Grateful Web Interview with Zach Gill

Article Contributed by June Reedy | Published on Tuesday, September 15, 2020

The soothing sounds of Zach Gill can be summed up in one word: Earworm. His new album Cocktail Yoga will paint a picture of 2020 inwardly, instrumentally, and with more than just the muted colors of an impressionist painting. Tracks like Playground in Your Soul answer back to his ALO song Dead Still Dance. The tune Tripping in Georgia, still wordless but concludes with a sound bite that says, “And then I woke up.” It may be tricky to achieve this level of ujjayi breathing from beneath a mask so do yourself a solid and engage in some solitary creative practice of your own choosing as you spin Cocktail Yoga. Grateful Web recently had the chance to check in with Zach Gill, always a pleasure.

GW: Hi Zach! I have some questions about Cocktail Yoga but I was wondering if we could reach back a little further before we get to that. What parting gift did you take from working on the Curious George Soundtrack? Some of my favorite times end up on the soundtrack of my life and it’s so cool to see art imitating life like that. What was it like to work on an actual soundtrack?

ZG: It was pretty sweet on many, many levels. That was definitely awesome! Let’s see… the parting gift I have is a pretty fun picture from the premiere. They had the little Curious George photo booth. My daughter is 20 now, so what was she? Probably 5 or 6 years old, she was pretty excited. We went to the premier, everybody was there, and we took pictures. Ya know what though? The big experience was that Hans Zimmer worked on the soundtrack. That was amazing to watch him work and collaborate with him. There were some pretty awesome moments.

GW: Wow time flies, now she is 20…

ZG: I know!

GW: Do you have any favorite movie soundtracks?

ZG: I really love the Wes Anderson films. Mark Mothersbaugh, the guy from Devo, did most of them. I gravitate towards those ones. I love his actual composition stuff, interspersed with classic songs from the decades…

GW: singing Through the years…

ZG: That soundtrack works pretty well for me just to sit and listen all the way through. Mark Mothersbaugh is so cool because he had his Devo thing and then he was the guy that founded a pretty awesome studio. Often I will watch a movie and be like, ‘Gahhh this is a cool soundtrack.’ Turns out it was made at that studio.

GW: Speaking of studios, your home studio is called the Creativity Lounge, am I right?

ZG: You are right!

ALO | Photo by Alan Sheckler

GW: What is your latest gadget you have been playing with in the Creativity Lounge?

ZG: Just now I was playing with this Paul McCartney style Hὃfner bass. I was working on my current bass line. But that’s not the latest gadget, I’m kinda looking around here… The latest thing I got I haven’t really figured out how you do it but it looks like a phone but it’s a microphone. That is the latest thing although I haven’t really done much with it yet. I’ll figure it out.

GW: So back to my other line of questions – Thread the Needle off Cocktail Yoga is going to be my soundtrack for the next time I visit the grocery store during COVID-19. giggles To compare and contrast, 2018’s Life in the Multiverse was kind of like Legos in that all the songs fit together so well to create a finished piece that is the album, each song being a Lego, the album being the Millennium Falcon or whatever Lego set you’re doing. Then you have such a contrast with Cocktail Yoga. It’s a free fall and very different.

ZG: Yeah! I know. It’s weird. It all kinda fits together for me, but yeah… It’s hard to giggles get everybody else on the same page. It’s all pieces in the puzzle of it all, ya know? People think of me as a songwriting guy. A lot of stuff starts out instrumental and then you add words to it. This just went, ‘Hey, I like it without words!’

GW: Can you talk to me about Universal Paradox? All of your music, on any album, has this great way of juxtaposing sounds – classic sounds intermingled with street sounds. I thought it would be interesting to ask you about Universal Paradox.

ZG: Yeah! Well, I just watched that movie, Biggest Little Farm. Have you seen that?

GW: No I have not.

ZG: it’s a good documentary. It’s about this farm and these people who have a very idealistic idea of what the farm could be, like a farm from the olden days with all sorts of animals, growing all sorts of crops – not just one type of crop but hundreds of varieties. They don’t really know anything about how to do this. She is a cook and he is a wildlife photographer. They made a great documentary. The main thing that happens is that they hire this guy who knows a lot about Permaculture.  He is like their farming guru and he sets them on a path where they basically juxtapose all these things where the solution becomes the cure but then every cure brings with it new problems. He claims that after about 7 years of doing it this way, it will be really difficult but if you do it right from the beginning, you will get this balanced – what he calls a self perpetuating wave – of a farm. The farm keeps growing and regenerating itself if they keep tending to it. Sometimes I think music can be like that too. You’ll be like, ‘oh I like that thing but it sounds too much like this thing.’ Then you add this other thing to it but it’s too much like that and each song you balance the building with this combination of the past and the future and the present state you’re in. Your preferences while you’re also trying to get your ears into… I mean people have such different tastes. You’ll be thinking about ‘How will people interpret this?’

GW: Well nobody ever wants to be labeled into one box so if people do interpret it, it has to feel like, that’s not what I meant at all!

Zach Gill | Photo by Alan Sheckler

ZG: I know! It’s especially funny when the jam band genre is almost like a genre for music that doesn’t want to be in boxes! It’s the box for things that don’t want to be in boxes! This is really everything. I mean some things set out to be in a box. They’re like; I’m going to be THIS. That’s pretty clear.

GW: Yeah, You are unique, just like everyone else.

ZG: Exactly!

GW: I read that they are comparing Cocktail Yoga to some composers like Martin Denny and Esquivel. Can you tell us more about those composers or composers that have inspired you?

ZG: Esquivel, I think there were a lot of reissues of lounge music, like 60s lounge music that came out in the beginning of the CD era. I’ve digested them all but I got into that stuff! I had never heard it until somebody brought it over and it was like… we laughed at it! It was mainly instrumental but vibrant and he’s got human voices in these funny ways. People are saying weird words and everything is possible. It’s really penned in these fun and creative ways. They are discovering stereo for the first time. The xylophone goes across every which way. I just remember that being like the greatest thing ever. Ever since then, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole of a lot of stuff in that line. A lot of it is very atmospheric, like with a tiki element to it where they’ve got lots of bird sounds. They really try to bring the listener to a location in your mind.

GW: Yes, definitely!

ZG: So, that was definitely in the sphere of most of the songs. They all have a little bit of that element. They were more like atmospheres than they are like traditional songs. When I was working on them, I was thinking of an atmosphere as opposed to a song.

GW: This is tough to not speak too specifically about the album because my readers haven’t heard it yet but… The last song on the album, Warrior in the Woods, I felt like a cat. I felt like my cat hunting in the backyard right now.

ZG: Yeah totally!

GW: That song was like seeing through her perspective feeling like I am going to kill you! It is awesome! Then of course like I said, Thread the Needle is my soundtrack right now. It brought to mind the Brooks was Here moment form the Shawshank Redemption. It makes me feel like, ‘I am living for today and that is good.’

ZG: Yes, absolutely!

GW: Another question for you, do you get earworms? Cocktail Yoga is total earworm from front to back.

Zach Gill

ZG:  Yes I definitely get earworms. I have a couple of earworms right now.  I’ve had this earworm lately. Do you know the musical Annie?

GW: Yes!

ZG: Miss Hannigan sings this song, Little Girls, Little Girls… Everywhere I turn… da da da da da da. There is a lil clarinet that goes da da da da duuuuh. THAT is in my head! It’s stuck in there permanently! Nine times out of ten, if I am walking in the supermarket, regardless of what is playing in the store, I hear that song.  I don’t know… I used to accompany musicals. I played a lot of shows back then but I don’t know why THAT one stuck ya know? Then there are times when I’m writing a song where I’m like, ‘oh wait. I just put that in there.’ giggles

GW: Yeah, yup yep.

ZG: You know? It’s just yeah, stuck in there.

GW: Isn’t that Carol Burnett that played the Miss Hannigan character in the film?

ZG: Yeah, her version is so good.  I don’t know why that version is stuck in my head but it is permanently lodged in there.  It’s like all the other melodies are sort of in some sort of grey area but that one is written on the hard drive giggles and ONLY the little part of it. It’s not like I know all the words or anything, JUST that part!

GW: It’s the hook!

ZG: Yeah

GW: So… what are you doing exactly on the cover art of this new album?

ZG: Well… it’s called cocktail yoga! I started calling the album Cocktail Yoga because it felt like music for cocktails or music for yoga to me. Then I was like Oh! I’ll just combine em. It kinda made sense. I was calling it that in my mind for awhile at least when you’re working on the songs and you have to file them. I hadn’t really thought too much about it but then when it came time to take some pictures I thought, ‘What would Cocktail Yoga look like? What would somebody look like if they were doing Cocktail Yoga?!’ Then there was this captain with the pink coat on…

GW: Yeeees! It was very Hunter S Thompson-esque!

ZG: Yeah I’m starting to realize, I don’t know if it is because of the stuff I used to do with theatre, but I have these personas. Once I get that going… I will stick with it and it helps me get into the vibe. I put on the captain’s hat and the coat and suddenly I’m swept away.  I’m starting to realize that I have a couple of different ones that are pretty strong.

Zach Gill | Photo by Alan Sheckler

GW:  Well I will tell you that if you put “Cocktail Yoga” into YouTube’s search engine, it is not your album that is the first thing to pop up.

ZG: Oh! Interesting!

GW: I can find the single that is out now,  King Dancer’s Delight but Cocktail Yoga pops up with a plethora of interesting videos.

ZG: So are they doing actual cocktail yoga?

GW: Well there was beer yoga, wine yoga, boho yoga, goat yoga…

ZG: Well it looks like I thought I was out of the box and now I’m back in!

GW:  You’re killin me!

ZG: The boxes are so broad, you can’t escape them! And they’re all so funny.

GW:  You can find anything on the internet.

ZG:  Yep

GW: So what is your plan moving forward? To play as much music as you can whenever you can?

ZG: Yeah, I mean I’m actually having a great time staying creative at home. I feel like I have a lot of, Cocktail Yoga included, pending projects. I’ve taken the liberty to try and finish these projects up. It gets a little scary when you start thinking… I mean, every recording has the promise of a live show at the end of it. It gets weird when you think of all the people with all these various projects and when they can actually perform the songs. Ya know, at some point… the fog will lift.

ALO | Photo by Alan Sheckler

GW:  And this music is going to be performed in a little bit different of a way I’m sure? Now there is all this live streaming. I’ve talked to some people that are dreaming positively about what the live music industry will look like when we come out of all this. That includes bringing music to Cedar Falls IA or to Cleveland OH, places that aren’t major music markets.

ZG: Yes! Yes! I think in some ways, it could be a real renaissance. I know that there will be a lot of issues of liability for bigger artists and bigger venues. Then I think some of the smaller promoters and independent festivals, you know, the things that fly under the radar, might really blossom in a nice way.

GW: Let’s hope so.

ZG: They can move a little more fluidly. I hope! One of my many hopes…

GW: So many hopes. It is always darkest before the dawn, right?

ZG: Absolutely! As humans we have been in worse predicaments. There is probably worse to come. giggles Still we live, we learn. We love, we lose. Forever.

GW: And ever

ZG: And ever...