Zanister "Fear No Man"
For Rock Brigade Magazine by Ricardo Franzin
INTERVIEW WITH DAVID T. CHASTAIN
1. First of all, I would like you to tell me something about the response that the first album got worldwide. Was it what you expected?
David T. Chastain: Generally the response was very positive from many numerous worldwide reviewers saying such things as "The best heavy metal album of all time" to "This is the reason I listen to Metal". The only unflattering reviews were from people who didn't understand what the band was about. They would say "the band sounded like an 80s metal band" which is exactly what we were trying to accomplish. The fan response has been very positive. We hope to build on that with FEAR NO MAN.
2. Seeing today, how do you analyze the final result you got in that first album, specially in terms of production?
David T. Chastain: On the first album Symphonica Millennia I stayed away from the production aspect as much as possible to avoid the Cd sounding too much like a Chastain Cd. I was not there during the mix. The team that mixed it went for a pretty raw sound. Unfortunately I was not very happy with the initial mix. However after we remastered it numerous times and made some other adjustments it turned out sounding pretty good. I knew it could have sounded a little more polished so I made a promise to myself to make sure that happened on FEAR NO MAN.
3. The production quality of the new record is way superior to the one we found in the debut. Achieving such a level was a conscious effort after the results of the first album?
David T. Chastain: Definitely. I mixed FEAR NO MAN at Leviathan Records' own studio all by myself. No one else was there so I am the one to blame or praise. While anything could be a little better, I am happy with the final results and I think it sounds more like what the band really is about. I was trying to get the mix in the same general ballpark as the new Halford and Maiden Cds. Considering our budget against theirs, I would say we came out pretty competitive.
4. Musically, how would you compare the two albums? I feel a stronger 80s touch in the new one. Do you agree?
David T. Chastain: Well I don't know. I think they both are pretty much in the same style. Of course I may be too close to make a subjective opinion after hearing each Cd 100s of times during writing, recording, mixing and mastering.
That is a better question to ask me in a year or for some objective listener to answer.
5. The first album had more rawness if compared to this one, which is more polished. Do you agree and why did you get to such direction?
David T. Chastain: As I mentioned before, the rawness on the first one was not necessarily planned although it turned out OK. I think the Zanister sound can get even a little more polished in the future. This was my first attempt at mixing a Cd all by myself and I learned a great deal during the process. My next mix will be an improvement no matter what the band.
6. Was the songwriting process more focused and/or "updated" this time? I mean, for the previous CD you told me you used old riffs, old ideas etc. Is everything fresh in the new record?
David T. Chastain: Most everything on this Cd was written in the past year. The two songs that Brian Sarvela and I wrote, Lost Control and Hell on Earth are older songs. Actually the music on those two tracks were written in the early 90s. The other tracks were specifically written for FEAR NO MAN. I wrote the music to all tracks and the lyrics to six. Brian wrote the lyrics to the 2 aforementioned songs. Vainglory vocalist Ted Brasier wrote the lyrics to The Shades They Color Thee, Grip of the Groove and Got to Live My Life. Ted is a great writer and I guess people may think it strange that he wrote the lyrics on the new Zanister but none on the Vainglory. The reason being is that the lyrics to the Vainglory Cd 2050 were written before he joined the band.
7. How big was the participation of the other guys in the making of the new album, as you and Michael did basically everything in the first one?
David T. Chastain: Everyone was responsible for recording their own parts and then I mixed and mastered the recording. In the new world of digital workstations if someone actually made a mistake I could correct it in the computer. I think everyone did a very good job recording their own parts. I would say the Cd is produced by the whole band.
8. Brian Sarvella's voice this time around sounds really much better. Did he do anything special to achieve such a great performance?
David T. Chastain: I told him to sing as heavy as possible. Plus they spent a lot more time on recording the vocals. The engineer, John Ellis, did a very good job on getting the best performance out of Brian. I think Brian also felt more comfortable with the melodies on this Cd. On Symphonica Millennia he really had very little input.
9. The guitar work is also amazing and it's heavier than in the previous record. Did you want to get heavier?
David T. Chastain: I wanted to make sure the guitars were out front more than on Symphonica Millennia and recorded numerous tracks to make it so. I think Michael does a great job on his solos. I used a mixture of POD and Marshall tracks to achieve the sounds.
10. In your opinion, what are the highlight tracks in the new album?
David T. Chastain: That is a hard choice but at this minute I would say Generation Breakdown and Egyptian Nights. The reason being is that Generation is a really rocking tune and Egyptian has that Chastain mystical vibe that I always gravitate to at some point on a Cd. Plus I like the song topic.
11. I can see some social awareness in lyrics like "You Live For Greed" and "Generation Breakdown", and it is not a common aspect to find in metal bands. How do you come up with these ideas and, in your opinion, how do they fit in a metal band?
David T. Chastain: In Zanister I tried to make my lyrical tracks mean something to me on an intellectual level. In "You Live For Greed" I am talking about the vast inequality of wealth distribution in the US and around the world. In the US the top 1% owns 38% of the wealth. The top 20% owns 83% of the wealth. While that is frightening the most amazing statistic is that the richest 200 people in the world have more wealth than the bottom 2.4 billion people on earth. That is incomprehensible to me. "Generation Breakdown" is about all of the teen violence in the US. Teenagers killing teenagers is an every day occurrence.
12. Tell me something about the "revolutionary" cover. I mean, a clenched fist can mean lots of things, so what does it mean to you?
David T. Chastain: To be quite truthful that cover was originally slated to be the cover of Vainglory's 2050. However the European label wanted an illustration for that release. I knew the clinched fist was a powerful cover and it fit well with the title FEAR NO MAN. It is a simple powerful image you will not forget.
13. Any special reason for the title "Fear No Man"? Or is it only the name of a song?
David T. Chastain: That track is about a person who Fears No Man because he knows he can not die and will live forever. However it is a powerful phrase for anyone to live by as we all struggle in this game of life.
14. In the first album, you went for a more neo-classical metal image and the way things are now it reminds me of the 80s metal imagery. Do you agree? If so, why did this change happen?
David T. Chastain: I guess in the artwork you are correct. It was just the way things worked out. People took the name Symphonica Millennia to mean the music was a little more classical inspired but in reality I just meant it to mean Metal Music for the new Millennium. Of course the cover with futuristic musicians made it look pseudo classical in a warped sense. Obviously the clenched fist is a take no prisoners image more related to typical metal.
15. Is Zanister your current priority as far as bands go?
David T. Chastain: I really have many bands and I love them all for different reasons. I would say SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN would be my main priority only because I have total control over that band and the response to that Cd in the US has been phenomenal from both the metal and straight communities. Plus it is a ton of fun. ZANISTER is a band of 5 people that loves the music we play but we live all over the country from one another. We record the Cds because we want to make great music for metal fans worldwide. We are just flag bearers for what we consider Traditional Heavy Metal.
16. What's the current situation with your other side bands, mainly with Chastain (the band), CJSS and Southern Gentlemen?
David T. Chastain: I hope to have a new Cd with Kate and Chastain in late 2001 or early 2002. Kate seems to be more in the mood to do something. In regards to CJSS the new Cd Kings of the World has been successful. However the label CJSS is on, Pavement Music, has screwed us over big time financially and I have had to hire a collection agency to go after them. Very distasteful. SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN hopes to have a new Cd out in 2001. I just have to figure out which songs to put on the Cd and record it.
17. Do you feel a better acceptance to heavy metal bands like Zanister in the USA nowadays? Or did the situation at least get a bit better since the first album?
David T. Chastain: I think metal is on the upswing in the US. Definitely more for the newer types of bands such as Korn and other like acts. Unfortunately traditional metal still has problems in getting a lot of attention but it is definitely better than it has been in a few years.
18. Besides being a musician, you have a record label of your own and I'm sure you are not selling millions of albums. Therefore, how is it possible to live playing and working with metal in the USA?
David T. Chastain: Yes, we actually do pretty well all things considered. Unfortunately I have to spend a lot of time in the business of music as opposed to the art of music. If people who owed Leviathan Records money paid us on time we would be very successful. It is too bad there are so many dishonest people in this business. I live simply and making tons of money has never been a top priority to me. No one is getting rich on Leviathan Records but it is an opportunity for everyone to at least make quality music on their own terms.
19. What do you plan to achieve with "Fear No Man" that you still have not achieved in your already long time musical career?
David T. Chastain: I am just trying to put out quality releases that are successful enough to continue in the future. I hope people will listen to the Cd and be impressed on numerous levels; musicianship, lyrical content, sound quality and integrity.
20. What are you thoughts about the current european power metal scene? Any favorite and/or interesting bands you'd like to mention here?
David T. Chastain: I think it is very healthy but is seems to be getting very saturated. I have always been a fan of that type of music and it will only help the music scene in the future for these types of bands to have success now.
21. Same question as above, but about the american scene (if there is one).
David T. Chastain: The metal scene is getting better but unfortunately the big selling bands are those rap/metal hybrid bands that on the whole repulse me due to the horrible so called vocalists who never sing but just scream and rap. There seems to be more interest in technically proficient musicians and I hope the trend continues. In the US we have a generation of musical idiots due to the success of grunge in the 90s. Hopefully this will not be the case with these rap/metal acts.
OK, David, thank you very much for the time you spent to answer these questions. I really enjoyed the album and I hope you have great success with it. Please feel free to add any comments you'd like to.
David T. Chastain: Actually I would like to announce that I have opened up a new record company/website called Diginet Music. http://www.diginetmusic.com The site will mainly feature rare and unreleased tracks from myself and other known artists. I have numerous demo quality Cds that were never released and this is a way for me to get them out. Some of them include: David T. Chastain's D-Daze 'A New Day' is a very heavy project that I did around 1994. Probably my heaviest music to date. Kind of like Sabbath meets Trower
David T. Chastain's No Voices 'Instatreasures' is a Cds worth of instrumental tracks that never made my other instrumental recordings for one reason or another. I just recently discovered these tracks and had forgotten all about them. It was like hearing some of the music for the first time. Very satisfying.
David T. Chastain's Riffology 'Wicked Riffs' is a Cd with just rhythm guitar, bass and drums. No vocals or leads. I am sure I am not the only one who has heard some great riffs in songs and would be very happy just to hear that with nothing else added. This music was actually from a Cd I was going to record in 93 or so but I never found the perfect singer. 2 of these tracks are on the new Zanister Cd in slightly altered format. Also a couple other tracks showed up on the most recent CJSS and last Zanister. However those are different versions with vocals.
I will also have a more blues oriented Cd available. More blues than SOUTHERN GENTLEMEN which was heavy blues rock.
Also other artists such as Joe Stump, John Hahn, Khali, and others have given us some rare tracks for inclusion. The company is looking for rare tracks from any known artist. I am sure they are all like me with stuff hidden in their closet that they would like the public to check out. This is the way for it to happen. Sometimes the best music an artist has is actually their demos before it is raped and commercialized by the record companies and/or producers.