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Out of the Shadows with King Zebra

Out of the Shadows with King Zebra

King Zebra – Photo by Sven Probst

Out of the Shadows with King Zebra

Out of the shadows and into the rock and roll stratosphere arrives King Zebra! Hailing from the picturesque city of Zurich, Switzerland, King Zebra has just released Between The Shadows on Frontiers Music Srl, and it’s guaranteed to rock your world! The band features the participation of Eric St. Michaels, formerly of China, on lead vocals.  Their presence soared as they graced renowned festivals like Rock the Ring and Rock of Ages, sharing stages with iconic acts such as Lynyrd Skynyrd and Rose TattooHighwire Daze recently caught up with lead guitarist Roman Lauer to find out more about the just released Between The Shadows endeavor, how Eric St. Michaels joined the band, the time they very nearly opened for Uriah Heep at a festival, and other topics of intrigue!  Read on…

We’re here with Roman of King Zebra. First of all, just a basic question, where is the band based out of and what is your local music scene like there?
We are from Zurich, Switzerland. So not to be like confused. It’s not Sweden, it’s Switzerland. The music scene here in Switzerland is actually pretty good. Like in our genre, I’d say there are a lot of good Swiss melodic rock bands, but the downside of it, they don’t get as much attention as they could or should, I’d say.

Is there any overall story or concept behind the album title Between the Shadows?
Well, it hasn’t been a title like that from the beginning. It evolved during the recordings and during Eric’s songwriting because Eric is originally from New Jersey, so he’s a native-speaking English guy, so that’s why he writes all the lyrics for us. Somehow like we merged together, like the musical part and the lyrical part. It evolved like the whole spirit of the album with Eric’s very personal stories and our melodic riffs and the musical part and instrumental part came to the whole picture, which evolved as Between The Shadows. But I’d say it’s really complex. A complex thing because to be honest, we don’t see through all of Eric’s lyrics and probably Eric doesn’t see it through our instrumental part either. I cannot tell you exactly what’s behind Between The Shadows.

Children of the Night is definitely one of my favourite songs on the album. I wanted to ask, although you didn’t write the lyrics, what does that song mean to you?
Children of the Night is one of the songs which is, we have a lot of love songs, to be honest on this album and very personal songs from Eric’s side and Children of the Night is one of the power songs. It tells the story of being out there making rock music, standing in front of an audience, and just living the dream. It shows the power and it just shows that King Zebra is on the energetic and powerful side.

I’ll just ask you another song Dina tell me about that song and what that song means to you.
Dina is actually a classic, it’s also a love song. The topic is a woman. Dina stands for the woman who brings you joy in life but also heartache, which most of most of us know. Yeah, it’s about a girl.

Between The Shadows by King Zebra

Has King’s Zebra ever played here in the States, or is that something you’d like to do in the future?
Yeah, totally. We have never played in the States, but that’s totally on our bucket list. Also, a lot of crazy stuff we want to do, like one of my bucket list bullet points is the Monsters of Rock Cruise. I want to play the Caribbean Sea and for Eric also, it would be awesome to play around the East Coast where he’s basically originally from. We’re definitely working on that to come over there.

How did you wind up on Frontiers?
That all went through our manager, which is Mike Lynch. His company is named Arc Flame Entertainment, and he’s based in Finland. We met up with him when we recorded the album in Sweden. We got to know, like, we know Oscar, our producer since the last album Survivors. He used to play in the band Hank From Hell, but unfortunately, Hank the lead singer passed away two years ago. He was a drummer. Our producer was the drummer of Hank from Hell, and Mike was the manager of Hank From Hell. We met Mike through this connection, through our producer, and Mike has a lot of connections and he was basically label shopping for us. He presented our unreleased album to a couple of record labels. We were fortunate enough like to land on Frontiers.

You’ve opened for some legendary bands in the past. First of all, what was the experience like opening for Lynyrd Skynyrd, and did you get to meet or hang out with them at all?
It was very special. We didn’t have the chance to hang out with them because they were just driven to the show. They didn’t stay actually in the backstage. They came just right from the hotel on stage, basically, and back to the hotel again. But we just saw them for a couple of minutes backstage, and then we enjoyed the show in front of the stage. But it was definitely a special experience for us to share the same stage as those bands. The day before us there were Def Leppard and Whitesnake on the same stage, and those are the ultimate hero bands for us. It was very special. Yeah.

Another band that you opened for is Uriah Heep. What was that experience like, and did you get to hang out with them?
Uriah Heep was actually, we opened for them, but they didn’t have the chance to play at the festival because there was a storm and they cancelled the festival after I think it was us, then it was Queensryche, and then it was Rose Tattoo, and then it was supposed to be Uriah Heep, but they cancelled. They had to evacuate the whole festival in the middle of the set of Rose Tattoo because of the storm. The festival was cancelled. The funny story about that was we all met – like all the bands were in the same hotel, and so the festival was cancelled, and we met everybody at the hotel bar. That was a very special experience for us. It was very unfortunate that Uriah Heep didn’t have the chance to play at the festival, but for us, it was awesome to meet all those guys at the Bar. cool story.

Another band Crashdïet. Tell me what that was like to tour with them. They’re a little different from you guys.
Yeah, Crashdïet, it was a very nice tour. We joined the second leg of it. They came from Scandinavia and the UK and we joined in Spain. Our first show with them was in Madrid, and then it was in Barcelona and the rest of it was in Germany. It was awesome. It was a perfect tour. Almost like all of the shows were sold out.  Great crowds! Also, Shiraz Lane, a Finnish band, were on the tour – and all the guys and the vibe was just amazing. We had the best of times = great shows, great audience. We also had the chance also like to present our brand-new album, which was new back then Survivors. It was out for a couple of months. We brought that to the audience in all of Europe. It was great.

Eric St. Michaels of King Zebra – Photo by Sven Probst

How did China vocalist Eric St. Michaels become involved with King’s Zebra? You’re over there in Switzerland, he’s in the United States. How did that come about?
Well, Eric moved to Switzerland over 20 years ago, so that’s why he wasn’t around this area for a longer time. He was the singer of China back in the nineties, like the end of the eighties. Then again, I think it was somewhere around 2010 or 2011 and then in 2015, China split up. Eric was pretty much left with no band and we were a band with no singer. The one led to the other and through a common friend we met because he was informed that we are looking for a lead singer. That one day I just got a call from Eric, which I saw actually, which is funny enough, a couple of weeks before that I saw him on stage in a club here in Zurich, he sang with China. They opened for Steel Panther, I think.

A couple of weeks later I got a call from Eric that he was looking for a new band. I asked him what happened to China. He said, yeah, the guys have different projects and China is not dead. But China is just put on the side for the moment. As you might know, China is playing again now, but with like the original members back from the eighties.  The very first singer of China plays in China again today. That’s why Eric isn’t in this lineup anymore. But I wouldn’t appreciate it if he were now because like he has a lot to do with us. We are pretty happy with that.

Maybe a funny story about that is like, we never met Eric in person before we wrote about like three or four songs. It was all remote, it was all just sending him stuff and he wrote some lyrics. He sang and had a studio back home, and that’s the first couple of weeks we just communicated remotely and he just recorded at home before we met at all.

Well, there you go. That’s like the Joys of the Modern Age. You don’t even have to meet your band members anymore.
Yeah, totally. Absolutely.

About a year ago, I found a copy of the Greatest Hits album at a little store called Freakbeat Records here in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles. I was surprised to find it. I didn’t even know that that album existed. I wanted to ask you, when you look back on Greatest Hits and Wild, Wild, Wild, which came out about 10 years ago, what do you think of those albums now in retrospect?
Wow! You found that CD?

Yeah, it was like in the little record store in the San Fernando Valley, and it was really cheap too.
That’s amazing! I would never tell how the CD got out there. Back then we didn’t have a distributor or anything, so it was all self-distributed and that’s amazing. Yeah. But Greatest Hits and Wild, Wild, Wild was a totally different era for King Zebra. I wouldn’t compare anything we do with King Zebra with the stuff we did back then. It’s totally different. Not only with Eric as a new singer but also all the vibe, like we did stuff – like a Steel Panther-ish kind of thing. We were more glam rock. We actually have been so close to changing the name of the band when Eric joined in 2017. But we didn’t do that because Eric really liked the name King Zebra and the first song he wrote for our band was named King Zebra. We couldn’t change the name anymore. It’s totally different. I wouldn’t compare anything we do now with what Greatest Hits or Wild, Wild, Wild was.

Roman Lauer of King Zebra – Photo by Sven Probst

I actually had to look that up before I bought it to make sure it was the same band because I didn’t even know it existed. That was really cool.
Yeah. You can’t find that CD really in stores you have to be lucky. Probably you’d get a good catch, and it will be worth millions of dollars sometime.

On the internet, I saw someone selling on eBay for $129. I found it for like $4.99, so there you go…
Yeah, probably I should start selling it for my cellar or something. I have a couple of copies of it as well. I still wait. Probably it’s like a good old wine. It gets worthier every year.

Are you currently involved with any other bands or projects outside of King’s Zebra?
No. Nobody is. The only guy doing mostly solo stuff is Eric. But there is none of us in the band who’s evolved with any other band. It’s too much work and too little time for everybody to be distracted from another band.

What’s up next for you guys after the album comes out?
The album comes out on the 12th of April. Then we are going to have a big show in Zurich. It’s the album release show, the 31st of May, and we’re going to have some special guests on it. Probably the song Wall of Confusion was recorded with Guernica from ex-Thundermother and current band, The Gems. She’s flying in from Stockholm for that night. Also, Tommy Henriksen from Alice Cooper and Hollywood Vampires are joining us for that night. That’s going to be a pretty awesome night.  Then we have planned a tour with another Swiss band in Autumn, and that’s going to be around November. Until now it’s mostly Swiss shows, but for sure we’re going to add some international shows to that, but unfortunately not the US tour right now, this year.

We’ll cross our fingers about that one.
Yeah, me too.

That brings us to the last question. Do you have any messages for King Zebra fans here in the States who are reading this right now?
Yeah, totally. We’d appreciate it if everybody bought our album or just streamed it on Spotify, Apple Music or wherever. Also, there is a limited edition Pink Vinyl Gatefold, which is distributed by Frontiers. All the links you can find on our social media. I hope everybody enjoys our music.  We are proud as hell about the new album. We hope that everybody enjoys that.

King Zebra is Eric St. Michaels, Roman Lauer, Benjamin Grimm, Manu Judge, and Jerry Napitupulu!

(Interview by Ken Morton)

King Zebra on Facebook

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