Interview with Tony Z (IMMORTAL SYNN)
Interview by Jack Merry
14th May 2021
Hey, thank you for your time! Please state your name and position in the band.
I am Tony Z. I founded the band and play guitar – both rhythm and some lead.
You’re about to release your sophomore full-length album entitled ‘Force of Habit’ on May 7th 2021. Could you tell me a little bit about how the album name came about and when writing sessions began?
The name is something I’ve always wanted to use to coincide with the album cover – just a silly pun. I guess though that it could also be a reference to how I have always wanted to stick to the old school sound and not venture too far into what many modern metal bands are doing. As for writing, most of the songs on the album I have had sitting around for years, pieces of them at least. I tried to get them to see the light of day, but was getting much resistance from former band members. So, after I fired them, Axel and I took all of the songs that we both had in storage and began to flesh them out around December of 2019.
Where does the band name IMMORTAL SYNN originate from?
Simply, it is the title of a song by one of Rob Halford’s solo projects called Fight, from their ‘War of Words’ album. An ex-bass player and I were driving around listening to it one day, thought it sounded like a cool band name, and went with it.
When did you first start getting into music and know you wanted to join a band?
The first time I became interested in music was after watching the “Johnny B. Goode” sequence from ‘Back To The Future’ when I was four. What really solidified it though, was the first time I saw AC/DC’s ‘Live at Donington’ on VHS – I would rent that video every weekend. I bought my first guitar shortly after that, and two friends and I decided we would form a band. Of the three of us, I was the only one that followed through on the plan.
What was it like growing up and realizing you had an interest in the genre of heavy metal?
It wasn’t until high school that I fully became a metalhead. However, once the music took hold of me, I could never get enough. It was, at times, being in the group of “outcasts” in school and having the stereotypical jock beating up on the longhairs as a daily threat, but we got through it. The metal community is very welcoming to people from all walks of life, and being at metal shows during my teenage years and having the other fans treat you as a family was a great relief from the other idiots at school.
Can you tell me a little bit about how the writing and recording process began for ‘Force of Habit’?
After our 2019 summer tour, I had to sack our other guitar player and bassist for many reasons, but one of them being musical differences. So with them out of the picture, I began to finally complete songs that I had been trying to put out for years. Our drummer, Axel, after he returned from sabbatical, sat down with me and we began to come up with ideas for songs that were partially written. He also showed me some things he had kept in storage for a while and we started to work on those as well. In total, we had seventeen songs ready to record including three covers. I only wanted to put ten on the album, but he convinced me to record all seventeen and use the extras as bonus tracks on different album formats. In total, we ended up placing 16 songs on the album throughout the different versions, and saved one of them for a future release. We recorded with a new guy, Nick Nodurft, who owns Rusty Sun Audio in Parker, CO. He came highly recommended by a friend of the band, Sharone Borik, who had recorded with him previously for her project, Sharone. Aside from the virus causing the studio to shut down for a few months, everything went very smoothly and quickly. If it weren’t for Covid, we had planned to release the album in late summer 2020. Nick did all of our mixing, and we sent the tracks to Jason Livermore of The Blasting Room in Ft. Collins, CO. He is well-known for being a long-time producer of Rise Against, and has worked with other major bands.
Is there a running theme or concept throughout the album, and if so, what inspired this?
There is no running theme per se, but the political songs on the album were influenced by current events as of mid-2020 and government corruption in general. Aside from those tracks though, it’s just a collection of tunes we felt needed to be heard!
2. Fight The Prince
4. The Ballad of Marvin Heemeyer
5. The Mailman Song
6. Nuclear Terror
7. Satan’s Tavern
8. Denver Nights
9. Force of Habit
10. Whiskey II: The Wrath of Corn
Who did the artwork for your new album, and why did you choose them?
Mike Learn, who previously did our artwork for ‘Machine Men’, did the cover for us. We originally chose him because we really liked the cover that he did for Megadeth’s album, ‘The System Has Failed’, and he is a local artist. We went back to him because we really liked what he did with the previous album, and knew that he could work diligently to our specifications without too much back and forth.
How would you describe your music to someone who has never heard it before?
A mix of traditional heavy metal fused with thrash. Most people describe us as a mix of Iron Maiden and Megadeth. While I agree, I would say that Judas Priest mixed with Megadeth is more accurate.
Did the recording experience differ much from making 2017’s Machine Men? What processes did you keep and which did you learn from?
It differed greatly. During the ‘Machine Men’ sessions we, for the most part, had a full band. However, during the recording of ‘Force of Habit’, Axel and I were the only members for the majority of the recording. We recorded almost all of the instruments ourselves. Duel didn’t join as lead singer until we already had a good portion of the instruments done already. Brad was next to join in the summer of last year when the studio reopened. Because we didn’t have a lead guitarist until then, I played a majority of the solos on the record out of necessity, and Axel played one as well. Until Brad joined, I was planning to have multiple guest guitarists come in for each track. I did have Scott Uhl (Spiral Cell) play on “Whiskey II” and Allen Maddox (Heartsick Heroine) play on “The Night is Young” and “State Oppression”. Brad did have his time to shine on a number of tracks though once he came aboard, and even added leads in parts of songs that he thought sounded empty without them. Frantz, our bassist, was the last to join when the album was basically completed save for a few vocals. Because we wanted him to have some part in the recording, we had him re-record Axel’s bass parts in “Anamnesis” and even gave him lead vocals on the second half of “The Night Is Young” in addition to multiple backup vocals. To answer your question more directly though, I’d say we learned not to rely too heavily on finding people to play guest spots everywhere, and just record all the parts ourselves if need be – even if it doesn’t sound exactly how we intended. In the end though, the guest spots that we did have turned out great!
What has been your favourite gig to date and why? Once the pandemic is over and live shows return fully, where are you looking forward to playing most?
One of my favorite gigs was back in 2016 when we opened for Winger at the Buffalo Rose in Golden, CO. That is the gig where we filmed the live segments for our “Whiskey” music video. A few nights before, I had been watching a Twisted Sister documentary where they talked about bringing people up on stage to drink with them back in their club days. I thought that sounded like a good idea for our music video. So, on the day of the show, I set up a step ladder in front of the stage, and during “Whiskey invited people to come up and drink with us. I had brought in a bottle of Jack Daniels and my friend TJ was pouring shots for everyone. There must have been at least 50 people up there with us at one point. During all the commotion, someone poured a shot in Axel’s mouth (he was only 17 at the time), and the bottle was flung into the audience. The owners flipped out that loose alcohol got into the crowd, and that we were “serving people without supervision”. Long story short, we were almost banned, but the promoters of the show talked to them as did our manager, and everything turned out ok in the end. Every show at that venue had a barricade in front of the stage after that! As for post-covid live shows, at least in Denver and surrounding states, everything is back open, so we’ll be booking locally as much as we can. We are planning a mini tour of South Dakota (where our singer is from) to coincide with Independence Day weekend, so that one we are looking forward to right now.
Which brand of equipment do you like to use when performing (either live or in the studio)?
I used to use a Marshall amp for everything, but one day decided to give Diezel a try and have loved it since. As for guitars I use mainly Schecter and Jackson. However, I have been known to play Gibson and Dean on occasion.
Do you have a favourite track from the new album, and if so, why? What makes it stand out for you?
My favorite track is actually “Anamnesis”, which was written entirely by Axel. I’ve always thought he was a great songwriter, and just the melodies and overall writing of that song have a certain charm. That’s why I chose it as the lead single off the album.
Where do you draw your influences from when it comes to producing new music/lyrics? Could you list me some bands that particularly inspire the sound of IMMORTAL SYNN and why?
My personal influences come from NWOBHM and thrash – specifically the Bay Area scene. I always try to incorporate a little bit of what Exodus or Megadeth may have done back in their glory days. Hell, “Denver Nights” would fit perfectly on Metallica’s ‘Kill ‘em All’! In the realm of NWOBHM, Judas Priest will always reign supreme when it comes to my songwriting because they are so diverse in what they do. They run the gamut from “Last Rose of Summer” to “Painkiller” and back. However, on the next EP or album, look for some heavy Tygers of Pan Tang influence! Lyrically I write whatever comes to me in the moment, but I don’t really care much for that aspect of the songwriting process. I’ve usually only done it out of necessity or if I feel strongly about a particular song. I like to have other members have a go at it.
What is the metal music scene like in your hometown of Denver, Colorado? Any new bands that have caught your attention?
The metal scene here has always been pretty big. Bands like Cephalic Carnage, Speedwolf, Allegaeon, and Havok hail from here. I used to go see Havok all the time back when we were all in high school still and the crowds would lose their damn minds. That was in 2005. In those days though, it seemed to me that the scene was more cutthroat and people had an every-man-for-himself mentality. In more recent times, it seems like bands support each other more and try to help each other out, so that’s a good thing. Just off the top of my head, some bands to check out would be Sharone, Heartsick Heroine, Blood of Lilith, Divine Torture, Rhoar (who were actually around in the 80s, but just recently got back together and released an album), and Cönaxx.
What is it like touring? Do you all get on all of the time? Or do you have times you need space from each other?
2018 was the first time that we toured. We had two separate cars – Chase, Ryan(ex-Havok drummer we hired while Axel was back at school in Mexico), and I; and in the other car were Miguel and Drew. It stayed like that the entire two weeks. While we had some disagreements about petty things, we got along ok. However, the 2019 tour had tension the entire time. Same deal – Miguel and Drew in one car and Axel and I in the other. That tour culminated with the firing of two members. Aside from those things though, touring has been great. I am a particular fan of stopping at every roadside curiosity for pictures or video. One of my favorites has been the dinosaur sculptures just off the highway in Coloma, MI. I don’t know why – they aren’t anything great, but it’s something different that you wouldn’t see elsewhere.
Any bands you would like to go out on tour with? Who would be your ideal tourmates?
Judas Priest, Megadeth, Disturbed, Metallica, etc. Ideally, though, I’d like to go with a local band or two!
What genres of music do you like to listen to personally?
Out of the thousands of genres that exist, there are only a small handful that I can’t stand such as emo, hip-hop, rap, post-hardcore, and some avant-garde stuff, but even in those genres that I just named I’ll occasionally find something that I do enjoy. I mainly listen to metal, hard rock, and country though. I’ll listen to most things from the first record of music thousands of years ago to the current time. I also really like video game music.
You’re stranded on a desert island with only 3 records and a record player. Which 3 albums would you want with you?
I never like these questions because my answers always changed whenever I am asked, but for today I will say: AC/DC – ‘Powerage’, Taylor Swift – 1989, and Judas Priest – ‘Point of Entry’.
What do you like to do outside of music? Have you watched any great TV lately on streaming services etc?
All I do is watch TV. I spend probably 7-8 hours per day watching YouTube before and after work. After that it’s the nightly news and ‘Seinfeld’, then whatever might be on Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu. I also just bought a Roku and have been watching all my favorite 90s Nickelodeon shows on Paramount+ (think Doug, Salute Your Shorts, Are You Afraid of the Dark, etc.). Aside from that I like going to local and national shows, going to new restaurants, and hanging out at local bars – I am quite the barfly (hence the title of our first EP!). I also like driving aimlessly. I’ll get in my car and just drive for hours with no particular place to go. I like to walk around the neighborhood or go to the park, but I’m not an outdoors person. If I had a choice among camping, skiing, hiking, or some other activity that Coloradans are expected to do, I’d choose sitting on my couch watching YouTube 100% of the time.
What are your plans for the rest of the year? Even with Covid, are you looking to get some live shows booked up? Maybe start on some new music?
Aside from the shows I’ve mentioned and a couple other upcoming ones (like our CD release on May 7 at Herman’s Hideaway in Denver), yes, we will be trying to get many more and we will be working heavily on new music. In fact, as soon as the album was finished, we began writing for the next one. We’ve set a goal to come up with sixty new songs by August or September at the latest, and we are almost halfway there already! We won’t be putting all sixty on the next record (wouldn’t that be crazy?!), but we will be recording demos of everything and sending some of those to various people to help chose what should go on the next record. Perhaps you would like a demo CD when it is available?
Thank you for your time, is there anything you’d like to say to our readers?
Keep metal alive, support local musicians by getting their merch, going to their shows, and spreading the word of your favorite bands whenever you can!
Immortal Sÿnn is:
Duel Shape – lead vocals
Tony Z – rhythm/lead guitar/vocals
Axel Berrios – drums/vocals
Frantz Pierre – bass/vocals
Brad Wagner – lead guitar/vocals