Interview with Nick Zammuto
I had the opportunity to chat with Nick Zammuto (formerly of The Books) while he was on tour with Zammuto, as they embarked on their North American tour. They’re playing in Toronto at the Molson Amphitheatre on September 20th – get your tickets here.
How has it been touring with your new-ish band?
It’s been amazing – so much fun to tour with these guys. It’s a pretty massive tour – but morale is high. It’s hard to leave my family at home, but playing live shows is my livelihood and what it’s all about.
You have expressed apprehension in the past with touring, have you changed your stance on this?
It’s been a total 180, because with The Books it was a studio project and wasn’t meant to be performed live. A booking agent approached me and said that ‘the only way you’re going to make a living is if you tour’, and I thought ‘oh god I gotta learn to play my guitar and sing in front of people – nightmare’, but now I crave it, it’s really a peak experience – you feel connected to people
What would you say is the difference between Zammuto and The Books from a musical standpoint?
The new project is really meant to be played live, the record is a starting point – but the show is the full experience. The Books were never going to have a live drummer, and that’s something I’ve wanted forever. Once it was clear that The Books couldn’t continue on I found myself a drummer, and luckily I think I found one of the best – his name is Sean Dixon and he does stuff I’ve never seen anyone do.
Your set includes synched videos with the live show, what process did you go through to pair visuals and sound?
I have a huge collection of videos/still images, and the show has become my way to use them. It’s almost another member of the band. I don’t feel like I’m the natural front man, like I’m more the man behind the curtain which is where I feel most comfortable. So the video is kind of my doppelganger, it makes up for my lack of charisma. I can put anyone up there that I want and they do the dance. For example, the video for Yay involves a giant collection of images that I found through stock photo sites of people experiencing back pain and other pain, but it’s really funny because if you take someone who is posing with back pain and put it in silhouettes against clubby lights, it looks like they’re dancing.
Your music includes what you might term as ‘found sounds’, how do you go about getting them?
When touring with The Books we would shop at thrift stores all the time. I have a giant back catalogue of really interesting sample materials lying around, and I keep finding more. I went to this really great store in Tennessee and I found 3 or 4 instructional records on how to use old synthesizers. I just eat that stuff up.
You’re doing a few shows on this tour with the band Gotye, a pretty mainstream band, do you think the people going to see your set will differ greatly from those seeing Gotye?
Yeah absolutely, and I think what we thrive on is the element of surprise. It’s definitely going to be an interesting mixture of people. I don’t know if the doe eyed girls are really going to connect with what we do, but we’re going to try.
On how he met Wally from Gotye:
He and his band had booked a show in San Francisco – where we were on tour with Explosions in the Sky - and they came to see us. At the time they were just blowing up because of that video and song. Of course I live under a rock – I never listen the radio – and after the show these group of Australians came to the merch table and bought everything. I thanked them and said, ‘You guys look like you’re in a band’. They told me they were the band Gotye– and I said I’d check them out. At that moment they have the number one single in 8 countries. I realized that a while after talking to them and felt like an idiot. Anyway, they liked our show and asked us to play with them and of course we said yes.
Who would you like to collaborate with?
I don’t know if I would really want to collaborate with someone, but rather just be a fly on the wall. I had the opportunity to spend some time with Nigel Godrich in the studio, the producer and kind of sixth member of Radiohead, and that was an incredible experience. I got to see how his brain works and that had a really big influence on me. I like the idea of transparency in general.
See Zammuto at the Molson Amphitheatre on September 20th – Click here for tickets.