Z’ev: A legacy steeped in the harmonics of time, space, and titanium

Z’ev performing at Eyedrum Art & Music Gallery, May 16, 2007. Photo by Chad Radford


Stark black-and-white photographs of a man with intense focus, hammering at plastic containers, metallic tubes, and hunks of repurposed weapons of war. His head and face clean-shaven, and a cigarette dangling from his lower lip as he kneels—muscles locked—pounding metal rods and mallets on mangled bits of titanium and steel. This vision of percussionist and sound artist Z’ev (born Stefan Joel Weisser) was broadcast from the Bay Area to middle America and beyond in the pages of the Industrial Culture Handbook, published by punk and underground culture journal RE/Search in 1983.

RE/Search placed Z’ev alongside industrial music’s early pioneers Throbbing Gristle, NON, Cabaret Voltaire, and more. But as each of these other acts explored the dark aspects of society in the wake of the industrial revolution with subversive cunning, Z’ev communed with the mystical elements of the natural world. The sounds he created tuned into the deeper resonances of a planet hurtling through space, spinning in alignment with the unseen contours of the universe.

Industrial Culture Handbook

Association with industrial music was never disconcerting for him. “It was just a bunch of people coming from an art background, moving into a proto-punk kind of thing,” Z’ev explained over the phone during an interview in 2007. “My relationship with industrial music had to do with the instruments I was using. They were products of high technological industrialization.”

Z’ev utilized the scraps of industry to draw out both the gargantuan and the meditative qualities of metal, space, and time. He fully embraced the artistic notions of turning swords into plowshares, but most importantly, his performances and compositions honed  the power of pure harmonics.

Be it with his earlier “wild style” live performances imbued with an intense physical show of force, or his more aurally-focused compositions that found balance in primitive rhythms and improvisation, Z’ev’s output had more in common with the tonal exploration of composers of massive minimalism such as Tony Conrad and Lustmord, or the techniques of Pauline Oliveros’ Deep Listening Band, rather than the dirge of groups like Einstürzende Neubauten or Test Dept., who utilize similar instrumentation. “I was never interested in people coming to see a violent thing happen, because it wasn’t violent; it was a powerful thing,” he explained. 

Recalling reviews of early performances: One bay area journalist wrote that “he manipulates large, metal objects with the look of a concert pianist.” But in New York, a writer called him “a man who personifies violence in sound and vision,” and later asked “why does this remind me of a guy being jerked around by two vicious Doberman Pinschers?”

The latter review didn’t set well. “He’s probably someone who cowers during a thunderstorm,” Z’ev offered with an understated laugh. “Some people revel in a thunderstorm and others get scared. It’s an elemental thing and people’s relationship to them determines if it’s something scary or something to embrace.”

“Salts Of Heavy Metals”

Early Z’ev recordings such as 1981’s Salts Of Heavy Metals (Infidelity Records) and 1982’s Elemental Music (Subterranean Records) summoned the hypnotic qualities of reverberating metal by guiding the clang and bang of his performance to harness the ghostly acoustic feedback swelling between each mallet strike—the rhythmic aural phenomena created by his homemade instruments interacting with the room itself.

Z’ev spent a lifetime studying music, the nature of sound, and spirituality from around the world, including Kabbalah and esoteric systems, and wrote a book titled Rhythmajik: Practical Uses of Number, Rhythm, and Sound. He also worked with the Fluxus Group, and was active in the Downtown Manhattan music scene of the ‘80s and ‘90s, as well as the West Coast’s avant-garde arts and music community, extending from his time attending the California Institute of the Arts.

“Elemental Music”

In 1980, he shared the stage with British goth-punks Bauhaus on their first headlining tour of the U.K. “We always used to hand pick our special guests and would look for unusual, stimulating, and challenging artists,” Bauhaus’ bass player and vocalist David J offered in an email. “We saw a film of Z’ev doing a performance where he was ‘playing the building,’ and also using his collection of plastic containers to great rhythmic effect. At the time, we were getting more rhythmic as a band so it was very complimentary to have him opening for us. I believe that he is something of a shaman.”

Over the years, Z’ev also collaborated with various composers, including live electronic music innovator Carl Stone, multi-instrumentalist Elliott Sharp, guitarist Glenn Branca, pianist Charlemagne Palestine, noise artist Merzbow, Genesis P. Orridge of Psychic T.V., Stephen O’Malley of Sunn O))), percussionist Jon Mueller, and dozens more.

“HYDratioN”

Like many, Mueller discovered Z’ev after reading about him in RE/Search’s Industrial Culture Handbook. “When I read his article in ’87 or ’88, I remember it striking me as someone really living a different kind of life, and as a drummer, it was inspiring—mostly in that his ideas went far beyond drumming.”

A few years later, Mueller booked Z’ev to play a show in Milwaukee, where the two met. Later, Mueller released the Osso Exótico + Z’EV CD via the Crouton label.

“Years later, I shared another bill with him in Milwaukee, as part of the Milwaukee Noise Fest,” Mueller says. “That was a great night. We had dinner and really got to talk instead of just exchanging emails—his were typically brief. His set with the synthetic drum triggers manipulating the Jimi Hendrix video was a new direction for him, and I admired his dedication to finding ways to create.”

Mueller goes on to say: “My perception after meeting him didn’t change much, except realizing the possibilities that exist. Being young reading about someone, especially someone like Z’ev, you never assume that one day you’d meet them, let alone work with them.”

In 2009, Important Records released HYDratioN, a collaboration in which Mueller mailed Z’ev a collection of tracks—drums vibrated with gong and synth recordings, and other small percussion. According to the LPs sleeve, Z’ev “recreated” the source material to an extreme degree. How it was executed, though, remains a mystery. “It’s somewhat unclear what all happened on his end,’” Mueller says. “To me, it sounded different than what I sent him, but he said he ‘basically just mixed it.’”

A now scarce retrospective double CD released in 1991, titled 1968-1990: One Foot In The Grave (Touch), drew renewed interest in Z’ev. Dozens more releases followed, including a 2006 CD for Atlanta’s Blossoming Noise label, titled Symphony #2 – Elementalities.

“Symphony #2 – Elementalities”

But even in the digital era, many of his recordings remain frustratingly difficult to track down. As a result, more people have heard of Z’ev than have experienced his performances.

For his 2007 tour—his first proper trek playing shows across the United States—Z’ev’s inventory of instruments included steel sheets and boxes, titanium tubes, a gong made from a patio table bass, and a section from the tank of an 18-wheeler. Each is played with various mallets and maracas that have been altered with ball bearings.

His favorite metal is Titanium, which he discovered at a Bowing scrap yard in Seattle circa 1982 where he acquired surplus materials salvaged from the cooling system of missile silos from Triton submarines. “When the rocket shoots out of the sub you have to cool the interior of the silo or it would melt the submarine,” he adds with childlike enthusiasm. “Titanium can become white hot and maintain structural integrity. The more heat and pressure that’s used to create a metal, creates energy potential. When you hit titanium it amplifies the sonic energy it puts out.”

That sonic energy still rings out with unmatched power.

Z’ev was born on February 8, 1951. He passed away on December 16, 2017. He sustained injuries including a punctured lung and five broken ribs, after surviving a train derailment in Kansas. He was 66 years old.

These photos were taken when Z’ev performed at Eyedrum Arts & Music Gallery on May 16, 2007. Mr. Natural, Black Meat, and Sikhara also performed. All photos by Chad Radford.

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Ecryptus, the Dark Side’s original Sith metal lords, emerge from the shadows with ‘Rancorous’

ECRYPTUS: (left to right) Allen Keller (Lord Tenebris), Danny Ryann (Dan Solo), Justin Brown (Lord Abraxas), and Mike Michalski (Lord Crypt). Photo by Emily Harris.



A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, an early incarnation of the group now known as  Ecryptus was born as a melodic death metal band hellbent on exploring the blackened depths of the cosmos. It was the early aughts, and the group’s singer and guitar player Mike Michalski took lead of this ragtag band of thrashers who knew from the beginning that they wanted to do more than write what he calls “pretentious love songs to Satan.”

One day, while wandering around the annual sci-fi and fantasy Sodom and Gomorrah that is Dragcon the group came face-to-face with an ancient order of Force-wielding rockabilly punks with a penchant for theatrics—Grand Moff Tarkin. Featuring Atlanta artists and underground impresarios Jim Stacy and Shane Morton, GMT pushed the Star Wars theme to the extreme, with an array of spot-on costumes, props, and a legion of stormtroopers to do their bidding.

In an instant, Ecryptus emerged with an arsenal of wholly new and sinister Star Wars-themed black metal to serve the Dark Side.

“Grand Moff Tarkin did their thing with unapologetic campiness,” Michalski says, “but we wanted to make serious songs and treat the source material how many bands treat Tolkien. So we thought, how can we hint at the Dark Side of Star Wars without getting completely sued?”



In 2008, Ecryptus unleashed the Astral Crusades EP, breathing life into the group’s campaign for Darth metal supremacy with songs such as “Imperial Revenge,” “Abandon All Hope,” and “Execute Order 666.” More than a decade later, the “Rancorous” b/w “Execute Order 666 MMXVIII” 7-inch summons a supernatural whirr of cosmic grind, making their transformation to the Dark Side complete.

“Ecryptus,” according to Star Wars lore, was the name of the cavern deep below the surface of the planet Korriban where the ancient Sith species first encountered the Dark Side of the Force. Most of the songs the group has recorded and played live deal with the more horrific scenarios that are woven throughout the Star Wars canon that people only familiar with the films might have never thought too deeply about: being sentenced to death by Rancor, being frozen in carbonite, enslaving an entire planet of wookies, and so on.

“Rancorous” opens with a mighty roar before a spiraling assault of blast beats and demonic incantations rise over searing guitar leads that burn with the heat of Vader’s red lightsaber. On the flipside, “Execute Order 666 MMXVIII” resurrects what has become Ecryptus’ unofficial anthem with a new recording, celebrating the 10-year anniversary of Astral Crusades’ release. The song chronicles Anakin Skywalker’s perspective of executing Emperor Palpatine’s “Order 66” to slaughter the Jedi. “Making the Emperor say “666” was fun,” Michalski says.

The line up at the time of recording the “Rancorous” single featured Michalski, aka Lord Crypt, performing alongside bass player Lord Tenebris, born Allen Keller of Degradations, drummer Dan Solo, aka Danny Ryann (ex-Gigan), and guitar player Ryan Lamb. Lamb moved to Orlando shortly after the songs for the 7-inch were recorded. Lord Abraxas, aka Justin Brown (ex-Synapse Defect), now plays guitar.

The 7-inch arrived pressed on a multi-hued galaxy of vinyl colors: Cauterized Saber Wound, Mace Windu Purp Surp, Ghrey Rey, Opening Crawl Rotten Banana, Gamorrean Guard Mucus, Sarlacc Puke After Trying To Digest Boba Fett, Luke’s Lame-Ass Saber, and Dagoba Green.

Ecryptus. Photo by Emily Harris.

Live, the group takes the stage sporting sith-corpse paint, robes, armor, Dragoncon-acquired lightsabers, and their friend Scara Slayfield wearing her best “Hutt Slayer” Princess Leia outfit, serving drinks to the stage, and adorning the monitors.

The group recently finished recording material for a new EP that’s due out in the Spring of 2021. More recent Ecryptus songs draw inspiration from the expanded universe—characters from Star Wars comic books, novels, and video games.

The forthcoming EP is tentatively titled Kyram Beskar’gam, and, if you watched the The Mandalorian—and you know you did—you already know the title is Mando’a for “Death Armor/Metal.” The new EP will feature songs with titles such as “Cauterized Saber Wound Massacre,” “Planetary Enslavement,” “Compulsion to Disintegrate,” and “Digested over 1000 Years.”

“With each new release, we give in to our anger,” Michalski says, “and become more the Dark Side’s servant …”

In the words of Darth Vader, “You don’t know the power of the Dark Side!”

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Entertainment: ‘Voyeur’


The Howling, The Beyond, Driller Killer, Evil Dead 2, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Slumber Party Massacre, Fright Night, The Fog

If you were breathing oxygen in the ‘80s, merely mentioning these titles stirs up memories of youthful fascination, elation, and terror while staring at the artwork for these horror classics of the VHS era. “Voyeur,” the second single from Entertainment’s forthcoming Horror parts 1 and 2 EPs, pushes this aesthetic nostalgia to a deeper and darker place within the imagination.

As vocalist Trey Ehart explains, “‘Voyeur’ is probably the most direct reference on the EPs to being bored and young in rural suburbia, and spending time absorbing horror movies and skate tapes from the local VHS rental store.”

“Voyeur” falls on the heels of Entertainment’s previously released single, “Maggot Church,” and taps into a more severe sense of urgency before diving deeper into the rabbit hole of hazy and cinematic ambiance. Tom Ashton of the March Violets unfurls a rich, goth-tinged production, as Ehart’s heavily affected voice drives the song’s unhinged melancholy and dreamlike vibe with lyrics such as: “video stains my eyes,” “dreams returned too late, screams in the gages of youth,” “show me ways of new desire,” and “static shivers so strange.”

“Each lyric glamorizes the impact of being exposed to a life and music outside of mainstream culture with over saturated practical effects, unnecessarily gratuitous glimpses of nudity, and underground soundtracks,” Ehart says.

The song’s constrictive and alluring melodies grow increasingly more pronounced in the Candelabra Cage Match mix, which comes courtesy of Beta Machine’s bass player Matt McJunkins, who also performs with Puscifer, A Perfect Circle, Eagles of Death Metal, Poppy, and more.

Keep an eye out for the video, directed by John Breedlove of Hip To Death to arrive soon.

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John Densmore of The Doors on ‘The Seekers’

It’s the people one encounters along the way that turns any trip into a journey.

On Wednesday, December 16, the iconic drummer John Densmore joined me for an A Cappella Books exclusive Zoom chat discussing his latest memoir, The Seekers: Meetings With Remarkable Musicians (and Other Artists).

Densmore is the former drummer for the late great Los Angeles psychedelic rock group the Doors. With The Seekers, he reflects on a lifetime spent crossing paths with greatness. From artists such as Elvin Jones to Joseph Campbell, Patti Smith, the Dalai Lama, Willie Nelson, and John Coltrane, his own mother, and more, The Seekers is a rumination on the knowledge that Densmore has gained through various remarkable encounters, and an exploration of his own relationship with art, music, and humankind.

Press play above.

Click here to read an interview with Densmore discussing his previous book, The Doors: Unhinged.

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Emily Marie Palmer & Jeffrey Bützer: ‘Rebekka’


Jeffrey Bützer and Emily Marie Palmer have released a new single titled “Rebekka.”

The song finds Bützer and Palmer embracing an elegant folk-pop sound that serves as an invisible soundtrack that’s loosely based on The Ballad of Jack and Rose, a film about a daughter that has an unhealthy relationship with her father. As Bützer explains, the song’s protagonist is “raised in a former comune and has really only been around him for her entire life, and, more or less, falls in love with him. I didn’t want to write a salacious incest folk song, so I kept the mood and changed the intent.”

The song features Bützer playing guitar alongside vocalist Palmer, backing vocalist A. R. Palmer, piano and guitar player Lionel Fondeville, Eric Balint playing vibraphone, and cello player Kristin Haverty. The group weaves together a rich tapestry of ethereal, cinematic chamber pop that tells a story that is as tragic or as wistful as whatever the listener brings to the music. The cover art is courtesy of filmmaker Guy Maddin.

Jeffrey Bützer (left) and Emily Marie Palmer. Photo by Ken Lackner


If Palmer looks familiar, you probably recognize her from her roles as Isabel on the rebooted MacGyver series, or as Betsy in season 3 of Cobra Kai—teenaged John Kreese’s love interest. Check out her previous singles “Holy Magic,” “For Beauty,” and “Two Brothers.”

“Rebekka” offers the first glimpse at a new eight-song full-length album, titled Bedrooms, due out later this year.

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Kevn Kinney’s Free Parking: Elvis & Bowie stories Friday, January 8

For this Friday’s Free Parking live stream, Kevn Kinney is diving into a set of mostly loosely veiled topical songs from throughout his career—Drivin N Cryin songs such as “With The People,” “The Innocent,” “Scarred But Smarter,” “Another Scarlet Butterfly,” and more.

As the flier suggests, there is something of an Elvis and David Bowie-related theme this week. It’s Elvis and Bowie’s birthday, so settle in to hear stories about Kevn’s trips to Graceland over the years, high adventure in Memphis, maybe a Sun Records medley, and stories of crossing paths with the Thin White Duke himself.

It’s free to tune in and watch via Drivin N Cryin’s Facebook page, and it’s a pay-what-you’d-like type of deal. Music starts up at 8 p.m. Eastern.

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SOULd OUT ska reggae explosion w/ DJ Mrs. 45 at the Star Bar January 16

Dirty South Booking.

DJ Mrs. 45 makes the trek from South Carolina for an evening of spinning classic ska, reggae, and soul 45s, in the basement lounge at the Star Bar.

The music starts up at 9 p.m. and the records will spin till midnight. Wear your mask and bring your dancing shoes!

$5 at the door. Saturday, January 16. 9 p.m.

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West End Motel: ‘New Years Day’


Happy New Year! West End Motel kicks off the new year with a new jam, appropriately titled, “New Year’s Day.”

Singer and co-writer Tom Cheshire offers up some intel on the song’s words and meaning:

‘Well New Year’s Eve has always been a celebration of just another year being alive, and this year it rings truer than ever. Yesterday, my friend Rob Kincheloe sent me a text saying ‘Happy New Year, if you’re alive you won.’

With ‘New Year’s Day,’ I wanted to write a love song, with a sense of humor in it, and a sense of hope. We always talk about these New Year’s resolutions but they only seem to last a week or two. That’s why there are lyrics in the verse like ‘I know I’ve made mistakes but this time we’re gonna be great,’ and ‘Talk to me on New Year’s Day, I’ll find a place for us to stay,’ and ‘This year is for me and you, all the things that we’re gonna do.’

I also wanted it to be a nod to ’70s soul. I was channeling Motown and the Jam when I started writing it. But Ben Thrower, who wrote it with me, said without realizing it we were flirting with the sounds of early E Street band.

Either way, I love the way it came out. I love the New Year’s horn riff that Ben Davis plays at the end. I guess it is a celebration of being alive and maybe finding love again.’

“New Year’s Day” is the fourth single from West End Motel’s ongoing campaign to roll out a new single each month till Spring. After that, they’ll turn around the fourth proper West End Motel full-length album.

Check out the previous singles:




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Kevn Kinney’s Free Parking: Christmas Special

Tune in to Drivn N Cryin‘s Facebook page on Christmas night to catch Kevn Kinney performing live in his attic! Kevn is a pillar of Atlanta music. He has the stories and he has the songs that place a sometimes rugged, always poignant spin on the past as well as the here and now.

The music starts at 8 p.m. He’ll plays some Drivin N Cryin classic cuts, some deep cuts, a few newer numbers, some solo joints, and maybe even a cover or two.

It’s a pay-what-you-want type of deal.

In the meantime, press play below to hear my April 2019 podcast interview in which Kinney talks about reconnecting with Drivin N Cryin’s first LP, the group’s most recent album, Live the Love Beautiful, and looking within himself to find true happiness.