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Zak Stevens – Vocals for Machines of Grace, Circle II Circle, Savatage

Date: 7/6/09
Interviewed By: Rich Catino


1. Tell us about Machines of Grace. Is this a band or a project?

ZAK: Actually we were a band before I was a member of Savatage. The demos that got me the gig in Savatage are from this band and as a result Machines never had a chance to come to fruition. So now we have reformed and most of the material is stuff we were playing back in the Boston area in the early 90s. For three and a half years we traveled up and down Massachusetts, New Hampshere, Vermont, Rhode Island and did all the clubs when it was still a pretty good scene. We did a couple demos, enter the hat to be the singer in Savatage and I end up getting it, and then the rest of the members of Machines of Grace tried moving on with a couple other singers but that didn’t work out. So now we are getting the chance to do it right and we do play live, so this is a band.

Me and our guitarist Matt Leff met in Los Angeles when I was going to college. Around that time we were working with another bass player and that was when we wrote the song ‘Fly Away’ and that was the first Machines of Grace song. The Jeff Plate on drums joined us early on, and then our latest addition is Chris Rapoza on bass, he’s been with us about a year. Everyone contributes to the writing its really cool.

2.What type of direction and sound are you taking the music for this band?

ZAK: This is just a pure rock type thing, the guitar riffs you could pretty much drop em down in any decade and they should work. Metal at times, heavy rock at times, but rather commercial, easy melody lines.

3. Are these songs for the Machines of Grace self titled debut (released on July 7) newer or older, or both?

ZAK: They are a little of both, yup. You know even the older stuff from the early 90s we can always take it and prep it for today, you know, and do all the things you would for the here and now. They turned out pretty good.

4. What do you get to accomplish with Machines of Grace that you do not with Circle II Circle or Savatage?

ZAK: Well…there’s always little things. I think when you mention Machines, Circle II Circle, and Savatage, all three cover the gamut of rock. With Matt and what we all write together, its just a different group of guys so it has a different feel to it. It brings other melodies I really wouldn’t sing with either Circle II Circle or Savatage.

5.  Do you write all the lyrics, part of the music. What is your contribution to Machines of Grace?

ZAK: I do all the vocal melodies and lyrics, Jeff contributed some lyrics, I get involved in some of the arranging. Matt really comes up with the riffs and come up with where the chorus and verses will be based on the melody I create.

6. Plans for Machines of Grace to play live?

ZAK: Yeah, the guys are lookin to go out as early as August but we all live far apart from each other. Jeff (Plate) lives in New York State, Matt and Chris live in Boston, and I have been living in Tampa Florida since I joined Savatage in 1992.

7. Where did the name Machines of Grace come from?

ZAK: You know it was just another name out there with like three or four others and we let the fans vote for which one they liked on our website. Machines of Grace had a good majority of the votes and I think Matt originally put the name out there. I’m glad the people helped us make the final decision, haha.

8. What vehicles are you using to get the band’s name and music out to the people? Myspace, Facebook, etc?

ZAK: We have a Myspace, everyone has their own Facebook page, there is the website Machines of Grace.net, and then we have some really good people like Chipster PR working with us. We are doing something with ITunes where they are gonna make the album the featured download.

9. What is going on with Circle II Circle?

ZAK: Everything is going well we are about to record our fifth album and I imagine we will record it over the winter. We are going to play some shows in Texas in October. Aren’t you in Jersey? Well we are gonna do some shows in your area too. I know the last time we were in New York Testament were also playing so I know some fans missed us.

Circle will be in South America at the end of September.

10. When do you think Machines of Grace will play some shows?

ZAK: I’m guessing soon because in November our drummer Jeff will go out on tour with the Trans Siberian Orchestra.

11. Speaking of the Trans Siberian Orchestra, will you be singing on the new album “Night Castle”?

ZAK: Yeah I’m singing backups on four songs so far. No leads yet. The backup stuff alone will kill ya, haha. Paul O’Neil will call me up when I just get back from a tour and say “Didn’t you just get back from a tour? Well come on in”. I’m like “o great” hahaha. I’d say “Night Castle” should be out in the fall.

12. Have you ever performed with Trans Siberian Orchestra live?

ZAK: Not yet but I imagine its gonna happen. I kind of have an idea of how I want to be part of the show, hahaha.

13. Have you seen the part of the TSO live show where they play ‘Prelude to Madness’ and ‘Believe’, talk about Savatage and the late Criss Oliva? With that segment in the TSO show I thought Paul O’ Neil was setting the stage for a Savatage reunion.

ZAK: Well that’s the number one question in Europe, “Is there ever going to be a Savatage reunion”. I thought that part of the TSO show was great, it kinda sent shock waves through me. It took three security guards to keep me from climbing on the stage, hahaha. I know I am looking forward to getting back together with the guys in Savatage.

My daughters first concert was when I took her to see TSO.

14. Any releases planned for Savatage, like a DVD?

ZAK: I don’t know as of now. I guess we have to take that one step at a time.

15. Plans for the rest of 2009 and 2010?

ZAK: The debut album from Machines of Grace is out and we will be playing some live shows. Circle II Circle will also record another album and do some touring. So I will be involved full time with two bands. I am singing on the new Trans Siberian Orchestra album “Night Castle”. And hopefully Savatage will be in the future sooner than later.

Official website: http://www.machinesofgrace.net



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