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(added September 2014)
INTERVIEW WITH ZAC OSBORN
( SINGER AND GUITAR PLAYER WITH THE BOSTON RATS)
by John McVicker
Where are you from and where were you brought up?
I was born in Canterbury in Kent, lived in a small village as a child and then moved around a bit. I landed in Brighton 15 years ago and have made it home. A great place to live. Bloody expensive though.
When did you first start listening to music?
I remember being around 7 or 8 and hearing ‘I Can See For Miles’ by The Who on the radio. The energy of the music and venomous lyrics pretty much hooked me immediately. My first real musical obsession band-wise was The Jam. I’m still a huge fan, particularly their earlier stuff. The whole Mod revival scene put me on to Two Tone and indirectly Punk. Although the Punk thing had imploded a fair few years earlier it was still very present and vital, albeit not as originally intended. As it was a small town, anyone who wasn’t a Casual tended to be united by being different. This was great as it gave me access to some amazing people and their preferred music. My tastes are still very varied, with some exceptions such as dance stuff. Just don’t get that but I guess plenty of other people do.
When did you discover Psycho, Rockabilly, who were you favourite bands to see/listen to?
Like many others (I’m sure) my first experience of Psychobilly was hearing ‘In Heaven’ by The Meteors. I listened to it repeatedly for about a week. I loved the musicianship and the subject matter. I appreciate there’s a lot of debate regarding the origins of the genre but for me at least, this was the start. I was a few years behind being a yokel, so this would have been around 83 or 84. I soon got into other bands that were part of that scene; pretty indiscriminately to be honest. I was really into the Garage side of it all too, Thee Milkshakes and Sting-Rays for example. Living in Kent at the time, quite close to the Medway towns Thee Milkshakes were a band I used to see regularly. There were also some great ‘local’ Rockabilly acts and very occasionally, I would go to London and stand in the corner while the bigger boys wrecked. I tried it once. Didn’t end well.
When did you first pick up a guitar?
I messed around with a guitar as a teenager but was so appalling I put it down in disgust. It was then that I discovered the bass. This had fewer strings and would still operate after too much cider apparently. I did end up working at it, as it’s not as easy as some might think. It’s a subtle instrument and can totally change a band’s sound depending on how it’s used. I’m talking electric bass here, not stand up... that’s a totally different beast altogether. I only started playing guitar seriously about 6 or 7 years ago. I manage but there’s some amazing talent out there and it doesn’t matter how long in the tooth you are, there’s always a lot to learn.
What was your first band? Did you release anything?
My first label release was ‘Hard Times’ with the Devil Wrays. I could go on about how the music industry is corrupt, disingenuous and manufactured but the truth was I probably never made anything that many people wanted to hear!
Were you in the Devil Wrays? How did that happen, what did you think of the album Hard Times? Were you happy with the sound and why did you leave?
I was in the Devil Wrays, yes. It’s fairly irrelevant who joined when, as it was an organic process but I was there at the start. Having said that I don’t think the band really found its identity until Dom joined. Hard Times is a great album, Alan perfectly captured what we were about and I’m very proud of my contribution. Leaving was a difficult decision and not based on any musical or personal misgivings. I had a lot of intense personal stuff going on, some health issues and really couldn’t give the band my all at the time. I didn’t feel it was fair really. I know the guys were disappointed and it has strained relationships but I hope one day we’ll be able to sit down and talk about it. I probably didn’t explain my situation as fully as I should and that’s left some room for people to create drama and bad feeling where it really doesn’t exist. My replacement Luke is a fantastic and imaginative guitarist whom I admire greatly. They’re in a good place and making some really cool music that will push people’s pre-conceptions of the genre.
Tell us how the Boston Rats got together?
The Boston Rats was originally a few mates getting together to have a jam. There wasn’t really any intention to take it further. From my perspective it was a way of keeping creative without having to commit to the rigours of a working band. The truth is that we started to enjoy it and as it seemed a few other people did too, we started to take it more seriously. We’re very pragmatic about the whole thing and aren’t planning any world tours just yet but making music is good - it’s better to make than criticise. If it resonates with even a limited number of people we’re happy. There are too many approval junkies out there who, when denied their fix, become bitter. Screw that, just have fun and make some noise. Maybe that’s a defence against criticism on my part... who cares though? It’s only Rock‘N’Roll and a very first world dilemma.
You've just finished /finishing your debut album? with Mr. Wilson I've recorded with him to. I wouldn't want to record with anyone else. How did the recording go for you and any funny stories?
Yes, the album was recorded at Western Star with Alan and I’m happy with it. What is there to say about Western Star and Alan that won’t come across as completely obsequious? The man is a legend. Purely on a personal level Alan is a great guy, completely at the top of his game, globally respected but without ego or attitude. Many people talk about supporting a ‘scene’ while undermining and sneering other acts. Alan quietly produces some amazing albums and always supports to newer bands.. Professionally he is the most expert engineer I’ve had the pleasure of working with and always gets the best from his artists. Regarding funny stories: too many to recount. To an outsider, 70s TV nostalgia, schoolboy pranks and painful puns may seem a little immature but that’s how we roll. And there’s sometimes a cake too.
When's the album out and have you got many live shoes lined up? Any of them abroad yet?
he album should be out around the middle of September. We’re aiming to launch when we play at the September Bedlam gig. Western Star will be there selling our album for anyone who fancies it. Otherwise visit the Western Star website. As far as shows go, we do what we do but don’t treat it as any sort of military campaign. There are good ones, great ones and disappointing ones but that’s life. I know we’d like to play abroad at some point ‘real life’ commitments allowing. Yeah, that would be fun.
What would you like to happen in the future for the Boston Rats?
The future? Keep learning improving, and enjoying what we do, I guess. Let the music stand on its own merits for better or for worse. What else is there?
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