now. The reviews have been usually been saying Dark Deceiver is a very good and ambitious album. We have put out five CDs now, sometimes you have been on the block for a little bit, so you might not be accepted so well in the end, but luckily, this one is being well-received. In a genre that is very tough to be well-received after five albums of material; it is not easy getting props on something like that. This music is intense, and it does take that listen, and if we can keep that flowing, I will view it as a good thing.
TP: Has the touring been going well too?
JT: Yeah, but the problem is we would be doing more touring, but my brother has tendonitis really bad. We did do a couple really great festivals doing the Bay Area Rock Fest; we did not have any support and went on just before Liquid Tension Experiment, which was an amazing sold-out show. We did the South Texas Rock Fest which had Queensr˙che with many, many other bands on the bill, and that was a lot of fun. We are going to be doing some European festivals coming up as well.
The thing that has been a little crazy is how my brother's arms are holding up. We had such a good show at the South Texas Rock Fest that they asked us to play the next night. Of course, we were all good for it, and I went to go see my brother, and he's got his whole arm in a cooler of ice, and he obviously could not do it. It is at the point where his arms have taken quite a beating, and what we are going to do is finish a few festivals. We had to drop out of a few shows, like the Insanity Prog Fest over in Poland. We are heading for to Europe to support Cynic over at the Prog-Power Europe, which is awesome because I am a huge Cynic fan. They asked us to play an hour-and-a-half, but we told them it would be highly unlikely. My brother's arms are overworked. He has always had it in his right arms, but now it has moved to his left arm. He has done everything: gone to physical therapy, moved down to lighter strings, and anything else you have tried; he's done and tried everything, and it is a hard pill to swallow. When we are done with these few shows, we are going to need to take a break so his arms get better and back stronger than ever when he is feeling good, and make another awesome album.
TP: Is there a lyrical concept within Dark Deceiver?
JT: There is for a few of the songs. The three songs my brother and I put together when we starting to do a concept; we musically and lyrically wrote The Power to Believe, Inner Spirit, and Resurrection, which does follow a concept: the story is about a young native-American tribe leader whose risking his life by leading his enemy into uncertain territory, so that his tribe is not exposed. He feels as if he pushed his limits, so he looks to the sky for guidance, and the spirit of his parents help clear his head and he finds answers; and just musically speaking, it is a real dynamic that builds with landscaping and movement. In the end process, he resurrects his father. We were trying to do a storyline, and we trying to put Dark Deceiver (the title track) in there as well. My brother was into horror movies when he was a kid, and when he was hearing the music, it was just calling for a horror story; the music is so intense and in-your-face, that is where it is going.
Chris and Troy wrote the lyrics to The Temple Within, and Lies and The Passion of Words are on Chris as well. At the beginning we wanted Chris to write lyrics, but he was undergoing a lot of things in his personal life and could not get to it, and my brother and I already had the music written and momentum; it is not good to sit around with the music done, because it gets a little stale, and not that it was stale, but you are visioning it as so. Even though, the album would not be done if we did not take the approach, and that is what we did.
TP: I would like to ask you about a song on Dark Deceiver. "Severed Angel" is…I do not want to say strange…but a strange one (laughs).
JT: (Laughs). For us, it is easy to say this is our heaviest album, and we wanted to make a statement. We grew up with a lot of…you know. Last night, we were watching a Rainbow documentary; we were into Rainbow when growing up, but we were also into the Bay Area: we were into thrash and all that stuff. We wanted to bring those heavier elements into this album. Another thing, a lot of bands almost say you want to bring it heavier, but this album, we were like, "Let's not say it, unless we're really going to do." For us, "Severed Angel" is that crazy song; it is not mad-scientist like, but that riff is in your face, and you do not know what's coming around the corner, which is what this album was about. It was good ending for it.
TP: Isn't it like all of the songs on the album compressed into one?
JT: Yeah dude, it is. We call it our montage. It just didn't feel like Passion of Words, was the ending, because that was the closer at that point; it needed something else. Severed Angel was the ending statement. Not everyone might agree with it, but that was our intention, you know? A lot of people do not even pick up that it is actual parts of the album's songs. You picked up on it, but a lot of people have not. It is like a vision of the end: reflecting, and there you are.
TP: You have released a few solo albums yourself. Care to talk about that?
JT: Yeah, I did do Seduction, which is kind of new-age with jazz somewhat in the chords, but I would not say it is jazz, and also rock. It is really cool. My brother just rips all over that thing, he brought it so well. It is really good night music. Heavy music is my number-one, but I love soundtrack and jazz music as well. I was really happy with how it turned out, but you never know. This was much improvised, you know? I told the drummers to do what whatever they wanted, for instance. I think I had keyboards put together, but from there, we would just get in the studio and go for it; that was the process. It was also a good way to challenge yourself, because what you are laying down it what you're doing man (laughs).
TP: So do you think you will be doing another solo album anytime soon?
JT: I do not see it. When we were doing it, Zero Hour had its weird phase. I will do things like that when nothing is going on and I have been sitting around, just thinking "I got to do something." I just always have to be doing something, for whatever reason. I am the guy who over-obsesses on doing music and things like that (laughs). I just enjoy doing it: it balances me, and I would not want to know the person I would be without music.
TP: Today, we see a lot of progressive metal bands getting into the mainstream crowd, and some of them do not seem quite progressive as Spastic Ink, Zero Hour, or other real progressive bands. Do you think the label "progressive metal" is kind of being abused today?
JT: I would say yes, and in a lot of ways. I think it was being abused eight years ago well. When Dream Theater came out…stated bluntly, when prog metal was put on the map it was Dream Theater with Images & Words, and then all of the sudden, you have these bands that claim to be progressive. I was surprised to hear unusual time signatures in there. At some points, they will use it as a selling point; maybe it is a hot thing in the genre…it has been weakened by things of that nature. People have no true view of what the genre is. And then there is the thing where people say technical metal and progressive metal are the same…it is hard to keep up with genres now. It is really easy to throw out a genre and label someone, but it might not be that particular one, so I would agree. For us, we definitely are a progressive metal band. Progressive metal is something without limits; you can do whatever the hell you want. You want jazz, classical, long composition, changing meters and tempos, go right the hell ahead; you are free to do whatever you want.
How they come up with these genres is crazy. It is kind of crazy where people get these ideas in there, and claims it as something new, and then making it their own…I do not know man. I just love playing music (laughs).
TP: What is Zero Hour doing in the future?
JT: I think we are going to take a break for a little while. Anything I am involved my brother will be also, and we are definitely going to a cinematic prog album that kind of shows our own unique style. It is a little early to say, but we are going to do something really cool, and that will be first to happen. Then when my brother's arms are better, we will resume writing material for Zero Hour, and then we will have another album, and make sure my brother's arms are good so we can support it as much as we can. We are not able to do it this time around, but we will make sure when he is good shape…it is so hard to see him struggling like this. Definitely number-one focus is getting my brother better. After that and he is back and can play his incredible techniques he does without the pain, we will be doing well. Definitely taking a break, but when we come back, it will be badass.
TP: That is all I got for you…
JT: Right on man. Good interview; I dig it. Have an awesome weekend!
TP: You too! Best wishes to you, the rest of Zero Hour, and your brother for his temporary disorder.
JT: Thanks man. Take care.
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