We finally arrive at Part VI of the Amps and Green Screens WHITE EMPRESS Special Feature. And last but not least, we talked with drummer Zac Morris, who is as open, honest, and real as it gets. He’s pretty goddamn funny, too! When I started this project six months ago I had no idea that it would give me such insight into the members of this band, not just as musicians but also as people. I hope you all have enjoyed this journey as much as I have. So, without further ado I now present to you this final chapter of Inside WHITE EMPRESS:
Amps: How did you come to be involved with WHITE EMPRESS?
Zac: I told Paul (Allender, guitar) that I don’t think he’s aware that he’s literally the reason I started playing drums. I was 15 and my brother came back from Ozzfest 2003 or ’04 and he was like, “You gotta check out this band CRADLE OF FILTH!” So I bought Damnation and a Day, the latest one at the time and I freaked the fuck out! I got a job as a mascot at a minor league baseball team, I saved my money and I went and bought a drum set, bought a double bass pedal and almost ten years later I get a Facebook message from a guy named Paul asking me to try out for his band WHITE EMPRESS. I’m like, “Paul Allender, I know that name.” I Google it and sure as shit it’s the guitar player to CRADLE OF FILTH! It was pretty bonkers having that go down!
I was doing a lot of subbing tours last year, including RA’S farewell tour and the night I left to go to the airport I checked my message and saw Paul’s. So I’m in Boston and he calls me and we made plans to get together as soon as I got off tour. As SOON as I landed in L.A. I was back in my drum room learning these songs, then on a fucking flight to the Midwest to go audition. I could barely finish the RA tour because I was so excited about this!
Amps: What were your initial thoughts about the concept, and what made you come onboard?
Zac: Initially, just the fact that Paul’s name was connected to it. I hadn’t heard any of the music. I was just a total fanboy (laughs) and I was like, “He could ask me to play fuckin’ polka and I won’t care!” I am a big metal player, which is more my style, and I had been doing some rock stuff with UGLY KID JOE and I was excited to do my metal chops again. As soon as I hear the music I knew it was perfect for me. What’s cool about WHITE EMPRESS is I feel it has elements of CRADLE but with so much more to it. It’s like the stuff that Paul wanted to do in CRADLE that Dani Filth wouldn’t allow him, so then you have Mary’s (Zimmer) vocal style in there too and she’s fuckin’ unbelievable, man. She’s a great vocalist, and a great human being on top of it. Her overall writing style is awesome, too. There’s a cool electronic style that comes through but with the old-school black metal vibe coming from Mary’s brutal-ass vocals. I think right now it’s metal that’s untouchable, it’s metal that hasn’t been done before and it’s gonna be a catalyst for metal to come in the future. I really do believe that.
Amps: Now that the album release is right around the corner, what are you feeling?
Zac: You know this is the first time I’ve been so involved in a band. I have a really hard time in my career just because I live in L.A. I never put all my eggs in one basket. I never have, I’ve always had a hard time doing it. This is the first band that I’m all in, I signed the contracts with them, I’m a part of it, and it’s kiiind of nerve-wracking because I’ve always had one foot out the door just in case shit happens I could be, “Alright, peace!” This is my first band that I am not only contractually but emotionally involved. It’s a new project; it’s a first release in an n era when things don’t sell as much. What I’m real excited for is the fact we have a lot of carry-over fans. I know Mary has a lot of people from LUNA MORTIS, Paul has obviously a lot of CRADLE fans, I even have some of my old fans from UGLY KID JOE hitting me up on this stuff, so I feel like we can kind of use our success from our previous bands to help further this one quickly. And I think this album in the next three months will sell pretty decently for a black metal album. More so it will give us a good foundation for touring, and that’s what it’s all about.
Amps: What does the WHITE EMPRESS mean to you?
Zac: To me it means revolution as far as the style goes. I’m a metalhead by heart, don’t get me wrong, but I also love playing some jazz and funk. I was kind of dying out on metal because it’s all the same shit. It’s starting to become more commercial, which isn’t a bad thing ’cause it’ll reach more people but with commercial comes influences from people outside of the bands. Producers, managers all giving their opinions and whenever money starts getting involved that’s when you really start compromising your artistic ability. And what’s cool about WHITE EMPRESS is we went at it with the idea of, “Fuck the money. We’ll take five grand from a record label over $200,000 any day because that means it’s more ours and from our hearts, you know? And that’s what WHITE EMPRESS is. Every second of that album is produced by us, written by us, and performed by us. There are no external influences and to me it’s an organic expression of six heads that are unified.
Amps: Are you still a TA at Musician’s Institute?
Zac: No I left that gig because I started touring too much. I was doing that for three and a half years after I graduated. But then I started touring and I would miss finals, stuff where I needed to be there for these classes. It was too hard for my boss to find a replacement on such short notice all the time. I basically had to choose between touring and gigging any time I want and being a TA there so we parted ways last December after finals were done. I have no hard feelings whatsoever, he gave me the opportunity. But we get in this to tour, you know? I’ve gotten to play in 22 countries in the past two years, I’ve gone to three continents, play to half a million people in Poland and then play Wacken the next day for 50,000, hang out with some of the most amazing people. Who would pass that up? At the time I was 25, I’m 26 now and I’m a child compared to some of these guys. Especially the UGLY KID JOE guys, those dudes are 45 years old and I am young enough to be their child! They’re so nice and their idea on life and positivity is just amazing. They’re all about people.
Amps: What can you tell us about the WHITE EMPRESS live shows? Anything?
Zac: Ooooh…I can tell you that right from the get-go we’re going into full production. It’s not just gonna be us onstage. I can’t give away too much because I don’t know what Paul has for sure, but it’s definitely gonna be a SHOW. It’s not gonna be a performance, it’s a goddamn SHOW! Full-on production, visuals as well as audio, costumes, make-up, the whole nine, balls to the wall.
Amps: Well don’t worry, when I report back to Paul I’ll tell him you gave me fucking nothing, NOTHING. Not one of you has told me a thing!! No one has slipped up at all.
Zac: (Laughing) we’re not allowed too, man!! We all got briefed. Besides, half the fun of it is building up the hype, and when it happens we’re gonna tear off some dicks!! All dicks in the room ripped off and littering the floor.
Amps: It’s apparently an unwritten rule that you all have 50,000 other projects so what else do you have going on besides WHITE EMPRESS?
Zac: UGLY KID JOE is still around, but it’s a phone call thing. I might get a call from Whit (Crane) saying, “Hey do you wanna go to the Midwest for a one-off?” but we haven’t done anything since Australia six months ago. I’m in this L.A. based band called DOROTHY that’s more like LED ZEPPELIN classic rock but with a really, really hot chick upfront who can REALLY sing. And that’s actually been paying a lot of bills out here in L.A. Other than that I just do a lot of side gigs. This guy Desi Valentine every once in a while his drummer will double book so I’ll get a phone call. I have couple jazz trios that do restaurant gigs. When you have a constant touring schedule it’s hard to be part of one band, but it’s easier to be a fill-in for several bands. Aside from DOROTHY, which I’m in wholeheartedly, it’s UGLY KID JOE and WHITE EMPRESS as my main bands.
Amps: Say something to the WHITE EMPRESS legions.
Zac: Thank you to everybody for all of your support. We love every single one of you and we hope to not disappoint every single one of you. Every single one of you is an amazing human being, never forget that. We all have hope, dreams, and desires, and I hope they come true for all of us.
Wow. I don’t know what more I can say about this great band made up of six very different, but very similar souls. Rise of the Empress is available everywhere now via Peaceville Records. So go out and get yours, and prepare yourself…THE EMPRESS IS COMING.
(Thanks to Chela, Paul, Mary, Will, Jeremy, and Zac for spending this time with A&GS while trying to get the album finished. It means a lot!)
LIVE B&W PHOTO: HELEN BRADLEY OWERS PHOTOGRAPHY