“No matter who you are, listen more to Black Sabbath.”
A conversation with “Blind” Marky Felchtone about the return of Zeke | By Matthew Hutchison | Photo by Scumbash
Seattle’s music scene will forever be affiliated with the grunge movement, a movement that started underground and ironically became commercialized. Zeke, one of the fastest and most powerful sounding groups the Evergreen State has seen, flew under the radar during the height of the flannel craze and couldn’t have cared less about the attention their backyard was getting around that time. Bastardized since 1993 with a back catalog as pummeling as Motörhead’s and as brash as Dwarves, they carved out their reputation with their outspokenness, relentless worldwide touring and death sentencing for any group on a bill who played a set after theirs. Bold? Sure is, see them live and you’ll understand.
It has been a 13 year silence since their last record ‘Til The Livin’ End was released with only sparse live appearances between then and now. The silence ends in 2017 with the announcement of their reformation, a few tours booked and a new record, Hellbender, to see the light of day this year by way of Relapse Records. A new lineup was also unveiled with the addition of new members and the return of a veteran to the fold with their debut held in the port city of Rotterdam [Netherlands] at the annual Scumbash festival earlier this month. Founder and guitarist/vocalist “Blind” Marky Felchtone took the time to talk to New Noise about all that’s been going on lately as well as some history of the sonic violence they’re known for.
Aside from age, new faces and the absence of a certain drummer, what are your thoughts on this lineup of Zeke and what are the goals you guys have in mind? Is there a particular characteristic that’s necessary to survive as a member of this band?
Did you say age [laughs]? Well to start with that, we’ve got a 25 year old guitar player from Detroit named Kyle [Whitefoot] who used to play in the Kentucky band The Hookers. I mean there’s a big disparity between me, Kurt [Colfelt – bassist), that kid and our drummer Dayne [Porras] falls in between. To be honest, we don’t have any hard goals set up at this time with Zeke, we’re getting offers to do a bunch of shows and we’ve got the new record coming out on Relapse Records this year, that’s already a lot. We found out that some of our music got featured in a video game and also on that show Orange Is The New Black, that’s when we opened up a dialogue with Relapse about the new songs we had and played with the idea of the new album and touring to support it. We got Kurt back in the band and having him has been great and really energizing for me! Kurt was in Zeke during the Super Sound Racing and Flat Tracker years, he’s on a couple of tracks with those releases but I’m not aware if he was credited or not to be honest. He did a slew of early 7” releases with us as well; it’s great to get him back. He’s based out of Arlington, WA these days and we’ve been getting together at the rehearsal studio a good amount to write the new material. The new stuff is not a repetition to what was on ‘Til The Livin’ End, it’s going to have more of an early Zeke feel to it, along the lines of Death Alley. To go into an interesting history lesson, the material that makes up ‘Til The Livin’ End was originally written for a band called The Witches, a band I was starting at the time with Jeff [Hirschberg – guitarist] from Speedealer. However when I played those songs with Zeke, they just sounded so much better and that’s why ‘Til The Livin’ End has the kind of feel that’s different from our past stuff. Looking back on it, pretty sure Relapse wasn’t expecting what we gave them when that record was submitted.
As for your second question, yeah there are some characteristics necessary to survive as a member of this band and one of them was high tolerance. Its rough man, some of the guys I thought that would be able to stick it out couldn’t. I don’t know, in the early years I had a really serious drug problem and I was able to get by and function that way. It just didn’t affect me the way that it could affect other people and I’m talking while touring, writing music, recording, playing guitar and all that comes in being a band, I just had that constitution! The other guys in the band during that time, they’re not me and I don’t mean that in a condescending way, the reality is not everyone can function on that level with the as bad a drug problem as I had. I don’t suggest drug use for anyone and I haven’t used in 17 years, it’s a bad deal all the way around. Some of the guys that played with us seemed to not get what we were about though, kind of a categorization”what you guys all about anyway” type thing. Kurt fits in great, Donny [Paycheck – former drummer/co-founder] is a no brainer, Sonny [Abe Zanuel Riggs III – former guitarist] did too and so did Mark [Pierce – former bassist], we all had a similar sense of humor. Now on a personal level, by political affiliation I’m pretty left of center but I don’t come off like that due to a working class background, being pro Second Amendment and growing up in Arkansas. So, I was playing with guys from the Northwest which is a different world than being from South, it’s bound to get odd!
It’s been 13 years and a handful of shows in between since ‘Til The Livin’ End was released. What have you guys been up to since then and what prompted the return and reformation?
I’m sorry but did you just say it’s been 13 years since we released that record? My mind is blown; I can’t believe it’s been that long, wow! To be frank, we originally didn’t have plans to do that record but Relapse expressed such a heavy interest in working with us after they heard Death Alley. Around that time, I got married, had a kid and wanted to be available to raise my kid right, so I was just working and being with my family. The level of interest that Relapse showed us however was substantial to the point where it moved us to make the commitment and do the album. After we put it out and did those tours to support it, I went back to raising my kid. So yeah, I guess it really has been that long, makes sense cause my kid is 13 now [laughs]. I joined the carpenters union and was just building during that time, not really doing much with music. I put together a band called Hellbound For Glory for a short period of time, a really heavy Black Sabbath/Pentagram type sound and we released an EP, played some local shows and that was all. Don’t know if anyone is selling that EP online however, no one had permission to do so either way outside of us. That’s really been it man, just been working hard myself and everyone else either started their own business or did their own thing. Zeke did a few fly outs when the demand was big enough and to be honest with you, when the money was great. Now that the kids are grown up, we’re full throttle again and ready to go! We’ve got this Nashville Pussy tour coming up and another trip to Europe in the books and what looks like another go around in Europe being worked on for early 2018. Another US tour is likely to happen too, we want to get back to the East Coast, Midwest and all throughout the South.
Can you tell us what the reaction was at Scumbash when the new lineup debuted and what the general consensus has been since Zeke announced activity?
The reaction we received at Scumbash was unbelievable; I really can’t put into words how to describe that feeling, so many people packed out that room. Totally unreal and we just fed off the energy from the crowd all night, completely jacked up from it. Europe’s probably the best market for underground rock n’ roll, they just can’t get enough of it over there. From what I’ve noticed, the state attitude towards rock n’ roll these days in America is weird. We invented it and we’re pretty harsh critics of it but these days, we’re not very grateful towards it and it’s thrown to the side it seems. Any appreciation we don’t get here in the United States will surely be given in Europe and we’re very thankful for that. Leading up to that show, European promoters offered us other opportunities and now opportunities are starting to rear their head here at home. We’ve got options but it’s a matter of figuring out what we all want to do and what’s the smartest way to go about it. The reason why we chose to go out with Nashville Pussy on this upcoming West Coast run is because of our history and they’re friends of mine. Zeke first toured with Nashville Pussy back in the mid 1990’s and we’ve been close ever since. They asked us if we wanted to go out with them as a co-headliner for these West Coast dates and man, anything that band asks from me I’m happy to do. After the way they treated me when I was going through my problems, I’ll do anything for those guys. As for the general consensus, it’s been cool and it was the right time. We didn’t get approached by anyone and tell us “hey guy’s, it’s time to come back”, it’s going to happen when we decide it’s going to happen.
Are you able to give insight on the new record at this time?
The new album will be called Hellbender and is due out in September through Relapse Records, it’s going to be really hard hitting and very fast…you’re just going have to hear it. A 7” of some of the new material will also be released beforehand to give everyone a taste, we’re going back to the early stuff with this one. Also, we’re playing the new songs live on these upcoming tours as part of our set.
A big change is that Donny Paycheck is no longer manning the drums. Has he bowed out of Zeke all together or taken a behind the scenes role with the band?
Donny owns three businesses, so that keeps him awfully busy. However, he’s still selling Zeke merchandise and doing some of the re-releases on the Digital Warfare label. I was really hoping that Sonny [Riggs III] would be able to do this record and tour but he couldn’t due to other commitments and that’s when our new guys Kyle and Dayne were brought in. However, the door isn’t closed to anyone; to me it’s a family. Kurt, Dizzy [Lee Roth – former guitarist], Mark [Pierce], Sonny [Riggs III], Jeff [Matz – former bassist/High On Fire bassist] and the others who have played with us are all part of the Zeke family and that’s why we did that reunion show a few years ago in Seattle. We wanted to share that and represent how much it means to us that they were a part of this and contributed towards it, means a lot.
Do you guys still keep up with the Seattle scene these days and what groups can you give a shout out to for us to take notice?
Absolutely! There’s a band called Convictions and they’ve got a punk rock and black metal thing going on with them. If you take early Mayhem and Black Flag and cross bred that with GG Allin’s Brutality & Bloodshed For All, you’ll have a good idea of how they sound and they put on an amazing show too! I’m going with Convictions as my big pick for 2017.
Aside from the new record, what are the future plans with Zeke?
We’re just going to keep writing and recording, that’s the plan for now. With these US shows and European tours booked, we’ll see what happens from there. I try not to think about it too much really; best to hear out the opportunities that are being offered our way and see what occurs from those, it’s a lot man. You’ll know! I’ll say this on a side note, in regards to the US political climate going on now…there’s going to be some good rock n’ roll coming out, pretty confident about that.
Any words of wisdom you care to share about your views on life and how to go about it in music?
Don’t think of music and anything related to art as a job, think of it as a calling. Other than that, don’t be afraid to work hard at anything you’re doing and to also try making a buck from it. Stay away from drugs too, I spent a lot of time messing around in that realm and it didn’t do a lot of good for me. One more thing, no matter who you are, listen to more Black Sabbath.
Zeke/Nashville Pussy Tour Dates:
March 24 – Seattle, WA (El Corazon)
March 25 – Salem, OR (Shotski’s)
March 27 – Sacramento, CA (Goldfield Trading Post)
March 28 – San Jose, CA (The Ritz)
March 29 – Ventura, CA (Ventura Theatre)
March 30 – West Hollywood, CA (The Whisky A Go-Go)
March 31 – San Diego, CA (Brick By Brick)
April 1 – Long Beach, CA (Alex’s Bar)
April 2 – Tempe, AZ (Yucca Tap Room)
April 4 – Tucson, AZ (The Rialto Theatre)
April 5 – Flagstaff, AZ (Green Room Flagstaff)
April 6 – Las Vegas, NV (Backstage Bar)
April 7 – Salt Lake City, UT (The Metro Bar)
April 8 – Boise, ID (The Shredder)
April 22 – Perris, CA (Hippie Killer Hoedown) * Zeke only w/ Fatso Jetson & more
August 5 – Santa Ana, CA (So-Cal Hoedown) * Zeke only w/ David Allan Coe & more
Zeke European Tour Dates:
June 14 – Paris, FR (Gibus)
June 15 – Bordeaux, FR (Void)
June 17 – Clisson, FR (Hellfest)
June 20 – Geneva, CH (Kalvingrad)
June 22 – Lyon, FR (Warm Audio)
June 26 – Bologna, IT (Freakout)
June 27 – Cagiliari, IT (La Cueva del Rock)
June 28 – Segrate (MI), IT (Circolo Magnolia)
June 29 – Giavera del Montello (TV), IT (Benicia Live)
July 1 – Nova Gorica, SI (Mostovna)
July 2 – Wien, AT (Arena)
July 3 – Praha, CZ (007 Club)
July 5 – Hamburg, DE (Hafenklang)
July 6 – Osnabruck, DE (Bastard Club)
July 7 – Groningen, NL (Vera)
July 8 – Gierle, BE (Sjock Festival)
July 11 – Freiburg, DE (Walfisch)
July 12 – Stuffgart, DE (Goldmark’s)
July 13 – Berlin, DE (Cassiopia)
For all things Zeke related, visit their official website. Ride on!