Zen From Mars
Zen From Mars has been my musical passion project and main source of anguish since 2015. The band includes singer Stephen Shareaux (Kik Tracee), drummer Mike Heller (Fear Factory, Raven, Malignancy), guitarist Brynn Arens (Flipp), bassist Chip Z’Nuff (Enuff Z’Nuff) and pianist Kate Catalina (Sparkle Party).
Bang Tango Messed Up
Zen From Mars got its start through a Bang Tango mishap actually. Right after I had finished Attack of Life: The Bang Tango Movie (more on that here) and joined Bang Tango in April 2015, I was all hopped up on excitement and frontman Joe Lesté wanted me to demo some music for a potential new Bang Tango album. I then put together 5 fully structured instrumental compositions and sent them to Bang Tango bassist Lance Eric and guitarist Rowan Robertson. Both loved the tunes and suggested I send them to Joe immediately, so I did. Then nothing. A month goes by and more nothing. I take it personally and get bummed out and figured Joe probably hated them and they weren’t worth replying to.
So life went on. I was trying to figure out what to do after Attack of Life: The Bang Tango Movie. I needed a creative project to keep me busy. It obviously didn’t seem like a Bang Tango album was in the cards at that point. One day I went on YouTube and on the suggestion bar I see the music video for Kik Tracee‘s “Don’t Need Rules”. I remember the band from when I was a kid, my brother would listen to them. I watched the video… alot… Iwatched it many many times. The singer was fucking incredible. I thought to myself “Fuck! I need to be in a band with that guy, I wonder what he’s up to now?”. Then the other part of my brain goes “…Kik Tracee documentary? You never know unless you ask!”
So I send Kik Tracee bassist Rob Grad a message on Facebook. He called me and we had a wonderful hour-long phone conversation. Rob is one of the coolest people I have ever had the opportunity of meeting. He’s just awesome. So he suggests I try to get ahold of the band’s frontman Stephen Shareaux. The band broke up in 1993 and nobody really kept in touch with each other since. So I sent Stephen a message and he’s all for the idea of a documentary. We then speak on the phone and just absolutely hit it off.
In the back of my mind, during Stephen and I’s conversations, are those instrumental compositions I put together for Bang Tango. I asked Stephen if he was up to checking them out to see what he thinks, he said “Absolutely!”. He then sends an e-mail back with one of the songs, now titled “New Leaf”. I listen to it and it blew me away. It was so surreal how a piece of music I wrote had turned into a full-blown song with the same guy I was looking at a few weeks prior going “Fuck! I need to be in a band with that guy”. I couldn’t believe it. He then started sending me the other instrumentals back one after the other and now we had a repertoire going.
Stephen then suggests the name Zen From Mars. I loved it and it has stuck ever since. Has a super cool ring to it.
Putting A Band Together
At this point, we both decide that we need to put a band together and keep writing and start recording. So I reached out to my drummer buddy Trent Anderson. He was in Bang Tango for a majority of the time that I was doing Attack of Life: The Bang Tango Movie. I asked him about joining ZFM, and he was all for it. I then reached out to my friend Chip Z’Nuff, he’s the frontman and bass player for Enuff Z’Nuff. He loved the idea of the band and joined; his wife Kate Catalina loved the idea too, she’s an incredible pianist so we brought her on as our piano/keyboard player; our John Paul Jones if you will. At this point it seemed like the line up was complete.
How Many Drummers Does Zen From Mars Need?
I then reached out to my buddy Mike Heller for his opinion on the ZFM songs. He’s the drummer for Fear Factory and Malignancy. (At the time I was in talks to do a Fear Factory documentary, more on here.)Mike is one of the most hysterically brutally honest opinionated people in the whole world and he has the talent of making you feel smart and stupid at the same time. In that regard he was perfect to show the songs to. I sent them to Mike and he replied with “I don’t care who you have on drums right now, fire them. I’m your new drummer.” I then thought… wow… ok… who am I to say no to Mike Heller? I brought it up to Trent, and told me to not be a goofball and go with Mike. Trent was super busy with his band Sushi Roll anyway. So there were absolutely no hard feelings at all in that regard and now Mike Heller was ZFM‘s drummer.
A little insight into me and Mike‘s friendship… Mike Heller is the Ian Malcolm to my John Hammond. I’m the eccentric dinosaur park owner that sees no limits to wonder, and Mike is the dark realist who stops me from making terrible mistakes because of my limitless wonder.
The Final Piece
Stephen suggested having his friend throw a guitar solo down on one of the demos. His friend ended up being Brynn Arens, who is the frontman/guitarist of one of my all time favorite bands Flipp. Brynn laid down the solo and it absolutely killed. I then beg Stephen to ask Brynn if he wanted to join Zen From Mars, and Brynn agreed. I was the happiest little school girl ever. In a fun turn of events, years later I would end up joining Flipp too.
I could easily go into a 5 part story of where it went from here. Who knows. If this gets enough traction maybe I will? It’s not for the faint of heart, I will tell you that.
Studio Update 2018
Our debut album has become a mini Chinese Democracy. I say this because its been taking absolutely forever. But I can’t blame anyone. Or can I? ;). We started recording it in 2015 and now it’s 2018. Yikes. It’s being mixed and mastered by the amazing Richard Easterling. As of June 2018 we have been recieving final mixes and masters for the album and are aiming for a late summer/early fall release.