Zombi: The Night Time is the Right Time — Exclusive Interview
Fickle music fans who think instrumental rock is a boring proposition need to check out Zombi for a quick change of heart. Comprised of keyboardist-bassist Steve Moore and drummer A.E. Paterra, the group specializes in the kind of atmospheric soundscapes that wouldn’t sound out of place in your favorite late ’70s sci-fi and horror movies. Yes, they’re signed to metal mainstay Relapse Records, but Zombi’s musical reach stretches far beyond the metal world.
Zombi’s fourth album, ‘Escape Velocity,’ won’t be unleashed till May 10th, but Noisecreep got its hands on an advance copy and we haven’t been able to stop playing it ever since. We spoke with Moore and Paterra about the record and some of their musical heroes.
First off, ‘Escape Velocity’ is fantastic – I just had to say that!
Steve Moore: Thanks!
A.E. Paterra: Thank you, we’re very proud of it.
The main thing that popped out to me on the album were the drums. The combination of the live room drum sound with the analog keyboards really gives the album a thick yet warm feel.
Steve Moore: We want that big rock drum sound to remind people that this is a rock band. It’s easy to think of us as just two dudes with synthesizers, but when you add drums to the equation — especially the way Tony plays them — it takes it to another level. It’s supposed to sound like a rock band, only with no guitars, just synthesizers.
A.E. Paterra: It has always been a challenge for us to mix drums with electronics — when you mix the live sound world with the electronics sound world, sometimes they don’t mesh — but on this recording, Steve did an excellent job. The drums sit very well, and don’t seem out of place at all.
Most of the material on ‘Escape Velocity’ is driven by the synthesizer melodies. When you’re writing, do you usually start by working out a synth line?
Steve Moore: Sometimes I have an idea for a melody and I build down from there. That’s how the song ‘Slow Oscillations’ came together. But sometimes I’m just messing around with a sequencer and my synthesizers and I come up with something I like. Then I pluck out a simple melody over that. That’s how I wrote ‘Escape Velocity’ and ‘Shrunken Heads.’
A.E. Paterra: I too will spend countless hours fooling around writing MIDI code, sequencing notes, writing this and that, until something comes about that catches my ear. I usually take more of a feel approach, a particular rhythm that I would like to explore and build around. I’m not much of a melody writer — that always happens last for me. I build from the bottom up.
There’s something about Zombi’s music that evokes the night time. Do you generally write late at night?
Steve Moore: Yeah. Who the hell would want to write music in the day time?
A.E. Paterra: I don’t mind starting in the early afternoon when I have the time, but most of my best sessions happen rather late. Usually I’ll be working, look at my watch, and be amazed that it is 4:00 AM.
Over the years, many critics have compared Zombi to Tangerine Dream. Who are some other artists that you drew inspiration from over the years?
Steve Moore: Off the top of my head: Van Halen, Tina Turner, Mr. Mister, Jonzun Crew, Harold Faltermeyer, Heldon, Air, Madonna, Rush, Giorgio Moroder, Obituary, Jan Hammer, Prince, King Crimson, Herbie Hancock, Black Sabbath, Genesis, Asia, Run DMC, and Magma.
A.E. Paterra: I’ll add Vangelis and Kraftwerk to that list.
We know you’re both film score connoisseurs. Can you give the Noisecreep readers suggestions for some of the darker composers out there?
Steve Moore: Carpenter/Howarth, Fabio Frizzi, Brad Fiedel, Paul McCollough, Stelvio Cipriani, Walter Rizzati, John Harrison, Howard Shore, Chuck Cirino, Jay Chattaway, Jerry Goldsmith, Simon Park, Derek Scott, Riz Ortolani.
A.E. Paterra: Giuliano Sorgini, Phillan Bishop.
Watch a fan video for ‘Digitalis’