Interview: Z-Star

Z-Star Trinity, Bellingen Festival

Bellingen Festival | 12–15 July

Z-Star is the basis of a kaleidoscope of music projects by frontwoman, singer/songwriter, drummer, guitarist and producer Zee Gachette. This year Z-star will beam into Australia for Zee’s most epic tour to date. With shows up and down the east coast, Gachette willdebut a trio lineup to create Z-Star Trinity – joined by Beck Flatt on drums and Boi Crompton on bass; the plan is to land for four appearances at the Bello Winter Music Festival. The spaceship will be firing on all cylinders and anything can happen… We chatted with Zee this week to get some inside info on what Z-Star is all about.

What was it like growing up in East London with Trinidadian parents? Were you surrounded by music from all over the world? Did this play a role in you becoming a musician?

I always knew music was my path, even before I learnt about the roots of it, which came from the talent flowing from my estranged muso grandfather Al Timothy. I was born in East London but I grew up in a few places. After our travels, my mother settled our family of two back in Trinidad. To be honest she listened to a wide range of popular American music, calypso, soca, reggae. I made hundreds of mixtapes, wrote songs, sang and played guitar, drums, steel pan. Then when I returned to London in my late teens I began forging my musical path and journeying deeper into the origins of the music.

You have said, ‘It’s like I’ve come full circle, starting out in psych blues rock and then spending years exploring a wider variety of sounds and genres.’  What was this time of exploration like as an artist? And how important has it been in getting you to this album and where you are today as an artist?

It’s been pivotal in many ways. For a start, it’s an ongoing exploration of self, emotional states, social environment, life experience. The sounds of earlier music projects were influenced heavily by bands like Led Zep, Hendrix, The Doors, Muddy Waters, then after a few band meltdowns I decided to strip the distortion away – the music wasn’t as loud and edgy but it was still intense, passionate and with more sonic space for reflection. At the time it felt like an epiphany I was discovering another side of myself and music. That was my Who Loves Lives and Masochists & Martyrs albums era. Through these transitions I became conscious of the bigger picture, the emotional dimension of darkness, light and colour. Today I feel more liberated musically as one can dress songs in genre-bending outfits and the audience gets it. I feel it’s because the experience of diversity, discovery and change is more appealing. And in the end, everything starts with the song.

You are now producing several other people’s albums. How did that come about? Was that always part of your plan as a musician or did it come from seeing or knowing bands you wanted to work with with?

I suppose it’s been a natural progression. I love working in the studio; recording, mixing, producing and collaborating with other artists. I suppose it’s a mutual appreciation vibe: you hear the music they play, you feel a chemistry together in the studio, and boom we’re making a record. However balancing studio time with touring is pretty tight.

Your music has evolved and developed again and again. Do you see this development as leading somewhere in particular or is this evolutionary process more of a spontaneous integration of the things you see and feel around you at any given moment?

For sure it’s an evolutionary process. I love living in the moment interacting with my 360 social. I don’t know what’s gonna happen in the next five years or what will be influencing me then. I just keep on creating and developing new sounds and projects, and giving myself the space and freedom to stay inspired and flex my musical muscles. It feels like I’m inhaling the whole experience and filtering those feelings through the songs.

I heard that Z-Star Delta was formed while you were touring in Australia. Where did you and Seb meet and how did the collaboration evolve between you two?

We met in an underground basement jam. Seb was on form as always, effortlessly riffing. Right then I knew I wanted to work with him and asked if he was up for some gigs with my band so he started as the dep lead guitarist for Z-STAR (the mothership). Our musical bond was electric onstage and offstage. The first Australian tour arrived and we performed most of the side shows a duo Z-STAR unplugged. Some tunes didn’t translate and we started writing songs on the road, developing the sound. Before I knew it, I went from playing the foot tambourine to playing the whole drum kit, and Seb went from guitar to guitar/bass/synth/looping.

So many people rave about your live gigs. Why do you think that is? And what can festivalgoers at Bello Winter Music this year expect from Z-Star Trinity?

I truly love what I do, smashing the drums, going wild on the guitar, bursting a lung. The whole catharsis of performing is like a golden goblet overflowing with the most intoxicating wine. I suppose when it feels this free you just want more; even on a bad day I can turn it around and have a great time. It’s survival, it’s raw, it’s primal, it’s live and electric and when I’m onstage I feel it literally bursting out of me and I just want to charge like a beast!

What’s in the future for Z-Star Trinity? Any new albums or collaborations coming up?

Well this is the first tour for the Trinity and I’m lifting off with two Aussie musos. I imagine there’ll be a lot of new material written on the road as well as interesting arrangements of tracks from Z-STAR & Z-STAR DELTA. Watch this space 🙂

Where do you head to after Bellingen and what’s your next big international date after your Australian tour?

Well after Bello Winter Music Festival we’re playing in Sydney, Echuca Moama Winter Blues Festival, Lefty’s Old Time Music Hall, Sydney Guitar Festival and Wollombi Festival. This is just to name a few on what will be a tour full of connected and amazing highlights – as always in Australia!

Then after Oz I’m back to the studio to work on the Z-Star Delta debut album, plus new tracks for my electro-soul project, Slowetrainsoul.

From stage to studio, and studio stage… that’s my life.

Catch Z-Star Trinity at the Bello Winter Music Festival

Friday | St Margaret’s Hall | 7.30pm

Saturday |St Margaret’s Hall | 10.30am | Workshop

Saturday | Golf Club | 8.00pm

Sunday | Federal Hotel | 6.00pm

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