ZOMBIES-ATE-MY-GIRLFRIEND. Typing those words into the Google search engine, you would expect to be directed to an online horror-fanzine that reviews b-grade horror films filled with gore, guts and nudity! What you will find however, spreading like an end-of-days apocalyptic infection, are numerous links to social networking and media websites all making reference to one of the hardest hitting metal bands to recently afflict the SA music scene.
Consisting of former members of such well-known bands as Betray the Emissary, Day Turns Night, The Broken Result and 21st Century Tragedy; Zombies Ate My Girlfriend are indeed a monster of a band. From the opening lines of “Deathworm”, the perfect soundtrack to a blasphemous life if ever it needed one, to the very last note of the aggravated themes of turmoil and desperation of the closing song “Robert Carlyle”, Zombies Ate My Girlfriend‘s Patient Zero is a very well directed, un-apologetic, pissed-off musical statement! I recently had the opportunity to chat a bit with Adriano Rodrigues of ZAMG to discuss the release of their debut EP Patient Zero.
M4A: Zombies Ate My Girlfriend! Besides just being a fucking great name for a band, what was the process of choosing this name and who in the band can claim it as theirs?
Adriano: I guess that credit would go to me. I’ve been struggling to remember how I came up with that name. All I know is that I came up with it just after my previous band had split and I was already working on the material that would eventually become the tracks that are on the Patient Zero EP. One of the songs off the soundtrack for the movie 28 Weeks Later just kept sticking in my head. Somehow, subconsciously this melody inspired the chorus for what was to become “Robert Carlyle”. I also really couldn’t get the actual scene out of my head where Robert Carlyle’s character in the movie finds himself and his wife cornered in a room by some ravenous infected. He ends up ditching her by escaping through a window. Don’t ask me why but that also ended up sticking with me and eventually the name Zombies Ate My Girlfriend was born. I remember humoring the idea thinking that it had a nice ring to it and a certain something special about it. I ended up going with it in the end because I liked the sound of it and knew that if I had to make the decision with band members – which there were none at that stage, no one would approve of having that as a band name.
M4A:You guys were originally suggested to me by a friend through your Facebook page when you released the “Robert Carlyle” single. I made the connection with the band name and the movie Ravenous and I thought I’d find a metal band obsessed with the guts and gore of b-grade horror films! That is, of course, before I listened through the Patient Zero EP and spent time reading the lyrics. Quite often metal bands have an almost animated approach to their lyrics and the message they portray. On first listen, I realized this was not the case. The lyrics are intelligently written, and incredibly focused. Who or what inspires the band lyrically? What message do you hope to portray and what do you hope to achieve through this message?
Adrian: Message-wise, I never had a specific idea or message that I wanted to push. I did however know that lyrically “the Zom” was not going to be fantasy based. It’s not that I’m not a fan of metal that waxes all fantasy like with their lyrics, but when it comes to expressing myself I find the straight forward approach more true to myself as a person. I don’t want the band to become pigeon-holed by having to be some kind of morality meter for humanity.
M4A: From the lyrical content to messages posted on various social media websites, Zombies Ate My Girlfriend are proudly Atheist and outspoken against organized religion. How has this been received by a relatively conservative South African public?
Adriano: Surprisingly well actually. I know what a touchy subject this can be for many people, but it is something I feel strongly about and I don’t think when expressing yourself that you should hold back, let alone when expressing yourself through metal which after all has its roots in rebellion and abrasiveness. When we first started taking the project into the online realm and the very first image we put up was of the infamous “believe in yourself”/anti-everything religious flyer. It was done with a lot of humor involved but the part that made me worry a bit was the crossed out religious symbols of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim religions. I had just finished uploading the flyer and thought to myself, “What the hell have I done now, someone’s going to fuck me up for this.”
The project itself hasn’t really come under fire for these Atheist views yet, the same can’t be said for myself when I express this on a personal level.
M4A: Would you say your music/message is aimed at a specific target audience?
It’s never been the aim of the band to appeal to a strictly Atheist audience, if it did we’d be pretty screwed what with the majority of people being religious. I suppose the only audience we do try to appeal to would be anyone looking for hard hitting metal that is both intricate and simple and makes you want to lose your shit. I don’t think most people take note of lyrics in the metal genre these days. Not at first glance anyway. For me it starts with the music first and if that ends up turning you into a fan you’ll probably start digging a bit deeper and read some lyrics or try to find out what the band is about. That being said I do put a lot of work into the lyrics for those out there who want to dig deeper. Theres nothing worse than being fanatical about a band only to eventually read some lyrics and find out that it’s all a bit crap.
M4A: Let’s focus on the songwriting. ZAMG is comprised of a group of well established, experienced musicians and songwriters who have all played their role in the recent history of the SA metal scene. How has this affected the songwriting and creative process of the band?
Adriano: It has made everything about being in this band an absolute pleasure. There are no politics and ego bullshit that usually accompanies being in a band. This is pretty much my dream band. I’ve worked with Wesley before in 21st Century Tragedy and the man is a force to be reckoned with on stage. Louis recorded 21st Century Tragedy and that’s were we basically met, love at first sight with that guy. As anyone who knows him can confirm, the guy can do anything. Drums, guitar, vocals, songwriting and recording; the man is one talented motherfucker. Gavin being one of the main songwriters for Betray the Emissary was an easy choice as well. I met him through mutual gigs and the first thing I remember him saying to me was, “Dude I want to write a song with you!” He has never done vocals before Zombies but what with his understanding of music and songwriting we all knew he would pull it off no worries. Ferdi was the first guy to jump on board. I rate the man as one of the best metal drummers in South Africa. He’s fucking amazing. I’ve played with a lot of drummers but I can assure you that you’ll be hard pressed to find a drummer that is this passionate and hardworking at his craft. Some of the drummers I’ve encountered in the past are very blasé about improving their skills. This guy is constantly striving for perfection and takes his drumming very seriously.
In terms of songwriting, Patient Zero was very much a solo effort. I wrote some of the songs while in the final stages of 21st Century Tragedy. Once that band split I took a month break from anything band related and then picked up the songwriting again. I got hold of Ferdi and asked if he was keen on joining and writing some drums for my tracks. So far it’s been pretty much my vision that I wanted to put out there. I feel very grateful that my fellow band members allow me this freedom. In pretty much all the projects I’ve been involved in the past it was very much a group effort. Which is all good, but I find what happens sometimes is a dilution of the essence of what you’re trying to get across. Too often it just ends up turning into one of those pathetic school projects where you’re forced to work with people and an original and exciting idea quickly becomes ruined by everyone’s egos trying to get their five cents in. For now it’s just myself doing the songwriting with Ferdi doing drums. In the future I do very much want to start collaborating with Louis and Gavin as I know these guys have some serious songwriting skills. I think between the three of us we can take Zombies to a place that none of us would be able to imagine on our own.
M4A: The quality of “underground” music production has drastically improved in recent times and more bands are mastering the production process and releasing albums of international standard. The Patient Zero EP, in my opinion, is of the latter mentioned standard. Where was the EP recorded, how did you find the recording process and how involved was the band in the sound/production of the songs?
Adriano: The EP was recorded with Louis at Burning Tone Studios. Ironically the music was completely recorded before Louis or I even knew he would be a part of the band. The process was awesome! Myself and Louis always work well together when recording. I trust his input and he takes my vision seriously, so we never have any problems. After we tracked all the music I wanted to add that extra electronic flavor to the sound, something I’ve been very interested in lately. My good friend James Copeland (Broken Toy), a legend in the local and international psy trance scene and probably the only person on this planet I’ve known longer than my parents. We grew up together, started learning how to play guitar together and haven’t left music since. I knew he would be able to blend that sound with the Zombies sound as we had already been doing similar work with our Psytrance/Metal project Super Evil. After that we recorded the vocals with Gavin which was also done at Burning Tone Studios. I think the difference between the recording of an album being a pleasure or a nightmare is experience and doing your homework.
M4A: You recently released the Patient Zero EP and made your debut at Winterfest ’12 in Stellenbosch. Why did you choose to record & release material before appearing live and how has the audience responded, both at Winterfest ’12 and since your debut?
Adriano: The plan with that was basically so people could know the songs already before seeing us live. I know usually it’s the other way around. The idea came to me from watching local shows. I started noticing the difference between when bands play songs that haven’t been released yet as opposed to songs that fans have heard before. I think it has a lot to do with some of the shit sound we have out there with South African metal gigs. We have some sound guys out there doing amazing work but too often that’s not the case. So my take is that if you don’t have a copy of the song that has been recorded (and properly recorded) it makes it almost impossible to make out what the fuck is going on live when the sound is so shit. I’ve found that even if the sound is shit but fans have a referance and actually know the songs from recordings its easier for them to get caught up in the moment and just have fun at the show. As opposed to not knowing the songs and sure as fuck not being able to make out anything at the live shows.
The response at Winterfest was amazing. I’ve been in projects before where you think what you’re doing is good but when it comes to the local metal community it just doesn’t take. So to have everyone enjoy our debut show as much as we did makes us feel very grateful. You know you think your music is good and you obviously like it, but that in no way means anyone else is going to. So yeah that was just amazing to get a response like that. I can honestly say that it was the best metal gig I have ever played by far! Since Winterfest we haven’t played any other shows. We’ve decided to be rather picky with this band. It’s got nothing to do with any kind of local scene bullshit politics, it’s more a case of delivering quality every time. No one wins when it’s some shitty gig “organized” by some muppet of a promoter who doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing. The band doesn’t get paid, the sound is shit, line ups run amuck, no promo is done and all that results is the band being pissed off, the fans thinking it was lame, some prick walks away with our time, sweat and money while the local metal scene just ends up looking like an amateur game. Fuck that!
M4A: With festivals such as Winterfest growing in popularity and being successfully embraced by metal-minded gig goers, how do you find the current state of SA metal and what would you like to see happen in the metal/underground music scene?
Adriano: I think the scene is doing well. It’s definitely improved leaps and bounds if you even just compare it to five years ago. You guys at Metal4Africa have become the staple in terms of Cape Town metal fests. It’s at the stage now where if you go to a Summer or Winterfest you’re guaranteed tons of metalheads all there ready to get fucked up and have an awesome time. I think consistent annual fests like this are a must for any growing music scene. As you mentioned earlier we now have some pretty decent recordings out there, which was not the case not too long ago. I remember going to watch a band back in the day thinking, “Fuck, that was heavy,” then getting hold of the recording and going, “Fuck, that was horrible.”
I know we’ve come a long way but I still think ‘big picture’-wise, we’ve only just started. There are still loads of metal heads out there in this country that only listen to international acts and would never be caught dead going to a local show. Fuck knows why, but it’s getting to the stage now where it really is becoming only their loss. I’m not usually very home-proud (especially with the kak going on in the world these days) but it’s never made sense to me when people don’t get behind the local cause of their own interests. For example, people who will support some other country during a World Cup instead of their own. So New Zealand wins and you’re going to party with who in South Africa? Fair enough if everyone is shit, but that’s not the case here. Sure we have our Bafana’s out there but fuck me; there are some quality bands out there to be seen at quality festivals and good times to be had by all.
Some people wanna moan, I say “fuck you”. This is the most exciting chapter of South African metal. We’re all pretty much writing history and laying down the foundation for what I’m sure one day will become a serious global contender. You can’t put a price on that! This is the real underground. We don’t need to go “there”, they must come here.
M4A: What does the future hold for Zombies Ate My Girlfriend?
Adriano: For now I think we need to get some more gigging under our belt and spread the infection far and wide. I’ve already starting working on some ideas for songs for an album. I think it’s safe to say that a full length can be expected sometime next year with an official website accompanying the album release.
Stream “Deathworm” by Zombies Ate My Girlfriend below and follow this link to hear the full Patient Zero EP.
Watch the live video of “Robert Carlyle”, filmed at Metal4Africa Winterfest ’12 below:
Zombies Ate My Girlfriend will be performing at the following dates: