Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Interview with ZUD mainman - Justin Curtsinger

Today I bring an in-depth interview with Justin Curtsinger from 
ZUD - a band who mix the heavy genres together with
amazing results - read my review of "The Good, The Bad
and the Damned" Here

Justin has been informative, amusing, scathing, concise,
angry and philosophical - often in the same sentence!

Read and enjoy.

1. I love your mix of hardcore/punk rockʼnʼroll which morphs 
together with a black metal feel. Is this something you worked 
at or just a natural progression of people playing together?

I guess it could be a little bit of both. One of the main ideas with 
Zud, at least musically is that it can go where ever it wants. When 
you factor in the “Fevered Dreams” EP (which almost no one ever 
heard and I don’t think anyone ever loaded it online), the two releases 
are vastly different, but strangely coherent. Together they cover a 
lot of really diverse ground. So in a sense, what you hear on “the 
Good, the Bad and the Damned” is intentional and there was indeed 
a vision behind it, but I suppose no one knew how the songs were going 
to turn out until they were finished, if that makes any sense. That “vision” 
doesn’t really constrain where Zud can go. I don’t think the next album 
will be as different as the full length was to the EP, but shit will likely 
evolve, if that makes any sense(?).

2. Most of your tracks are between 8-12 minutes long. I like the 
fact that you can really get a groove and flow going through the 
song passages. Will you continue in this vein or would a shorter 
song emerge if the structure demanded it?

Although I really like long songs, I like long songs which felt like 
they were short even better. Like I said above, all of these songs were 
brought together very naturally and in a sense (cliche or not), fell into place. 
So far they are all pretty long, but if something were to come along in the 
future which happened to be shorter then stuff so far, so be it. The intent isn’t 
to make long or short songs, it’s just to allow the song to go where ever it 
wants to go as it emerges and evolves.

3. The lyrics are quite dark but at the same time seem personal as 
well. Are you just gloomy fuckers at heart?

Well, I’ve personally been called a gloomy fucker more 
than once. And plenty of other things which are gloomier still. Everyone
else in Zud has their gloomy moments too. However, as gloomy as the lyrics 
may be, I think Zud is just as much a happy band (as it is gloomy). 
There are many different emotions and feelings being expressed through 
this band, often all at once... or in waves... feelings of being happy or sad 
or high or low or of love or of hate or whatever. I think the biggest message 
behind Zud is to remind those few who may give a shit that not all is always 
as it seems. There are always two sides on every coin. No matter how 
important or amazing any given moment in our lives may be, I think it 
is a very “healthy” thing for a person to accept how vastly irrelevant 
we all are. Our species is a complete disaster, our lives are in all seriousness 
pretty pointless, the history of humanity as a whole has been mostly just
this big pissing contest or drama-fest over really mundane things. 
Religious bullshit, political bullshit, racial bullshit, class struggle bullshit,
romantic bullshit, territoriality bullshit... I could go on with these “gloomy”
facts, but, another fact is that anyone who is standing (or sitting) on this
shit hole of a planet does possess the gift of free will and that is the other
side of this “gloomy coin.” Most don’t really want to acknowledge that fact
and just dwell on how much their lives may suck because of something that
“someone else” did or whatever else. But, I feel like anyone who
possesses the free will which I am talking about, has the “freedom” to
look at the world through which ever way they choose to
focus their eyes (and that’s a metaphor that could be applied to blind people
as well). No matter how much life may or may not “suck...” no matter what
the circumstances... it is ultimately up to each one of us to look ourselves in
the mirror and decide how we’re going to approach each day, no matter
what the “forecast” may call for. The holes on a styrofoam ceiling tile can
become pretty interesting under the right circumstances... Anyways, I’m
not saying that I don’t put in my share of pissing and moaning
either (cause I put in more than my share), but no matter how dumb
and pointless our lives on this planet all are, it still can be a
very interesting and beautiful place to spend some time, depending on
how we choose to look at it and THAT right there is where
the interesting things can happen. That’s when shit gets cool. When
one realizes that they just don’t give a fuck about the regular
shit that most of us surround ourselves with. By acknowledging all of
that gloomy stuff and accepting it as a reality and being able to function
within it and with it. And if someone can figure out how to function within
it, odds are they can figure out a way to break free of it to some extent.
Some say that by “accepting the dark side” or however dumb way one
wants to word it, it is one of the first steps on a path towards “freedom.”

I’m not talking about some “fuck it! We’re all gonna die!” mentality, or even
a “lets go re-watch Fight Club and then go crazy” mentality either, but a
realistic balance of what we have control over understanding that which
we don’t have control over, thus potential getting more out of it. And to
me, accepting how absurd we all are and how pointless our lives
are... that’s a start towards having accepted that said “dark side,” and
whatnot. And then, after a little while... that’s where the experiences start to
build up, the ones that you keep with you forever... the ones that sooner
or later lead you to look back on them and be inspired by those actual
experiences to create things like albums or paintings or whatever...
and from there be more inspired to go back out and experience more crazy
shit that’s out there and to explore further down that path, or another one
all together. I think making peace with the idea of death is way more
of a productive way to improve ones life as opposed to trying to be part
of some “scene” or find some romantic partner to “fix everything” or to
join some “political movement” of any kind. That stuff is all complete
horse shit to me because of what a disaster our species has proven
itself to be since the beginning (regardless of all the cool stuff!).

When I say that Zud is a “suicide-advocating” band, I really do mean
that in a happy way. I’m not in any rush to “check out” by any means
and I’m not going to say that it isn’t a shame when folks check out for
the wrong reasons pre-maturely. I’m here and I’ve got a BIG list of shit
to check off before any sort of “checking out” and I suspect it’s going
to take a really long time. If my body could keep going for 200 years
and I could find reason to ride with it, so be it. Any of us could get hit
by a car tomorrow or whenever though and if that list has to be
incomplete... “bummer dude,” but oh well. But, I’ll be damned if I let
myself get to the point where my health has me bound to a
bed and my brain is fried beyond the point of reason. One has to be 
careful of where they say shit like that (even right here it
could bite me in the ass later, cause this is all public info) because
most people flip out at such words and get offended and
scared and blah blah blah... but, I like to think that I will be leaving this
place on my own terms and on my own schedule. No one knows for sure
when or how they will die, but I think to check out on ones own terms
would be a nice way to go. And in all honesty, I think that that
concept is WAY happier than it is gloomy.

4. One of the things that really caught my attention were the powerful solos 
with what I call “classic Detroit napalm playing” - no guitar wanking 
finger tapping crap - just killer, almost heavy blues scales and note bending. 
Will this continue?


5. The wall of noise you employ is known to be a nightmare for most 
bands to capture successfully in the studio. “The Good, The Bad and the 
Damned” has great depth and an almost live feel. Cʼmon - spill the beans - 
how did you do it?

I think that is more of a question for Todd Hutchison who recorded/mixed 
it and then also to Tore Stjerna who did the mastering.
They both know their shit really well and that’s why we chose them 
for the jobs. They both did pretty much perfect jobs as far as I’m concerned. 
My personal goal was to create my favorite rock/metal album ever and that 
goal was reached, but to achieve such a thing, writing the songs is only 
the first step. The “engineers” are the ones with the beans to spill when it 
comes to sound, not me. As far as what I do know, we did mostly live 
takes and then went back and fixed fuck-ups and re-did solos and
added vocals later, which I think is pretty common. So, I don’t know 
what the hell Todd was doing or how he did it and as for Tore, 
he’s in Sweden, so even though I’ve “worked” with him under other 
circumstances, as far as Zud goes everything between us was through email.

6. The underground world of music we occupy is virtually ignored 
by the mainstream - do blogs and the like help in spreading the 
word? Your website tells people to ignore Facebook. 
I find a lot of bands seem to spend a vast amounts of time getting 
likes and shares rather than just playing gigs and writing some fucking 
music - what is your point of view?

I don’t know. It’s a tough and very long (and probably boring) 
answer and there are several different sides to it. I want to
emphasize first that personally, everything which I “create,” I am first 
and foremost “creating” it for no one other than me to enjoy. Be it music, 
my zine, a drawing, my photo blog, whatever. If others happen to enjoy 
any of those things, well than there’s nothing wrong with that. In 
fact it’s pretty cool, but the primary objective is to make something that 
I know I’m happy with. As faras actively sharing all those things with 
others, well first of all; I don’t even really know how to use facebook. I could 
probably learn and to be fair, I bet it would have it’s benefits, but for now I 
guess I waste enough time on the internet as it is without facebook. Facebook 
is something that happens to gross me out quite a bit, though I know that if 
used properly it could be a very useful tool. I’ve been recently considering 
using the Zud facebook page for a little bit more than simply 
re-directing to the official website. Maybe start posting reviews on it 
and announcing shows as well? I don’t know. Before myspace had its 
“make-over” in 2010-ish, I would use it to find a shit-tons of bands and 
I think it was a really good tool for doing so. Keep in mind with all this 
that I would prefer that more people still did trades in the mail and 
made print zines. I’ve had a print zine of my own for going on ten years 
now, but I’ve excepted the fact that no matter how much people 
may claim that “the underground is only in print,” hardly anyone gives a 
shit about zines anymore. Or maybe no one gives a shit about MY zine (HA!). 
But for this day and age, pre-2010 myspace was indeed pretty cool when 
used correctly.

As far as blogs go, most of the reviews we’ve gotten have been
from online blogs (like yours!). Blogs seem to have replaced print zines 
in a way, but I think even regular blogs are starting to sort of fade, for 
me at least. Or, the ones that I used to go read all the time are losing steam 
for whatever reason (life is full of distracting things which make one loose 
steam as we all know) and I just haven’t found many new ones that interest 

Then again, there are very few active metal bands who I don’t happen to 
know personally that I’m actually interested in “following” and reading 
reviews or interviews of. I think the last time I bought a “metal album” of an 
active band at a store or on amazon or anywhere was.... at least three 
months ago as I write this? Hard to tell because I get so much promo stuff 
emailed to me for my zine and I’m constantly buying non-metal 
albums or metal albums that are old. Back to the facebook vs blog thing,
 it makes me wonder though if we are evolving into such shitty attention 
spans that soon only facebook will keep us glued? I don’t know. And
since, like I said; I don’t really even know how to use facebook, I may 
not know what the fuck I’m talking about. Keep in mind that I live in quite 
a thick bubble as well. And when you get rid of all this computer stuff 
and strip away everything else (even print zines), as I said above; 
Zud was made for my own ears. It is my favorite band. I don’t expect 
anyone else to enjoy listening to Zud as much as I do (including the other 
three members). And the same thing goes for the other “creative” 
things I’ve put out there for others to see. In a sense it sort of makes this 
“networking” stuff pretty pointless because the “victory” has already been

There was an urban legend surrounding a band from California in 
the late 90s which went something like the band being so “kvlt” that 
there was only going to be one or very few copies of their album ever 
pressed and anyone who wanted it was going to have to somehow acquire 
a treasure map to find where it was buried and on and on and on. 
This story I’ve been directly told from the main guy behind this band was 
all gossip and that it was built off of a joke that his bands label had made 
to someone which took off and became an actual rumer. But, it’s a cool 
story, and if it had indeed been true, well, that’d have been kinda neat. 
But I probably never would have heard them, so the debate of “why 
not share a cool thing with others” comes to mind. After all, playing shows 
and doing the “rock band” thing is fun and interesting, despite it’s 
annoying sides. The networking via online shit is simply a requirement 
of doing this stuff now. I don’t know if any of that answers your 
question about my point of view with this stuff though... I guess 
it is probably safe to say that as time goes on, the concept of 
music promotion (DIY or otherwise) changes just like everything 
else. Here we are in a time where mostly everything is done 
online. We can piss and moan about how the good old days of print 
zines and trades were so cool and how it sucks that no one 
cares about that stuff anymore... or we can do our shit anyways, 
whatever it may be, whether it receives recognition from others or not.

7. How has the reaction been to your release?

That is a question that has many answers which come from 
many different angles:

For starters, there is a Hungarian band of the same name who, 
as best I can figure out, started roughly around the same time in 
2009-2010 or so (when I was putting together the EP). They don’t 
sound anything like us at all (a mix of techno electronic stuff and 
nu-metal), but they are clearly very unhappy with us doing what 
we are doing under the name of “Zud.”

They’ve sent us a few really funny emails accusing us of 
having stolen their name and how we suck and all sorts of other
bullshit and blah blah blah. In a way I feel bad for them because they 
all look really young in their pictures and I’m sure they’re nice people 
and are just really excited about their band and are really bummed out 
that there is another band called Zud. But oh well... fuck ‘em (that 
girl they have drumming for them is pretty cute). From press and
reviews on the web and in zines, it has been about 98% excellent
and there’s been a lot of it for such a short amount of time. Even
though what other people think doesn’t matter in the grand scheme,
I still find it very interesting to read reviews and hear feedback. I
think I’ve only found two negative reviews and only one which
had any merit to it (one other which was just some moron who probably
spends most of his time of the NWN! “group therapy forum,” and couldn’t
speak English very well anyways). There have been a lot of reviews
from folks that seemed to have really really liked the album and
there have been some really nice emails from others who’d bought a
physical copy from the website. That isn’t to imply that album sales are
“through the roof” or anything. As I write this we’re just over half way
through the 1st pressing which was 333 CDs and I’ve given a lot
away to friends. But, we live in a time where not only does no one
buy physical copies of albums anymore, no one seems to even burn
shit from other people or even download anything. It’s all about
having a smart phone and listening to whatever spotify or
youtube recommends, which, is a cool tool for finding bands
(like myspace was a few years ago), but ultimately I
think is really sad.

Locally, it has been mixed. In a live setting, Portland is a funny
town for music and especially metal because for most tour
circuits (not all, but most), Boston is the end of the line for the 
Northeastern US. Most regular national (and even regional) tours
turn around either there or in Worcester, or go up to Montreal.
Most people who are not from Maine don’t even realize that there
is a Portland that is not the big one over in Oregon. Though I think in
the next 5-10 years that a lot of this will be changing, I mention it to
emphasize how incredibly sheltered Portland and the rest of Maine is
from much exposure to metal and musical culture in general... even in
the “internet age.” There are a few folks here who are working really
hard to bring bands from out of town here and are trying to create a
metal scene, but I suspect Zud likely won’t be too much of a part
of it. We’ve chosen our local shows very carefully (and kinda
“snobbishly” in a sense). Combine that with the fact that Zud is
a band that is not as “safe” or “predictable” as most other metal bands
of this day and age usually are... and in that, I think our local
shows which are put on by anyone other than ourselves and maybe
two other individuals which come to mind may be numbered.
That’s not to say that reaction has been bad by any means that I’m
aware. I’ve had people coming up to me after every show, be they
friends, strangers or someone I’d clocked in the face or kicked while
playing and they’ve given me big hugs saying they were blown
away and it was awesome and all that. But, there is a certain thing
about Zud which I think most everyday metal heads, whether
their favorite band is the Godsmack or Blasphemy, are afraid of and
promoters (DIY or not) are terrified of. Zud is a very real
thing and most metal fans are just clowns in costumes who don’t want
to deal with reality and are just looking for the same old
cookie cutter PC-bullshit. As in; losers hiding under their patched vests
and getting drunk.

I suspect that as word spreads, this mentality of “not getting invited
back” will continue most places we go. And that’s fine by me.

8. How is the search for a record label progressing?

Right now, we’re not really looking for label support. There have been
a few emails with weird offers, but nothing really interesting.
Mostly right now I’m looking for distro support and possibly help
for a repress of the full length and maybe even the EP (if there’s
someone crazy enough). Personally (as the asshole holding most
of the controls) I prefer to do most things on a mostly DIY level,
while simultaneously making use of things like PR reps when affordable
(the best of both worlds). If the right label came along at the right time,
than so be it. Most of the labels that we would have any interest in
getting into a bunch of paperwork with would demand we be able
to do a shit load of touring, and though it’s in the cards and in
all likeliness will happen and will happen plenty, at this very moment
we’re not set up for anything further than the North Eastern US for
more than a week. So we’ll see.

9. New songs ..... any in the pipeline ..... any being released this year?

There is a new full length in the works but it is in it’s infancy 
stages. One song is pretty solid but no lyrics for it yet. We’ve been
playing it live and it sure as shit is a fun one to play. I envision our 
next release being somewhere in 2015, but it depends on a lot of 
other things (see below).

10. What do you see in the future for Zud?

For the other three members, Zud is a side project and they all 
have other bands. Greg and Zak are in two other bands together. 
Tim has another full-ish time band. The line-up for Zud is very solid 
and I’m extremely happy with it but, I try and keep this band as 
something that has as minimal an impact on their other guy’s 
bands/life’s as possible... with the understanding that when it’s time 
for Zud, I own them. Greg and I are also involved with a pretty big project 
which has to be the main focus for a while (moving the rehearsal 
studio we own and run into a new, bigger building, thus expanding the 
business). Once that is on solid ground again, more emphasis can be put 
into Zud and the other bands taking off and playing further 
out... doing the “rock band” thing. Touring and kicking ass, reminding 
this hilariously stupid world what rock’n’roll and metal is 
all about... and the more this goes on and the more extensive it gets, 
the more people I suspect there will be with their arms folded, 
glaring through their Buddy Holly glasses, saying in their high pitched 
asthmatic-like voices, “those guys are fucked up.”

Thanks for the kind words in the review and for the interview.

Zud 666 website

Thanks again Justin for taking the time to do this interview - this
and the Black Majik Acid one I did last year have been my
favourite ones I have conducted. To any other bands that want an
interview - if ya cannot contribute as these two bands have - 
why the fuck not!

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