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luckyPRICK Interview w/Dave Zima
By Todd Millenacker
Transcribed by Todd Millenacker
Our resident interviewer, the amazing Todd, has conducted yet another stellar interview. This time with the great Dave Zima. Dave's been a huge help to this site, contributing pictures & flyers, and this interview is just another of his great contributions. We sincerely thank Dave for his time and his insight.
Q: Starting out, how did you get into music and playing the drums?
DAVE ZIMA: I came from a family of non-musicians. I believe what really started my passion for music was the fact that I had 2 older sisters in their early teens when I was born. I was constantly bombarded by Buddy Holly, The Everly Brothers, Big Bopper, Jerry Lee, Elvis, etc. while I sat in my crib in the late 50’s. As early as the age of 3, I remember listening to their 45’s on my own. The other factor was that I came from a large, Euro-American family and weddings were almost a weekly occurrence. I would sit for hours, fixated on some polka drummer…and his DRUMS! They weren’t viewed as an instrument. To me, they were works of art. These guys were entertainers and appear to be having the time of their lives. I wanted to do that. I still do, 48 years later. I started making my own drum sets around age 5 and soon after, my parents started buying me percussion odds and ends, toy drums, and finally a snare drum and set of hi-hat cymbals. At the age of 7, I took the money given to me for my first communion and talked dad into taking me out to buy a “real” drum set, against my mother’s wishes. I ended up with a blue sparkle import set which was to me, a work of art. I played them every day.
Q: Who were your early inspirations?
DZ: My first influences were the drummers from the American Garage movement in the early 60’s. Of course, that shifted to the British Invasion drummers soon afterwards. This included Ringo, Charlie Watts, and anyone else on the charts. Towards the mid-60’s, I was fascinated by Keith Moon, Mitch Mitchell, and Aynsley Dunbar. My musical influences in the 60’s include the Everly Brothers, Beatles, Buddy Holly, Rolling Stones, Kinks, the Who, Sly and the Family Stone, James Brown, and many, many more.
In the early 70’s, I was really KO’d by David Bowie. The Bowie material was so new and fresh to me and the complete opposite of anything middle class, suburban, high school students were listening to. I was a fan for decades. Soon after, the alt-rock, new wave flood gates opened with Lou Reed, Television, New York Dolls, Sparks, the Clash, Elvis Costello, etc.
Q: How did you and Kevin first meet?
DZ: I believe it was January of 1977 or 78 and had heard about Lucky Pierre. I went to the Pirates Cove to see the band and it was obvious that this was no ordinary bar band. The songs were great and all original! The hooks were infectious, and the singer was captivating. I was very impressed. At the time, I was desperately searching for a band to join but didn’t even consider this group. About 2 weeks later, a drummer friend of mine stopped and said his buddy, a recording engineer, gave him a single of a band that was looking for a drummer but he wasn’t interested and thought it was a good fit for me. I was so excited when he handed me “Fans and Cameras/Idlewood” by Lucky Pierre and a phone number. I called the number the next day from a hospital emergency room as I was suffering from tonsillitis because wasn’t going to miss this opportunity. I spoke with Kevin and he wasn’t very interested in my pitch and I never heard back from him. Again, a few weeks later I spot an ad in the Scene magazine in the “Musicians Wanted” section and Lucky Pierre was looking for a drummer. I didn’t know if I should be angry or excited. I called the number a multitude of times and always spoke to different people and got different excuses on why I couldn’t get an audition. They were either too busy, had too many drummers on the list (40 was a number I later heard), not enough time, etc. After I joined the band, John G. told me they weren’t having any success with the auditioning drummers and he told Kevin that maybe they should try Dave, the guy who has called 20 times. I finally received the call, practiced the heck out of the 2 songs, loaded up my gear and drove 25 miles in a snow storm to the audition, which was held in the back room of a real estate office… and no one was there! An agent for the company said someone called and cancelled for a reason I no longer remember. Fortunately, another date was set up. Later, after I got the job, Kevin told me I was the only drummer who could play the change in “Idlewood” and that’s what got me the position. I was a proud young man to be playing in this band that I so admired. I’m still proud.
Q: What were those early Lucky Pierre rehearsals like?
DZ: They were a lot of fun but a lot of work also. The good thing was that we were all about the same age with the same goal and same burning passion. We practiced 3 to 4 hours, several times a week. Our shortcomings as musicians were, hopefully, overshadowed by out preparedness. I looked forward to going to practice and I’m sure the others did as well. I learned a lot from Kevin in the early days of how to arrange concise, dynamic, and direct drum arrangements for his songs. I believe I did well because I understood the songs and could “hear” them as they were intended to be. He was always bringing in new material, some complete and some were sorted out on the table. He was a great songwriter to play behind. We all had professional work ethics. After all this time, I haven’t found a group of individuals who can match that.
Q: Do you remember much about your first show with the band?
DZ: The first show I played with Lucky Pierre was an opening spot at Hennesy’s in 1978. I was so excited and proud to be part of this outfit. They already had quite a following of fans and friends and the place was packed. I really just remember the time spent in the club after the show and being stopped by fans telling me that I did a really good job and that I seemed to be that last piece of the puzzle. The only other thing I remember is that by the time I was ready to leave and the headliners were about to take the stage the club had emptied.
Speaking of shows, current events reminded me of this story… In 1979, we had our usual Phantasy Friday gig and just got finished with our sound check around 8 PM. We're all standing in front of the stage and Don Imus walks up and starts chatting. I'm not sure why he was there or who brought him in. He says he wants to introduce the band and was there anything he we wanted. McMahon said it would be nice if he would dress like a priest and walk on stage holding a little girl’s hand. Oh jeez! I just went home and got ready for the job. I got back to the club probably around 11 as we went on at midnight. I totally forgot about Imus and took the stage at my place behind the drums. We're ready to go. Out of nowhere, here comes Imus through the crowd… dressed like a priest and holding a little girl’s hand and introduces the band. He walks off and I never see him again. I later heard the girl was his daughter.
Q: How long were you a member of Lucky Pierre before you went into the studio to cut the "Into My Arms/Match" 7"? What can you tell us about that recording experience?
DZ: I don’t remember when that was recorded! I think I’d been a member for a couple of years. “Match” was recorded live at the WMMS Coffee Break Concert. I don’t remember the “Into My Arms” session. Back in the days of our limited budget, most of my studio time was spent worrying about drum sounds. Either the engineers didn’t know what they were doing or just rushed things along because they wanted to go home. I never did get a good drum sound on the early recordings.
Q: Speaking of recordings, some of my favorite Lucky Pierre tracks include "Pi Squared", "Florence & Constantine", "Deeper Deeper" and "Actress". Unfortunately, very little info is known about these recordings - when where these songs recorded, who played on them and is there anything else you can tell us about these songs?
DZ: I did not play on the studio versions of "Pi Squared", "Florence & Constantine", and "Actress" but I played on many live versions of those songs. “Actress” wasn’t on our normal set list because John G’s guitar playing was so predominant in the song and he had left the group fairly early. The other 2 were staples in our shows.
It’s funny you mention those three songs because they are some of my favorites also. I often wondered why (as opposed to all the other material), but I think once you perform a song in the studio you loose your objectivity. I heard these songs first as a fan of the group and loved them. The “National Rap” is another from that session that I love. Kevin and John are GREAT on that track! That must have been a great session and had always wished I was part of it. I still pull those out for a listen every once and a while. “Deeper Deeper” was written while I was in the band and do remember recording it as a demo, quickly, in a little recording studio on Puritas Avenue. We also recorded “New York” and “White Stallions” which later was recorded as “Automatic.” The only thing I remember about that session is the studio was dank and I used the studio kit that was covered in duct tape and regretted not bringing my own gear!
Q: Regarding "White Stallions", Kevin has a long history of re-recording his own work in different formats/approaches/arrangements/re-writes/etc. While it's nothing new for an artist to revamp old work, I find the progression and gestation period of some of these songs extremely interesting (i.e. "Into My Arms" 1980/2002 "Actress" 1980s/2002 "Communique 1984/1989/1995, etc). Obviously, these are songs worth hearing, but did Kevin ever explain or express why he was so driven to cut the "definitive" version of some of these songs? Is it perfectionism, obsession or something else all together?
DZ: I can’t speak for Kevin, but it is said that you have 20 years to write your first album and 9 months to write the second. I’m not sure if this comes into play in this situation, but Kevin had such a library of material it would take some time to release it all. The songs that were re-arranged are all good songs and I was glad to see him put them out. He would be silly to put those songs to bed and leave them in the 80’s! Once again, you would have to ask Kevin for his answer.
Q: You mentioned not playing on some of those older recordings. What years exactly where you in Lucky Pierre?
DZ: I was in Lucky Pierre from 1978 until… I don’t know! We played our last gig as Pierre at the Edgarfest in 2000. The Peppermen show was post-2000 and (as far as I was concerned) it was a Lucky Pierre gig as all the guys had been in one form or another. Kevin didn’t want to call it Pierre because Tom and Denis weren’t available.
Q: That’s pretty awesome to hear about Lucky Pierre playing Edgarfest in 2000 as every piece of press has Kevin literally "disappearing" from 1996 to the release of "The Wreckard" (2002). If anything it shows he was still active. What was "Edgarfest"?
DZ: Edgar Reynolds was a great guitar player in the band the Wild Giraffes. The 2 bands played together very often and we were the best of friends. They played a rocking, Americana-styled rock where as we were more English influenced. Edgar passed away suddenly and someone had the idea of putting a show together to celebrate his life and the proceeds would go to his wife and young daughter. I don’t think we decided to play until a couple of weeks before the show. We weren’t listed on the flyers so it was an “unscheduled performance”. Denis Devito didn’t want to play, so we used Greg Zydyk on guitar. Tom Lash, of course, was on bass. We practiced once and did 3 songs, “Into My Arms”, “Match”, and “Fans and Cameras”. I was scheduled to play a gig with Devito and Cats on Holiday and finished that engagement 45 minutes before Pierre was to perform. I got there in the nick of time and had about 5 minutes to spare. It was a very well attended and it was really a fun time for us to play. There is a video floating around, but the sound was really poor as we simply walked on the stage, plugged in, and played. I remember reading some articles on the web where some people heard we were playing and drove in from Detroit and Columbus to hear us play 3 songs!
An interesting side note for me is that I had known my wife since we were 17 years old; we didn’t marry till we were in our 30s. She had never seen Lucky Pierre and this would be the first time. After the show she asked, “What? Were you some kinda local rock star or something?” Yup, something indeed! The next day she asked for all the material on CD.
Q: As a drummer, what Lucky Pierre song are you most proud of your playing on?
DZ: As far as being proud of my recorded work, I was never satisfied with my sound or playing on the discs. I’m sure it is a case of being your own worst critic. I would have to say the Coffee Break concert was a good recording (this includes the “Match” single and “I’m So Tough” from the Cle Flexidisc. In the 70’s and early 80’s the recording technology was very primitive compared to today. With small budgets, you had to make do and I don’t think we were ever captured on disc. I can more objectively see this with the Wild Giraffes (a great local band we often played with). They were an electrifying group with driving beats and screaming guitars. Their recording projects suffered like ours. They came off very thin on record, same as us.
Q: While researching you I came across a band called Butterfield 8 (http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/butterfield8) that you played drums for. Can you tell us a little bit about Butterfield 8? I see Kevin wrote and produced a couple tracks for this band.
DZ: I did play drums on Jim’s record. If I’m not mistaken, we did other recordings as well. Rick Christyson played guitar and also performed in the Peppermen project. Dave Pichler played bass and was from a band called the Pony Boys who often played on the same bill as Pierre. We recorded the album over a weekend at Suma Recording and all slept in a cottage in the back on top of this huge valley. It was fun with the exception of the life threatening thunderstorms that passed through all weekend. I believe we played 2 gigs with this band. All of the musicians mentioned in the history of the band pop in and out throughout our musical careers. Cleveland was and is a very small city with a small musical community. I’ve played in many bands with Rick. To name a few, The Don Kriss Group, Magpies, Cats on Holiday, The Peppermen and several others. The same goes for most of the other players that have been mentioned.
Q: What other musical projects have you been playing with since your Lucky Pierre days?
DZ: My longer associations have been with “Cats on Holiday” (roots rock/Cajun) with Denis Devito and Rick Christyson and “The Balls of Fire” (Rockabilly) both of which I spent 2 years with. I played with Tom Lash’s “Hot Tin Roof” for the 1st 6 months of the group. Beside those, I’ve played with countless bands as a fill-in and did plenty of recordings locally. Now I’m working on a project entitled “The Dixon Family” which is a jump blues/roots rock ensemble.
Q: Any websites for more info?
DZ: No web pages yet. We are a “work in progress.” We wiped the slate clean in December and started from scratch with new songs and new players. We were also delayed as I had elbow surgery in January and had to take off for a couple of months.
Q: Besides Lucky Pierre and Prick, Kevin's name has been associated with a number of musical projects - Broken Man, Fear Of Blue, Master Cherry, The Strugglers to name a few. Are you familiar with any of these bands/projects and if so, what can you tell us about them?
DZ: The only one I’m familiar with is Broken Man. My Junior High School friend, Paul Kompier, played bass and Eric from Hot Tin Roof was on drums. I never saw them live but heard some tapes and they were very good.
Q: Going back to the Peppermen - was that a one-off show or was it the plan to be an active/working band? Is there anything else you can tell us about the project?
DZ: It was to be a one performance band. The most interesting thing for me was being introduced to Kevin’s new material… and it was great! I think it was some of his best. I was reminded of the old days while learning the songs. I really enjoyed the project.
Q: There's a bootleg floating around amongst us Kevin collectors of a "Lucky Pierre Acoustic Show" from December 29th, 2002 that demonstrates Kevin’s songwriting/musicianship/lyrical brilliance. Where you a part of this show? If so, can you tell us about any of the events leading up to it? It sounds like it was a who's who of Lucky Pierre history?
DZ: That was another fun and interesting show. I played a few songs (the only one I remember is “New York”) and played, keeping in the unplugged format, on a snare drum and a plywood box for a bass drum. It was at the Phantasy and well attended and received. It was fun seeing the old friends and fans. I enjoyed sitting out front and watching and listening from “the other side” as opposed the sitting behind him. Ah, now I see what the big deal is!
Q: Amongst us hardcore fans, Kevin has become a legendary Brian Wilson/Kevin Shields tortured artist/genius-type figure. Obviously, being a longtime friend/collaborator your relationship with him is quite different. Does it seem odd to see so much attention and interest in a former band-mate?
DZ: Oh my, no. Remember, I was a fan first. I only saw the band once and there was only one single but there was no two ways about it; Kevin is a uniquely talented performer. This was obvious to me instantly! I couldn’t believe there was a guy like this in Cleveland and I was lucky enough to get an audition and join the band. Every now and then, I’ll pull out the old material and I’m still captivated by him. A couple of years ago, I was speaking with Al (the drummer with the Wild Giraffes who had also worked with Kevin) and he had the most simple, yet concise description that sums up Kevin. He said Kevin had that “X-factor”, a natural performer who should be a star. It is well beyond words but every fan of Kevin knows exactly what this means. I still pull for him and hope he can make it happen. Nothing would make me happier.
Q: Are you and Kevin still in touch? Any clue as to what he's cooking up with Prick/Lucky Pierre/etc? Will there be anything else?
DZ: The last few years we have only run into each other a couple of times. I’ll be seeing him at Greg Zydyk’s wedding in 2 weeks. That will be fun. Tom Lash and Andy Kubiszewski will be there also. Maybe we should take over the stage when the wedding band takes a break and shake the party up with a rendition of “I’m So Tough”!