|Channel Zero: Franky De Smet-Van Damme|
Hi Franky, thanks so much for answering some questions for me. Channel Zero split in 1997 and came back together in 2010 stronger than ever. You started off with one show that turned into six sold out shows. How did it feel having such a warm reception from fans after all those years on hiatus? Was that what inspired you to come back and make a new album?
Franky/CZ: There was all of a sudden a Facebook group made with 8000 members on it in about three weeks and as if time did its thing our manager who played an important role in the start-up talked to me it at about the same time. He was also out of the many proposals I got, the only one who really knew what had to be done and until now its proven that we needed someone who makes this new trip on steady rails. So the fans did their thing and we finally got the vibe back. It seemed like perfect timing.
You have released a new album titled Feed Em With A Brick via Roadrunner Records. There are three singles off the album so far. The first one is titled "Hot Summer." Give us a little insight on what the song is about.
Franky/CZ: Roadrunner Belgium wanted to follow us since day one. They knew we wanted them on board now because in the 1995/1997 moment we were signed by another big label that mainly brought out dance music. The funny thing was that in that time nobody believed in CZ until the moment we were like exploding in sales after a replacement show we did on two of the biggest festivals in Belgium, Werchter Fest replacing the US band "live." Out of that we toured a big European tour with bands like Megadeth, Danzig, Kiss and Bodycount to name a few. "Hot Summer" is our first single and it did really well on YouTube with almost 190,000 views, which is a lot for Belgian norms. So we are really happy how this all took off. We are also playing all big festivals over here in between Pink and Rammstein. LOL
The video for "Hot Summer" is badass!! Where did you guys film it?
Franky/CZ: It was filmed in LA in the Mojave Desert on that big, giant airplane cemetery. We had a blast doing that there. It looks amazing and we are still amazed that the naked girls are still alive because it was freezing that day. We were almost dying with clothes on, so imagine how they suffered in the cold. It could have been very warm that day, but it was so cold. They performed like professionals. You can still see a video snippet of that on our YouTube Channel. Behind the scenes in LA part 2. http://www.youtube.com/user/thebandchannelzero?feature=watch#p/u/2/oMcLPTjH-U4
Franky/CZ: They really felt that we were going to create a big thing here, so they stepped up almost immediately when we started and we were positive about that. The music business has changed a lot since 1997, so it felt like coming home after so many years. Channel Zero plays music for a label like that, there's no doubt about that. They understand what happens with heavy music. It's too bad Roadrunner Records International didn't feel like that. They didn't even take the time to listen to our album, but it's ok because we just made deals with ten other companies. In EU to bring out Feed Them With A Brick and we are talking to many others from more countries around the world. Let the album do its thing. I believe the music is strong enough that it will get to the surface. ;-)
When did you guys sign to Roadrunner? How did that come about?
The next single is "In The City", another killer song. You made an amazing video for that one as well. Do you use the same director for all your videos?
Franky/CZ: Yes we worked with a Belgian dude that became famous in porn land by making the porn movie Malice in LALALAND ( it had 19 nominations in 2011 at the biggest porn award show in Vegas) He knew LA and his crew is over there, so we chose to make two videos in one stay in LA. Unfortunately, we ended up in an underground studio filming, because it was pouring rain that day in LA. Otherwise we would have made a road movie clip in LA where me and Angie Savage were like going to kidnap each band member and made them play in a prison cell for me. In the end I was shot by Angie, but there was so much rain that we had to cancel our whole scenario, but we made a good second plan video. "In The City" came out pretty good as an alternative plan made in one day.
You wrote this album with Mikey Doling, who is now in the band. He is one killer guitar player. How long were you writing this album?
Franky/CZ: Well Mikey joined the band after he has been doing the reunion shows over here in Belgium. He felt so much at home in the band that he ended up staying and I must say he's become my brother. It's almost destiny. At first I didn't want to make a reunion album because most of the time they suck because it's almost like you have to write something since the fans want you back again. When Mikey started throwing songs to me, I really felt that it was exciting, new and really challenging for me. His excellent songwriting and speed of writing really blew me away. I was like seduced on his quality songs, so one day I said to the manager "Damn I got to go do this. It's too good to not sing on it." We wrote like 28 songs and from these 28 songs, we finally put twelve on the album and we're pretty much close to gold over here in Belgium. We are happy we could bring out a new album making a new version of CZ without really losing our past. It is the best of both worlds. Mikey's very talented and smart, so he came up with a fresh impact for me to sing on, so that made my day also. Music is a challenge and that's what I felt writing this album with him
How did the writing process go with him living in the States and you in Belgium?
Franky/CZ: The funny thing is that he wrote all music here in a studio and all my pre-production was done in LA. I really absorbed the boiling energy of LA and it was the best trip ever for me. I stepped out of my daily life here and went for that vocal challenge over there. I was lucky I could work with Brad Dujmovic, a great musician and friend of Mikey's, to work out my vocals over there. LA is always action, so it was a blast working there. I love the energy. The first time I stayed there, I was also held hostage by that volcano eruption in Europe, which held me for three weeks in LA because I had no flight back anymore, so we jumped in a studio in LA and started writing. The whole thing lifted off. It is still one of the best moments ever. I was sales marketing for a pa company at that time and was at a seminar in San Francisco. I just wanted to go party for three days in LA with Mikey, but the volcano decided some other plans for us.
How did it come to be that Mikey joined the band?
Franky/CZ: We tried twenty guys over here, but we just didn't feel right about that, so we proposed to try some overseas names and Mikey was our first try. He came in and blew our minds off. That night the first bottle of Jack was emptied and many more followed. He's just such a positive thinking person and a talented writer. I'm happy he gave me a second life in music.
After reading all the song titles, it seemed like maybe there was a slight theme to the album. Was there?
Franky/CZ: We didn't really make a concept album, but many songs just felt so right. I'm a very realistic writer. I always react on things that happen in the world and my personal life always ends up in my lyrics. Although Feed Them With A Brick is really an overall title that fit really well , we wanted to step up with something strong that was very large and everyone was really happy with that impact title. You can use it in so many ways.
When will you release the third single "Ocean"?
Franky/CZ: "Ocean" is our third single over here. We hope to get a good chance getting it on the radio and maybe we can hit charts with it. It's for January 2012, so we are excited about all that again. We're also working on the video and it looks like its going to be fun again.
Logan Mader produced the album. He does great work with metal bands. What was it that he was able to bring to the table with this album? Did he draw things out of you that you did not know you had in you?
Franky/CZ: Mikey proposed Logan and that was the right move. Logan heard the demo's and he immediately said "I want do this." We were like "Okay, Great!" We ended up always sending our demo's to Logan, which he continuously kept saying "this is what I want to hear and see the evolution." When we came into the studio, we already knew exactly what we had together, so the process was rolling so good it was almost not real. Since Mikey's a producer also, the songs were already so far in the right direction that Logan could really spend time fine-tuning our demo's, which was the best roll out ever. Everybody involved was making its outmost best to have a great album and the ambiance was also one of a positive vibe. All were working for that one thing "let's kick some ass", which we did in my opinion.
Now that this album is out and doing so well, do you think that you will be putting out albums more regularly now?
Franky/CZ: Mikey and I are talking about starting on that second one in Feb. /March 2012, so yes we will start soon for more metal from Belgium.
Has your music been used in any movies or TV shows?
Franky/CZ: Over here our music is on many TV stations. Outside of Belgium it is less because people don't really know us yet, but I believe we have some nice tunes for TV. I still hope we can get "Ocean" in a movie theme. That would be awesome.
In 2010 you guys released a DVD Live at the Ancienne Belgique. Tell us what people can expect to see on the DVD.
Franky/CZ: The DVD we made was like a gift back to all those people who bought a ticket somewhere. We wanted to have a nice DVD which we never did before, so we didn't make any concessions on that one. It was not cheap, but it had to be good, nothing more nothing less. I think it also sold like 10,000 copies over here. It would be an ideal DVD to put as bonus on an international release. That's the plan anyway, so we'll see. There is more news to come on that since more and more countries are joining to release Feed Them With A Brick.
Right now you are on the 'In The City' Tour. It looks like a lot of those shows sold out. How has the tour been so far?
Franky/CZ: This tour has been amazing so far. Nobody does that anymore, touring in the cities. Most bands only play in AB Brussels, because it's easy booking, but we chose to get back out there. The small clubs hold 5,600 people, some of them are 1,200 places. I believe we will have played in front of around 10,000 people in four weeks on such a small surface. It's almost unreal, but we're having the time of our lives.
What are your plans for 2012? Will you be coming to the States on tour?
Franky/CZ: We have been contacted to tour Brazil in March, so that would already be GREAT. We have some really interesting proposals for 2012 for EU. I believe we have to get out there and show people what we do.
Thank you very much for the interview. I have become a very big fan of the band. I think you guys are amazing. Before you go, was there anything you'd like to add or say?
Franky/CZ: Well I hope people take a little time to listen to our songs off the new album. We get really amazing comments from people in the States in one way or the other. It seems like our sound gets them really good, so I would love to get our music rolling over there. We'll see if things can happen. It would be amazing to finally play the US. It has always been a bit of a dream come true. Thank you Shauna for believing in us and giving us a chance.