An Interview With Zachery Hembree

I had the pleasure to interview Zachery Hembree of such bands as MUSIC HATES YOU, STONE MOUNTAIN FREEWAY, TORO, CRAWL, and most recently HEMBREE AND THE SATAN SISTERS. This is how it went..
~D Hi Zachery. I hope its okay to plug Shadebeast as well. First I would like to congratulate you on your sobriety and if you don’t mind me asking, how long have you been sober?

 

~Zach– Hey, man! Of course, it is 666 percent ok to plug Shadebeast Records, please do! I know Joe would for sure fucking appreciate it! Shadebeast Records rules and I am so stoked that Joe thought enough of me to make me a part of it. The place is super unique, and it caters to a demographic of music fans that get ignored all too often. Joe is super passionate about heavy underground music and a damn good dude all around. Shadebeast Records for fucking life!

I appreciate the congrats on myself being sober. It is something that I contemplate frequently. I have been alcohol-free for over 2 years at this point, and for myself, those who know me well, and some that only know that side of my life would attest that me putting down the bottle is a massive change in my lifestyle. I was obsessed with anything “alcohol flavored”, haha. I laugh about it at times now, but in reality, I caused myself and a ton of people a lot of grief over a long period of time. I would say I was a major alcoholic from about 1998-2016. I slowed down a bit towards the end of my “drinking career”. I stopped drinking any liquor the last year or so and just switched to beer because my body just could not handle the whiskey anymore. But, it’s not like I actually slowed down. I was still consuming easily 25-40 beers a day.
Honestly, I had a lot of great times when I was drunk, at least from what I can recall, but those times pale in comparison to all the dark, negative, self-destructive, and violent behavior that I engaged in while an alcoholic. It took me almost two fucking decades to finally look at myself and be honest that I was a piece of shit when I drank. I stayed in fights, some not my fault, but most of them probably were. I have broken people’s noses, knocked out teeth, smashed bar stools and pool cues on people’s heads. I have beaten people completely unconscious, caused people to go to the emergency room, and even slapped a dude who pulled a gun on me and dared him to pull the trigger…..not saying any of this to make me sound like some tough motherfucker, believe me, I had my ass kicked way more times than I have won, and I have deserved at least half of them. I would tell straight-faced lies to people without a second thought, say horrible shit to people, I could just be a real fucking jerk, a dude that I would not like if I met. Somehow, I managed to keep friends, and I can never be thankful enough for those that stood by me and saw there was more to me than just the drunk guy. A lot of my friends may not have seen me in a light this negative, but that is my perspective.
I did over a year in prison because I would not lay off the fucking booze. Here is just a small piece of that story. This dude I did not even like and I were partying, and he passed out. I always prided myself on being the last man standing at a party, that no one could hang with me all 15 rounds. There have been a few that could but not many. Warren Riker always gave me a run for my money, my brother Jason Richardson (of SAVAGIST) could hang, and so could my good bro Jack Covington. Anyway, this poor guy passed out, and I had the bright idea to steal his keys out of his pocket so I could go get smokes. This was the winter of 2002 I think.  Completely smashed on Kentucky Gold whisky and an 8 ball of cocaine, I jumped into his car and sped down the road for probably a good 2 miles before I realized the headlights were off. On a back road out in the sticks it’s a wonder that this alone did not lead to my demise, haha. When I reached the Golden Pantry, I realized that I had neglected to even put on my shirt or shoes before leaving the house. It was easily 30 degrees outside…what an idiot I was. Undaunted, I went in and bought my smokes and stole a couple of hot dogs. I am sure the attendant wanted me out of there asap. I hauled my freezing ass back to the car. I jumped in and floored it, almost smashing the cop car entering the gas station as I was exiting..super close call! I barreled down the road going easily 90 or more on Prince AVE., which is more or less in downtown Athens and is a moderately busy road. I ran every red light on my path. I ran a stop sign, and that is when the lights and sirens hit. Without a second thought, I kept flooring it. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Double Trouble” was playing on the stereo, and I remember thinking to myself that I was a badass like Ronnie Van Zant, or something. The cop chased me for a good 3 to 5 minutes before it dawned on me that I was in major fucking trouble, and I should quit while I could.  The cop came upon me, gun in hand and ready, saying “Don’t make me kill you, motherfucker”. I guess he thought I could have been a gangster or thug or someone like that. He said I ran the stop sign going 109 miles an hour. The whole chase and arrest is on film, and it looks like a stereotypical episode of COPS, me in my Wrangler jeans and nothing else in the middle of the winter time. That is the night I went to prison, and this offense was just one of MANY leading up to my year-long incarceration. My brothers in MUSIC HATES YOU had to deal with so much bullshit from me. It shows how strong the character is in those guys. They never turned their backs on me, but goddamn I know they wanted to fucking kill me, and I cannot blame them one bit. But, even after a prison sentence, I still didn’t wake up and change my ways for another 12 years.
Towards the end of my drinking, I would just get dumb very fast. This is something that I had heard about from older alcoholics. Apparently, when you’ve made your career to be a professional drinker, your tolerance goes from sky high to almost nothing. Your liver is just like “fuck you, you get zero work from me anymore!” Aside from me becoming exceptionally dumber way faster, I would hallucinate and talk to dead friends and relatives, convinced they were in the room with me. I would attack myself physically, black my own eyes, and in mid-sentence, I could go from laughing hysterically to sobbing my eyes out. I was just a total mental case, and I was becoming more and more ashamed of my actions. I was over 30 years old, married, and I had children. I would like to point out that I was never once drunk in the presence of my kids, but that does not change the fact that I was still being a shit father by not conducting myself like a man that has kids in his life that depend on him. My poor wife, goddamn, what a good woman. She stood by my side through all of that hell, and I know I will never find or know another person on this planet that will have my back more than she does.
There are too many stories, accidents, and incidents that happened while I was drunk to be able to name more than a couple and give them real detail. I prided myself on being an alcoholic and frequently told people that I was a “Professional Booze Junkie.” I would drink entire handles of booze by myself, sometimes before noon, walk to the store and buy more. Sometimes I would look at my tab receipts at the bar (when I would pay them), and be absolutely astonished and proud that I could drink as much as I could. I remember one tab receipt from my Sarasota, Florida days stating that I had consumed 32 whiskeys on the rocks that day. How am I alive?! But in my booze haze, I thought that all of this was completely normal. Most of my heroes were alcoholics so I should be one too…but most my heroes are fucking dead because of that. No thanks.
The final night I drank, I got into a physical altercation with a stranger on the patio of a bar. This time it actually was not myself at fault..long story short..a scuffle broke out, I knocked him on his ass, and we were both kicked out. My friends and I left, and as we were walking I saw a flash out the corner of my eye and next thing I knew I was on the ground. The dude had been hiding in the bushes waiting to tackle me as soon as he had the chance. The ‘”flash” I saw was a trailer hitch ball, and he was wearing me out with it, only succeeding to hit me in the arms and chest with it, but it was still brutal. He kept missing my head and sparks were actually flying off the pavement, shit was wild. My friend pulled him off of me, and I laid the dude out again and went home. I woke up the next day, could barely move, covered in massive bruises, and what I’m sure were cracked or broken ribs, and said “enough.” I have never drank again or even wanted to.
I am not condemning alcohol at all, it is just not for me. The world is a slightly safer place now that I am sober, hahaha. To quote a dear friend of mine, John MacBeth  (of FALLOW): “I am allergic to alcohol, it makes me break out in handcuffs”
I plan on writing a book of short stories about all my drinking escapades. I have survived a lot of beyond insane stuff. Stuff that you see in movies, but you couldn’t make my life up.
~D I hear you brother. I had to wake up one day myself and divorce whiskey. So I see you just got home from a badass road trip. Can you tell us some about that?

 

~Zach I feel, man. It can sure fuck ya up if you let it.

I take it you are talking about going to the Original MISFITS show in Jersey?
It was actually a major happening for me. You have to understand that for myself and many others who grew up as MISFITS fans, this was something that I thought would never take place. I am sure you are aware of the feud between Glenn Danzig and Jerry Only. It had been well documented and ongoing for over 3 decades. The idea that they could get over the drama between them, and actually play together, was not an idea I had ever entertained.
In all actuality, the MISFITS, SAMHAIN, and DANZIG are a massive reason for me wanting to be in a band.  Upon discovering the Misfits at the age of 12, I was hooked in a big way. I learned to play guitar from listening and playing along to their albums “Walk Among Us“, “Earth AD” and “Static Age“. I know that Ash (lead guitarist of HEMBREE AND THE SATAN SISTERS) learned how to play through MISFITS albums as well. I used to record myself playing acoustic versions of MISFITS songs on my parent’s answering machine when I was 12/13 years old, haha. It would infuriate my Dad, haha. I was obsessed with all of DANZIG‘s bands. But the MISFITS were one of my first loves and my introduction to punk rock. I felt they were tailor made for a kid like me. I was a massive ELVIS fan, so from the word go I could relate to Glenn Danzig‘s vocal delivery. I was also obsessed with sci fi/ horror movies, comic books, anything satanic or that scared the fuck out of me, and I loved rock n roll. The MISFITS had all of that and then some, how could I not like them!? The impact that band had on me is immeasurable. I have heard a lot of punk rock purists or music snob elitists trash the MISFITS as not “true punk rock”..well fuck those people. I hate that elitist shit, anyway. “Punk Rock” is whatever the person creating decides for it to be, not what somebody thinks you should look or sound like.
The show blew my mind in every way, and I was not alone.  19,500 other fans at the show agreed as well. I had goosebumps the entire time, and I am still high from it.  My wife even cried when the show was over. I know Danzig gets a lot of shit for being an “asshole” but honestly, I enjoy his demeanor quite a bit. At least he is real and pulls no punches. He says what he thinks straight out and I respect that.  A lot of folks don’t care for unapologetic people or individuals who have confidence or charisma. I respect anyone who has the nuts to stand up and give the middle finger to the masses and say” I don’t give a shit how you do it or what you think, I do what I want.”
In my opinion, he is one of the greatest frontmen of all time. He evokes a reaction. A lot of folks love him, and a lot of folks hate him, and I think that is a good thing. That means you are doing a damn good job at your craft. Sadly, I heard his Mother passed away that morning of the show, but Glenn at almost 64 years of age still managed to put on a clinic of how to be a badass frontman. His energy and stamina onstage surpassed most folks 40 years younger than him. The entire band absolutely destroyed the stage!
I think if there is a true successor to the MISFITS, it would be CANCERSLUGAlex Story has been beyond impressive to me as a songwriter, and he is easily one of the best frontmen I have ever seen. He is obviously influenced by all things Danzig, but never once does he come off like a rip-off. He does his own thing, and I think CANCERSLUG needs to be a household name in the realm of punk rock.
I have been massively inspired by all 3 of Danzig‘s bands and his body of work.  The man will leave an incredible legacy behind.
But yea, the show was fucking amazing, and I wish I could see them again today!
~D Right on! I was floored myself when I first heard about the first two shows that happened a while back. While we are on the subject of influences, I saw where some asshat decided to give you shit about GG Allin after a CRAWL show a while back. Can we talk about that?

~Zach Hahahahaha, asshat, great way to describe ’em. I will only refer to them as asshat for the duration of this response.

First off, there have been many folks over the years that said I remind them of GG in one way or another. I am a big GG Allin fan, and I will take that as a compliment. Since I began playing shows way back in 97, I have always come unhinged live. I feel the music and I lose my shit, and many times I have injured myself and others. I have busted my head with microphones, guitars, pa monitors, other people’s skulls, and yes, I have bled all over the place and will most likely continue to do so. I am a full blown crazed animal on stage that does not give a fuck, been that way since I was a teenager. I am certain that this is largely where the comparison comes from, and I am more than ok with this.  I have immense respect for GG Allin as an artist and as the most dangerous frontman of all time. I can’t even begin to think I am anywhere near the same caliber of the frontman he was. He transcends the title, there is only one GG. I would be totally full of shit if I said that I was not inspired by the man. However, there have been some asshats as you call them that have gone out of their way to say I am nothing but a GG Allin ripoff. This is also fine as asshats are allowed to have their opinions just like I am. These so called punk rock “experts” are more than likely coming to this conclusion from just seeing photos of me playing live and have most likely never heard a single band I have ever been in. If they did, they would hear that I have never written a single note of music that sounded anything like GG‘s. Hell, one of the last bands I was in was a progressive metal band, stylistically not even in the same ballpark as GG. In actuality, I have been way more influenced/inspired by Jeff Clayton of ANTISEENDavid Yow of THE JESUS LIZARD, Noah of MUSIC HATES YOU, and Dave Slocum of ARTIMUS PYLEDRIVER. I know people who were close friends with GG, and the consensus is the same. If he met any of these internet “experts”  face to face, he would destroy them without batting an eye, that is the irony of it, hahaha.

It’s just funny to me, man. Some of these so-called “true punk” people have written me saying that I need to have my ass kicked or GG would kick my ass if he were alive. Ya know, maybe he would, maybe…but I am fairly certain that he would beat the fuck out of all of these shit talking internet cowards.
It still baffles me that in this day and age, some asshats feel a need to write folks they don’t even know and give them an opinion they did not ask for nor want. Honestly, I find it amusing.
I never responded to any of the messages I have received from these asshats as you call them because I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that NONE of them would have the sack to talk that shit to me in person. It takes no guts to run your mouth via a keyboard.
To quote the title of one of our songs “Say it to my Face“.
~D Ha ha! So tell me about the new project, HEMBREE AND THE SATAN SISTERS. Aren’t there more than one releases coming soon?

 

~Zach Absolutely. I am beyond excited about HEMBREE AND THE SATAN SISTERS. In all honesty, I have not been this excited about a band I have been in since way back in the MUSIC HATES YOU days. After I decided to leave TORO, I wasted no time putting together new music. I told myself I would take some time off and focus on other things than music, but that never works out. I have to play and write, it’s a cliche point that most songwriters make, but it is true. If I don’t create music I go fucking crazy. I began writing the songs for this band in December 2017. I briefly joined CRAWL on vocals, but now I am focused 100 percent on HEMBREE AND THE SATAN SISTERS.

Stylistically, this band is where I have been wanting to be musically for years. It has more of a punk rock feel than anything I have done in a long time.  The songs are short and to the point, yet still powerful. The songs are not at all like anything I wrote or recorded previously. This is much more vicious in its lyrical approach and much more rock ‘n’ roll and punk oriented in the musical delivery. I have known the guys in the band “THE SATAN SISTERS” for years, and I knew they would understand my “vision” for this band.
Randall Baird (of BACKMASK and formerly of ARMAZILLA) and I go back 15 plus years.  We have been tight friends since the day we met, we have played in bands together, our old bands toured together, and he was the only person I thought would be the right fit for a bassist in this band. Both guitarists Ash and Jeff and I have known each other for about 20 years now, all of us coming up in the Athens punk and metal scene in the late 90’s and on.  They have played in such bands as GUFF, DONKEY PUNCH, THE MIDS, THE DUMPS and both are longtime friends. Our drummer Parker is no exception to this rule.  We have known each other for over a decade, and we have been in a few bands together too. Parker and I played together in GRIM PICKINS & THE BASTARD CONGREGATION, and he was actually the original drummer for TORO.  He was the guy who brought me into that band. Parker has also been the long-running drummer and founding member of Athens punk band BURNS LIKE FIRE. We have all known one another for super long, and it makes it way easier for us to get on in a room together. All of us come from very similar backgrounds musically, all growing up on punk rock, classic metal, country and southern rock.
So far, all the songs are pre-written by me before they end up in the practice space. But, I keep it very bare, just writing the basic guitar riffs, lyrics, vocal structures, etc…I have a vision of how I want the songs to be structured, but I want to leave plenty of room for the Satan Sisters to put their own spin on things, and play them in a way that makes the song belong to them just as much as me. All the members of the band bring a lot to the table. Once we are all in the room together the songs take on a life of their own. They make the songs better and contribute so much. I am damn lucky to have these dudes with me.
I am happy that we have already established a noteworthy following. One of our fans and friends, Austin King, took it upon himself to start a HEMBREE AND THE SATAN SISTERS group called “Hembree’s Hellions.” Big shout out to Austin, fuckin’ love ya kid!
More shout outs to OG Hellions Jason Thurston, KP Turner, and Ron Simonds, these dudes have shown us the utmost support from the word go.
Our first show is coming soon, and I can’t wait to take this to the stage. We have the good fortune to debut at Athfest (massive music festival that happens yearly in Athens). You could not ask for a better show to make your debut, as it is always packed to the rafters. June 23 is the date, and we share the bill with LAZER/WOLF, SAVAGIST, GUILLOTINE, and MARSES.
In July, we will enter Full Moon Studios with Jay Rogers at the helm to record our debut album entitled “Fuck Your Feelings“. If all goes as planned, the album will be released by summers end or the beginning of fall. The first 50 copies of the album will be totally free.
Very soon afterward, I plan on recording solo acoustic versions of these songs for an acoustic album/DVD entitled “Quiet Sides of Hell“. The DVD portion of the release will be various acoustic live performances and hopefully, a music video filmed by my good pal Markus Schaffer (of DEAD VIBES ENSEMBLE).
In addition to that, I have already begun working on some of the earliest songs for the second HEMBREE AND THE SATAN SISTERS album tentatively entitled “Diablerie
This is the type of band I have wanted to be in for a long time. I missed the hateful, stripped down, primal approach to rock ‘n’ roll and Hembree & the Satan Sisters are just that.
We are a much-needed dose of “FUCK YOU” ROCK ‘N’ ROLL!
~D I can’t wait to hear the new stuff. I saw you say that you weren’t too keen on labels or getting signed. Can you elaborate?

~Zach Let me clarify. I have nothing against labels or being signed, to each their own on both sides. I think labels can be great for bands if they are actually willing to respect what the band is about or their approach, or if the label and the band share the same goal. A  lot of people think then when they become signed, especially by a bigger label, that they have people that are going to do all the work for them. This is simply not true. Once you are signed by one of these bigger labels, your work has just begun, and most bands fold under the pressure fairly quickly. Unless, you are an established act, and they can rely on you to move merch, then you are under their thumb.  I have friends that run independent labels like Rusty Knuckles. Those guys take great care of their artists. They may be grassroots, but I prefer that approach because it feels more human to me. I think Phil Anselmo‘s label, Housecore Records, does a killer job working with bands, Southern Lord treats their bands well from what I heard. I have friends  higher up in the industry that even worked for these bigger labels and/or produced albums for these labels that told me I would be better off not even dealing with them.

My weirdness towards labels is mainly pointed at a few of the bigger ones out there that I have had personal dealings with and the experiences friends of mine have had with them as well.
It’s an odd concept to me that a label exec reaches out to you because he supposedly likes what you do and your style. Only to tell you a month later they want you to completely change what it was that they liked about your band from the beginning. This happens every day, and many bands roll with as they just want to be signed and live this illusion that this label is the answer to all of your rock ‘n’ roll prayers. I have been in situations a couple times like this, where the supposed golden carrot is dangling over my face, just out of reach and I can have if I sound this way or look that way. What I am talking about is nothing new, this shit is been happening since the birth of the music industry. All 3 times these “bigger” labels have reached out to me with their suggestions about what they were looking for completely contradicted the initial reason they supposedly wanted to sign me for in the first place. Thanks but no thanks.
At the risk of sounding cheesy, I do not do this for the nonexistent money, big crowds, big tours, fancy music videos, polished record production or any of that. I do this for me and me alone. When other people like what I do that is fucking great, and if they don’t I do not care one bit.
The last time I dealt with one of these labels I knew it smelled fishy from the start, and I was completely right. Honestly, if the signing would have come to fruition, I know I would have HATED it. I don’t want some dude in an office telling me how to construct my songs, how to present myself or to change my vocal style or any of that. If I decide to change my music on my own accord, in a natural progression, then that is okay, but not at the behest of anyone else outside of my bandmates. If they don’t like what I do, then join the club and move on down the fuckin’ line. I don’t care if I ever “make it”. I do this because I want to, this is who I am, and I have zero desire to negotiate with anyone on how to be me.
This is all just my opinion and my perspective on this, to each their own.
~D What would you say to a young man or woman in his or her room with only a guitar, or practice drum pad from school or even somebody with a clarinet? Whatever they have…

 

~Zach I would say don’t let the inevitable discouragement that will come get you down. Trudge your way through that shit, it builds a ton of character. If you are just starting out, absorb everything you can about music. Give it all a chance you will be surprised at what you actually end up liking or hating. There are only 2 types of music in the world, the music you like and the music you don’t. Don’t give a second thought or waste your valuable time being concerned with music you don’t like, play the music you do like. Play all the damn time, become obsessed with it (if you are not already) Be married to it. Realize that you will never stop learning how to play your instrument or writing songs, no matter how great you become. Every time you play, write or perform you should learn something new. Every day that you commit to it you will become better, but it will piss you off a lot at times. Use that shit to fuel you.

Play what you feel and nothing else. Being YOU is important because you are the only YOU out there. Don’t be concerned at what you think other people may like, don’t worry about what your friends think, your teachers, and especially your parents think about the music you are creating. Chances are if they like the music you write then something may be wrong unless you have seriously hip parents who understand what the whole process of what creating music and art is about. I myself am I parent so I’m not knocking parents but as a general rule “Parents Just Don’t Understand”..hahaha. That does not mean they don’t care, though.
The best thing I can say is this.
DO NOT FUCKING QUIT.
This was, by far, The most fun I have ever had doing an interview. Until the new album is released, you can check Zachery out playing guitar for MUSIC HATES YOU below.

This is him on vocals with the band TORO