Thalia Zedek © YouTube

»Touring is never boring«

E-Magierin Thalia Zedek sprach anlässlich ihres Wien-Konzerts mit E im – in englischer Sprache geführten – skug-Interview über die USA, Europa und das Leben auf Tour.

Im Anschluss an den fabulösen Auftritt der Bostoner Band E im Wiener Venster 99 traf sich skug mit einer Dose AC/DC-Bier von Hofer (Rock aus Australien, Bier aus Deutschland) als Präsent zum Interview mit Underground-Ikone Thalia Zedek. Es ging ums Musikmachen und das Leben in den USA/Europa/auf Tour.

skug: Your band E is your newest project. Where do you locate it in your œuvre? What makes it special in comparison to Thalia Zedek Band, for example?
Thalia Zedek: It’s pretty different, because I think TZ band, or that’s what I call it for short, is mostly sort of a solo project, but I’ve been playing with the same guys for a while, it’s all stuff that I write, they all have their own thing that they do, so we just kinda get together when I have stuff, and this is completely different, because it is a collective, we write as a collective, everyone sings, so it’s everyone’s ideas kind of melting together. It’s more collaborative.

I can hear that! Where do you get the energy to tour and play this kind of music in these kind of locations, these swamps, do you like this way of living or is it just one of those decisions to make, to be able to be part of this music business and stay authentic.
I really enjoyed tonight. Sometimes it’s very hard, touring, and… »why?!«. But, I get a lot out of it and I enjoy a lot playing with this band, we all do. Sometimes the traveling is a bit hard, but the concert is always worth it.

You were born in Washington D.C., you went to Boston to study in a city with famous universities, but you decided to focus on music instead. Was the campus just not exciting enough?
Well, you know, I only stayed for a very short time, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do it, I was already doing music, so I decided… The first semester I already joined two bands. I knew I wanted to make music, it just wasn’t for me, academia. It’s still not (giggles).

Why stay in Boston, when Washington already had a thriving punk scene?
When I left Washington, there was a small scene, and I was part of that, participating in that, lots of shows and stuff, but in Boston I had much more going on. Sort of like a loft scene which there wasn’t in DC. A lot of bands from New York. I’m still living there. It’s a nice city. I want to continue with a quote from Jason Sanford from 2008: »Four years ago, when George W. Bush was re-elected, we were also traveling in Europe. I remember that Europeans were outraged and that they would ask us how it was possible. I would try to explain that I’m from Boston, so how could I know? Asking someone from Boston why Bush was re-elected is like asking someone from Portugal to explain why the fascist party is so strong in Austria.«

From what Sanford says, Boston sounds rather bourgeois and there is not a lot going on?
Yes. It wasn’t when I moved there, but it has gotten more and more so. When I moved there it was in a kind of recession, it was really kind of a working class city with divide between university and the real city. It’s a port city, I’ve been there for a long time. I don’t know if I could recommend that to someone. There is a housing crisis in Boston, like everywhere in the US. There is not enough housing, I mean. America is so fucked up right now. There is a housing crisis everywhere. I’m okay, because when I got there, it was kind of okay. But it’s tough. Because in America, unlike in Europe, all the poor areas where always in the city. Wealthier people moved outside the city. In Europe, it was always the other way around. But now America is more becoming like Europe, people with money move to the city. So it’s changing, it’s new for the States. Boston is experiencing it as well. But it is cheaper living in Boston than in New York or San Francisco.

How was the political atmosphere back then, when you started in Boston, compared to today after Obama and Trump? How did these…
When I first moved to Boston, when I was first able to vote, it was eight years of Reagan, so everyone I voted for lost. You can vote when you’re 18, so when I was 26 someone I voted for actually won. It was extremely exciting when Bill Clinton won. America is so fucked up today. I really can’t explain to people who don’t live here. It’s way more fucked up than people in Europe realize.

But do you realize that in Boston?
Oh yeah. I mean, Trump is actually insane. Seriously, he is insane. You have an insane person controlling one oft he most powerful military weapons. So everyone in America is sort of stressed out. What he’s gonna do on a day to day basis. Congressional government, there’s supposed to be a balance of power, it’s completely caved in to him. It could be like Hitler, it could be the same thing, again. There’s different branches of government, that were supposed to balance the authority, so the president’s not supposed to be king, he is declaring war on the press, he wants to jail journalists. You can’t imagine how fucked up that is. I hope for the best but I think he is guilty of a lot of illegal stuff and there are people prosecuting him but I don’t know what’s gonna happen with that really.

There are still a lot of people who like him?
No, there aren’t! That is a myth. That’s him.

So you think he won’t be re-elected?
No, I don’t think he will. What will he do? Between now and then there is a long time, three years.

What I’m also interested in is: You as a female artist in a male dominant music scene, how did you cope with sexism and did it change for the better in the last years?
I think it has definitely changed for the better in the last years. You know, I would say that I have not dealt with more sexism in the music business than I have in my day to day life. It is equal to when I worked in a restaurant. It’s a problem in society as a whole.

How is touring for you today and where are the best places to play live shows? I think places like this (Anm.: Venster 99) are better than bigger places, or is it more stressful because everything is a bit more precarious?
It’s a bit of both. I think in general. They’ve been great here. Where are the best places to play? It is strange, as a musician, as I am doing this for a few years, as you know, like more than a few (giggles), it kinda changes, the countries where you’re popular. Some countries we go to are really easy, and some are a little more of a struggle and that always changes. If you’re in fashion or you’re not in fashion. I just tend to do my thing, I don’t follow musical trends, really. I mean I try to grow as an artist but I also kind of have my thing that I do. I’ve been popular in England and now I’m not. It changes. I think any touring musician will tell you that. You don’t go where you’re unwanted. We only play at places where they want us to play. Right now we’re not doing so many shows in Germany. It was five shows, but we’re doing way more shows in Italy than we are in Germany. It changes. It’s weird. The kind of music we make. People are still into rock music. Maybe we are too edgy? Seems like people are really into bland on the ears rock music.

Let me ask you a personal question: The first time I took notice of your music was when you were playing a song by your band Come, an acoustic version of »Sad Eyes«, on Orange Blossom Festival, and since then I can’t get it out of my head. Are there any plans for the future to play with them again or maybe record it?
I think there might be a chance, there might be a small re-union, and I will only be in the states for a day or two around an anniversary festival we were invited to, it may or may not happen. So I don’t want to talk about it. I have a new solo record coming out in September, me and Chris, we’re gonna tour together and each play their own stuff seperately, but also together, as a duo, a small, intimate acoustic show. With Come, we all really like playing together. I’m still writing stuff, Chris is writing, we still play at the same venues together, it’s hard for me to imagine that as a sort of writing unit again. I wouldn’t rule it out a hundred percent but Shawn, the bass player, is in the film business, he is really busy. And we all have very different lives now. Very different plans.