Interview with Zebrahead
The interview was done by Zebreahead vocalist/rapper Ali Tabatabaee
What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
I’ve always been a big fan of music. As a kid I would listen to hip hop before playing basketball games to get hyped up. Ever since then, music has helped me get through hard times as well as happy times. I got more and more into rock and punk music as I went through high school and University. I was pre-med in school so I would most likely be a doctor if I didn’t pursue the band.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Often times when we come home from tour, we write new songs. The band has never been good at writing on tour, so we tend to do that when we are home. Life experiences tend to influence my creativity. Whether it’s something that I’ve experienced or something someone close to me has experienced, it gives me plenty of inspiration when writing.
How long has your band been around? Also, please tell me about the dynamic of the band of what brought you all together.
Zebrahead has been around since 1995, so about 28 years now. Like I mentioned before, I was studying to go to medical school. I took a year off after university to study for the MCAT (which you need to take to get accepted to medical school), so I moved back with my parents in my hometown. I started hanging with Ben, our bass player now. I’d known him throughout high school and he was at that time playing bass in a punk band who played local shows. He knew I loved hip hop so when I would show up to his band rehearsals before going out for the evening, he would get me on the mic and I would rap old A Tribe Called Quest or Cypress Hill songs while him and his friends would play the music. That lead to us writing one song and playing it at his bands record release party. The song was called “Check” and ended up on our first album “Waste of Mind”. We got such a good reaction from the crowd that the guys all quit their other bands and Zebrahead was formed.
Where are you based and how did that influence your music?
We are based in Southern California. Like with any artist, your environment plays a huge part of your creativity. The Southern California mentality has always played a huge part in our music and in our perspective.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
We had our first show, as I mentioned above, at Ben’s first band’s CD release party. We didn’t have a name for the band yet. I had just watched an Oliver Stone movie called “Zebrahead” the night before and suggested using that name until we decided on a permanent one. I guess the name stuck and here we are 28 years later.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
A few stand out to me. Our very first show at Koo’s Cafe where we played our first song stands out. Also, traveling to Japan and playing Summer Sonic for the first time is another great memory. And I would also say flying to England to play “Slam Dunk” as our first show back from the pandemic is one I will never forget.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
The House of Blues in our hometown of Anaheim always holds a special place in our hearts. We’ve been playing at the different reiterations of that venue throughout our career. It’s always cool to play in front of your family and friends. We would love to go to South America and play shows. That’s one place we have never gone.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
I would love to have played with Rage Against the Machine and the Beastie Boys.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would say to anyone starting out to play as many shows as possible. The experience you gain from live performances is irreplaceable. You never know who is watching and when one show might open doors to more opportunities to come. I would tell my younger self to be more patient. That’s something that I’ve always needed to work on.
Of your songs on the new EP “II” which one means the most to you and why?
I would have to say “Middle Seat Blues” is a special song. It was written about an unhealthy relationship that I didn’t recognize as being controlling at the time. The song is about taking back your power and eliminating negativity.
Which songs are your favorite to play, and which get requested the most?
Usually, the newest song is my favorite because I’m not tired of playing it yet. I would say our songs “Anthem” and “Falling Apart” are the most requested when we play live.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
The writing process has changed a lot since the pandemic. Prior, we would always jam live and write songs together in one place. Now, we work at home a lot and send each other ideas online as well as meeting up in person. Weather it’s sending each other a guitar riff, song concept or lyric, it allows us to be way more productive. Our music is always a reflection of our personal environments and experiences. We write about things that we see and go through.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I think it’s always been important for us to connect with our fans. We want them to listen to our songs and feel like they see a reflection of their own lives in our music.
Talk to us about “II”, the songs, videos, etc and what’s coming next that you would like to tell me and your fans about?
We are really excited for everyone to check out our newest EP “II”. The songs are high energy and vary in musical styles throughout the EP. The songs will punch you in the mouth while making you put on your party pants. Lyrically they represent our experiences coming out of the pandemic and touring again while still reflecting on personal trials these past few years. We will be releasing a new video for our song “Middle Seat Blues” soon so keep an eye out for that!
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
We will be touring all over the world for the next year and a half so check our socials for tour dates and come party with us when we are in your hometown!
How can your fans best keep up to date with you, any socials you want people to check out?
Please check out Zebrahead.com, @zebraheadofficial on Instagram and @zebrahead on Twitter for our latest announcements and tour dates!!