Written by Taco Olmstead.
As fans, we often feel the pain of a lineup change with our favorite bands. We think about how the band will sound and how the sound will change with the removal or addition of faces we have come to know and love. Rarely though, do we really get an inside look at what happens to the musician, or get a chance to get an inside look at how the change in direction has affected their career paths. In the world of music journalism, it is borderline taboo to discuss the fallout, the effect or even view in depth the changes that occur to a musician’s career path as a result of those changes.
I was recently afforded the opportunity to sit down and discuss some of these things with our friend Scotty Zwang, formerly of Dopapod. Here at Jamwich, we’ve had a long time love affair with Dopapod and have felt each dip and roll the band has encountered in this roller coaster ride of life. That said, having cultivated personal relationships with the band and the organization as a whole has allowed us to support the band in so many ways, throughout the changing landscape. It’s always great to have time with the folks who have supported us and even better to get a moment to support them, so let’s get on with the story of Scotty Zwang!
What are the names of your current projects, first of all?
I have a bunch of projects right now. One is McZwang, and it’s a duo between me and Ian McGuire, who was the keyboardist in Sonic Spank for the three years that I was in that project. He also plays in CIA with Clay Parnell of Particle and Allen Aucoin from The Disco Biscuits. We both live in the Philly area and obviously have a long history of playing music together. It’s always a good time. We were running into the issue of getting so many people’s schedules to line up in order to play. Even if it’s one or two shows, it usually requires a lot of work to make everyone’s schedules line up. So, we decided we would try a duo and get better at figuring out how to make this work. There’s obviously been a handful of organ/drum duos throughout the years, but it’s definitely a skill that, especially for keyboards, takes a lot of practice. But Ian’s a very talented classically trained pianist, so it was more about figuring out how to get quality bass sounds out of a synthesizer while still playing keyboard, whether it’s piano or whatever it might be with the other hand.
What other work has Ian done besides his work with CIA?
He’s done a bunch of different things as well. He plays with Let’s Danza!, which is actually a project I’ve partaken in. They have a rotating cast of drummers, but it’s Ian, and Tom McKee and Clay Parnell from Brothers Past. They play Brothers Past material written by Clay or Tom McKee and different covers here and there as well.
Obviously you’ve played with Dopapod, and before that what band were you in?
Greenhouse Lounge, and before that..Sonic Spank with Ian McGuire and Ben Karp.
One of the guys from Greenhouse, didn’t he go to play with Red Jumpsuit Apparatus or something?
Yeah, not the drummer before me, but the original drummer of Greenhouse Lounge. I believe before he was in Greenhouse Lounge was the drummer for Red Jumpsuit Apparatus.
What are the other projects you’re working on these days?
I’m also playing with Tom Hamilton right now in American Babies, and we actually have some exciting news coming up soon… but yeah, Tommy and I have been playing together for the last 3 months, since I moved to Philadelphia. It’s been great! It’s a lot of fun playing with him and he’s such a talented guitarist. He’s really easy to be around, because he’s a fun character. He really influences you and wants you to go out and take as many chances as you can, all while listening to each other and making it a musical conversation. And then I’m also playing with RAQ, which I’ve been doing since post-Dopapod. We actually have a five night run coming up, starting Halloween night and going until Nov 4th. I think I can remember the order.. Washington DC, Stanhope NJ, Harrisburg PA, Albany NY, and the last night is in Hartford CT. That’s another project that’s extremely freeing. It grants the access of so much musical freedom, where everyone’s listening to each other and having a great time. It really is. Going on RAQ tour and playing with those guys is like a vacation. We’re all just having a lot of fun, and those guys have a long musical history with each other. They’ve definitely brought me in with open arms, in such a warm and welcoming way, that I automatically felt like a member of the band instead of the new guy.
An obvious question I have is, would you say you’re busier now than when you were with Dopapod?
I would say that I’m on the road less, so in that instance I’m less busy. It’s kind of nice when I get to go away with various bands. For all the various projects, I typically get to go play music on the weekends, whether that starts on Thursday or not.. you know, a musician’s weekend. Then, I get to come home and spend the week with my girlfriend, and practicing or going over new ideas, working on my own music. In that instance, I’m busier than I’ve ever been because I’m constantly working on new music, whether it’s my own endeavors or the other projects that I’m fortunate to play with. So it’s keeping me on my toes a lot more, whereas when I was just in Dopapod or whatever band, I was really focusing on that body of work, and every once in a while focusing on new music, and maybe a different cover here and there each night. But working in multiple projects really keeps me on my toes, having to process entire catalogs. I have to learn at least a dozen songs every couple weeks to a month..which, at times, can be frustrating. But it’s really rewarding when it all comes out and is executed properly. It’s great for my practice and just to better myself as a musician.
It’s just remarkable hearing all the different things you’re now involved with. I’m sure you were involved with a lot of things before, but there’s a certain rigidity when you’re in a band that’s constantly touring. More into the personal side of things, how’s everything going in your personal life? I’m sure it opens up opportunities for you in your personal life when you step off the road.
Oh, it’s honestly great, getting to spend a bunch of time with Cali. She’s really crushing it right now, working with TAUK, ALO, and a couple of other bands here and there. It’s been a great learning experience too, because we’re both so busy and work out of our home in Philly. I really get to experience what she does and now it’s kind of rubbed off on me, where now I’m more self-managed. I don’t have an entire team taking care of everything, because I’m with so many other projects that have their own management and booking and everything to take care of that side of the business. Ultimately I’m responsible for myself to make sure everything is taken care of, reaching out to all of them and making sure I’m on schedule.
Having so many different projects..even during this interview, I’m realizing that I’m forgetting a pretty important one that I’ve been fortunate to play with – a young up and coming R&B artist Chris McClenney. For years, he was going under the name MisterMack as a producer and putting out mostly instrumental beat kind of stuff and remixes..and is a very talented songwriter and singer, as well as a multi-instrumental musician. He’s been working more on his solo stuff under his given name, Chris McClenney, and has produced for D.R.A.M., who’s a big hip hop artist and was just on the last Kendrick Lamar album. Chris actually helped write the hit song “Location”by Khalid, a big R&B artist right now. It’s been very interesting to get to experience something outside of our little community in the jam world, getting to play different events and styles of music that I do really enjoy. It’s been great! And getting to be home, spending time with my girlfriend, is awesome. We’re actually celebrating our three year anniversary today.
What? Oh my god! Happy anniversary you two. I almost feel bad for doing this interview with you today.
It’s okay. It’s Monday, we still have work to do today. We’ll be celebrating tonight.
She actually used to be the Merch Manager for Dopapod, is that right?
Yeah, that’s how we met actually. She was Dopapod’s publicist for a couple years before I joined, but then came on the road to help us out. She’d just left a corporate marketing gig to focus on music work, so our manager asked if she would manage our merch operation while she figured out the next move. We‘d met briefly in Georgia and then got closer the summer before she came out on the road with us. I‘d been in the band for just under a year and she helped at a couple of festivals where our manager wasn’t going to be present. We needed the help, especially if it was one of those pancake breakfast VIP experience things (laughter). She really came through and got everything together, pre-going on the road with us for however long. I guess it was about a year that she stayed on the road with us. We grew really close within the first month or two of getting to know each other, and we hit it off and here we are three years later.
I think at the Morgantown show, I saw you guys kind of giving each other the eyes, and I said to myself, I wonder if they’re just going to go on ahead and start dating (laughter). So I’m glad to see that two awesome people in my life came together and became one of the power couples of our community. I really admire the hell out of you two.
Well, that means a lot of coming from someone I consider part of one the biggest power couples.
Let’s face facts, the girls are getting it done for us.
Really. Where would we be without those girls?
Yeah I’m living in the shadow of Elise, that’s really the truth of it (laughter). That’s awesome to hear, I’m glad that we got this personal side of things in this interview. Is there anything else you want to include?
I’ll be in the recording studio with RAQ soon. We’re actually recording our first album in 12 years. I actually go into the studio this week to lay down drums. It’s going to be an EP. We’re doing 6 classic RAQ songs that were never recorded before, so it’s a busy week!