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Interview- October 2005

Formidable riffs and blazing arpeggios combined with outlandish time signatures create the alchemic metal outfit Zero Hour, a potent prog-metal music automaton.

In speaking with the San Francisco-based band’s accredited bassist Troy Tipton, many subjects were discussed including the band’s new release A Fragile Mind, artistic influences, and several other aspects of modern musicianship from traveling abroad to the capacity of powerful amplifying devices.

 

The Dominant Allele:   For those who are unfamiliar with Zero Hour, please give a brief anecdote of the band’s history.

Troy Tipton: Well, I’m the bass player, obviously. (Laughs.) My brother Jasun plays guitar, we have Mike Guy on drums, and Fred Marshall did the vocals on the latest album. Our band started in 1998 primarily playing progressive metal. We’re signed to New Jersey’s Sensory Records. Things have been pretty good so far; we can’t wait to get out on the road and start promoting again.

 

TDA: How do you particularly classify your brand of music?

Tipton: I’d definitely say prog-metal. Our style is pretty intricate and dark, with lots of odd tempo changes. The sound is comparable to Dream Theater, only minus all the keyboards.

 

 

            Armed with severe rhythmical power and persuasion, the seasoned soldiers of Zero Hour lead a new brand of metal scenester to an international level. A traveling armada of fans pursues these talented artists on a quest for underground glory.

            Tipton continued to explain his role in the band’s progress and depicted the mindset of an increasingly successful artist in the progressive metal scene today.

 

 

TDA: How does it feel to be an accomplished musician, with endorsements and the like?

Tipton: It’s definitely a dream come true! First, Jay (Tipton, Zero Hour guitarist and Troy’s twin) and I submitted some stuff to Mesa Boogie and were stoked out of our minds to hear back from them. We also work with Manne, an Italian guitar company. Jay already got his guitar and my bass is currently being made; each has the Zero Hour logo on it and would be worth about $4,000 apiece in a store. We’re just really stoked about everything.

 

TDA: Was there ever another career in which you saw yourself participating?

Tipton: When I was young I wanted to be a cop or an army guy; you know, something with action and adventure. As I got older, I realized that wasn’t really for me. From the beginning, my dad was a huge Elvis fan—my brother’s middle name is Elvis—so I grew up in a musical family. I was always the Sabbath metal kid, you know? (Laughs.)

 

TDA: Interesting! With all the close-to-home musical inclination, how has [San Francisco’s] Bay Area helped Zero Hour evolve?

Tipton: When you start out, of course you’re playing local shows and begging all your friends to go. Since our label is on the east coast, there was definitely a buzz out there, and, surprisingly, Europe as well. Each time we started writing material for a new album, we’d go on tour and the underground following would grow. We’d have great crowds in Europe; it was amazing to play and have all these new kids singing our songs. The fans kept coming up to us and saying things like, “Killer show!” and, “When are you playing here again?” It’s such a great feeling.

 

TDA: I can imagine! With new albums come new tours. How do you feel this release has improved upon the previous ones?

Tipton: Well, the first album was straight prog-metal—pretty similar to Dream Theater. The second album was heavier, darker, and colder; the fans who liked the first album enjoyed this one’s melodic side. A Fragile Mind seemed to capture the best of everything; we added warmth to its sound, but kept the melodic aspect. We’re stoked with the outcome!

 

 

            And that statement couldn’t be truer. Tipton later commented that the newest album seems to be the fans’ and certainly the label’s favorite of all. The inherently metallic instrumental tracks give A Fragile Mind more poignant, creative depth, thus procuring more audience appeal.

            Although all of the members of Zero Hour have toured internationally, Tipton admitted to his now-fulfilled dream of traveling through Europe and the perks of the term “all expenses paid.” Since he already expressed enthusiastic attitude toward his promising band, The Dominant Allele soon exposed his musical eloquence and influences as well.

 

 

TDA: From which musicians do you personally draw artistic inspiration?

Tipton: Well, I draw inspiration from all kinds of sources. Definitely artists like Jaco Pastorius, Victor Wooten, Jonas Helborg, and other bass players. Some current bands include the Dillinger Escape Plan, Meshuggah, and Lamb of God; in the past it was largely Iron Maiden. I even gain inspiration from my peers, including my brother Jasun.

 

TDA: Wow! So what’s it like to be in a band with your twin brother; are there any advantages or disadvantages?

Tipton: It’s great, actually! He and I can be brutally honest with each other. Like I can throw something at him and he can tell me it sucks, and vice versa. We work together to compose something that makes us smile to our ears! I can’t think of any disadvantages at all. Sure, sometimes we disagree in practice and start cursing at each other while our drummer just sits back and laughs at the violence of it. But really, it’s all good feelings; our arguments never leave the practice area. Jasun and I live together, but we don’t act like some old, annoying couple that publicly disagrees over every little thing.

 

TDA: It sounds as though you two get along wonderfully; it’s evident in your friendship as well as your quality of music. Since you’re half of the sibling songwriting pair, I think it’s safe to ask you this question. Many musical groups today preach government bashing and promote certain lifestyles to their listeners, such as becoming straight-edge. Do you subscribe to any of these viewpoints?

Tipton: Although I’m not the main lyric-writer in the band, I’m a pretty happy guy. Music is a good release of frustration, though, and some groups use that kind of persuasion as their release. Our band’s release was especially shown in Towers of Avarice; it was dark, cold, and expressed our frustration at the industry and labels’ empty promises. Every band makes a statement in a different way.

 

TDA: Thank you for this illuminative insight into yourself, Zero Hour, and A Fragile Mind. One last question—do your amps go to 11?

Tipton: (Laughs.) They go to 11—you know, like most of the Lamb of God stuff. I’ve really never played them above two; the Boogie amps are so freakin’ loud! Maybe I’ll turn them all the way up if we play a festival like Gods of Metal. I’ll just let it go!

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