That’s probably one of the coolest fucking names yet!’ Our interview gets off to a flying start as ZP Theart declares his admiration for Metal As Fuck’s designation. But of course I haven’t got ZP’s ear pinned to his phone receiver for him to tell us how great we are. Although we’re always open to a bit of flattery.
No, I want to know where the hell ZP (his real name) has been. For over eleven years he was the lead singer of English power metal giant DragonForce who gained notoriety for their lightning-quick guitarists and vocally dextrous frontman. Relatively well known at the time their star shone ever brighter when impossibly good Through The Fire And The Flames was featured on the video game Guitar Hero III: Legend Of Rock; considered the most difficult track to play it broke them out to a whole new audience. But as things seemed to be outwardly improving at the DragonForce camp, things were not well within. This came to an inevitable head when on March 8, 2010 it was announced that ZP Theart and DragonForce had parted ways.
Almost two years to the day ZP announced that he was back with a new band, I Am I, which came together after each member was handpicked by Theart himself after some lengthy online research. ‘I made sure I knew what I was letting myself in for before I even set up a meeting with these guys. I was well pleased with what I saw and the people that I met and who they turned out to be,’ he explains on finding guitarist Jacob Ziemba, bass player Neil Salmon and drummer Paul Clark Jr. ‘I was not going to get myself into a situation with people that down the line I don’t get along with and you go back to square one, so yeah I had to check them out first.’
On May 26, 2012 I Am I will release their debut album, Event Horizon. A full-frontal assault of metal that many followers from ZP’s DragonForce days by his own admission will be very surprised by: ‘It’s a big departure from my previous work. This time I’ve had 100% input in everything that went down from all the melodies, all the lyrics. Everything is done within my comfort zone,’ he asserts before adding with an excited laugh, ‘and it sounds kick-ass I think!’ It seems ZP is not alone in thinking this as many listeners have so far been especially kind, and rightly so: ‘Mindblowing!’ sums up ZP. ‘I tell you honestly we put the album out with no expectations and the feedback we got was above anything that we could have anticipated to happen really and I’m fucking blown away with the response of people so far.’
Interestingly, or bizarrely, depending on your own personal bent, Event Horizon will be released entirely on USB. That’s right: the thing that goes into the side of your computer. Why, ZP? ‘Mate, the world’s moving on very, very, very fast; everyone’s trying to keep on top of the game. But we’re also trying to get our feelers around being in front of the game...everybody’s on the computer these days and USB is just a very handy little thing.’ Regardless of the format, the information it holds is that of an inspired musician reaping the benefits of breaking away from what ultimately became an unhealthy situation. Pressed on the ways of the Dragon(Force) ZP had little to offer. ‘It’s still a legal matter so I’m not really prepared to talk about it just yet.’ Although he did add: ‘It was just a completely different set up, mate [to the current one]. It wasn’t personally for me very comfortable. It’s like any office job: if you can’t stand the people around you or you know you’re not happy in your job, fuck, you gonna stay there and be unhappy or you gonna move on [and] get a new job? So there you go I got a new job.’
‘Not for a second!’ he laughs when I ask if there was ever a time in the last two years when he regretted leaving to seek pastures new. ‘I seriously needed the time off I think for myself. We had been crazy busy for the six years before that and I needed time off for myself, to find myself again and to know what direction I wanted musically to have with my life. Yes, that was a year well spent and I made up my mind...I’m back with a vengeance!’
The day after the album release I Am I will make their live debut in Birmingham, England (supported by the excellent Primitai) and the sheer mention of a live show sends ZP’s voice into cackles of delight. This man loves living out of a suitcase and can’t wait to get out on the stage again: ‘Oh man, I am so fucking excited! I really wish it was next week....we’ve been rehearsing like crazy the last couple months and it’s sounding absolutely amazing.’ Shortly after the Birmingham show I Am I will appear at the legendary English metal festival, Bloodstock Open Air. ‘We’ve been offered a slot on the main stage and anyone would be a fool not to take up that opportunity and for us just starting out we want to reach as many people as possible as quick as possible. It’s one of the great festivals in the UK this year. Yeah, looking really forward just hope the weather holds up for the whole weekend!’ Watching any festival appearance by DragonForce over the last few years and it’s clear that Mr Theart was made for this very thing. ‘Dude that’s my sandpit, you know what I mean?!’ he laughs. ‘When we arrive at a festival that’s when I kick into gear, mate. I absolutely love the whole thing...festivals is really one of the joys of doing the job.’
The name I Am I was created simply enough. It came to ZP after a ‘freaky nightmare’ but the concept of the band goes much deeper, as he explains: ‘It’s a period of the human history where a lot of people are starting to wake up to a lot of shit these days. Everyone is very much concentrated on the self and a lot of people are waking up within themselves, seeing shit going on around them and waking up to it and the I Am I whole thing is pretty much a culmination of that, just people waking up and...standing your ground, standing up for yourself. I think a lot of people can associate with that whole thing so that was the whole idea: to give people something they can associate with.’
As ZP explained earlier in our chat, Event Horizon encompasses a lot of different influences. Growing up his main influences were that of the ‘80s hair metal bands whose musical philosophy spoke volumes to Theart junior and it is these inspirations which are heavily felt in Event Horizon. ‘There’s influences of every different style you can probably imagine [on the album]. My reason for being really into the ‘80s music was the catchy melodies and they were all bands with balls, even if they looked poofed-up with fucking make-up and the hair standing on end. It was still ballsy and it had attitude and energy. You could feel the music. That’s the whole reason I’m still really big time into ‘80s music is just for that reason. But Event Horizon has some catchy, catchy, fucking catchy melodies, mate! There’s some progressive bits in there; it caters for a wide variety of personal styles. I think we will convert a hell of a lot of people with this album. This will be the one to cross the divide...it’s heavy rock, it’s not 200-miles-an-hour, it’s not 100-miles-an-hour, it’s somewhere in between! It’s got energy, it’s got the attitude and it rocks, man! Fuck, I can’t wait! May 26th feels like years away and I just want people to hear this shit now.’
Before we say our goodbyes, ZP has some last words for the Metal As Fuck readers when he says, teasingly, you should all ‘get the album, listen to it very loud and see if they can find the message in there, because there’s plenty...’