Twenty seven years into their career and with no sign of letting up, Mesa Arizona’s Authority Zero are back with some new members and a new EP “The Back Nine” that follows their tried and tested songwriting style of “follow the hooks”!
We caught up with singer Jason DeVore and new guitarist Eric Walsh to talk about working with Cameron Webb, Kempers and… Kempers!
How did the band deal with the lockdowns in 2020?
Jason– As best we could as most. We dove heavily into our music and psyche’s with all that was going on around us. The good, the bad, and the prosperous. We embraced the lockdown as an opportunity to try and better ourselves individually given the “downtime” and bring it together as a group to make what we feel is one of our strongest albums in years.
Things haven’t haven’t been easy for anyone so we’ve all stayed creative and positive throughout. In many ways it’s been oddly inspirational.
Were you guys at all slow to put out a release right now that you can’t immediately tour behind?
Jason– Not at all. Actually the opposite. We’ve found that given our time to write that this entire catalogue of songs are more-so right up our alley than some of our prior (or more recent past releases) as far as the comfort compass would go. Every song on the new release we feel is strong both on the album and performance wise. We’re super stoked to play this coming release front to back.
Did you have any reference records going into the studio in terms of how you wanted the finished product to sound?
Jason– Sonically Mike and I had referenced Green Day’s American Idiot for one. Just the tones they got on that album, the open airiness, and the just that all around big sound. That’s what we were really aiming for was huge and punchy at the same time.
The last time you worked with Cameron Webb was on The Tipping Point in 2013 – what brought you back to him for the EP?
Jason– He’s a madman just like we are when it comes to music. A mad scientist mixed with a SoCal dude who knows his sounds and knows how to oddly influence and bring the best out of you in his own unique way. We really enjoyed our time with him back then and what he did with The Tipping Point. All in all he’s just a great producer, friend, and a master of his craft.
Are you a gear head at all? Any pieces of gear you’ve played recently that were a pleasant surprise? Anything you got to play that was disappointing?
Eric-I didn’t start out as a HUGE gear head at all, but as the years go on I wanted to play amps that sound awesome and use guitars that are super comfy. I basically went from a Marshall JCM 2000, then when THAT got stolen, I used a Peavey 6534, up until now when I bit the bullet and bought a Kemper which has seriously changed my entire world.
Is there any one piece of gear that you couldn’t do without? Anything that’s integral to your sound
Eric– I’m going to have to say the Kemper, the thing is so insanely awesome it feels illegal. You can literally make it sound like anything you want. And the most integral part of my sound is probably my arm hands or my hand fingers. Besides those things definitely my Kemper, but I feel like finding “your” tone is just an eternal quest most musicians are on that can change as the years go on.
A lot of guitarists are embracing modelling and profiling amps these days, especially due to making fly in gigs much easier. What’s your take on digital amps and effects?
Eric– I swear I’m not a Kemper salesman, but I am so about it now that I have one. When I joined Authority Zero I really wanted to step it up in terms sound and having SO many options for an amp just made sense instead of buying a big old head that id have to leave behind anyway for overseas stuff.
This is coming from someone who had no knowledge or experience with digital amps before, they really made it user friendly and everything makes total sense when you start using it. I wish the Kemper dudes actually made everything I use in my life. Everything would be perfect. Id totally buy a Kemper TV or car.
For someone who’s just discovering your band and wants to hear more music that sounds like you, what bands would you suggest they start with?
Eric-Growing up my older brother showing me bands like Strung Out, NOFX, Pennywise, Lagwagon, Bad Religion and Good Riddance which eventually led me down the rabbit hole to a bunch of other bands like Authority Zero. I would definitely recommend checking out the Fat Wreck Chords entire roster and a bunch of the Epitaph bands for starters. Those Fat compilations and Punk-o-rama CDs started it all for me personally.
If someone maybe wasn’t familiar with you guys but wanted to learn to play one of your songs, where would you suggest they start? Any riffs/licks/passages in particular that are fun to play, or maybe challenging but rewarding for more advanced players?
Eric– It was so awesome learning all eras of the Authority Zero catalog because I got to learn how a bunch of different guitar players operated. Its always good for you as a player to learn how other people write, feel, and play. Going forward, I’m definitely gonna honor all those dudes in our writing because I learned something different from each guitarist.
I liked playing the older stuff that Bill Marcks wrote because it took me back to being on tour with those guys and watching these songs from backstage admiring the show. The stuff with Zacky and Brandon especially rule because of the total jazz influence (which I had a background in Jazz so I truly appreciated) and then most recently Dan and Mikey killing it with the newer records.
A couple of good all around songs to learn would be Liberateducation or 21st Century Breakout. They got palm muting, single note stuff, solos, reggae parts, its all there and feels nice the first time you play it right all the way through.
What’s up next for the band? Any new material in the works? Any post-rona plans?
Eric– Totally tons of new stuff, besides that we are going to be taking this show back on the road in the summer and reuniting with our friends/fans around the globe. Truly can not wait to start getting out there with the Zero crew! Thanks for the questions!