CIRCLE II CIRCLE (Eng.)

– Thank you so much for answering to our interview. How is the band currently doing?

Zak: Thank you Paco! CIIC is doing great these days, better than ever. It’s all about the guys in the band and their dedication to setting aggressive goals and doing everything we can as a band to make them happen. I owe all of our recent success to the guys in this band and their desire to succeed and be the best we can be.

– You have just released your latest album, entitled «Seasons will Fall». Tell us a bit the concept behind this new opus, what does the cover artwork represent and what does CIRCLE II CIRCLE talk about on this new release.

Zak: Well the SWF album itself is not actually a «concept» record in the literary sense, but it does have some common threads running through some of the themes on the album. The cover art pretty much ties everything together in that it represents an awakening. It depicts an escape from the things in life that may have been keeping someone from getting to where they’ve been striving to get to. The girl on the cover in my opinion is like a Phoenix, rising from the troubled environment of her life and beginning a transcendence to a better place. The grim reapers who previously guarded her were symbols of the things in life that continue to hold a person where they really don’t want to be, and she has managed somehow to escape her own reality in this sense an move on to a more positive place in life. So this theme does enter into some songs in the lyrics, such as in the songs «Epiphany» and «Killing Death» for instance.

 

– The record sounds really powerful, I could describe it as an aggressive album, but not unpleasant. Are you satisfied with the final outcome? Has everything ended up as expected?

Zak: Yes and I really think that overall it has exceeded my own expectations in many ways. I knew that we were going to have a pretty powerful production overall because that was one our many goals. But the songs themselves really helped to bring the production to a higher level because they are the typical CIIC blend of power and melody, so this helped a lot in terms of the final product.

 

– I have also noticed it differs from the other albums by the band in the sense is more intimate than your previous record but without losing strength. I see it as an album strongly built upon mid tempo songs. Is it an album done by the whole band or do you bring most of the compositions?

Zak: Actually we had more guys in the band (and outside of the band) writing on this record than on any of our previous albums. When I say outside of the band, this includes our good friend and executive producer Craig Blackwell who helped us with writing two of the songs – «Without A Sound» (Blackwell, Stevens, Stewart) and «Downshot» (Blackwell, Stevens). Craig is also a great guitarist who played the solo in ‘Downshot» and he’s a great studio engineer as well who recorded the drums performances and helped us with a lot of sounds on the record. Christian Wentz, our newest guitarist, wrote the song «Diamond Blade» along with me and long-time bassist Mitch Stewart. So this is a perfect example of how having a strong team of writers and guys helping in different aspects of the recording process and can help gain a strong result with the final product. I agree that the songs are a bit more mid-tempo but in the end we chose the strongest songs for the final version of the record and song tempos weren’t really a factor in the final analysis.

 

– Something else that I thought when listening is that this could probable be your less symphonic pieces, and also less SAVATAGE, though there are also songs, as «Epiphany» or «Only Yesterday», that keep that essence.

Zak: That’s correct. We definitely have a diverse array of musical styles on the SWF album. We have basic rocker tunes like «Never Gonna Stop» which to me sounds more like an song from the older Judas Priest era. Then on the other hand we have songs like «Epiphany» that remind us somewhat of Savatage. But of course if it reminds someone of that time then I think that’s a positive thing if it somehow takes people back to a feeling they had when listening to songs from that era.

 

– Talking about the band, which musicians are among the line-up? I think there are some changes compared to your previous record, aren’t they?

Zak: Yes we have a few changes from the last album and we basically took the past two years to really look at the line-up situation carefully and make changes that would result in some real positives outcomes for the band. One of the changes is not really much of a change if you have been following CIIC on tour, and that’s the addition to the permanent line-up of guitarist Bill Hudson. Bill has toured with us for a few years on the road in various markets before now, so this wasn’t really too much of a «change» per se. We’re really excited to have Bill with us on a permanent basis now. A new addition to guitar for us is Christian Wentz. He’s a great friend of ours from the past, much like Bill, and he’s joined us on some European tours in the past just because he wanted to be there and he has always helped us out tremendously while out on the road with documenting tours and pretty much anything we needed. So it’s great to have another good friend in the band. Christian brings a lot more to the band than just his guitar playing expertise. Christian mixed the SWF album in his own studio in CA and he also recorded all my vocal tracks for the album there. On drums we have the strong new addition of Adam Sagan whose style fits perfectly with CIIC’s music. So we were very happy to bring Adam into the fold and he’s not only a fine drummer but he brings all kinds of great ideas to the table in all areas. One thing we really needed in the band was a full-time keyboardist and now we have one in our long-time friend Henning Wanner from Germany. We met Henning in 2010 at the Wacken Open Air festival and at that time he was the keyboardist for White Lion and he still plays some shows with them from time to time. Of course Mitch Stewart and I round out the line-up and we have been the long running members of the band, me from the beginning of course and Mitch has been with us for nine years now. The line-up we have in place now is something Mitch and I have been working on for many years, especially over the last two years. We’re so happy we have all these guys with us and it’s really the situation we’ve always wanted.

 

– Looking back, the latest band’s album was released in 2010; what has happened throughout these 3 last years? Have you been involved in any other musical projects or has it been time to rest musically?

Zak: Over the last 2.5 years, we were writing the SWF album for the most part. So I was in writing mode for the most part for this time period. However I took part in a few guest appearances for albums, including Tommy Vitaly, Enrico Sidoti, Walter Monsanto, and Oganalp Canatan (The Maegi). These are very progressive artists and I always learn a lot when working with artists from different genres so that’s the main reason I participate in a few guest appearances from time to time.

 

– Is inevitable having a chat with you to talk about one of the best bands in the world, where luckily you were part of. I am of course talking about SAVATAGE. How did your adventure in SAVATAGE started and what are your memories from your period in the band?

Zak: I was playing in a band called Wicked Witch in the late 80’s up in Boston, MA around that period. We were together for three years, playing all around the thriving rock and metal club scene in New England at the time. In ’92, one of the WW demos got in the hands of the late Criss Oliva and that’s where it all pretty much started. The WW demo of three songs was one of about 100 demos that were received by Criss and Jon Oliva at that point. So many of the finalists were called to meet with producer Paul O’Neill and have live auditions at his home in Queens, NY and that’s the process I was involved in. Things went ok at the live auditions so they invited me to go to Tampa, FL in the summer of ’92 and start singing at Savatage rehearsals. From that point forward it was my job to continue developing my style to fit Savatage’ music because my vocal style at the time I started singing at their rehearsals was nowhere even close to what my vocal style has become. So it’s been many years of continued development from that point because vocals is a life-long learning process and that’s just the way it is.

 

– Did you also work with TRANS-SIBERIAN, didn’t you?

Zak: Yes I have sang vocals to at least some extent on most of the T.S.O albums. I haven’t yet toured out with the band at their winter/spring tours but I’m sure that time will come when my CIIC schedule allows it in the future.

 

– And well, I know isn’t something really relevant in this interview, but I can’t help you asking if SAVATAGE will ever record with you on vocals. I guess your friendship with Jon is still intact.

Zak: Yes I talk to Jon quite often and I just spoke to him at the T.S.O. show in Tampa, FL this December as a matter of fact. I still think a Savatage reunion is possible because everyone involved with the band is still actively performing in some form or fashion out there in bands. So as long as this is the case, I think a «reunion» in some form is possible. And of course I will be a part of it because they know this is my intent if and when this day comes.

 

– Coming back to the present and focusing on your new opus, are there touring plans? Have you festivals booked or a world tour?

Zak: Yes we will start the world tour in May in Europe and then from there we go to Brazil and South America in June. We come back and play some shows in the States in July and then it’s back to Europe for some festivals in late summer. We have two additional tours schedule for the US, one in September and one in November. The US dates include festival dates as well here in the States. We will be posting the first European dates for May soon and they will include dates in Spain. So we’re excited to get back to Spain since it’s been about four years since we’ve played for you all there.

 

– And on a view to the future, do you have in mind any idea for upcoming records? Maybe something you feel like doing and you haven’t done yet, as a live album or an album with an orchestra? Have you ever thought about it?

Zak: Yes we have thought about an orchestral presentation for CIIC and maybe that will be something we take on in the near future for a DVD or live album concept. CIIC will have a live concert DVD coming next so be on the lookout for this in the coming year.

 

– That’s all from our side, our best wishes and hope to see you touring in Spain. Thank you so much.

Thanks again Paco! I hope to meet you in Spain in May!

Zak

 

Paco Gómez

paco@queensofsteel

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