Punk band Zeke formed in Seattle back in '92, around the time the city's music was exploding internationally. Oh how rock 'n' roll culture was permanently altered. While some of those Northwest combos were essentially good punk groups (Nirvana, Mudhoney) or bad hair metal (Alice in Chains) if you strip away the mirthless sludge, the Motörhead-influenced Zeke found it near-impossible to riff on common ground. But that's what rock 'n' roll was all about.
"We were definitely the exception," singer Blind Marky Felchtone says. "We did not fit in anywhere around here. Not with the grunge scene, or the accepted hardcore and punk rock scene here either. We really just were out there on our own. At some point, I remember a few people started coming to our shows and then, all of a sudden out of nowhere, we were packing shows out here. I still can't really identify who our fanbase is."
Let's jump ahead some. In 2007, Zeke digitally released an EP called Lords of the Highway, and then the band disappeared. Turns out, Felchtone had a daughter and he wanted to focus all of his energy into being a dad, anyone's most important job. Parenting and carpentry kept him occupied for the almost 10 years.
"I really felt like I needed to concentrate on being a dad," he says. "I've been working as a carpenter for all this time. We haven't gone on tour. We haven't really done anything. My kid's 13 years old now, and I figured I've got another record in me. We had a period where a lot of people were requesting our music for TV shows and video games, stuff of that put us back in touch with Relapse Records, and they were up for doing a new record. I had enough material to do that easily and I just figured, yeah, maybe it's time to do a new Zeke record."
It sure feels that way. Zeke have often been compared to Motörhead—Felchtone does it himself. But what's good rock 'n' roll music if not groove-based tunage, lightning fast? Add chest-bursting vocals, lots of ferocity and volume—sonic blasts intended to move, inspire and piss off, and that's Zeke, straight up. That said, there's been evolution.
"I guess we've changed a lot," Felchtone says. "When we started out in '92, we were just doing basic hard rock—blues-based hard rock, with a lot of hardcore energy. We thought we were a Motörhead and AC/DC-sounding unit. We were getting interviewed by punk magazines and fanzines, and the only record labels interested in us were punk. You don't pick your audiences, and we just started progressing along those lines. If you listen to the progression from [1996's] Super Sound Racing to the last album with Relapse [2004's 'Til the Livin' End], you can see we really are more of a hard rock band than anything else."
So, yeah, a decade on from the start of their hiatus, Zeke is back touring, and there's a new full-length coming too, a slab of work that Felchtone recalls the hardcore energy of their youth, which should, he says, appease Zeke's punk and hardcore fanbase. Band lineup shifted slightly too, with Kurt Colfelt returning to the ranks, and Donny Paycheck and Chris Johnson stepping out. Meanwhile, guitarist Kyle Whitefoot, formerly of obscure Detroit thrash metallers Axe Ripper relocated to Seattle and joined.
It's a solid lineup, to be sure, so much that Felchtone ain't afraid to self-pimp the new recordings: "I'm amazed how good the record sounds. It's been a while but we're back, and I think the material is more inspired than ever, so maybe the break was a good thing."
Things have changed while the band has been away, in terms of how the music biz works, and also the lay of the political landscape. Felchtone, who considers himself a carpenter by profession, is just happy to get his art out there, regardless of how little money can be made.
"It's almost like, why have a record company?" he says. "It's interesting because I've never thought that it's feasible to make a living as a rock musician. I always figured that, if you wind up not having to work because your art is appreciated enough for you to be able to generate some level of income, then you're really lucky. But I'm a working class dude. Art has its place, and then you work. So it doesn't bother me at all. I could play rock 'n' roll and never expect to generate any kind of money from that. I almost think art should be free."
What about the Trump turmoil, and how the United States is in a fear-motivated freefall of sorts? Felchtone, who describes himself as an anarcho-socialist-libertarian, says Zeke has never been a political band, and that he, for the most part is an apolitical person.
"I feel like I can go out into the woods, and I'm a carpenter, so I can build a shelter," he says. "I know how to fish and hunt. So I really don't feel like I need government period. And then I don't believe that anybody should tell you what you can and can't do, so I'm really libertarian too. I really want the government out of my pocket. There are songs on the new record—one's called "AR-15," and it's about going out into the mountains and blasting off a few. That doesn't fit real well with all my left-wing friends. I feel like there's something in the air that's lit a level of fire to the new Zeke stuff. It's horrible, what's going on, the political climate, but then maybe some interesting stuff will happen in the art and music scene because of it."
As a parent, even apolitical people can't help but take a look around and consider the future. As individuals, we can only try to set a good example and make the right changes where possible. Felchtone's own daughter is proving to be having a big, positive influence on the band's work, even going so far as to criticize daddy for writing song that are "too slow."
"She loves the music," Felchtone says. "She was listening to us and she said, 'Dad, what are you doing here? What is this?' I said, 'I'm just writing rock 'n' roll.' She told me, 'You need to go back and listen to your old stuff. Write some more music like that. You have to do it harder and faster.' To be honest, I thought, 'You know what? She's right. Maybe I should go back and write some stuff like the early Zeke stuff.' That's kinda what I did. So she's a big influence on this current batch of songs. It's probably something I needed to hear."
On April 4, Zeke plays on a killer bill of raw rock 'n' roll with Nashville Pussy. Felchtone admits that he can't remember much about the last time he played in Arizona, but he's excited to come back.
"I remember playing a couple of house parties in Tucson, and those were more fun than the club gigs to be honest with you," he says. "It's going to be great. I've known Nashville Pussy for 15-20 years. I can't wait to get out there. The set's gonna be fast, it's gonna be hard, it's gonna be old-school Zeke. You will not be bored, that much I can promise you."