The guitarguitar Interview: Zach Myers from Shinedown
Published on 08 January 2020
Heading along to a big venue to interview well-known guitar players is always something to look forward to. Having two in one day, therefore, is something of a slam dunk in terms of a person’s working day! So, it was a few weeks back in mid-December, when both Alter Bridge and Shinedown came to town for a fantastic double-bill of Alternative Rock.
Throughout the day, fans queued up inside the SSE Hydro for pre-booked meet ‘n’ greets, photo opportunities and more. I slunk in, meeting my contact, matt, and headed into the arena itself. It’s always a strange one, seeing a large venue during daylight hours when it’s largely empty: it is somehow simultaneously diminished and more exciting. On this occasion, evening Headliners Alter Bridge were sound checking and sounded, frankly, enormous. Tour cases, flight cases, boxes of cables and equipment were strewn around the area as crew members carried out their duties.
There is also something of the Imposter Syndrome one experiences when moving through these situations. Although I’m there in a professional capacity as a journalist to meet specific people at a pre-arranged time, there still persists the feeling that everybody else (and these big tours have lots of crew!) is one big pirate gang who are all acutely aware of the interloper trying to blend in! The peek behind the scenes of a large production tour is fascinating, so I try to take in as much as I can during my brief travail through the front lines as I’m taken through the arena and back to the dressing rooms.
Shinedown are playing tonight in between Alter Bridge and The Raven Age. In their almost twenty years of existence, Shinedown have sold over ten million records. They are one of those bands who seemed to quietly become big: they maybe aren’t household names over here, but people in the US have Shinedown tattoos, and their top videos on YouTube have had between 20-53 million plays! This, perhaps, is the kind of fame to covet: being hugely successful but able to move around in life largely without being overly recognised in the street.
Either way, it was great to have them in town and I was looking forward to having a conversation with guitarist Zach Myers. A PRS endorsee, it had been rumoured that Zach owned over 200 guitars! This would certainly be getting addressed, but there were other interesting things to find out too, not least his method of joining the band: touring guitarist, then fill-in bassist, then lead guitarist!
I wanted to ask about the band’s longevity in a world that’s increasingly difficult to navigate for Rock bands. Zach obliged me and then some, sharing lots of useful details about how to approach the ‘living’ of being in a band. He also revealed some intriguing – and quite exclusive – details about his associations with Fender and Taylor over the years!
It’s quite a read, so please dive in and enjoy!
guitarguitar: So, you’re originally from Nashville, right?
Zach Myers: Memphis!
ZM: Close enough! Two and a half hours away.
GG: So is that where you grew up and sort of came through the ranks playing in bands and so on?
ZM: Yeah, I came from there, and still live there.
GG: Ah, ok.
ZM: Yeah, so I basically grew up on Beale Street.
GG: Which isn’t a bad place for a musician to grow up, right?
ZM: Yeah! No, it’s such a musically enriched city. At the time, when I was young, Nashville was basically Country music: that’s really all it was, you know? But Memphios was Rock ‘n’ Roll, it was Blues, it was all these things, y’know? Musically, I got to be engrained in all of these different cultures and backgrounds. It was a lot of fun for me, you know, growing up and having that connection. It helped me a lot, cuz I started as kind of a Blues kid.
GG: Oh, really?
ZM: Yeah, that’s kinda my background. I got signed when I was 14 as a Blues player.
ZM: Yeah, the Rock thing came way later. I was a total Kenny Wayne Shephard, Johnny Lang Blues kid.
GG: Ah, got you. So was that the late 90s?
ZM: Yep! Yeah, I got signed in ’97.
GG: That’s not bad.
ZM: It was great! You know, it made for definitely an odd childhood, growing up on tour, but it was always fun, man. I always had my parents around me and stuff, so it was cool.
GG: Cool. And the guys from Shinedown are from Jacksonville?
ZM: Brent, our singer, is also from Tennessee. So our band is from Jacksonville even though only one of us is from there! (laughs)
GG: I see! Haha! Did Brent go out there to join the band?
ZM: He went to Jacksonville, yeah.
GG: Did you guys know each other?
ZM: No, we didn’t know each other until after Shinedown had formed. Just form other bands and stuff, just touring around. So, the band, I guess, started in Jacksonville, but really our home base is kinda Nashville, that’s kinda where we do everything. Barry (Kerch, drummer) still lives in Jacksonville.
GG: So, how did you meet up with those guys? Were they already a band and you joined them?
ZM: Yeah, I joined them on the first album. So, they were touring the first record, it had been out for like a year and a half, and then I came in in ’04. Basically, they were starting to make the second record. And when I came in, I was just a hired gun, you know?
GG: Touring guitarist?
ZM: Touring guitarist, yeah. I wasn’t part of the writing of ‘Us and Them’ and didn’t play on it, but I was in the band already. So I started touring with them on ‘Leave a Whisper’.
GG: And then you became the bassist for a while?
ZM: Yeah, so I started out just filling in on bass, then when I was done filling in, we were in Tampa Florida, and it was the last show I was playing bass, and Brent and I were kinda walking around going to lunch. He kinda got really serious, like: ‘You can’t leave’. And I was like ‘Well, you have a bass player who’s just had a baby and is comin’ back, and I’m not a bass player...’
ZM: I’m like: ‘So I don’t know what you mean by that’ and he was like ‘What if you played second guitar? You can sing’ Nobody else in the band sang at that time so he was like, you can play rhythm guitar and sing. I was like: ‘Man, if everyone else is cool with it, I’ll do it’.
ZM: Cuz I really liked playing with Brent, you know? And I really liked playing with Barry, and it was just a really fun time. I had already kinda quite what I was doing and I was being a guitar tech and crew member.
GG; You’d stopped doing the Blues thing?
ZM: Yeah, when I was 18 or 19, I broke up the band because it wasn’t going where I wanted it to go. I began being a crew guy, a guitar tech for other bands. At that point, I was definitely willing to join a band, even as a touring guitar player because like, as a touring guy you don’t have to deal with any of the business: you just show up, get a paycheck and play guitar! They were already headlining 800-1000 seat clubs and I thought: wow, this is pretty cool!
GG: That’s a good place to land.
ZM: Yeah! So, I was like, yeah! If everyone else is cool with it, I’ll do it. Turns out, everyone was not cool with it! I just did it anyway! (laughs) Yeah, I don’t think he really checked with the other three members of the band! It was just like: hey, here’s this guy now, he’s 20! Hey bass players, he’s on your side of the stage, and he sings! I was like ‘aw maaaan’.
GG: So, the other guys are a couple of years older, yeah? Seeing this upstart just join the ranks...
ZM: They knew me, but I think a few of them didn’t necessarily want me to join the band. So yeah, it was a very weird time.
GG: Well here you are, all these years later, playing in the Hydro!
ZM: Yeah man, it’s a beautiful place. I think this is the fifth time we’ve been here. Beautiful place to play. I remember the first time we came here, I thought: ‘this place looks like a spaceship!’
GG: Yeah! It’s pretty mad when you go for a walk at night and see this Close-Encounters thing just sitting there all lit up, haha!
ZM: It’s really cool.
GG: I went to see Danny Elfman there and then Nine Inch Nails, it’s pretty versatile haha!
ZM: Haha, yeah! It’s a fun place. We’re excited to be back.
GG: Yeah man, sweet! Now, this is for guitarguitar so we are obviously gonna talk gee-tars!
ZM: Awesome man, let’s do it! I can talk about guitars all day long!
GG: Good! Me too! The important stuff, you know?
GG: I heard that you’ve got over two hundred of ‘em.
ZM: Yeah, I...it’s a very fluctuating number. I always get more stuff in and I always give a lot of stuff to people. In April of this year I sold around thirty-something guitars. I think Im gonna sell about 60 more next year.
GG: Still leaves you over a hundred guitars to play with though. That’s not bad...
ZM: Yeah, and I still get more in so, um, yeah, I have a lot! But I’ve been collecting stuff since I was 14 so, 22 years?
GG: Right. So, we’ll get to PRS soon, but apart from PRS, what kinds of guitars have you got in your collection? What are some of your favourites?
ZM: Couple of old ’58 and ’59 Les Pauls, umm, a ’54 Strat, a ’60 Strat, ’62 Strat, ’60 Tele, ’61 Tele, uh, ’61 335, ’65 335, ’68 335. Lot of old Martins...
GG: Nice, man! Every classic.
ZM: Yeah. I’m a big Tele guy. Oh, ’72, evey colour of the ’72 Thinline Telecaster.
GG: No way!
GG: Well, let’s talk about the Thinline thing then. I know you’ve had a few different signature PRS models, but a lot of them have the f-hole in them: a lot of them are semi-hollow. Is that just because, admittedly, it looks cool, or because it actually does something for your sound?
ZM: I think it does something...I know it does something to the sound. It creates a bit of a scoopier kind of thing with the air flowing through it, you get a little of the scoopier thing in the midrange that I kinda like. And that low end, I feel like, I dunno, with a hollowbody, man, if you can keep it from kinda wankin’ off with your cab, cuz my cabs are pretty loud, I feel like you can get a tighter low end.
GG: Do you think it separates it a bit? Because the midrange is a wee bit pulled in, it makes more of a thing out of the top and bottom?
ZM: I think so, yeah. I think, with the high strings, you get that kind of jangly texture that you want with a hollowbody, but the low end stays a little tighter. If you can keep it from fuckin’ off through your amp!
GG: Yeah, yeah.
ZM: And we don’t put foam in them or anything (in the f-holes – Ray), we leave ‘em wide open. Every guitar except for two in this set, no three, every guitar except for three are hollowbodies. I have a Silver Sky that I’m using and I have a Mira that I use, and then I have my first signature model that didn’t have an f-hole. But it has a third humbucker.
GG: That was the one with the three humbuckers, yeah! I’m a fan of three humbuckers, not necessarily because you need it...
ZM: It looks cool! (laughs) I don’t know if you know this, but a lot of people don’t care if it looks cool, they want 3 because they it to play the way they want it to play. So, the 3 humbucker guitar did really well once we went to one colour, which was the blue. We had the Silverburst and the blue, once we went to just the blue, we did really well but I think a lot of people didn’t like that third humbucker.
GG: You can just lower it into the body.
ZM: That’s what I do! I lowered it, and in mine, they wound it less so I could get more of a Tele sound, make it a little thinner, which I liked. Then, when we basically got rid of the third humbucker and came out with the semi-hollow version, sand-blasted neck, vintage tuners, adjustable bridge, we found the recipe with that and it’s now the number one selling SE model.
GG: The good thing is, it’s one of those guitars that guys in so many different genres and musical situations can just pick up.
ZM: Yeah, whether you like me as a guitar player, hate me as a guitar player, or have never heard of me as a guitar player, and that’s kinda what I wanted to do! I know a lot fo people who play PRS and don’t have any clue who I am!
ZM: So, it’s cool: you want people to play the guitar because the guitar is the guitar.
GG: Yeah, the guitar is selling itself on its own merits.
ZM: Yes, and so the new one will come out some time, can’t say when.
GG: Is that one of those ones when it may be announced at NAMM in a couple of weeks?
ZM: It won’t be at NAMM this year.
GG: Alright, OK. So, it’s for the future.
ZM: It’s for the future, yeah. I should hopefully have a prototype when I get home!
GG: Oh! That’s a nice thing to look forward to at the end of the tour.
ZM: Yeah! I’m looking forward to it. I got into this phase for a while where I would buy new guitars. I just recently got a Dick Dale Strat. That kinda made me pick up guitars again because usually...it was so weird, and I don’t think I’ve ever talked about this before but I got into this phase where I’d order guitars to buy ‘em and then literally take ‘em out the case, put them in the room and never play them.
GG: They’re just sitting there.
ZM: Yeah, so it’s like I almost lost the love for guitar for a minute. And then now, when I get up now, I just play like...
GG: Dick Dale saved it for you! His Strat brought it back!
ZM: Yeah! The Dick Dale Strat brought it back!
GG: Were you just doing loads of Miserlou on it (twangy Pulp Fiction tune)?
ZM: Yeah, and using the tremolo arm. And I don’t know man, there’s something cool about a left-handed neck.
GG: On a sparkly gold Strat!
ZM: I’m a sucker for a few things in life: bass boat flake (a metallic sparkle finish used on boats and other vehicle finishes – Ray) and anything gold sparkle.
GG: Cool man.
ZM: You know, I, um, so I had left PRS for a second in 2009 and I was actually talking to Fender. No one knows this...I’ve never even said this, I know you’re a guitar site...
GG: Am I okay to print this?
ZM: Yeah, you’re okay. Why not? It’s been ten years! We came up with a Gold signature Telecaster. And it was Shoreline Gold, I think I have a picture. (digs out his phone and searches for a sec. Right enough, I see a pretty fabulous looking Tele with some text beside it from Fender) Alright, I’m showing this to you and it says (for benefit of my recorder – Ray) Zach Myers Shinedown Concept. It’s Shoreline Gold Flake Relic Thinline Tele. So that was actually gonna be a signature model.
GG: They should still have released that regardless, that’s wicked!
ZM: Yeah, I know! It’s a really cool guitar. I think you’re the only person who has ever seen it, actually.
GG: Goodness me! Well, I’m privileged man, thank you.
ZM: No, it’s cool man! So, in 2009 there was going to be a Zach Myers Fender Thinline but then I ended up going back to PRS. I kinda got into a spat with PRS over something kinda petty now, but I had been with them for a really long time. I was told I was getting a signature model for a long time and then it never happened. Then they ended up giving Nick Catanese from Black Label Society – he went to PRS after being with Washburn forever- he went to PRS for like 5 months, and Nick was a friend of mine. They gave him a signature model before me and I was like ‘Fuck this, I’m out’.
ZM: And then I ended up going with Taylor actually. I did a signature model with Taylor that never came out. It’s in (Taylor magazine) Wood & Steel: there’s an old Wood & Steel, they put it in the magazine!
ZM: It wasn’t.
GG: Haha! It wasn’t?
ZM: The guitar wasn’t done. It’s something I wanted to do, but it ended up not working out cuz they kinda messed with the neck a little on it. I wanted a different colour...I still use Taylor acoustic guitars, Bob Taylor’s still one of my favourite people.
GG: Cool! So, we touched s wee bit on your live rig in terms of your PRS guitars, but what about your amps?
ZM: Fractals right now! For now. It has been that way since 2013, but I think, uh, I think that’s about to change. I’m going back to amps.
GG: You feeling like a change?
ZM: You know man, those things are...I’m never gonna talk bad about them, because they’re honestly...the Fractals and the Kemper stuff, they are great systems. If you’re out front of house, I don’t care who you are: you could be an amp maker, you could be Jim Marshall; if you’re front of house and I play you my Fractal and then play you a ’68 Plexi, you can’t tell the difference.
GG: Aye especially with a bit of crunch on it, a bit of volume and then blasted through the PA...
ZM: It’s just for me: when I solo, I’m still missing, there’s still something I’m missing. My tech can’t hear it, my monitor guy can’t hear it, but I can feel it. And I know there’s something I’m missing, so I think I’m gonna go back to amps, but that’s probably the next play.
GG: Okay. Would that be for, like, across the board, or maybe just the US, because it’s so much easier to travel with Fractals?
ZM: I’ve been using Fractals in the US too. My old rig was two Diezel Herberts, and two Fender Bassmans for clean. And then I used an Ashdown bass head for clean for a long time.
GG: Oh wow, okay!
ZM: That was my secret. Whenever I did rig rundowns, I wouldn’t even show it.
ZM: I’d put a towel over it because everyone’s like ‘Man! Your clean has a ton of low end, but it doesn’t break up. What is it?’ And I would never tell anyone. And literally, we kept it in a case behind the rigs so no one would ever see it. When I did rig rundowns, at one point we had it so it would sit on the top but we kept a towel over it so no one would ever see it.
GG: Secret sauce.
ZM: Yeah, pretty great. That’s an underused thing, the bass amp.
GG: Yeah. I used to use a bass cab along with my guitar cab but I’ve never used a bass head.
ZM: Yeah, bass head, clean, it’s amazing. They don’t take pedals all that great except delay.
GG: Do you split your signal then?
ZM: You split it, yeah. But you’d put like a transparent drive, like I’m a big Tubescreamer nerd, so I put a Tubescreamer on it and it wasn’t...
GG: Oh okay, fair enough. Not happening.
GG: So, string-wise, are you gauge ten?
ZM: Um, eleven.
GG: Eleven. Do you guys tune down?
ZM: No, we’re mostly standard. There’s like...Enemies is C#, Monsters is a whole step down, so D Standard, um, but mostly standard.
GG: An what about plectrums?
ZM: I use InTune .73mm.
GG: Yes, I’ve settled on .73 myself.
ZM: Yeah, .73. Me and Mark (Tremonti, from Alter Bridge - Ray) jam all the time and he’s in the middle of, like, a pick crisis right now!
GG: That’s good to know, I’m gonna talk to him later! (Read about that here – Ray)
ZM: Ok, yeah! Well, he’s trying new picks every night, so he’ll come up to me before the show and go ‘this is the one I’m using tonight’. He’s really liking these kinda smooth edged, teardrop kinda shred picks. He’s really liking that. But he’s so much more finesse with his right hand than I am.
ZM: I could use a Spanish fuckin’ quarter, you know what I mean? (laughs) I’m hitting the guitar hard! He’s such a... he’s like a surgeon, you know? He needs a little more precision with his.
GG: Those guys need heavier picks, don’t they? Those precision guys.
ZM: They do. He’s been going between 1 and 1.25mm. Yeah.
GG: Okay, we’ll see what he’s on tonight!
ZM: Ask him! Tell him I’m asking what he’s on today! He’s using a tear drop and he’s using a smooth edge. They feel really good. (In case you wondered, Mark later handed me his choice of pick for that night: a 1.35mm Dunlop Tortex Flow, pretty much exactly as Zach had anticipated – Ray)
GG: Picks change your playing so much!
ZM: You know, I never thought that, and then two years ago I switched to Jazz picks, and I still have two on my pick holder every night. I’ll grab ‘em sometimes but mostly I’m standard .73mm. There was a solo on Adrenalin that’s really fast right hand, the fastest I’ve ever done right hand, so it was easier to have the Jazz.
GG: Cuz there’s no give: it’s all Brrrrrrrr (sound of fast picking).
ZM: Yeah exactly.
GG: Cool! So, your PRS SE model: am I correct in saying that the neck has a Wide Fat profile?
ZM: Yes. It comes from all the old Les Pauls that I have. I like that Wide Fat neck, man. If you’re like a shredder, it’s maybe not as comfortable but I’m more of a BB King, Bluesy, bend/vibrato guy.
GG: A Beale Street guy!
ZM: Yeah, so I like them how I like my women: I need something to hold on to! I don’t want a little thin, Wide Thin neck, none of that! I gotta have something to hold on to.
GG: I know what you mean: it was always the Wide Fat profile that I liked, and then PRS changed their naming conventions in the last decade, so it’s Pattern, Pattern Regular and so on.
GG: I don’t think there is an actual analogue for the Wide Fat, it’s just different now. It’s a shame, because it’s a brilliant carve.
ZM: I think mine may be the only Wide Fat.
GG: It might well be! They tended to do it...is yours a 22 fret guitar?
ZM: 22, yeah.
GG: Yeah, it tended to be that 24’s had the Wide Thin and 22’s had the Wide Fat.
ZM: Yeah. I think when you want 24, you kinda want a thinner neck.
GG: I wish they would just give us the choice.
ZM: I agree.
GG: Take it up with Paul (Reed Smith)!
ZM: I’ll text Paul.
GG: Call him now, tell him it’s Ray from Glasgow! We’ve spoken before, he knows me. I’m sure he remembers from all those years ago haha!
ZM: Hahahah, he’s a very, very interesting person. I love Paul, that’s my guy.
GG: Yeah definitely, he a great guy. So, one of the things I was getting form the Shinedown sound is, despite the fact that it’s relatively heavy at times, the sound is also very accessible. Everyone can get involved with it. Would you agree with that?
ZM: I mean, it’s, you know, however heavy bands get, when you get to the chorus and it’s all melody, you know? For us it’s just, we’re not even really a hard rock band, we’re just a rock band! We play Rock ‘n’ Roll, you know, in every form! We have ballads, we have stuff that’s pretty heavy, but for me...I don’t know if we ever looked at it as the word ‘accessible’, but...relatable?
GG: I think ‘accessible’ in a positive connotation.
ZM: Yeah, yeah.
GG: I think that’s the key, really...
ZM: You wanna be relatable to people. I think with choruses and stuff, we always try to...I’ve always said that a lot of the bands we came up with are not around anymore. We chose to not write songs about getting laid and all that stuff because it was like, these people are kids and they listen to that shit. Then they’re gonna grow up and have kids and be like ‘I don’t want my kids to listen to this shit!’
GG: Or, they’re out there getting it done and don’t need the songs to tell them about it.
ZM: Yeah, they don’t need the songs to do it for them! We always had to write things that were personal to us.
GG: There’s an optimistic sort of, uh, for want of a better term, triumph over adversity moments in some of your songs.
ZM: Yup. Yeah, you know, there’s two ways to look at ‘Us vs the World’: there’s a positive way and there;s a fucking brooding kind of ‘uuuurggh’ way. (laughs) You know? And we kind of look at the positive way. We adapt and overcome. We try to tell you that you can do whatever you want in life if you really...even if everyone’s against you, like, be positive and do these things. Don’t turn inward.
GG: That’s really good: be positive and do it.
ZM: Do it! You know? But don’t do it and be negative! Be positive. Prove people wrong. There’s a good chip on your shoulder and there’s a bad chip on your shoulder. I have a chip on my shoulder every night when I go onstage but it’s a good chip on my shoulder, you know? Like, I’m trying to...y’know, I’m out there to destroy every other band on stage and some nights it may not happen, but I’m gonna try! I wanna be the most memorable person on that stage every single night with my band. So, when you write a song, you should be the same way: you should try to inspire! You shouldn’t beat people down.
We’ve had songs that are really about struggles, struggles of life and things like that, but that’s real, you know? That’s what we were going through at the time.
GG: Do you think they are some of your most valuable songs?
ZM: Yeah! I think both sides of the coin: if you look at a song like The Sound of Madness, its angry! It’s about a person who thinks that maybe the world revolves around them and they’re throwing themselves a pity party and you’re not standing for it. You’re kinda standing up. And then you’ve got another heavy song, like Brilliant, which is the most positive thing in the world, you know? To me, that song’s very...it’s like ‘I’m Not Okay’-era My Chemical Romance meets Bohemian Rhapsody: it has those things, the powerful positivity.
GG: Yeah, and then you’ve got songs like Get Up that have comments on YouTube, saying ‘I’m a disabled Marine and this song has saved my life’. As a co-writer of that song, how does that make you feel?
ZM: Those...what a weird thing, you know, to...to have someone saw that to you because I’m still such a fan of music: I love songs and songs mean so much to me. So, for someone to come up to you and say ‘you saved my life’ or whatever, like, it’s really heavy man. You try not to brush it off, but you also try not to think of the weight of it. We’re four really caring people, so if we kind of let the thought of that weigh on us a lot, I don’t know if we could write another song, you know?
GG: It starts becoming a weight of expectation.
ZM: You kinda just take it and... you take it and realise that what you do is important to people. Then you just try to be the best you can be. I can’t think about...saving people’s lives, that’s...
GG: No, you want to just think about your PRS is in tune, your plectrum is the right way round, the stage is there...
ZM: Yeah! You know, but it means the world when those people tell you that! You know what I mean?
ZM: What a (laughs) beautiful situation to be in: where you help someone still be on this Earth, you know? It’s...it’s crazy, man and so, we don’t take it lightly.
GG: It goes in somewhere, right?
ZM: Yeah, oh, for sure, it goes in! You can’t...
GG: You have to manage it.
ZM: You have to manage it. Yeah, because if you think about it too much, it’d like ‘wow, that’s too much, that’s a lot of weight to carry around’.
GG: Totally. Now, I don’t want to keep you too long, but one question I’d like to ask is: for someone who’s been in the business for as long as you have...about the longevity. As you said, a lot of the bands you came through with are no longer with us. What tips do you have for guys that are out there, about sustaining a long career?
ZM: If you’re in a band, live in a glass house, proverbially, you know. Don’t keep anything from each other, don’t hide money, keep everybody on the same page. We’re a band that’s a full democracy, you know? We’re a band with a leader, but we’re a full democracy. I’ve got an opinion. They may be sick of hearing it...
GG: But they understand it’s your right to have it.
ZM: Yeah, it’s my right to have it. We four are all equal in our band. Now, we have a captain, which is great because every ship needs a captain and I trust him wholeheartedly with whatever decision he makes, but if I have a different decision and the three of us are against him, he’ll take the loss! It’s truly that way. He doesn’t have to: he started this band...
GG: Is this Brent?
ZM: Yeah, so the fact that we’re all equal members of this band is truly great. But yeah, talk to each other. That’s the main thing: communication. It is a marriage. That is not a cliché.
GG: You’re absolutely right.
ZM: You’re married to three other people, or two other people. Or four other people, depending. Just talk about it! Don’t sit on something for two weeks going ‘oh, this guy fuckin’ did this’! You know what, man? Ge tit out in the open! We are the kings of that, man. We are the kings of that ‘Some Kind of Monster’ moment! Once a month! (laughter) That happens all the time! But it’s healthy, you get it out. It may be uncomfortable...
GG: You have to get the poison out the wound, don’t you?
ZM: Totally man, you can’t just go around thinking about shit that’s going on. Naw, man! Just get it out of the way, talk about it. Know the people you’re surrounded with, have a good manager, have a good business manager, who isn’t gonna steal your money or tell you to spend it in the wrong ways... just try to be true, man, to what you’re doing.
Never pigeonhole yourself: if you feel like going left, go left! Feel like going right? Go right. You know what I’m saying? We never go ‘outside the box’: all four of us stand on one side and push the box, make the box bigger.
GG: So you can incorporate other things into it.
ZM: Yeah, you know, if you listen to Threat to Survival, that’s not a typical Shinedown record. But we also were not trying to be weird, that’s just what we wrote at the time! There are so many bands in this genre that write the same album over and over! Some have even put the same album cover on it! (laughs) Don’t be that band! Dare to be different! And that’s the best advice I can give.
GG: That’s great advice! That could have been a great last question, but I always like asking, just for fun: what’s your favourite guitar riff ever? Yours or someone else’s?
ZM: That’s really tough, man! The bridge to Cowboy Song by Thin Lizzy.
GG: Oh wow! I wouldn’t have expected that!
ZM: Both my favourite bands are Irish: U2 and Thin Lizzy. They’re my favourite bands. I’m also gonna go with Whole Lotta Love, man. That’s just...
GG: It can’t be argued with, can it?
ZM: To be it’s the greatest riff of all time and also, it’s the most Rock ‘n’ Roll riff of all time.
GG: It’s a sleazeball of a riff, isn’t it?
ZM: It’s... I think every riff I can think of that’s the greatest riff of all time, other than Walk This Way, is Led Zeppelin. Black Dog, Stairway to Heaven, Whole Lotta Love.
GG: Immigrant Song.
ZM: Immigrant Song. Immigrant Song’s like one note! Kashmir!
GG: Yeah, Jimmy Page is like: ‘I like that note! Let’s stay on that one.’ Haha!
ZM: That’s all you need man! But then you get somebody like James Hetfield who writes like...
GG: Harvester of Sorrow.
ZM: Or even Nothing Else Matters, man! He literally, with one hand...what a great riff!
ZM: So that’s it: those are my riffs! I don’t think anybody was expecting me to say the bridge to the Cowboy Song!
GG; Nobody ever has come up with that one so that’s a good addition!
ZM: I was listening to Live & Dangerous today.
GG: Ah, it’s fresh in your memory.
ZM: Yeah, uh, it’s one of my favourite live albums of all time. The transition between Cowboy Song and the Boys are Back in Town...how they end Cowboy Song and go straight into Boys...I will literally be in a public place like a city centre and when that shit comes up, I’ll be jumping up and down!
I know the feeling! It’s great to hear that Zach is just as big a music geek as the rest of us. With our interview over, Zach led me back through a couple of corridors before saying goodbye and heading upstairs. I made my way back out into the Clydeside area of the city, feeling good after an enjoyable conversation and happily considering my next move in terms of the day’s other interview.
Zach shared a lot with us, and I’m very appreciative of how open and generous he was with both his time and exclusive gear reveals! Fans will no doubt get tons from this, but guitar fans who aren’t so clued up on Shinedown will hopefully enjoy parts of this conversation, too.
Later on, he certainly played his part in owning the stage, with a rapt, full-capacity audience drinking up every second that Shinedown were on. The fans seem to be of the most dedicated, appreciative variety: the best kind! Shinedown obviously loved it as much as their audience, and their sound fits well into a large-scale venue such as the Hydro.
No doubt they’ll be back soon, but until then, keep up with their whereabouts via the official Shinedown website.
I’d like to thank Zach for talking to me so candidly, Matt for looking after me on the day and Kirsten for setting me up with them!
Thanks for reading guys,
Until next time!