Zero Kings not just another retro-band

By Loy Fankbonner

Arizona Daily Wildcat

The state of local music in Tucson

was starting to look pretty grim

just a few months back, what with the imminent demise of The Fells, a prolonged hiatus in the Bloat Records commonwealth, and the predictable frathouse success of calculated, undeserving bands such as Dog and Pony Show and Brenda's Never Been.

So when I got wind of this new trio called the Zero Kings that was burning up the neighborhood just south of Sixth St. with covers of Chess blues and r&b standards, '60s British beat tunes and carefully picked garage-punk classics, I was immediately interested.

It was quickly arranged for the Zero Kings to play their first show at the fabled house on 5th Ave. sometime last April, and the results were staggering.

Initially, I figured Jeff (guitar, vocals) Tripp (bass, vocals) and Jay (drums, vocals) were taking a cue from punk rock historians Jack 'O' Fire, but the mad rock'n'roll ruckus that resulted went so far beyond both that band's decidedly purist take on the blues and most garage bands' deliberate evocation of any given period in '60s/'70s punk, that after seeing them play my expectations (and my mind) were blown to smithereens.They've played many shows since, and every one has been on hell of a wild, drunken, uninhibited party... a pretty rare phenomenon these days.

"It's true that we dig '60s beat and pre-hippy '60s rock and roll as well as rockabilly, punk, r&b, soul and what have you," Jay says, "but these musics that have influenced us don't make us just a goddammed retro band. We believe in making fun music steeped in the fun traditional music that we love, and that makes us more '90s than anyone trying to create something "new" and usher in a whole genre of music."

Inadvertently, though, the Kings have developed a truly distinctive sound by virtue of simply going nuts and having a good old time and not really thinking about it too much.

Jeff has one-upped himself and his own work in the Fells, and found his definitive rock'n'roll guitar sound that thrives on overdrive barre-chords and fucked-up wildman leads that often find him rolling around on the floor in grinning drunken abandon. For a prime example, check out their charged cover of J.L. Hooker's "Sugar Mama" or the original "Hurricane."

Tripp has temporarily curbed his natural tendencies towards "bentness," time signatures and experimentation in favor of stripped-down blues and r&b inspired basslines that still manage to sound decidedly fucked-up.

Jay picked up the drums less than a year ago, and has remarkable intuition for rhythm and dynamics that makes even the simplest beat sound fresh and inspired.

I made my way recently to Jay's, where he, Tripp, and Jeff were sitting on the roof merrily swigging from their indispensable Mickey's 40 ouncers. We turned the tape recorder on and shot the shit about the sorry state of rock and roll in the nineteen-fucking-nineties.

They made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the Zero Kings are here to reclaim everything that was once good about rock and roll and that's somehow been lost in an underground overcrowded with post-collegiate pop ironists, Lou Barlow inspired exhibitionists, nth generation pop punk copyists, overzealous artistes, and countless other undesirable specimens of pussified "'90s rock."

While you were busy pumping iron to the latest Helmet CD, or quoting Fugazi and Rage Against the Machine lyrics in your sociology class, or pegging your pants to the Makers, r "mellowing out" to Pink Floyd, or crying to the latest R.E.M. "effort," the Kings were holed up in Jay's back room working up smoking covers of Howlin' Wolf and Pretty Things songs, and making a ruckus with their own batch of like-minded originals.

"Most people today play and listen to rock music, not rock 'n' roll. Rock 'n' roll is about getting hopped up on juice, screaming, yelling, dancing, coughing beer up through your nose, laughing, kicking, smashing, jumping on somebody's back, somersaults, cartwheels, falling down, getting up, smoking, singing, peeing and generally participating in a good, clean-cut riot," Jeff pronounced.

Yeah! It's pretty disheartening sometimes living in an age when the Kinks or the Stooges or even a young Bo Diddley would have a hard time finding a viable record deal. But once in a long while, a band like the Zero Kings comes along and restores one's faith in the timeless power of beer, piss and rock&roll. If any of those three are of any importance to you, I suggest you attend the Zero Kings show at Mike's Place on Friday, Oct. 6. Otherwise, stay home, light up a bowl to the new Lenny Kravitz CD and hope and pray your kids never ask you what the fuck you were doing in 1995.

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