Interviews

Steve Zing (Samhain, Danzig, Mourning Noise, Son of Sam, The Undead)

Photo: Maurice Nunez

In the latest installment of his A Hardcore Conversation interview series, Anthony Allen Begnal chats with Steve Zing, a musician who has a truly interesting history.Carlos Ramirez

You are Steve Zing, drummer for Lodi’s own Mourning Noise and Samhain, as well as bass player for Son of Sam, Danzig and more, correct?

Something like that, that’s what they tell me.

Taken from Flesh and Bones zine (From the collection of Anthony Allen Begnal)

Were you born and raised in Lodi, New Jersey?

I was. It was a little town based predominately with Italians. My grandparents came from Italy, settled in Lodi as did a lot of other people that were emigrating from Italy. My mom and all her siblings were born in Lodi in the house ‘cause that’s what you did back then. 

When I interviewed Eerie Von he said that in Lodi, NJ you pretty much didn’t leave your parents’ house unless and until you got married.

Yeah, that was basically it. 

[Check out No Echo's Eerie Von (Samhain, Danzig, Rosemary's Babies) interview]

Were you in the same class as Doyle and Eerie Von at Lodi High and if so were you guys friends back then?

Doyle and I went from kindergarten through high school together. Doyle’s my oldest friend. 

Did you know Eerie back then?

Yeah, but not til high school.  

I know Doyle and Jerry played football and Eerie played basketball but did you play any sports in high school?

Fuck no. I wanted to play music, I had no time for sports. It wasn’t my thing, still isn’t my thing. But people like that, they look to sports as, sometimes it’s like a religion. I just don’t get it. I don’t get what the fuss is about and it just never really interested me. I’m into the arts.

I love the art of recording. I have my own studio in my house. I’ve been recording since, really since I was a kid. That’s what I’ve been into. Sports, I just found it boring. 

What got you into music and what was some of the first music you liked?

I had cousins that were older than I was and they were musicians. My one cousin played about 12 different instruments, and well. His sister was an opera singer and my aunt played piano so it was kind of all around me.

My cousin on the other side of my family was a musician who became a producer. He produced a lot of Top 40 hit records and now his kids are big time producers for stuff like that band One Direction and stuff like that. It kind of ran in the family, I think.

I grew up on '70s pop on AM radio and then I got into '50s music because of my mom and Elvis, obviously. And then went right into punk rock. I never really liked Led Zeppelin or Rush or any of those bands. I hated the people that were into it because they were assholes so that’s why I got into punk rock. 

So you’re one of the few people like myself who kind of started out punk, most people had like a classic rock or metal phase first and got into punk later…

Yeah, no, no, no! Look, I appreciate a lot of those bands, obviously Sabbath. And I can appreciate Led Zeppelin until Robert Plant starts singing. I’m not saying he’s got a bad voice, it’s just that, I can appreciate it now but it’s the same thing with the Beatles. Most people go, "You’re nuts!"

But I don’t own a Beatles album. It’s not to say what they did wasn’t amazing but I thought George Martin had more to do with what they were about than those four guys did because I think at that time it could’ve been any four guys, he just took their music and crafted it but a lot of people disagree.

Again, I respect them and sometimes I’ll listen to some of their stuff and I’ll go, "Wow! That’s pretty cool." But it wasn’t my thing. I loved the energy of punk. I loved that it was different and people didn’t give a fuck what you looked like.

When I grew up my mom didn’t have any money so I learned everything on my own and I knew I couldn’t be no virtuoso and I never intended to be but I knew I could play that, so that’s what I went for and it hasn’t been so bad. 

How’d you get into drums and how’d you develop your style? You have a pretty unique style…

When I was a kid my mom got me a guitar and probably what they call ADHD now and in my case I had ADHD supreme, I never had the patience to learn how to play guitar nor did we have the money. But how I got into drums was, I went to a Misfits rehearsal in, I guess it was 1978. 

So that was obviously before Doyle was in the band…

Oh yeah, this was still Franché Coma. So, I sat in the corner with Doyle and they launched into songs like "Static Age," "Bullet," "Who Killed Marilyn," and I sat there and I knew right there that’s what I had to do. I was looking at Glenn going, I’m gonna be in a band with this guy. And I didn’t even play anything.

So, I would tell my friends and they would laugh at me. And I’m like, "I’m gonna be a drummer," and they were like, "You don’t have drums." Oh I’ll get it!

A few months later I went to go bicycle ride with a friend of mine and I met him where his garage was and he opens the door to his garage and there was a set of drums and I go, I didn’t know you played drums, and he goes, "My mom won’t allow me to ‘cause it’s too loud". So I go, "Do you wanna sell them?" So yeah, I asked my mom and she got them for my, I think it was my birthday present.

It was a shitty drum kit but I learned and I would play to the Misfits and the Ramones. I also had a cousin who worked for Sire Records for a bit and she would bring me home like Talking Heads and everybody that was on Sire Records at the time.

Obviously, the Ramones and Richard Hell and whatnot. I remember her bringing home the Ramones albums and going, “Yeah, I think they wanna be the next Beatles.” I listened to it and that changed my world. So, trying to emulate the speed of those albums and stuff and people would always make fun of bands like the Ramones but they changed music, they changed the history of music.

You don’t go to a game or listen to a game on TV without hearing, "Hey ho let’s go." You can laugh how simple it is. People go, “Oh, that shit?!” Oh really? Well that shit is still getting played. They changed the face of three chords forever. 

I hear ya! I remember hearing stories of people putting on Ramones or Stooges records at parties as a joke or whatever to get a laugh.

Yeah, they can joke all they want but you know what? It’s not about how big you are, like they never achieved huge status like say Green Day but they influenced a lot of bands. They didn’t become gazillionaires like bands like Green Day or whatever but they did very well for themselves. 

Right, they never had to get jobs!

Right. Their job was their music and they knew where they stood and that was ok with them. They did very well, they all retired as multi millionaires. But it wasn’t the money. It was the same thing as the Sex Pistols, they did ok at the end but again, they changed music forever. To me, that’s what it was about.

I never liked bands like Rush or whatever and I still don’t. It’s not that I dislike them as people, I don’t know them, but it’s not my cup of tea right, everyone’s got their own cup of tea.

I think because I have ADHD it’s too much for me (laughs). It’s too much going on. It’s like Dream Theater and stuff like that, they’re amazing players but I don’t even know how the fuck they even remember all those parts, I just wanna hear the chorus! Get to the chorus. It drives me crazy but that’s just me, there’s millions of people that like them and that’s fine.

My thing was, gimme a hook, gimme a harmony and that’s what the Misfits did for me, that’s what the Ramones did for me, the Damned, all of them. 

How old were you when you formed Mourning Noise and how’d you guys meet?

I wanna say I was 16. The year before that, me and my cousin John, and I knew Mike because he lived around the corner from us and I met Chris in high school and we had a band first called Implosion. That lasted for a year or a little more than that. I think I was 15 maybe 14. Then that kind of broke up.

John was gonna go into the navy, so for some reason I met Tommy K in a basement in the drummer from this band called AOD, Adrenalin Overdose’s house. I don’t even know how I got to his house, I wasn’t driving at the time.

I don’t know why I was there, who I was there with, it’s one of those things where I just kind of blanked out like, how did I even get there? But that’s where I met Tommy and I called Chris and Mike and I was like, “Hey, I found this great guitar player and let’s play again." So that’s exactly what happened. 

Taken from Flesh and Bones zine (From the collection of Anthony Allen Begnal)

Is it true that Danzig did the uncredited cover art for your 7 inch?

Yes, he did.

How come he didn’t wanna be credited?

He didn’t want credit. And by the way, there’s a Mourning Noise album coming out hopefully March or April of 2021 on Cleopatra Records of the Mourning Noise 45 and all the unreleased stuff. 

Oh cool! Is it coming out on vinyl?

Yup.

Photo found on This Music Leaves Stains

Awesome! Let me get back to that in a bit but let me ask you, how did you get Glenn to do that?

So, Glenn and I had a mutual friend and he kind of helped the Misfits in the studio, as well as Samhain and Mourning Noise. So, I would be at his house and Glenn would be there and I got to know Glenn.

When I turned 17 or 18 my mom bought me a car and Glenn didn’t have a car, he’d use his mom’s whenever she was at work and I would take Glenn around to do different things for the Misfits, getting album sleeves or whatever had to be done. And him and I struck up a friendship. 

Eerie told me Glenn was always a terrible driver (laughs) and that’s why he always had people driving him around…

I don’t know, I don’t ever remember Eerie driving anything. Not when I knew him, he didn’t drive at all, he rode a bike. I don’t know. 

Did Mourning Noise record at Reel Platinum because the Misfits did or was that a coincidence?

No, the Misfits recorded there because of me because I found Reel Platinum. I was their first customer when the guy opened it as a studio. I saw the ad in one those local music papers and I called it because it said "Lodi, New Jersey" and I was like, "Huh." 

So I called the guy and I rode my bike to his house, which was, I don’t know, not even a mile away and it was in the basement of his parents’ house and we went in there and we recorded. Then before Samhain recorded there I recorded there with the Undead. 

I forgot you were in the Undead.

Yeah, I did two albums with them.

I know Bobby Steele’s on the Mourning Noise 7 inch.

Yeah, because of this mutual friend, this guy George, he was kind of friends with Bobby after Bobby was out of the Misfits and he’s like, “Hey, do you want Bobby to play on it?” and I was like, Sure you know, whatever.

So while I was in the Undead is when the Misfits had kind of just broken up and I got a call from Glenn, I think the day after he got home from the Misfits’ last show and he told me that he was done with it and stuff and how would I like to form a band with him. I’m like (kind of incredulous), "Uh, ok, sounds good to me."

Wow! That record is definitely punk and seemingly Misfits inspired a bit but you also had some keyboards and sound effects going on. Where did that come from? It’s almost a little Samhain-ish years before Samhain. What were you guys actually going for, do you remember?

Well, you know, Mike wrote all the lyrics and Mike lived exactly across the street from Jerry and Doyle and I lived up the block, so of course they were a big influence, that’s why we fuckin’ played music but it’s hard to say exactly what we were going for. I think it was just the way it came out, having help in the studio with a guy like George and things like that, we were just trying to do our own thing in a certain way. 

Were you guys accepted by the more hardcore audiences of the time? I know you guys played a lot of hardcore shows. 

Yeah, oh yeah. Of course when you play live you always play faster so we never got booed off and we never got spit at so I guess we did pretty good. 

How’d that band break up?

Man, you’ll have to read the liner notes in the upcoming album [laughs]. There’s a lot of different things. Turmoil, and Samhain. When Samhain started there was just too much going on. 

Taken from Big City zine (From the collection of Anthony Allen Begnal)

Oh, I didn’t realize the two bands overlapped?

Yeah, and the Undead.

Oh wow, so you were in three bands?

Well, Bobby didn’t play much. He never had any good gigs or anything like that, I think we did one good one. 

So you said Glenn called you to join Samhain. Were you stoked about that?

Of course, who wouldn’t be?

Taken from Flipside (From the collection of Anthony Allen Begnal)

When I interviewed Eerie Von he told me he was originally going to be the Samhain drummer but he had trouble adapting to the different rhythms involved with that music and he said he suggested you to Danzig. Was it a natural fit for you or did you have to work at it?

No, Glenn would say what he wanted and he didn’t want the 4/4, 2/4 type of drumming, he wanted it a little different, very different. As far as whatever Eerie said, I don’t know, I don’t remember it like that.

I remember Glenn calling me and saying we should get Eerie to be on bass and I’m like, "Does Eerie play bass?" He goes, “We’ll teach him.” That’s what I remember. I really didn’t talk to Eerie much, it’s not like we were ever friends.

Not even in the band, you guys didn’t hang or whatever?

Ehh, no [laughs]. 

Were you onboard Samhain when Lyle Preslar and Brian Baker from Minor Threat were involved?

That had just ended. Glenn had done one kind of get together with them and they just wanted Minor Threat Part 2 I think and it just wasn’t gonna work. 

Yeah, I’ve never quite understood how they thought they were gonna do that with Danzig singing and he wasn’t gonna be Danzig [laughs]. 

Right. 

Do you remember recording Initium? Any good stories from those sessions?

Of course.

What kind of drums did you use on that record, are those electronic?

No. There was no electronic drums at the time, well there were but they were very primitive. That kit was the kit that belonged to the studio. I couldn’t even tell you what kind of kit it was because it was probably a no name kit and the guy wouldn’t let me use my own drums. To me, they were very dead sounding, I never liked the sound of them but it was kind of what we were stuck with. 

It’s definitely a very unique sound that’s why I always wondered if it was some kind of electronic kit or something and if you listen to the drums on November Coming Fire (which I know you’re not on) you can hear some drum machine or electronic drums mixed in with real drums.

Yeah, I think there was. 

People still debate online if it’s cows blood on the Initium cover photo. Can you confirm or deny once and for all?

Horse blood. Yeah. 

From the collection of Anthony Allen Begnal

Jesus, that must’ve stunk man!

And sticky.

Oh, gross! Where’d you guys get it?

[Laughs] There was a, Glenn got it at a, what do you call it?

A slaughterhouse! Not a human slaughterhouse but an equine slaughterhouse.

A slaughterhouse, yeah, not a human slaughterhouse. 

Well there you have it, horse blood! I’ve heard cows blood or fake blood but it’s horse blood.

Fake blood we used on stage. 

I was going to ask you if you ever did any blood shows with Samhain.

Oh yeah, of course. We did them in ’99 and we did them in 2014 and it was a mess.

Oh ok, but you didn’t do any back in the day then?

No. I think they only did it once. I think it was New York, I think it was the show that Rick Rubin saw them at. 

Oh ok, if that happened then I think they did two because I think they did one in Chicago too.

Oh, maybe they did. 

What do you remember about that first show at Rock Hotel?

It was a lot of people and I remember I got paid $250 for that show. And that was a lot of money at the time. And I remember Lyle wanting to wear his flannel shirt and I think Glenn told him to take it off. 

Lyle didn’t have a devillock or anything?

[Laughs] Lyle? No! Lyle looked like he’d just walked off the stage of a Minor Threat show. 

What was touring like while you were in Samhain? Any good road stories?

There’s always good road stories. There’s always like stories of breaking down and staying at these Hardcore houses, things like that. There’s a lot. I should write a book someday. 

You guys then did the Unholy Passion EP. What do you remember about that? Was that at Reel Platinum too?

Yup, we did everything there because it was so convenient. It wasn’t far from where Glenn or I lived so once again we went down there and we definitely wanted a different sound because Glenn loved the fact that it should always be changing. He didn’t want it to be like the last one or whatever. That was a fun session actually. 

From the collection of Anthony Allen Begnal

Did you know what the album cover was gonna be before it came out?

No but I remember when he was showing me, I’m like, That’s pretty cool!

Did you show it to your mother and stuff like that? [Laughs]

Yeah, my mom didn’t care. My mom liked Glenn. 

Where did you guys rehearse? I’ve heard Eerie’s house, Glenn’s house, or Damien’s house.

We rehearsed at Eerie’s house. Never at Glenn’s house and never at Damien’s house. I think we did my bedroom because that’s where Glenn and I went over all the songs for Initium and even Unholy Passion but we rehearsed at Eerie’s. 

How did you guys work out the different/Samhain versions of "Horror Biz" and "All Hell"?

It was Glenn’s idea. I think those were some of his favorite songs and he just wanted to do a different take on it. He’s one of these guys who has a lot of ideas, his brain’s always on.

Sometime after that you left the band, what happened?

The band was in kind of, not in limbo but it was one of those things where you turn a certain age and you just don’t know what you’re doing, you don’t know where anything is going and I just wasn’t happy.

So, I decided, you know what, let me try something else. And really, I left music for a few years, I didn’t do anything. I couldn’t tell you what was going on with any of those guys. I just kind of did nothing. 

Oh ok, that was going to be my next question, what you did after.

Yeah, I did nothing. It was good to just kind of take a break for a little bit. I mean, I still did some little bands here and there. I was still doing the Undead, we were doing a bunch of shows here and there for a bit. 

Were you still in Samhain when they struck up their friendship with Metallica?

Yeah. Glenn and I met them at a Black Flag show in New York, I think at the Ritz. That’s when Glenn and I met them and then they came to our show when we played in San Francisco. 

How’d the ‘99 Samhain reunion come up?

I remember it was January of ’99 and I was in California and I went to visit Glenn at the Verotik office and he said, “Hey, the band’s going out after the new album comes out in the Fall and it’d be cool if we did the Samhain thing," and I’m like, "OK."

So London [May, second drummer in Samhain] and I traded off bass and drums. Todd Youth was playing guitar for Danzig so, well originally we were gonna use Damien but he was playing with Iggy Pop and didn’t wanna leave Iggy just for one tour so we wound up using Todd. It was fun.

[Check out No Echo's Todd Youth (FireBurn, Warzone, Agnostic Front, Murphy’s Law, Danzig, Son of Sam, Bloodclot) interview]

Did you miss Eerie and Damien at all or how’d you feel about that?

[Laughs] Let’s see, last time I spoke to Eerie was January of 1999 and I asked him if he’d be interested in playing and he told me to go fuck myself. He said, “Both you and Glenn can go fuck yourselves.”

Holy shit.

I didn’t understand why. He had beef with Glenn and I don’t know what it was about because he was out of Danzig, what, four years at that point? So, I don’t know, I don’t care. It had nothing to do with me. Like I said, I asked him if he wanted to do it, he said no and we moved on. Case closed and that’s the last time I spoke to him. 

How’d you end being the guy to call and ask him to begin with?

Because I talked to him from time to time because he was living in Jersey, and I don’t know where else he moved to and I was told to ask to see if he wanted to go have some fun and make some money, put the past behind and I was told to go fuck myself.

So I’m like, "OK, take care." I don’t know what the rift was because I wasn’t there. I know why he left and I know why John [Christ] left. You know what Anthony? Sometimes people make decisions and then they have to live with it. 

I hear ya.

And then I’ve heard that he’s talked shit about me and it doesn’t matter, I don’t really care. Talking shit about me “taking his job in Danzig." Well number one, there were many bass players before me so, there was Josh Lazie, Howie Pyro, there was another guy but none of it matters because it’s like, it is what it is.

Eerie came out with a book of pictures [Misery Obscura: The Photography of Eerie Von (1981-2009)]. I don’t think it was cool that he did that without asking me, I think it would’ve been nice but whatever, what’re you gonna do? Life’s too short to carry baggage and whatever, I wish him all the best, I hope he’s doing ok. 

Is that reunion what lead to you being Danzig’s bass player?

No, there was, that tour was in ’99 and then two years later we did Son of Sam with Todd and London with Davey Havok from AFI. 

Didn’t Danzig produce that or do backing vocals or something? 

No, no, he played on it, he played some stuff on it but no, it was kind of self produced. Actually the guy who produced it, I can’t even pronounce his last name, but he went on to produce Rush and stuff like that. When did I join Danzig? In 2005 I think, so it was about six years later. 

So how did it actually happen that you joined the band? Glenn just called you or what?

I was going through a divorce and I got a call from Glenn and he said that he had just fired his bass player and I said, Oh I wish knew anybody, I don’t know anybody. And he goes, “Well, how about you?” And I go, "I’m not a bass player," and he’s like, “You played with the Samhain thing, you could do it." 

I said, "Umm ok when’s the tour and he gives me the date and it’s right when my divorce is happening." So I called my lawyer so they could call the judge to move up the divorce [laughs] and that’s what happened. 

Photo: Maurice Nunez

That’s an awesome version of the band, with you and Johnny Kelly and Tommy Victor. 

Yeah, I think we’ve been the longest lineup in the history of the band. It works, there’s no drama with it, we love to play. We respect each other, we’re friends.

How was it doing those those Doyle/Misfits tours?

Oh, they were a blast! When you get to sit there and play Misfits songs with the guy who wrote ‘em it’s pretty cool. 

Doyle and Zing (Photo from Steve Zing's Facebook page)

You’ve been doing live sound lately and you did the live mix for Harley Flanagan/Cro-Mags on those Misfits reunion shows. How’d that happen and how was it?

I’ve known Harley for a long time. Since kinda when we were kids I met Harley. Kind of reconnected a few years back when he was playing local shows and he liked the way I did sound and then he was doing these shows with the Misfits and he called me up and he was like, “Can you mix ‘em?” and I’m like, "Absolutely."

Then I started co-producing his record back in April or May, well I was supposed to mix them [live] when they were opening up for Body Count back in March [at Webster Hall] and obviously that got cancelled so we did the live webcast 

Oh, you did that?

Yeah, they were one of the first bands to do that. It was weird because we didn’t have any time to any kind of production, I had to mix through headphones, it was kind of weird but I think it came out pretty good.

And then Harley needed a place to record while his drummer [Gary “G-Man” Sullivan] was kind of stuck here, he couldn’t go back to Germany and I had moved into a new house and I was like, “You know what, I’ll set the drums up, mic ‘em up and let’s do it.”

And that’s what we did. And Harley will be back probably in a few weeks and I think the EP comes out soon and then this will be for his album after that. 

Working on the Cro-Mags record (Photo from Steve Zing's Facebook page)

That’s cool. So what’d you think of those Misfits reunion shows?

I thought they were great. 

I saw the New Jersey one and the MSG one.

I thought the MSG one was the best. The Damned are one of my favorite bands and at MSG I got to sing with the Damned at their soundcheck. That was like a highlight of my life.

Wow. Yeah they were great that night. And no offense to anybody who’s in the band or a fan but during Rancid’s set my wife and I were hanging out in the hallway or the foyer or whatever you call it there drinking beers and I turn around and Captain Sensible’s just standing there. I was like, “Hey, it’s the Captain!” and he was like, “Hi!” so we hung for a bit, really cool guy. 

Yeah, they’re cool guys. They opened up for Danzig two years ago at our last show in LA. They were great, always loved them.

Zing, Tommy Victor, Johnny Kelly, and Doyle (Photo from Steve Zing's Facebook page)

What’s next for you?

Well, I have my other band Blak29 and we have an album coming out, hopefully in the Spring. It’s all done, we’re just waiting for a release date and the Mourning Noise album, hopefully in a few months.

So that’s everything you guys recorded and anything unreleased?

Oh yeah there’s a few things on there so it’ll be good for it to be finally released and hopefully the world gets back to somewhat normalcy and we schedule shows for next year. 

Did you actually have the original tapes from Mourning Noise?

Oh yeah, I keep everything. 

You got anything else you wanna add?

Everybody just stay safe and don’t believe the left or the right. No one’s taking care of anyone except themselves. When you see that theres 1000s of cars trying to get food from food banks, there’s a problem. Houston we have a problem.

There’s no government left or right coming in to protect or help anyone out and it’s a sick world and sick people. Again, there’s nobody helping anybody out. Turn off the news because all that is is propaganda. They’re trying to come up with some kind of new agenda and I don’t know what it is but I’m sure we’ll find out soon. 

Photo: Maurice Nunez

For better or worse, you’re right. Well thanks a lot for doing this and take care.

You too and thanks for having me and stay safe and have a great Thanksgiving. 

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Tagged: a hardcore conversation, danzig, samhain

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