An evening with Zao

I had a great night last night. I went to a concert with one of my favorite bands: the almighty ZAO! (Which is greek for 'Alive'.) Their last album is one of my favorite albums ever, and I've been developing an idea for a sculpture based on it. The lyrics are very dark and convoluted, but also very visual. There are several ways to interpret many of the songs, so I thought it would be cool to talk to the man who wrote them about my project and get some feedback on my interpretations, and what he was thinking. So I made sure to get to the show early and check the bar/restaurant that is part of the venue to see if I could see him. There were 3 bands playing before them, so I knew they had to be hanging out somewhere. Sure enough, Zao was eating in the bar. I had written a little note for Dan, (The songwriter and vocalist) on the back of a picture of one of my sculptures that said who I was, and about my project, and that I'd love to talk if he was interested. I figured they would hate to have random fans interrupting a meal, so I just quickly said hi and handed him the card with my note. Then I went and got my bag that had pictures of some of my other sculptures and a Lion Heart I made for him, and dropped those off, again, excusing myself quickly. He told me he really liked my stuff.

So I went back out to the main show and headed over to the merchandise booth to get a couple shirts. Zao's van was broken into and they lost all their personal stuff, so I wanted to help them out a bit. As I was buying the shirts, Dan came up behind me and we started to talk. I asked him if he could talk after the show, and he said it would be better to do it right then, since they had a while before they went on. So we went back in the bar and sat down. I showed him my sketches for the sculpture and explained what it was going to be like and asked him to elucidate on his writing for the album. I pulled out the CD booklet and we went through it, song by song and I got his perspective on them. He was really cool. Laid back and affable. He said he doesn’t speak well 'on the spot' and he needs time to write things down to really sort his thoughts out. But regardless, he gave me a lot of good information. The most useful being that he was trying to use a heavy since of irony throughout the lyrics. And that he was trying to build a sense of dread. Which would seem obvious if you follow the story. But now I see a lot of the visual elements, and the way he describes them as being tools to evoke that. I asked about several of the images he writes, and he told me the inspiration for them.

After talking about the project we just chatted about random stuff like his tattoo shop, cell phones, touring, and the next Zao album. We exchanged numbers and I told him I would keep him updated on the progress of the sculpture. He seemed enthusiastic about it, saying several times that he's really looking forward to seeing it and telling me to call him as soon as he's back home so he can get me his email.

I was apprehensive before the going, worried that I wouldn't be able to find Dan, or that he might not want to talk. I didn't know if he would be too 'rock star' to want to banter with fans. Zao is on a pretty good label now and their videos are on MTV, so I imagine that could get to people's heads. But he was a real, vulnerable, open, and friendly guy. So now I'm an even bigger fan of Zao.


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