A New Life for Zigaboo Modeliste
Dale: And it’s true that you were visiting Europe recently to play at some Scandinavian festivals, right? With some New Orleans-themed or New Orleans-influenced bands from out there…
Zig: Well those I did to promote Zig, you know. I got away from traveling overseas, being involved down here in the United States doing different things. I decided I wanted to start traveling again. I found that the people over there in those countries…they very much appreciate R&B, retro…they love it. And I’m at the top of my game with that. [laughs]
Dale: So you don’t think that bands like that who come from those countries way over there and play New Orleans music lack any sort of authenticity?
Zig: I’ll be honest with you. The two bands that I worked with over there—which were pick-up bands—I had never seen them before. I just went and said “hey, let’s go do it.” I had a day or two of rehearsing with them. Those musicians over there can’t wait to get out the starting block. They’re very studious and they do their homework. So that was the bright spot I saw, and everywhere I played I had a beautiful crowd. The crowd response was excellent. I just enjoyed the whole thing, from the traveling aspect to the people being really, really nice…it was just an eye-opening experience. I’m really sorry that I haven’t spent enough time in those countries abroad. Because they love music to death.
Dale: And I guess since people travel from all over the world to participate in Mardi Gras and to experience New Orleans music, it makes sense that you would want to bring it to them as well. It’s sort of universal.
Zig: Well they have that as well, and a lot of people from New Orleans have been continuously going to these festivals. You know—some brass bands from New Orleans, some R&B, some blues, some Zydeco—all those people, they go overseas too. In a lot of those countries, the festivals are actually funded by the government, so they pay you decently and they treat you like kings. So any musician that wants to have the chance to experience it all should try to get a piece of all that action too. I was in England and we got back about a week before all of that rioting started happening. It was really peaceful, there wasn’t nobody doing nothing crazy. As soon as I got on the plane and got back over here—that’s when all that stuff kicked off. I don’t know where it’s at right now.
Same thing with Norway. I went over there a couple of times, and I love Norway, man. That’s a really, really beautiful place, man. All of the people are so nice…and for that guy to pull that issue that he pulled, you know…he was just insane though. Insanity. It doesn’t represent where the people are coming from. He was just insane. It won’t ever be the same because they didn’t have violence like that. They didn’t have that kind of stuff before. So that was just an insane young man—or whatever he was—and he left the country with a black eye. Two black eyes. The people there are really sweet. Their system is beautiful…this don’t have nothing to do with the interview, but it opened my eyes when I saw that all the citizens there have free healthcare and they have free education from 8 to 28. You can be whatever you want to be, and you can make the kind of money you need to make. You pay a little more in taxes, but it doesn’t really matter because you’re making money, you’re gainfully employed, and you get all these amenities, and for the most part, anybody who wants to be educated gets an education. They can be what they wanna be. And they’re not being robbed by the AMA. You know, whenever you go to the hospital you spend an exorbitant amount of money for healthcare…and my visit there showed me that that could work, man. That changes society tremendously.
Dale: Yeah, I totally agree with you.
Zig: Those two things. And we haven’t seen that over here. We don’t even know what that’s like over here, man. And the last thing is all that oil stuff off their coastline that they’re drilling for—half of the proceeds go to the government. And the government puts that in for the people. And you look at the Gulf…down there we’ve got 3300 oil wells. And all of that we’ve got to buy. We’ve gotta buy gas and oil. We don’t own nothing. And all the other countries are drilling around here down in the States. It’s just a few people that actually own these oil rigs.
Dale: Well I think it’s all the more incredible that you focused on such a positive energy in your most recent album despite the fact that you seem to have all of these strong opinions. As we said earlier, you could have written a very critical record as other musicians have.
Zig: Well all I’m saying is that it’s there. You could ignore it, you could get on the phone and start screaming about it—that really don’t help—but I think that if I have any way to get any public listener or somebody who wants to say “well what’s Zigaboo all about?” Well Zigaboo plays the drums, that’s what he do. That’s what he does. And we can almost count on him, that he’s gonna say something positive on at least one of the records. With this one [ New Life ] most of it happens to be about positivity, and that’s all that we’ll ever be writing about. I ain’t gonna be singin’ about nothing negative. Everybody loses when nobody don’t have good ideas.
Dale: Yeah, I agree. So for my last question, I’m curious about the influences on your solo career. I know that each of the members of The Meters has done their own thing—George [Porter] with The Runnin’ Pardners, Art with The Neville Brothers—and I’m wondering what sort of music you’ve listened to throughout the years since The Meters originally disbanded and how it influenced your decisions while writing your own solo material.
Zig: Well I like a lot of artists that come out here and play. It would take too much time for me to tell you all of them now…But I try to find things that we did in the past and then work on those rhythms. My inspiration comes from the fact that I really want to do something good. If I had to pay for all of these records to be produced, to pay all these musicians and do the whole production, I’d do it all out of my pocket. I wanted to at least have the option to say that for every album that I do, the next one I’ll try to do better. I felt like this album was an upgrade because it has a lot more things for you to focus on. I got different things from different artists, some of them you may know, some of them you may not. But the point of it is that I tried to remain as original as I could, and I tried to stay true to my art form. It’s what I enjoy immensely.
But I have plenty of heroes…You know, everybody loves Sly [Stone], everybody loves James Brown. I love all of the ones that were really doing something to get the people emotionally charged. Those types of people were my heroes. I had a lot of local heroes. A lot of local drummers…I loved their style and what they did: Al Jackson, Joseph “Smokey” Johnson, Clarence Brown…you know, I love so many drummers that some people have never even heard of…I like other drummers, I like Phil Collins, I like a lot of drummers…Jack DeJohnette…I love all of the drummers. So I don’t have a short list—I like all the drummers. Rodney Holmes—I love his playing—you know, there are a lot of bad drummers out there.
Dale: Yeah. And I’m sure you’ve influenced a fair share of them.
Zig: Well, you know. I’ve got a bunch of drummer friends. It would be impossible for me to tell you about all of the ones I admire. All these guys, man. They’re all phenomenal. They all do what they do very well.
Dale: Yeah, it’s important to listen to a lot of music and have a lot of influences.
Zig: Yeah, I got some people that I really like. I saw Narada Michael Walden…he had a hit record back in the day. And when it first came out, he was the first drummer I saw playing drums and singing.
Dale: I’ve always been very impressed that you can do that, too. Not many drummers can. Does it come easily to you? Is it something that you had to practice a lot?
Zig: You’ve gotta take reps, you know. It takes a whole lotta reps, and the more you do it, it’s like anything else. The more you do it, you find your comfort zone and you can work on your components—what I’m going to play as opposed to what I’m going to sing, what I’m gonna sing as opposed to what I’m gonna play…they are different, but you know. I try to do what’s within my little scope of talent. I figure I get it done. It’s interesting, and I still enjoy it. But like I said, Narada Michael Walden is the guy that really had me convinced it could be done like that. I hadn’t seen many drummers sing and play…there was Ringo Starr, but he wasn’t a lead singer. I thought that that was what I wanted to end at—to do that. I get a chance to play my own music, I get a chance to hang out, meet interesting people, and most of all, meet interesting musicians and play the kind of music that I love to play.