CLAWFINGER performed on October 10th in the Schlachthof Wiesbaden and played a sensational gig. Before that Lydia and Michael from Metalogy.de chatted with the extremely nice singer ZAK TELL. Zak spoke about his inspirations, idols, his future plans, his FRANK ZAPPA tattoo, his problems in North America and much more. Read the fourth and last part of the interview series here.
Are there plans for more after your new song “Tear You Down”? For a new album, for example?
Zak: Maybe. I dont know. Times have changed compared to the 90s when you just went to the studio and had your songwriting sessions. You sat down and focused on writing a full album. Back then, we all had no jobs. For that reason alone it was easier back then. With the exception of the Metalheads, bands don’t release their albums the same way they used to.
But there are various ideas lying around. What might happen is that we release a song once in a while and then pack it up on an album at some point when they are already out. Or maybe we just bring out a new song every now and then. I don’t know at the moment. Everything can happen. I cannot rule out this idea, but we currently have no firm plan to release an album.
How does songwriting work for you right now? Do you write during the tour?
Zak: We don’t really tour. We did three gigs last week and we do three gigs this week. Next week it’s off to Mallorca for one gig. Then we have our last gig in Germany. And I don’t think we’ll have anything after that until next year. We don’t do full tours anymore. We are no longer on the bus for four weeks. And as I mentioned before, I don’t think I want to do that anymore either. I am middle aged. (Laughs) But we still have a lot of fun on stage and it shouldn’t sound like it’s a burden now. But it is definitely different than it was 25 years ago. I mean, we played 170 shows in the first year. Plus the travel days. You lose something. If you party all the time, you lose other things too. Now I want to keep that in balance. I want to keep my partner. I want to keep my friends. And only play when it fits, we feel like it and we have the time.
Zak: Sure, having a job always gives you security. Money comes in regularly and you can always pay your bills. That definitely gives you more security. But it also limits our time in making music. For example, our guitarist lives in Norway. If you work from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., you come home, eat something and take a shower. Then it is already 8:30 or 9:00 p.m. and you have to get out of work early the next morning. It’s nice to have security, but that security also kills spontaneity. And that also answers your question about a new album. It’s about having the time for it. So if it did happen, we would do it the way we did it last. We send files back and forth. And as I said, my wife and I visit our guitarist in Norway. And when I’m mentally so fit, I have an idea that we can implement directly on site.
Where do you get your inspirations from? Is it spontanious?
Zak: The basic ideas actually come spontaneously. An idea really cannot come otherwise. And as I said before, the “Deaf Dumb Blind” message, which is pretty much the blueprint for what CLAWFINGER is, has not really changed much over the years. I will always have a passion for writing about things that I think are wrong and that need to be addressed. And there are so many things that have not changed in the past 26 years. I guess the hardest thing is writing about these things in a way that is interesting to myself. It would be easy to just complain. But you have to find a way that is interesting for yourself and that also works in the CLAWFINGER concept. My musical inspiration comes from bad things or sad, wrong or idiotic things. This has always been the driving force behind CLAWFINGER and the reason why we exist. And as I said, we are idiots ourselves in a certain way like in old times.
But there are various ideas. What might happen is that we release a song once in a while and then pack it up on an album at some point when they are already out. Or maybe we just bring out a new song every now and then. I don’t know at the moment. Everything can happen. I cannot rule out this idea, but we currently have no firm plan to release an album.
Then you are brave. Because you’re trying to make a difference.
Zak: Yes, that can be natural. (Laughs) Maybe I’m brave after all. Yes, maybe I am. Of course, I can already see that I’m getting recognition for it. But of course that’s within the band. It’s like a gang, it’s easier. When I said I wanted to be braver, I meant it for myself. Not Zak from CLAWFINGER, but Zak as a person should be braver. Of course I also know that the other guys from the band are behind me. And we coordinate at CLAWFINGER. Yes, we may be a little braver than many other bands that have never said anything meaningful.
How does songwriting work for you right now? Do you write during the tour?
Zak: We don’t really tour. We did three gigs last week and we do three gigs this week. Next week it’s off to Mallorca for a gig. Then we have our last gig in Germany. And I don’t think we’ll have anything after that until next year. We don’t do full tours anymore. We are no longer on the bus for four weeks. And as I mentioned before, I don’t think I want to do that anymore either. I am middle aged. (Laughs) But we still have a lot of fun on stage and it shouldn’t sound like it’s a burden now. But it is definitely different than it was 25 years ago. I mean, we played 170 shows in the first year. Plus the travel days. You lose something. If you party all the time, you lose something too. Now I want to keep that in balance. I want to keep my partner. I want to keep my friends. And only play when it fits, we feel like it and we have the time.
Do you have an idol?
Zak: Of course, I have a Frank Zappa tattoo here. That is quite old. I let it go when I found out that it died. At that time we were on tour as support from Anthrax. 40 gigs across Europe. So during this tour with Anthrax I found out that he died. He was seriously ill and had cancer. As soon as I got home I went to a tattoo parlor. It looks pretty shitty now. It is very old.
But I have to tell you a funny story about it. It was 1993. Back then there was no internet. But I had a Frank Zappa t-shirt with this picture on it. So I took a photo of this t-shirt and showed it to the tattoo artist. The funny thing was that I was wearing the t-shirt in a moshpit on a nirvana gig. I was pretty far ahead. The t-shirt was really worn out. That’s why his face is so wide on my tattoo. (Laughs) It should look thinner. Here he looks somehow fat. Nowadays it would be easier to find a picture of him. But you can still recognize him. It’s a funny story. (Laughs) I’ve often thought about mending it or doing something about it. But somehow I can’t think of anything suitable. I would like to have more tattoos, but I just can’t think of anything cool. So I only have one other besides this one. And I don’t want to get anything tattooed just to have another tattoo. I want something that means something to me.
You have been touring for 26 years now. Is there another place or festival where you would like to play?
Zak: We were actually very lucky. We never played in North America. Because of our song “Nigger”. That would have been too complicated. We are all rather pink. None of us are brown. And that’s why it never happened. I remember receiving a fax from our record label. One of them had flown to L.A. to sell our songs and get a deal for them. We got a fax that said, “White guys who want to explain to blacks how to live their lives, cut off their eggs.” That was pretty much the end of our career in North America. But then that’s the way it is. It would have been very easy if we only had a dark-skinned band member or if the band had been brown. Then that wouldn’t have been a problem.
Apart from that, we played the Monsters Of Rock in South America, along with Ozzy, Alice Cooper, Faith No More and Megadeth. We also played in Japan. From 1993 to 2008 we were able to live on music alone. This is significantly longer than with many other bands. I think we were very lucky. Otherwise I would like to play where we haven’t played before. I would like to play anywhere. But unfortunately that is not possible. I am actually very happy with what we have achieved. We have our fans. And we never had to compromise on what we did. We could just do what we wanted. And that alone enabled us to sell records and fill halls.
I would love to play in the Maldives. I would also like to play in Hawaii, but I can’t. But that’s why I would like to go there because I haven’t been there yet. I would take CLAWFINGER anywhere we haven’t been. I would also make sure that we always have two weeks off after the gig. On site, of course. And all expenses would have to be paid by the organizer. (Laughs)
What do you think about metal as a lifestyle or philosophy?
Zak: The question is what exactly is philosophy. Metal is a very broad spectrum. No matter what scene you look into, there are always a few conservatives. Like true metal people who only listen to metal and think all other music shit. If someone develops such a way of thinking, I find it rather stupid and even dangerous. But people like that are everywhere in society. Wherever you look. There are people who only listen to rap music. Likewise, right-wing radicals think that their race is the only one. But you can find such people everywhere in different variations.
But on the other hand, we’re also part of the metal scene. I have never felt anything other than love. For the fans and the festivals and all that. I love it. Even if I don’t consider myself a true metalhead. I still love it all and I like to be there. But I also like that CLAWFINGER comes in from the side. We have our own thing. But it is enough to still get to the metal festivals. But I like being an outsider in a way.
That is what makes CLAWFINGER unique.
Zak: But that’s why some people hate us. On our first album, not so much on the second one, we were called the European answer to RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. That was written in the German press at the time. But I don’t mind because I think their first album is great. But actually we didn’t hear them when we founded the band and wrote the first album. Except for the fact that their singer is also called Zak. Zak de la Rosa.
Many people thought that my name was an artist name, but it is not. My name comes from the fact that my mother idolized Ringo Starr from the Beatles. And his first son is called Zak. So she loved Ringo and thought it would be a good name. Hence my name is Zak. I can understand the comparisons with RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE. It just gives you an idea of what a band sounds like. But if you analyze it carefully, it becomes clear that RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE was all about funky beats. Funky-groovy guitar licks. In contrast, we were more and more industrial from our base. That’s why I never fully understood the comparisons. But you don’t mind me. But I’ve never heard what these people who claim to hear mean. For me these are two completely different bands. Just like two different types of music. They probably only saw that there was rap and guitars. And of course that’s an easy way to explain to someone how a band sounds. Comparing things is in people’s blood. But it didn’t bother me then and it doesn’t bother me today. Today the comparison doesn’t come anymore because we are the only ones who are still there.
You said that the Wacken people are very socially active. Are you socially committed?
Zak: Not as a band. We as a band have always said that we want to stay out of it and, for example, we won’t play for any political parties or other organizations. Even if we have clear opinions, we didn’t want the band to become a political mouthpiece. I like the idea of not belonging to a particular pamphlet.
In my private life, I always support some organizations. With 10 euros a month or so. But as a band we don’t do that. I’m also glad that we don’t have a fixed agenda. RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE were clearer then. It’s great if it works that way for them. Then you should do it too. If other bands take care of another good cause and collect money for it, that’s great. If you want to do it like this, you should do it that way. I don’t feel any obligation there. I don’t think we have to. We have our message for this.
Thank you for the great and nice interview, Zak. And good gig.
Here part 1 and part 2
Lest hier alle 4 Teile des vierteiligen Interviews mit ZAK TELL von CLAWFINGER auf DEUTSCH
Exklusiv-Interview mit ZAK TELL von CLAWFINGER – Teil 1
Exklusiv-Interview mit Zak Tell, Frontman von CLAWFINGER – Teil 2
Exklusiv-Interview mit ZAK TELL, Sänger von CLAWFINGER – Teil 3
Exklusiv-Interview mit ZAK von Clawfinger – vierter und letzter Teil
Und hier unsere FOTOSTRECKE vom Gig
und hier ein CLAWFINGER Video gegen Trumpismus
Lydia Dr. Polwin-Plass
Promovierte Journalistin und Texterin, spezialisiert auf die Themen Kultur, Wirtschaft, Marketing, Vertrieb, Bildung, Karriere, Arbeitsmarkt, Naturheilkunde und Alternativmedizin. Mehr über Dr. Lydia Polwin-Plass auf ihrer Website: http://www.text-und-journalismus.de