- Jonny Ensall
- 30 January 2009
Let's get the bad out of the way first: zZz are from Holland, they have a name that sounds like sleeping and their music has appeared on a car advert (and surprisingly also a Japanese mayonnaise commercial, although that's neither here nor there). Yet, perhaps we can forgive them these shortcomings seeing as they sound like the best of the late 70s/early 80s synth bands, Suicide especially, packaged up and sold with an extra dollop of sleaze on the side. The vocals, provided by drummer Björn Ottenheim, are perfectly pitched between Ian Curtis and Jim Morrison at their darkest moments. Their third album, Running With The Beast has just been released on Anti- Records.
zZz, pronounced like 'catch some zs'? Or like ZZ Top with an extra 'z'?
Er, neither. Pronounced like the French say 'jazz', without the 'j' and the 'a'. Well, they are from Holland. Let's not be disparaging, a lot of great bands have come out of the Netherlands... Well no that's not true, but zZz do have a place in Dutch musical tradition, harking back to beat bands of the 60s like The Shocking Blue, while also showing the punkish sensibilities that have grown up in the last few decades. The two-man band is pioneering a kind of synth assault that's all style and darkness. The new album is a deeply brooding 11-track trawl that evokes the spirit of Joy Division/New Order before then leaping into the ghostly domain of old Doors songs, then back out into the pleasant 80s pop sound of bands like Erasure and The Human League.
How did this unholy alliance come about?
The band - singer and drummer Björn Ottenheim and keyboard player Daan Schinkel - stumbled across an old church organ in 2001 and started messing about on it in their basement. Soon enough they were invited to play at the house of a notorious smuggler (perhaps the done thing in Holland?), and things took off from there. Having signed to the illustrious Anti- Records stable and completed a U.S. tour, they're one of Holland's most successful musical exports at the moment.
Hang on, singer and drummer, like in Genesis and Hanson?
No like in Lightning Bolt and Death From Above 1979. See, it can be cool.
What's this I hear about cock fighting?
The artwork for new album Running With The Beast was the created by fighting cockerels. The birds had coloured ink daubed on their wings then were left to spar over a white piece of paper. The result is rather nice, and they also got a video out of it, however, as could be expected, it wasn't particularly well received by some people, including YouTube who banned the video for three months. They relented however and it can now be seen here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sym-MkLkivA
A continuing European tour, more controversy and more seething stage performances. zZz are a divisive band - you either love their homage to the best of electro-pop and rock'n'soul, or you see them as a bit hackneyed. Sharing in their love, we're going to go with the former opinion.
zZz play The Captain's Rest, Glasgow with Meursault and Das Filth on Feb 1.