Being In A Band During The COVID-19 Pandemic Catching Up With Oregon's 'Dead Animal Assembly Plant' May 24th, 2020 • Pandemic Band Interview #4
Metal Pulp And Paper: Hello Zach. Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions for Metal Pulp And Paper. We appreciate it. So, how have you been holding up during this global pandemic and lockdown?
Zach Wager: I can say we are all going a bit stir crazy. The inevitable restlessness has definitely taken hold, but we are all keeping busy in our own ways. Most of us are still employed, so we have our day jobs to go to, but the time/space/slowing down has given us the chance to work on other art projects. We're doing what we can to stave off absolute madness.
MPAP: 2020, the year when almost every concert or music festival has been postponed or canceled until 2021. And 2020 was supposed to be the year of some big reunions. Everyone was excited to see the Rage Against The Machine and the My Chemical Romance tours. So, let's back up and go over the first five months of 2020, the beginning of a new decade. There was the possibility of World War III happening. There were deadly bushfires in Australia. Then we had the acquittals in the Trump impeachment trials. Prince Harry and Meghan decided to step away from the royal family, and NBA legend Kobe Bryant, and his daughter, along with seven others, unfortunately, died in a helicopter crash in California. The deadly worldwide COVID-19 virus. And then, get this, we even had the Pentagon officially releasing UFO videos. So, what did you have planned for the year before all this madness began? Before all the toilet paper hoarding?
Zach: Funny enough, one of my plans for the year was to hoard toilet paper, but now I can't even do that because everyone is buying it up too fast. Curse you COVID! Aside from my double ply hobby, we were planning on touring to support the release of our upcoming album Bring Out The Dead. Last year we were on the road for six weeks and we really wanted to maintain that momentum, but obviously that is no longer an option. Eric and I were planning on performing at the Oddities Fleamarket the first weekend of April in L.A. but that got postponed. We were also going to do some emceeing at Crypticon. The album release has also been delayed for the moment. Despite it all, we are very grateful. Sure, this has affected us in a lot of different ways; there are people who are hurting way more. Lost way more than us. At this point it's easy to get lost in that negative thought abyss, but it won't really do us any good. So, we're trying to focus on what we can do now and prepare for the future, when we can start playing again.
MPAP: This coronavirus has been devastating to everyone around the globe. By mid-March, the coronavirus pandemic had brought the multibillion-dollar concert industry to a screeching halt. Now two months later, Sammy Hagar, from The Circle, ex Van Halen, says concerts can't wait for a COVID-19 vaccine. Of course, every band wants their fans to be safe, but when your only source of a major income is concerts, it hurts when you have to postpone or cancel a tour. A vaccine could take 12 to 18 months. Do you think he's right for saying concerts can't wait any longer?
Zach: He and everyone else are right for being scared. No matter the pitch or intensity of your fear, it's all valid. We're all scrambling to make sense of this mess. Yet, it's less about whether or not concerts can wait longer, more so, are we willing to wait longer? How long are we willing to wait? What are we willing to do to keep all these dying industries going? There's no empirical right answer to the question. The question is are we willing to risk it? Are we comfortable with putting people's lives at risk? Just be honest with yourself and don't hide behind ridiculous invisible enemies and grandiose conspiracies. Humans are selfish and the more we are denied what we think is our right, no matter who it may affect or hurt, we are going to do it. We all slip into petulant child mode. The reality is we could put a lot more lives in jeopardy if we do open things before we fully understand the risk. Is that a chance we want to take? People should take a quick read about Typhoid Mary, the asymptomatic carrier of Typhoid Fever who inadvertently infected thousands of people. Realize that our intended or unintended ignorance could have big consequences.
MPAP: The experts warn there will be no moshing or crowd surfing when concerts finally return. (Laughing) Who are these experts, and obviously they have never attended a metal music show, right? They say moshing and crowd surfing are violations of social distancing and must be absolutely prohibited during this pandemic. What are your thoughts? Can you have a metal show with no moshing and crowd surfing? Do you think the fans even follow those rules?
Zach: There may be good intentions behind trying to restrict that level of sweaty/slobber fluid soup contact, but there's no way in hell people are going to follow those rules. I think that's obvious considering how people are acting now or really how they've acted since the dawn of time. How would a venue even enforce those rules? The extra security people you would have to hire in relation to the attendees could drive up ticket prices, drink prices... lower guarantees for the bands because of higher overhead. Really that sounds like another layer of red tape preventing the opening of places. Make it as untenable as possible so people voluntarily stay closed. So, is it possible? Sure. Anything is possible. But is it likely? Oh hell no.
MPAP: With the exception of a megaband like Metallica, or even Iron Maiden, the coronavirus is hitting most musicians pretty hard. What have you or your band been doing to get through this crisis?
Zach: Again, we are pretty fortunate in that most of us are still employed. Once we are able to safely re-convene, we will start practicing new songs. Not let the rust and cobwebs settle in too much so once we can start doing shows, we'll be ready to go. We're also collaborating with some friends on some exciting projects. Working on songs for future albums. Thinking of creative ways to stay active. Engaged. That's really important always, but especially now. We need whatever kind of distraction we can get now.
MPAP: Lzzy Hale, frontwoman for the rock band Halestorm, recently posted on her social media, saying, 'most bands won't make it out of this.' Do you agree with this? Do you think some bands will go out of business like a lot of restaurants are during this pandemic?
Zach: It probably is inevitable that some bands, musicians, artists may just not ever recover for this. I've seen amazing bands call it quits after a series of financial hits. We're experiencing so many unknowns and unanswered questions, there really is no one we can trust. You can't trust what the various governments are feeding us or mainstream media, or even the fringe news sources. There's so much misleading politically motivated nonsense out there. It's easy to fall victim... we are all easy prey because we're feeling a bit vulnerable. Scared animals act irrationally. And when humans do it, there are grave repercussions. Who knows what the cost is going to be and who we are going to lose? But music and art will survive, it has for hundreds of thousands of years. Many plagues. Wars. Genocides. Times of famine. The worst of human cruelty and persecution. We just have to be a little patient with each other. We'll all be back getting gross and dirty together soon!
MPAP: Well, that wraps things up. We hope this all ends soon, and we can all get back to a venue and watch some good live music while having an overpriced beer. We hope you stay safe and stay healthy. On behalf of myself, and Metal Pulp And Paper, thank you, Zach, for doing this interview. One last question before we bring this to a close. Are you prepared for the murder hornets? Geez, we are only halfway through the year, so far, can only imagine what's next, right?
Zach: At this rate, in this reality, nothing would surprise me. Bring on the suicidal slugs or the dreaded 'breaking and entering' dung beetle. Who knows? Whatever it is, make sure it has a catchy name. The end of humanity needs to have a clever epitaph: Humans - let's not do that again. Cheers and be safe.