Zimmershole - Byron Stroud: Everyone gets to kiss the corpseThe very first interview I ever held for Metalrage.com was with Byron Stroud. The friendly Canadian spoke back in 2003 with Mat-Core and myself about Zimmershole: one of the great bands he’s involved in. In 2008 a lot has changed, after five years there’s finally a new disc. And remembering Byron’s ideal of Zimmershole becoming a real project - with Gene Hoglan on board and his other bands Fear Factory and Strapping Young Lad not in the picture - one wonders if that time has now finally come. Stroud called up to update us all about that great project that involves nothing but a love for metal.
How’ve you been?
'Good, just trying to get the record rolling. That’s been going just fine, except for in the States. Our label there isn’t taking us as serious as the rest of their bands there. We’ve never had a proper release with Zimmershole in the United States. We’ve always sold our stuff out there through mailorder and Hevy Devy Records (Devin Townsend’s label –Lex). But it’s all good, the record’s out there, we’ve got a killer video.'
Zimmershole is taking a slightly more serious twist on this one.
'It’s definitely more serious musically, maybe not so lyrically. It just kind of happened. With Devin (Townsend) taking a break, and for me personally Fear Factory not doing anything it was the right time to take it to the next step. We’ve had all these great ideas and came up with a couple of good concepts for the last four or five years. Plus Gene (Hoglan, former drummer of Strapping Young Lad) joining the band, that made it the right time to work out all the plans and get a record deal.'
When did the album come together as a whole?
'A lot of stuff, like some of the titles, came together when Jed (Simon – guitarist of Zimmershole and Strapping Young Lad alongside Byron) and I were on tour together. We always were sending demos back and forth through the internet. Then we put the song titles and song ideas together, we had about twenty of them. Then we just locked us up in the rehearsal room and bashed all the ideas together. A lot can be done on-line these days, which is the beauty of technology these days.'
Would this album have been recorded without the technology available?
'It would definitely make it a lot harder with all of us in different places all the time. It´s great being able to work on a project without wasting a lot of time.'
Do you use computer technology in recording?
'With pro-tools it’s great. You get certain parts down the way you want them to be. Plus it’s cheaper now. You can use your computer as a home studio, that’s great. It saves you about twenty or thirty grand.'
Is it tempting to over use it?
'We try not to. You try to find a balance between the pro-tooled stuff and the live sound. We don’t loop the parts we play. That over used pro-tools sound works great for a lot of music, but not for bands like Zimmershole. Keep it live as possible.'
Does this mean that Zimmershole is becoming a bigger project?
'We’d like to. The time we spend together is fun. In the end there’s no bullshit to deal with in the band, we all have the same goals. When we get together it’s like family. Our singer Chris, we’ve known him for about twenty years. Especially with Gene on board it feels like Strapping Young Lad, just without Devin.'
What does Chris Valagao, your singer, do musically besides Zimmershole?
'He does loads of stuff. He’s in a band with Gene called Mechanism, very technical and cool band. His number one focus musically is and has always been Zimmershole. When we were doing other stuff he’s always carried the torch to keep things going for us. Besides music he’s still working in film and television, making special effects. And he has a bike shop called ‘Heathen Choppers’ where he builds custom motorcycles.'
How’s working with Gene in Zimmershole?
'He’s amazing. He loved the band since the first time he heard Bound By Fire (the Zimmershole debut album). He always said he wanted in. We always said “You know Gene, who knows one day it will happen.” And when our former drummer Steve Wheeler stepped down that time had finally come. He’s so good man. He learned all of our songs in two days. Two days! When he came in we recorded him playing eleven songs in six hours. He didn’t even jam with us. Just by hearing the tracks. I don't know any other metal drummer who can pull that shit off. We have drumtracks that usually take six days, he does it in two.
He also altered the sound a little bit, he has a different style. It’s a little more precise and faster than Steve ever could. He has his own flair. Gene’s great. It makes the band so much stronger since we’ve known him for so long.'
A true Zimmershole trademark are the over the top live shows. What’s in store for us when seeing the band on stage?
'Yeah there’s a few things. You definitely should come and watch us. There’s a little less fire though. Since the Great White incident (a fatal flaw at a concert where a club burned down during one of their shows) people don’t like that stuff anymore. But there’s lots to enjoy. With Chris working in the special effects industry and all.. For instance we’ve got corpses on stage with us. I love the crowd participation with the corpses. You should come out and see it, everyone gets a chance to kiss the corpse at a Zimmershole show. And of course we serve alcohol to our audience. When they are the right age of course. We had to serve milk in beer cans the other day because of the audience being underaged.'
When can we see Zimmershole pouring liquor in to the global rock audiences mouths?
'There’s a tour coming up this summer. We’re doing Japan, Australia and two U.S. tours coming up in the fall. We hope to be able to come to Europe some time before. We were supposed to do the No Mercy festival, but unfortunately our tour got cancelled.'
Finally, looking into the distant future: Will the next Zimmershole album take less time?
'When all the touring is out of the way this year, we are hoping to record a new one in the beginning of 2009. We don’t want to wait around three or four years to make a new record.'