Friday, June 30, 2017

Interview with Za King of SINGAYA by Dave Wolff

Interview with Za King of SINGAYA

Last month Singaya was seeking new members. How many times has the band changed its lineup?
Since July 2016 we’ve had three lineup changes. We started with Mike Sheridan on drums and me on rhythm guitar/vocals as the main songwriters. We went through a bass player and two guitarists before the current lineup. Jon Hamilton was brought in on lead guitar who I was previously in a band with (Ruins Of Akora). Coming from a mostly metal background, he brings a different and exciting dynamic to the band. We’ve got Billy Rozz on bass who is extremely seasoned in the scene and plays a stand-up bass.

Does your local area in New Jersey have a lot of musicians seeking bands? How does word get around that people are looking for musicians to hook up with?
Isn’t everyone looking to start a band? Or so it seems. But seriously when ninety per cent of the people you hang out with and talk to play an instrument there’s a lot of talk about starting a band, a side project, or doing covers. The problem I think a lot of people run into is just that. There’s a lot of talk about doing something. It’s extremely difficult to find the right reliable people you are willing to work with. There is hope out there, though a lot of it is by word of mouth or grabbing someone from a band that’s not doing too much at the time. Graiglist isn’t the worst way, just a long filtering process. The bottom line is if it’s a passion, you’ll find the time to put the effort in and keep patient. You’ll find the right musicians for what you are looking to do.

How long have the band been musicians, and were you all previously in different bands?
All of us have been in bands since we were teenagers, playing different genres. We come from different backgrounds such as Metal, Punk, Horror Punk, Rockabilly etc. There are a lot of different influences coming together and you’ll hear a lot on our upcoming full length. All of us have been playing instruments efor over fifteen years so everyone’s pretty well versed with what they bring to the table. It definitely makes the songwriting process unique. I think that’s a major key to successfully functioning as a band to surround yourself with the right musicians, to have a mutual trust and faith in each other’s ability and have a passion for what you do. I’ve been playing too long to be sitting there showing someone notes or chords on their instrument. COME PREPARED. I feel like everyone in this band brings that passion and desire to get the best out of one another.

How did you become interested in music as a professional career? Did you have like-minded friends or did you have to spend some time looking?
I grew up where music was easily accessible. My parents always had Beatles, Doors and Pink Floyd records out and my mother played piano. I always loved listening to her play. Around the time I was eight years old I saw Guns N’ Roses’ video for “You Could Be Mine” and from there I knew what I wanted to do. I started with piano and then took interest in drums. I realized that wasn’t for me and picked up my first guitar when I was thirteen thinking I could just plug in and play like Jimi Hendrix. I learned real quick that’s not how it works, so I switched to singing. A few years later I started getting serious with guitar and finding musicians to start bands with. By that time it seemed everyone my age had a band going or played, so it was easy finding people to play with. We had a really good scene as I was growing up. There was a show going on every weekend. I watched as some of my friends’ bands started to get signed to major labels and go on tours with national acts. It was a whole community of musicians and the place to be at the time.

What spoke to you and interested you in playing about the albums of your mother’s vinyl albums you listened to?
Just hearing the music I was interested. I loved listening to the Beatles records and still do. My father was more into psychedelic bands like the Moody Blues and Pink Floyd so I heard a bunch of that growing up. 

How many of your friends’ bands signed with major labels or toured nationally?
A couple of my buddies’ bands got signed or went on tour. Getting signed nowadays I could really care less about. All I wanna do is tour with this band. Record companies aren’t offering anything we can’t do ourselves.

Recall memories of attending your earliest shows. What was the rush of excitement like and how did it convince you to start a band?
I had seen a few local shows when I was young. The first concert I ever went to was Green Day and Bad Religion. I loved the energy of just being there hearing live music and the response to just let loose, and I thought that’s gotta be such an awesome feeling, having that power to just speak to people through music. I knew I had to start a band.

Most people think playing punk and metal are teenage phases and eventually grown out of/. How do you and the band account for keeping at it all this time?
We do so by having a passion for music and for playing. There is never any age limit for enjoying that. Look at bands like the Adicts, the U.K. Subs and the Buzzcocks. They’ve been going strong for the last forty years! It’s not because they are selling millions of records, they love what they do whether it’s punk, metal, hardcore or whatever you are into. Music is a timeless expression. You think anyone’s telling Keith Richards to slow down anytime soon?

Were there times you were pressured into leaving your career in favor of living a “normal life” (getting married, having kids, getting a “real job” etc)?
Of course very few people get to tell “normal life” people they are musicians and not have them roll their eyes. It never really bothered me because I just knew in the back of my head they just don’t get it. You get one shot in this life to follow your dreams. I didn’t grow up with aspirations to become a garbage man, just like the average Joe walking the street probably didn’t dream as a kid he’d grow up and serve cold cuts at the supermarket. They are jobs you need to survive but it’s not something I have a passion for. Let’s face it, even if you are in a mildly successful band it’s still not paying the bills so you’ve gotta have income from somewhere else. As far as getting married and settling down I’m already at that point. I’ll be getting married this October to a woman I’ve been with for eleven years, and she’s been nothing but supportive of all my musical endeavors. I think aspiring to become a musician is about balance and finding a situation to make it work.

Do you consider yourself lucky to have a supportive fiancée who shares your passions? How do you see balancing your home life and professional life?
I couldn’t be with someone that didn’t. It works both ways. I support her in everything she does. Just like being in a band it’s about surrounding yourself with the right people in life. It gets tough sometimes to balance everything between both of us having jobs, a daily routine, trying to write music, promoting the band, printing merchandise etc. I get nuts sometimes with how much time I put into things so she helps me come back to reality at times. I’m sure with a kid eventually coming it’s going to become even more insane.

Are there as many zine editors as bands in your area? How long are zines usually active and are more print zines or webzines where you are?
There are a couple outlets around here for an unsigned band. A lot of stuff is mostly done on the internet these days. As far as promoting you just have to reach out and talk to people, have them write reviews or post about your upcoming shows. We have Steppin Out Magazine and The Aquarian Weekly who you can contact to promote an upcoming show or take a page out promoting your band. You just have to get the right information and network.

To how many different venues are Steppin Out and Aquarian Weekly distributed? Until how recently were more print zines in circulation before more webzines appeared?
You walk into any music store, venue, or convenience store and find a Steppin’ Out or Aquarian Weekly. I would say over the last decade we are getting fewer print zines. I think a lot of people probably find it easier and cheaper to have a website or Facebook page to reach a larger audience that otherwise would only target a local area.

Describe how Singaya’s first lineup formed and started writing. How long did this lineup work together from the beginning?
I had been out of the music scene for a couple of years. I had been playing in metal bands and was just losing interest in playing metal and doing screaming vocals. I wanted to get back to my roots where it started, so I had some songs laying around from when I was a teenager I kinda wanted to knock the dust off of. I contacted Mike about getting involved and maybe recording a couple to see what would happen. I answered an ad from a bass player, Johnny Madness, that was looking to start a punk band and had his own studio. I went down and checked it out. It was kinda weird ‘cause no one knew each other when we got there. We all got to jamming and it went alright. Madness told me not everyone would be coming back the next week so I took that time to say I had a drummer lined up, I’ve been sending some songs to you and do you wanna work on some of that material? So Mike comes in and we all get to jamming. Everyone was digging it and next was to find a lead guitarist. In came Elton who is a mutual friend of Mike and I from Mike’s previous band, Locked Together In Hatred. At first things were going good as we started writing new songs and played a few shows. As things started to take off everyone realized we need to put more time and effort in. That was when it started collapsing a little bit. Elton informed us he was gonna be taking time off to run his family’s business and Madness just didn’t have the time to put in we needed. Back to square one. We found a bass player (Billy Rozz) through Graiglist and I called up my guitarist (Jon Hamilton) from Ruins Of Akora. Since then we’ve been back on track writing new material. We have a bunch of shows lined up, radio interviews and some new recordings. Everyone’s hungry to move forward and see where this takes us.

How long was Ruins Of Akora active before Singaya? Were any demos or full lengths released by this band and if so. can they still be heard anywhere? How about Mike’s old band Locked Together In Hatred? Can we hear any material released by them?
Ruins Of Akora was around from about 2009-2013. They released a demo and an E.P. Just type it into Google and you will find what you are looking for: songs, videos, reviews. You definitely can find a link to Locked Together In Hatred’s Bandcamp, or by typing them into Facebook you will find videos and songs.

How much experience has Billy Rozz had playing in bands, and how does his experience benefit the band?
He’s been around the NYC scene for over twenty years. Playing Rockabilly, Metal or Punk he brings that live show experience. He knows how to get the right energy out of a crowd and play to them. He’s got his stand-up bass and is all over the place with it. It lights up and is a real show within itself. Definitely something to come out and experience at one of our shows.

How was it to return to playing punk and hardcore after playing in metal bands? How many older songs did you uncover?
It was an easy transition even when I was just singing in bands. I always kept up on my guitar playing so I didn’t have to relearn anything. Punk always came more naturally to me I love the energy of it. At the time I had three older songs we ended up using two of them.

How many songs were completed around your first lineup change? Do you play them differently with new members?
We had eleven songs completed. When the new members came in we gave them freedom to add solos and their own touch. The core of the songs remained with added touches. I think that is important because everyone’s playing style is different so it’s cool to hear a different take on a song. It doesn’t feel like you are joining a cover band; at that point you make the songs your own.

How much of a difference did you hear in those songs when new touches were added?
Billy is a stand-up bass player so that alone changes the feel to the songs. Jon is a true lead guitar player so he’s got solos all over the place that weren’t there before. I think before it had the feel of two rhythm guitars; now you can hear the difference in the guitar playing and what everyone brings to the table.

Were your radio interviews for local stations or did internet stations air your interviews to wider audiences?
We did a call-in interview with Debbie Mazella for Debbie’s On the Verge. It was streamed online at and we are doing a follow up feature with her. We also did a premiere of our songs with Taylor Markarian from HXC Magazine. We have a couple reviews that will be available soon.

Which of your songs premiered with Taylor Markarian? How much listener feedback did those songs receive?
The two songs we premiered where Toxic and Get Away. So far we’ve had nothing but great feedback from everyone who checked them out. We’ve been grateful for all the reviews.

Did you know Mazella and Markarian before you hooked up with their radio programs? How much did those appearances help the band get exposure outside your area?
Mike and I met Debbie standing in line at a Zakk Sabbath show. She was there with her husband and we all just got to talking. She was telling us about how she was a DJ for a radio station. It turned out to be perfect ‘cause we have a band. She does a lot for local acts around NJ/NY and on Debbie’s On The Verge she interviews bands gives them a full writeup. It’s great there are people out there helping the local scene. Taylor and I met through a mutual friend. She’s active in the music community. I reached out to her about premiering our songs. She was more than happy to give us a write up and a premiere.

Now that there are internet radio shows worldwide, do you prefer that medium to promote the band or would you still contact physical zines for interviews?
Any press is good press in my opinion. Get the word out any way you can, talk to people and make connections.

Who in the band is writing the lyrics and where does the inspiration come from?
I write all the lyrics. My inspiration is all over the place. I’ve been told I write really depressing lyrics. I like to write about real life, stuff I’ve gone through, stuff I’ve watched people around me go through. For instance Get Away is about addiction and breaking habits, thinking you’ve got it beat then falling right back into it. It’s something I’ve experienced and watched others go through. I like that it’s a very upbeat poppy kind of song but has a serious message. A lot of the songs you hear today, especially on the radio, can be upbeat and pop sounding and it doesn’t even matter what you are saying as long as people can move to it. I really think that sucks. When I was a kid I would go to the record store and get a CD, and my favorite thing to do was to put it in, open the booklet and read the lyrics while listening start to finish. I think that’s sorta become a lost art these days and it’s a real shame ‘cause there are some great writers out there who deserve to be heard.

How often do you take the time to listen to an album all the way through? What are the full lengths with lyrics that spoke to you?
Almost every day. I’m always listening to music at work or at the gym. Lyric wise I can always turn to Life Of Agony’s River Runs Red, Darkest Hour’s Undoing Ruin, Nas’ It Was Written, Alice In Chains’ Jar Of Flies, Social Distortion’s White Light, White Heat, White Trash. Some recent ones would be Weezer’s White Album, Descendents’ Hypercaffium Spazzinate and David Bowie’s Blackstar to name a few.

Attention spans seem to have shortened to where people listen to one song from an album and nothing more. Can people today get more out of taking the time to listen to a full album and read all the lyrics?
You can definitely connect more to the music, I feel. Everything is done online these days. A band will just do a dry release that’s all digital. Especially for a DIY band the cost to make a full release, a lyric booklet with artwork. It’s just not in a band’s budget these days. You no longer have to purchase an album for that one song anymore; you can just download the single from it. But you are missing out on that artist’s entire album which they put their work into. Seems like no one has the time to sit down and consume an album like they did fifteen years ago. It’s really become a thing of the past to experience music that way.

What songs from the albums you cited most spoke to you lyric wise?
There are so many to name. The one that sticks out is With A Thousand Words To Say But One by Darkest Hour: “And to reflect is to regret throwing it all away, and apathy my one way street it took so much from me, separated by this divide I created through my fears and in your tears, you tried to show blind eyes and tell deaf ears.” John Henry is an amazing lyricist. Through And Through from Life of Agony’s River Runs Red, and anything off that album really gets to me. Alan Roberts’ words delivered through Keith Caputo’s huge voice you just get sucked in immediately. The Message off of Nas’s It Was Written… not really something I can relate to but to listen to the story put in front of you and how it flows together is pretty amazing. I don’t care what type of genre it falls under. I appreciate good writing and heartfelt lyrics. A lot of the garbage that’s on the radio today has none of that to me. It’s all about partying and how much money you have. Something we can all relate to right?

Musical entertainment has been dumbed down since 2000. We have boy bands and pop singers to thank for that. Is a good lyric by an underground band more important than ever?
Pop music has always been around. In the 80’s you had Madonna and Michael Jackson dominating the radio. Bands like Metallica, Slayer and Iron Maiden weren’t getting any love on the radio. You found out about those bands from word of mouth and going to shows. Bands are still making great music; you just have to look for it. It’s not going to be found on your top 40 hits station. The music business is just that, a business. They are gonna put in front of you things will sell for that time period. It doesn’t matter what they are singing about as long as they look good doing it and they can market it to their target audience. You wanna find good music and heartfelt lyrics go to shows, check out bands you’ve never heard, see what’s going on in your local scene. Be part of it and support the local bands who are just getting by because that’s where the emotion, energy and hunger is.

Are there newer bands from the last ten years whose lyrics are as worthwhile as those you’ve known for a long time?
You just gotta look for them. A lot of my favorite artists are still putting out music so I’ll always pick their CDs up. As far as newer artists, they are out there. You like old school rock n’ roll? Check out the band The Answer from Ireland; they’re amazing artists. You into punk? Give Blitzkid a listen. You into Rap? Check out Immortal Technique, someone who actually raps about real world problems. Metal? Check out the lyrics from the band Darkest Hour. He may be screaming but the lyrics are poetry. The Decemberists, Doomsday Prophecy, Gotham Road, Thanatonic Desire are bands putting out great music. You just gotta go out and look for them; you aren’t gonna hear any of these bands on the radio.

How many releases does the band have out, and have you seen improvement in your lyric writing since the beginning?
We did a demo early on called You’ve Got The Bite. It was still in the early stages of the band and I think it shows. The guy producing it did us no favors; he was literally the most bizarre individual I’ve ever met. As far as the lyrics, I can’t really tell as I’ve always been writing. Whether it was for a song or just my thoughts I’ve always enjoyed writing things so I can’t really answer if it’s improved.

The lyrics you have written for the band so far are influenced by horror punk. Are they mostly based on old movies and TV shows or classic horror novels you have read?
The early material was horror influenced “Dr. West Strikes Again” was a song I wrote about fourteen years ago about one of my all-time favorite horror movies Re-Animator. You’ve Got The Bite was kind of an intro based on the movie Dead Alive and where we got the name Singaya from. They’re Coming was written about The Walking Dead that I more recently got into. That’s pretty much it as far as the horror themed songs go. We are all fans of the Misfits, Blitzkid and a lot of the horror punk bands. But as we started working on new material is kinda strayed away from all that. It’s like that’s their thing and they are good at it; let’s go in a different direction. 

How do your lyrics fit the songs composed by the band? Is the music usually written first and does it have bearing on the lyrics?
It really depends. There are songs I wrote the music for first and some I wrote the lyrics for first. It depends what mood I’m in. I’ll get a melody in my head and start putting lyrics together, then as soon as I can grab an instrument I’ll have the whole thing written in twenty minutes. Sometimes I’ll be working out something on guitar for a while then come up with lyrics afterward. 90% of everything I write is on acoustic guitar. If I come up with a line I really like I can base an entire song around it and everything just falls into place. 

Singaya has been playing several shows lately, including one with Misfits guitarist Doyle at Dingbatz (Clifton, New Jersey). How did you manage to book that show and how often have you appeared at that venue?
It will be our second time playing with Doyle on his Abominate The World tour. We have worked with two different promoters on these shows, Nice Guy Booking and DAA Entertainment. We have all done shows with them from previous bands and with this band so they have been around the scene for a long time. It was as simple as just reaching out to them about it. We all have played Dingbatz countless times. As far as Singaya playing there, it was our fifth time.

Many of New York’s older clubs such as CBGB, L’Amours, Right Track Inn, Coney Island High and Wetlands closed or were forcibly removed while new clubs have appeared in the last ten years. Where does the band most like playing?
In this band we only have a few shows under our belt. Besides Dingbatz in Clifton, New Jersey we’ve played the Blue Room Lounge in Seacacus, NJ and the Brighton Bar in Long Branch, NJ. We’ve got upcoming shows at Otto’s Shrunken Head in Manhattan, Crossroads in Garwood, NJ and we are doing a backyard BBQ. This band is still young when it comes to shows but we all have past experience playing all over New York and New Jersey.
Where else in the US do you want the band to perform? Are there any clubs that out of state contacts have told you about?
We’d love to set up a tour for next year and play wherever we can. We are gonna just try and set the whole thing up on our own, with contacts of ours and some of my friends’ bands that have toured and see how it all goes down. 

Talk about material you have out or anything the band is working on? What lyrical ideas do you have in mind for future releases?
Right now we have our original demo You’ve Got The Bite and we just released two new singles Get Away and Toxic. We have about an album’s worth of material altogether, and we are continuing to write new music every day to see which songs will make it to the album. We are aiming to be in the studio in the fall of 2017 and to release the album in the winter. The lyrics are shifting away from the horror punk we started with and dealing more with real life struggles, living day by day and of course partying! 

How many copies of the demo and singles have been sold? Are they exclusively available in hard copy or can they be streamed on internet sites?
We have everything available through our websites Facebook and Big Cartel. They are also available on Itunes, Spotify and other streaming services. We sell hard copies at our shows. They usually sell well: a demo with album art a poster and sticker all for five bucks. You can’t beat it. 

What real life subjects are you basing lyrics on for the next album? On what bases will you choose the songs to appear?
All the struggles you can face in life: heartache, rejection, self-reflection, addiction, overcoming odds. That’s why we just keep writing so we can have a whole bunch of songs to choose from when we do the album and put something together that makes sense and flows well together. 
Has the band been suggesting titles for the album? How will you be promoting it upon its release this winter?
We’ve got the name of the album; we are kinda keeping it under wraps for now. We will start with the album art and photos towards the end of the summer and will be looking to promote it on all platforms of music streaming media, and hopefully work with someone on a premiere release. We will be pressing a limited number of hard copy CDs that will only be made available at our shows and through our website.

-Dave Wolff

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