Hello! This is my first installment of the Wonky Talk series. The idea is fairly straight forward: I want to ask people that interest me, people that are movers and shakers in their respective fields of interest, questions that they wouldn’t normally get asked in a standard interview. I think asking non-standard questions lends a greater perspective on these people as people and as fans of their craft (I hope) and other interests. My first interviewee is Cedric Bixler-Zavala, singer The Mars Volta and homie from El Paso, TX. For those of us who came up in the EP punk scene during the 90s, we know the kind of beast of musician that is Cedric beyond the microphone. We talk about that and other random thoughts. Enjoy.
- Many people out there might not be aware of the fact that you know your way around a drum kit. So, what’s your ideal kit and setup?
Jon Theodore gave me my current kit, a blue turtle shell gretch kit, or wait maybe its a Slingerland, fuck I forget I hardly play. I did get to use it on that ANYWHERE record that came out recently. I spent my entire life borrowing peoples kits. I borrowed yours for an entire tour, Mike! After Bernie Rincon killed himself I took his kit cuz he left it at the rug burn and everybody was just picking it for parts. Bernie was At The Drive-In’s 1st drummer. Then through wear and tear with Defacto I think marcel ended up with it. I’m a sloppy drummer and I wear gloves. I remember around 1995 when I played drums in Marcellus Wallace, I use to tune my snare high as fuck like those Crimpshrine or Pinhead Gunpowder records. That was a product of cocaine, and I apologize to everyone who had to hear that. There is nothing worse than a snare drum that sounds like NAM show metal bull shit. I also wore creepers and had bleached hair. Hella 90s son!!!
- Can you tell any naysayers out there why they should love Frank Beard and ZZ Top?
If u haven’t really listened to any ZZ Top records you’re just a straight up asshole cuz u know a lot of people just think of them as the mtv video band with that car, but go listen to those albums. There is a reason why they were called the best little band from Texas! Frank Beard is the master of southern fried funky ghost notes. TEJAS is my favorite album especially “Mr Ten Dollar Man”!! Don’t buy the CD cuz they remastered that shit and replaced all the drums with fucking drum samples! Fucking A! They fucked that up right? Cocaine was a hell of an era…..buy the old vinyl
- Since we’re talking about you and drum kits, what’s the word on this new project you’re in called Anywhere? Releases? Show? Tour?
Anywhere was this thing born out of just having fun. It’s not some super group or anything like that. I met christian when I was spinning records in Ibiza. He walked over to me through a sea of foam and was, like, “Are u one third of the dance sensation known as Swedish House Mafia?” and I was, like, “Suck that shit holmie! He opened the show with an instrumental set of open tuning acoustic stuff, like a Drive Like Jehu meets Sandy Bull.” So I gave him my pager and was, like, “I’ll throw some stupid-ass-dope-ass-monster-fucking beats over them acoustic shits son!” and then he threw down on Watts’ radio show and asked Watt to throw down on the record. We did it with Toshi, who records the Melvins, and we recorded it at the Melvins space. Alan Forbes did the logo and 7 inch art and Sonny Kay did the full length art. It’s on ATP records. Get yo self a slice B4 its gone!!
- It has been said that you have a vocal range of G-2 to C-6. I’m not sure what that means, but it sounds like a government employee pay scale or the level of heat between two cats in an alley at the edge of night. What do you think?
My vocal range is technically classified under the moniker DUDE LOOKS LIKE A LADY
- Who do you think would win a battle royale vocal cage match? Your voice, David Lee Roth’s voice, Bjork’s voice or Robert Plant’s voice? Who would have the final a cappella suplex?
Fuck all that, TINY TIM would slay them all. God bless Tiny Tim
- All jokes aside, it’s been interesting to see your vocal abilities mature with the Mars Volta—not to take away from any projects you have been involved with prior. Was that a result of constant playing? Or did you enlist a vocal coach?
I was always afraid of using a vocal coach, but right before I started tracking for Frances the Mute, I tried one out. It was John Frusciante, Omar and Paul Hinojos who kept singing the praises of this guy named Ron Anderson, and as soon as I found out he was Bjork’s guy, I was sold. He changed my life. He taught me how to sing the right way with out compromising my voice’s personality. Of course, I’m not a very consistent singer and that’s usually because I lose myself in the actual performance, and sometimes I prefer dancing to singing. I can thumb wrestle the fuck out of a t rex. Opposable thumbs, my ass!
- And perhaps relatedly, I’ve seen you use this mic contraption that looked like three mics taped together. I’ve also seen Robert Plant use something similar. What’s the purpose of that?
Ah, yes, my white 60s microphone. I like hybrids. For years I wanted the shell of a Senheiser drum mic, but the inside of an Audix. I was always obsessed with photos of the Creation rocking them, but everybody always said that they sound like shit for singing. So I had one of our sound guys make it for me. Apparently, it sounded fucking awful, but I loved it. It probably just needed a different mic on the inside. I use Telefunken now! My first sponsor, I guess? Matt Bittman who does current sound for Volta is in charge of asking the company to make me custom colors. I want to make a microphone that can give a close shave. Is that so wrong?
- Dave Grohl once said that you know you’ve made it when Weird Al does one of your songs. I couldn’t help but notice that Noctourniquet is the most “accessible” (in terms of The Mars Volta’s way of being “accessible”) released by you guys. Does this mean you’re trying to get Weird Al to parody one of your songs? Or was it a natural progression?
U got to change your shit up or it gets boring. But, hell, I know I was bumming people out with my music when Narduar the Human Serviette came to do an interview. He is my weird Al. He knows his shit unlike some of these other pendejo music journos.
- What song would you have playing during your segment of a skate video and what would your run look like?
“Talk Talk” by The Music Machine. My run would look like one epic mamada making Neil Blender’s contest run at the street style in Tempe video look like child’s play. If u have not seen the old 80s video called Street Style in Tempe then YouTube Neil Blender’s part. He is one of the reasons why skating appealed to me. Of course, if I ripped at skating my video part would look like Natas Kapaus convulsing into Mark Gonzalez!!! WURD UP!!!!!!!!!!!
- What current bands are really getting time on your stereo these days?
Anything from Finders Keepers Records will bliss me the fuck out, Andy Votel is king! I made a record with Ralph Jasso, and it has yet to see the light of day. I think it’s technically 3 years old. I listen to it, and it breaks my heart. He is a beast, and this record is the beast’s gentle acoustic side. I played drums and helped arrange and write lyrics. He calls it RJ’s Prospectors which is really unfortunate cuz i think he forgot that there is a UTEP team with the same name. He needs to name it Ralphael Domique Jasso, I think Omar is going to put it out sometime. Anytime Elvin aka DJ Nobody from Low End Theory makes a seasonal psych comp, he never fails. Lots of old Fleetwood Mac, Terry Reid, Moby Grape, Flying Burrito Bros, Bread, Crazy Horse, Crabby Appleton….u know, some soft AM 70s gold. St Vincent rips, Kimbra rips, The Horrors rip, Gaslamp Killer rips, Thundercat rips, and I think Jack White rips. I love old fashioned 70s power pop like Badfinger, Slade, The Raspberries and no one can touch J-Dilla and Madlib. Marcel’s (Rodriguez-Lopez) newest record under Eureka the Butcher is pure witches tits, and, of course, Deantoni Parks under the Dark Angels moniker is ill. Special shout out to the Big Sir record that dropped recently !! Lisa and Juan are pure alchemy. Oh, and Lia Braswell from The Butcherettes is a sick drummer and Terry is like those time life books about the occult where they fastened a clothes hanger and point it at the stones at Stonehenge and a light zaps through the cloths hanger…pure awesomeness. Chelsea Wolf is ripping too, first aid kit rips, El P(aso) rips…and I still listen to Million of Dead Cops.