Having just released their latest album ‘A Hiding Place’ Zodiac guitarist, Stephan Gall spoke with MR’s Peter Keevil
Hi, thanks for taking time to talk to us. How are you doing?
Hi, thank you! I’m doing fine, just came back from a tour with Orchid, Blues Pills and Scorpion Child and we had a very good time!
You’ve just released a killer album on Napalm Records, A Hiding Place. How did the deal with Napalm come about? Did you have a finished album that you then took to them or did you sign first, then record?
Napalm showed interest, they already knew our first album “A Bit Of Devil” which was released on our own label. When it came to the recordings of the new album we talked about a collaboration. It felt like the guys from Napalm understood, what’s important for Zodiac. So we signed the deal first and then recorded the album. The oldschool way, haha.
How does this deal work globally, as you list Prosthetic Records for USA and Bickee Music for Japan?
Napalm is our record label for Europe, not globally. Prosthetic for North America and Bickee Music for Japan. We already had a deal with Prosthetic for North America before we signed to Napalm. They did a good job so we kept it that way. It’s great to know that in all these different areas there are qualified people taking care of our work.
Both Prosthetic and Napalm are better known for the harder end of the music spectrum but both appear to be diversifying more these days. How do you think that works to your advantage?
Yes, I think it does. Napalm e.g. diversified their artist roster a lot, in the past years they’ve signed bands like Monster Magnet, Vista Chino or The Answer. This was one of the reasons why we decided to work with them. Prosthetic had a comparable development. Most labels nowadays have to address a wider market to remain successful. We often experienced that people from different musical backgrounds like our music. We see guys with metal shirts on our shows, besides “normal” rock fans and the 60 years old bluesrockers. That’s something I really like about playing in Zodiac: Reaching different people, which have a passion for handmade blues-rock music.
How different was it making this album to your debut, A Bit of Devil, was it the traditional ‘difficult second album’?
We did not really think about that. We’re still very satisfied with “A Bit Of Devil”, but we recognized, which things we wanted to change on the next record. There should be more bluesy stuff and more variety in the songs. Instrumental parts should get more space to develop, organ and piano should be emphasized. And we focused on improving melodies and vocals. But in the end, every song has to pass the rehearsal-test: Do we have fun playing this song? Do we think it will be fun playing it again and again? If everybody in the band agrees on that, it will probably find it’s way on the record.
You worked with producer Martin Meinschäfer again. Was that a conscious decision to try and replicate the sound of A Bit of Devil?
We asked Martin if he would like to work with us again, because we still are very happy with the sound of our first album. We did not really know what to change. Besides that Martin became a friend and due to his good advices and unstressed mind it’s always a pleasure to work with him. We’re very happy with the result again!
You have a strong classic and blues rock sound. Who are the bands and artists that influence you most?
There are so many bands and artist that are an influence for us. For example, two of my favorite bands are Thin Lizzy and Pink Floyd. People often say you can hear that in our music. Nick would probably mention Stevie Ray Vaughan and Zack Wylde. Our drummer would mention Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin. But on the other hand an artist like Joe Bonamassa, who has an unbelievable output, can be influencing. So it’s not always only the old names.
Those influences don’t appear to be very Germanic, has your home country embraced Zodiac or does your style of music work better outside of Germany?
We haven’t been playing outside Germany that often, but we’re working on it… Switzerland and The Netherlands were good for us. We played in France for 3 times now and we’ll definitely come back. On the last tour we’ve been to the UK for the first time, which was great. Germany works best for us so far, but we tried to get a step into the international scene from the beginning on. We should have toured North America with Monster Magnet in Nov/Dec 2013, but unfortunately our visas have been denied. This was a great disappointment, but we keep on trying to play everywhere we can and people would like to see us.
You have included versions of other people’s songs, with ZZ Top on A Bit of Devil and Neil Young this time around. Is that something you like to toy with and what made you choose those two?
When we consider doing a cover song, it normally turns out fast which song fits to Zodiac and which not. It was like this with “Blue Jean Blues” and it was the same with “Cortez The Killer”. Both are amazing songs and we have a great respect for their authors when we’re playing them. But we like the challenge of trying to give them something of our own, without destroying the “heritage”. I hope we managed to do that, most people react in a positive way to these cover versions.
What are your plans for 2014? Will we get to see you back in the UK and hopefully more dates other than London?
In early 2014 we’ll probably do some headlining shows around Germany. In the end of March we’ll be touring Europe again together with Grand Magus, Audrey Horne and Vintage Caravan (unfortunately no dates in the UK). Another tour which shall lead us to the UK is planned for April/May. I can’t say too much, but it’ll be a nice package and several shows in the UK. So prior plans for 2014 are playing live as much as possible.
I want to get a copy of your original EP ‘Zodiac’ but can’t find it, can you help?
We made a CD edition (300 copies) by ourselves, which was sold out fast. After that there has been a vinyl-edition which is sold out, too (500 copies). But as we are questioned quite often, I think there could be a re-release in the near future…
Thanks Stephan. Good to talk to you.
Thank you for the interview and your interest in Zodiac! Hope to get back to the UK soon.