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A Dirty Dozen with BRUCE ZEBAL from EMPIRED – March 2024

| 12 March 2024 | Reply

Photo credit: The Corona Chronicles

According to a recent press release: “Long Beach, CA rockers EMPIRED will be touring in support of their new album Finding Calm in the Chaos, which was recorded, mixed and mastered by Paul Miner (Death By Stereo, Thrice, New Found Glory)at Buzzbomb Studios in Orange, CA, and features tracks with guest vocals from Brenna Red (The Last Gang) and Linh Le (Bad Cop Bad Cop). Established in May 2023, EMPIRED is the brainchild of Jai Hansel (Bass, Vocals), Danny Baeza (Drums), and Bruce Zebal (Guitar, Vocals). Their instant chemistry propelled them into the studio with renowned producer Paul Miner (known for his work with Death By Stereo, Thrice, New Found Glory).” We get Bruce 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 you put in the material or that only diehard fans might find?

This is our debut full length LP and we have all worked with Paul Miner in the past with individual projects but it was so easy to work with him as a band. As far as what listeners might not catch the first time through; I think the lyric content. Jai, Cam and I all really had something to say on this debut. There are even some more jazzy chords on there as well haha. Hidden gems? Probably “Bitter Pill” and “Paper Moon” – we didn’t make videos for those songs but it’s just because we ran out of time and had to get the album released.

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

When I was growing up I moved around a lot so I was constantly surrounded by all different styles of music. If I had to pinpoint a moment of when I really got into music it was probably my dad playing me the Beatles which wasn’t far off from when I heard a band where I thought “I wanted to give this a shot I think.”

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

Hearing “Leper Messiah” by Metallica for the first time made me want to try to learn guitar. Then that just lead me down a road of trying to learn all of these different styles of guitar and songs. It honestly was an obsession in my teens because growing up was a bit rough, so to be able to just play guitar really helped on hard days.

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

Oh man, so many to choose from!! Either Ian MacKaye or Dave Grohl are who’d I’d probably pick. Reasons are; both just understand song structure so well and really have been in so many ground breaking projects that it would be such an honor to pick their brains / work with.

5. What is your favorite activity when out of the studio and/or not on tour? What do you like to do to unwind?

I know Jai and Danny are into MMA. Cam actually does scores for movies (like Wrong Reasons for example. Which I highly recommend!) and I work with an independent professional wrestling company out here in Southern California called Santino Bros. Helping with production since my old ass just could take getting beat up anymore.

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?

If I had to describe our sound it’s along the lines of The Menzingers meets Alkaline Trio meets Bad Religion. Someone heard one of the riffs we did in “Arco” and compared us to Papa Roach…but they thought they were complimenting us… so couldn’t get too upset.

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

Jai can cook his ass off but so can’t our unofficial 5th member Josh Roush. Cam probably gets the drinks and I’d be the one to crack out the acoustic guitar. Although so wouldn’t Jai or Cam hahaha. It’s a toss up.

8. When was the last time you were starstruck and who was it?

I happened to backstage at an Iron Maiden show in the past year or so and our buddy Tokyo Hiro was tattooing the crew backstage. One of the folks he tattooed was named Griffin who was saying that his dad probably isn’t going to be crazy about him getting another tattoo. Didn’t think anything of it until we walked out of the tattoo area and walked right into his dad… Bruce Dickinson. I was so blown away/star struck that all I could manage to say was “Hi, my name is Bruce too…” **facepalm**

9. What is the best part of being a musician? If you could no longer be a musician for whatever reason, what would be your dream job?

Playing on stage and getting to see new places thanks to playing music is absolutely amazing. Plus getting to meet new people is great. Working on movies would probably be the only thing that could top it.

10. What is one question you have always wanted an interviewer to ask – and what is the answer? Conversely, what question are you tired of answering?

I think the one question I’ve always wanted someone to ask me is what was the one question I’ve always wanted to be asked. Smart ass answer aside; I’d say “What is a current goal for your band?” and the answer would be- “to get to play over in Europe. Don’t really have a question we are sick of yet.

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?

The do-over I would have is I wish the 4 of us were in a band years ago together. Everything we’ve gone through in other projects over the years has brought us to this moment so you can’t really have one without the other I suppose.

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?

I would’ve loved to have been a part of Talking Heads making their Remain In Light album or be allowed to play guitar on Tribe Called Quest’s Low End Theory. Both are a masterpiece and have really gotten me through some pretty rough times growing up. Plus the albums just hit me in different ways as I get older.




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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