'Getting Started With A Head Start'

By: Kurt Tietjen

I have seen the future of rock and roll and that future is ZO2. ZO2, the New York based band is embarking on their first label backed tour of the northeastern US. 2007 has already been a big year for ZO2, but before we talk about now, let's introduce you to ZO2.

The band is made up of 3 incredibly talented musicians. David Z is on bass and vocals and is the bassist for the enormously successful Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Joey Cassata played with the critically acclaimed Blue Man Group is on drums and vocals. Paulie Z fronts the band on guitar and vocals. Paulie was the featured vocalist on many song parodies featured on the Howard Stern show and is the inventor of the Rock Asylum concert series which features the best independent rock acts in New York.

Back in 2004 ZO2 independently released their first CD Tuesdays and Thursdays. The CD features an incredible selection of songs with tracks like "Temptation" and "Takin' Me Down" setting the stage for their musical direction and future. Within weeks of the CD release, ZO2 was on the main stage opening up for Kiss and Poison on a 40-city national tour. The tour was sponsored by VH1 and garnered the boys standing ovations every night. According to David one of the greatest memories from that tour was playing Love Gun during a sound check and being joined by Kiss lead singer, Paul Stanley who just had to jump in on vocals. As a former Kiss Army member myself, I can't even imagine what that felt like.

Throughout 2006, ZO2 performed at their monthly Rock Asylum shows at Arlene's Grocery along with various dates around the country. The band did have to take a short break towards the end of the year while David was out on the road for 10 weeks performing with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. (TSO features such talents as Alex Skolnick, Al Pitrelli, Mark Wood, Jane Mangini and more.) ZO2 also went back into the studio with producer Bob Held to record the follow-up to their debut CD. The end result speaks for itself, Ain't It Beautiful features 11 tracks that cover a wide array of influences including Aerosmith, Led Zeppelin, Audioslave and Alice in Chains but with a style that is all their own.

Back in January of 2007, I bumped into the guys from ZO2 at the NAMM show out in Anaheim, California. I had seen them play a couple of gigs but something happened here that caught me off guard. David was ripping out some bass lines sitting in a bass manufacturer booth and I really had to take notice of his playing. David was just showing what an incredible talent he is. While David was playing, I had an in-depth conversation with singer/guitarist Paulie Z and producer/manager Bob Held about what the boys had in store for '07. While the band was out at the NAMM show, they found the time to play a very well received show at the Viper Room in West Hollywood.

Right now, we all know that the music industry is at a very interesting crossroads. Some of the most successful albums from 2006 had direct links to TV. Hannah Montana and High School Musical were 2 of the top selling CDs from last year. Both CDs were pushed by a multi medium assault by Disney on the Disney Channel, a US tour and DVD releases which propelled each CD to multi-millions in sales units. In addition to the success of Disney, we also have the American Idols that are just tearing up the charts. The current state of the music industry almost requires this push across mediums in order to get the traction to break out.

ZO2 is not only talented, buy VERY music business savvy. Right before heading out to NAMM, ZO2 and the Independent Film Channel (IFC) issued a press release about a loosely scripted improvisational half-hour comedy show. The show is a hybrid reality based show, with actors and ZO2. The show is based on reality: ZO2 is a real-life metal/rock band by night, but the comedy comes into play with their moonlighting gig as the Z Brothers, a kids birthday party band. ZO2 and IFC were fortunate to be able to choose from some of the most amazing improv actors around, stand-up comics. With Lynn Koplitz's impeccable timing and quick with heading the team as the band's manager, the rest of the cast rounds out with Jay Oakerson, Alison Becker and Adam Ferrara. The show is scheduled for an early 2008 airing.

According to manager/producer Bob Held, this show is to the music business what Entourage is to the film and TV business. The show is a modern day Hard Days Night meets Curb Your Enthusiasm meets This is Spinal Tap.

The IFC show is going to provide ZO2 with an incredible amount of exposure which will be added to their tremendous guerilla marketing efforts: their loyal street teams around the country, their ever-present MySpace and web marketing efforts, radio interviews as well as their constant indefatigable touring schedule. If these guys have a spare minute they're in ZO2 mode. The dedication and energy that they are putting into their music career will definitely pay dividend later.

Shortly after hooking up with the guys out at NAMM, the magazine received the great news that ZO2 finally found a label that was going to support their career and help them move to the next level of stardom. Riker Hill Records, a new label based in New York signed ZO2 back at the end of March (2007). In May, The Canal Room an upscale club on (surprisingly) Canal Street in New York City played host to the Riker Hill launch party. The night was hosted by VH1's Eddie Trunk and attended by a room filled with industry execs and press (myself included). Several noteworthy musicians were also in attendance, such as Jay Jay French of Twisted Sister and Michael Cartelleone of Lynyrd Skynyrd.

Ain't It Beautiful received its label release on August 7th and is available in stores as well as on iTunes right now. This is Riker Hills inaugural release, and will be followed by Boston's Craving Lucy coming this month (September). Craving Lucy is another incredible band that deserves your attention. You can check those guys out on their MySpace page at myspace.com/cravinglucy.

Ain't It Beautiful has already received great reviews, not only in the Inside Connection, but also in Hit Parader and Metal Edge Magazine. Here's what the other guys said:

"It's music that you'll want to play loud, sing along with and memorize all at the same time"
Ken Pierce - Metal Edge Magazine

"It's easy to understand why Paul Stanley and just about everyone else who's checked out this group's work ends up reacting excitedly to the brand of music ZO2 makes and it's paying big dividends for this go-for-broke power trio"
Rob Andrews - Hit Parader.

For a lot of struggling, independent musicians, the end-all/be-all goal is to get signed to a label deal.From the looks of things, ZO2 understands that thats actually just the BEGINNING of things. The boys just finished up a show for the John Entwistle Foundation, which also featured Joe Lynn Turner (Deep Purple, Rainbow, Yngwie Malmsteen) as well as a Brian Johnson/Cliff Williams (from AC/DC) side project. As were putting this story together, ZO2 is hitting the road on a late summer/early fall tour that will take them from their home away from home Ior maybe it actually IS their home) Arlenes Grocery to Jaxx in Springfield Virginia where theyll play along side Kix and up to Hartford Connecticut where theyll share the stage with Powerman 5000. These are just some of the highlights of a tour that will take them out to West Virginia and Ohio as well as up and down the Atlantic coast.

According to Riker Hill Records COO, Lynn Lendway, working with ZO2 is a labels dream. The band has laid so much groundwork for their career on their own. The amazing music, musicianship and professional attitude combined with a US tour with Kiss, a warrior mentality, a road dog spirit, a rabid fan base, the upcoming IFC show. We could sit back and just watch the magic, but thats not our plan. The label and our partners have lined up a team of industry heavy hitters to make sure that absolutely nothing slips between the cracks and every opportunity is identified. Were pulling out all the stops and making sure they have the strongest independent promotion, the most visible PR and an incredibly creative marketing team behind them.

First and foremost, ZO2 is a live, performance band. This modern-day power trio understands that their job is to not only write and play great music but to create excitement with the audience. Paulie Z loves to interact with the audience while brother David is busy ripping his shirt off for him many female admirers all the while keeping a blistering bass line going. To me, someone thats seen these guys 5 or 6 times Joey Cassata looks like hes just having a great time behind his drum kit.

Ms. Lendway also understands the power of a multi-tiered guerilla marketing approach. She marvels at the energy that ZO2 is putting into their career. When theyre not gigging, theyre traveling to and from gigs, booking gigs and working the internet. They just dont stop. A couple of months ago The Inside Connection featured an article on this very topic; you must become driven beyond the point of sanity to succeed in this business.

Their sound and style is really perfect for where the music industry is right now. They play great classic hard rock with a modern and very musical edge. Their sound is compelling to all ages, well except maybe my grandmother. Whatever success ZO2 achieves in the future, they absolutely deserve every bit of it. Talented, driven and above all, some of the nicest and most sincere guys Ive met in a long time.

To check in on ZO2, head over to www.ZO2.com or to www.myspace.com/zo2.