Rockin' Interviews~ What initially got you interested in playing an instrument and playing rock and metal specifically?
Johnny Z.~ "Some of my earliest memories are of hanging with my dad doing yard work and fixing things around the house, and we always listened to bands like Rage Against The Machine and System of A Down which were still pretty big bands at the time, so I guess my love of heavier music started there and just stuck with me."
R.I.~ When you first started playing guitar, did you know if it was something you wanted to make a career out of? If not, when was the switch?
Johnny Z.~ "I started playing at about 8 or 9 years old and pretty much loved guitar from day one, but it probably wasn't until I started playing my own shows when I was about 12 years old that I realized this is something I wanted to do more than anything else. I was already playing constantly, for several hours every day, so it was really just a natural path for me to follow."
R.I.~ Who is your biggest influence for guitar?
Johnny Z.~ "I get this question a lot and its always so hard to answer because I have so many, and as I grow as a musician I constantly find more artists that inspire me. But some solid go to's that never change are guitar masters Andy James, Marty Friedman, Dimebag Darrell (Pantera) and Zakk Wylde to name just a few."
R.I.~ Your EP “Over The Edge” was released on March 3, 2019. You sang on a few of the songs, and others were instrumental. Do you hope to continue releasing songs both with singing and instrumental?
Johnny Z.~ "I'm pretty much 100% instrumental at this point and feel like I've been heading this way for a while now. I still usually sing one song at my shows but I will be switching to a full instrumental set on an upcoming tour this fall. I just feel like I'm better at getting the feel and emotion of a song across through my guitar than I am through lyrics/singing."
R.I.~ You are often labeled “a guitar prodigy”. Do you feel like guitar was something that was very easy and natural for you to learn, or was it something you really worked at?
Johnny Z.~ "Looking back, I think I was able to pick up playing the guitar and learning songs pretty quickly so that kept things fun, but it definitely wasn't easy and I spent several hours everyday practicing (I actually still do). I definitely do not consider myself a prodigy because there are so many people out there, including lots of really young kids, that are way better than me, and can play highly technical and complex music with ease. But its always nice to hear such a nice compliment so that's cool too haha!!"
R.I.~ You released a video of you playing an unreleased song titled “Anti-Gravity”. How do you go about titling an instrumental song?
Johnny Z.~ "Usually after I have all of the parts of a song written and recorded (except the lead guitar/solos which I typically do last) the song starts to have its own feel and a title will just pop into my head."
R.I.~ When will we be able to hear “Anti-Gravity”?
Johnny Z.~ "Perfect timing actually!! I just released a 3 song EP call Lost In Space on August 21. It's all instrumental and includes the songs Speed of Light, Anti-Gravity and Critical Transmission. I write, play, record, mix and master all of my own music at home and this EP, Lost In Space, is definitely my best work to date and I'm really proud of the way it turned out."
R.I.~ When did you first start playing GHS strings?
Johnny Z.~ "I've been playing GHS Strings for a couple years now. I was introduced to the Artist Relations team at NAMM a year or two back by a friend and also a GHS Artists, and they've treated me like family ever since with a great Endorsement deal, a spot on their 2019 calendar and a featured artist spot to perform at their booth during winter NAMM. Great people and great products!!"
R.I.~ What was your reaction when you knew you were going to be a part of the GHS strings 2019 calendar?
Johnny Z.~ "That was a pretty awesome email to get haha!! It was really just such an honor to be considered for that, it was definitely a humbling thing. It was really cool when I got some delivered to my house and saw that I was actually in it, but its was definitely weird seeing some people buy them and shared it online haha!! Would love to do it again though haha!!"
R.I.~ Have you ever had people who have doubted your ability because of your age?
Johnny Z.~ "Honestly its happened pretty much every show I've ever played and still continues to this day haha!! I'm usually able to win over any doubters in the crowd over and most people are just so great and supportive!! I definitely don't take it the wrong way when someone is negative, and I actually use it as a positive motivator to work harder and get better. I can totally understand why people would be doubtful of a young kid playing (especially since I usually do a solo show) but in the end all you can do is put on a great show, give 100% and have fun!! I've learned that if you're trying to please other people in this business instead of doing what you truly love/believe in, you mind as well just go ahead do something else haha!!"
R.I.~ You’ve been able to open for some well known musicians throughout your career thus far. Can you talk a little bit about which was your favorite?
Johnny Z.~ "I've been lucky to play with so many cool people, at so many great venues, but I think my favorite show to date has been with Nita Strauss on her first solo tour!! It was just a perfect fit for my style of instrumental guitar (similar to what she does for her solo stuff), it was at a great venue in my hometown and the crowd was awesome!! Nita and her band were just great, supportive people and definitely took lots of time to hang with me and share tons of experience and knowledge about touring, gear and the music business in general."
R.I.~ What is your favorite venue you’ve played?
Johnny Z.~ "There are so many great venues across the U.S. but just because of the incredible history of the place, I would have to say The Whisky A Go-Go on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood. So many giants of music have played that very stage and been in those green rooms its just amazing to be around it all!!"
R.I.~ Outside Of Music, what are some other activities you enjoy?
Johnny Z.~ "I definitely love working out at the gym and just living an overall healthy lifestyle!! I also love cooking."
R.I.~ Do you like horror movies? If so, what is your favorite?
Johnny Z.~ "Not a fan of horror movies but love gangster and crime related movies and shows like Boondocks Saints, The Town, A Bronx Tale and Breaking Bad. I'm also a huge fan of any Chris Farley movie!!"
R.I.~ What do you have coming up for you in the next few months?
Johnny Z.~ "I just released a new EP called Lost In Space (available on all streaming platforms) which I'm really proud and I'll be heading back out on tour in November with a great band from SC (details aren't finalized yet so I unfortunately can't share too much about the tour)."