Zebra: Zebra IV, 9 years in the making!

Guitarist, singer and songwriter Randy Jackson talks about the new Zebra album and the difficulties of life in 2003.

It seems like Zebra fans have been waiting for this album for a long while!
Why so long between 3.V and Zebra IV?
We didn't have a label to finance the recording after 1986 but eventually (recently) technology allowed us to produce the entire thing ourselves at minimum cost with better quality than all the previous records.
ALSO - I was involved in the development of an interactive musical instrument called "The Key" from 1992 to 1996. The instrument allowed anyone to play a guitar-like instrument (The Key) along with videos or CDs.
I oversaw the programming of the music. We encoded a lot of Videos that came out during that time period (Page and Plant "Unleaded", Aerosmith's "Big Ones", The Who's "30 Years of Maximum R&B" among them). If you have any of the videos we worked on you will see our "KEY" logo on the back that identifies the tape as being "interactive".
We recorded the drums for "Zebra IV" in New Orleans in 1996. Guy got breast cancer that year which slowed the process down a bit.
I took a break to do "The Sign"…I think that this CD just means more to me than the others and I wanted to make SURE I got it right both musically and lyrically.

It seems like this album was delayed several times over the past 12 months - for various reasons. When did you guys actually finish up in the studio?
We finished in February. Our U.S. distributor went out of business before the release date so we had to re-schedule the release. We had another delay because of problems with the artwork.

What happened with the original planned US release?
Wherehouse Records (a chain of retail record stores here in the U.S.) filed bankruptcy earlier this year and our distributor was owed a lot of money by Wherehouse.

And now? How is the album being released in various places besides Frontiers in Europe?
The CD is on Mayhem records here in the U.S. and it is distributed here by A.D.A.

How would you describe the album IV compared to previous Zebra releases?
Musically heavier and lyrically deeper.

The songs as you described to me are drawn from a lot of places - past material from the early years to newly written songs. How did you manage to get them to come together as a cohesive album?
In a way it is sad that songs I wrote 28 years ago sound contemporary (Free and My Life Has Changed). I'm sure that wouldn't have been the case if the band had started out in 1945. A lot of music today has become homogenized and stagnant. I blame the major record labels. They have been scared to search out or encourage development of new music for decades and now it's biting them in the ass.

So overall, how long did it take to record?
Drums were done in a week in 1996. The rest was done sporadically after that. I would say it was a good 9 months of actual studio time but spread over a period of 7 years

You produced the album yourself again - have you ever considered working with a outside producer for whatever reason?
I would love to work with a lot of different producers but we certainly couldn't afford it right now.

You manage to play a lot of live shows around the US - why can't other artists do the same?
We had a very large following before our first record ever came out. Most of our fan base has been developed from our live shows and it appears that the songs are standing the test of time.

Why does it work for you - are you just more dedicated to touring?
Demand for the band really dictates our schedule. The fans are there and we are glad we can still perform fro them!

How does a classic rock band like Zebra make an impact in the music business 2003?
It's not like Benny Goodman trying to make a comeback in 1967 by opening for Jimi Hendrix. We play rock that kids listen to today. Musicianship has become a less valued part of the music business in the last decade and I think kids are tired of it. That's why they listen to their parents music. The new music isn't "bad" - it's just "old". How many bands do we need that tune down to "C", play chords only, sing like Eddie Vedder, and tell you that all the other bands like themselves "sucK"? I liked "Stone Temple Pilots" but we've had a thousand other "pilots" since then. The record companies haven't helped. Most record execs are so afraid of losing their jobs that they wouldn't think of being the "Guinea Pig" to try something new. I can't really blame them. They are all replaceable and we all know how much a lot of "Corporate America" cares about its employees.

How does it compare doing everything yourselves vs the past with a label watching over every step?
It's a lot more work but we also know that the job is getting done. Nobody cares more about the promotion of this CD than us!

Is there anything you would change about the path you have taken in your career to this point?
No. I have no regrets. We didn't make any "irrational decisions" along the way. Most of the misfortune we have experienced was not predictable. If I could change any one choice I think I would have made sure that we toured Europe for our 2nd record. We chose to stay here in the U.S. and that was probably the worse decision we made.

Anything you would love to do again?
Do all the records (except for the new one) over again.

What's next for Randy Jackson? A new Sign record? Can you tell us anything about that as it stands right now?
I was supposed to start the new "Sign" CD over a year ago but I have not had nearly enough time to get started so Mark Mangold will be taking over the recording duties and I will be adding my guitar parts later on this year. Terry, Mark and I wrote most of the material earlier this year.

And finally, what are you listening to right now? Current fav's?
Rhapsody in Blue. Emotion with no lyrics. Pure music!

Thanks for your time Randy, let me know if there's anything you need...
Visit Zebra at- http://www.thedoor.com!