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A Dirty Dozen with CRAIG WILLIAM from TZARINA – August 2023

| 4 August 2023 | Reply

According to a recent press release: “Post-hardcore band Tzarina are slated to release their latest single “Horace” along with an accompanying lyric video on August 15th. The single is from their forthcoming self-titled album due out later this year. For songwriter, Craig William, the crux of the musical endeavor powered by the band Tzarina has always been to explore the more ethereal themes evident in the mixture of metal, post-rock and post-hardcore genres expressed in their music. This is evident in Tzarina’s trail of singles, which have been seeing their release since October of 2020. It has been almost two years since the full LP was recorded, so they are slated to release their first complete work later this year. This has been a long-awaited moment for the band, who have been hard at work perfecting their sound and experimenting with various elements of their live performance.” We get Craig to discuss new music, influences, and more.

1. Tell us a little about your latest release.  What might a fan or listener not grab the first or second time they listen through?  Are there any hidden nuggets the band put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

I don’t know about any nuggets in there but our last release, “Currents” which was released last month seems to be the band’s favorite.  It’s our hope that it translates to the stage relatively well.  Our next release, “Horace” comes out August 15th and I think that’s my favorite in terms of how the song was arrange and mixed.  Lots of ear candy and ambience but still very present and in your face, even though it’s a bit more of a mellow track.

2. What got you into music, and can you tell us about the moment you realize you wanted to be a musician?

Honestly, if you want to know the answer to that question, listen to our take on the song “Pretty Noose.” I have a pretty vivid memory of the first time I heard the Soundgarden tune “Pretty Noose.” I’m 7 years old, about to watch this week’s episode of SNL because Jim Carey is the host and god damn is he the funniest human alive. As I sit through skit after skit of hilarity, the show breaks to their musical act, Soundgarden. If you only knew what seeing them perform did for me – I mean – immediately, I thought playing music was the coolest thing. It was like a switch flipped on. It wasn’t long after I started grabbing my dad’s old guitars from under the bed when he wasn’t around just to strum nonsense because I had no idea how or what to do.

3. Building on that, is there a specific song, album, performer, or live show that guided your musical taste?

It’s hard to say.  I feel like I’ve always just been a massive fan of listening to music that I’m sure my taste has been influenced in part by all of it.  Whether it was moshing in a pit to a hardcore band, or sitting in a small club listening to Pat Metheny – it all seeps in somehow. If I did have to pinpoint one album, it would probably be You Won’t Get What You Want by Daughters.

4. Who would be your main five musical influences?

Jeff Buckley’s emotive vocal style and his approach to songwriting have left a huge mark on me as a musician. His ability to fuse elements of folk, rock, jazz, and blues into a unique sound gave me a seemingly infinite well of inspiration from a single artist. He is also the musician that was the primary example of how to be vulnerable, convey depth of emotion, and utilize the power of simplicity to create unforgettable songs. Joe Pass one of the greatest jazz guitarists hands down. His improvisational skills and his intricate, yet accessible, approach to melody and harmony were brilliant yet completely attainable for an aspiring guitar player. His virtuosic solo work and chord-melody technique can provide valuable insights for any musician looking to expand their technical abilities and understanding of harmony. The Dillinger Escape Plan is synonymous with chaotic, complex song structures and ferocious performances. The Dillinger Escape Plan’s blend of hardcore, metal, and progressive rock can inspire a musician to push the boundaries of their own music, experimenting with unconventional song structures and time signatures, as well as cultivating an energetic and captivating live performance. The Deftones’ unique blend of alternative metal, shoegaze, and experimental rock, combined with their ability to balance heaviness with melody, makes them a significant influence. Their atmospheric guitar tones, powerful rhythms, and Chino Moreno’s emotive vocals can encourage a musician to explore creating depth and texture in their own music while retaining a potent emotional core. A Tribe Called Quest’s groundbreaking work in hip-hop offers lessons in creating grooves, the art of sampling, and lyrical storytelling. Their innovative approach to beat-making and their socially conscious lyrics can inspire musicians to use their platform for conveying important messages and to see music as a means of connecting with listeners on a deeper level.

5. If you could call in any one collaborator to do a song with, who would it be, and why?

For writing and producing, maybe Chino from Deftones or DJ Premiere. Chino is known for his unique songwriting style, melding heavy alternative metal with a sense of melody and atmospheric soundscapes – basically the tone chasing I’m always trying to achieve at some level. His ability to craft songs that kind of material I think would complement our musical arrangements well. ***CHINO, CALL ME**** For engineering, mixing and mastering – Evil Joe Barresi or Steve Albini. Joe is a master at capturing raw, organic sounds and making them shine within a mix. His approach to engineering and mixing could help highlight the intricacies and power of the music, ensuring each element has its own space to breathe. I’d also just like to pick his brain in a mix session. Steve is renowned for his minimalistic and organic recording philosophy – one that I share to a degree. He has a reputation for capturing the true essence of a band’s sound and I would love to have a live session in one of the studios at Electric Audio in Chicago.

6. How would you describe your music to someone who’d never listened to you before? What is the one comparison a reviewer or fan has made that made you cringe or you disagreed with?

We always get a lot of Thrice, Deftones, A Perfect Circle.

7. What’s the best thing about being a musician?

Carrying all the gear to the gig…

8. When the band are all hanging out together, who cooks; who gets the drinks in; and who is first to crack out the acoustic guitars for a singalong?

Either Mark (guitar/vox) or myself will cook.  We all get the drinks in.  No one busts out an acoustic guitar – at least it hasn’t happened yet.

9. When was the last time you were star struck and who was it?

DJ Premiere when he came to see us at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn last year.

10. If you weren’t a musician, what would be your dream job?

I’d probably run my own little shop building guitar amps and effects pedals – or I’d be a comedian.

11. Looking back over your career, is there a single moment or situation you feel was a misstep or you would like to have a “do over”, even if it didn’t change your current situation?

Yeah. I would try to not be so afraid to push the boundaries of the music I was writing and performing much earlier on.  A lot of the early Tzarina songs were ideas that I just sat on for years before I decided to finish them and put a band together to perform them. Trying to understand and accept what is authentic to me versus writing what I think will be “popular” just puts me in a different mindset.  The ideas flow more seamlessly and are much easier to refine because I know what it has to be.

12. If you could magically go back in time and be a part of the recording sessions for any one record in history, which would you choose – and what does that record mean to you?

In Utero by Nirvana w/ Steve Albini producing or Superunknown by Soundgarden with Michael Beinhorn.





Category: Interviews

About the Author ()

ToddStar - that's me... just a rocking accountant who had dreams of being a rock star. I get to do the next best thing to rocking the globe - I get to take pictures of the lucky ones that do. I love to shoot all genres of music and different types of performers. If it is related to music, I love to photograph it. I get to shoot and hang with not only some of my friends and idols, but some of the coolest people around today.

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