Bek Sabbath interviews ZERO PERCENT
Zero Percent is a thrashy hardcore punk-metal band formed by some of the most badass nice guys I’ve had the privilege to know. They pour substance and fury into a tight-wound straight-driving soundtrack to their lifetimes of unforgiving observation. With a full length album on the way, ZP continues ripping their share of holes in the eardrums of Austin. Their 4-song EP, recorded by the Bat Lord Stuart Laurence, can be snagged at their live shows.
Randall McMaster: lead vocals
Abel Garcia: guitar
Billy Chainsaw: bass
Johnny Venom: drums
BS: You guys are a somewhat political band, so I’ll ask this in the context of current events. The name Zero Percent implies reference to the American crisis of inequality, which has fertilized the use of percentages as cuss words. If the 47% are those who “would vote for Obama no matter what” because they’re lazy moochers who like to be victims, and the 1% are those who make millions because they work 500 times harder than everyone else, then who are the Zero Percent?
Randy: Excellent question. When we were tossing around band names, I forget if it was John or Abel that said “I hate band names with a number in it.” I thought Zero Percent was a cool band name, and I have been sitting on it for a few years. I was hesitant about throwing it out to the guys after the before-mentioned statement. Eventually I blurted it out and the guys liked it.
To me, it means nobody counts more than anybody else. The zero percent are the forgotten, those that have been brushed under the rug, the mentally ill, the sick and poor. Sometimes I get real fucking dark, in my own thoughts. This has been quite prevalent throughout my whole life. Not so much in this time of my life, but it’s still there. That being said, I think it also reflects how morose and apathetic a lot of society has become due to the political climate in this country, and the puppets that are supposedly running shit are really taking orders from the ultra rich and unless you’re holding the strings of the puppet, your thoughts and opinions mean zero fucking percent and have zero impact on the shit going on around you, which is sad. I would like to say also, I like to leave things to interpretation. Think for yourself and let 0% mean whatever the fuck you want it to mean.
Abel: The zero percent are those who have been marginalized, forgotten or silenced by modern society. They are the millions of Americans with no jobs and/or no health insurance. They are the millions of nonviolent offenders rotting for decades in for-profit prisons. They are the millions of undocumented immigrants forced to leave their homes because of fictitious terror cells or by the actions of a despotic puppet government. They are the millions of children sold into slavery by the sex trade and by unregulated feudo-corporations. For me personally, zero percent is the exact amount that I buy into government lies and propaganda, including all news media outlets and sham elections. It is also the amount of fucks I give about current pop culture.
Venom: Randy penned the name years ago…I think he just liked the ring to it as well as the other guys in an age when a lot of other ideas were taken. To me it just represents how some of us feel and struggle in our day to day activities, how we are lost and feel left out. It has that classic hardcore ring to it.
BS: Which popular food item does the band (or yourself as a sovereign individual) most closely resemble?
Randy: I am gluten: few people actually know what I am, they just know they should not consume me.
Abel: We’d be a giant phallic corn dog eaten by Rick Perry.
Venom: Well my close friends know that I worship the taco, all kinds of tacos…it’s funny, delicious and man’s best friend!
BS: High points of your live shows so far?
Venom: Actually all shows have gone well…I mean it is nice to play for a crowd near 200 opening for DRI, but it is just as rewarding playing for friends and with friends of other local bands…shout outs to the Surlys, Stabbies, Sabbath Crow, Bulemics and so many more I could write a paragraph of all the cool and talented people playing original music!!
BS: My favorite ZP song ANGELS AND DEVILS always catches my head with Randy’s super snarly chorus-riff “Filthy devils! Greedy devils!” What’s it about?
Venom: Devils is really best explained by the first pass in that song, which goes, “I’ve heard tales of angels, all I’ve met are devils. Filthy devils, greedy devils. They’re grabbing for what they want, without a care for the others.” I like leaving things up to one’s own perceptions, make of it what you will, or don’t. If you just want to hear the music and feel it, and let that speak to you, that’s fine by me too.
Abel: Randy’s lyrics. I always took it as the “have’s” that just want more. The good people fight the fight, participate in community, while the corporations and government keep taking. BS: My other favorite ZP song RAPE FACTORY is about the Catholic Church. You guys are heroes for screaming about a subject (at the risk of “disrespecting a religion” cough, choke) that more people should be screaming about. Please elaborate.
Randy: Rape Factory speaks to how fucked up religion is. Not just the Catholic church but all organized religions. The systematic raping of innocent children in the Catholic church by these animals that are held up and worshiped as holy men is sickening. I don’t want to hear about what a great guy this latest pope is either. He is just as guilty as the pedophile priests preying on the children.
Abel: To me the only thing more heinous than organized religion is the blind worship that accompanies it. We’re talking about prostrating ourselves to some fat, filthy rich fuck in a funny hat who happens to condone the molestation of children by taking no action against those who have participated in such disgusting activities. Fuck the pope!!!
Venom: I grew up Catholic and never experienced those atrocities. We have all seen a documentary how the church covered up molestation and rape of young people. It is a strange phenomenon, one I will never understand.
BS: Tell me about the other three songs on your 2014 EP: Bloodbath, Starve and Fall, Clear To Me.
Randy: I got the idea for Bloodbath from the Hiroshima shadows, when the bomb hit Hiroshima, people were vaporized, and quite literally as the opening lyric goes “children reduced to shadows on a wall”.
Clear to Me is about rising above bad choices made in life and putting a better foot forward, for your own perseverance.
Starve and Fall’s lyrics were written by Johnny Venom.
BS: Tell me about the recording, how was the experience?
Randy: We recorded the E.P. with Stuart Laurence. It was an easy decision really, it just felt comfortable. Stuart is like family to us. Old school Austin family. He had some great ideas and input and helped us along the way. It really was quite painless. It wasn’t like we were recording the next Bohemian Rhapsody or something. I think, beyond any of these reasons, would be: HE IS THE FUCKING BATLORD!!!!
We have a full length in the bag. I’m real happy with what we did, and I think it’s a strong effort. We owe a lot to Jeff Crasco our former bass player who really worked his ass off on the material for the record. After Jeff left I asked my brother Jason if he would do some one-offs with us until we found a replacement for Jeff and he said he would but I should call Chainsaw. I told him that Chainsaw was the next call I was going to make. I asked Chainsaw the same question I asked my brother and he said he would love to help out. He was asking me some questions about Jeff’s return and a few other things that led me to believe he might want the gig, so I just told him if he wanted the job it was his, and I could not be any happier that he was interested. It’s a perfect match really. So, now we’re writing new material with Chainsaw and can’t wait to play some of the new stuff out soon!
BS: You guys have known each other for a long time, you must have played in other bands together. Where did it all start for the ZP crew?
Randy: The first band I was in was called Kitten. I was 14 I think. It was over the fucking top hardcore, we sounded nothing like a kitten. I was basically forced into it. The guys I was running with all played instruments, Chainsaw is included in this group of friends. They pressed a microphone in my hand and said “you’re our singer” – that was it, trial by fire. Chainsaw and I have been in a few bands together, the first being S.Y.M.D. – Suck Your Mother’s Dick, for those keeping score – and again this was over-the-top hardcore. Brian Nailhead wrote most of that stuff – R.I.P. brother Brian. That was the first time I heard the term speed metal, because it didn’t exist until that moment. We went on to play in a band called Nosebleed together that had some local success and had some memorable shows at Emo’s back in the 90’s.
Venom and I did Dragworm together.
This is my first time playing with Abel and I could not be any happier to have him. He’s a huge talent and a great guy.
BS: No lie. Abel is broyalty. And a hell of a ripping lead guitarist.
Abel: John and I played together in Last Chance Speedranch and The Inconvenienced. I played with Billy in an early incarnation of Gentlemen’s Social Club, The Inconvenienced, and Yayo. This is my first time working with Randy but John and Billy have been in bands with him for at least 20 years.
Venom: I met Rando and Billy in the late 80’s at Ritz, Liberty Lunch shows and parties. Billy and I had a band that never quite made the stage called Raggedy Man. Randy and I did Dragworm for a few years, and Abel and I have done a few cover band gigs with the Inconvenienced. We’re all just great friends over the years with a lot of common interests and outlooks on life.
BS: So you’ve all been doing this for a long time, plus you have family, brothers, who are still doing it (Jake Garcia, Jason McMaster). At this point in your lives, with the inevitable responsibilities, where do you stand as musicians? What’s the importance of playing in a band, or being part of a local rock scene? How much can you put into it, and do you ever feel conflicted about rocking within limits?
Randy: I do this for the release, it’s like therapy for me. I have never had any delusions about rock stardom or actually making money doing this. Would it be nice to get some gas money and a few extra bucks to put in my wallet after a gig? Sure it would, but that’s not why I do this. I’m playing the wrong type of music to make any money, always have played the wrong music for any of that bullshit.
My brother Jason is in 12 bands I think. He’s a fucking wonderment! That’s all he has ever wanted to do since we were little kids. He has worked his ass off at it and deserves much more than he has to show for his efforts, and that’s a fucking fact!
I am a Father, I had my first child a little over a year and a half ago, it’s the greatest thing that has ever happened to me. Zero Percent is great fun. Playing one time a month is plenty for me. We would play more if the right scenario came about though. Will I be doing this when I’m 60? Ain’t nobody wanna see that!
BS: Well I might argue with you there. Most of my favorite rockers (dead or alive) are over 50.
Abel: As a musician I try to support bands I like as much as possible, but having other responsibilities (family, school) sometimes makes it difficult. I couldn’t live without being in a band, since I feel like I am a musician at my most basic level. So yeah, being in a band is very important. As far as how much I am able to put into it, as long as we’re doing a show every couple of months that’s enough for me… so in that sense I don’t feel too conflicted about balancing everything else.
Venom: Billy is a music monster, musician Viagra! Randy is a Dad and his time can be limited, Abel is close to achieving his academic goals and my work in the spirits industry is long and tiring… Billy throw me a Viagra! We do what we can, but there are limits as you get older. I will always get a rush out of seeing live music but TV parties are just as exciting sometimes. Personally, I think I will always be involved with something music oriented.
BS: Now that you’ve snared the legendary Billy Chainsaw (Agony Column, Erik Larson Peacemaker) on bass, what are your plans for world domination? – or retirement before the One Percent cancels our social security…
Abel: Despite having the legendary Chainsaw, we will probably be forced into retirement once the yuppies (or the city council) finally gobble up all the music venues here and turn them into condos.
Venom: Record One needs to be released next year — that was an effort that Jeff Crasco had a great deal to do with, writing at least half of the music — and to keep writing new tunes and do another… I think we all just want to play for our friends and hopefully expand our audience base.
BS: So for all the potential fans who might want to get out and see the band, what can we expect from a Zero Percent show?One who comes to a Zero show gets a band that is really dedicated and believe in what they are doing!