In the middle of his studio house renovation, acoustic treatment, and furniture moving is where I hear from Gone Is Gone’s Mike Zarin, a multi-instrumentalist and composer for Sencit Music. This production company takes up the majority of his time and is essentially his baby that he oversees every day. Yet as per this interview, he also works alongside Mastodon’s Troy Sanders, Queens of The Stone Ages’ Troy Van Leeuwen, and At The Drive-In’s Tony Hajjar for this still relatively new rock group. Their debut album, ‘Echolocation’ (which is out now), was also tracked in-house at Sencit Music – another positive for the band and Zarin – so it has a very incestuous nature around it, with this group aiming to flex their creative muscles as much as possible.
In my brief chat with Mr Zarin, we discuss having a band full of creative musicians and how that relationship works, on not worrying about filling giant rooms and selling piles of albums, and on the visual and audible experience that Gone Is Gone wants to bring to their fans and audiences; both on the record and in the live environment.
Outside of Sencit Music and with Gone Is Gone, what other roles do you take in the band aside from extra guitar, synth and added percussion?
Actually, I would say that all four is us have an equal role in writing and producing. I’ve done everything from writing vocal melodies to writing guitar parts; we all share everything. No one has one particular role.
So with having four well-known musicians in the band, who are all very creative, does that create a ‘too-many-cooks in the kitchen’ scenario?
I have never been in an easier, collaborative environment than with Gone Is Gone. There is just so much respect in the room for one another and because we have all accomplished so much in different capacities, we all admire each other’s work outside of this band. When one of us comes to the table with an idea it is soaked up and listened to and we do the best we can to make that idea work.
Good to hear. Now, you’re the only member of Gone Is Gone that didn’t come from a big rock or metal band. Do you feel like the odd-one-out or like the black sheep? Or is that something that you prefer to have?
No, I don’t feel like the black sheep at all. What I do and have been doing for years is working in the background. I guarantee that you’ve heard my music but you have no idea that it was me. So, it is what it is. I’m not a household name; let’s just say that.
As you said, you work in the background and that many have heard your music they just didn’t know it was you. You work on a lot of movies and TV series, and if I remember correctly, you worked on the music for a game called Splinter Cell: Blacklist?
Yeah, I did! Tony from At The Drive-In and I co-scored that game.
That’s rad! That was my favourite Splinter Cell game too and I remember really liking the music too!
Dude, that’s sick! Thank you. Yeah, it was me and Tony who did the music for the game.
No worries! This leads me to my next question also. When you’re writing for a band as opposed to a game or film score, does your process and your approach correlate to writing for a band such as this?
It does, actually. For this particular band, we approached it as a normal band of jamming things out and also that of composition and thinking of imagery and writing to how that imagery should sound. So we do both. What was cool about Gone Is Gone, and why Tony and I had the idea for it, was to approach it from a film-centric place. What we were doing with film trailers, we thought would be cool to approach for writing and producing for a band.
Cool. So when you talk about the imagery – and I suppose this is like the chicken or the egg question – for a song and video like ‘Gift’, which comes first to shape the other?
Oh, the music shapes that. The idea for the song was Troy Van Leeuwen, and the song came first. With the video we asked ‘What does this make us feel?’ and all of the video direction was what it made Tony feel.
Right on. I mean no disrespect in saying this, but are you worried that with the album’s release in early January, this album will be forgotten by the end of 2017?
No disrespect taken! We’ve always felt that our music is more of winter music. In fact, I wanted to release the EP last winter but as a team, we felt July was better. I feel equally warm and cold when I listen to our music. The imagery is dark, hence why we released it in our winter… which is also your summer! I hadn’t even thought about it before but our EP did come out in your winter. But no, we don’t think about other albums, as this project is purely creative.
We’re not here to sell records or sell out stadiums; that’s not our primary objective. The other guys have bands they already do that and I’m busy every day working on other projects. So we’re not at all worried.
Well that’s the vibe I get when listening to Gone Is Gone; it’s not the most niche rock or sound nor is it the most commercial version of it.
Exactly. You know, we don’t consider ourselves to be a metal band. We think it’s cool that many associate us with great acts and great comparisons, but the four of us don’t feel any bit metal. I think that the parts where our music gets heavy reminded us more of the part in a film where there is an explosion or some serious shit is going down. We see it as more of a soundtrack to your life than a heavy metal record.
There are parts here that very mellow, soft and beautiful and we see that as a background to a similar experience in your life, and when it gets heavy, it’s just our audible representation of that concept in our minds. So that’s why you don’t hear us falling into any metal category cause we’re not shooting for that. We just put our foot down and like what we hear.
Yeah, for sure, I see that too man!
Well, that’s actually all I had for you, Mike. Thanks so much for your time today. Apart from any other interviews that you may have, what else is on for you today?
Well, I’m going to finish my studio work and then I’m gonna plug in my guitar and play some Gone Is Gone songs, as we have a show in January. And I need to get these songs under my fingers again as our last show was in April.
Oh, wow. Now that you mention that, is that something you’re going to do in 2017 – push for more national and international touring?
The thing about this band is that it’s an experience that goes beyond just touring. As its solely creative, it allows us different ways to get our music out there. However, our schedules are all very busy due to our other projects and touring. What drew Troy Sanders to this was being able to think outside the box and redefining what you expect when you think of a band. When you think of a band, you think of four people jamming out on stage, but that’s only 25% of the Gone Is Gone equation.
Also, yes, we hope to be in Australia soon, and we hope to develop things outside the box from what you expect to hear from a band.
Sounds interesting man, I look forward to seeing it come to fruition. With that, thanks again Mike. Have a good day!
I appreciate your time as well Alex, thank you!
‘Echolocation’ is out now via Rise Records & Cooking Vinyl Australia. You can read our review of it here.