Zeta Zeroes is a one-man punk and metal band from Long Island, New York.
The project was conceived in 2021, although its origins date back to 2010, when instrumentalist, songwriter, vocalist, and producer Bill R. created dozens of punk and metal songs in GarageBand and demoed them. Being a die-hard metalhead, his passion for punk rock grew as he played bass and guitar in bands with friends and performed pop punk and punk rock standards at jams, local bars, and high school talent shows.
A mature artist wanting to contribute to the stale metal and punk scenes meets old songs with youthful vitality after a decade of life away from music to pursue college, graduate school, and full-time employment.
On May 13, 2022, the frantic song Toxic Rob was released. The music websites Edgar Allen Poets, Roadie Music Magazine, Rock Era Magazine, and Rising Artists all featured it and gave it high praise. The punk-EP-of-the-year contender “11:01,” co-produced by Zeta Zeroes and Moon Machine, with mastering by Enormous Door, will be released on Bailey Road Records on July 15, 2022. It features Toxic Rob and three additional original songs. Check out the exclusive interview below:
1. Can you tell us a bit about where you come from and how you got started?
ZETA ZEROES: Long Island, New York is where I was born and raised. My parents always played classic rock bands around the house and in the car. I started playing bass at age 10 and guitar at 12 and started a band with some school friends at the same time while learning my instrument. We never got past jamming “Smoke on the Water” and “Psycho Killer” in our basements, but I got far more into hard and prog rock through them – Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, etc.
Though a hand-me-down iPod from my older brother, I discovered “Enter Sandman” which changed everything for me. Guitar Hero 3 then solidified me as a Metallica fanboy after hearing “One” and opened me up to more metal bands like Iron Maiden, Slayer, In Flames, and Slipknot. I was cemented as a die-hard metalhead and got serious with my guitar playing.
I started writing my own music around this time as well on my family iMac in Garageband. My first songs were Pantera and Testament rip-offs but soon gained a more alt metal character from the In Flames and Deftones influences creeping in. I wrote dozens of metal songs from ages 14 to 18. This is how I taught myself the basics of songwriting, engineering, and mixing. Many of these songs I truly love, and I look forward to re-arranging, re-recording, and releasing the best of them – along with brand new material – under the Zeta Zeroes banner over the next few years.
The guitar player from my first band joined the school tennis team and effectively folded the group and I was left a free agent. I still wanted to play in bands, but everybody I knew was into punk. I joined them anyway on bass and guitar duties, covering lots of Green Day, Blink-182, and Ramones classics. Some Flyleaf, CKY, and Four Year Strong made the cut as well. My metal songs would never make the cut for these guys, so I had to write punk songs to get any of them to play my original material. Some of them were lampoons of the genre since I was still exclusively a metalhead, but I grew to earnestly love punk. Four of those punk songs I wrote in 2010-2011 are featured on my upcoming EP in July.
When I went off to college in 2013, I stopped playing guitar almost entirely. I sold my Gibson Flying V and ESP LTD M-1000 – two amazing guitars I wish I still had – and didn’t start again until 2021 when I started this Zeta Zeroes project. I was suffering from mental illnesses that weren’t diagnosed or treated until just a couple of years ago. Combined with the demands of my coursework, subsequent full-time work, and moving away from my old bandmates, I lost interest in making music.
I figured these punk songs on my upcoming 11:01 EP would be the best way to get back in the game before I work on my more challenging metal stuff.
2. Did you have any formal training or are you self-taught?
ZETA ZEROES: I took guitar lessons for a few months when I started out. I played trumpet before I even picked up any string instrument, so I knew how to read music. I studied music theory up to the AP level in high school as well, which has been a big influence on knowing which rules to follow and which ones to break.
Otherwise, I learned everything from ear training and trial-and-error. YouTube has been a tremendous resource for guitar and vocal exercises, gear reviews, and mixing and engineering tutorials. CreativeLive and my co-producer Eric from the prog metal band Moon Machine were critical for me as well during the process of making this first EP.
3. Who were your first and strongest musical influences and why the name ‘ZETA ZEROES’?
ZETA ZEROES: While studying for my master’s degree in math last year, I stumbled across the phrase “Zeta Zeros” reading about the Riemann Zeta Function. I was looking for a title for this solo project and I thought it sounded cool and alliterative but not tragically dorky. I misspelled it mostly to make social media handles easier and to try and avoid having stuff on the Riemann Zeta Function itself show up when the band name is searched.
Metal bands like Metallica, Testament, In Flames, Behemoth, and Pantera were my first influences when I began writing. Deftones and Converge became big influences later in high school. My punk influences for this EP were mostly from Sum 41, Rise Against, Blink-182, Green Day, and Every Time I Die. I have a dire need not to sound pastiche and to create my own lane, which is something I’m working on since there are so many incredible heavy bands and records from the past 50 years that I wish I had made.
For stuff I’ve written more recently, I’ve been influenced by lots of post-hardcore, shoegaze, and indie music – Bilmuri, My Bloody Valentine, Sweet Trip, Sleigh Bells, and Lil Ugly Mane to name a few. Part of me wants to go even heavier and noisier in the vein of Nails, Full of Hell, and Prurient, so we’ll see, I guess.
4. What do you feel are the key elements in your music that should resonate with listeners, and how would you personally describe your sound?
ZETA ZEROES: This EP is very 80s and 90s punk but with more ADHD. I want to make things that jump out and grab your attention – I would much rather be notable to my listeners than ignorable.
The main factor of 11:01 is that I’ve listened to all these songs many hundreds of times and I’m still not fully tired of them. They are frenetic and rapidly changing – perhaps to a fault – but I think they will provide the most value for repeat listeners. For those who my music doesn’t grab immediately, it’ll just blow by you. I tried to add in more hooks and repetition during the making of this EP, but I’ve been listening to these things for over a decade – and lots more throughout the production process – and I needed to make the short runtimes interesting to me, so there are a lot of moving parts.
Different musical keys and chord progressions portray different moods and feels for me thanks to perfect pitch. My favorite keys are ones with lots of sharps and flats, particularly Db major. Those keys convey complex emotions to me because they’re less commonly used, and I think they’re perfect for the complex emotions we as humans feel.
I want the guitars, bass, and drums themselves to grab the listener as I’ve always been an instrumentalist and producer first. The vocals are icing on the cake to give poetry to the sound and provide additional melody, harmony, rhythm, and texture. I try as hard as possible to get a deep, cutting feeling from other music that I thoroughly enjoy and am influenced by but never quite seem to fully scratch that itch for me. I’m very picky with my songwriting so only things that grab my attention and don’t let go of me make the cut.
5. For most artists, originality is first preceded by a phase of learning and, often, emulating others. What was this like for you? How would you describe your own development as an artist and music maker, and the transition towards your own style, which is known as ROCK?
ZETA ZEROES: Apple GarageBand was where my learning started around 12-13 years old. I literally just slammed the MIDI keyboard and put loads of distortion on the piano virtual instrument before I switched to the acoustic guitar and amp sims, eventually recording my own guitar playing through the built-in webcam mic and learning the basics of EQ and compression. The whole process was an audio engineer’s nightmare, but I just had loads of fun making the songs themselves – I initially made just a riff or short section of a song, but fully formed and mixed songs came together around age 15. My first music was just total rip-offs of the metal bands I loved but with worse guitar playing. I grew frustrated at how many huge metal bands in the 2000s just wanted to sound like Metallica or Iron Maiden, so I grew an aversion to anything pastiche in my own songwriting process as well.
Rock, punk, and metal were all I ever pictured myself doing. I’ve had phases with all sorts of music through the years that made me tinker around and make some demos in the style – drum & bass, hip hop, folk, industrial – but a distorted electric guitar is just the coolest sound in the world to me and it’s been a mainstay for all my musical life.
This Zeta Zeroes project doesn’t have a clear direction yet – there are certain beats, musical motifs, song structures, keys, timbres, lyrical ideas, and attitudes that I gravitate towards. I plan to make this more of a metal thing, but I don’t have a specific genre or movement I think this can be pinned down into. It would be cool to eventually refine into a specific genre or scene – or better yet, pave the way for a new one – but I’m just having fun building a repertoire right now and making music I love.
7. Do you feel that your music is giving you back just as much fulfilment as the amount of work you are putting into it, or are you expecting something more, or different in the future?
ZETA ZEROES: This EP did take away from my actual career and continuing education for six months – which I am frustrated with, considering the recession we’re about to dive head-first into. I haven’t even gotten an entry-level job in my field yet after about 2,000 job applications and dozens of interviews over the last two years. Striking a balance with my day job and the music is a focus of mine, along with the other demands of family, friends, health, and finances. I waste too much time napping and doom-scrolling on my phone, so cutting down on that would help a lot with living a satisfactory late-20s for me.
Overall, I’m happy I did this EP and that I have something to show for it on streaming platforms and such. I feel fulfilled to just be back in this process again and have a name for myself, it truly was a part of my identity that was missing when I stopped this after high school. Numbers and results are something that won’t matter to me much until later down the line. I have a lot more songs to work on and release, so I’m just very excited to be narrowly focused on those songs and on my continued growth as an artist and producer in that time.
8. Could you describe your creative processes? How do usually start, and go about shaping ideas into a completed song? Do you usually start with a tune, a beat, or a narrative in your head? And do you collaborate with others in this process?
ZETA ZEROES: I always start with a good guitar riff that becomes the soul of the song. Every time I try to start with a bass line, a drum beat, a vocal line, or a chord progression, it falls flat every single time and just doesn’t feel like ‘me’. I often come up with riffs while noodling during guitar exercises, playing with chord shapes and open strings, or if I’m lucky enough, something will come to me while dreaming or daydreaming.
A lot of stuff just ends up at the riff stage. Sometimes I wait a year or two to come up with a second riff that compliments an older one well-enough to make a verse and a chorus and that gives me enough legs for a full song. Other times I make the riff in my DAW and just spitball for what fits before or after. The bass guitar and drums usually compliment or accentuate the guitar riff – I’d like to improve my ability to make those things more interesting on their own.
Back in high school with my band The Escape Goats, I had my singer Joe come up with all the lyrics and vocal melodies since I didn’t want to touch that stuff with a ten-foot pole. I used to be in a music appreciation club where I would show my songs to friends, and they would be like “that bridge is too long” or “there’s way too much bass in the mix” and I would agree 80% of the time. It can be difficult to get some perspective with these things on your own.
I’ve been bouncing around demos to my friend Eric from Moon Machine, We Are Space Horses, and Sly Fang. He co-produced 11:01 and is a talented artist, producer, and multi-instrumentalist. We’ve known each other for years and have many of the same influences, so I look forward to collaborating and improving each other’s music more in the future.
9. What has been the most difficult thing you’ve had to endure in your life or music career so far?
ZETA ZEROES: Depression and self-destructive behavior. It stemmed from bullying, family drama, and social isolation growing up, but it didn’t fully take hold of me until my sophomore year of college. I became a problem drinker which worsened my symptoms and created a self-destructive cycle of hurtful words and stupid decisions from me during blackouts. I ruined many of the friendships and relationships I struggled to make in the first place.
I selected a major I didn’t love but I thought would be less work since I wanted to just go to the gym and party. That ended up being even more stressful since I couldn’t pay attention in class, finish homework assignments, or study for exams more than an hour in advance. The untreated ADHD didn’t help either. That hurt my career prospects and combined with losing my interest in making music made me feel painfully hollow with no real identity from my work or life outside of it.
I’m only in D.C. right now because my resume sucks and I can’t get a job back in Pittsburgh where I went to college, which is where I want to be in right now to set down roots, get involved in the local music scene, and be around friends again.
10. On the contrary, what would you consider a successful, proud or significant point in your life or music career so far?
ZETA ZEROES: The songwriting of my later high school years. I was writing my most consistent and mature songs to-date, I had a new SM57 to record with, and I was playing some of my songs with The Escape Goats. We did a song of mine called “Falling in Unison” at our high school variety show in front of hundreds of people and it felt incredibly special to me.
The most significant moments for me are when I write and record a demo of something new and can’t stop listening to it on repeat, like “I can’t believe I just wrote this”. I had a couple of those the past 8 months. I’m excited to finish the music I already have written from way back so I can get back to more of those creative moments that make me feel like I just pulled something magical from the ether.
I think the best is yet to come for me. All my best music has been on my hard drive for a decade and I’m excited to re-work and re-record all of it with the incredible home recording hardware and software that is out there today. I got lots of new guitars, an RME Babyface, a few pedals, some monitors and headphones, and other nice gear that I look forward to using and upgrading to inch closer to pro-level quality. The goal is to join or form a full band eventually to take the best of this material and new songs to the stage and to professional studios.