Interviews from Roddy Cleere's Irish Music Show


March 1999

Zrazy are Carole Nelson and Maria Walsh. They first came to the public's attention with Ooh Ah Paul McGrath in 1992, something completely different to everything else the band has done. The single was a huge success and earned the band a Gold Disc. In 1993, Zrazy won a Hotpress award for Best New Band.

In 1994, Zrazy's career began to take off in a big way. They met the legendary producer Kim Fowley at the South by Southwest music Festival in Austin Texas. Through Kim they met an American manager, Ray Anderson, the head of marketing on the release of Michael Jackson's Bad and they also secured the services of a lawyer, Leonard Korobkin, the former head of ABC in the U.S. All of this led to a deal with an American label, Pure. In October 1996 Pure re-mastered Permanent Happiness (the band's second album), re-designed it, changed the name to Come Out Everybody and re-released it in America to huge critical acclaim.

In 1998, Zrazy secured an Arts Council grant to record their current album Private Wars and now they are out and about promoting it. Zrazy were joined on the recording by Myles Drennan on piano, Geraint Roberts double bass and Andrew Bold on drums and percussion. A tour of Ireland is planned for April and early May.

The album Private Wars was released to the public on March 5th and I met up with Maria Walsh, a Tipperary lady, to find out some more about Zrazy.

To help find out about the band it was necessary to learn some history of the girls.

Maria Walsh:

I met Carole through a mutual friend, who was in a band called 'Major to Minor', and when I heard her play the piano I just thought 'wow!' She is a brilliant pianist and saxophonist and I just grabbed her and she was over from London and she never went back. Eventually Carole and I wanted to start writing original material. In 'Major to Minor' we were doing jazz covers and various other things. Zrazy began in 1992 basically.

Where did the band get the name?

It's an odd name certainly. It can be hard to pronounce. As I say it's crazy with a Z. It looks good written down. It came out of a cookery book. It's actually a Russian beef recipe and if you go onto the Internet and type in Zrazy you will get recipes from Polish cafés in Ottawa. We were stuck for a name one night and I opened the dictionary and came across the name and thought it looked interesting.

Up to now it was difficult to tie Zrazy down to a particular type of music. The new CD Private Wars however, is very much an opus of mellow jazz.

That's very true. It was a very deliberate decision to make a jazz album. It was a real pleasure to do it and to be very disciplined about it. Before this we just did whatever we felt like doing. The other thing about this album was that we decided to keep it mellow jazz as opposed to having uptempo jazz followed by a slow piece and so on.

Does your love lie then with jazz only?

I love dance music too. I always consider it a great privilege when people want to dance to your music but our first big love is jazz. You can hear the jazz influence in the other albums also.

Private Wars is the type of album that is great to have on in the background. Is that an insult to all your hard work?

I knew you would say that. No, it's not an insult. That's exactly what we want it to be. It's the kind of CD you could put on for your dinner party.

Given that the kind of music in Ireland tends to be very much guitar driven, where do the girls see themselves fitting in?

[laughing] I don't know if we ever fitted in Ireland. We are different and we have gloried in that difference. As a result we have been outside Ireland a lot. We have been away for the last four to five years. We didn't really promote the last album [Permanent Happiness] in this country. It was promoted mainly in Europe and the States. We signed to a label in the States called 'Pure' who completely repackaged it and released it under a new name Come Out Everybody. It received terrific reviews and was doing really well when they were taken over by Mercury Records and we found then that we were surplus to requirements. It broke our managers heart.

Given that the band have not really played much in Ireland for the best part of five years, why the push now?

Well first of all I think it was because we wanted to make a jazz album and that gave us the opportunity to reintroduce ourselves to Ireland again. For ourselves it felt right and we felt that we wanted to stay around here for a while. Up until now we found that the audience response abroad was a lot better. This new album is very easy to listen to and should prove a good introduction to the band in Ireland.

Has the new album helped in getting the band gigs?

Well, there again, our booking agent is working on that and it's going to take us a little time to reacquaint ourselves with the Irish public and the live scene again. A nationwide tour is planned for sometime in April.

Does Maria ever see the day when Zrazy would bow to public demand and release a more mainstream song?

Hmmm, no not really. We are quite bolchy really. We will do what we want and our pleasure is in jazz. We are getting good airplay but it tends to be on the late night programmes like this one, which is no bad thing because the type of listener that listens in the late hours are into the kind of music we do.

What's the long term plan for the band?

We are thinking of asking Irish women poets for poems and then we will put it to music.

The music of Zrazy is highly contagious. One listen to the current CD and you are hooked. Certainly it would be great if the band had the opportunity to play in Waterford but again I wonder if there would be the interest in seeing them. A venue such as Garter Lane would be the ideal setting for these women.

Zrazy's Official Site
Zrazy at the Open Directory Project

Roddy Cleere's Irish Music Show on WLRfm
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Interviews from Roddy Cleere's Irish Music Show