Issue 7 Cover

ACM: What reasoning had you behind the name, Dig Hay Zoose? What's the background on that?

DHZ: Well, the way it happened...the way we named the group is we'd been trying to figure out a name for, well, three or four weeks. We were just trying to think of names, period. The group hadn't really been a group at that time. Then two weeks after the group had started, Phil and I, and a friend of mine, Pat, were sitting around in my room. We were just doodling around, and drawing and stuff. We were trying to think of a name for the band and we couldn't come up with anything. We had just gotten done saying, "Well, we know that when we hear something we like. It'll just hit us, and that'll be it." So we just slipped into Spanish accents or something, being silly, you know...The Monty Python thing...I guess. All of sudden, I said, " You know? I really dig Jesus!" Phil looked at me, I looked at him, and I said, "that's it." That's just how it was.

ACM: The songs are very diverse. Some have a thrash and funk feel; one even has Led Zeppelin overtones. Is this what we can we expect from you long term, or are you trying to find your direction musically?

DHZ: Musically, I think we'll always remain diverse, just because the band is that way. We've all played in different bands. I played with my family, who had a country gospel group for 8 years...I played with them for a long time. That's how I learned, basically, to play bass. There are eight kids in our family, and my brothers and sisters all listen to different things. So I got a good dose of everything. Phil, going to college and all, just always liked to listen to different music...different members bringing different elements of things. That's pretty much how we became diverse. I would say we're going to remain that and probably diversify...but it will have direction. Sometimes we don't feel like we have direction. But as we grow tighter as a musical unit, things will continue to be diverse and probably get stranger, if anything, I imagine.

ACM: So, how would you describes yourselves as a band? How would you describe the styles that you have on this disc?

DHZ: Some have called it musical vomit, just because there's a little bit of everything that you've eaten that day. For a while, we were calling it musical gumbo, because there's a little bit of everything. If I were going to call it anything, I'd just call it music that everyone should like.

ACM: Have your families been supportive of your music direction?

DHZ: Yeah, my family is really supportive. They're really happy with the way things have been happening. My Mom really likes it a lot, which surprises me, And my Dad has heard just a little bit, but he's real supportive. He's coming to the show Friday, as a matter of fact, but it's a thing where they say, "it may not be the type of show that we like to listen to but we're glad that you guys are doing what you're doing." But, as far as parents of the band, for the most part they've all been supportive.

ACM: What is something unique that your band has to offer?

DHZ: The things that strike me about the band is just the fact that nothing that we put on the record,...none of it's fluff. And I find that with a lot of bands, both Christian and non-Christian bands, there's a lot of fluff out there. Doing things for doing things' sake. We take what we're doing seriously,...but not so seriously that we can't take criticism. We create what we create because it's art. Three of us in the band paint or draw. We're involved in other things besides music, just all kinds of different art - whether it be painting, acting, or whatever.

ACM: Music, then, is just one outlet for that?

DHZ: Yeah, everything just kinda channels around, and circles into our music as far as the visual and everything. And on stage and live, people get more of a feel for what we do visually and what we're about that way too...

ACM: Is this your first go at it, or have you released some things on your own before?

DHZ: As far as albums, I think this is really it for all of us...some of the other guys have been in a thrash band and released a demo, and the country band I was in recorded two albums, but they were for a pretty small label, so it wasn't anything extravagant. As far as any big label kind of thing, where it's getting distribution and we don't have to hand it to people ourselves, this is it for all of us.

ACM: Listening to the disc, it obviously is extremely well-suited for mainstream college radio. What are you going to do to get your music into that market?

DHZ: We've been discussing that, actually, and we're not really sure how to go about doing that. I know that our manager has been talking it up as far as that is concerned. The label definitely wants to do something there, but its almost as if there's a vortexx of knowledge that nobody knows exactly how to go about it. It's like nobody's answered the question of how to go about college distribution. We'd like to say the label's going to send it to every college on the map, but you know that's wishing for a lot...

ACM: Are you thinking along the line of doing some shows at universities?

DHZ: Actually, that's kind of a goal for us. One of the things about booking agents, we're looking at connections as far as colleges are concerned. Two of us are in college and in that mindset.

ACM: Is finding a good booking agent about as hard (and with just as many strings attached) as finding a good record label?

DHZ: Yeah...pretty much. You can only go on what people say, and it's hard to trust everybody, especially the people you can't see. We end up talking to a lot of them on the phone, because we don't live on the coast either way.

ACM: What led you to sign with Brainstorm?

DHZ: Well...we just felt Brainstorm had a lot of integrity before us, as far as artists that had been on the label. We felt that the label was artist-oriented...that they cared about what the artists thought. And they promised they'd order pizza every night that we were in the studio, so of course, that was the clincher right there. That pretty much iced the deal for us. Yep. Pizza, and a television.

ACM: What is there that you would really like people to know about Dig Hay Zoose?

DHZ: Well, what I'd really like people to know about Dig Hay Zoose is that three of the members are single and currently looking for very...well actually, (another band member says in the background, "I'm happy.")...he's, two of the members are currently looking for beautiful women.

ACM: Do you need photos?

DHZ: Well, we're not really a groupie type band. Actually, we're really nice guys. We know how it is to be hurt. So, we wouldn't want groupies, 'cause then that would be just kind of a sadness thing. We're all young guys. I guess that's the serious thing that I'd like to get across to people - the youth of the band. Just the fact that, even though we're young, we've been through a lot individually and together. Maybe that comes across in the lyrics and music, I don't know. I feel like alot of the time, when you go places or you're working with someone, and they happen to be twice your age, they tend to underrate your ability - creatively and musically. We'd like to prove some people wrong.

ACM: Listening to your music, it sounds like you grew up in inner-city New York or the rougher areas in L.A., but you're in Kansas City. What is there in the Midwest that has shaped and molded you to be where you are?

DHZ: Well, just the fact that we're different. We're not like the mainstream people here. I think we'd be much more suited to live on the coast...when we were there, we liked it and everything. But as far as our looks, our attitude and things, well...there is a lot of bias and racism here that people tend to underrate. For instance, I have a friend who's black and I have long hair. When we go to the mall, we automatically get stares and we've been run off the road before and things like that. I mean, that doesn't happen in L.A., and that doesn't happen in New York. It's just a totally different thing, but just as dangerous and maybe in scarier ways.

ACM: So, there are elements of racism and that sort of thing. That's coming through in the songs, that's an influence?

DHZ: Yeah. In fact, we're working on material for the next album and that's something that's really been heavy on our hearts lately. It may sound really cliché, but I think the way we handle it will be different than the way most people talk about it.

ACM: Where do you think the church needs to be in all of this?

DHZ: Around here, the KKK seems to think that their way is righteous and that it's the Christian way, which is definitely wrong. Alot of the churches are actually guilty of racism, especially in the middle of the bible belt and in the Midwest. It may not be so at the churches that we go to, I don't know. My church has been really open and supportive of the things that I've done. Even though I have long hair, it's cool with them. Which is kind of a surprise, because alot of people are older than 60,...there's alot of older people there. As far as the church's position on racism, the people around here just seem to be in the mindset that black people...and Mexicans...and people with long hair...are bad. I think that churches need to wake up and smell the coffee concerning that and alot of other things.

ACM: What direction do you see the band taking in the coming months?

DHZ: I see the next album being longer, and it being a more involved process. I hope we get a lot more time to record it. It seemed like a lot of decisions were made on the spur of the moment. We signed the contract with them just a week-a-half before we flew out there to record the album. It was all just really kind of weird. As far as musical direction, I think I'm going to hand the phone over to Dave, cause this is something that he wants to talk about.

DHZ: The way I see it, what we're doing right now is trying to improve upon what we've already done...because we were rushed a bit...because we didn't get to make all the decisions ourselves. We are really pushing to put more work and thought into what we do, put our whole effort and soul into what we've done already. It's a learning experience. You know, you're done with the first album and you look at it and say, "well, could I have done better?" That's what we intend to do with the next one. Musically, I don't know. Just whatever styles influence us at the time.

ACM: What has influenced you up 'til now?

DHZ: I guess each member has been influenced by different things, but mainly bands along the lines of Jane's Addiction, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Fishbone, Crowded House - basically anything that is on the alternative edge. When were talking at Cornerstone, the thing we find about any of the conclusions drawn between us and Scaterd Few is that we both derive our musical sound the same way - whatever influences us, we put in our music.

ACM: Did you limit your search, as far as labels go, to the Christian music industry, or did you venture outside of that?

DHZ: We really didn't. We decided collectively that we wanted to sign to a Christian label. We really didn't look outside at all.

ACM: What sort of support do you see ahead, as far as Christian radio is concerned? Do you see much there?

DHZ: I think I do. I think we could pull some support there. Because the album is diversified. It has completely alternative stuff, and it also has a commercial edge to some of the songs - because that's another influence. I hate to say that all music played on the radio is commercial, but for the most part it is. On the college field, on college radio stations and such, we should be able to pull some weight, (laugh) we'll see.

ACM: Give me an idea of your background, just as an idividual. How'd you end up where you are now?

DHZ: Just me, Dave?

ACM: Just you, Dave.

DHZ: I've just always been inspired to play music. I decided one day I was going to play guitar, and I had no money or anything...this is an old story. But, I had no money. I prayed that night that I could get a guitar...that I could run into one. And the next Sunday, a lady at church offered me one. So from then on, I pretty much set my mind that this is what God's will is in my life play guitar for some sort of band in the future. So I started playing and wound up in D.O.N. as a first band. I don't know if you've ever heard of them, it was a hard-core punk band. We played a lot of shows with a band called Hot Pink Turtle. I'd never really ventured into that field of music much, but there was so much more power in the alternative metal much appeal to draw more people to listen to what you have to say. That's my turning point. From that point on, I decided that I definitely wasn't cut out to play hard-core anymore...that it was a dying trend. I dropped out, and eventually joined Dig Hay Zoose. This is where lyrically, I want it to be. And, I think that's the way it is for everyone in the band.

ACM: Do you feel you get a lot of support from the Christian community there, as far as the shows you do, and the way you're trying to reach kids. Do you feel there's a lot of support there, or are there still a few people who wonder about what you're doing?

DHZ: Here in Missouri, there are a lot of leery churches. There are a lot of people that'll say they want to start something with heavy metal to draw a crowd, but they really don't know anything about what's going on. It might be the same way there. We get that alot. As far as support from churches, really the churches in Missouri don't want to support the movement alot. There are a few. We're part of an organization that gives a line of contact from all the bands that play in Kansas City (Christian rock bands, rap bands, metal bands, whatever they are), and through that we draw support from each other. But, from the churches They're really not interested in changing their mindset.

ACM: What do you think the church could do to help provide you with avenues and ways of reaching kids that really aren't interested in the church? Alot of kids don't feel that church has anything to offer them, and obviously you do, or you wouldn't be doing what you're doing. What is it the church can do to help you (and other bands) to convince kids that the church could really have something valid to offer them?

DHZ: I think they should step out and give it a chance. I don't think they should keep their mindset when they really don't know what they're talking about a lot of times...the mindset that rock 'n roll is evil...and since it's evil we can't use it, its a dead tool...its Satan's tool...whatever they believe. Telling kids that who are into Iron Maiden doesn't do them any good. That doesn't get them interested at all. If the churches could unite in the area, getting over their denominational differences, we could unite and rent a theatre for a night. Have bands play, have pastors there and have the Word of God be spoken...and preach between shows. There would be power in something like that. But...

ACM: You don't see that happening right now?

DHZ: Honestly, no. I hate to be cynical about it, but honestly I don't. Because traditional religion has been planted here in Missouri. It's really hard to get out of it. You have to step out of it to take a look at it and see the truth, and the truth is - what really matters? Does the length of your hair matter? Or, is that something to draw a denominational difference.

ACM: What got you to the point where you are now? What's made you want to pursue this?

DHZ: I started playing when I was seven years old, and took lessons until I was 13 or 14. That's the very beginning of the musical ties; I never learned how to sight-read, because I'd pick it up by ear. The teacher would play what I was supposed to play, and I'd pick it up by ear. I never learned. My next door neighbor all through school, Dion Tyler, plays bass for a band called Hot Pink Turtle, which is also an alternative Christian metal funk band around here. He's my best friend, and we started out in the very first band we played together. I played drums, because I played drums in school for the marching band and stuff like that. When I started, it just got in my blood and I couldn't help it anymore. I wanted to play music. And I've always sang, to myself, in church and in choir. I was a vocal major for a year at Northwest Missouri State. But, I just never got around to singing in a band until after D.O.N. broke up. I sang for this gothic, metal band called Chancelis...and it turned out our drummer played for Chancelis, too. And we needed a bass player, so Bill joined there's three of our members there. The guitarist for that band was in control of the music, and we didn't mind, because it was like his band. But we decided that Bill , myself, and Jimmy (which is three-fourths of Dig Hay Zoose)...we didn't want to play that gothic metal thing. We prayed about it and had a meeting, and went our separate ways. We were looking for a guitarist and Dave was there. So we called Dave and started jammin' together...that's how we got together. But that's kinda how everything fell together. We were all intertwined in different bands.

ACM: Do you have any advice for a band just getting started?

DHZ: Yeah, the biggest thing is: do not pick one little style and then try to fit your lifestyle into that. I've seen so many bands die because they say, "we're going to be a heavy metal band now" or, "we're going to be a...," you know. They pick a style and they try to wedge everything into this little thing. Bands should write from where they come from...there're so many Jesus saves songs, and so many suicide songs, and there're so many abortion songs - just forget about that stuff, its all been covered before. Write about your life. Write about what you're going through, and what's God helping you get through. That's what we do. Also, write with emotion and write with your heart. Don't limit yourself. Don't think that you can't, ...don't ever say, "oh we can't play that, it's too weird," or "it doesn't say Jesus every fourth word."

ACM: You were saying the songs are basically an extension of your own life, things you've struggled with. Is there anything in the songs that are really near and dear to your heart?

DHZ: I'd really have to think through the whole thing. There's a lot of stuff that really hits homes at different times in my life. When you're faced with somebody who doesn't really look at the whole picture or, like a lot of my friends at school, don't believe in any God at all. Or they're following Buddhism, into ystals, and that stuff. [The songs] all just come into place at different times of your life. Like when you get really depressed and you're thinking, "man, I just really messed up, I should have done this, and I haven't done that, and I've put things off, and put this off." That's what Struggle Fish is all about. You keep procrastinating about stuff you have to do and haven't done. Different songs mean different things to me at different times in my life.

ACM: So, its an ongoing thing for you?

DHZ: Yeah, they change. Think About It and Struggle Fish are closer to me (because I wrote them) lyrically. But when Bill writes, it's just as close to me...and when Dave writes. We write together, and we think a lot a like. It just fits together, and we all feed off of our own music - it really expresses how we feel.

ACM: Do mentioned that a lot of the people around you don't really feel that church has much to offer them, and obviously you do. How do you, I mean, outside of the music, how do you go about convincing them that it is valid?

DHZ: First of all, you have to get rid of alot of the stereotypes that people have created. Just drop the thought that, when you become a Christian, you become this separate society. When you become a Christian, God has made you a certain way, to serve a certain purpose. If you go changing your personality and where you're at and all your friends, then you're defeating His purpose for you. There's no reason why you should change your sense of humor, your personality, the way you work. Just follow His rules and do what He wants you to do. People just miss how much freedom there is in Christianity, because our sins are forgiven. It's not this thing where you have to stress out. Everybody is going to mess up. All we have to do is go to Him and say, "God I'm sorry, please forgive me." Jesus loves you so much that He does. I'm not trying to say that you become a Christian and you're okay and you can do the same things you did. Because, when you really find out how great Christianity is, things change in your life. You don't really care about things you used to care about, and stuff that you would never even consider doing before, now it's just part of your normal daily thing. But, I think the biggest thing is to break the stereotypes...that when you become a Christian, you have to do have to do this, you have to do this, you can't do this and you can't do this. Instead of a constricting thing, it has to be a freeing thing.

ACM: Do you find people trying to put you into molds still?

DHZ: Well, I think people do that just to help themselves...process the information, you know? You put something in a category so its easier to deal with. You don't have to get into all the details. But yeah, sometimes you catch people thinking that's just one of those rock bands, and all that kind of thing. It doesn't really bother me, because I know that's just some people's way of dealing with things?

ACM: Are you pretty available to do shows, if someone were interested in having you come do something?

DHZ: We're ready to go; we're chomping at the bit, really!

ACM: What would it take to make that work?

DHZ: We're looking at different booking agents and all. After a while, hopefully we'll have things set up. Our biggest problem is that we're all totally broke. Seriously, we are totally and completely broke! And the problem would probably be transportation. We've got vehicles, but it's going to be hard. We could never do a show that doesn't have a P.A., because we don't have a P.A. and have nothing to carry it in. But, if everything works out, then yeah - we're ready to go. We'll go play anywhere. Its kind of a cliché line: it takes money to make money. We just have absolutely nothing, no mikes, no P.A. But I think once we get things rolling, it'll be a lot easier to come play different places.

ACM: So, you're taking a class in college now?

DHZ: I'm taking a biology class right now. It's a five hour class.

ACM: What else do you do?

DHZ: I work too. We all work.

ACM: What type of jobs do you all have?

DHZ: I work at Citibank...Visa and Mastercard. Dave works at Hallmark full-time. He works nightshift. Bill works with his Dad; his Dad's in construction. Jimmy'll be working here pretty soon; he's gonna have two jobs. He's got a wife and kid. Jimmy's 22 and he has an almost 2 year old son, Ashton. He's got quite a bit of responsibility. Everybody else is pretty much freed up to go, whenever we can. Jim has talked about it with his wife and everything is working out as far as I know.

ACM: Is this something you would like to pursue full-time then?

DHZ: Definitely. I'd love to do this full-time. Really would. And I think we have a lot of potential to cross over to do the secular market, the way things are going. That's what I really hope to cross over into the secular market. It's the people who are not Christians who need to hear what we have to say.

ACM: And, you're still trying to figure out the best way to take your music into the college mainstream...

DHZ: Exactly. What Bill was talking about. We're still working to see what we can do. But, it'll all come in time. We'll all work it out...just keep it in prayer. Things'll work. My main testimony of my life is the way God has worked through this band. We've been together barely a year, but we already recorded an album. It's just amazing how He works! I don't understand sometimes, He really baffles me. But I know it's Him.

Tom D. Stephenson