One of this years more underrated releases without a doubt is Under Radio's 'Bad Heir Ways'. A bit progressive in some ways, but what really comes across is the creativity that this band has. We wanted to take a look into this band by having a chat with with guitarist and creative mastermind Eric Zimmerman. The band have been releasing via Finnish label Lion Music and have domestic distribution in the States. Without further delay, lets get started!
Heavy Metal Resource: Hi Eric, Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. I wanted to start by asking you to give the readers a bit of background on yourself, bands you may have played in, and anything else you may feel you would like to let everybody in on.
Eric Zimmerman: I was born in 1971, I moved to L.A. in 94 after College and did a bunch of music there for 10 years. Now I live in Dallas and have been teaching guitar and doing production full time now that I have my studio finished. You can check www.under-radio.com I’ll have more info up on the studio in the next few weeks.
HMR: Thats good to know for all those who may be in the area and want access to the studio. I wanna look at the latest album. ‘Bad Heir Ways’ has been out for a while now. How has it been doing so far?
E.Z. : Honestly, in terms of sales, it’s not doing too good. I don’t have an exact number but the label basically said it's sucking in the sales department. I suppose that the standard rock answer would be to either say its doing fantastic or if it’s not to blame the label or the industry. I think that’s pretty silly, so I’m not going to do either. If people were into it on a large scale, the numbers would reflect that.
HMR: Thats exactly why I mentioned that it was underrated. I don't think people know how good it is or how solid the band is. It is definitely very hard to break into the market, but I guess you gotta start somewhere. I really liked the debut album from a couple of years or so ago. The new album seems to be even better. What is the key in your opinion to raising the bar with each consecutive album?
E.Z. : Thanks for the compliments. The first album was written over a ten year time period and recorded over about a 2 year period. 'Bad Heir Ways' was written, recorded and mixed in less than a year so it sounds more consistent. With regards to raising the bar, I think a lot of things come into play. I like to try new things that I haven’t done on a previous recording. That way things stay challenging and interesting. For instance on this CD there are a few tunes with quite a bit of odd time signatures Noel and Cornerstone in particular. My goal was to write something more involved and complex but not have it feel like an odd time. In addition, on this CD I really wanted to combine styles and see what would come of it. I’ve noticed that people are really receptive to that or totally turned off to it. For the people that are turned off by it, I actually understand why they feel that way. For me as a listener I like diversity. Look at bands like Zeppelin, The Doors and even Van Halen. Those guys change feels through out the albums and I’ve always dug that kind of thing. I also like to try different sonic things as well, for instance on this recording I used all old Marshall and Fender amps instead of my 5150. I wanted to put “older” sounds into a more modern style.
HMR: I think the fact that you use the odd time signatures is what is getting everybody saying the album is progressive. The classic sound you mention is why it is not or why it is slight. The album to me is unique, there's not alot out there like it which makes it cool. Lion Music handles the album for you. I guess that is your backing here in the States, but have you had any domestic radio play or backing?
E.Z. : There has been a handful of stations that have played the CD here in the US. The responses from that have been very positive but the bulk of the interest is based overseas.
HMR: Have you gigged yet on this album?
E.Z. : Not yet, I’d like to do it though.
HMR: Back to the album, what are your personal favorite tracks on this album?
E.Z. : I like Noel (The Xmas Truce), Cornerstone and Devils from a Midwest Town the best at this particular moment. I like Noel for the subtlety, Cornerstone for the diversity and DFAMT for its straight-ahead blues attitude. The guitars are a little out of tune and sloppy on that one and I dig it.
HMR: Out of curiosity, where do you draw from in the creative process? There are some pretty colorful titles on the album.
E.Z. : Yeah, coming up with the title is half the fun in my book too. The first thing I ever wrote I called 'March of the paralyzed two eyed Cyclops'
I suppose with titles it’s just catching on to a phrase or a concept. I got the title 'You wont see the blood until your throat has been cut' from an old movie from the 40’s. People think it’s a nonsensical title (Which I understand). However, it serves a purpose. The phrase basically means that you’re so far into a bad situation you wont realize it until you’re already fucked. That notion goes along with the songs Cornerstone and DFAMT. The Xmas truce also has an out of the ordinary title. There was an actual historic event during WWI where the opposing sides put down their arms for Xmas and shot the piss out of each other the next day. That’s also a common theme in many romantic relationships, love one day and war the next. Given that that song is a ‘period piece’ for lack of a better term, I wrote 1916 about shark attacks that took place in the USA around the same time period. But overall as far as starting with a creative process, its really just finding an idea you like and demoing it.
HMR: I am a big fan of John Petrucci of Dream Theater and understand that you studied under him. Let us in on this one.
E.Z. : I was really intrigued that he painted his room with pig’s blood. At first I was a little taken back by it but after he explained the reasons, it made perfect sense and I was down with it. Serious though, it was cool as hell taking lessons from JP. It was more like a music ed course than just guitar lessons. We would talk about music concepts and writing. It wasn’t just him tabing out silly shred licks for the sake of it. I did the lessons with John for about 3 years and consider myself lucky to have had the experience.
HMR: Yeah, I definitely find that cool. Are you endorsed by anyone?
E.Z. : I endorse Line 6, VHT, Fernandes Guitars, Summit Audio, TC Electronics, D’Addario String, Seymour Duncan Pickups and JT Pedals.
HMR: I noticed the Bisonette's played on the album. How did you hook up with these guys?
E.Z. : I met them through Doug Bossi who was my roommate at the time. He was in a band with them called The Mustard Seeds and we all just became friends. It’s real cool to record with those guys since I’m a big fan of their playing.
HMR; It's amazing just how many people meet other musicians through roommates. You hear about that from time to time. Speaking of oddities, what is behind the title of 'Bad Heir Ways?
E.Z. : It means something and nothing at the same time. If you say it fast, it sounds like “Bad Air Waves.” If you look at it as “Bad Heir Ways”, it can be interpreted as the ways of the bad ones which fits with the themes on the CD.
HMR: Okay, cool, I did wonder about that. Here is another quick question. How about the name Under Radio?
E.Z. : That’s another example of me trying to amuse myself. People talk about how their band is going to be on the radio so I figured that since I was writing somewhat obscure stuff, it would be put under the radio instead. That was the best thing I could come up with at the time. To me it sounded better than something like “The Cryptic Steel Moons” or “German Midget Piss Porn”
HMR: (Laughing) Yeah, I think that last one would be a little misleading! So when are we gonna see some new music since 'Bad Heir Ways' has been out for a bit now?
E.Z. : I just got done – well, almost done producing a band. And depending on the day, they are either going with the name Minus Linus or Jerk Parade. But now that their stuff is going to be done soon, I’ll start working on a new CD.
HMR: That sounds great! Well, in closing is there anything else you wanna get out there to the fans?
E.Z. : Hmmmm I suppose it’s important that at the end of the day music is supposed to be fun.
HMR: And you definitely make it that. Hey, thanks again Eric! Stay in touch with us when you have something new.
E.Z. : Thanks!