A few weeks back we reviewed the independent band Zeistencroix which was formed in Los Angeles on 2011. The group was founded by Orlando Draven (Vocals-Guitar and songwriter). Jack Akopan (Guitars) and Jean Corredor (Bass) completes the line-up. Though Zeistencroix’s music can’t be pigeonholed in a specific genre of rock, “alternative industrial” is probably the best way to describe their sound. Powerful guitar riffs, odd-time-syncopated drums and heavy use of electronic sounds are part of their musical identity. In September 2013, Zeistencroix’s first video—for the single “Stranger“—debuted, with fans streaming the video over 100,000 times in its first month. The full-length album Stranger was released on February 17, 2014, consisting of 12 songs, including “Party Animals,” “Gone,” and “Tears of the Heart.”
Here follows an exclusive interview with band members Orlando Draven (Vocals-Guitar and songwriter). Jack Akopan (Guitars), who give us more insight into the thoughts and ideas behind the project that is Zeistencroix.
1. How long have you been doing what you’re doing and how did you get started in the first place?
Orlando Draven: I’ve been singing since I was 6 years old, sang at the church chorus and became the lead singer then I started to play rock when I was around 14 or 15 and haven’t stopped ever since.
Jack Akopan: I’ve been doing this for almost 15 years and I love it Early on I really was interested in becoming a drummer at first but you know the drum kit it’s loud and with the noise policy in my neighborhood I couldn’t, then in the school a class mate who played the guitar taught me the first chords and from that day all its history…
2. Who were your first musical influences that you can remember?
Orlando Draven: I started with queen then Guns and Roses and then more heavy/trash like Metallica, Pantera then I discovered Nin and Depeche Mode and everything changed.
Jack Akopan: Ritchie Valens.
3. Which artists are you currently listening to? And is there anybody you’d like to collaborate with?
Orlando Draven: I’m right now I’m listening a lot of Zeromancer, Placebo and Nin. I’d love to collaborate with Trent Reznor and Shirley Manson.
Jack Akopan: I try to listen everyday new music and new bands… It’s difficult to mention which artists I am currently listening I don’t wanna forget any (hahaha) I like every kind of metal but (of course) not all bands.
4. Describe the first piece of musical equipment that you actually purchased. And which is the one piece of hardware or software you’re still looking to add to your collection now?
Orlando Draven: It was a washburn 6 string guitar and I would like to add another analog synth to my gear.
Jack Akopan: It was a horrible blue guitar I remember that it was impossible to gauge!!! It really sucked!! But guess what… I still have it 😉
5. Tell us something about your current hardware/software and instrument setup?
Orlando Draven: I’m still working on it but right now I have for keyboards the Microkorg, Mininova and MoPho hooked with a lot of Native instruments virtual synths, for guitar I have a mesa dual rectifier hooked with a marshall cab and I’m using Ibanez Guitars 7 and 6 strings, on software I use fruity loops for sequencing and protools for recording and writing too.
Jack Akopan: Actually I am still working in my signature guitar, a metallic Randy Rhoads model, you can see it in our first video clip “Stranger”
6. Studio work and music creation, or performing and interacting with a live audience, which do you prefer?
Orlando Draven: I love playing live but what I really enjoy is writing so music creation it is.
Jack Akopan: Easy!! Interacting with a live audience. I think nothing can beat that feeling, watching and listen to people who feel identified with our music.
7. Which one of your original songs gets your adrenalin running the most, and which song do you least like performing?
Orlando Draven: That’s a hard one because I love all the songs… I would say ”Messiah” and the least ”Stay”.
Jack Akopan: Party Animals… This one drives me crazy!!! I don’t know why but It happened faster than any other… I really enjoy playing all songs but maybe the instrumental songs are not my favorites for a live performing…
8. On which one of your songs do you feel you delivered your personal best performance so far, from a technical point of view?
Orlando Draven: I would say it’s between ”Tears of The Heart” and ”Walking dead”, in tears because the actual singing is demanding on the higher notes and after a while it gets difficult and ”walking” because I have to switch from my electronic voice (which it’s difficult and demanding) to screaming mode on the chorus and back again so I have to be ”Fresh” and in total control to do that.
Jack Akopan: Perhaps “The lie” when Orlando was composing it in that time was a little bit different than how it is right now.
9. Which ingredient (or trademark sound) do you think is most essential in making your music sound the way it does?
Orlando Draven: To be honest I really don’t know we’re still in the quest to find ”our sound” even thou we have a particular one but I wouldn’t tell it’s an original or super defining one so I think we still crafting our music to get there but I can safely say that I think we’re getting there.
Jack Akopan: That’s a difficult question… I think is depend of the song… But if I have to name one, I would say the sequence, in any song the sequence can change the meaning or the intention in any riff.
10. If you were forced to choose only one, which emotion, more than any other drives you to stay in this tough business. Is it joy, anger, desire, passion or pride and why?
Orlando Draven:Love/Hate ha! I love making and playing music so much that I could die for it and at the same time I can’t only live out of it and it hurts me so bad that I would rather cut my arm off than keep suffering for it but in the end I just can’t live without it so I think it has it all at times, anger passion, pride, joy, sadness, it’s a sick love/hate relationship you can’t live with or without it.
Jack Akopan: It should be passion… because it doesn’t matter how many times you fall you always get up again and the passion what I feel when I play my music makes me feel stronger and younger…
11. Which aspect of being an independent artist and the music making process excites you most and which aspect discourages you most?
Orlando Draven: Well that’s a tricky one and to be honest nothing of it excites me about it, because in the end it’s a lie, as a musician you are not independent by any means, we depend and are ruled by digital distributors and you can say we don’t have to pay or give royalties to a label right? No it’s worse we have to give a big percentage to a big digital corporation on whatever name (itunes, spotify, google play, amazon etc) just to receive the benefit of ”be hosted” by their severs and ”appear” on their search engine, so the music business cuts an already bad middle man (labels) and put another far worst (digital distribution) with far worst rules because you even have to pay more to another third party like (reverbnation, cdbaby, tunecore etc) to represent you and to allow you to deal with them because you can’t deal on your own (put your music on their sites) which take us to square one. So in the end there’s no independence at all, at least with labels (in the past) you received other benefits like promo, recording, touring money etc, now you only receive a ”host” and a ”search engine”.
Jack Akopan: As I told you before seeing and listening to people who identify with our music is what makes it for me, but you know every single day is a challenge for our career.
12. Tell us something about your songwriting process. What usually comes first the lyrics or the music? And which instruments or music software do you primarily use for composing?
Orlando Draven: It depends of the song, sometimes I start with keyboards another with a guitar riff or even a beat and I generally use fruity loops and protools, but like I said it depends but the lyrics it’s almost always the last thing I write down.
Jack Akopan: Always music comes first, actually I always need a drum machine to write my songs…
13. How involved are you in any of the recording, producing, mastering and marketing processes of your music in general. Do you outsource any of these processes?
Orlando Draven: Well I’m involved on all the process from start to finish, and I recorded, produced and mixed the album.
Jack Akopan: Well when “Stranger” was recorded we were in different countries at that time and it made it difficult to get together so I wrote my solos but Orlando usually write the whole music…
14. The best piece of advice in this business you actually followed so far, and one you didn’t follow, but now know for sure that you should have?
Orlando Draven: I was studying audio engineering and a teacher was giving a speech and he said, ”do not ever ever do this, to operate a main mixer sitting here doing a show for an artist and at the same time wishing to be on stage performing, you’ll be miserable the rest of your life and you’ll taint this profession by doing so” so I decided to keep doing music, and till now I don’t regret mishearing anything so far and I hope never be in that situation.
Jack Akopan: If you are doing this make sure to do it for the correct reasons this is not a career like other this is not for everybody!
15. At this point, as an independent artist, which is the one factor you desire most, and feel will undeniably benefit the your future (for example increased music distribution, better quality production, more media exposure, bigger live gigs etc…)?
Orlando Draven: Better quality production and sign with a good label because in the end this independent stuff it’s ok to start with, but gives you a state of not being serious enough or not been validated as an artist, there are trillions of people out there who are ”independent” and all of a sudden you’ve easily get sunk on that sea of indie artist and makes it difficult to fans and media to discover and ultimately take you seriously so that’s my goal.
Jack Akopan: At this point that’s the 1 million dollars question we’re still looking and learning the best way to increase our exposure so it’s difficult to know or even desire which it’s the best way at this time.
16. Do you consider Internet and all the social media websites, as fundamental to your career, and indie music in general, or do you think it has only produced a mass of mediocre “copy-and-paste” artists, who flood the web, making it difficult for real talent to emerge?
Orlando Draven: I will not deny that they’re handy tools that can help you a little bit with some stuff but in the end it’s a double edge sword and now it’s even worse because as you said it’s over flooded, over used and people are getting tired of millions of other people crying for attention and not only in music but in every aspect of the modern life, and as a result everyone has enabled a sentiment of self importance or self awareness where everyone believes themselves stars just because they have number of friends or whatever on their social media so it’s getting annoying, we’ll see what future brings and what happens when this social media trend dies or mutates or transform.
Jack Akopan: This is a long debate, I just say that it’s not what you doing is how you do it.
17. Is the music you produced on “Stranger” exactly where you want your sound to be? Or in retrospect, would you change anything on, or about the album in anyway?
Orlando Draven: Yes and no, that was the best I could do at the time and with the resources that I had on that moment of course I would’ve loved to record in a 7 million dollar studio with Kevin Churko producing and Tom Baker mastering it but we had a deadline and a nice agreement on the table so we had to speed things up and do the best we could with what we had.
Jack Akopan: We always work hard for our music and our sound but it is never exactly like we want it, we always want more and more and more, and at that time we had a deadline that made it more complicated.
18. What do you think is the biggest barrier you have to face and overcome as an indie alternative industrial band, in your quest to achieve your goals and wider-spread success?
Orlando Draven: We’re learning every day, we’re not in the best age for music or to be a musician, so to do this you need to really love it and struggle a lot with everything and accept what it is but keep fighting to achieve the dream, I believe in hard work, work ethic and perseverance that’s what drives us to be better every day and the biggest barrier I think is to know how to stand out from the crowd, not get lost in what everyone’s doing and to have an identity no matter what and that’s our focus our goal.
Jack Akopan: Music always was difficult but in these times music seems to die like drip so we’re trying to overcome that.
19. What is the ONE thing you are NOT willing or prepared to do, in your quest to achieve a successful musical career?
Orlando Draven: Make music I don’t like, and sell my principles, the reason I do this is not to get famous, girls or money. I do this because it’s what I love so if I have to starve because of it, so be it, but I will not change what I believe in for nothing and no one.
Jack Akopan: Change my music, my passion!
20. Finally, where does the name Zeistencroix come from and which one of you is responsible for that choice? Did the rest of you accept the name easily or did you have your own personal choice. :))
Orlando Draven: I was the one responsible and well it came about because I wanted to have a name that sounded cool and that it’s only meaning would be the band’s name that could have an identity of its own so I ended up with Zeistencroix.
Jack Akopan: We had played under another name before and one day Orlando came with the idea “Zeistencroix” and I was like WHAT!!! WHY? But it’s ok we thought it was a good idea so now are “Zeistencroix”.