Antipatico (out October 6th, 2017) is the third album from J Hacha de Zola in just over two years and throughout that time, listeners have had the opportunity to hear an artist consistently gaining ground on his own vision and voice. Some artists change immeasurably over the course of three records, whereas Hacha de Zola is actually becoming who he set out to be.
“It has been an interesting exercise making the last two records (Jan., 2016’s Escape from Fat Kat City and Aug., 2016’s Picaro Obscuro),” Hacha de Zola says. “I wasn’t sure what I’d end up with or how I’d feel about what I’d done. It took time for me to become a ‘believer’ in what I’ve been doing, but with this record it’s become something that I feel is truly a reflection of my voice.”
As with his previous albums, Hacha de Zola (and his gaggle of cohorts and underground legends) is practicing his “reductive synthesis” method of, as he elegantly says, “shooting the arrow first and then painting the bullseye around it.”
J Hacha explains, “I never go to the studio with songs written. I allow the musicians to be themselves and throw all they’ve got at it. Then I’ll go and peel back the various layers to fashion a song from it all. It’s a pretty risky way of making an album because when it’s all done, you may have something that isn’t agreeable to you. Other times, you arrive at something truly magical and the songs take on a life of their own. There’s a certain kind of voodoo there that could not be planned.”
One example of this magical voodoo is the album’s lead single “No Situation,” about which Hacha de Zola says, “I write creepy songs or songs for creeps, but this one is a bit more light-hearted.” Truly, the song is a more accessible turn, though its subject matter is in a familiar lane. “It’s about the joy of forbidden fruit,” he says. “Of finding yourself in the arms of someone you know is completely wrong for you but being thoroughly intoxicated by their charms.”
The dark romanticism continues throughout Antipatico, reflecting the artist’s admitted newfound focus on a more personal side of his work.
“This time, it’s more Lee Hazlewood and Leonard Cohen than Tom Waits, Frank Zappa, or Captain Beefheart,” he explains. Other influences on Antipatico include Nick Cave, Perez Prado, Herman Hesse, HP Lovecraft, and Los Lobos, but Hacha de Zola reiterates that the songs of Hazlewood and Cohen were foremost on his mind, “especially due to their own darkly romantic songs and baritone voices,” he explains.
Even with many disparate influences, the sounds heard on Antipaticowill be familiar to fans of Hacha de Zola’s short but prolific career. Returning is legendary sax man Ralph Carney, who is best known for his work with Tom Waits.
“Ralph has become a friend and ally who is always there for me when I need some that ‘something’ to take a tune to a higher place,” Hacha de Zola says.
Hacha de Zola is also joined on Antipatico by one of his heroes, Dana Colley, a founding member of Morphine.
“I grew up listening to Morphine and to have the man on my record is truly an honor. They reaffirmed the idea that it is important to be yourself artistically and to defy convention.” Actually, it is Colley who we first hear on Antipatico, as his horns open the album. “When I first heard it back, I immediately thought “Holy shit!,” Hacha de Zolaexclaims.
Also on hand is Frank London of The Klezmatics on trumpet.
“I became familiar with Frank’s work a bit later in life when exploring Klezmer music. I have yet to hear a more ferocious trumpet player in that genre and his playing brought these tunes up a quantum level,” Hacha de Zola says.
Additional parts of the Antipatico crew include another Tom Waitscollaborator, David Coulter (Percussion, Jaw Harp), Stefan Zeniuk(Woodwinds) and Joe Exley (Tuba), both of Gato Loco, Hank Yaghooti (Drums, Percussion), Jerry Ramos (Bass, Synths, Drums, Percussion), Lubomir Smilenov (Beatbox Kaval, Gadulka, MPC, Programming), Matt Dallow (Accordion) of Sunny Side Social Club, Ariel Guidry (Vocals), Diego Piccardo (Piano, Keys, Synths), Dane Johnson (Lead Guitar), Geoff Gibbs (Bass), and Gary Lappier (Guitar.)
“It’s quite a cast of players that have helped me make this record,” Hacha de Zola acknowledges. “I am very lucky to be able to take their efforts and apply my name to it, but I was never alone in making this happen and likely never will be!”
It’s that kind of enthusiasm that leads to the belief in the eventual existence of a fourth J Hacha de Zola album. For now, Antipatico, the artist’s third, arrives on October 6th, 2017, preceded by the lead single “No Situation,” streaming now.