Interview No. 24
Interview By: @The-Great-One
Today's guest is another musician here on Newgrounds that you probably don't know about. A wonderful singer his gift of music puts poetry to shame, as can be seen in his songs Coffee Can Surprise ~ZLH~ and Meet You On The Road ~ZLH~. He has many songs through the Newgrounds Audio Portal and it truly is a shame that he hasn't gained more notice. He is Zachary Louis also known as @zholoch.
NOTE: SADLY ALL OF ZACHARY LOUIS' MUSIC HAS BEEN REMOVED FROM THE SITE. I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO TRACK IT DOWN. IF YOU CAN THEN PLEASE LET ME KNOW THANK YOU.
Q: How did you find Newgrounds and why did you join?
A: Originally, I came to Newgrounds for the flash animations and the games. If I remember right, I think I saw a friend playing games on the site in a school lab computer, and I decided to try it for myself. Fancypants is definitely a favorite, and I loved perusing the different movies. There's really quite a bit of creative talent on Newgrounds, from a variety of genres. I decided to join when I visited the audio section. I wasn't sure of what my contribution would do for the site, but then again, I have to level with the fact that it's about variety in the end.
Forty years ago, it took such a massive amount of resources to produce entertainment. The masses were basically stuck with whatever the industry managed to whip up. As we edge into the 2nd decade of this century, entertainment has become so much more decentralized. In my opinion, it's a good thing. Even though the days of blockbuster fame and fortune for artists are fading into the past, we have so many choices in entertainment now. It's given us the luxury of being choosy about what we watch.
Q: How and when did you get into music?
A: I've been in music all my life. I could sing shortly after I could walk. I started with piano at age 7. I picked up instrument after instrument, because I just wanted to absorb everything I possibly could. There really wasn't a set date or time; it was just something that was always there. If I had to pick a date, though, I would say I was about sixteen. That was when I quit piano lessons and started composing music. I started bass guitar, which quickly led to electric guitar and acoustic, and my whole world blew wide open.
The real question, I've always felt, is not when you start, but whether you stop. I was asked one time what I would do if I lost my voice. I didn't really have an answer. It wasn't because I was at a loss for words and fear-stricken by the prospect of ending the way I make music right now. Rather, I didn't think that losing my voice would really stop me.
Q: What is Slagel Road?
A: Slagel Road... that's a long story. Basically, I was out to Walmart one night while in college, looking for ramen and snacks, and I got the sudden urge to play piano. So, I headed over to this keyboard place. When I was there, the sales clerk asked me if I sang, too. I thought it was an odd question to ask a guy who's playing a piano, but I told him I did. He asked if I could sing a song for him. Again, a little strange, but I picked up a guitar and sang a couple tunes. That was when he told me he wanted me to audition for his band. My first thought was "Audition? Really? I thought I just did." Nevertheless, I went anyways. So, I went to their practice spot, sang another couple songs, and they decided to make me the singer.
We practiced at the rhythm guitarist's girlfriend's stepfather's house, who happened to be a 56 year old wheelchair bound psychologist named Tom. He and I became good friends, and a whole slew of events ensued from there. The band was a tense mix of six strong musical personalities all yearning for the spotlight. Musicianship of the group was top notch, but the egos were unmanageable. We played out a bit in the area, picking up gigs wherever we could, and tried to stick together amidst a slurry of inner-band conflicts that ultimately destroyed the group in the end.
However, getting wrapped up into Tom's house set other parts of my life in motion. I got involved in a whole slew of strange relationships with people who came there. Everything at the house moved in fast forward; three years happened in three months. I had started my search for self-actualization a few years before when I left college the first time, and being at the house catalyzed it in a way that I couldn't predict. The complexity of the music created by Slagel Road made me yearn for a simpler style, and it drove me to start recording my own material, which is the stuff that is now posted to Newgrounds.
Q: Your first submission to the Audio Portal is a delightful song called Coffee Can Surprise ~ZLH~. The instruments are what makes the song interesting combined with the lyrics. What is the meaning of this song and what was the process in writing it?
A: Every song I write captures the way that I look at the world in some way. My views are highly connective, and I tend to see everything in the world as a series of Russian dolls. That is, the big picture and the little picture are mirrors of one-another on a different scale. Microcosms exists within macrocosms. So I always write with several meanings, and sing from the emotions I feel on every level. The lyrics to coffee can surprise are about a girl - many of my songs are. *laughs* It's a combination of the mischievous base animalism I feel related to the greater theoretical caring I have for people I'm close to. It's the song that ties sexuality in with unconditional love, something that isn't done often enough.
"I've seen your little secret. I've touched you deeper than you know. That's why you'll never go."
It speaks first to the connecting power of sex. Seeing someone completely naked, vulnerable, actually making the jump with them, all of them make a bond that hurts worse to sever than almost anything else. That's because the physical is only a metaphor for the emotional. The truth is, that I've seen her naked emotionally as well, and embraced that just as readily. I loved her for who she was in that exact moment, and asked nothing more. I loved her in a way she couldn't even understand. That's why, even though she *is* gone, she still can't forget about me. And it's not because I took her virginity. It's because I took *her.*
I speak in the song about lips, which are sensual, not sexual, because you can't truly win over a woman's body until you win over her mind. It starts to blur the lines between the sexual and the sensual, and transitions to the next lines:
"This cruel anticipation of that sensation that I miss. No better time than this. I tower over you love, our bodies moving in the dark, it's time to let it go. Your soul is all I want to know."
This is the pre-emptive explanation of the chorus. I continue to blur the lines between sexuality and sensuality. Anticipation - sensual. Acting on impulse - sexual. Moving bodies - sexual. Then I redefine all of those as something I want to do with her soul, not her body - purely sensual.
Then, the chorus comes. The true meaning of the chorus is between me and a woman I haven't found yet. It's a dominant mindset. It's the memory of a time when two people were perfectly connected. It's the thought that maybe, just maybe, in that one moment, when she gives in totally and completely, when she gives herself, I hold some piece of her that is larger than what I deserve. In that moment, I can't feel more on top of the world.
But even in that climactic moment, I haven't expressed it all. There's a whole other realm of expression that is part of this all, and I hit it in verse two. I tend to use religion as a tool in songs when I actually mean spirituality. Heavy religious references in the second verse place a very archaic feel to the connection, as though it almost ritualistic, in a spiritual way. I use the references to draw points I have a hard time expressing lyrically in plain English.
"You read my bible with your hands" - The bible represents truth. When you feel someone, whether they shake, how they move, what their hip actually feels like, you develop a concrete truth about them that you can't get through looking. Sex is the tangible truth. Through it, you can see exactly who a person is.
"And I preached my demands."- Preaching reaches towards the dominant/submissive roles of sex. Not necessarily to define them, but to recognize their existence.
"As all things had to do love, this moment found its bitter end in wounds that have no mend." - Right in the midst of the confusion between spirituality, sensuality, sexuality, religion, dominance, submissiveness, and the admission that the relationship had ended in a bitter mess, I call her "love."
The ramifications of that one word alone placed inside that slew of concepts is huge. So many people view love as a separate entity from all these things, but love isn't separate from anything. That's why we have such a hard time defining it. Love is spiritual. It's sex. It's giving. It's taking. It's perfect connection, and it's hating the person who broke your heart. It's losing everything, and gaining everything. Love is both pain and joy.
In the third verse, I pop in another religious reference with the word "confession," and wrap up the song with a look back on everything that happened in that relationship. I admit that I still feel for her, that I still have very vivid memories of the connection. But the kicker is that I don't express remorse or regret for the situation.
I'm glad I connected with her to such an extent. I'm glad I went all in. But what's more, I'm glad I lost everything. I'm glad the relationship's over. I'm glad that all I have left is a ghost of what used to be. The worse fate would be to have never experienced all of it in the first place, because as the last line states, "you can go, but you can't go away." I think secretly, somewhere in my head, I'm glad that neither she nor I will ever be the same again. Maybe it's because I had an effect - changed something in a way that can't be undone. Then again, maybe it's just love.
Q: Carribean Cruise ~ZLH~ is a very fun song. Is there a cruise story behind it or is this song nothing more than wishful thinking or creative genius?
A: The song is definitely a lot of fun. It's even more fun to play at a concert. The song wasn't patterned after a real cruise. I wrote it in the dead of winter in South Dakota when it was 10 below zero. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't sitting there thinking of a better place to be. *laughs*
The topic, though, is living without consequence. It's a song about doing exactly what you want to do. It's about letting go of all the crap we have to deal with on a daily basis, which is exactly why I like it so much.
I want to spend money without worrying about whether I'll make rent, love without worrying about heartache, and live without worrying about purpose. It seems we've made life a lot tougher than it is. Staying alive is keeping yourself fed with a roof over your head. Living is not worrying about how you're going to stay alive
Q: My personal favorite by you is the song Meet You On The Road ~ZLH~. The lyrics, singing, and guitar work are all wonderful. How on Earth did you write this piece of gold?
A: This is probably one of the simplest pieces I've ever written, and that's why it's beautiful. I was drawing on some heavy Dylan influence that day, and feeling lighthearted. I sat down and wrote the lyrics beginning to end without erasing or revising. It was completely natural, because the song only has one real purpose.
I'm having a conversation that I've had with almost every woman I've ever dated. Will you make the jump? Will you leave it all behind, throw your inhibitions to the wind, and just go all in? Would you follow me, penniless or not? Have faith me despite all odds?
Then, something spectacular happens. In the song, she gives me the answer I've wanted to hear all along. I keep thinking that this is bound to happen eventually.
Q: Your first song to not have you singing would be Piano and Strings ~ZLH~. A beautiful song in itself, but the question is why no lyrics to this and do you plan on making lyrics for this in the future?
A: Some of my songs are lyric driven, and some are music-driven. I actually have a whole bottom drawer full of composed piano music like this, I just haven't recorded it. Sometimes, I feel like words would detract from the meaning of a song like this. It has too many moods. Sometimes wistful, perhaps a bit sad, but at the same time somewhat strong and resilient, almost determined. I don't even think this description is really capturing the song accurately.
I don't think in English. I always joke that English is my second language. I think purely in concepts, and I feel in ways I can't really describe. If there's something I want to say, the message comes first, and the music follows, but on pieces like this, there's no message. This is just something I started playing one day because I felt it. I don't think I ever could place lyrics on it, or wouldn't want to. It's background music for my life.
Q: One song of yours that inspires me whenever I'm writing is the song I'll Be Around ~ZLH~. Like "Meet You On The Road" you have to be credited for the songwriting. Where did the idea for this song come from and what was the process in making it?
A: This is one of those songs that started with my personality instead of an idea. For years, I didn't use the word "goodbye." I didn't end my letters with "sincerely." And I didn't end my conversations with "see you later." I simply said "I'll be around." One day, someone asked me what I meant when I said that. The more I thought about it, the more I realized I had a song to write. So this song is simply how I explained what I mean when I say "I'll be around." Sometimes, I guess, the simplest things can become the best song ideas. The human struggle is pretty universal. You never have to look further than yourself to find the messages we all someone to say to us.
Q: Created ~ZLH~ is a short song, but it is also a good one. Very fast paced, but not in your face is the way I would describe this song, how would you describe it?
A: I would definitely agree with that assessment. It doesn't quite slap you across the cheek, but it keeps its energy. It's hard for me to describe it, because my songs are snapshots of me in a given time. That song is especially important to me, because in conjunction with "I am machine," it marks a huge transition period in my life. It is the start of what will be the largest style shift since I transitioned from classical Italian arias to rock in high school.
Q: What is Backfeed?
A: Backfeed was an experiment in combining progressive rock with classic rock. I put together a band in December of 2007 with two other guys. We had a solid power trio, put on a decent show, and toured around Pennsylvania for quite a while playing all the usual venues. We cut a music video, and just had a ton of fun. It was definitely one of my favorite bands. The bassist ended up off and doing his own thing. He's wrapped in the local indie scene now, and the drummer is still around the area, I believe. The band didn't end badly, it just faded out as we started to drift in different directions.
Q: What can we expect from Zachary Louis in the future?
A: The truth is, my latest two contributions were written and recorded in August of 2009. I haven't done anything musical since then. This happens to me every once in a while. I take a huge hiatus from writing and recording. However, I haven't had one this big for a very long time. I'm essentially getting ready to make a huge style shift. Since I always write from what I am, making shifts isn't about just changing styles. It's about personal growth. I've been completely reorganizing my life.
In August of '09, I had a fiancé. I was headed to my second semester of school, which I was finally finishing, against all odds. I had a life plan, goals, hopes, and a rational way of approaching them. I almost succeeded in becoming a normal person. In September of '09, my ex-fiancé was living with my best friend, and I had to start again... yet again.
As I write these words today, I'm an island. I live by myself. I have eliminated almost every social circle from my life except for a select couple of important friends. I have completely come to terms with being alone. I've accepted my own limitations and flaws, and I've finally gotten over the need to change myself to make others happy. In a lot of ways, I've realized that everything up to this point was truly for the best. To be honest, I have big plans for the future, and I'm kind of glad that I didn't end up settling down. I'm getting rid of the car that took me 200,000+ miles across the U.S., and getting a new one to have a whole new set of journeys. Knowing me, that statement means way more than a simple observation about the status of my transportation.
So what will come of the future of Zachary Louis? I couldn't tell you. I know, though, that when I start recording again, it will be different. I also know that Newgrounds will be there to see it.
A struggling artist, a creative mind with nowhere to go, maybe just the traveling man with a guitar. Whatever he is, his music and his presence is nothing more than a gift to us. Something to be cherished, a gift he has decided to share with us... for free, but even he charged we would most certainly still pay wouldn't we. This young man should certainly be one to keep an eye on in the future.