Zach Velmer Shares The Epic of STS9
Tonight in New York, STS9 will kick off its summer tour with an Axe The Cables acoustic show. This is just one of few acoustic performances slated for the summer after the band debuted its acoustic side in Denver this past December. The group has just released that performance via its 1320 Records. The band’s self-run label also fits into its upcoming tour plans, as in addition to headlining gigs, the band is facilitating a number of official After Parties featuring the artists on 1320. In the following conversation STS9 drummer Zach Velmer talk about the label, the tour, the scope of the band’s history and the majesty of the unknown.
Before we jump into the current album and tour, STS9 just raised 150,000 to build a house in New Orleans. What’s the next step there?
Where it stands right now is we raised the money and about three weeks ago I received an email from the Make It Right foundation with blueprints of about 10 different houses. We looked at those and chose a couple and we’re waiting to hear from Make It Right so we know which house is best for the family that will live there. As of right now it’s a waiting game.
We’ve been down to the 9th ward, we’ve seen the houses, we’ve been in the houses. So it’s been an ongoing process so I anticipate that we’ll be in it until the end. To be perfectly honest we’d love to get our hands dirty but I’m not quite sure if it’s like that. As much as we can be involved we love to be. It’s a cool thing.
Your tour opens in New York with an Axe The Cables show and you’re doing a number of them this summer after that initial acoustic show last December. You’ve also released an album from that first performance and one thing that struck me in listening to it was that you arranged one of your earliest songs for that performance. “Moonsocket” appears on your very first album, so I’m curious, if you ever listen back to Interplanetary Escape Vehicle and if so what you think of it today?
You know what’s so funny, I just started going through some of that older stuff. We were in the studio trying to compile old tracks that have never been released, and going back and listening to this stuff is like looking at your high school yearbook, looking back at what you were wearing in high school.
But music is such a powerful tool in the sense I can remember those moments. I can remember what we were thinking, I can remember the excitement, the naiveté of where we were at. I have to be honest, some of that stuff we’re over. But it’s also a reflection of who we are. It was a moment in time. So on Axe The Cables we totally reworked “Moonsocket” and right now I’m in Colorado on preproduction before summer tour and we’re reworking “Evasive” [Maneuvers]. Some of the songs still have energy, still work and are still relevant so we’re updating them to 2010 from where they were in 1997.
So many artists are touring these days and delivering interpretations of their earlier albums. Is that something you would consider, maybe rearranging it so that it suits your current sound?
The last time we played the Tabernacle we did 4 nights and one of the nights [12/30/07] the whole first set was Interplanetary Escape Vehicle in order. We planned it out more for the crowd but to be perfectly honest, I think only a few people got what we were actually doing. And that was a wake-up and interesting to us. I don’t think until we got off stage that people knew what it was that we did but I could be wrong
Back to Axe The Cables, what was the precipitating factor for you to deliver an acoustic show and were there any anxieties as you put it all together?
We’re done so much in the last 13 years. We always try to push it. We did the live PA, we’ve done this, we’ve done that and we thought, “What haven’t we done?” So the inspiration was just fueled by something new that we’d never done. And people always wanted us to do STS9 unplugged, so we kind of started playing with the idea and that’s where it spawned from. And yes, there was incredible anxiety in terms of how is this going to be received? We’re this rock electronic dance music kind of band and so when we started playing stuff and slowing things down or changing parts, we weren’t quite sure how it would be received. We had to change some things because the banging on a piano didn’t work out or the sustain on an acoustic guitar wasn’t the same as an electric guitar. All of these things we had to work around and from that it spawned a rejuvenation in terms of writing music again.
You see the thing is, that’s how we write music, so that’s what was kind of funny too. That’s how we wrote the songs but now we’re going back and really playing them that way. When we’re writing music, it’s not like we’re five in a room sitting on computers. Hunter might come in with a guitar line or come in with this idea and from there it’s full court game, anything’s possible after that. There’s no rhyme to the reason (laughs). We’ve been lucky in the sense that it just kind of happens and there’s a lot of music within the five band members.
So it’s been a really cool process and it’s been a continuation of actually writing new music and figuring out how to keep doing that as well as what we’re doing. It’s been super fun and super creative and we’re having a blast writing songs coming from acoustic guitar and brushes and a piano and vibes and a bass.