Category Archives: Musician

Q & A with French Band Ze Gran Zeft!

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Sideman (left), Da Kid & Boots (right) of Ze Gran Zeft shot by Anthony Dubois

 

Fans of the former nonconformist bands Rage Against the Machines and The Beastie Boys will be floored with delight when they hear Ze Gran Zeft’s modern amalgamation of hip-hop and rock if they haven’t already.

The band, which is comprised of singer, songwriter and guitarist Boots, Sideman on bass and Da Kid on drums, have created a unique discography of energetically charged tracks full of ill beats, radical guitar riffs, screams and raps that make it impossible not to do some good old head bangin’ when they blow through the speaker.

ZGZ started working with renowned producer and musical genius Charles “Kallaghan” Massabo shortly after the band’s formation in 2010, with Kallaghan helping to reel in the boys’ diverse interests into a common focus, not to mention his creation of powerful sound design on most of their tracks. Earlier this year the song ‘Just Like You,’ which was written by Kallaghan for the well known post-hardcore band Falling in Reverse, charted at No. 21 on the Billboard Top 200. Falling in Reverse’s former lead guitarist and backing vocalist, Jacky C Vincent, is featured on ZGZ’s single ‘Spaceman,’ which was released earlier this year and is one of the hits of the band’s forthcoming album “JOI,” which will drop in 2016. Another notable single off the upcoming album titled ‘Millennial Kids’ features non-other than Mopreme Shakur, Tupac’s older brother.

To find out more about the boys of ZGZ make sure to check out our interview below.

You can listen to some of the tracks of their previous albums through their bandcamp/iTunes page: https://zegranzeft.bandcamp.com/music

https://itunes.apple.com/fr/artist/ze-gran-zeft/id622794779

As well as through their website: http://www.zegranzeft.com

Where are you guys from originally?

Boots: We come from Toulon, in the South East of France.

How would you describe your sound to listeners who haven’t heard your music yet?

Boots: The future.

What is your writing and recording process like?

Boots: We work as a “rock band” but with a “hip-hop” approach– the beat/instrumentals are made first, then I would write some hooks keeping the best one to build a powerful chorus. The inspiration/recording/writing process stays the same for us, we create a vibe, we just fool around until we reach the positive vibe to create and record a track. And basically that is what ZGZ is made of.

When did you guys start playing together?

Da Kid: In 2009 after I met BOOTS at a band contest, we started the basis of ZGZ. I introduced Sideman to the project, as we were working the same job at the time, and after the first rehearsal the band was created.

What was the vibe like between you guys back then compared to now—was it instant chemistry or were there things you had to work through in order to mesh well together?

Da Kid: Total chemistry, we have a lot of influences and that makes ZGZ’s richness, and it’s been like that from the beginning. It’s been 6 years since we started working together and it’s still the same craziness!

How did you end up working with producer Charles “Kallaghan” Massabo?

Da Kid: I contacted him in 2010 while he was still working at his studio in the French Riviera. He liked the demo I sent him and we started working together a couple of month after that.

Can you guys tell me about the work that went into the EPs “Watch The Crown,” and “Crunked Vizion” that you released in 2013?

Sideman: Both EPs were recorded at the same time, that’s the reason why the vibe is the same. That was actually the first album Kallaghan produced and mixed in Los Angeles.

We worked on a 10-track album back in 2012, and when he went to settle down in LA the album was ready. He mixed it at Mudrock’s Hobby Shop studio. That was our first international production between France and the U.S. We also had the opportunity to work with Arn Gyssels for the artwork on both EPs, after discovering his work for Bring Me The Horizon’s “Sempiternal.”

Can you talk a little about your inspiration for each EP?

Boots: I usually write lyrics about stuff that amuses me, like partying with friends, having a good time, and most of all: SEX. We like the 80s vibe before grunge came out with all their penis problems haha… But we are also huge fans of 90s music and that paradox is ZGZ’s main direction: the crossover. We’re just a bunch of kids that love to fool around and annoy elder people.

Did anyone else collaborate with you on those EPs?

Sideman: We recorded all the gang vocal parts with our friends from HELL RULES HEAVEN, who are from France and who work with Kallaghan too. We had a great time screaming like dumbasses into a microphone haha!

You also released the EP “The Debra Experience” in 2013 can you tell us a little bit about that project?

Da Kid: Hahaha! This has been the lamest and at the same time the most fantastic stuff we’ve done! We recorded Kallaghan’s ex-cat on that album. Then after the EP came out the cat went nuts, some issues with the royalties I think. In the end the cat kept the house and the PlayStation 3, and we kept the rights. Lame story.

It seems a bit lighter than the other two, more hip-hop and no heavy guitar riffs—can you tell us what inspired you guys to make that EP?

Boots: We recorded this EP with absolutely no instruments except for a bad quality folk guitar. Everything else is synths and beats. That has been our very first approach with hip-hop, and influenced the following work that made our first upcoming album. We wanted to try something new, and the final product is something cute, but boring. That’s why we named it “The Debra Experience” because Debra Morgan is cute but really boring.

How did you guys come to start working with Jacky C Vincent on the ‘Spaceman’ track you released earlier this year?

Boots: Kallaghan started working with Jacky after he met him by way of Ronnie Radke. He worked on his mixtape and then was involved in the production of Falling In Reverse’s third album “Just Like You.” Kallaghan and Jacky became friends, so when he introduced ZGZ to Jacky, he liked the concept and accepted to drop a crazy ass shred solo. He’s English you know, he’s able to feel real talent. That’s a European quality.

What was the experience like working with him?

Boots: This guy is a rock star, he’s talented, and his hair looks great. He has a purple guitar too. Does Van Halen have a purple guitar? I don’t think so…

You’re also about to release the single ‘Millennial Kids,’ of off your upcoming album- what inspired you guys to create this song and why do you think it will go over well with your audience?

Boots: The Sega Genesis, The Snes, Baywatch, and Dragon Ball Z. This song is our generation. It affects everyone that grew up between 1980 and the 00s, cause it’s dedicated to this period. Every kid dreamed about taking a nap on Pamela’s breast after pushing a giant Kameha. So if you don’t love it or even get it, you surely are from those who use “Pardon my French” before swearing, or use “kiddo”…

How did you guys get connected with Tupac’s brother Mopreme Shakur for the new single?

Sideman: It’s still Kallaghan’s shenanigans haha! Seriously this guy is a real big brother for us, we would never have thought we could write a song with a Shakur one day… We knew Mopreme from his old project with Tupac, “The Outlawz” and “Thug Life,” and Kallaghan had the opportunity to meet him. He was mixing the track by the time, and Mopreme accepted to write a 16 on it… We come from Toulon, and we have a song with one of the most important family members of the hip-hop history!

What’s the name of your upcoming full-length album and when can audiences expect it to be released?

Boots: The name of the album is “JOI” and it’s ready to be released in 2016.

What do you have planned for the future after the release of the album?

Boots: Our first objective is to go on a big tour, to introduce people to the next iconic band of the generation. We are also working on our next album and have the same urge to work with a lot of different artists. This is something we share within Kallaghan Records crew, the union. As we use to say in French “L’union fait la force” (United we stand)…

What tours have you been on so far?

Boots: We had the opportunity to tour in Eastern Europe back in spring 2013 with the Romanian band Dirty Shirt. We love these guys and we had the greatest time ever over there. We also toured in France since the band was created, and played with a couple of local bands.

What has been the most memorable and/or craziest thing that has happened to you guys on tour so far?

Boots: Having a proper PA and something to drink. Honestly, I think the 100% filled rider doesn’t exist. That’s why Van Halen asked for special M&M’s; when you crash at the gig, go check the PA, especially when you need bass, and go check if you have water and something to eat. If you got everything, then yeah, you’ll have a memorable gig, and that’s the craziest thing that can happen to you. And we are in the 21st century.

What was the first show you played together?

Da Kid: The very first show we played together was in 2010 near Toulon, for a band contest organized by a local music store by way of a local festival. We won, and then played on the main stage that night.

What was it like being on stage together for the first time?

Boots: Have you ever eaten a warm croissant during a trip to France? This is kind of new for you but then you feel the pleasure and feel instantly that this is the right thing to do at this exact moment.

What other shows have you guys played aside from the tours you been on together?

Boots: We’ve only played local shows. If you don’t already know about France’s Southeast scene, then let me tell you there’s nothing. France in general, has never been a good spot for composition and live shows; people here are more interested in nightclubs or bars. So if you’re not playing an EDM mix you don’t have 99 choices to play in proper places, and most of all, earn enough money to live from it.

Why do you guys love playing music?

Boots: Cause we all failed our studies, so music remained the easiest way to get girls and money. And that’s one of the only jobs where people love to hear you complain about how life isn’t easy. And sometimes the melody affects our feelings.

Can you describe the feeling you get when you’re on stage?

Da Kid: I feel surrounded by tons of stuffs I can hit the hardest I want, unless the PA sucks, but most of the time that’s the better place to be. Regarding the two others and the way they jump everywhere, I think they enjoy it a lot too.

What bands were you playing in before you got together?

Sideman: We played in small bands, like the one you got into in college after discovering MTV. All our projects were really rock/metal sounding, cause we’ve all grown up with Korn/Tool/Nirvana/etc. We’ll never bash on our first projects cause first, we experienced what is like to be ridiculous and learned to accept it. And then, we created ZGZ after understanding what we really wanted to do in music. It’s been a successful practice.

If you weren’t musicians, what other job do you think you’d have?

Boots: Da kid could work in the fashion industry, he doesn’t particularly have good tastes, but he’d love to be surrounded by people like Lagerfeld, Jacobs or Gautier. Regarding Sideman, he’s really good with computers and technology, so I think he would succeed in creating a webcam show platform for people like Lagerfeld, Jacobs and Gautier and Da Kid. And me, I think I’d really like to become a famous bar tender in a famous 90’s style house club from Chicago or from Castro in SF to spend the night with all those aforementioned fellas.

Can you tell me briefly how each one of you got into music?

Sideman: I decided to play bass in a metal band after discovering ‘Blind’ at the end of Street Fighters II The Movie

Boots: I was raised on the Woodstock scene, The Police and David Bowie. Things follow the logical way.

Da Kid: I was hitting my friends at Kindergarten, my parents decided to buy me a plastic drum kit so I could hit something else.

Can you talk about some of the musicians and bands that have influenced you over the years and why they’ve been important in your growth in musicians?

Boots: Jimi Hendrix and David Bowie, cause they are related to my father who’s a big fan. They also represent the new wave of their own genre; they brought a revolutionary sound and are icons for modern music. Then Dimebag Darell, who is to me the greatest musician of all times. The Notorious BIG, 2Pac and Kendrick Lamar, for all that they represent for music, and their writing skills.

Sideman: I grew up listening to David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, and Jamiroquai. They heavily influenced my playing style at first. Currently, the musicians that influenced me the most are Adam Nolly Getgood (Periphery), Dick Lövgren (Meshuggah) and Jean-Michel Labadie (Gojira). Their sound and approach to bass helped me make a lot of crucial choices choosing my bass brands, effects, and live configuration.

Da Kid: Slipknot. The intention, their ideas (at least on the 2 first albums) were limitless. But I grew up with many different bands and artists like Paco Sery who’s my favorite, Maceo Parker and Prince, who changed the conception of beat making. The most inspiring current drummer to me is Mark Guiliana.

 

Thanks ZGZ for the rad interview! If you want to find out more about them and what they’re up to, make sure to stop by their social media pages:

https://www.facebook.com/ZeGranZeft

https://twitter.com/zegranzeft

https://www.instagram.com/zegranzeft

 

 

Bringing Cultures Together Through Jazz: Master Trumpeter Ramiro Nasello

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                                    Argentine Musician Romiro Nasello shot by Claudio Maxit

Every genre of music has fans, but jazz is among the few that has devotees. Variations of jazz exist in almost every culture in the world, distinct from one another but sharing common influences. The diehards, the connoisseurs and the aficionados ingest the sounds of a good jazz band like a fine wine and know every hook and riff like the face of an old friend. If one were to ask them where to find the thriving genre’s modern hub, they would answer in unison: Buenos Aires.

That’s where Ramiro Nasello found his calling. Nasello was born in Olavarria, Argentina, where he took his first steps toward his lifelong love of music at 10 years old. Starting off with the piano, Nasello felt at home around music and musicians. It was when he discovered the trumpet, though, that he really came into his own. He moved to the city of Buenos Aires at 14, where his natural talent caught the attention of the iconic Argentine trumpeter Roberto “Fats” Fernandez. A major influence in jazz music at home and internationally, Fernandez is well known for his work with world-renowned musicians including Ray Charles, Roy Eldridge and Lionel Hampton. He took the then young Nasello under his wing and helped him realize the extent of his innate gift.

“My style was further defined after I met my mentor Roberto “Fats” Fernandez,” Nasello said. “It was a big step up for me as a musician and trumpet player at that time.”

At 17 he was introduced to Fernandez’s close friend, music legend and eight-time Grammy Award-winning trumpeter and composer Wynton Marsalis. Fernandez had written an original composition for Marsalis, “Luces de mi Cuidad,” aka “Lights of my City,” and Marsalis happily agreed to perform it as a guest artist on Fernandez’s album La Musica y La Vida. Nasello sat and listened as Marsalis played, and found himself moved to the core. Then, he got an opportunity many musicians spend a lifetime dreaming of.

“He did one take, and he was playing so beautifully I started crying like a kid,” Nasello recalled. “I also got to play for him. He was very nice and very encouraging to me.”

Throughout the ‘90s, Nasello had focused primarily on the classical side of trumpet. He became incredibly skilled during that time, and even held the prestigious principal first trumpet chair position from 1993 until 2000. But after training under Fernandez and hearing the sounds of Marsalis, he began to focus his efforts more on jazz and popular music.

Through his training, Nasello quickly became one of the most sought-after trumpeters in modern jazz ensembles. He’s played all over the world, and with some of the most recognizable names in the genre.

“I did a collaboration with ‘The Latinaje Project,’ a Latin jazz band led by the great bassist, composer and arranger, Guido Martinez. We played lots of high intensity music,” Nasello said of one project. “They put me in charge of the trumpet and flugelhorn solos. That was an all-star band that I was fortunate to be part of with musicians like Daniel ‘Pipi’ Piazzolla, Astor Piazzolla’s grandson. We played many concerts and I participated on the self-titled debut album with them.”

To be band mates with Astor Piazzolla’s grandson is no small achievement. “Pipi” Piazzolla’s grandfather was a revolutionary figure in Argentine jazz and tango, and helped put the country on the map as a major influence in both Latin and jazz music.

In the past two years alone, Nasello has played in Singapore, Las Vegas, Hong Kong, Rome, Barcelona and Fort Lauderdale. He also recently played trumpet on Fernandez’s album ‘Montecarlo Jazz Ensemble,’ a charity album with an inspiring purpose.

“‘Montecarlo Jazz Ensemble’ was an album recorded for a UNICEF fund-raising initiative for the Indian descendants in the north of Argentina,” Nasello said proudly. “It was a collaboration of the most renowned artists of the Argentinian music scene for a good cause.”

Shakespeare once wrote that music is the food of love. Jack Kerouac called it the only truth. And Ramiro Nasello sees it as a gift shared between giver and receiver.

“When somebody comes to me and says, ‘Thank you for your music,’ and I can see in their eyes that they enjoyed that moment, that we felt the magic of music and they felt it too, it really is a beautiful thing.”

Nasello is currently working on several new and exciting projects with other internationally renowned musicians including Italian drummer Andrea D’Angelo, who is known for his work with the bands Human Feel, the Matt Wilson Quartet and Tyft. The two have already begun planning their first album, “Inside Out,” which they will begin recording in 2016 under the name of the D’Angelo-Nasello International Jazz Collective Project. The new project will bring together musicians from Italy, Argentina and the US, offering audiences a modern and culturally rich jazz flavor.

A Saxophonist with Heart: Italy’s Gianni Vancini

Gianni Vancini
Gianni Vancini shot by Mark Montue

While there are countless professional saxophonists working in the music industry today, few have had the success of Italian musician Gianni Vancini. An award winning saxophonist, Gianni Vancini has continued to woo audiences over the past two decades with his magnificently dynamic sound, which blends elements of jazz, funk, soul, and R&B.

“It’s very hard for me to say that I play a specific genre of music,” explained Gianni Vancini. “I play what gives me the chance to share emotions.”

Vancini, who has performed all over the world, has been recognized and endorsed by several of the music industry’s most prestigious companies including Canada-based Légère Reeds, Italy’s Grassi Saxophones, as well as American-based companies Cannonball Saxophones, Theo Wanne Mouthpieces, and AMT microphones.

Having worked with an incredible list of internationally known musicians, Vancini names musician and friend Eric Marienthal as someone who has greatly shaped his personal approach music.

“Eric Marienthal takes the cake. We met in 2005, when he was recording for Italian artist Umberto Tozzi, who I’ve been touring with since 2002. The approach he has with music and life is so inspiring to me,” said Vancini. “What I really like about him music wise is his preparation, his high level of professionalism and the way he strives for perfection in everything he does.”

Marienthal, who is a Grammy Award winning contemporary American saxophonist, has released several successful records including Oasis, which ranked in the top five of the Billboard Contemporary Jazz Charts.

In addition to collaborating with such well known artists as Andrea Bocelli, and Sting, Vancini has also used his musical genius to help raise money for charity organizations like Terra Mosse; an organization which came into being after two earthquakes with magnitudes of 5.8 and above hit Northern Italy within 10 days of each other leaving businesses in shambles and thousands of people homeless.

“I did a song for a benefit two years ago after a series of tremendous earthquakes hit my birthplace in Mirandola, Italy. Together with a famous radio station, we decided to put together an all-star band to raise money for the territory,” explained Vancini.

“The song is called ‘Insieme’ (Together) and it became a single CD for the association called Terre Mosse, which is taking care of all the major businesses that were damaged by the earthquakes.”

The all-star band, which included Gianni Vancini (saxophone), Claudio Dirani (drums), Marco Dirani (bass), and Emiliano Fantuzzi (guitar), released the single CD entitled Insieme, which was produced by the Italian radio station Radio Pico, in 2013.

Vancini is currently represented in America by the artist management company Max Bernard Management, which also represents internationally known musicians Terry Wollman, Maltida Madison, Rob “Funksta” Bacon, among others.

As for the future, Gianni Vancini plans to continue his life-long passion of playing music around the world and hopes to embark on another tour in the United States later this year.