You can’t open up the conversation about LA metal without mentioning one of its most profoundly entertaining frontmen: Matt Zane. The industrial-metal vocalist behind Society 1 put himself on the map with his famous suspension at 2005′s Download Festival, but what fans may not know about this rebellious performer is that, beyond his penchant for the extreme, Zane is a seriously well-rounded artist.
Since putting Society 1 on hold several years ago, Zane has become a published author and accomplished music video director, plus he’s explored what he calls the “cliche Hollywood career path” of acting, appearing on cult television shows Heroes (NBC) and Showtime’s Californication.
Despite considerable success in his new ventures, Zane found that he never made a clean break from music, which is why he decided to revive Society 1 in 2013. We caught up with “The Lord” Zane prior to the band’s show Wednesday night at West Hollywood’s House of Blues to talk about the revamped Society 1, what he was up to the last eight years, and why the new material is decidedly more melodic.
So, pretty general question: what has the band been up to since you last released an album?
Matt: Awww, man, I don’t think we have enough time in the next ten minutes to cover all that. The easy answer: I did a bunch of suspensions, broke a couple world records, I wrote a couple books, and I tried my hand at the typical Hollywood career of acting. I was on a couple of shows, believe it or not.
I was a regular on Heroes. I was a carnie. I did a few other things. I did a commercial in Europe, [but] the really cool thing was that I got to be in an episode of Californication. I was on an episode with Tommy Lee and got to sing “Home Sweet Home” with him.
That’s incredibly random…
Yeah, that one was really interesting.
Was Society 1 completely on the back-burner during this hiatus or are you always thinking about Society 1 music?
It was definitely on the back-burner for the past eight years. Ya know, after 2006 I kind of went off in a different direction and tried to explore some other things. You have to understand by that point, in 2006 — I mean, every kid and every wanna-be musician says that they want to tour for the rest of their lives, and I was no different – but by 2006, I felt that I didn’t really have any roots or connection to anything, and I kind of welcomed the times when I would be back in one place for a while. There were just other opportunities that came about that I wanted to explore.
Is there something in particular that fulfills you as an artist more that others, between the writing, acting, music, etc.?
Oh, there is a big thing I’ve been doing the past eight years — I can’t believe I totally forgot it! — I’m a music video director. I got so caught up in telling you about the suspension and the books and the acting that I completely forgot that I do music videos. The last year alone I’ve done Zakk Wylde, Orgy, Wayne Static, Run DMC, and stuff for Tim Armstrong of Rancid. So yeah, that’s another thing that I’ve been doing.
So yes, there are the music videos, the books, the suspension, and my brief little stint as an actor, but music is definitely something that I miss, and I didn’t think I was going to. I’m glad I realized before I got way too old and nobody wanted to come see me play. So that’s kinda what prompted me to get off my butt in 2013 and get it all back together again.
Was there a specific moment or even time period over the past eight years when you really decided you wanted to return to music?
Ya know, filming all these bands, whether they were big, platinum-selling acts or independent bands. Just being around music that much and having to do a couple of live shoots. Something just dawned on me in 2013 that something was missing, for whatever reason. People respond to the things I do, but they don’t respond to it in the same way they do my music. Something didn’t feel right or complete. It didn’t really end like I imagined it, I guess. So I thought, ya know, I’m not sure if this is really going to work, but let’s put a band together and get out there and see if anybody actually shows up.
Do you have a fear after being away for so long that people won’t be into Society 1 anymore?
I mean, I’m realistic about it. The reality is that they’re not as into it as they once were. We’ve been gone for eight years and a lot has happened since then. The music industry’s changed. I would be foolish to think that we would immediately pick up where we left off. I’m not delusional by any means. You don’t have to look any further than our [last show]. We used to play the main room at House of Blues, and now we’re playing the upstairs room.
I think that’s really secondary in terms of what I was concerned about. It was more about doing something that I was missing, something that I wanted to do, and something that I love in life, so this time around, it was just really more of a personal trip than anything else. It wasn’t really about proving anything to anybody, or worrying about if anybody was going to like it, or if our fans were going to come back. To me it was just about fulfilling my own needs and my own desires.
How has your time off the past eight years affected the way you are writing the new Society 1 material?
Well, I mean life is different now. You get older and life changes. You can’t help but approach it differently. When I was originally trying to make my first couple records years and years and years ago, and trying to get on the road, and trying to do suspensions with music, I wanted to really prove something. I was very hungry to succeed. It was a battle in that sense. Now it’s more about self-gratification, and I’m just enjoying the fact that I can still do it and still get booked and people are still showing up. I mean, yeah, the crowds are initially less than they were, but they’re still showing up. That’s something to be really grateful for.
Sonically, how has your music changed?
We’ve definitely mellowed out a bit. I don’t mean mellow like we’ve become Pink Floyd, but we’ve definitely become more of a rock band. That’s what people are noticing the most when they come to the shows. We do play some of the industrial, older stuff, but that was kind of the direction we were going anyways. There’s more melody and songwriting involved versus before when were a little more, not heavy, but more noisy. There was a lot more yelling, and it was a bit more angry.
We’re just doing what we do and having a great time doing it. It’s kind of like we’re starting over but not having to start at the bottom of the game.
Is going more rock and more melodic a natural part of a band maturing? Why did you decide to go more melodic at this stage in your career?
I don’t know. I’ve always liked melodic music. I grew up in the ’80s and even all the thrash bands would sing, even though they were yell-singing, ya know? I don’t know why we decided to go that way. It just felt right. It’s just kind of what we wrote. The other thing is that I can sing. I mean, I’m not the greatest singer in the world, but I’m far from the worst. I don’t really think about it. I don’t really overthink anything that’s going on with the band, believe it or not.
Tell me about this lineup. Everyone is pretty much new, right?
Yeah, everyone except for Dirt. The guitar player, Beau Ashley, and the drummer, Iorden Mitev, are both new. We dig them, they dig us, and that’s pretty much that.
So what’s going on with the music in 2014. Are you putting out an album, an EP…?
The one problem with music not being my main source of income is that we’re moving kind of slow compared to back in the day. Now I have my job, which is directing and editing, and it’s definitely slowed the process of getting the record done, so instead of waiting for an entire record, what we did was we started like a real record — we got all the drums done, the drums are complete — but now, we’re just going to release one song at a time so we can get it out there. I think if we had to wait for the entire record to be done, because I’m so busy, we’d never get it out for a couple of years. So, yeah, we’re going one track at a time and just recording what we can when I’m available. We’re going to try to get a song out about every six weeks.
I mean, you don’t really need to release a full album anymore.
We’ll see how it goes. I mean, I’m relearning the music business every day.
Obviously your fans are used to seeing the suspensions and the crazy live shows. Where is your live show at now?
It’s still a great live show, and I know that everybody says their live show is great. I can’t sell it in an interview because everybody sells it the same way, and words all look the same on a page. The only thing that I can tell you is to come to the shows, and when you see it, it’s very similar to what you’d expect. There isn’t suspension anymore, but we have everything that people are normally used to for a Society 1 show. It’s all still there. It’s just a fun show. We’re trying to keep that level of performance as long as we can before we’re all way too old to do what we do. When you see the show, you’ll get it. You’ll be like, “Alright, I wonder how long they’re gonna keep that up for.” [Laughs]
Keep up with Society 1′s upcoming music releases and tour dates on the band’s website.