Sheaf stout in hand, his wiry frame and youthful attitude belying his forty-plus years. We're back from a frantic and eerie show at the Blind Pig, where his band Reptile House rocked some of the crowd, bemused others, and confused the rest.
MM: Well, we've finally seen the show...
TZ: And high time too, I might add.
MM: It was everything we thought it would be.
TZ: Thanks very much...what exactly does that mean?
MM: I liked it a lot...the different instruments, the new songs, the sparklers...
TZ: Yeah, don't lean into that sparkler thing too much in print, though.
TZ: A lot of bar owners disapprove of people on stage with burning magnesium.
MM: Ah. right. How about something else...how about the early years?
TZ: Yeah, how about them, anyway? I was born when I was very young.It was dark, and I was scared. Then I saw a light, and...
MM: Actually I was thinking of your early musical years.
TZ: You never let me have any fun. I suppose you're thinking of the Schultz Food Band.
MM: Yeah, tell us about that.
TZ: Well you know...when I ran into them I really was very young, about fourteen or fifteen, and I was living in a commune with some of these people, who were in this "band". Actually at the time they were a sort of surrealist, dadaist, guerrilla theatre troupe that did this wierd performance art, with people shaking gourds and moaning, and Shultz, this large guy, would put a beefsteak up on a podium and mike it and beat it with carrots while reciting poetry. Pretty far-out stuff for the mid-sixties! That turned into my gig...writing poetry and shaking gourds.
MM: What kind of poetry?
TZ: Oh, terrible poetry! (laughter) Very, very spaced-out free verse. I can't even remember any now. Probably just as well.
MM: Wish I'd been there. Do you think any of that influence carried over into what you do now?
TZ: That sense of the absurd, certainly. Or course later on people came into that group who could really play their instruments, free jazz style stuff, and that influenced me a lot, these folks had wonderful record collectons too...Albert Ayler, Muddy Waters, Coltrane, Pharoah Saunders...I started playing bass right about then.
MM: How'd that happen?
TZ: Oh, there was just somebody's upright lying on a stage somewhere and I picked it up and started playin' it. Until its owner chased me off, but by then I was hooked.
MM: What did you like especially about the bass?
TZ: Well, those low overtones were just so rich. And it looked so cool...basses just look so great, so beautiful and exotic. I've alway been attracted to exotic instruments. When I was a kid I'd always go to the India Art Shop and play on their sitars and things. Guitars and pianos came later!
MM: And accordions?
TZ: Accordions...and banjos...(reflectively) those steenking banjohs...
MM: If you could play only one instrument, what would it be?
TZ: Gourd. You always have a bond with the instrument you start with. Besides I'm somewhat of a gourd virtuoso. I'm known for my solos on the gourd, you know.
MM: And I think that's where we're gonna have to leave it.
TZ: Yeah. Let's leave it and then sneak away quietly.