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Zak Stevens (Circle II Circle)

Interview with Zak Stevens from Circle II Circle
by Angela "The Hunter" at 20 February 2013, 5:10 PM

Zak Stevens has had an amazing career fronting two extremely influential bands of the Metal world. Fronting not only SAVATAGE for a time, but also CIRCLE II CIRCLE, his lyrical and vocal influence will be felt for years to come. Even after all these years in a business that can break the stoutest of souls, he has remained a down to earth, and a genuinely nice guy, Angel “The Hunter” had the opportunity to interview Zak about CIRCLE II CIRCLE latest release, “Seasons Will Fall”, and hear some great stories about the amazing people has, and still does, perform with. 

First off, I just wanted to say thank you for doing the interview. I was so excited
when my editor offered it to me!


(Zak) Sure! My pleasure.

You have had such a diverse career, and I wanted to first start off by talking about the new Circle II Circle album coming out in January. Can you tell us a little bit about the album?

Yeah, it’s the 6th album from Circle II Circle, and it is the one that has taken the longest to make. There’s normally about a year and half between albums, and this one took 2 ½ years to make. We were really trying to make this our best album for the 6th one. So, that’s really what we did. We have a release date of the 29th (of January) and it’s called Season Will Fall. We are going to be filming a video for the title track here in a couple of days, but right now we are at the NAMM show in LA. We’ll be heading to the San Francisco area for the shoot on Sunday or Monday, so it’ll be coming out soon. The album is a typical C2C album, but writing wise we changed things a bit, added a few writers to the songs. Me and Mitch Stewart (the bassist) usually write most of the stuff. so adding more writers definitely changed things up a bit It’s going to be a special album.

Who produced it for you?

Well, we produced it as a band. We had an executive producer, a good friend of ours Craig Blackwell from St. Petersburg, FL. who’s also a really great guitar player.. He wrote some stuff for the album as well. He did some engineering, oversaw production, and helped us get some really great sounds in his studio. Christian Wentz mixed the album, and did a fantastic job. Really, it was the production team of C2C that joined up with executive producer Craig Blackwell, who oversaw things from a production standpoint, just to keep the quality really high.

Was it recorded right there in Florida? Or recorded a little bit everywhere?

It was a little bit everywhere, especially in the tracking phase. Everybody’s own part was pretty much recorded at their home studios across the world. We had keyboards from Germany, Bass from Mississippi, guitars from San Fran and L.A.  I did the vocals in the San Francisco area at Christian’s studio, so it was a combination of all those little studios that plugged everything in. Yeah, it was one of those records that was done everywhere. The way technology works now a days, you just kinda email everything around, and then bring it all together in the final mix.

Are you going on tour to promote the album?

Yeah we are going to do quite a lot of touring to promote the album. We are going to start out in the states doing a little run in April. After that we’ll go to Europe for some shows over there. In June we will be heading to South America, then come back and hit the southeast or northeast Atlantic in the states. We’ll then be heading back to Europe to play the festivals, then back to the States to play Prog Power in Sept. which will have a little tour around that. In November we have a festival called Rock Harvest 2 that’s up in Maryland in November. So that should be when we get up in the New England area. So, yeah there’s a lot going on. We’re just going to have to see what works the best as the year goes on.

Speaking of Europe, there are a bunch of fans in Sarajevo, Bosnia, that asked me to
tell you Hi,  that they cannot wait for the new album, and they are excited that you are coming back.


Oh Wow, awesome! That is an area that we have played several times, but we have not gotten right into Sarajevo yet, but we have definitely been in Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, so yeah, the next thing we can do is get to Sarajevo. And I bet that I have been talking to those same people you are talking about, and they are awesome! Really great fans and we are definitely talking a lot about getting to Sarajevo.

And they will be so happy to hear that! Now, we’ll change topics here and ask, out of all of the C2C albums you have done, do you have a favorite that you still enjoy listening to?

Well, you know, even the first album, Watching In Silence, is unique to listen to. I like Burden Of Truth, I mean they are all a little different. I was really digging this new one, and then I kinda left it alone. But I think this one is really going to grow on me. I mean, I am kind of a bookends type person. I really like Watching in Silence, and Seasons Will Fall. I mean I guess it would be the first album, maybe because it was the first album, which is why I go back to it. There are aspects from each album that made its way into Season Will Fall, which is why I think this album will be special.

What may you decide to start C2C? I know that, if my information is correct, you were with Savatage up through the year 2000, then you decided to take some time off and then started C2C the winter of 2001, is that correct?

Well it’s probably a little later than that, more like 2002 for starting C2C, the first record came out in 2003. We have a decade of C2C already, which is kinda crazy going from 2003-13. But I just wanted to start a new, different kind of thing to work from. We knew that Savatage was going to stop making albums and transition to the TSO world, so at that point I said well it’d be good to have a band of my own just to, you know, have a good outlet for writing songs and to keep things going. I wanted to have a little of that Savatage flare to enter in from time to time, so that’s really how we started it. We thought it was only going to be 2 albums, and now here we are at 6. You never know what is going to happen to an animal once you give birth to it.

Did you work with Chris Oliva on any of the albums?

Yeah, on the Edge Of Thorns album. I lived with Chris for almost 2 years, through 1992 and 93. Edge of Thorns came out in 93, so really I got to spend about as much time as I was possibly going to be able to before everything happened. I look back in retrospect, and he (Chris) told me “come on, you need to live with me, we got a lot of time to make up. I want to know what’s going on with this new singer”. So really I kinda wound up at his house almost the entire time that I worked with him in Savatage. The time was maximized and we got to write a lot together. It was awesome. He was just a great guy.

What was he like to work with?

Oh, awesome! Just a major talent. He was one of those guys that didn’t play a lot, you know you have guitar players that sit and play a lot, just practice, practice, practice. But he was more like “man if play too much, the sheen is going to rub off this thing”. He was one of those guys that picked it (the music) up right away. It was a great honor to work with a guy like him. To watch and learn and see how he applied his talent both live, and in the studio. He was a real patient person, real caring person. Always wanted to know how you were doing. He was just an amazing, supportive guy. But Savatage was like that too. It really had a family atmosphere, which why we could pull off what we did. It was really a network of guys that supported each other. It’s really like what we have now in C2C.

Well now, I’m going to kinda switch it up a bit. I read that you have a degree in Psychology, and I wanted to ask, what were your intentions in school with your Psychology degree?

Well, I don’t know what my intentions were back then. You know, back in college my intentions were “where’s the best party at” .I had a background of Biology and Chemistry, so I felt like I wanted to continue with that field. I got the Bachelors of Science degree because it was something that I just liked to study. I always thought I would come out and be in the medical field, because it was something I was really interested in. Then this music bug gets you, then someone says “hey we think we could use you” on a big label and then you realize you got something here, and you want to get it out to the world. Then once you get into that situation, you completely drift away from a field that you wanted to be in. The music business is crazy but it’s a great job. They didn’t tell you how cool it would be. When you get a little taste of that, that’s what screws everything up. Eventually I know I will go back and get my Masters in it one day, when the time is right. It takes time to do that, and there is too much music that is going on right now. I think I may even increase on the degree, but it’s going to be at the right time, when I’m done with music, or ready to take a big break. The time is definitely coming, but there’s just too much music going on.

Now, were you in the music business in college, or is that something that you gravitated after you graduated?

Well I was in a band throughout college; I’ve been playing since I was 9, so it’s like I have played in a band my entire life. I was even in the University of South Carolina Marching band. There were over 300 members. So, even when I was studying for my degree I was in a band. Music was something that was never too far away. I didn’t go for the music degree because I was immersed in music already. After college I went out to Los Angeles to study vocals more, you know, a little more intensely, and that is really where I started meeting everyone from Boston I wound up moving to Boston for a little bit, and that’s where I met everyone in Savatage.

Speaking of Savatage, do you have a favorite Savatage album you still like to listen to after all these years?

Well I get asked that quite often and it’s tough to choose which one. You're going to have moments on each one that you like. I can’t just say “Oh, that's the one” because it is just so unfair to the others. You will always have spots (on each album) that with every listen are moments of greatness. So really, I like them all. Each album has certain songs that stand out, and that’s the way I look at them. There really isn’t just one that sticks out, because they all have these musical moments that are hard to emulate.

Throughout the years, who has made the biggest impact on you as a musician?

I had my set of influences growing up. I mean I liked Iron Maiden, loved Dio, the Scorpions, Black Sabbath. One of the first albums I ever got was a Creedence Clearwater Revival records, which does explain some of the things in my voice (laughs) But I just had a ton of influences, since my Mom was such a big rock fan. She had 3 Dog Night albums, Chicago, Peter Frampton. I got a really good music education from just listening to those albums, and then later on I had formal lessons. But really, just listening to everybody had an influence on me.

With everything going on right now, where do you see yourself, in say 5 years?

Wow, you know I think about that from time to time. I think I’ll still be doing it. That is a great question, and I ask myself that all the time. There are days that I don’t dare to go there. I mean 5 years from now? I don’t even want to go there (laughs) We all laugh about why we are still doing it these days, and just how things have changed. Even just two years ago, I didn’t know if I had another C2C album in me. We just wanted to make so many changes, rebuild and redefine everything from the ground up. So, in five years there is just too much to imagine. I hope there is still some good stuff going around, and that we are still at it.

We hope so too! So do you have any side projects that you are working, or is CIIC
your main focus?


CIIC is my main focus. I mean there have been a few things here and there, but CIIC is definitely in the forefront.

Ok, well lastly where can fans go to find out everything they need to know about CIIC?


Well you can go to two places and find out everything you need to know. Go to www.c2c.net  and check out our Facebook  page , which is CircleIICircle, just search by that and you’ll find us. It has all of the latest news for the band with a link to our Twitter, my Twitter; everything is on there.

Alright Zak, that is all I have for you. Thank you for doing the interview! We here
 at Metal Temple wish you guys nothing but the best on the road ahead.


Thanks Diana! It was awesome. Take care! Talk to you later.



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