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Non-Prog Interviews

Saul Zonana

Interviewed by Sonya Kukcinovich Hill
Interview with Saul Zonana from March of 2008
MSJ: This interview is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

So tell us, who is Saul Zonana, musically speaking?
I guess the latest music has become a morphing of what i think of as classic pop music, with a touch of progressive rock music.  That's no mystery, since those are the two types of music that I grew up listening to.

On the pop side, there were the Beatles, early Who, among many others.  On the progressive side, there was Yes, King Crimson, etc.  My brother was eight years older than I was, and luckily I was exposed to the music he listened to very early on. 
MSJ: How did you meet Adrian Belew, and what does having such a legendary musician producing your
latest CD mean to you in light of that?
I met Adrian Belew through an agent we had in common.  I was really trying to connect with an outside producer for the CD 42 Days. Adrian liked what he heard of my material, and he produced and played guitar on a bunch of songs on it.  It ended up being an incredible studio experience and collaboration.  Adrian's studio knowledge was a huge breath of fresh air for me, because I knew I was working with someone who could push it to places I couldn't push it myself.  Not only am I a huge fan, but I have an enormous respect for the work that Adrian has done.  So of course, it was an honor to work with him.  I should mention, though, that this is not my latest CD.  My latest CD is Love Over Money, which was released in 2007. 
MSJ: Your voice has a pure quality. How formally trained are you?
Zero.  I have no formal training.  I'm barely potty-trained, actually.  I have many influences, however, in the world of vocalization, many of whom most people wouldn't even know.  Some of the most incredible talents go fairly unnoticed these days.  However, if someone wants to know what Britney Spears is up to, one just needs to turn on the TV.  I will say, of my popular influences there's John Lennon, Doug Pinnick, Adrian Belew and Trevor Rabin.
MSJ: You write songs that tell stories. You write songs that evoke a wide range of emotion. You have
great melody lines that are complex and beautiful. How do you find the inspiration for composing
such material, and how have you successfully negotiated such a collection of fine music without
getting redundant or boring?
Wow, there are, like thirty compliments in that question, so let me start by saying thank you thirty times I'm glad you don't find the music to be redundant.  I try really really hard to not do the same thing over and over again.  And as hard as I try, it still feels, sometimes, like one giant song.  But occasionally I'll hear something that I did five years ago or so and think, Yeah, I am growing with all of this.  And I'll always write music and be releasing collections of music as long as I feel like I'm doing something different and useful.  The inspiration comes purely from the idea of trying to do something better than I did before.
MSJ: We were ready for the one man band with various drums, kazoos, whistles, and harmonicas all
harnessed to your body! Seriously, though, you command respect and being listened to with your
stage presence, almost Maroon 5-ish (to stay current) without the full band with a combination of Todd Rundgren meets The Beatles. You music also sounds similar to a degree to solo material by the lead singer of the west coast prog band, Enchant, Ted Leonard. We're not sure if you're familiar with him, but he's excellent.  Any comments about your strong stage presence?
Well, thank you again.  That makes thirty-one.  My confidence on stage comes mainly from a product by L'Oreal, which ensures that the three gray hairs I've discovered, remain brown.  I also wear a girdle.

Truthfully, I just feel great when I'm on stage and I think the audience usually feels that. Also I really try not to take myself too seriously and I find that most people just want to join in the fun.. That does sound like a good idea though...with the whistles and the kazoos.
MSJ: You're in Nashville. We've criticized the highly engineered Nashville sound of so many artists
who have all the nuance and creativity engineered right out of the recording. That doesn't seem to
be a problem for you with Adrian Belew involved. Any thoughts?
Well, remember I'm from NY originally. I only recently bought a house outside of Nashville but that was not for any musical reasons, just a lifestyle change. I've been producing my own music since the beginning of time and there has never been anything close to a "Nashville" sound. Not a big fan of  most country music mainly for its general lack of originality and character these days. Sometimes a new Nashville artist manages to escape that but most don't in my view.
MSJ: Any new projects developing, or is it a matter now of really buckling down to support and
promote the current release?
Actually, I just returned home from a month long tour which was in support of my most recent release Love Over Money. I'm halfway through my next group of songs which was recorded with my New York band high up on a mountain top in the Catskills. It's the most live feeling, musical bunch of tunes yet and I'm really excited to finish it up in April and release it in June. The CD is entitled Blue Monkey and it features a great bunch of New York players.
MSJ: What artists have inspired you? Where do you see the industry headed, and how do you see
yourself developing as a performer and writer?
I was heavily influenced by all the bands and artists I've mentioned so far when I was much younger. In the last several years I've been so busy creating music that I hardly listen to any music outside of what I'm working on. However, once in a while a certain sound in a certain song that might be spinning in the backround perks me up and causes me to ask.. "Hey, who are we listening to?"  Then the lady in Starbucks answers, "I don't know, sir, but did you want a large or a small latte? As far as the music industry goes, in my eyes it's basically nonexistent. We all know that the major labels of yesteryear are scrambling and hurting. We all know that CD sales in stores are a dying industry. We all know that it's a download world now and the labels dropped the ball in their involvement. And.to me, this is all good news. It evens the playing field.  Although it's extremely tough to break through in this climate, it all comes down to getting in front of people and performing. That's the only way CDs are really sold and ultimately if you keep pounding away, the cream usually rises, which has nothing to do with the small latte i ordered at Starbucks. Really, just play your music, shake hands, kiss babies and win over a few new people or more at a time. Multiply that times a thousand gigs and if you're doing something cool and meaningful it will work out. As far as I go, I'll always be creating and performing in some fashion. Hopefully I'll always have an audience.
MSJ: Write the script: A few years from, now Saul Zonana will be..........
Fat. Especially if I keep eating like this. And doing exactly what I'm doing now.. pushing myself into new musical territory and recording new music and touring.
MSJ:
The last cd/download you bought for yourself was...
Frank Zappa's " Joe's Garage." Believe it or not I'm first exploring Zappa now, mainly because everyone on this last tour was
a Zappa head.
MSJ:
The last gig you attended for your own enjoyment was...?
I can't say I remember. I tour myself so when I'm home I don't really go to shows. I do love comedy though and my favorite comedian is Brian Regan. I saw him recently and he's incredibly funny.
MSJ:
What was your best Spinal Tap moment?
While on tour with Ace Frehely I got lost back stage during his guitar solo - right out of Spinal Tap!
MSJ: Thank you, Saul!
Thanks so much for being interested enough to ask these questions.. I wish you the best always.
 
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