by Daniel Lukes - July, 2001
DANIEL: Where did you get the inspiration for your music? Did you set out to be "different" from all the other electronic bands out there, or did you just kind of fall into this style after what you learned at school about MIDI, circuit bending and the conceptual aspects of electronic music?
LIZ: Uhhhhmmmm..none of the above. I get my inspiration for my music actually when I am doing dishes or taking a shower. It has always been like that. I come up with all of my hooks that way. I liked listening to electronic music prior to music school and learning about it was more of a mechanics lesson then anything else, furthering my understanding of how to troubleshoot hardware failures. I don't think it really helped inspire me, musically, but more on a sound design basis. The inspiration to join an electronic band was to have an outlet for all of the technical knowledge that was crammed into my head and to learn about the music business and what it was to promote and to book shows. I had the full expectation that if accepted into the group, I would give it one year and break away to do my own thing. That was nearly 3 years ago.
ELAINE: When I quit taking classical piano lessons in 8th grade I started writing my own piano songs and attempting to sing. Being inspired in the mid 80's by bands that used electronics at the time, such as Billy Idol and Missing Persons, I got my first synthesizer (a Roland JX3P with the extra knobs), and I played in several different bands. Then I came to Berklee in 1986. I was inspired to write microtonal music in the Music Synthesis Dept. at Berklee, and I was inspired to use MIDI triggers to trigger the notes in an electronic percussion lab. It made sense because I could pre-program the notes for each pad and my band members could just memorize simple patterns on the drums pads for each song. That way no one had to struggle to play 19 tone music on a 12 tone keyboard. I was inspired in the early 90's by electronic industrial bands and decided to add some femininity to the genre, and I was inspired by space enthusiasts and futurists to give my music more meaning.
DANIEL: What are your influences musically?
LIZ: I am influenced heavily by Rachmaninoff, Gershwin, Chopin, Liszt, the Rolling Stones, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Orb, Orbital, Danny Elfman, and James Horner.
ELAINE: Cindy Lauper, Billy Idol, Berlin, New Order, Aimee Mann, Front 242, Nitzer Ebb, Noise Unit, Front Line Assembly, Jean Pierre Jarre, and Morton Subotnick.
DANIEL: Are there other bands out there similar or comparable to Zia? What about compatibility? Is it hard to find other bands to play with because of the eccentric style Zia has?
LIZ: Well, the only other band that we have played with, so far that is pretty close to us is Lunar Plexus in Boston. We used to always play with them and the show would flow really well, stylistically. In all truthfulness, we don't usually play with bands that share our style of music. We have played with every style imaginable and it can make for a very eclectic lineup.
ELAINE: When ZIA first got together in Boston in 1992, we had several bands to play with that all fell under the category of "industrial". We were "cyber-industrial", You Shriek were "goth-industrial", Big Catholic Guilt and The Clay People were "metal-industrial", D.D.T. (the other band I was in) was "agro-industrial". You get my drift. The scene sort of fell apart in the mid 90's with the advent of techno. We had also played with several punk, death-metal, goth, reggae, rock, and happy pop bands from time to time, so we just kind of continued along those lines. Nowadays we try to stick mainly to happy bands - a variety of genres. We knew from the beginning that we weren't going to find bands like us so we've always been open minded about who we play with.
DANIEL: You make most of your instruments. Where did you get the idea to make them? Do you have problems when things break or get damaged finding parts or with the repair?
ELAINE: I got the idea to make the MIDI percussion pads when someone tipped me off that I could make my own for $2 with Radio Shack parts instead of buying them for $35 from Wurlitzer's. I did it without knowing any electronics, because the Drum Kats serve as the brains and the MIDI triggers are just a "dumb interface" (technical term). When I went to grad school for Music Technology, I learned analog and digital electronics and started building my own instruments that actually have the brain inside of them, using a Basic Stamp microcontroller chip. Now THAT's fun. Yes, things break from time to time, but that just gives us an excuse to break out the soldering iron.
LIZ: When our equipment fails, it usually ends up with Elaine or I reprogramming the DrumKats and Triggers. When a Trigger breaks, we have other Piezo transducers that we just re-solder the wires to the quarter-inch cables and then silicone the transducer to the backs of the circuit boards. If any parts of the pipes break, they are pretty easy to fix, also. If a pedal breaks, we usually fix that ourselves, too, by pulling it apart and figuring out what is wrong, then repairing that within minutes. It is not hard to find replacement parts. We just usually have to look in our home for the parts.
DANIEL: The thing I like about your music is its integrity. You write songs about things you believe are true and songs that are factual. (Space, science, etc.) Whereas many people write songs and donít really put actual fact into their songs, it tends to be more based around emotion. Do you find it harder or easier to write songs based around fact rather than emotion?
LIZ: I think it can go either way, depending on what comes out of your heart and mind that day. If I am feeling pretty literal, I will break out a book and try to get my facts straight, or I just take notes on what Elaine is talking about when it comes to space. When it comes to writing songs that are emotional, it just flows and flows and within a day, something is written. It all depends on the mindset of the moment, really.
ELAINE: That's a trick question. You see, I feel very emotional about humans venturing into space. I get all teary eyed when I write the lyrics and record the vocals. It may sound silly, bit I really feel it is imperative that we do everything we can now to ensure that humans will one day live and work and play in Earth orbit and beyond, particularly on Mars, the Moon and in space stations. I do write the occasional heartache song, but they usually end up pretty weird (Plastic Man, Spider, Breath, Geek Boy).
DANIEL: Any comments? Questions? Antidotes?
LIZ: Antidotes or anecdotes? If you are asking about antidotes, I have one for the scum that gets on your scissors when you cut too much tape. Use steel wool pads to scrub that stuff off. It works like a charm. If you are asking about anecdotes, "Whatever happens, happens." I ask way too many questions, so I will end this right here.
ELAINE: Haha. I don't know if there is a God because there is no theorem to prove it. Do you think there is a God? My idea of God is the tiny point of pure energy that existed before the Big Bangbefore timebefore dimension. Then something broke the symmetry and it exploded into everything. If God was that singularity of pure, symmetrical energy, then God is now in everything that exists.