High Speed Music 101: ZEKE Discuss Their Reformation, Touring, and Relapse Release ‘Hellbender’

- Jul 20, 2018 at 05:00PM
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Weedeater and Zeke, a bill that Zeke bassist, Kurt Colfelt, coins as “the slowest band in southern rock touring with the fastest band in southern rock” lands in Los Angeles with interesting circumstances. There’s a double booking tonight at UNION in mid-city, and the rock show is the one that’s getting the short straw in favor of the massive party that Pornhub, the 26th most popular website in the world, is throwing once Weedeater strikes its final note.

I don’t think anyone knew it was happening, but judging from the text Zeke guitarist/vocalist, Blind Marky Felchtone, sent me in response to confirming this interview last night (“this show is fucked, starts at 7:00 p.m. but we’ll try to nail this down”), he’s less than thrilled to be ending a set at 9:00 p.m. As a matter of fact, the searing death stare he’s giving me as we go into the interview is all that needs to be said about his feelings for the night.

Alongside Blind Marky sits the other members of Zeke who’ve graciously given me a bit of their time to get their insight into their lives since announcing a full-time reformation in 2017. The lineup consists of founding member Blind Marky reuniting with ex- member Colfelt and bringing aboard new guys Dayne Porras (drums) and Detroit native, Kyle Whitefoot, on second guitar. Since announcing their return, three tours of North America with the likes of Nashville Pussy, Antiseen and Against The Grain, and now Weedeater have occurred, two extensive treks across Europe, including a string of shows that managed to convince Swedish cult rockers, Puffball, to reunite and tag along, are in the books, and Hellbender, their first album in 14 years, is available.

Tear through the video for Zeke’s “Two Lane Blacktop”.


What’s so special about this? Well, if you’ve made it this far into the article, then you know something about these guys. Originating in Seattle in 1993, Zeke took an opposite field approach with a blazing fast hardcore punk sound while the rest of the city was caught up by the media frenzy covering the grunge craze. When it comes to hard rock music of the Pacific Northwest, they’re overlooked and underappreciated. For 25 years, their legacy influences countless groups from around the globe with fans ranging from Duff McKagan to Hank III. Brash and abrasive are proper adjectives to describe the music itself, but the term high-speed rock n’ roll does justice. Despite an early show, the guys were cool enough to catch up with PureGrainAudio and answer some questions about the events in their lives, post-reformation.

A new album, two extensive tours of Europe, and now you’re on your third US tour since announcing Zeke’s reformation last year, after a 14-year hiatus. This is a lot of activity, what’s the full backstory on the decision to reform Zeke and how does this return impact your current lives and give you a sense of fulfillment?
Blind Marky: The band as it stood right after ‘Till The Living End consisted of myself, Chris Johnson, Donny Paycheck, and Jason Freeman. We weren’t touring, but we were getting a lot of flyout offers and released some limited EPs and splits. The flyouts were packed, good, fun, and allowed everyone to continue what they were doing outside the realm of music and still keep this thing going. During this time, we were also writing a new record, which took us six years to round out. The concept was to have it be along the lines of ‘Till the Living End, only a bit more heavy and slow.

Relapse put out the Lords of the Highway EP that has some outtakes of those sessions. If you’re interested to hear where we originally wanted to go with what’s now Hellbender, listen to the track “Kings and Queens” and “Lords of the Highway” on that thing. Writing those songs was an epic, epic deal for us, different than what we’re generally accustomed to. We considered making it a double album release, imagine that for a second. Man, there’s a seven-minute long Zeke song we wrote for that. Breaking boundaries!

Hellbender was released on March 30th via Relapse Records.


Wait, there’s a 7:00 long Zeke song in existence?
Blind Marky: Yeah, there’s a four-minute one too, but in the end, we didn’t release it and rewrote Hellbender into a hardcore record. Understand something, I’ve got a short attention span and get easily bored, Kurt’s like that as well.

Kyle Whitefoot: Ditto that here too.

Blind Marky: I think we all have short attention spans, I’m not re-teaching anything knowing this. At the time when those songs were hashed out, we went in to record what we had and right then and there, life happens out surprise like it usually does. I got pulled away to work a construction job that was supposed to be a few weeks of work but extended into a full year. By the time that job ended, Zeke had broken up, everyone was doing different things. I had this album to put out, and I hid from Relapse because of the circumstances. Flash forward a few years, a mutual friend got a hold of Kurt who was in Zeke from ‘93-‘95, and the wheels were set in place to get a new lineup going.

Kurt lined up Dayne on drums, and we managed to round up Sonny [Abe Zanuel Riggs III – former guitar] to play the new material for a bit. Sonny ended up having to bow out, and that’s when Kurt got a hold of Kyle. Kyle told us that he knew how to play all of Death Alley, if you can pull that off then you can be in Zeke, that’s a prerequisite. We offered to fly him over, Kyle said he’d fly out himself. Like a true guitar player, he got a girlfriend immediately and stayed with her. When we went into the studio, we started teaching him the songs, and that’s when I said “fuck this, let’s start over and put out the fastest, most intense rock n’ roll album we can. Let’s just rewrite the whole motherfucker.”

So, Hellbender’s mostly a record for people with short attention spans?
Kyle Whitefoot: As fans of grindcore and crust punk, we can confirm that.

Kurt Colfelt: Not all of it is fresh material, two archived songs I originally wrote for Flat Tracker are on that [“County Jail,” “Big Rig”].

Blind Marky: A lot of this music begins with us playing bluegrass and country riffs at first, and as we keep playing, we just went faster and faster and faster with it until it’s hardcore. It’s a bizarre process, and each band has their own way of approaching ideas, this is ours. Our intentions aren’t to play at the speed of a Minor Threat record, but with our approach, it naturally gets there. Once everything crystallizes, and the songs are what they are, then it becomes an expression of energy.

Dude, listen to “Working Man/Hellbender/County Jail” via this YouTube embed, man.


Describe the reactions you’re receiving from people seeing the shows and hearing the new record?
Blind Marky: It’s been awesome, nothing but good things from who we’re talking with and what we see on tour. In Europe, we’re getting a much younger crowd checking us, kids even younger than Kyle.

Kyle Whitefoot: There have been times where these kids are even coming up to me and mentioning how the gigs left them in awe. It’s a trip hearing that in all honesty.

Mark, what would you say is unique about this lineup that other lineups were lacking beforehand?
Blind Marky: For me, I just want to go out there and have Zeke annihilate and destroy anything in our path, that’s the MO. Speed is important to me, I need a drummer that can rip people’s fucking heads off and Dayne can do that. That was never lacking in earlier Zeke, and I want to have that available continually. Having Kyle in the band is the best thing in the world, he’s the best guitar player Zeke’s ever had except… for me. I was really hoping Sonny could pull it off because of the sound and attitude he brought to the band and when he told us he couldn’t commit, I thought it was over, and there wasn’t any point.

I didn’t want to do it as a three-piece at all, just wanted to walk away. That scenario changed when Kyle was brought it in through Kurt’s efforts. Kyle came from The Hookers, and they’re one of my favorite bands and good friends of the Zeke camp, which beat out all recommendations being thrown at me then and there. With Kurt, there’s nothing new as we share a real common core of ideas which makes it easier to write fast, intense music. Other than that, we fight a lot.

Kurt Colfelt: We're similar people but we drive each other crazy, he's my asshole little brother practically. Dayne and I were playing in a Mentor's tribute together, and that's how he got in here. It took him a while to adjust to this level of playing, it doesn't come quickly if you haven't been doing it for a while.

Release 12 years ago, “Chinatown” is classic Zeke.


Kurt, you have a history with this group along with playing in Agent Steel and Holy Terror. What is about playing with Zeke that’s different from those two and do you get more out of playing with Zeke than the former?
Kurt Colfelt: Since my early 20s, I’ve always played in fast bands. Over the years, a few slower side projects have come up, but overall, they’re all fast ones in the end. You know, when I got the chance to join Zeke, I jumped on it. This style is natural to me, there are no adjustments I need to make. Zeke’s layout is bluegrass and high-speed music.

Blind Marky: It’s also a personality thing, and that’s a big one. When Kurt joined in the early ‘90s, it fit like a puzzle. He had the same sick sense of humor, he’s been to jail, and has a long history of just being a total miscreant.

Kurt Colfelt: I was the biggest asshole in a band full of assholes in their own right. Everybody in Zeke did drugs, and that was a contributor to our reckless behavior. But I got kicked out for being a bigger asshole than the rest of the guys!

Blind Marky: Yeah, here’s a story to back that up. When we first started gaining some traction and more people were coming to the shows, a gig in Texas that held 500 people occurred. We got through two songs and Kurt kicked one of his boots off, hit someone in the head, threw his bass guitar out, and leaped out in the crowd. So we had to stop. I told him after the show “Please, don’t do that anymore.” He apologized, but then there’s the next night, wanna go into that Kurt?

Kurt Colfelt: The next gig is in Houston. The laces on those same boots were loose, and they have hooks on the boots, so I jumped up on the monitors and my laces hooked together. I got too far forward and fell face down on the concrete with my bass out in front of me to break the fall. There was no one there to catch me, all concrete. Bass destroyed, all the strings pop out, I was done.

Blind Marky: Again, two songs into the set.

We know you’re still here, reading this interview, so why not stream Hellbender in its entirety?


Kyle, you’re the youngest guy here and had quite a road up to joining. Axeripper, The Hookers, and now Zeke. I’m sure with every group you’ve played in, you’re learning something new and taking away something from it. So far, what has travelling, touring, and enduring these guys instilled in you as a person and a performer?
Kyle Whitefoot: More than anything it’s how to approach things from a professional level. I’m still getting into the game, and there’s been a curve, necessary one though. I feel I was born to do this stuff and I’m building up. When I was in The Hookers, I felt like I was still green with, so I didn’t know what to do. Experience and knowledge of “what is going on” as a musician are what’s really coming out of this, I’m very grateful for this opportunity. These guys have been one of my favorite bands for a long while.

Wasn’t your first show with Zeke in Seattle?
Kyle Whitefoot: No, it was in Rotterdam at Scumbash. That was nuts!

Kurt Colfelt: Yeah, let’s go do that. Let’s NOT play a small club show to get the gears oiled, let’s play in front of 5,000 motherfuckers screaming their heads off.

Kyle Whitefoot: Definitely my first time playing in front of more than 200 people.

Kurt Colfelt: And for a second, we thought we were going to millionaires.

What has touring with Kyle made you realize about this band and Zeke’s legacy being carried on through a younger generation of fans? Are you guys noticing a younger crowd coming to the gigs in turn?
Blind Marky: I don’t know how much of it has to do with Kyle’s age, but I’m just glad there’s a younger crowd seeing us and digging what we do. Especially in Europe, we’re noticing a lot of young kids coming out to the show. Not just that but singing too! Hell, English isn’t their first tongue, and they’re belting out the songs along with us. He just fits in, that’s all really. Rock n’ roll is timeless and sustains itself. There will always be a younger audience for it, and I’m not giving up hope on that.

If you’ve yet to hear it, check out the “Dölphenwülf” music video now.


Mark, this question is for you. Since you’re the main guy and served time longest, are there any new realizations you’ve had lately about the importance of this band in your life and the impact your work has left on heavy music?
Blind Marky: For the most part, I’m pretty oblivious to that. But now that you mention it, I do recognize some derivatives from Zeke present in some groups we’ve played with or have heard. It’s not just a matter of us stealing something from them (laughs). Rock n’ roll is self-replicating and perpetual... If we’ve influenced someone, good, we’re happy. I feel I was born to do this and I plan to keep doing this until I can’t anymore.

What’s on the horizon for the rest of the year? Is there a particular place you guys are looking to tour through Zeke’s never been before?
Blind Marky: We’re going back to Europe in November, Finland, Greece, Germany, Netherlands and also doing some Eastern European shows as well. We’re looking at Japan too, the offers need to be better than what’s being presented to us. We’ve got another 7" coming out that we’re going to record when we get done with Europe, and it’ll be released in Scandinavia, I don’t know about the United States though.

Any words of wisdom or insight you guys want to end with?
Kyle Whitefoot: Kill your parents and smoke drugs.

Blind Marky: Listen to Black Sabbath and don’t let anyone ever tell you that you can’t do something.

Remaining Weedeater/Zeke Tour Dates:

07/19 - Dallas, TX - Gas Monkey (feat. Unsane)
07/20 - Austin, TX - Lost Well (feat. Unsane)
07/21 - Houston, TX - White Oak Music Hall (feat. Unsane)
07/22 - San Antonio, TX - Korova
07/24 - Oklahoma City, OK - 89th Street
07/25 - Omaha, NE - Waiting Room
07/26 - Rock Island, IL - Ribco
07/27 - Rensselaer, IN - Van Nationals
07/28 - Nashville, TN - Exit In
07/29 - Asheville, NC - Mothlight
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