ReGen Magazine speaks with the L.A. post-industrial noir trio of Zeistencroix about the band’s upcoming EP, presenting audiences with an exclusive premiere of its first single, “Ice Queen.”
An InterView with Orlando “OD” Draven, Akopan (“AKO”), & Santi Rivillas of Zeistencroix
By Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)
Among the many dark alternative and industrially-tinged bands emerging from the City of Angels in recent years is Zeistencroix, with the band now standing poised to release a new EP. Deeply rooted in Los Angeles’ metal tradition, the band presents a form of post-industrial audio noir that showcases the myriad of influences that Orlando “OD” Draven, Santi Rivillas, and Akopan (“AKO”) draw from – elements of grunge, jazz, and metal converge with splashes of electronic atmospheres, tightly crafted into a sound that is the band’s own. On top of that, Zeistencroix has had the good fortune to work with legendary mixer Tim Palmer, who brought his experience and inimitable style to the band’s Gemini EP in 2017, followed by the full-length Gen Z album in 2019. Now, the group is at the threshold of a new release on August 26 via Pavement Entertainment, the Cruxi-Fiction EP; with Palmer once again helming mixing duties, the new set also finds the band working with Alex Crescioni of Stygian Sound, adding an even sweeter touch of production and mastering darkness to Zeistencroix’s signature sound.
Let’s begin with the new single, ‘Ice Queen,’ which you’ve explained is about a relationship and ‘how one can regret not being aware of what was going on.’ At the risk of getting too personal from the onset, how much of this is autobiographical?
Your forthcoming Cruxi-Fiction EP was written during the pandemic, following up on 2019’s Gen Z album. In what ways would you say you’ve developed as a band and as musicians since the creation of that album? How do you feel the new EP best represents the next stage of Zeistencroix’s evolution?
Santi: It was a time for reaffirmation – to truly understand that this is what we are: musicians. So, that puts everything into perspective. We want to write music that we like, music that always challenges our limitations, and we love to play live.
We don’t have any idea of what the future will bring, especially under the circumstances we are living today. The only thing we have clear is that we are ready for whatever comes.
AKO: Well, since I wasn’t in the creative process for Gen Z, I can just talk about Cruxi-Fiction, but I’ve also been working with Orlando in some ways for a while and I definitely can say that this is a fresh new step for us. I actually feel that it was a pretty fast process; once we had the main ideas for the songs, all the arrangements came with fluency.
OD: I think we got more involved altogether with the writing and recording process, and it really changed and influenced the end result for the better. It felt natural and organic, and I think it’s our best work so far.
From your observations, and I’m talking about yourselves and those around you as human beings, how do you feel the pandemic affected people’s ability to communicate and process emotions?
Santi: I personally think that we are living in an age where we communicate what we want, but we don’t act on the things we say we want. There is a disconnection between words and acts. There is no consensus. This ends up polarizing society and we become easy prey for social exploitation.
AKO: The pandemic definitely changed so many people’s lives, but on my end, I think some people just realized that we are just a Zoom call away from each other. Since nothing else was going on, some people started to embrace this idea of video calls and home offices.
Gen Z was released on SlipTrick, and Cruxi-Fiction will be released via Pavement Entertainment; what motivated the change in label? With SlipTrick being a European-based label, were there any aspects to their business practices – at least as far as they pertained to you – that you’d not find in an American label?
Santi: SlipTrick helped us to reach the European market and we had the opportunity to tour that part of the planet thanks to their knowledge of the territory and we are very grateful for that.
With Pavement Entertainment, we feel we will have more presence in the North American market, and a wider network to work with.
OD: The pandemic played a huge influence on that because we had two years with SlipTrick and the plan was to continue touring Europe after our first run in 2019. But after that, everything froze down and we didn’t even know if we were going to be able to travel. The deal was for two years, and we decided to look for an American label that could help us to keep going here at home.
You are once again working Tim Palmer on Cruxi-Fiction, as well as with Alex Crescioni. First of all, would you tell us about how you first came to be associated with them and how you feel their individual methods and sensibilities have enhanced or even surpassed your initial vision for Zeistencroix? In what ways would you say that they’ve taken it in directions you might not have otherwise thought of?
Santi: Working with Tim and Alex is always a pleasure, and we always receive a lot of input from both.
When we recorded Gen Z, Alex introduced us to Donny from ESA Studios to track the drums and we did the same thing with Cruxi-Fiction. I had the pleasure to use the house drum set and it was beautiful.
AKO: It was an amazing process! Alex is so talented and so professional, it just felt like we could spend endless hours working at his studio!
And Tim, what can I say? It’s Tim Fucking Palmer! He is great! He just did it again.
Personally, I’ve often felt that the lines between genres is so blurred, along with the abundance and diversity of music that it feels like genres are obsolete (except for marketing purposes apparently). Taking influence from so many styles as you do, and referring to yourselves as a post-industrial metal band, what are your thoughts on this? What do you find to be the validity of such categorizations in this day and age?
Santi: I agree with you about genres and categorizations, but when one mentions to other people that ‘I’m a musician,’ the question is, ‘What type of music?’ So, in order to continue the communication, one has to play the game of the genres if you will.
What really makes the difference when it comes to defining the band is the live shows. If you see us live, you will see beyond the genre. That is what we work for.
AKO: As you mentioned, we may have been influenced by so many styles and bands over the decades. All the guys here, we can say we have our own influences, but in general, we complement each other. Yes, there’s some marketing purposes too – everyone out there is trying to combine their own influences and find their own sound.
OD: In the end, what really matters is the music, but it makes it easier on people just to stick a label or genre to identify the band.
It does seem that with the advent of streaming services, people are consuming music on a smaller scale; not to mention that smaller EPs and singles seem more economical and allow for artists to release more material over an incremental time span. With this mind, what are your thoughts on the album format, both as it pertains to your creative and artistic goals, and in the broader sense of music as a whole?
OD: I still love the album format. Nonetheless, we still have to adapt to new ways and as long as we can keep making music, it’s ok to experiment. There’s always going to be change – new technology, new ways, new formats – but in the end, what really matters is the music.
What do you feel are the major lessons we learned in the wake of the pandemic? Or to put it another way, what do you feel artists, labels, venues, the industry as a whole should take away from the experience and use or think about going forward?
Santi: My learning is that we don’t have control at all. We are at the mercy of the social engineers and if they decide they want to cancel music, they will try. I think more events like this will come and time will tell.
OD: I think we learned that at any time, we can lose our freedom, so let’s live as much as we can!
So, what’s next for Zeistencroix?
AKO: There’s more music to release, more cities to play at, more and more work to do in order to bring more fans to the Zeistencroix’s family! And yes, we have a fall tour coming, in which we will be playing our new Cruxi-Fiction EP.