It’s hard to find a good path for unapologetic, straight up, rock n’ roll. Citizen Zero just happen to be a beacon of light in a landscape flooded with everything but badass rock. B-Sides spoke with Citizen Zero lead singer Josh LeMay and had a very poignant discussion on everything from the decline of the “rock god”, lack of integrity in the media, Detroit legend Bob Seger and more.
On being from the lightning bolt music city of Detroit:
“The whole Midwest in general is kind of like a melting pot, we get a little bit of West Coast, a little bit of East coast, and it’s an interesting place to play music because of the fact that you’re not pigeonholed into one thing. You get influenced by everything. We’ve had a lot of amazing people come out of Detroit.”
On the musicians from Detroit that is held closest to the heart:
“The big one that sticks out to us is Bob Seger, which is pretty badass, our guitar player went on tour with him for a little bit, just to go and be on the road with him and learn, it was pretty unreal. Not to many people even know him outside of his couple hits, but he’s amazing.”
On the current state of rock music:
“Rock is in a weird place right now, and I think that’s why it brought to me this new idea… It used to be the outcast club, and it kind of is in a way, but I think it’s interesting in a world gone completely politically correct, I think it’s rock n roll’s responsibility to push the envelope a little bit, and I don’t think enough of us are doing that. I think that there’s room for more pushing the envelope, not so politically correct, and say the things that people are too scared to say, or the things that we know people can’t say.”
On what it was like coming up in the scene from the first EP Life Explodes to playing with ZZ Top:
Interesting time in our lives, that was at a time when we were growing, and from a musician’s standpoint, knowing who we are as musicians, but being a little unfamiliar with one another …maybe too timid to say anything. I think it takes a little bit of turning the gears to kind of start something that clicks with all of you and is meaningful. Ultimately it’s one of those things where its got to mean something to the person who is writing it, you have to believe in the music that you like. Contrary to popular belief, people aren’t stupid, they’re gonna see through it. I hear that people are stupid constantly, but nothing is further from the truth, people become smarter and more picky thanks to technology. On one hand it’s giving wings to a lot of things it shouldn’t give wings to, but at the same time it’s never been easier for self-starters to really come out of nowhere and put out great music that you otherwise wouldn’t hear. And I think that is good for rock music. I don’t think rock music will ever come back to main stream, but at the very least because of the modern condition, I think it will be around forever. It’s The only style of music that has stayed completely timeless.
On the band pushing forward after facing the loss of lead guitarist Matt Dudley, finding new guitarist Sammy Boller, and achieving chemistry:
It’s weird man…. It has to be an internal decision, we as humans have a natural want to overcome, and I think that people grip onto that story and always ask us questions because of that chemistry we have going on inside us to overcome. You’re always taught growing up to keep going no matter what and we took that lesson to heart. This is kind of all we know and it helps, I guess, for us, it has always been something that has taken precedence over everything, I think if you make the conscious decision to do something, moderation is the power. It’s a dive into it whole no matter what, whether it be tragedy and heartache, or someone or some machine standing in your way…. Fuck em’, you’ll figure it out, stand in the wind, and keep on keepin on.
On the decline of the “rock star”:
I think that right now we are a young enough band, I’m probably still walking on thin ice with my label, I don’t want to freak them out too much, I think the second part of that is honesty. Just trying to be fearless. To do this, you have to figure out what your willing to sacrifice, the more honest the better, but you’re gonna piss someone off close to you, or your going to say something that is going to alienate part of your following, my personal opinion is, it’s your personal responsibility to do that. I think sometimes we forget this is supposed to be something greater than ourselves, and I think those “rock gods” have chosen to be selfless, even though it’s a hell of a load because you are sacrificing everything to do this. I think the fans really get a chance to hear that, see that, feel the honesty, I think somebody is bound to take the reigns sooner or later that is fearless.
On the songwriting and recording process of the new album State of Mind out on Wind Up Records:
Everything is recorded live, the actual backbone of the album is us standing in the same room, and just jamming out, and laying it down that way. What you hear on the record is what you are going to hear live.
On the inspiration and lyrics from lead single “Go (Let Me Save You)”:
The answer to this is changing, for example, if you asked me this question two years ago, would a certain event inspire those lyrics, and I’m learning as we go along that living in a little fishbowl on these two lanes roads that I can draw from anything, you just have to be in tune. And I am lucky enough to have it to where I hear something that somebody says, or see something that somebody does just come from people watching. And it inspires you to ask: “why did they do that?”, or “what makes that, that way?” and questioning your surroundings has become the new way. On the State of Mind record the state of mind that you’re in at that moment. For instance “Go (Let Me Save You)”, was written as events are literally unfolding at Sandy Hook Elementary, as TV news broadcasters as respectful as they are, were reporting, and constantly throwing things out there that weren’t confirmed, and they kept flip flopping back and forth and there was an inaccuracy to it all. And then it really got to the point where they pushed the news media back, and from hundreds of feet away they were taking these long shots through the mobs of cops and parents with headlines and little tickers at the bottom saying “look at the devastated parents who lost their children” and I’m like, no fucking shit, I think that needs to go unsaid, that specific event and tragedy, kind of sparked this new idea in my head that there is a complete lack of integrity that some of these guys do their jobs with, just for their own political agenda, and ratings, within 30 minutes we switched from live coverage of the Sandy Hook tragedy to “should we ban guns across the US”, or “should we not ban guns across the US”… this is arguably the worst tragedy in the US that has ever happened, it was dehumanizing to me, and it sparked that, and unfortunately it keeps happening.
On the secret to keeping energy up on tour:
Massive amounts of coffee, I want to give a quick shoutout to Pilot and Love’s Travel Centers across the states, we’re big fans of what you’re doing. It helps to drive through Colorado thanks to their new laws, that helps us refuel as we get across the country. The most important thing is to find ways to not kill each other, and being comfortable living in your own head.
The one record you can’t live without:
I could probably listen to Core from Stone Temple Pilots for the rest of my life and be OK. I remember listening to the first Alter Bridge record I bought it from Wal Mart in Las Vegas, I was 14, hearing Myles Kennedy belt like that, that was when I figured out I wanted to sing. I want to do that…. Like that guy.
A current record you can’t stop listening too?
The last one that I saw that was really cool was Nothing But Thieves came out with a record, and it’s just bad ass, the guy can just belt, cool lyrics, guys got a different sound, like heavy, unique kind of stuff. I just listened to the new Avenged Sevenfold record The Stage for the first time through as well.
The musician that has influenced you the most?:
Probably Chris Cornell, I think he’s not only an incredible musician it just goes beyond playing, I can name incredible musicians that have inspired me throughout the years, I think Chris Cornell embodies what it means to be a musician at least for me, he’s somehow finds a way to make a word match perfectly with a melody, he can put emphasis on the word “the” and make you melt, and feel something. From a singer standpoint he’s unreal, but from a guitarist standpoint he comes up with things that are so interesting, chords and time signatures that make no sense.
The first concert you ever went to?
I was 6 years old, and he took me to a Marlboro sponsored party, when you could still smoke indoors, and they did this big corporate event, and it was Cheap Trick, and it was the smokiest place I have ever been to see a concert, and you could literally push smoke around with your hand. I think I made it about eight songs in before I fell asleep on my father’s shoulder.
The band that you would pay anything to see live?
Kings X – hands down. You can Google it, and just get blown away. From a musician’s standpoint, they are just incredible. I don’t even understand how it makes sense. It was too smart for its time, and it’s still too smart for its time.
On what’s next for the band:
We’re gonna start right up again when we hit January, I don’t know when or where, but we have started talking about it, and I’m sure we’ll be announcing before that time. A little down time towards the end of the year will be nice.
Citizen Zero are on tour now with VAMPS and Love Blast. State of Mind was released in August on Wind-Up Records.
Citizen Zero Tour Dates
Nov 09 Larimer Lounge Denver, CO
Nov 13 Irving Plaza New York, NY
Nov 14 Lee’s Palace Toronto, Canada
Nov 15 BOTTOM LOUNGE Chicago, IL
Nov 22 The Paramount Huntington, NY
Nov 23 Wonder Bar Asbury Park, NJ
Nov 25 Claddagh Music Hall Lawrence, MA
Nov 26 The Webster Underground Hartford, CT
Nov 27 Jergel’s Rhythm Grille Warrendale, PA
Dec 01 8 Seconds Saloon Indianapolis, IN
Dec 02 Ground Zero Nightclub Traverse City, MI
Dec 03 The Hub Entertainment Center Fort Wayne, IN
Dec 04 Wild Bull Saloon Kalamazoo, MI
Dec 06 House of Blues Chicago Chicago, IL
Dec 08 Rams Head LIVE Baltimore, MD
Dec 09 The Norva Norfolk, VA
Dec 10 Cone Denim Entertainment Center Greensboro, NC
Dec 11 The Adelphia Marietta, OH
Dec 15 EXPRESS LIVE Columbus, OH
Dec 16 Limelight Exchange Peoria, IL
Dec 17 Headliners Toledo, OH
Dec 18 The Ballroom At Savory Downtown Watertown, NY
Dec 22 The Machine Shop Flint, MI
Dec 23 The Machine Shop Flint, MI