By Mad A - December, 1998
ZIA has been a staple in Boston for many years. what's the when, how and why of ZIA's creation?
When I graduated from college in 1991 (I majored in electronic music production) I wanted to get a band together to perform the music I had been writing. I had written a bunch of music and just needed band members. I ended up joining D.D.T. (remember them?) and put the Zia live show on the back burner for a few months. Eventually Lisa and Noel of D.D.T. and Raziel Panick of You Shriek helped me with the live Zia show. Since then I've had several people from other bands play in Zia. That always helped us get gigs since we were sort of an all-star band. Eventually I started using people who weren't in other bands and would devote more time to Zia.
What are ZIA's mission goals or objectives, musically or otherwise?
Well, as you know I'm very much into space exploration and belong to a few pro-space societies. My mission, if you want to call it that, is to use my music in any way I can to support the pro-space movement. I'm actually the president of the Boston Chapter of the National Space Society (NSS). We sell a Zia CD called "Frontier Creature" to those wonderful people and donate the profits to NSS, and also the Mars Society. We're going to play in Texas next year for NSS' yearly conference during their Science Fiction banquet. Majel Roddenberry is going to be the speaker for the evening and we'll have a Mars backdrop provided by NASA behind us. They say they might also have remote control UFO's flying in the audience. Yeehaw! We're also going to play for one of the Mars Society meetings soon. I figure if we donate our time and music to enough of these pro-space causes (of course they can't pay us...these are all benefit shows), we'll be the official "space band" and maybe even play on the International Space Station or the Moon someday. Hey, you never know. If it's not Zia it will eventually be someone else. It will happen. We'll need entertainment in space!
ZIA has been through a few line-up changes. What have these musicians contributed to ZIA's music or live show?
Every time our line-up changes, of course the whole vibe changes as well. At least for us personally it does. It stays interesting, that's for sure. Sometimes I think I spend more time teaching new band members the parts than I want to. I'm hoping that we keep a steady line-up for a while now. It's all girls and I hope we can stick together. We have an awesome line-up now. Liz and Gia are both very talented and very cute.
What goes into preparing for a live show and what kind of stage show does ZIA put on?
We play all of the notes and samples with sticks on racks of MIDI triggers and Drum Kats. I have an instrument now that I made out of a 2 x 4 which I wear like a guitar and it has MIDI triggers where my fingers are. I call it a "Zia Drum". I play little melodies on it while I sing. It's a lot of work to get the songs ready to perform. First we have to decide who is going to play each synth part, and then how we're going to play it. I come up with a physical pattern on the MIDI triggers for each melody and chord progression, then program it in for each song on the Drum Kats. The other MIDI triggers are plugged into the Drum Kat trigger inputs. Our Drum Kats and the synthesizers are all plugged into the MIDI patchbay, so we're all kind of hooked in together. The live show is always fun. We're always dressed up and have a lot of energy. We think it's important to have good visuals along with the music.
What is the strangest/weirdest thing to happen at a ZIA show?
Besides the time that Rob's drum monitor caught on fire and the audience thought we were trying to be like Kiss... The strangest time I ever had was when I played with Zia, D.D.T., and Sleep Chamber all in the same night. I played melodic MIDI triggers with sticks in both of those bands. In Zia I was dressed in duct-tape and my cyber accessories...then in D.D.T. we put fake blood all over ourselves and that fake skin stuff and bullet belts and whatnot, then for Sleep Chamber I had to quickly wash off the blood and put on a long slinky dress. I think Sleep Chamber had to start without me while I was getting the blood off. I wonder how many people had no idea I was the same person three times... That was years ago...wow.
Does ZIA feel itself to be unfairly slighted by Boston audiences because of ZIA's enthusiasm for the u.s. space program?
No. Most people think it's cool to support the pro-space movement. A lot of people have never thought about it, but when you talk to them about space exploration their eyes get wide and it makes them smile. Unless they're a little strange...
What is your take on the Boston electronic scene and your "electro" peers?
When we started out (between 1991 and 1994) there was a very strong electronic/industrial music scene and several bands always played together. I was in three of them myself! People from other bands were in Zia. It was a lot of fun. The electronic bands we used to play with are mostly defunct now, and there was a long period where it seemed like there weren't many compatible bands. We played with a lot of guitar rock bands during that time, and we actually got an acoustic drummer (Rob, who's no longer in the band) and started playing everything live. We got rid of our backing tape in 1994 so we would fit in better in the Boston scene. We were thinking of ourselves as just another rock band who happened to have no guitars. We're not thinking that way anymore though. We realize that we're pretty different. There are some really cool bands now with keyboards and interesting sounds that we'll be playing with in the Boston area.