ZINNY J. ZAN INTERVIEW:
July 3, 2006
Frontman Zinny Zan has been through it all. He helped bring Shotgun Messiah from small-town Sweden to the endless opportunity of the U.S.A., only to have it all come crashing down around him. But never one to concede defeat, Zinny has kept on rockin’ and released the best album of 2005 with his new band Zan Clan (zanclan.com). In this exclusive interview Zinny talks about his latest release, progression on the new studio album and why he has to stick around to show the young guns how rock’n’roll is supposed to be played.
SR: I named We Are Zan Clan…Who The F**k Are You the best album of 2005, and many other hard rock sites listed it near the top. How does it feel to release an album that seems to satisfy so many rock fans?
ZZ: 2 B honest I am thrilled. I didn’t believe I could get the feeling back from the good old dayz with Shotgun Messiah or with Easy Action but when I sat down with Mr. Chris Laney and started this band I just felt that we were on 2 somethin really good. Something just clicked in the studio and we were just writing together and having fun. We didn’t think 4 a second what would people like to hear or what do they expect from us. Fuck that!!!!! We just played what ever came out and the proof is in the pudding right!!! We are all overwhelmed that every critic and supporter took this album 2 their hearts and it feels real good right now.
SR: Even though this type of music is all but forgotten in the States, how happy have you been with sales of the album?
ZZ: Since we are signed 2 a small label we didn’t expect sales 2 be big at all. Of course me and the boys would have loved 2 see better number of sales but then again a small label is limited. The ultimate 4 us in Zan Clan would of course 2 be signed or picked up by a major label cause I am dead sure that this album would have done a lot better, but hey that’s life.
SR: Having dealt with major labels before, do you prefer the musical freedom you have now?
ZZ: The musical freedom is worth a lot 4 me and that I can have today, but on the other end there is lack of money to support an album properly on a small label while on a big one if they are into your stuff they make things happen in a heartbeat. U know the ol saying, U can’t always get what U want.
SR: Who is currently in Zan Clan?
ZZ: It’s Chris Laney on guitar, John Koleberg on drums and me screaming my guts out. Since we had to let Pontus N and Pontus E leave the band we are currently looking for a guitarist and bass player.
SR: Why did you have to let the other two guys go?
ZZ: The reason for this was simply because I do not think Hard Rock has anything to do in the Eurovision song contest, but if someone thinks so I certainly don’t want it to be 2 members of Zan Clan.
SR: How close is the album to being done and does it have a similar feel to We Are Zan Clan?
ZZ: We are planning to have the album out in Sep – Oct sometime so we have plenty of time 2 fuck around with new ideas. 4 the time being we have about 5 songs ready 4 the album and yes they are in the same field as We Are Zan Clan… Our idea is 2 nail down as many songs we can and then just pick out the 10-12 best of these songs.
SR: Who is doing most of the writing for the new album, or is it a band effort?
ZZ: Chris and I are constantly working on the music 24/7. Koleberg (drummer) is usually coming in on a later stage and sometimes he is writing a part for a song. Chris must be the easiest person on earth to write with cause the guy is such a talent.
SR: How did you and Chris Laney first get hooked up together?
ZZ: There is a guy named Joey Kimmel in the US that has always been a huge Shotgun Messiah fan. Anyways he knows this Swedish guy (Chris) who also is a huge Shotgun Messiah fan. Joey mails me several times and tells me that I just must get in contact with Chris Laney cause he is just the guy that I would love to play with. After being billed at the same show with Chris and his KISS cover band and me as a guest artist in an all star band on a 36 hours boat cruise we finally met. It was love at first sight, first Chris really came out as a rather shy boy, but for some reason that has really changed today (now he is the nervous twitch in my eye) ha, ha, ha.
Anyways Chris n I hooked up on the boat, got drunk as skunks and left each other with a promise that we would meet in his studio a week later to nail some songs down together. Well the proof is in the pudding right cause we have not left each other ever since.
SR: How has hooking up with a younger guy that you influenced sparked your creativity?
ZZ: In a big way as a matter of fact. I seem 2 be one of few in my age that still have the spark for this. This is a way of life 2 me and I still have that little kid in me that just loves Rock’n’Roll. To hook up with Chris and Koleberg really gave me a kick in the butt again.
SR: Often hard rock musicians tend to mellow with age, how do you keep the fire to create this type of music going?
ZZ: Don’t let the kid in you die. You know that feeling when you first discovered Rock’n’Roll, that is exactly what I want to get when I’m writing a new song. If you forget that you will mellow out and sing about other stuff in your grown up life that really matters. Nothing wrong with that, but that is not who I am. I want to give to the kids what I felt when I was their age.
SR: The Rolling Stones continue to rock in their 60’s, but do you think there becomes a certain time when a hard rock artist should call it quits? Do you ever wonder when it will be time for you personally to retire?
ZZ: It’s really up to yourself when you think you should kick the bucket and give in. All I can say is that I’ve seen 24 year olds looking so lame it’s unbelievable. Some have it in their veins and minds and some just don’t.
When it comes to myself I can not see me doing this much too long. I know I’m still kickin a lot of 20 year old people’s ass “stage performance wise”, but then again for how long?? My vision is to do some more albums with Chris Laney and Zan Clan and then say bye bye gracefully, hopefully at Sweden Rock or in Stockholm somewhere. I if anyone will know when my time has come cause I refuse to be a boring old fuck on stage.
SR: Are there any new bands out there that excite you?
ZZ: To be honest with you I have not been swept away by any new band that I have heard recently no. Neither from Sweden or somewhere else and that’s no good. I have had that feeling a few times in my life but I’d really like to have it again, like when I heard bands like Aerosmith, Kiss, Sweet, AC/DC, Van Halen, Guns N’ Roses, Sex Pistols and a few more. They literally grabbed you by the balls and shook you.
SR: When did you first realize that music was what you wanted to do with your life?
ZZ: At the age of 6 or 7. Yeah it might seem weird but up until then life was ok, you know kickin ball or playing around, but with that first album that my dad brought home I was in a different time zone. I could sit for hours listening to that music looking at the album sleeve and then asked my parents for money to buy music magazines for more pictures and information about the guys.
Let me tell ya where I grew up I was the wiz kid when it came to questions regarding any rock, pop, or glam band, I knew it all. Even today I still have the same fascination for what music can do to you. It can get you in different moods, angry, sad, happy or fuckin crazee, it is amazing.
SR: Wasn’t part of the fun also turning your friends onto obscure music (it was for me). What bands were you making everyone listen to as a youngster?
ZZ: Believe it or not, but Aerosmith was no big thing in Sweden back in 1974-1979. I loved them back then but none of my friends had ever heard about them. Another strange band that I liked and terrorized my friends with was the SPARKS, they really played weird but cool music.
SR: Let’s talk about Shotgun Messiah, how did you become involved with them?
ZZ: It was OKEJ, at that time Sweden’s biggest Rock Magazine, that called me up and told me that this band (at that time named Kingpin) was looking for a singer and that they really wanted me or Mike Monroe. I told the magazine that they could give the guys my number and a few hours later they called.
We got together and I heard their songs, it was love at first listening, I had honestly never heard anything like it. This was great songs and with an attitude (that has always been my brand).
We went down to the studio they rented at the time down south of Sweden and I poured me a whiskey and started to sing to some of their songs.
3 hours later they asked me if I wanted to join the band and I said yes. They liked me since I did not hesitate, just poured me a whiskey and sang, and did not ask for any delay or anything on the vocals, just dry Rock’n’Roll vocals. And for me? I liked them cause these guys were unique, the sound, the attitude, the approach to the music and of course the amazing guitar from Harry K Cody.
SR: How much of a part did image play in those days compared to bands of today?
ZZ: Image has always played a big part in the bands I have been playing with. That is simply cause I refuse to have it any other way. If I want to see a concert I don’t wanna see an average Joe standing there looking goofy. No thanx, I want the real deal, a rock star that is giving you a show.
4 me it is still the same today and probably will always be. When you ask me about bands of today, I do not know what they want to accomplish, all I can say is I am not impressed. That’s why an old fuck like me can still kick their asses, they have to get their shit together before I abdicate.
SR: What was it like moving from Sweden to the bright lights of Los Angeles in the early days of Shotgun Messiah?
ZZ: For me it was not as big as for the other 3 guys in Shotgun Messiah, since I had already lived a year in New York and 6 months in London before we moved to L.A. But of course it was a total new scene and a very inspiring one too for a long time. Imagine for Tim, Harry n Stixx, straight out of butt fuck Skovde (a small little town in Sweden) to the neon bright Hollywood, where you meet Dave Lee Roth at Burger King and bumped into rock stars, movie stars and porn stars wherever you went. It was amazing.
I remember our first NAM show and Tim’s idol in those days was Billy Sheehan. We all got to meet and Tim wanted to make a mark so he took a can of hairspray and lit up the beam from the spray can and played around with it, but it ended up he put Billy’s hair on fire. Luckily Billy managed to put the fire out pretty fast.
I hooked up with a goodlooking cat at the Rainbow one night, spent 2 days at her place getting 2 know each other so to speak. I came home to our band house to change some clothes and then go to a party in Beverly Hills with this cat. After changing my clothes I can hear Harry shouting at me that someone just pulled up in our driveway in a Corvette. I told Harry that it was this cat that I met and to tell her that I’ll be out in a sec, but I never made it out cause Harry came in to my room asking me where I met this cat. I told him I met her at The Rainbow Bar n Grill and that she was really on to me. Harry just looked at me and said, “You lucky bastard, do you know who that is?” No, I said rather stupidly, who is it? Harry just shook his head and said, “Zinny you are amazing, you are nailing and dating one of America’s biggest porn stars and you don’t even know it!!!!!” That’s how innocent we were at the start in L.A.
After a time you start to realize that everything it not what it seems in L.A. When you start knocking on the crust and it falls Hollywood has a pretty ugly face too.
SR: Was it hard not to get sucked into the whole sex, drugs and rock’n’roll aspect of L.A.? How out of control were members of Shotgun Messiah getting?
ZZ: If you don’t want to, you do not need to get sucked in to anything, but it is so much easier to do when it is in your face all the time.
I will only speak 4 myself cause I do not want to hang the other guys out, and I was living the Rock myth big time. It almost killed me and it took me years to recover from the L.A. days. But I got myself to blame! I had a choice and I made mine, not a very clever one but still my choice.
The problem with Shotgun Messiah in my eyes was the very thing that made Shotgun what it was, and later killed the band. And what made Shotgun was that none of us came from the same background at all, that makes tension and friction and from tension and friction you’ll get the flame and as long as you can control that flame it is amazing. But you can’t control a flame 4 ever either, it fades away and dies or the flame becomes an uncontrollable fire. Look at Van Halen and Aerosmith, there are a few of these band that had that flame but one band burned up and the other faded.
In the end we had nothing in common except for Shotgun Messiah and we wanted different things for the band.
SR: How bad were drugs and alcohol becoming for you, and how did you finally get yourself on the right track?
ZZ: It was bad. I was out of control for sometime and it took me a while to realize it cuz it creeps up on you slowly, so at first you can’t see there is anything wrong at all.
When you finally realize it, it scares the shit out of you. And it makes you mad as hell to. How can you let yourself become this weak person and so on. I went through a strong down period: My father died, Shotgun sacked me, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s syndrome (a stomach disease) and I got divorced. At this point I understood that if I want to get through all this I need to sort my life out.
SR: How did the Shotgun Messiah firing go down? Were there lots of hard feeling at the start, and if so are they still there today?
ZZ: The situation in Shotgun was getting more strained and at the end it was Tim & Harry doing their stuff and Stixx and I doing ours, so the whole we against the world feeling was gone so to speak.
I had hard feelings, yeah, cause they painted a picture of me being a crazy guy, out of my mind and never gave me credit for anything. Trying to make me a laugh, and that did hurt. Now I do not have any hard feelings towards them at all, it is in the past. Harry is doing his thing, Tim is doing his and I do mine and Stixx and I keep in touch every now and then. We meet, have a beer or Stixx joins Zan Clan and plays drums on “Care Bout Nothin”, a Shotgun song that Zan Clan always play.
You know you get wiser by age and today I can sit with a smile on my face. Those very few times that I put Shotgun’s first album on and just listen to what an amazing guitar player Harry was (he still might be, I do not know) and remember Tim Tim’s crazy (but often) brilliant ideas and the atmosphere when we clicked cause believe it or not this band had some GREAT fuckin times together both up and off stage.
SR: What was it like playing with Stixx again when he joined the Zan Clan for a tune at a 2004 concert? Would you like to write some material with him again someday?
ZZ: You know just to have Stixx behind your back and hearing him pounding the drums was awesome and to do that together on Care Bout Nothin (one of the best songs ever) was just great. And the audience freaked cuz this was the closest most people in Sweden have ever come to seeing Shotgun Messiah. You know, Shotgun Messiah only did 1 gig in Sweden before we hit the U.S. market so this was something special.
I can only imagine what it would be like to do a show the whole original gang in Sweden it would turn to freakin chaos.
SR: Do you think a full Shotgun Messiah reunion would ever happen?
ZZ: I have a hard time seeing that ever happen but then again never say never. Tim is strutting his stuff with Marilyn Manson today so the chance of him being interested in this is probably very limited. What Harry is doing I do not know, but it seems like he has chosen to have a very laidback position these days. Stixx is a full time parent taking care of his family and myself I’m doing my stuff with Zan Clan. So it seems like everybody is happy doing their stuff and for myself I have not spoken to either Tim or Harry in 16 years and the chance that either of them would call me up is probably 1 in a billion.
SR: The last of the Shotgun Messiah questions. Did you listen to the albums they released without you and if so how did you feel about their changing style?
ZZ: Second Coming was a good album, Sex Drugs n Rock’n’Roll was a great song together with Heartbreak Blvd, but others weren’t really hitting the ceiling. What I missed on that album is Harry’s guitars, they could have been more inventive like on the first album where he really shows that he is one of a kind and at that time probably the greatest rock guitarist on this planet. But the album is good.
Violent New Breed I have still today heard only two tracks from. I can’t remember the name of them but it’s really not my brand of whiskey so I let it go. What surprises me was that they still called themselves Shotgun Messiah during that period cause the people that liked Shotgun would not like that album and vice versa.
I have no feelings about them changing style, I am what I am and they are what they are. I admire Tim and Harry very much as musicians, they are both very talented people. I have my identity in Sleaze/Glam rock and that is who I am, good or bad, I know what I do best and I really love this genre so that is what’s keeping me there. Lots of people have asked me how long will I go on doing this and I tell them “as long as no one from the younger generation kicks my ass on stage ” and that still scares me cause Jocke Berg from Hardcore Superstar is the only one I have seen doing a great performance as a frontman.
SR: Didn’t you recently do a gig with your old band Easy Action? If so, how did that turn out?
ZZ: Yes we did a “one time only gig” at the Sweden Rock Festival. A great crowd and it was great to play together with Kee (Marcello) again after like some 20 years or something.
SR: Zan Clan recently released a live album, how pleased were you with how it turned out?
ZZ: Zan Clan has from day 1 been a band that would always do the unexpected and be a non compromising band.
1st album “We Are Zan Clan Who The Fuck Are You”, 2nd album is a LIVE album. Who has ever done that?? And then call it “Zan Clan Kickz The Living Shit Outta Stockholm City”. Both titles on our albums is just to show that we do not give a fuck what people say and we are doing this our own way.
I am pleased how it turned out even if it feels weird to speak both Swedish and English back n forth on the album, but that’s just because there were a lot of people from England, Italy, Slovenia and Germany in the crowd and of course U want them to feel a part of it as well. When I switch from Swedish to English, back n forth, my English suffers big time. Other than that I am proud of the outcome since there are NO overdubs or NO audience taped or anything. IT IS THE REAL DEAL and that’s what’s so cool about it.
SR: Zan, San…why the changes in your name over the years?
ZZ: Just for the hell of it. From the beginning it was Zan then I changed it to San and then back to Zan again. It’s the same with Zinny Zan, it became Zinny J Zan and everybody wonders what the J stands 4.
SR: What would you like to say to all your fans?
ZZ: Thank U 4 your outstanding support and 4 showing up at our gigs and making them special every time, U are so loyal to us and we are trying 2 give U our very best everytime we play.
I hope U guys will like the new “Live” CD cause it is your CD as much as Zan Clan’s, cause we made this gig together. I C-YA OUT THERE SOON!!!!!!!!
Thanks to Zinny J. Zan