ZED JONES TALKS TO ROCKWIRED
ABOUT HIS NUMEROUS NAME CHANGES
RAILING AGAINST GAYS AS PAT ROBERTSON
JUST PLAIN SURVIVING IN HOLLYWOOD
ZED JONES isn't something you come across everyday and his CD, THE POWER OF
BALANCE, confirms this. Anyone arguing that there is nothing out there to
listen to should give ZED JONES a listen. We're sure you'll be talking about it
at work the next day.
The CD has twelve songs, eleven of which are originals. The originals are humorous and sharp such as the standout tracks, "SHE ONLY LIKES GIRLS (WHO DON'T LIKE BOYS), MAKING A FAT MAN FATTER and MY BLOOD IS DRIPPING. As far as the cover of ROY ORBISON'S CRYIN' is concerned, you've got to hear it to believe it in all of its trip-hopped glory.
After almost a year of e-mail correspondences, ZED (DAVID KAUFMAN) was gracious enough to take the time to give an interview over the phone on an overcast Saturday afternoon. Here is how it went.
I didnít think about that one. Does ZEDOPOLIS work?
I was this name for so long and I didnít have any success to speak of so I moved on to the next name on the list and repeated the process. Thatís not no a fun answer but I donít have a better one.
How did it all begin for you? Music, I mean?
I heard the album MEET THE BEATLES many years after it came out and I knew what I had to do.
You posted an announcement about this very interview and I was struck by something.
I hope it wasnít too painful.
What is MY BLOOD IS DRIPPING about? Smart ass!
It comes from my love of 1940ís SHERLOCK HOLMES movies. People assume its about drugs. Heroin. Iíve never indulged. There is this one moment where PROFESSOR MORIARTY corners SHERLOCK and draws a gun on him. As heís ready to shoot. SHERLOCK says, ďIím so disappointed.Ē And says something along the lines of ďIíd hook you up to an i.v. and bleed you to death drop by drop. Thatís where the metaphor came from. Other than that I was trying to write the most depressing song about isolation that I possibly could.
Who inspired you?
THE KINKS are the band that I identify with the most. Itís amazing how they were able to progress from YOUíVE REALLY GOT ME to the rock operas PRESERVATION and SCHOOL BOYS IN DISGRACE. PRESERVATION is more relevant today in a political sense than it was when it came out in 1974.
Iím not familiar with it. Tell me.
There is a key song from PRESERVATION called SHEPHERDS OF THE NATION (sings) ďDown with sex and sin/down with pot heroinÖĒ The rest of it boils down to THE WHOíS ĎMeet the new boos/ the same as the old bossĒ but told in a more coherent manner than TOMMY or WHOíS NEXT.
Another artist for me is HARRY NILSSON for his vast rang. He could go from raw rock to a range of emotion including hilarity and sometimes all in the same song. Before he died, NILSSON had that greatest voice ever. He could use it for comic or dramatic effect (sings) ďDeep down in my soul / I hate rock n roll / and I donít like the way that them drummers / beat on them drumsĒ
How long will ZED JONES be with us? We never hear anything from that BALLSWICKE fella anymore. Doesnít even call.
I donít know if Iím gonna bother changing it again. If someone wants to give me money and say ďhere, I wanna sign you to some big label on the condition that you change the nameĒ Fine. I donít care anymore. Itís not about the name for me. I just thought the name ZED JONES was a little more catchier that DAVID KAUFMAN.
So DAVID KAUFMAN is not on the run or anything?
I was sick and tired of saying that my name was DAVID KAUFMAN and everybody going ďoh, youíre jewish?Ē and that becomes the focus. I could care less about that subject but it seems to be an obsession for much of the world
Are there any songs in you catalogue that stand out for you in particular?
I like HURT THIS WAY. It took me 20 years to write that song. The concept for it was taken from an article that JAN WENNER wrote in ROLLING STONE about the death of JOHN LENNON and it just stuck with me. The idea that youíve grown beyond a certain vulnerability and then something unexpected happens and you find yourself hurt in a place deeper than where you thought you were capable of feeling anymore.
Thereís this sound effect at the beginning of the song that I got from the Orchestral music over the ending credits of the second season of the OUTER LIMITS. I hope they donít sue me.
The song SHE ONLY LIKE GIRLS (THAT DONíT LIKE BOYS) (from THE POWER OF BALANCE) was originally called SHE ONLY LIKES BOYS (THAT DONíT LIKE GIRLS) and it was faster and sounded more like a BEATLES song. And it didnít have the rap like it does for POWER OF BALANCE.
When did you start incorporating rap into your music?
It was the year 2000. It was my engineer Tom Thomasí idea, especially the song CRYINí by ROY ORBISON. We were listening to CHRIS GAINES aka GARTH BROOKS do the same thing with that song EVERYBODY GET TOGETHER and thought we could do the same with CRYINí. The vocals were recorded in just one take. The rap took some time. On top of that, it was written 2 hours before we actually got into the studio. Now that I think of it, the last note of the song took about 20 takes. It was scary. I didnít think that I could pull it off.
And I heard that she hates it now.
Let me get back to that whole thing about SHE ONLY LIKE GIRLS (WHO DONíT LIKE BOYS) and the whole rap thing. And Itíll tie in I swear. I was hesitant to do the whoel rap thing. I kept thinking that Iíd have to take on this whole other identity if I incorporated it into the music , Iíd have no credibility and people wouldnít accept it. However, the day the world turned upside down for me was when I was watching the GRAMMYís and BARBARA STREISAND handed an award to EMINEM. That was when I realized that the rules were out the window. I thought ďOkay, thisíll work to my benefit.
Music today is difficult for me to listen to so I donít. If I was a kid now, I wouldnít pursue music. Iíd probably write for TV and aspire to work on the SIMPSONS. The last hit song I liked was NO DOUBTís SIMPLE KIND OF LIFE. I tend to like female artists like SHERYL CROW more than male artists. If itís a male artist Iím like ďI couldíve done that.Ē In fact I did do that, only better.
Youíve been bitten by the acting bug as of late with this play youíre in called THE BUCK STOPS HERE. Tell us about it.
This has been a really good experience. Itís my first real acting experience and Iím playing PAT ROBERTSON. All I do is rail about gays and non-Christians and I work the room shouting ďItís time to return to a world where the gay and les-bye-an were defined as criminals!!!Ē I say Les-bye-an like that because it shows a willful ignorance on the part of PAT ROBERTSON on the subject that heís pontificating on much in the same way GEORGE W consistently says nucular instead of nuclear. In the future Iím looking to do a more conventional role with more subtlety. CAROL LETTMAN (the director) is the first person to say yes to me. Before this Iíd go on auditions for roles that would have me playing child molesters and porn directors. I never got any parts. I guess the producers didnít feel me.
Explain the songwriting process to me?
If I knew that, I would do it a lot faster. All I know is that I like to start with some sort of lyrical concept. I know that there is a certain amount of craft involved. Of course thereís that old verse/chorus thing and I always try to make my songs memorable and easy to digest. Sometimes I like going at it with a scientific approach. For example, the song WHATíS MY NAME is patterned after a DIDO song.
HUNTER (From DIDOís 1999 release NO ANGEL)
Thatís it! I did it because I was sick of industry people telling me , a musician that I wasnít following commercial form. So in response to that I took a proven hit and followed it exactly. So now, no one can say that I donít know commercial form.
Whatís it like living and writing music in a town like HOLLYWOOD, where youíre surrounded by these industry types?
On one had, Iím grateful that I make a living in music in the most competitive town on earth. Itís not my music that I make living off of. I play at convalescent homes, Iím GEORGE HARRISON in BEATLEMANIA and I do music transcription. So all of that together adds up to a living. On the other hand, my life is 24/7 TWILIGHT ZONE. I have 6 CDís under my belt and people saying that my stuff is great and why Iím not on the radio and yet in the music industry, I donít exist.
Whatís next for you?
Iím gonna record one more song. Iíve only recorded two songs this year and these songs are as mainstream as I can get them. The kind of stuff that people can play at their weddings but this one new song is going to be blatantly political.
We need more of that?
Yeah. Iím involved in this group called BILLIONAIRES FOR BUSH and of course the BUCK STOPS HERE where Iím playing PAT ROBERTSON. I have this song is called OBVIOUSLY. I love it because it sounds so urgent thought the lyrics arenít my best. I plan on scrapping the vocal, remixing it and putting in lyrics about todayís political climate. THE FUTURE LIES AHEAD is what Iíll call it.
More artists need to be political.
Yeah. Nothing to lose anymore. There is this trio of Russian girls called UNVASION who will be recording two of my songs and hoping that will be a huge success in the next year. One song that theyíll be doing is called HOLD YOU IN MY MIND and the other is called RHAPSODY IN GREEN which is a song about the environment and was initially written for another group that Iím involved in calledÖRHAPSODY IN GREEN.
Right now, I think the music industry has eaten itself. Itís more about sex, money and politics than itís ever been. Whoever is the best at marketing, wins. For me, being a songwriter and a good publicist are about as different as being a good dentist and a good pool player. I heard from this intern at one of the major labels saying that the attitude of the higher-ups is this: We figured it out now. Weíve got it down to a science. BOB DYLAN was a fluke. Weíll never let someone like that work his way up through the system again. We know how to handle it now.
So, with that said, all Iíve got to say is ďGO UNVASION!!!Ē