Zangief reside in the ‘so-called’ 2008 Capitol Of Culture, Liverpool, but don’t let this put you off as this 4 piece deliver an infectious mix of Doom & Stoner resulting in what the band describe as ‘Spinning Piledriver Metal’. They’re also a band which rely heavily on their live shows so as yet don’t have an ‘official’ release available so I caught up with their bass player John to find out what’s currently happening with these Russian Bear Wrestlers.
Hey John, hope your keeping well; firstly let’s start at the beginning by giving us a history of the band, how you formed and your current members?
We formed about two and half years ago, me and our drummer Freeney have known each other for years and had been in bands together before and started jamming just as a two-piece and were looking for a guitarist. I got talking to Grae after a drunken night in a bar, I think we almost got into a fight and remember discussing the finer points of ‘10,000 Years’ by High On Fire, and the next day got a text saying he was ready to riff like an iron titan! We had a couple of jams in Liverpool and as it started sounding like something good, my brother Joe appeared mid-jam and adlibbed vocals that made our jaws drop so we kept him.
How would you describe your sound and are there any genre’s you’d feel comfortable with being described as?
We always said ‘spinning piledriver metal’ as a joke to any promoters who asked for a description, we’re just a bunch of knob-heads playing heavy music in the only way we know how really, so I’m not really bothered about what we get described as. We generally get the doom and stoner tags as people can identify with that; we just like crushing riffs and rocking out at the highest volumes possible so I’m comfortable with that!
Who would you say are your major influences both musical and non-musical and how would you say they reflect the overall sound of Zangief?
Generally anything with heavy-ass riffs and drones, a load of Black Sabbath and Matt Pike worship, anything large enough to destroy an entire town, outer-space phenomena, mixed martial arts, computer games, mountains, Japanese movies, anything we talk about when we’re together that makes us go ‘dude, that’s awesome!’ gets thrown in too. The cathartic value of pure volume!!!
Who writes your lyrics and what subject matters do they cover?
Ha! Joe makes up the lyrics, mostly about skeleton armies being destroyed and whatever else comes out of his head; he’s not really into telling anybody what they are so I’m pretty clueless. He’s studied philosophy for years so his ideas are generally pretty abstract.
Zangief is a character from the video game Street Fighter, why did you choose him as the moniker for your band and does the character have any representation to your music?
We’re all huge gamers, and have grown up with the Street Fighter series, I think it was a name we used when we were jamming years ago and we thought fuck it; he’s massive, Russian and wrestles bears, suits us down to the ground! He’s an underdog character and I think that appealed to our general nature as people, plus we’d batter you with him if you gave us a fight.
As far as I’m aware, the only recording you have available is from 2006 when you laid down a few tracks live in the studio, were these recordings ever available as an official demo and do you have any plans to record in the not too distant future?
We’ve never officially recorded a demo as such, we had to have a few recordings down just to organise shows I remember, but we should be recording some tracks for a demo and a split or two in the coming months. It’s never been a priority to record with this band, playing live is where it’s at, but we have ideas for recording a full length in the next couple of years. When the time is right and the planets align we’ll move our lazy arses into gear and make something we’re proud of but it’s got to be at the right time. When our beards are long and our bellies are large!! I’m just making excuses for us being ridiculously lazy really.
What about label interest? Anyone expressed an interest to release something by Zangief?
We’ve had a few bands talk about doing splits and such like, self-releases and that. But we probably should get a demo down first before we start thinking about labels man! We definitely not going to be fast tracked into any bullshit we don’t want to do.
I know some of your often travel over to Manchester for gigs, but can you give us an insight as to what the extreme metal scene is like in Liverpool for both smaller, and/or more local bands as well as more well known touring bands?
Yeah man, you’ve been getting some good shows recently; Liverpool has some amazing bands if your up for hunting them out, bands like The Bendal Interlude, Bow & Arrow and Conan are worth checking out if your into the heavier slower side of things, there’s not much collusion in terms of a scene though, so you get the odd bands playing random bills quite often. Saying that Orange Goblin came to town recently and everybody came out for that, but well known touring bands seem to stop off in Manchester and skip Liverpool at the end of the day so you gotta grab these opportunities! We got a decent hardcore scene going I think, that’s where the kids are at these days. Unsanctum and SSS are worth checking out for a bit of non-doom action.
How important is it for Zangief to play live and how easy do you find it to get gigs, both locally and nationally?
We’re pretty obsessed with volume, to see a crowd take a step back due to heavy drone makes me smile, especially if they are unbelievers of the riff! I enjoy the energy and immediacy of the live ritual, like we’re summoning a force or energy on stage. Definitely addictive. We’ve never had a problem getting shows, a couple of us have had nights going locally in the past so bands are more than welcome to sort us out nationally.
You also supported Boris back in 2006, that must have been an honour to be asked to play and 1 hell of an experience, but from the bands point of view, how did it go for you?
Fucking amazing! It was our first show so it could’ve gone badly I guess, but we got offered shows after so couldn’t have blown us completely off stage. Boris were the nicest band you could wish to meet, talking about their favourite Street Fighter characters and going on tour with Sunn O))) straight after, it was a really good night. Their sound check was insane; I literally melted watching them.
A complete fantasy question, who would be the 3 bands Zangief would kill to go on tour with from a) the past and b) the present?
I mentioned it to the other guys and got The Monks, Mastodon, The Flaming Lips, Thin Lizzy and Motorhead to pick out a couple! An Om/High On Fire/Sleep reunion tour would of course be pretty special. Anyone we could have a laugh with who brought the heavy every night on stage would be my choice.
What are your thoughts on the current ‘Doom’ scene in the UK?
In terms of gig attendance I find that people don’t really move unless there’s a big band on, especially in the Northwest. It’s always a pleasure to go to a big show and find people who are into doom to talk shit to, but people should pull their fingers out and check out the smaller bands, because that’s where everybody starts out. There’s a load of up and coming bands who are definitely worth checking out, delve into the underground and there’s bands playing some of the best music around at unattended gigs all round the country! I find you tend to see the same people at shows that tend to travel from around the country so it’s reasonable healthy I guess, especially the sludge and stoner side of things. If the UK can produce bands like Moss then I’m not really worried.
What tunes are your currently listening to, anything you could recommend?
Black Sabbath, Unearthly Trance, Yob, Mary Bell, Kylesa, Hammer Attack, Mugwart, The Obsessed, Ufomammut, Worship, Weedeater, Mayhem, Moss – all worth checking out.
What plans do Zangief have for 2008? Any releases or gigs you can tell us about?
We’re playing with Gallhammer in March which is gonna slay, got a few shows planned for around May I think, but we don’t plan too far into the future. We’ll go into the studio at some point, hopefully by the end of the year. Getting hold of enough amps and cabs to shatter mountains…
If you could have been asked any question, what would it have been?
Something about effects and pedals for the tech heads? Shit, I don’t know man.
Thanks for the interview John and please use this space for any final words…
Listen to Black Sabbath.
Check out all the latest goings on with Zangief at: www.myspace.com/zangiefmetal
Interviewed by: Lee Edwards