An Exclusive It’s Me, In Text Form Interview
With Former Dance Gavin Dance guitarist:
I received the privledge to interview Zac Garren, former guitarist of one of my favorite bands. One of quite a few great musicians that are not recognized through mainstream media. Anyway, let’s get to it…
When did you really start playing music seriously?
Garren: I’m not sure what you mean by this. I’ve been really interested in guitar since 2001, to the point where I would play all day, but if you mean touring, that was a few years ago with Dance Gavin Dance. I played in little local bands for years though, nothing big.
Were family/friends supportive when you decided to attempt to make it in a band?
Garren: Yes, extremely supportive. I have a good family who wants me to succeed in whatever I do, which is really awesome. My dad played music as a kid, and has friends with musical careers, so he is extra supportive.
You became a member of Dance Gavin Dance after working as their merch guy, was there a desire to be a guitarist in the band before the incident with Sean O’Sullivan?
Garren: Not really. I didn’t go on tour with them beause I wanted to join the band, I went on tour because I was friends with Sean, and being a guitarist, I wanted some touring experience. I figured doing merch on a tour would be a fun way to get to know the touring life. Sean didn’t get along with some of them so he ended up leaving and I had to replace him literally over night on tour.
As a musician, where do you stand on the topic of downloading music?
Garren: I think it is a good tool to discover new bands. It also makes bands have to release a better product. I download just as much as anyone, but if it’s something that really impresses me, I’ll usually buy it on vinyl or itunes.
What are your main musical influences?
Garren: I’m the kind of person that listens to everything on the planet. From Haitian voodoo drumming to country to hip hop to punk. If it’s good, I listen. I draw influence from everything. Two bands that shaped me growing up were Thrice and The Mars Volta.
What are your thoughts on this auto-tune craze that seems to be trending in some hardcore music?
Garren: I think it’s pretty lame. I’ve toured with two bands that abuse it. I became really good friends with them though. It all comes down to the melodies you write. If you write something cool, it’s cool regardless. If you write something shitty, you could record it analog with no effects and it will still be shitty.
How important would you say live performance is rather than quality of studio recording?
Garren: They’re both really important. Both can change your life. The quality of song is most important. You can have a shitty recording of a good song and it will still be good. A perfect recording of a shitty song will still be shitty, kinda like I said above.
What goes into writing a collaborative song? Where do you start?
Garren: Someone throws out an idea and you build off that. Pretty simple, haha.
If you could pick one band to tour with, who would it be?
Garren: The Flaming Lips put on one of the best shows I’ve ever seen so that’d be beautiful. A smaller band that’d be awesome is Dr. Manhattan.
With the ease of buying one song on sites like iTunes, do you think it’s less important to have a “flow” to an album? Do you think the fact we can buy one song, that it is destructive to concept albums?
Garren: No, it isnt less important. I don’t think musicians think about those things. you focus on your art; everything else is an afterthought. If someone wants to make a concept album but doesn’t because of iTunes, they’re stupid, and probably would’ve made a shitty concept album in the first place. Plus, if every song is good, people will buy every song.
Justin Bieber, thoughts?
Garren: He’s interesting. He has a few good songs. It’s cool that he went from some kid on YouTube to the biggest thing on the planet. I did a cover of “Baby” thats on YouTube. check it out.
What was the best place you’ve played at while on tour?
Garren: I’ve played a ton of cool places, but the coolest experience was Brussels in Belgium. We played the same venue as The Flaming Lips. It was so epic to play a killer set and then run downstairs and watch one of the best live bands on the planet.
What advice would you give the kid who is torn between college and full dedication to music? Do you think it’s possible to balance both?
Garren: Depends on a lot of different factors. That’s a decision you have to make. If you suck, just stay in college. Full dedication to music is not an easy task and rarely bears much fruit unless you’re very talented and diligent (or you can convince kids you’re cool).
What are some of the hardships of being in a band with 4 or 5 other people?
Garren: Dealing with other peoples problems, whether it be alcohol, drugs, a girlfriend, depression, you have to deal with these people every day. If someone is an egotistical asshole, it makes it really hard to be a band. Music needs to be the focus.
Many people think that our music industry is flooded with “cookie cutter” bands who all sound the same, would you agree? If so, any suggestions to fix this problem?
Garren: Yes, I agree. The problem is the fans, sadly. If they stopped being so gullible and quit supporting that shit, it wouldn’t be a problem. Younger kids have the money (their parents) so they dictate what’s big. Younger kids don’t usually have very refined tastes. That’s where the problem comes in. I guess you could also blame it on the people that like good music, but don’t help the bands out that deserve attention, money, too. You don’t pay for music because it is a commodity, you pay so that your favorite artists can continue making music and touring.
What are your thoughts on side projects? Can they be detrimental to a band?
Garren: That depends on where your focus is. If you put your side project above the band, sure. That’s no different than putting your girlfriend above the band. I think side projects can be positive. I love music, so anyone who wants to create as much as possible is awesome in my book.
With today’s technology and ease of marketing yourself, do you think record labels are necessary?
Garren: For promotion, yeah. Record labels are like loan agencies, they put up money for you with hopes you pay it back and make them money with your album. Not everyone can afford to record a well produced album and market themselves, nor do they have the connections labels do, so labels still have a job.
What do you miss most about being in Dance Gavin Dance?
Garren: Playing live every night. That was amazing. I dont miss people more concerned with getting drunk than making music, though.
What are some ways we can support un-signed/non-mainstream bands?
Garren: Thats simple. Buy their merch and tell your friends. Without you, we’re nothing.
After your split with Dance Gavin Dance, you started a project “Good Health” music. Is this just a hobby? Are you planning on touring?
Garren: I started this while in Dance Gavin Dance, right before our tour with Emarosa. I wasnt trying to start a side project, I just recorded a song with a friend of mine, Sarah Glass, and was so excited about it that I put it online. Then, for the next 4 days, I recorded a song a day and then just went from there. Now, after 6 months, I’m nearly done with my 4th album. I dont do this like everyone else. I’m a machine. I love creating and sharing music, it makes me happy.
It sounds like there’s some meaning behind your chosen name of “Good Health” music, what is it?
Garren: I’ve suffered from anxiety and depression and feel that good health, mentally and physically, is important. It was just something that fit at the time.
As far as your new project, do you play and record all the instruments? Is it strictly your artistic creation?
Garren: I do. The drums aren’t usually real, but I do the best I can with what I have. I am the only member.
I’m sure some fans of Dance Gavin Dance would love to hear your Good Health music, where can we go to hear it? And what can we do to support this project?
At what point as a musician would you say you’ve “made it” (have become successful)?
Garren: I still haven’t “made it.” I’m not even sure what that is, yet, honestly.
Lady GaGa, thoughts?
Garren: She has some fun songs but my biggest problem is her fashion. She acts weird, yet her music is cookie cutter. It’d be cool if her music was as weird as she is. It’s a gimmick to me.
Being in Dance Gavin Dance, you’ve seen your fair share of band drama, what would you say to the other people experiencing the same type of problems?
Garren: I really don’t know. I wish i did.
What are you most disappointed with when it comes to mainstream music?
Garren: Creativity. I enjoy a lot of mainstream music, but there is still a big chunk that is completely mindnumbing. I wish there was a little more originality and creativity involved, but that doesn’t sell, right? (actually, it does, but labels would rather bank on something they know for sure works. why take chances? They don’t care about art. They just want money. They don’t care how they get it.)
How can we stay in touch with current events in Zachary Garren’s music career?
Garren: Follow me on Twitter for entertainment and updates: @zacharygarren and check out www.goodhealthmusic.com !
On my blog, I have something called Nate’s Mix Tape Monday in which I feature one song, what would your feature be that you would like the world to hear?
Garren: That depends on if you want one of my songs, or a song I like that I want the world to hear. That’s really hard either way. I need more than one option, I like too much stuff. If you want to make things fun, here’s a dance mix I made full of remixes I really like. http://www.mediafire.com/?wcmmzzyjjjz put that shit up. I have 13 more of those 😉 hit me up if you want more.
What would you like to say to the world? Give us some musical advice.
Garren: Expand your mind. Listen to everything. Don’t keep yourself in a box. There is good music everywhere, find it.
I’d like to thank Zac for taking the time to answer these questions. Support musicians, we all love music too much to let corporations run the industry!