Interview with guitarist Jasun Tipton, Zero Hour (November 22nd 2006)

Zero Hour is back with a brand new album ‘Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond’ and a new vocalist Chris Salinas (Ex-Power of Omens). We have put together a few questions to learn a bit more…

To me ‘The Towers of Avarice’ still stands as the undisputed best Zero Hour album, but your new album ‘Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond’ comes in as a very close second. How has your new album been received from the media and fans?
Jasun – ‘Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond’ is being very well received from the fans and press. It’s easy to say we're very excited about this because we put everything we had in this release literally.

What kind of expectations do you have for the new album?
Jasun – ‘Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond' was much focused album musically and lyrically. Basically this CD for us is about no boundaries. It was a process where we jammed material out and threw the kitchen sink at the listener. I'm very pleased with this CD and ‘Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond’ exceeded our expectations.

You have a new guy with you on vocals once more, why the change?
Jasun - When making the change, we knew our material in the future would need a more dynamic vocalist in the vein of what Erik provided for the band on the first two releases. Fred had a good voice but was very safe and didn’t have the most range. I should add he was unpleasant to work with in the studio and we needed a guy who had the whole package. Chris Salinas easily fits what Zero Hour is all about.

Insiders might know Chris Salinas from his time in Power of Omens, but maybe you could give others a more formal introduction: Has he moved to San Francisco, and has he been in the band long enough to take part in the song writing process?
Jasun - Chris still lives in Texas and yes he's a part of the writing process lyrically. Troy, Mikey and I have always written the music in the past and will continue to do so because everything flows so well when the three of us are working together musically. Erik was never involved in the writing process musically we would just finish the music and present it to the vocalist to start writing the melodies and lyrics. Troy and I do come in at some point to help out the singer with the melodies because with the type of material we write, it is hard for a vocalist to flow melodically over the more challenging technical parts. All I can say is everything is working out great with Chris and we're excited for the future of Zero Hour.

I believe he (Chris) fits your music perfectly, but old fans will surely still be missing Erik Rosvold’s vocals. Chris is clearly from the Geoff Tate-school of vocalists : but what were you looking for in a new vocalist when you started to look?
Jasun - There's no doubt we loved Erik’s vocals and we needed to find a vocalist who's was going to be able to provide a new element to the band and also could pull off the old material. We just got off a tour and Chris did the old material amazing. He has an amazing voice and could hit everything that Erik would hit and more. Troy, Mike and I met Chris back in 2001 at the ProgPower I USA event in Chicago. Power of Omens was performing and when he performed lived he sounded amazing. I chatted with him for 45 minutes and knew this kat was the real deal. Troy, Mikey and I said if there was ever a guy to replace Erik it would be Chris.

In our last interview you described your style like this: ”Zero Hour's style is Dark, Heavy, technical music using odd time signatures, tempo changes with beautiful, lush clean tone passages to make the material very dynamic. Our style is progressive but also very cinematic throughout the material.” I think you have nailed it pretty well, but where are the cinematic parts on 'Specs'?
Jasun - Feel there's cinematic areas when you listen to the songs Embrace, The Falcon's Cry, Evidence of the Unseen and Face the Fear. Its parts in the song not the whole song where maybe in the past we had certain songs that had the feel it was cinematic throughout the whole piece.

'Specs' is perhaps your album with the biggest contrasts : on one side you have the title track, maybe the hardest Zero Hour song you have ever written and on the other the ballad ”I am Here ” (the only song which hasn’t totally won me over on the new album). Was that a deliberate decision, or did things just turn out that way?
Jasun - I think all the songs have their own voice to the material and some are going to hit people more than others. We don’t throw just any song on the CD, we look at all the material as a complete album that features the elements of Zero Hour.

If you should choose one song, which represents the essence of Zero Hour on the new album, which one would that be and why? I would pick ”The Falcon’s Cry”, which I think is one the best progressive metal songs of 2006. And it really shows all aspects of your style.
Jasun - My favorite track is The Falcons' Cry as well. I'm a huge fan of Evidence of the Unseen as well. There is something to be said when we play all our material live because Face the Fear, Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond, Evidence of the Unseen and The Falcon's Cry are amazing live tracks to play. If you have a chance to see us live, you'll see that all these songs are the essence of Zero Hour's new album.

You have once more worked together with Dino Alden; this relationship seems to bring out the best of both parties. The sound is once more excellent, and I do believe that he in metal circles is a much undervalued producer. Did you ever consider using another one at the helm? Is Dino like an extra member in the band when you record and how big an influence has he had on your songs and sound?
Jasun - Dino is a huge part of Zero Hour sound. Sonically Zero Hour is Dino Alden. I never want to work with anyone else and hope our relationship with Dino Alden creates many more Zero Hour CDs.

The cover artwork is actually very simple and very dark, who have you been working with this time? And is there some story behind the artwork?
Jasun - Yes, there is a story behind our artwork. We worked with Bjoern of Killustrations. The story with ‘Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond’ is about a man who sees images but his memory is distorted so he has recollection of what he sees but the memory is burnt away as he's trying to remember the story behind the image. Bjoern did an amazing job.

Four albums and an EP, limited success : where is Zero Hour in 3 years? I mean you could end up having released 4 very strong albums that outside of progressive metal circles have gone almost unnoticed. Must be very frustrating to get outstanding reviews and nothing seems to happen for the band: I know both you as well as your record labels around the globe do their best to push the band:
Jasun - Well this CD is getting a really good push I have to say and I’m please with what Sensory has done thus far with ‘Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond’. We just a couple of festivals and list of dates and more are to come.

What do you consider to be the biggest accomplishment for you and Zero Hour, not necessarily sales wise? What are the strengths and where can Zero Hour improve?
Jasun - I think the biggest accomplishment is that we're still a band that loves to write and perform progressive metal music which is not an easy thing. It may not be the cool genre but we're doing what we love to do.

You have recently played ProgPower in the US for the 3rd time, can you tell us a bit about that experience?
Jasun - ProgPower is always an amazing experience. The festival is put together so well for all the bands and fan have the best times at this event. I think everyone should experience ProgPower USA because there is no other festival like it.

Speaking of live shows, do you have any touring plans for 2006 and beyond: and is there any chance that we’ll get to see you in Europe any time soon?
Jasun - We just came back from a successful Texas/East Coast tour playing dates in NJ, NY, VA, MA, MD. Zero Hour also played 2006 addition of ProgPower USA, Atlanta, GA as well as Powerprog West Fest with Nevermore. We're now going to play the Groove or Die Magazine one year anniversary party in Portland, Oregon. We just got confirmed to play the Headway Festival in Holland. We will be doing additional dates with Into Eternity in Europe and right after Headway which will all happen in April. We do have some other things brewing and looking forward to doing as many shows as we can to support this new release. 

Let’s speculate - if it was possible to put together a tour package for a European tour with bands from the Sensory label - what position would you and the band take on such an idea? I think a tour with bands like Zero Hour, Twisted into Form, Spiral Architect or Wastefall would draw a pretty good crowd, and you do all appeal to the same audience:
Jasun - That would be something I would love to do but the problem is Spiral Architect isn’t really doing anything at this moment and from what I know of Twisted into Form they don’t have an actual live line-up. I would love to see it happen and let’s hope that Spiral Architect does another album. 

On a side note - will there ever be a second Death Machine album? And how well did your side-project do?
Jasun - Yes, there will be a second Death Machine Album but Zero Hour is our first priority. Zero Hour sells better than Death Machine, it did ok but not the number that Zero Hour sells.

I was wondering - could you name an album, person or event that has had a huge influence on your life - and why:
Jasun - Seeing the Pat Methany Group on the We Live Here tour was just outstanding, it was great to see how all the instruments interplay with each other and the dynamics they provide. 

Which album(s) have put a big smile on you face and has made you bang your head in 2006?
Jasun - Sikth and Tool were the highlights for me this year. I'm sure there are others but I’m drawing a blank.

I thank you very much for participating in this interview and sharing this information and your thoughts with us - these last lines are entirely for you. Any final words you would like to round off with?
Jasun - Yes, please check out our website and our myspace page for the latest news on us. We have plans to go out to Europe in April of 2007 along with additional touring in the States in the summer of 2007. Zero Hour fans Rule, thank you so much for spreading the word about Zero Hour.

Interviewed by Kenn Jensen

Zero Hour - Specs of Pictures Burnt Beyond

Album available on Sensory Records.

For more info on Zero Hour - click on the album cover.