Talks with Rachelle van Zanten

 

Rachelle van Zanten


 Rachelle's Home page

 

Back to Francois

See the video for Let it Slide
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CEV:  Tell me about growing up in the foothills of northern BritishColumbia and some of your earliest musical influences in regards tothe music you were exposed to in your home.

RZ: I grew up riding horse back, racing through the woods that surroundFrançois Lake,British  Columbia. My family are all musical and as a child I was surrounded by family jams and church choir. My sister and I were raised on Kathy Mattea, Patsy Cline, Emmylou Harris, and Dolly Parton.

CEV:  Was there a point while you were singing along to all of therecords in your preteen years that you realized that eventually thiswould be more than just a hobby for you?

RZ:  I think yes, I would make this a living eventually. I Always wanted to be the 3rd Judd and then I found out about Ashley and moved on. When I was 13 we were asked in class what were going to be when we grew up and I said musician.

CEV:  How did you receive your training on the piano, drums and trumpet? Did you just practice on your own or did you have a teacher?

RZ:  I was very fortunate growing up to have an excellent band program in school. My first elementary school teacher was Murray Carmack and he composed all of the songs that we sang. They were about slain knights and drowned heroines. I didn't get it then but looking back, they were tragic songs. By grade 6 (age 11) my friends and I were all playing instruments in the school band. We rehearsed a lot and this definitely helped my development as a musician. I then took up guitar on my own and taught myself. I learned the most by playing for hours and finding new voicings and riffs. I treated it like a sport and just went for it.

CEV:  When was it that you added the guitar to this mix and why was it that you decided to add another instrument to what you were already playing?   

RZ:  I added guitar to the mix in High School because I liked how the guitar sounded in the school hallway and how easy it was to transport. It was slightly cooler than trumpet too and I could easily pick out my new favorite pop tunes. I am also an overachiever so the more instruments the better :)

CEV:  How long did you spend practicing before you felt you had mastered the guitar?

RZ:  I will never master the guitar. I am always striving to get better and to find new, interesting ways to play it. Once you think you mastered something, you are stagnated creatively.



CEV:  Were you self taught?

RZ: Yes, I was self taught. I used to hang out with other guitar players and learn riffs, watch their hands, and generally be a nuisance.

CEV:  With all of these instruments under your belt were you writing your own music? If so where did the inspiration for your music come from?

RZ:  I started writing my own music when I was 15 I think but only on guitar and piano. I used the other instruments to accompany other players. But by learning them, they allowed to me to develop as a guitar player much faster! By drumming for a few years, my right hand was much more developed than my friends right hands. I could also play along with drummers easier and lock into the hi hat and kick drum.

CEV:  In the fall of 1995 you went off to university in the city ofEdmonton,Alberta. Tell me about hooking up with Daisy Blue Groff,Carolyn Fortowsky and Kim Gryba and the formation of Painting Daisies.Did you have any goals for the kinds of music that you wanted to do as a group?

RZ:  Well Daisy and I were really into the folk thing, so followed the Ani Difranco/ Indigo Girls path. Once Kim joined, she brought her rocker influence and all hell broke loose. We then bought electric guitars and tube screamer pedals. Musically we worked really hard to the point of rehearsing everyday for weeks straight. We wanted to shock the audience with out tightness and I think we did.

CEV:  When was it that you first developed your slide guitar technique?What was the motivation that inspired you to try to develop this style of playing?

RZ:  I heard Lester Quitzau play slide guitar when I was 18 years old. From that moment on I was fascinated by it. I play for hours on end and learned how to actually make my guitar sound half decent. Then I got to the stage where live I could go off and have great improv solos as well as create texture underneath what the other musicians were doing. I am a big fan of open d and g.

CEV:  You were with the painting daisies for 11 years so how would you characterize your experiences as part of this group? What was it that you learned about your music during this time period?

RZ:  I learned a lot about being married to 3 other women and about communication and respect. I learned about becoming humble, letting ego go (which was the hardest), and about caring for one another. Musically I eventually learned how to not play. I used to over play all the time and our sound was utter cacophony. I learned how to encourage my band mates and lift them up for their strengths and not criticize them for their weaknesses.

CEV:  Why was it that the group disbanded in 2005?

RZ:  Everyone had had enough music except for me. I wanted more. So the other members went onto other things and I found a new team to achieve my goals.

CEV:  Was doing your music as a solo act something that had been on your mind before the group disbanded?

RZ:  Yes, so I did occasional solo shows here and there. But once the group disbanded i was in mourning for 4-5 months. Then I did my first tour inGermanyand realized I had made the right decision due to lack of stress.

CEV:  Is your solo musical style and the music you are writing now significantly different than that of the music of Painting Daisies?

RZ:  No, I am still writing the bluesy, slide riffs. I guess now I also write intricate finger picking stuff as well because in a trio, which is what I am now, there is much more space for this to be heard and appreciated. I am writing harder or more challenging riffs guitar wise as I know my bass player, Hamish Tesco, will have a wicked counter part.

CEV:  Tell me about the title of your new release, Back to François.What meaning does this have for you and is there a theme that runs through the music of this CD?

RZ:  FrancoisLakeis the lake where I grew up so in a sense this album is like coming home. It is about me and where I was at the time and there were no compromises. I just did what I did and a lot of it is the result of growing up so free and wild in this magical place.  

CEV:  For the fans who have been following your career as part of thePainting Daisies group, what will they find when they pop this new CD into their players? Is it a variation on a Painting Daisies theme or something very different and uniquely Rachelle van Zanten?

RZ:  They will find a lot less rock and more organic groove.A lot more space sonically as well I think.

CEV:  How much input and influence did Joby Baker have on this project?

RZ:  Joby is an amazing man. He works really well in short time periods and gets great sounds. He has ideas that make simple things sound world class. He knows how to use his gear and makes the artist feel like he or she can do anything thus the recording reflects that. He also played drums and a bit of bass on this record which highly influenced how the songs turned out. His style is very sensitive to lyrical content and vibe.

CEV:  Are you very involved with the production end of your music or do you leave that to those behind the consoles?

RZ:  No, I love being apart of the engineering and production. Joby taught me how to run protools to some extent and I learned a lot about the different compressors and equalizers. Production wise I knew what I wanted and I think Joby was on the same path.

CEV:  Did you have folks in mind to serve as the back up band for the recording of this project or did you just use session players?

RZ:  I had heard Rick May and Joby back Lester Quitzau inOttawaand knew that they would give me the beds that I needed. They are a great team!

CEV:  Do you enjoy the process of taking your music from ideas in your head and translating them through the studio into the finished product that is released on the CD?

RZ:  Absolutely. I get these riffs happening in my head and then I need to get them down in my cell phone and then into my computer. I then play them for Joby and he adds his drum beat which often changed the direction of the song for the best.

CEV:  When Back to François was done were you happy with the finished project?

RZ:  Hell yah. For a debut solo record I think I couldn't have asked for a better recording. I decided in the beginning that I wanted to do it right because I have high expectations and I am impatient. So far so good.

CEV:  What has been some of the initial feedback that you have beenreceiving from fans and reviewers about Back to François?   

RZ:  You can check it out on the forum and press page. People really dig it.

CEV:  Is this project self released and if not what label is putting this project out?

RZ:  It is self released except for Scandinavia- Marilyn records. But we are still shopping for labels in other territories

CEV: Thanks for taking the time to talk to CEV Rachelle and I wish you much success in the future.