Zach Myers i Shinedown om att vara först med att tweeta ut Princes död, att alltid förnya sig, beundran för bröderna Gallagher och Kanye West, vänskapen med Garth Brooks och om att aldrig vilja lämna hemstaden.
Tell me about Memphis! You grew up there and you still live there. What´s Memphis like today?
It´s cool. There´s not much of a local music scene anymore, which is kind of sad. I don´t know if there´s a local music scene anywhere, where there are original bands playing original songs? But as a city it´s thriving and it´s doing amazing. They´re rebuilding a lot of the midtown area, which has gotten really nice. Downtown and the train station area is getting really nice. It´s just such a part of who I am as a person, the whole city and the culture of it. I grew up in a 90% black and Mexican neighborhood and that was great for me, because you know, the South has a lot of racial undertones and I grew up not having a racial bone in my body and that was kind of nice to have and it set my on the path for who I am as an adult. The people in that city are tremendous people. It gets a weird rap like in the news and stuff, but… I´ve been touring for 20 years and there´s places in any city I don´t want to drive through. There´s neighborhoods in Miami you don´t want to go to and there are places in Memphis you don´t want to go, but honestly man, I´m 36 years old and I´ve never seen a crime happen in my city. It gets this weird rap, but it´s all localized, which isn´t good because you don´t want crime anywhere, but to me it´s one of the safest cities. I mean, if you go to the middle of Wyoming they´ll go “This is the safest place!”, but there´s also nothing happening there. It´s the best food in the world. The best food city I´ve ever been to and I´ve been everywhere.
Was there ever a time when you felt you wanted to leave?
No. Never. It´s funny, no one´s ever asked me that. The truth is never. I was never like “I should go to Nashville!” or “I should go to LA!” I´ve said that I can see other places where I can see myself living, but I would never move out of Memphis. We also live in Wisconsin part time now, because my wife is from Wisconsin and it´s a big family and my kids can go see their cousins and stuff, but the only two like big, enormous cities I could ever see myself living in is Tokyo, if it was closer, and I love New York City. But I love Memphis forever.
So you never had that urge when you were like 18, 19…?
I never had like a “Born to run” moment. By the time I was 19 I´d already been touring for five years, so I just wanted to go home to Memphis really. I´m still friends with a lot of people I grew up with on facebook and Instagram and it´s like “So glad I got out of that city!” and “I can´t wait to leave this city” and I´m like “Dude, I´m trying to come back to that city!” It just feels like home and it´s musically so enriched with culture… Stax, that´s really all you need, but other than that you´ve got Sun Studios if you need more and then you´ve got Hi Records and you´ve got Willie Mitchell and Al Green and you´ve got Elvis. You´ve got everything you need in there. I never had a moment of wanting to rebel or get out or “I´m going to move somewhere else!” I´m always trying to get back to Memphis, man. It´s my home.
It´s interesting because I always get the feeling that a lot of Americans move around a lot.
I don´t know what kind of lives people have. I had a great life. My parents got divorced when I was four years old, but they got along and there was no bad blood ever. I don´t know. I had a great childhood. I don´t remember any of it and I don´t know why. I can remember where I was 15 years ago and probably what I was wearing, but I don´t remember my childhood. My wife will be like “Yeah, when I was three…” and I´m like “How do you remember anything from when you were three?” My memory started at 12. I don´t remember anything as a kid, but I had a great childhood so maybe that´s why I never wanted to leave. My whole family lives there too. My dad lives 1,2 miles from me. My brother lives… I live on a lake, so if I go to the other side of the lake, I can throw a tennis ball at my brother´s house. My brother lives 2000 feet from the gate to get into my neighborhood. It´s great.
Back to your childhood. Which album was the first one that really had an impact on you? That made you go “Wow, this is something I´d like to do!”
Led Zeppelin III. When I heard “Black dog” for the first time I was like “What the fuck is that?” I remember hearing that one and then I heard “Good times bad times” from Led Zeppelin I and I was like “This is it!” That was a moment and that was the first time I remember feeling something, but it didn´t make me want to play guitar. Stevie Ray Vaughan made me want to play guitar, and Garth Brooks made me want to be on stage. It was a weird crossroad of musical genres. You had Zeppelin, which was a blues band and Stevie and then you had Garth Brooks, who to me is the greatest entertainer of all time. Then I discovered Queen and I was all into rock and roll, but I think it was a combination of those four things really.
That´s a nice mix.
That´s like my dream tour package.
It´s funny with Garth Brooks, because he´s huge in the US, but he was never that big over here.
It´s crazy, but now he could come here to this day and probably play soccer stadiums. There something so connective about him and having developed a friendship with him over the last five years…
Is he as nice as everybody says?
Oh, nicer! I tell people Garth isn´t nice for… “Oh my god that guy´s Garth Brooks and he´s nice!”, he´s nice for the guy that cuts your lawn. He´s the nicest human being I´ve ever met. He´s just an incredible person and he deserves everything he´s got. I think people question if it´s real and it is. When he meets my wife he takes his hat off, you know what I mean? He calls her mam or miss. Honestly, as a married man, like how he treats his wife… it´s something I strive to be. He calls her the queen and it´s like “Come on man, you´re making the rest of us look bad!” Garth is just a tremendous human being. Forget entertainer, he´s a tremendous human. The world´s lucky to have him.
How did you strike up a friendship with him?
I brought him a guitar. When I was a kid I used to dress like Garth Brooks. Full on. There´s pictures of it somewhere. I was this scrawny little blonde haired kid and I would wear these like buttoned up ridiculous western shirts, cowboy hat and my mom had the headset with a hundred foot cable on it and I would roll the cable up and put it in my back pocket and then cowboy boots and everything. I had an in because the lighting company we´ve used our whole career is his lighting company. I called the owner and said “Hey man, I´d like to go to the show!” and by this point I had already seen him 18 times and I said that I would love to go meet him and I had this signature guitar that and I said “I would love to give him the guitar!” I got in and I gave him this guitar and he kind of got emotional about it. He knew who the band was which was very kind and he said “You guys play arenas. Why me? Why would you give this to me?” and I started like crying and I went “Man, I used to dress like you! I wouldn´t be here if it wasn´t for you!” That night he played the guitar on stage and I lost it. I mean, full grown man crying, just profusely crying and after the show one of his assistants came down and said “Hey, come backstage!” so he gave me his guitar and I was like “What world am I living in?” If you´d told 12 year old me… my 12 year old me would have said you´re full of shit. He is a god of a man and I respect him forever.
Has country music in any way had an impact on you?
Hugely. Songwriting. I love Carrie Underwood and she´s a friend of mine. There´s some of these new kids coming up like Morgan Walen, Hardy… other than that it stops around the Keith Urban era for me. This whole talking thing… shut the fuck up, man! It´s like, sing! I understand their talent and I respect anyone who does this for a living, but I don´t have to like it. There´s people, country artist who´s music I don´t like, but they´re the nicest people. I really enjoy… I´m not going to say any names and I almost did. (laughs) I get in trouble over here. I really enjoy some people in country music who are some of the biggest artists, but I would never listen to their music. I don´t know. It´s just not real to me.
You mentioned getting in trouble. That´s got to be different these days compared to the 80´s and 90´s when there was no social media. Is that something you think about, that you´re kind of guarded when it comes to telling the truth because you know it will go viral and someone will pick that up and take that sentence…
There are two things about it. I hate doing interviews. This one and another one today have been really good. Whenever you… See, I almost did it again. I was going to say “Interviews over here… are sometimes a little better than in the States…” and that´s the shit. That´s what´s on Blabbermouth now. I don´t like doing interviews because a lot of the time now days, people look at Wikipedia and they´re literally reading and answer and they ask you a question. Who is this helping? Is it helping your listeners? This is all first page Google. You´re asking me stuff no one´s asked me before, but on the other side of it I have this overwhelming urge to be a Gallagher brother (Oasis).
I love Noel Gallagher and Liam´s pretty funny as well.
You know what? I used to be team Noel and now I think Liam´s the more reasonable one. I´ve always wanted my whole life to go into an interview and just say whatever the fuck… like “What do you think of this band? And go “I think they fucking suck!” I´ve always wanted to do that, but you can´t because… we´re weak, I guess. No one does it. Those two guys and Kanye West are the only people who are honest in interviews. When asked an opinion, I think, not talking about your life obviously. I try to be as honest as I can, but it´s weird with the viralness of it now, this Blabbermouth thing. But I go to it every day. I look at the website every day. I only go to two websites on my phone. I go to Pollstar to see if anyone´s playing in the city we´re in and I go to Blabbermouth. People try to get you into the comments, but I don´t read the comments anymore. When you´re killing Ozzy and Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, you´re talking shit about some of the greatest bands of all time, you´re going to destroy me, you know. But I still enjoy the website and to me it´s kind of where I get my music news. I love Blabbermouth, I do. I don´t talk shit about people who write comments on there, that´s just what it is now days. The world is that and if it wasn´t on Blabbermouth it´d be on something else. People think just because they have the internet, they still can´t be punched in the face and they can. Especially… we´re a bunch of rednecks so I´ll fight anyone. People on the internet, it´s just what it is.
About new music. I recently did phoners with both Myles Kennedy and Mark Tremonti and they both mentioned Gojira as being one of the most exciting and interesting bands out there. Is that a band you listen to?
Yeah, that last record (Magma), we wore that one out. You want to talk about the guitar tones? What an incredible album! Eric´s the one that brought that in. I had never heard it. Of course I´d heard of Gojira and we´ve been on festivals with them before. To me there are bands that are first record bands. Not a lot of and I could be way off, but there could be second record bands, but there are a lot of third record bands and we were a third record band. To have a band that far into their career and to me make like their seminal record, it´s great. It´s such a good record and they are exciting and we need more stuff like that.
Any other bands or artists that you feel are really pushing boundaries and doing something that is really exciting, because there´s so much music coming out these days?
I respect bands like Bring Me The Horizon, who do what we do and just completely change their music on every record. I think they started out as a metal core band and they had this kind of Myspace cloud and then they make “Sempiternal” (2013) which to me be one of the greatest young metal band records of all time and then they come out with “That´s the spirit” (2015) and it´s another great record and this new record (Amo, 2019) is almost like a pop record, but why not? Why not change what you do? If I´m ever proud about one thing in our band, it´s that we never made a record that sounds like anything we´ve done in the past. That´s important to me because in America, on rock radio, 70% of the bands make the same album over and over. It´s like if it ain´t broken, don´t fix it and it´s like “Ok, well that´s stupid.” There´s no artistic integrity in there and every other album cover looks exactly the same. The only band that should have the same looking album cover every time is Iron Maiden. Everybody else can go away. Put Eddie on there. They´re the only ones allowed to do that. But bands do it and people still buy it and who am I to judge. I´m an artist before I´m in a band. If our band ever said “Sound of madness was a big hit. Let´s remake Sound of madness.” Then I´m out of here. We´ve got to grow and that´s the thing with our band, we´re all on the same page with that. I don´t want to say that we try to go outside of the box because I think people misuse that terminology, but push the box even further. You can expand a box, so let´s do that. I think that´s what we kind of try to do and I think we´ve done that.
There´s a poster of Motörhead behind you. A guy like Lemmy, did you ever get to meet him?
Yeah! Lots of times.
He was another truth teller.
I love that. That documentary was amazing. Here´s the thing. If you were ever in LA, how could you not meet Lemmy? He was just there and he was like the mayor of West Hollywood. I´ve always appreciated people who really don´t give a fuck. I´m not that way. I give all the fucks. (laughs) I´m a very caring person and I don´t want to hurt people´s feelings, but it doesn´t mean that I don´t respect people who do it, like Lemmy and the Gallaghers. I love Kanye West.
I don´t know what to make of him.
I love his music too. Why not go out and say some outlandish shit? Be bold! There were people like that back in the day and they didn´t catch as much shit, so I appreciate the weirdos and the people who come out and say what they feel and even if they change their mind, they´re just saying what they think. Lemmy was a great man and a partying man. I miss him, man. There´s a song… What song do we have in our pre show playlist that we´ve never taken out…? It´s one of my favorite Motörhead songs… “Born to raise hell” I just love it!
I remember watching you at Sweden Rock Festival and the song you played before you hit the stage… was it Prince?
Yeah! “Let´s go crazy” It´s funny, we were doing that song before he died. “Dearly beloved, we´re gathered here today…” It get´s the crowd going. This tour I think it´s this girl Lizzo and “Good as hell” We used Prince for a very long time. Before that it was always Jay-Z or some kind of hip hop. We always like to get pumped up before the show. It´s been really good. I still try to bring back the Prince thing every once in a while. I´m like a die hard Prince fan, we all are. Me and Barry (Kerch, drums) especially though. I´m a Prince nerd.
Did you ever get to see him live?
Yeah, a couple of times. I saw him on the “Hit and run” tour which was great. He announced the show on Wednesday and played on Friday and it was amazing. Then I saw the “Sign of the times” tour, I saw the “Musicology” tour. I saw 3rdeyegirl a couple of times. I never got to meet him, but I knew a lot of people who worked for him. Actually, I was the first person to announce that he´d died. Very strange. That´s a weird story. The short version is, our drum tech used to work for him. My son had just been born when he died and I got a text.. you know, woke up to get up with the kid at five in the morning and I get a text from our drum tech which said “Dude, Prince is dead.” and he knew I was such a big Prince fan, so I half asleep tweeted out “Hearing that we lost the greatest of all time. I hope this isn´t true. RIP Prince.” What I didn´t know was that he didn´t find that out because he worked for him. He found that out because his brother was the sheriff, so I found this out four hours before any media and I tweeted it. I woke up to 25 voice mails from CNBC, BBC, MSNBC, CNN, ABC, CBS all calling me and on either Sky News or BBC it said “Seemingly unknown guitarist was first to announce Prince was dead.” That´s like my favorite of all time. I was the first person to publicly say that and in a freak accident. I´ve never told that story in an interview.
Text: Niclas Müller-Hansen
Foto: Björn Olsson, Therés Stephansdotter Björk