Zia interview for Virus Magazine
by Mike Moran - Aug, 1997
First off what are your names and what do you do?
I'm Elaine Walker and I write the music and sing/etc during the live show. Right now the live line up and the band in general is going through some major changes, so I'll refrain from saying who else is in the band at this moment. Let's just say that I might be reuniting with a couple of former Zia members. As soon as I know what the new lineup is I'll post in on our web page www.ledfeather.com/zia.
How and when did the band start?
I got the idea in 1991 to have an all-electronic industrial band with no standard instruments. I had discovered the art of playing notes with sticks on drum pads and MIDI triggers. The reason this appealed to me so much was because the music I was writing was microtonal (yeah, you heard it right...microtonal industrial music) and it would have been very time consuming to teach someone how to play 19 or 10 tone tunings on a standard 12 tone keyboard. The players only had to learn to play certain patterns with their sticks for each song. They didn't need to have a vast knowledge and understanding of microtonality. We played our first shows in early 1992.
How did you come up with the name?
I was born and raised in New Mexico and the state symbol is a Zia, a native American sun symbol.
What are your main influences?
Billy Idol ... In the 80's I wanted to be a female version of him so badly. Don't laugh. I was horrified when he came out with his album "Cyberpunk" though. He was wearing that cyber looking half mask with wires all over it, and for two years I had always come on stage in Zia wearing a silver Phantom of the Opera mask with wires, circuits and blinking lights on it for the first couple of songs. I canned the mask... Anyway, in the 80's I was also simultaneously into the hardcore punk scene and New Wave electronic music like New Order, etc. In 1989 I discovered industrial music which brought together my love of punk and electronic music. I was in heaven!
Do you find it difficult to be one of the few females in this type of music?
Have you appeared on many compilations?
Fifth Colvmn Records' ECHO compilation has a remix of "Space-Time". F.C. also recently released WITH SYMPATHY which features industrial bands covering Ministry's first album. We covered "Work For Love" (so did En Esch of KMFDM). Zia also did a remix of "Video Killed the Radio Star" recently for another 80's cover compilation that will be coming out on a record label called Gig. Ledfeather Media & Beverly Records (www.ledfeather.com) recently released a New England Compilation called LOCAL ACTIVE which features New England bands. We have a brand new song on there called Comatosity. A while back, Sinless Records released BOSTON ELECTRO 101 with various bands including ZIA (Agribusiness), D.D.T. (Future - with me on synths), and SLEEP CHAMBER (Dreams Never Kum True - I did the synths & drum programming). D.D.T. did a cover of Madonna's "Vogue" (me on synths) for Re-Constriction Records' SHUT UP KITTY. There are a lot of great bands on here including KMFDM covering U2's Mysterious Ways. If you want to laugh at me (or with me?) check this one out - Castle von Buhler Records released a CD compilation of New England bands called ANON. I'm singing and playing some synths on a song called "Alien Android Succubus" for a band called OUT of BAND EXPERIENCE (OBE). No, I'm not doing the sex sounds. DJ and REMIX master SHOK is releasing a remix compilation called Severe Gyrations on his label, Emerge Recording with a funky remix he did of HAND HELD. One more tidbit... I did some synths and drum programming for Sleep Chamber a while back. Check out "Siamese Succubi" and "Seduction Through the Past Darkly" on Funfundvierzig.
How do you feel about the current industrial scene in America?
The meaning of the word changes as the music changes. My idea of industrial music used to be aggressive electronic music like Skinny Puppy, Front 242, Noise Unit, Nitzer Eb, etc. Then NIN hit it big, and all of a sudden every industrial band added metal guitars. It seems that the industrial scene has mostly gone in that direction. (Zia on the other hand has gone in the opposite direction.) There are a lot of branches now since a lot of bands blend various types of techno with an industrial feel as well. With any type of music it gets hard to define the original term once it branches out. Now it's so hard to define the word "industrial" that it's almost embarrassing to use that word. Remember the word "Alternative"? What happened to that type of music? It branched out into a zillion different things and then everyone was embarrassed to use that word to describe their band. We try to avoid using the word "industrial" now unless we can't think of another word. I hear everyone using the word "electronica" now to describe what used to be "industrial" for me - aggressive electronic music.
Anyway, I'm not an expert on the industrial scene across the country, but I can tell you what happened to the Boston industrial scene. It swelled to a peak in the early 90's, and then TECHO happened, and RAVES. Suddenly, everyone that used to go to the industrial club, Manray, either hated or loved techno. The ones that loved it started just going to raves and other clubs that had "Rave" nights. The people that hated techno regressed back into the gothic scene for some strange reason. Manray was suddenly a gothic/bondage scene in one room and bad old-school techno in the other room. What happened to industrial in Boston? It came to a sudden, grinding halt. Kind of like when disco was suddenly killed when Van Halen came out. I was just as disappointed back then.
How would you describe your music?
Uh, electronica I guess. No, really, we used to call ourselves Cyber-Boogie, but no one wants to use the word Cyber anymore. If I have to use the word Industrial, then we would be "Industrial/Pop" I suppose. That sounds pretty silly.
Do you like to play live?
Playing live is by far the best part of this whole business. Zia has been playing all live with no backing tapes or sequencers for years now, and it makes the show exciting since we can improvise a little and change the set around. We've been on a couple of tours which we called the Cyberboogie Tour '95 and the Luxury Tour '96. We got to take more showers during the 2nd tour...thus the name.
Are you still on Fifth Colvmn Records?
What is next for the band?
Our full length album keeps getting delayed due to label difficulties, but I'm going to use every power in the universe to release a full length (will a million songs on it) in the Spring of '98.
Any closing comments?
Anyone who has followed Zia in any way probably knows that I am excited about space exploration and believe that people will need to space-migrate and use resources from space here on Earth as well, not only to survive, but to save our society from closing in on itself. Well, a few months ago I was elected President of the Boston Chapter of the National Space Society (www.nss.org) and I'm so happy to have this new medium to express my views and actually do something about it. Space Migration Is Our Only Salvation!