SiriusXM Liquid Metal’s Zeena Koda is Living the Rock ‘n’ Roll Dream
Zeena Koda is living the dream of millions of rock ‘n’ roll geeks everywhere.
Seven days a week, you can hear her spinning her favorite artists as one of the DJ personalities on SiriusXM Liquid Metal. Anyone who has listened to her shows on the satellite station already knows that Koda plays everything from over-the-top death metal to classic thrash. She has the listenership and reach to help break bands that normally wouldn’t get the exposure on terrestrial radio. In other words, she’s doing God’s work.
Koda also keeps busy as an artist fronting a group called Aphonia. The melodic rockers have been around for a few years and play the New York and New Jersey club circuit. If that weren’t already enough, she’s also a regular contributor to several music websites and has a weekly online video show.
Noisecreep caught up Koda in between one of her many gigs and asked her how she got into the music business.
Where did you grow up?
I’m originally from New York but I am undeniably a Jersey girl, probably a bit too East Coast for my own good. The area I grew up in was a unique cultural mash up, a straight up urban paradise where I was definitely one of the few people who listened to heavy music. The whole NJ/NY scene was very lush for me growing up and I was spoiled with the opportunity to see some of the most legendary bands in intimate venues. Also, coming from an urban area and being a musician, diversity wasn’t an option, it was a must.
When and how did you first discover your love for all things heavy metal?
Heavy music and I were just meant to be. As a kid you could say I was a very conflicted and music always offered me that artistic satisfaction I couldn’t find anywhere else. The first time I heard bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Ministry and Metallica I fell in love with the aggressive, in-your-face sound and it all snowballed from there. I wasn’t brought up in a household where heavy music was played and as a first generation American, convincing my mother that heavy music wouldn’t lead to life destruction was nothing short of hilarious. Once I got my first taste, I wanted to sample it all and my ears always skewed to the more hardcore, progressive and stoner/desert tinged bands.
Were your parents supportive?
I thank my parents all the time for standing by my side despite some of the wacky things I have said and thrown their way. My father worked in the music business in the ’70s so he always relates to some of the crazy tales I relay to him. My mother was also a radio personality in the Philippines so she was very proud to see me carry on a legacy of shit talking and has always been my #1 supporter but realest critic – that’s her job! My parents have stood by my side though it all and without them I would have never had the balls to be as resilient as I needed to be in this business.
I’m sure a lot of people reading this would like to know how you went from just being a fan to getting a gig at Sirius.
Oh, if only it was that simple! I have spent my entire life being a musician and years kicking it around the NJ/NYC music scene in a variety of bands, trying to make a dent as a musician. Once I realized how hard it would be to make a sustainable living just doing music, I decided to get hip to the business end and spent a few years working on the label side at Earache and Roadrunner Records. Working in music, I realized how closely everything was connected, especially in the close microcosm of metal and met one of the most important people in my life, Liquid Metal DJ Mario Comensanas. We became super tight because we shared a love of hardcore and metal, were both singers in bands and came from the same area – he encouraged me to follow my dreams of being a DJ/VJ and let Jose know that I was interested. I knew Jose because, well, he’s f—ing Jose Mangin! I tried out for him on the spot and he graciously gave me a chance to pursue my dream and share my voice with the metal community, for that I am forever thankful to him.
How strict is your playlist? Do you get to play anything you want?
I wouldn’t say it’s strict but of course we try to bring a variety of the newest tracks coming out across the subsets of metal, if there is a tune someone wants to hear we find it. I love bringing random gems to people, the right song to fit the mood at the right moment. It’s priceless.
What is the best and worst part about your DJ gig?
The best part is being a real voice for women in metal, rock and hardcore. I’m adamant in expanding the horizons of all metal and non-metal listeners, bringing pieces of my life and the world around me to the forefront. I think many times it is easier for people to view things through one sided scope, pigeonholing what a “metal fan” should be, when the reality is we are who we are as people not based solely on the music we enjoy. I have met rappers through other VJ work I do that blow me away with their knowledge of metal and I truly adore that because at the end of the day, we all love music. Bringing diversity and humanity to the music, making that connect is the most fulfilling part of this job. I love making someone’s day with the right song, by introducing them to a new band or connecting through some crazy story about my random life. There really isn’t a bad side to it, but it has definitely made me have to think twice about my level of honesty because I let it all spill out and am at times to a fault, too straightforward. Learning discretion has been difficult but it’s a small lesson to learn to have such a rad platform to bring my voice to.
Tell us about Aphonia.
The band’s sound is sort of like Heart meets The Mars Volta. Our songs feature emotive vocals and moving guitars with some ass-shaking rhythmic elements. I think the sound of Aphonia has refined itself over the years and the influences of our tastes individually create our groovy sound. I write songs about one of the most powerful thing that moves me, love. Love failed, love manifested, tears in the shower and the influx of emotion in-between. There is nothing in this world to me like creating music with these boys and I have been with them for five years now, we are a family, a pack of emotional scumbags. We recently recorded two new tracks with our good friend Rich Nazario and the song Noisecreep is streaming with this interview (‘Playback/Rewind’) features Alex from The Number 12 Looks Like You on sitar.
Listen to ‘Playback/Rewind’ from Aphonia
Where else can Noisecreep readers find you?
You can also watch my weekly video update every Thursday on Rock It Out Blog where you can get a dose of heavy news and see my shenanigans. I also host a femme-centric, comedic web series called ‘Box Talk’ where I address a variety of issues men and women face. This has been my baby and I scripted, filmed and edited all of the episodes, watch these snarky shorts here.
And of course, listen to me daily 9AM-2PM EST on SiriusXM Liquid Metal and follow me on Twitter.
What up and coming band should everyone reading this check out immediately?
The one recent release that hasn’t left my rotation since I got it is the new Trapped Under Ice album which is called ‘Big Kiss Goodnight.’ I think this release will really blow them up even though they have been kicking in in the hardcore scene for some time, it’s catchy yet ferocious as hell and the production seals the deal. I’m a tough chica, hardcore is my lifeline, do yourself a favor and check it out.