Global rocker Eric Zayne sites down with the Hollywood Progressive and it’s a wild ride.
[dc]U[/dc]nbridled, unleashed and almost uncontrolled enthusiastic talent - that is Eric Zayne and his electronica-influenced, soul and blues-infused, pop-inflected and sometimes just plain over the top creative funk/pop/rock.
I first saw him live at a pre-Grammy Party in LA and knew this was a talent going places fast. We talked afterwards about his gig at Sundance and his upcoming gigs and recordings. Eric and his band can turn on a dime from infectious alt. pop to ballads with a twist. He is always trailblazing, always out of the box and into your pleasure centers. Put on your headphones, clear out the dance floor, forget everything you think you know about rock and pop. Whether he is live onstage or erupting from a EP, Eric Zayne’s music mainlines a pure dose of the most unique sound coming out of the LA rock scene today directly into your brain.
Patrick. Eric, you have been very busy lately. You played at the 10/20 run last weekend in San Diego. You played the Sunset Sessions last week in LA. You are recording a new EP – which you are calling the mixtape, we will talk about that for sure – and you are getting ready for South by Southwest. Did you give up sleeping for the first quarter of 2014
Eric. It certainly feels that way. It is funny you mentioned it because I was thinking when 2014 came in, the train just went faster than any other ride I have ever been on. I don’t know what kind of planetary alignment happened when 2014 kicked in but it hasn’t stopped. It has been just one wonderful opportunity after the next and I want to be ready for all of them. In a way definitely, I’m giving up some sleep.
Patrick. I am curious about this 10/20 concert in San Diego. You were singing in the middle of a foot race? Were you running or playing music or both?
Eric. That would be an interesting gig if I had to run a marathon with my instruments and my band. No, we were on the running trail of the marathon. We had our own stage overlooking the ocean. We had a pretty loud PA system so we would play to encourage the runners to keep going. But many of them actually stopped or turned around and ran back to grab a CD, which may have made the them late to the finish line, but it made me pretty excited.
Patrick. I can see them running, stopping turning around, dancing, grabbing a CD and then running…pretty funny.
Eric. Yes. And we were like “don’t stop, go, go, go!”
Patrick. Let’s talk a bit about your music. The song that first turned me on to your music is Neptune. I know that song is about desire, about wanting something else, maybe something you can’t have. The video that you made with that was very powerful. Did you design it?
Eric. My manager, Steven Cohen, and I always come up with the ideas together. I have been using the same director for all my videos, Collin Duffy. This time we decided to do something very simple, because all the other videos are explosive and huge. So we said let’s do something very simple that stays in one spot and is visually captivating and has the sexual tension of the song. Also, my music is very inclusive of all cultures. I have no judgment of any cultures. I grew up in a multi-cultural family and I grew up all over the world from Africa to Canada etc., so I want my music and my audience to always feel welcome in my heart. So we decided to bring in couples from all kinds of cultures that sometimes may be judged by the outside world, and we decided to bring them in. You can be safe here because Neptune is the idea that you are reaching for something for the unattainable, that there is something inside that is a desire and we are all have it. I wanted everyone to feel that common ground.
Patrick. In the video that you include gay and straight, black and white and mixed couples. Were you making a social or political statement?
Eric. It is embedded in the fabric of my music. I don’t consciously want to be a political activist, but I know that music has a power that breaks through boundaries and I think it is the responsibility of an artist to melt the dividing lines between us in a way and reunite us.
Patrick. Your most recent hit, Maneater, which has an epic video of a giant woman destroying my hometown of Los Angles. Was there a man eater in your life.
Eric. Oh yeah., There have been a few.
Patrick. What is your response to criticism that Maneater, in its images and especially in the lyrics, reinforce a medieval stereotype of women as inherently evil and predatory?
Eric. It is interesting how people can judge a song that is just a perception of a particular slice in reality of a very specific moment in time that has actually happened to a person. It is not a judgment on all women and it is not pointing to my personal belief on how women are. In my opinion, women are majestic – advanced way beyond males. It points to a situation that people can get into in a relationship when they are just eaten up by the other person because that person’s power is so much stronger; but they love it. The fact that I called it Maneater and sang about a woman is because I am man.
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Patrick. There is a photo of you on your Instagram page of you in Las Vegas. Did you play a show there?
Eric. No. I was just taking a break. But someday I will play a show in Las Vegas.
Patrick. Are the guys you play with your permanent band?
Eric. Yes. They are absolutely people I want to keep together. Once in a while I will play an acoustic gig, but my vision of a live show is from people I have looked up to like Prince and others. My live gigs are always a very powerful experience as you have seen, so we are staying together.
Patrick. Where were you born.
Eric. I was born in Montreal Canada. When I was 11 days old I was taken back to my parents’ home in the Congo. I was about 10 years old when I left. A civil war started and the embassy called my dad and said there is one seat left on the last plane out of the country and it leaves in an hour. My dad an my brothers were collecting weapons and fortifying the house. There were already bullets flying from mercenaries and looters. An army truck came and grabbed me up and put me on the plane. The family scattered to survive. My family and I were reunited about 8 – 10 years later.
Patrick. I suspected that was why you left. One of my listeners wants to know, are there genres anymore? You play a lot of different kinds of music. How do you see genres?
Eric. One of the hardest things for me as an artist is to understand what genres are. I see music as colors in a way and a painting can’t have just one color. Genres were created by record companies and stores to know where to place their music. But as an artist I may hear a banjo in a classical piece and someone will say you can’t mix these two genres and I say but that is how I heard it in my head. So I think, music came before the theory of music and once the theory came along people want to label it this or that, but music creativity doesn’t have labels.
Patrick. You are producing a new EP which you are calling a mixtape. You have assembled a surprising mix of people on it. You have Matisyahu- and orthodox Jewish rapper Amber Riley, an African-American singer/tv star from Glee, Rozzi Crane, and emerging rock singer recently signed by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine; and King Blaise, a rapper from Cameroon. How did you think of that group and how did you pull it off?
Eric. We are calling this a mixtape –the title is Autobiograme - because they will be free online releases. We are not aiming for a commercial piece of work that could necessarily get radio play, but something to show your personality and diversity and collaboration. I didn’t have a plan – I knew I would meet people as I went along. I knew from my background that a diverse group would come.
Take Mitisyau – I was studying kabala and my rabbi told me I had to meet this guy and one day he called me and said Matisyahu was coming and we met and hit it off and we wrote a song in 2 hours. The song is called Freedom Fighter; it’s about standing up for your rights and creating the life you want. Amber Riley came from when I did a show at My First Friday – a place where new artists perform for a supportive crowd. She was there and we connected. I knew who she was and what she did and we created a beautiful gospel song together. My manager knew Rozzi Crane and thought we would be a great fit and played her music for me. When I heard her voice I said yes we would be great together. We did a remix of Prince’s Erotic City – a very cool indie electric version you are going to like.
Patrick. And the ep/mixtape Autobiograme will be out the week of March 10.
Eric. Yes. I have been trying to get it finished. I have been so busy.
Patrick. Even though you are so busy you still have time for One Voice. What is that all about.
Eric. In my growing up in Africa I saw what war can do to people’s lives. I always had this idea of going back when I was successful and doing an inspirational tour, replacing guns with guitar. I got interviewed by One Voice and found that that is exactly what they do. They teach kids how to connect with their inner voice, their inner peace, using music, - it is an unbelievable organization. Check it out at One Voice.com
Patrick. We are out of time and there are so many other songs and topics to talk about. We will have you back on when the mixtape is ready. And thank you for being with us today
Host, Music FridayLive!