Led by spastic, aggressive guitars twangs, edgy bass and insane, well-aimed drumming, the technical, complex, incredibly engaging and neuron-inducing debut record from experimental duo ZON is surely one of the most overlooked mammoth instrumental metal records of recent years. Driven by the creative minds of Phillip Tielsch (Von Spar) and Mario Katz (Cologne Tape), and spiced up by the exceptional drum work of John Stanier (HELMET, BATTLES, TOMAHAWK), “Palace” has its own personality, patter and feel. We caught up with Mario to talk about about their intense and sharp edged instrumental metal style, the first part of a trilogy film called “Void” (created by Christopher Marquez), randomness and creative experimentation in music, and their plans for the coming months.
Since more than ten years close friends and metal heads Phillip Tielsch (Von Spar) and Mario Katz (Cologne Tape) met for guitar sessions, trying to ” nd the essence of their favourite metal records* and digest in their own sound“. Quite ambitious but without any release plans so far… Magazines Jens-Uwe Beyer found out about their project and pushed them to produce an uncompromising condensate of their raw material. Beyer cut here and there, contributed some additional production and also got John Stanier (Battles) in the boat for the drums.
So ZON became a band and “Palace” became the most intense and sharp edged instrumental metal set you probably heard in years!
Hey Mario! Thanks so much for taking some time with us. Where are you at the moment? How are you?
Thank you for your interest. I’m fine with a glass of white wine and soda in my flat working on my setup.
It’s been almost 1,5 years since the release of ‘Palace’ and honestly, it seems to be one of my biggest oversights in years! It’s dizzying in ambition, really impressive in execution, and I could easily advocate for the position that it proposes a substantial change of direction for the whole genre of artsy, instrumental metal genre. How do you respond to that assessment and what were your motifs behind this opus?
We really appreciate your assessment, although it is/was not the main motiv.
Our first ambition almost 15 years ago was either the the simple ancient love for heavy metal music as a good fellow through years of musical socialisation and the physical process playing metal riffs on the guitar, what I would consider as the main engine.
Learning to play Kirk Hammet solos ist glorious but – fuck -much too exertive.
Walking on the blade with Rikk by playing rather simple rhythmic patterns, switch countings, phrase-lenght and tempi was therefor much easier and gave us the feeling of 5 Kirks and spiritual healing. (both spiritual healings for shure)
Over the years it became a “from the mind to the body and out” thing, but finally without reliable ambition to lookout for someone who will release it.
But like almost all mbo things, it´s real, you keep doing it and then you cannot hide it any longer.
Thats when the opus started as Jens-Uwe-Beyer, metal fan and mbo pope gave some snippets of our songs to John during a studio session.
John liked it and the next day the recorded the drumtracks in impressive manner.
Some month later “palace” was in the box like an incident and rather nothing happend for 1,5 years, haha!
So, no harm meant for overseeing, dude!
Honestly, how much do you think your work represents either the influence of other influential artists, or operates as your supplemental creation? How do you balance between being inspired by others and finding ways to find new sonic concepts?
Let me explain it with the process of making a soup. Soup will be more or less solvent any time. Different herbes change the taste from soft to spicy. It´s either vegan or carnal, or something inbetween. And it´s almost any time designed to be eaten. We prefer to put stones inside, season the taste with epoxy resin and heat it with x-ray generators. The fact that we also design it for being eaten is the punchline. Literally this means that we´re not focusing on a special sound or Metalsubgenre. Of course we are inspired by „classic“ Metalbands like Death, Believer, Morbid Angel (especially the album “Domination“) or Entombed and also bands like Oranssi Pazuzu, Inter Arma or Liturgy left their taste in the soup. But there is also a lot of influence from non-Metal acts. You can say Cindy Lauper is the mother, Chuck Schuldiner is the teacher, Arnaud Rebotini is the driver and Nina Simone will be the undertaker.
Haha, awesome! Thanks so much!
How about the visual part of your work. Could you tell us how the idea of creating a project exploring the relationship between visual art and your tricky compositions came to you? What inspired you to create “Void” and what can we expect from the next 2 videos?
Honestly, I don´t exactly know. Void is the work of our friend Christopher Marquez who started creating the visuals on his own without our duty. Although we exchange confidences I rather don´t know which is the main force field. Sure, the clips are corresponding, I have an idea of what comes next and I know there will be ants. But finally I don´t know where the reflection ends and the soundtrack begins. I like the idea of some guys sitting around the bonfire blowing up firecrackers and revealing secrets to each other. On good days this can be a force field, either!
To what extent do you consider your work to be abstract? Have you been interested in the geometric structures that can be found in nature?
Depends on the point of view! I would say that most people would consider metal to be abstract, haha! That´s why we are interested in the nature and geometric structures of Metal-Riffs as well as in those of spider webs or galloping hoofs.
Both in your musical compositions, as well as this new trilogy project, how do you create a balance between control and randomness?
I would say that one works with the other. Mostly it´s about controlling the randomness. Our subject is to filter what we think is explicit from a stream of conscience and control its level. Randomness is the key to unlock inspiration here.
I’ve always believed that it’s the interaction between musicians and creative minds what makes an orchestra extraordinary and I wonder how do you go about such approach. Would you agree that the use of more instruments and perhaps adding more musicians to the band could enhance the possibility of establishing aricher sound and even more adventurous works?
Sure, interaction is the crux. But you can also interact with a looper-pedal. The extraordinary appeal is the synchronization of brains and fingers. Your own and those of the people you play with. We try to let this happen instantly within a very short time-frame. Adding more people to this process can be anything between easy and hardship. Usually it tends to be more hardship. Everybody has something to say but within a band-context its all about agreement. The easier your agreement happens the happier you are. And I’m not speaking about having the same favorite bands, here! But whatever comes we try to do the necessary to keep it interesting for ZON, and therefor be authentic, in best case, haha!
Apart from the video trilogy, what are your next steps with ZON? Can we expect some new recordings sometime soon?
We are working on new songs right now and the plan is to finally record them until the end of this year. So in best case there will be a new release in the middle of 2019. Meanwhile we will play some single shows and maybe the will be a small tour in September and October.
Ok, thanks so much for your time! Feel free to drop your last words. Thanks!
Don´t trust anybody who never listened to Heavy Metal!