Zack Keim, best known for leading the Nox Boys, will be playing a solo acoustic set at 4 PM at Juke Records on Record Store Day (Sat, April 22nd) in support of his solo release First Step. This is the second release of Get Hip’s folk series. Sound Scene Express had a few minutes to talk with Keim about his new release, his favorite record stores, vinyl and the music industry.
What’s the correlation between you getting signed to Get Hip and you working there?
I got signed with the Nox Boys and from there I just had an association with the people at the label. I was looking for part time work. They hired me to do miscellaneous stuff. From there Greg and Barbara asked me to work with record stores. I’m a sales rep now, so I deal with a lot of record stores. It’s good. I like networking with people. I’m signed with Get Hip as the Nox Boys, and I’m signed with Get Hip as myself. I’m releasing a solo record. The official release date isn’t announced. For the in-store appearance at Juke Records this Saturday, records might be on sale, but that would be exclusive to the event. The official release date will be somewhere down the line. No official release date yet, but I imagine in the next month or two we will release it. I’d say the next two months.
Okay. Tell me about this solo record.
It’s very different from the Nox Boys. I’m a big fan of Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie. I also like more contemporary stuff such as Fleet Foxes and Tallest Man on Earth. That kind of stuff.
That’s funny, because one of my questions was going to be who you would pick, Bob Dylan or Lou Reed? Not that the two are really comparable, but just in terms of a songwriter’s approach, Lou Reed is more the proto-punk guy and Bob Dylan is more the folk guy. So you’d side more with Dylan?
I love Lou Reed and I love Bob Dylan. I’m a big Velvet Underground fan. I think the first record I ever bought was The Velvet Underground and Nico. I mean, you might listen to records or inherit them growing up, but I think that was the first record I ever bought, at twelve or thirteen—I mean prior to having Pandora around so you could stream stuff. But the first record I actually bought with my own money was Velvet Underground and Nico at Juke Records in Bloomfield. From there, it kind of expanded my mind on shit. But Lou Reed is a great songwriter and a great performer. I like his Velvet Underground stuff and his solo records. And Bob Dylan is a big inspiration to me. But being a folk singer and being 20 years old and having the same look and appeal as Bob Dylan, I want people to know that I’m not trying to emulate Bob Dylan. I like Bob Dylan and Woody Guthrie and more contemporary stuff like Fleet Foxes and Tallest Man on Earth. I like Donovan. I might be compared with this next record coming out to being like Bob Dylan, but these are songs that come from the heart. It’s just what I’m writing. I like folk music, and I like just taking the riff of a rock n’ roll song and just playing it on guitar. You know what I mean?
When you cut it down to brass tacks, looking at yourself as a musician and where your inspiration lies, would you say you’re more of a folk guy that plays rock n’ roll, or a rock n’ roller that plays folk?
I would say I’m a rock n’ roller and a folkie at best. I don’t know, man.
That makes me think of Everly Brothers or Buddy Holly.
Oh, I love the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly.
That mentality just makes me think of rock ’n’ roll before there was any differentiation between folk and rock–when they were essentially the same thing. It was all coming out of Sun Records and wasn’t separated.
Dude, you know your shit. Exactly. I agree with you one hundred percent.
What are your favorite record stores in town to shop at?
- It’d be Juke Records in Bloomfield. This guy just bought it a couple months ago. It used to be Sound Cat, but unfortunately it got passed over because the old owner was sick and passed away. It’s been around forever. He has a very nice vinyl selection.
- The second store I would recommend is Attic Records in Millvale. You can find anything old school, and some new contemporary stuff too. There’s a lot of cool 45s.
- Cruel Noise records are great if you are looking for a Misfits record or the coolest punk rock record.
As a young guy, what do you think the attraction is to vinyl?
I like listening to vinyl records—first off, you can’t even compare listening to a vinyl LP versus something else like an iPod. It’s physically in your hands, you’re seeing the artwork and reading the liner notes and there’s a lot of effort put into it. How can you appreciate that when it’s compressed into an iPhone? I have a record collection and it’s hard to sell them because every record has a personal meaning to me. It’s like a library. If I have a couple of books I like reading like On the Road or Catcher in the Rye, they mean something to me. My vinyl library means something to me.
What about the sound quality? I know there is some argument as to whether analog or digital sound is better.
I think having a nice stereo and having a record compared to listening to something on headphones—to have a nice stereo and to throw on a Stooges record, that fuckin’ rips. You know what I mean?
What’s your favorite Stooges record?
Stooges? I’d say the first Stooges record. Iggy Pop is great. I have a lot of different artists I go to for inspiration that fall into a bunch of different genres. Like you mentioned Lou Reed and Dylan. I like Ricky Nelson. Elvis. . . Iggy Pop. I like the Strokes a lot. I have a lot of inspirations. Alex Turner from the Arctic Monkeys. I like the Arctic Monkeys a lot.
What is it you like about the Arctic Monkeys?
I think Alex Turner is a great singer-songwriter. I think he could fall into a more ‘60s style songwriter over time. Songs by the Arctic Monkeys are all well written and all of their melodies are great.
Taking a step back a few decades, what about a band like Big Star?
Oh, Alex Chilton is great. I have this solo Alex Chilton record–I think it’s on Norton Records out of New York. Billy Miller, the owner of that record label, passed away recently, but he released some great records. It’s this live record called Alex Chilton: Live at the Ocean Club. You can look it up. It’s a really good solo record. He’s just playing acoustic Big Star songs and I think he covers “Wouldn’t it be Nice” by Brian Wilson. It’s really good stuff.
I haven’t had a chance to listen to that one.
Oh, it’s great. I think my favorite Big Star record is either No 3 or their first record.
I saw that the Nox Boys opened for Mudhoney. Did you have a chance to meet Mark Arm at all?
Yeah, I know Mark Arm. He’s cool. He actually works at Sub Pop.
Right, I heard that. Sometimes he signs notes with the records.
He’s their shipping manager. So if you order something from Fleet Foxes, he’s packing that up and shipping it to you.
Right, that’s crazy. [laughs]
The Cynics are good friends with Mudhoney, so that’s how we landed that bill.
What was the first song you learned to play on guitar?
Probably “Day Tripper.”
What are your thoughts on being in the music industry and having the vantage point of working at a label like Get Hip?
I think for myself, being twenty, I know it’s going to take—It’s a lot of work being in the music industry. It’s not easy. But if I have a passion to do it and if it’s what’s going to make me happy, then I’m going to do it. I’ve worked a few jobs that I didn’t like. I work at Get Hip and it’s stressful at times doing sales, but I like it overall. I have two different paths I’m taking with the Nox Boys. I want to be a good garage band people like, and I want to create a scene. I used to do this event about two years ago called Teenage Take Over. Basically the concept is having five bands play with a five dollar cover. We did a lot of social media and street promotion. I want to do something like this once a month. You know how they had teenage dances back in the ‘60 with garage bands?
Yeah, like a hootenanny.
Yeah, a shindig. This old school DJ spinning ‘50s and ‘60s records. I’d like to do something like that. And have the Nox Boys host it. Not to play necessarily. we could have headliners play.
Any final thoughts?
When it comes down to it, it’s rock n’ roll. You only live once, so if you fuck up, you fuck up. But at least you wanted to do something and you had a passion to do it.