A Fatal Warning From Zack Steven's.
Zack Steven's is no stranger to the Metal scene, as Zack was once the front man for Florida's Savatage. A band that have become so successful over the years they have become 1 of the pioneers of real metal music. Zack recorded some of the most important albums with Savatage, such as 'Edge Of Thorns', 'Handful of Rain'. Now Zack has a very promising future with his own metal act 'Circle 2 Circle', also based in Florida. These 5 guys have created music were Savatage have left off. Yes there are resemblances to that of Savatage in C2C music, but Zack has also created his own identity and is creating some very interesting music. With 4 albums under the bands belt, and 2 E.P's, the band are going from strength to strength, the band released their debut album in 2003 titled 'Watching In Silence'. The went onto record 'The Middle Of Nowhere' in 2005, followed by 'Burden Of Truth' in 2006 and now their new album is yet another step up the ladder for this band. Their new album 'Delusions Of Grandeur'. I managed to finally have the pleasure of speaking to Zack recently about the new album and the past and what the future hold for Circle 2 Circle. Here is what Zack had to say.
Well Zack, it's a pleasure to finally speak to you, it's a wait that I've waited for, a long time coming. I'd like to start by asking you the following question. In your upbringing was there anybody else in your family who in a musician that has inspired you to become part of the music world?
"Well my mum did some singing and she had a school for personal development and a modeling agency in the New York area, and that was some kind of influence in the show bizz aspect and also the fact that she could also sing did help out a lot. My brother is also a great musician, he plays the bass guitar & saxophone, and my sister plays piano really well. My father on the other hand, he has no musical talent whatsoever!! My mum's sister's son is a big name in the music business, his name is Butch Walker, a famous producer who works with Fall Out Boy, Avaral Leven, Seven Dust."
Have you ever asked your cousin if he wants to work with you in the near future?
"Yeah we have thought about it, he actually lives in California. We will talk with him very soon and see if we can work something out."
So what about the bands you grew up with, who are your main influences?
"The first band I think I grew up with had to be Iron Maiden, with the original singer, Paul and I first bought the album 'Killers'. When I first saw the cover I was scared to death by the cover and I thought but I really had to buy the record. I listened to the album & was blown away by the music and vocals. So later on I hide all the album covers from my parents. I later on started to listen to Judas Priest, Ozzy, Black Sabbath, and they were the 1st real metal influences I had. I later on got into Queensryche, and when I was in college I grew up with Metallica 'Ride The Lightning'. We have the same influences, as we are the same age group Jase!! I saw Iron Maiden on the 'Piece Of Mind' tour and that is when I realized that I wanted to be a singer, Bruce was awesome that night!! I would have to say that Bruce is my main influence and to become a singer. I also grow up playing drums to start with, I had been playing drums for years and I played on the 1st two albums, all the drum parts and vocals. Tom joined the band on the 'Burden Of Truth' album. We didn't have a steady line-up on the first 2 albums. I really didn't want to do that, but back then I had no choice. Drums first and then vocals later on. I'm glad I can now concentrate on the vocals now Tom is the drummer. I do enjoy picking up the sticks and having a bash now and then. I do have my own drum kit at home.
Listening to your music with C2C, you do still have elements of Savatage, but saying that Savatage must of had influences of the likes of Queen, Freddy Mercury. Am I right in saying that?
"Yeah that is probably true, I was a big Queen fan when i was growing up with the early years. Not so much with the later stuff, but the bands early stuff was rocking man!! I was also influenced by the Alan Parson's Project, Boston, Kansas, King Crimson, Uriah Heep."
What was your first band you first joined as either a singer or drummer?
"My first band was called 'Black Diamond', that was when I was a kid, we never recorded anything. Just played cover tunes. My brother also played in some bands with me back in the day, so it felt right for the two of us. I played also in a band called 'Wicked Witch' from Boston, and we are going to re-record those songs again as an album in the very near future. We will change the name as there is a girl band from Florida under the same name and they told us that we couldn't use that name anymore. So we are going to use another name for legal reasons. I'm actually in the studio now cutting the 12 original songs we did back in the day and redoing them now."
What was 'Wicked Witch' like? Power Metal? Also are you getting the orginal line-up back together to re-record the album?
'No, it was more like light Rock, I guess you could say we sound like Lynch Mob. It is light compared to Savatage or C2C. Yeah we will be getting the original line-up back together for this re-recording, except for the bass player. There is 3 out of 4 of us on the new CD, Jeff Plate (Savavatge/ Metal Church)."
Will AFM Records release this album or are you looking for another label?
"It will be on another label in North America to start with and later on released on a world-wide basis. It will have 12 songs. We're looking for a new name for the band right now, maybe 'Soul To Fire', its the name for 1 of our songs."
So was Savatage the next band you joined after your band called it a day?
"Yeah Savatage was the next band I joined. The early demos were done by a guy called Bob St. John who worked with Extreme and ended up getting the attention of Savatage. I was in the band for 9 years and recorded 5 albums with Savatage."
What was the most successful album for you with Savatage? I love 'Edge Of Thorns'. The only bad thing about that record was the fatc that there were too many people involved in the production and mixing, why was that?
"That was a good album, Chris was still in the band back then. There was a lot of magic around when we recorded that album. That was a strange album, because Chris had this urgency that something inside of him was telling him that he didn't have much more time left on this earth. I couldn't understand why he wanted to rush this record, I think it was kind of tuff for him with me been the new singer and he wanted a new singer in the band. He got a lot of things his way on that record in the end & he played like he was on a mission, like his last album!! I do feel however, that the production could of been better for the band. I was young & new to the band so they had their own technique on how they recorded albums. As for my favourite album, it would have to be 'Dead Winter Dead', because it had a song on that record that really lifted the bands profile. After that it open a new door way for T.S.O. with the song 'Christmas Eve (Sarajevo 12/24) (Instrumental)', that really gave Savatage and T.S.O. thing a real push. That one song was very commercial and appealing and when you hear the rest of the 'Dead Winter Dead' album it is a whole lot of rock stuff. The crowd that loved that song didn't really like the rest of that album. That is why we made the T.S.O. thing into a whole Christmas thing."
Moving on Zack, what was the reason why you left Savatage? Did you part on good terms?
"I left on good terms, there was no personal differences between the band, I just had some needs that I needed to take care of with my own family. I had a new born baby at that time, who is now 10 yrs old. I was just a little bit overwhelmed with very thing with the kid and Savatage. I also had to move so there was another thing I had to sort out. I just need a few months off the whole music scene. I thought I'd miss the 'Poets & Madmen' album and later on get back in the band, but it never happened. The band have not done an album since that album. I had never been at home for so long before because I was always on the road with Savatage. That is when I started to put Circle 2 Circle together, when Savatage did not record another album."
How did you get the name Circle 2 Circle and did you have any other names for the band? What does the name also mean to you?
"I came up with the bands name with some friends of mine. it basically means, I have come out of 1 musical circle which was Savatage, and then I retained some of the inner elements of the circle with Jon Oliva & Chris Caffery writing songs for the C2C album. But then again, I had a completely different band for the C2C band and it was like going from 1 circle to another circle, so that's why I got the name from. Moving from 1 band into another band."
How do you see the C2C music differ from that of Savatage? Its very similar in places with the Piano and operatic feel that your old band had?
"Well I think it all boils down to the fact that that the lyrical components mainly, I think that a lot of musical components are different now especially with the last couple of albums. The first couple of records were very similar because I was writing song with the guys who were in Savatage so they were defiantly similar. No matter what I sing on, they say 'Hey that's Savatage!!' which I can never get away from."
Does that annoy you when people say you still carry the Savatage feel in your music your creating now?
"No not at all!! I think it's a great compliment and that was where I came from the roots of my career and I think that's fine. I'm now having to tell the 20 yr old kids that Savatage was this band I was once in and I have to explain to them. Whereas, the older kids already know about my history."
So has the bands line-up in C2C been pretty much steady over the last few albums? Where did you find your musician's? Are the all based in Tampa - Florida?
"The last 3 albums have had a steady line-up and it has been really good for me. I knew I had found the right guys and we have a great relationship as musicians and on a personal level. No none of the band members are based in Tampa, I met Mitch, Paul first. Paul played with some cool guys and he recommended them to me, and there all from Nashville expect for Andy our guitar player who lives in Mississippi. Where all from the deep south area of the U.S."
Besides signing to AFM Records, who else did you approach for a record deal? What did AFM offer you which was the best deal?
"Well we had a few offers, SPV, Metal Blade, Century Media. AFM was a new label and they wanted to get it right for us. They have been very good with us and we have been growing together for 6-7yrs."
How do you see the debut album 'Watching In Silence', as a successful debut?
"It was a successful album for the band, it set us up well. The 2nd album 'Middle Of Nowhere' was a transition for the band, and the following albums were more of a success for us. I think we have hit the pinnacle with the new album!!"
Which songs from the debut album do you like and dislike and why?
"The title track itself turned out very well and we like that 1 a lot. I think' Fields Of Sorrow' & 'S.O.S.' was one of those songs that didn't come out as good I was hoping for. I like the song 'Sea Of White', it has a good riff behind it & I also like 'Into The Wind' which is a classic song that Jon & I wrote. I would have to say that 'Out Of Reach' is my least favourite songs on the record. I also like the song 'Face To Face' on the album too."
So why the name 'Middle Of Nowhere' for the 2nd album? Also was that a more successful album than the debut?
"I think the name came from the fact that I was changing my line-up & I felt that I was stuck in the middle of nowhere. So I thought the name fitted the stage were I was at that time. I really don't think it was more of a success than our debut album. I think that album was released at a very funny time and it was released on the long Easter weekend in Europe, which is something like 3-4 days off work. So it was released on a week were nobody was around and it didn't get that push that we were hoping for. Most of the record stores were shut for the holidays. I think it was a error for the label to release it back then."
Next came 'The Burden Of Truth', which was based on the Da-Vinci code, tell me a little bit about that concept?
"That album was a really good idea for the band, that album was a musical sequel to the movie. I told the guys to act as if we were doing the music for the movie in music. I think it turned out really well. I think it sold pretty well, and I know it did better than 'The Middle Of Nowhere' album."
So lets talk about the new album, 'Delusions Of Grandeur', why the title?
"Well it is a play on the ego cornpone on the music business, everybody has delusions of the grand self. So we kind of thought, everybody can have grand delusions of their selves. We decided to make 13 songs of our own that are our own delusions of Grandeur."
I looked at the artwork for the album and it has some resemblances to that of the last album which the church & the stones. Was the artwork some kind of follow up to 'The Burden Of Truth' album?
"No not at all, it just happens to be the background to the guy who is suffering delusions of grandeur, so he is in his own world. It's like people who are in their own world who think their awesome & really there just like everybody else. We all have good and bad points in our lives."
Who did the artwork for the album cover?
"I really don't know, it was a guy our new management knew and he paints really good and I like the colours for the record."
Tell me a little bit about the songs on the album, what are they about?
"Well the 1st song is called 'Fatal Warning', that is about a bad relationship, or a bad job were you can't take another minute of it. Next is 'Dead Of Dawn', that is basically about finding hope for better things to come. I got that name from Chris Oliva daughter, Dawn who died just recently who was really tragic but the song is not really about her. Her name just came into the title, but it's not about her. The song is about a person who has done bad things & wishes they could change the past and what you can do the change all that. 'Forever', that is about if you're in a bad situation it will not last forever and you have to turn the corner at some point, so keep you're head up. 'Echoes' is next, which is about relationships were you're in a tuff situation and the only good times are the echoes in the wind, but you wish there was a lot better things to remember than that and you wish you could take those whispers and build something back up. 'Waiting', that is more of a positive song, its about break out and starting all over again, get rid of the past and nothing can hold you back right now. 'Soul Breaker' is better much the same sort of idea as the last song' Next is 'Seclusion', that is about watching somebody die, were they can't take care of themselves but you can kind of see it happening. You want to help them but you know it's too late and there's nothing you can do about it. 'So Many Reasons', That song is about analyzing the situation, and its about a guy who says 'Hey I don't believe anymore', something from a relationship I guess. next is 'Chase The Lies', it's about somebody you might know who lies so much that they can't keep up with all the lies they are telling. Last song is 'Every Last Thing', that is about the fact that you're willing to give every last thing and I will make it somehow, push towards a new situation were the old things are not working out."
Was it difficult to write such an album like is? How long did it take to record the album & are you happy with the end results?
"I guess it can be hard to writes songs like we have on the new record. We are happy with the way it turned put. It had a very modern production and the studio was making big rock albums and we started writing in October 2007 and recording in December 2007 & we finished the final mastering on February the 4th 2008."
So how do you see this album as a progression from that of the previous albums?
"I think it is a nice album, I think it takes the energy level up and it gives us a different kind of song writing prospective on a sound and it introduced us to that Southern Rock feel. It also has some faster stuff on there which is cool!!"
How would you best describe you're music?
"I guess it is Power Metal, and when we first started we were more of a Hard/ Power Rock band. Now its more of a Southern Power Metal band."
Moving now before we come to an end, what's the future plans for the band?
"Well we go on tour for 3-4 wks in Europe and we do a tour with Jon Oliva's Pain in September of 2008 in the U.S.A. and the European tour on October 17th, then we have Brazil in June 2008."
I guess the fans really want to see a DVD, is there 1 in the works?
"Yeah we have a DVD coming out, at the moment we are editing it right now which will have some live stuff on it from the U.S.A. and the making of 'Delusions Of Grandeur' on it. We filmed the whole process."
Well Thanx Zack for taking your time out and doing this interview. Best of luck with the album and tour as well as the future. Do you have anything to say to you're fans reading this?
"Yeah, thanx a lot for you're support, we hope you like the new album and I hope to see you all on tour soon. Stay METAL!!!
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