Interview with Ali Tabatabaee from Zebrahead

Ali TabatabaeeLast week we had the chance to assist Slam Dunk Festival at Leeds (UK), and during the festival, we interviewed Ali Tabatabaee from Zebrahead

Nice to meet you again! So… i know that actually  1 week ago you released a new ep with a japanese band, out of control, which sound is fucking awesome. How did this came? I mean, How did you decided to release this new EP?

Nice to meet you again, thank you! the ep out of control is with man with a mission, and we’ve played with them in japan in a festival called summersonic, and we watch them play their set, and after a while they came to talk with us, really nice dudes. And they  were actually in california touring, and a couple of the guys and our band went to see them play, and we hanged out afterwards, and everyone got very well.

They went back to japan and they came back here to write some songs and they reached out us to see if we were maybe interested in maybe collaborating in a song with them,
so they came to our studio, and we were pretty much for a day and we ended writing that song out of control and it was kind of effortless like ever went very well, we really enjoyed working with those guys, so once the song was done we started talking and the said “you know, we’re thinking about doing a split album, will you be guys interested in doing that with us”, we said sure, started talking about how that was gonna be, and eventually cut the song with them, and then put a couple of songs from our side, and they did the same,
so its five songs and should be coming out soon.

There are some rumors that you are releasing a new album soon?

Ah yeah yeah, we’re in pre-production now and we go home after the salmdunk shows, we’ll be in the studio with our producer, got one of the songs, and the we leave again for some shows in Germany, and then we come back to the studio, so i think that by early next year we should have the new album out.

That’s great, because you’ve been releasing albums very often in the past years, and each album is a bit more powerful than the previous release. So, how do you keep the energy after all those years?

you know, I actually think we’re lucky to be able to make music and play music for living I think. everybody in our band appreciates the fact that we can do that, so, you know we don’t take it for granted. and at home we try to work . and when we’re at home we try to work like a 9 to 5 job, it’s a little bit different, but you still have to take it seriously

Ok, moving on, what would you say that you like the most about music, and which bands would you consider that have influenced you in your career as a musician?

you know, i think with music for everybody is.. you can relate two songs in your own way, like everybody will hear the same songs, but make it their own, will depend on which situation you are, so, sometimes you hear a song and reminds you a thing from years ago that was very important to you.

I think that’s a really cool way to experience things when you relate it to music, so that’s always been that way for me, like when you were having a hard time as a kid or even now. So for me growing up, i used to listen a lot of rap music, and I think that’s because when I was a kid i used to play basketball, and  all my friends were in the hip hop, like my cousins. so when we played basketball we put NWA, a tribe called quest or ice cube. It’s aggressive, you know, like punkrock.

So i’ve always had like a soft spot for hip hop music because i was just growing up and that influenced me, like rage against the machine, see them play live, and when they incorporated hip hop with rock music in the way they didt it, was so powerful, so cool, that i think, you know, it inspired when we started playing in zebrahead, so I would say, you know, a lot of music, but hip hop mainly

how is about writing a new song? Do you sit all together, or it’s just one who is in charge?

it’s usually collaborative with us, the five of us write the songs, but sometimes somebody has a guitar idea, and because some of us live in different areas, we send stuff through email and we work at home, So we send music back and forward, and when sometimes we meet, we write the songs together, but each song is different.

Now that we are in a festival, which would be the main differences between playing in a festival, and in a normal venue?

i think that festivals where there’s so many other bands it’s a different experience because for us a lot of times, we’ve tour with them before, and you don’t see them for maybe a year
or two, and then you see again in the festival, so you catch up with your friends, talk with them, and see them play too. Thousands of times, there’s bands that i’ve never seen before or heard of before, and then I watch them and then those guys are awesome, then I start listening to their music, so it’s a way to like find new music and catch up with old friends, it’s a different experience. And when you play with yourself on tour, it’s more like hang out
with your friends rather than other people.

How do you decide which songs are you going to play in a concert?

it’s different i think, for example when you play in festival like this you have a limited time, it’s 40 minutes for us, but when we headline, you can play as many songs as you want, 1 hour and a half or something, so it’s a shorter set, so you try to pick the songs that you know the fans wanna hear, so in shorter sets we should try to play more the fan favorites, and for longer sets we try to incorporate newer music that might be as popular with the fans yet, so it depends on where you are.

What do you think about the reception of the public? do you think that your letters arrive to them?

for us, we’re very fortunate cause our fans are very energetic, and they like to be part of the show, we have kids coming to the stage all the time, so we interact with them, it’s a great experience to play in front of your fans and see them singing the words, or moshing, or jumping up and down, or whatever, it’s a great feeling to play live and see the enthusiasm of the fans. It will be weird for us if this didn’t happen.

From all the bands that you’ve been playing, do you have a favorite one, or is any other that you would like to play with?

As far as I’ve been playing with bands, most of the bands we’ve been touring with, we become friends, so there’s nothing like bad experiences, everything is pretty cool. but you know, there are bands that are not touring anymore that i listened to, like rage against the machine we never played with them, I would have liked to get the chance to play with those guys. We played with the beastie boys once, so that’s something that i’ll never forget for example

Moving on, would you say that you had an easy career to came up where you are right now, or was it difficult?

I think it’s been difficult, whenever you have a career, you know, initially when we started touring, it seemed to happen really quickly, but now that we’ve been doing for so long,
as I said it’s work, and definitively you have to figure it out what marks works for you, make sure that you release an album like every year and a half and don’t wait too long because people move on, people grow up, you have to be working all the time, writing all the time. Is not easy but we like to do it. If you wanna be successful, you have to put the time.

So, what would you say to a new started band?
I’ll say play as many shows as you can, even if is in front of nobody, you’ll get experience from every show. And, like for us, we played in a club, and literally was no one there, just our girlfriends and the guy who ended being our manager, so, you never know what could happen.

After many years playing and touring, how is the relation with your family?

it’s weird because when you tour on an album you’re gone for a a year a a half, and you don’t see them, so when you come back everything is different, someone get married, or someone had a kid, and you miss some of that, so when you come home you start catching up. it’s a bit difficult in that way, but i’m really close to my family.

Some of my friends came on tour with me, some members of my family, but it’s hard too, because they work and they have to find the days. and be in a bus with 12 stinky dudes, it’s something than people doesn’t realize until they come. Some member of my family came, and they’ve told me “i’m going to stay with you for 2 weeks“, and they left after 5 days.

I have a personal question: how did you ended covering the spice girls and Avril Lavigne?

We did that album covering girl-pop singers, so that’s how we did that Avril Lavigne cover, but the spice girl cover… jesus, it was so long ago, I think that we just wanted to a cover that might be funny, so we did that song, somebody stupid idea, like “oh it’s awesome, let’s do it”, we mainly do stuff to entertain ourselves.

Last question, will you ever join an alternative band like me first and the gimme gimmes to play other kind of stuff?

you never know man, if we get bored or something we might come up with something else.

Well Ali, thank you very much for your time, and see you in a while!

acera de roberto

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