If the following article isn’t Zen enough for you, you can go look at the article I wrote for the current isuse of Tricycle magazine (at your newstand now!) called When Your Guru Goes Bad.
ABUSE OF POWER
This nifty little number was presented to the band by lead singer Jimi Imij who banged it out for us on a battered acoustic guitar in his Akron apartment. We pretty much did it the way Jimi played it. It’s our folk song!
This was one of the songs from Zero Defex’s early days. It used to go by other names. Sometimes it was called “Just Found Out.” Sometimes it was called Eric. I always liked this one. It has a mean riff and great lyrics. Watch the video and you’ll see! This one is pure hardcore just like we used to do it way back when it was dangerous.
This is another old one. Mick Hurray, our drummer, brought this one in. I loved it at the time because I was always sucky at sports. The lyrics disparage baseball, football and frisbee golf! There’s a video for this one too.
Yet another number from the early days. Once the legendary Randy Blythe of Lamb of God shared vocals on it at a show in Akron. For you non-Americans in the audience, ROTC stands for Reserve Officers Training Corps. They’re a mainstay on American college campuses. I’m sure they aren’t all as bad as the song implies. But it’s such a ridiculous song we had to revive it.
AWAY FROM MY DESK
This was written for us about two years ago by our original guitarist and main songwriter Tommy Strange. We turned it into a kind of DEVO-esque thing, since all of us are big fans of DEVO. I like the sound effects at the end. And the words, “I’m that temporary punk you always fired!”
This was brought to the band by guitarist Jeff “Ghoul” Hardy. He showed it to us the day we recorded it. Jimi came up with some words. I love the recording on the intro and outro, which Jimi discovered on a homemade record found during one of his many thrift store forays. Apparently the record was pressed up by a school teacher in West Virginia some time in the 1940s. There was probably only one copy made. There’s a video for this one too.
This is our new hit single! It was brought to the band about a year ago by drummer Mick Hurray who composed it on the piano! This has to be the first ever Zero Defex song composed on a piano. We did a video for this one as well featuring a rather elaborate setting, at least for us. And dancing girls! How often do you get to see hardcore bands with dancing girls?
This is another old song. The video we did for this is actually a rehearsal we taped the day before we went in to shoot the other more professional looking videos. In the end we never made a proper video for this one, so I put the rehearsal on YouTube. This is kinda how we played it back in the 80s, but not precisely. Songs like this are probably what made certain writers in Cleveland mock us for writing “war is bad” type lyrics. War is bad! But this song is very good!
This is probably my favorite tune on the album. Zero Defex goes jazz! Seriously! I wanted to do a video for this where we would be dressed in zoot suits playing it at a cafe. The lyrics are a poem by Vince “Rancid” Packard who drew the album cover. He lived for a long time in West Virginia in a region known to some as a “national sacrifice area” because there were so many nuclear power plants it was believed that if someone ever attacked the US, the entire region would become uninhabitable. I like the way Jimi sings this like Tom Waits gargling gravel.
This one’s the video at the top. It’s another very early Zero Defex number. On the cassette I have of the band playing it, it sort of sounds like an attempt at early 80s new wave pop! This was a song they did before I was in the band and dropped before I joined. I’m not sure if it was ever played live until the 21st century reunion of the group. I like it! We should sell it to Target!
This is another early song. It was a joke directed at another local band called Unit 5. They appeared in a Cleveland-based magazine called Scene dressed in police riot gear, thus we called them “Tactical Force Unit #5!” There’s a cute video for this too featuring Ronald Reagan!
Again this is an older song of ours. This is one I had wanted us to do for our first CD but we passed it up. I even mention that fact in my book Sit Down And Shut Up, so upset was I at its exclusion. I liked this one at the time because a lot of clubs had a “proper attire” policy up in Cleveland. I once got refused entry to one of those unless I bought a dumb polo shirt that they sold up front just for people like me who showed up in “improper” T-shirts. Screw that!
This one is a new song with old origins. Our friend Joe Morbid wrote the lyrics. Jimi made it into a song and the band played it back in the 80s. Jimi dug up the old lyrics. But by then we’d all forgotten how the original song went. So we rewrote it from memory. I think this is like the old version. But maybe not. It seems kind of slow by 80s Zero Defex standards, so it was probably different back then. I like this version a lot.
This new song is another of my favorites. I played the sitar, including the intro. Our drummer, Mick, plays slide guitar on this. Jeff shook the marakas and sleigh bells as well as playing the guitar. This is actually two songs that sort of sounded alike so we stuck them together. The second half is about the National Guard shootings at Kent State University on May 4, 1970 that left four students dead and many others wounded. Neil Young wrote about it too. But Neil wasn’t a resident of the town where it happened. The first verse lays out the scene from the point of view of the students. The second takes the point of view of the ROTC kids who shot their classmates and probably regret it to this day. The video for this isn’t really a proper video, but it’s a good way to hear the song before you make your purchase.
I think this is a great album. It was recorded by Rich Katilla III at his studio Kat Scratch Records in Cleveland. The studio is in what had once been a storage unit behind a Giant Eagle supermarket in Mentor. We would drive an hour up there on Sunday nights and record till way too late while munching on pretzels from the Giant Eagle. It was a beautiful thing!
This was the first time I felt like Zero Defex in its reformed incarnation really came together and did something incredible like I always knew we could. It’s the kind of album the band probably would have made if we’d been able to keep it together back in the olden days. We were never really a strict hardcore band. Hardcore punk was what we all wanted to do at the time. But none of us were really that committed to it as a musical form. The jazz, folk and psychedelic touches on this album reflect a lot of the personality of the group.
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