Donny Paycheck on recording the first Zeke album in half a decade, playing with Motorhead

It's been a while since Zeke rocked our ears off in these parts. Drummer Donny Paycheck (aka Don Hales) of Zeke's thinks the last time was in 2005 with Motorhead and Corrosion of Conformity. Alas, the Zeke dudes are roaring back into town tomorrow night for a gig at 3 Kings Tavern with their trademarked speed and the all-out fury of buzzsaw guitars and redline drums.

This time around, the band is touring with ANTiSEEN and Joe Buck (aka Joe Finley, former lead guitarist for The Legendary Shack Shakers and bass player for Hank Williams III). While the guys have slowed down their former relentless touring schedule -- on the road for roughly 200 days a year -- they've still been playing steadily on the West Coast. And with a new album in the works, they'll be touring more -- thankfully.

Westword: Why are you guys doing this tour with ANTiSEEN?

Donny Paycheck: The thing about ANTiSEEN to us is they were one of the bands we listened to when we first started Zeke. It's a super influence on Mark [guitarist Blind Marky Felchtone]. I have to say its in his top three favorite bands. And it's in my top ten. So for us, when they said 'Hey, we're going on tour do you want come do this thing?' -- absolutely, there was no question. We would tour with those guys in a heartbeat. I did one interview and they were like 'What took you so long to do this?' I don't know. I just don't know. I'm glad it's finally happening.

You're putting out a new 7-inch?

It's coming out on my label, which is Digital Warfare Records. What we're doing is we did a Joe Buck song, with Joe Buck singing, and ANTiSEEN did a song with Joe Buck playing on it as well. That's what we're putting out. It was probably a bit of a facilitator of this tour because he's friends with both of us. It's his agency, Bucket City, that he started with Christian that books ANTiSEEN, and he was like 'Man we should do this,' and it kind of facilitated the whole thing and facilitated the whole 7-inch, and it's just come together really well.

Is this the full band? Who's playing bass?

It is the full band. Jeff [Jeff "The Kid" Matz, formerly of Colorado-based Wretch Like Me] is in High on Fire, so he's not in the band anymore, We have the ex-bass player from RC 5 and The Vaccines [Jason Freeman] is our new bass player, and has been for the last four years since Jeff left. We've had Chris on guitar since the Until the Living End came out, so it is the four piece band.

So you've got this new 7-inch and you've also got a new album in the works. Are you going to be playing any new material on the tour?

I can't say for sure. One reason is I am not in charge of what we play. That's all Mark, but the idea is to play as much of the new material as we can. For reasons being, one, playing live is always good for new material, and two, its just to get people familiar with the new songs. So when the songs do come out, people will be rushing out to get it.

Will the new album be out later this year?

There's no release date as of yet. We're working on it; we have a bunch of material. If we have a release date set in front of us that we have to go by, we feel like we'd have a rushed product, and at this point in our careers, we've done that once. And a lot of people liked Dirty Sanchez. But for us, we were rushed by our record company to put out the record. And we feel like it's an inferior product compared to the rest of our albums.

We're not in the business of putting out crap. We can't be. Other people can, they have multimillion dollar machines behind them that push their songs to the radio and the masses will buy no matter what it is. But for us, it's like we don't have that. We've got to sell records on quality. So we have to put out a product that's contributing something to the music scene, and so, if we're forced to put out an album, we're forcing a square into a circle, and it doesn't work.

We figured that out a few years ago. You know, It's been five years since we've put out a record. But the next record we put out you can be sure it's going to be as good as the last couple of records--you know it because we're not going to force it. It's going to be right before we put it out.

You have a lot of great influences, and you can hear it in the music. AC/DC or KISS: which were bigger influences?

As a kid, it had to be KISS. As a teenager, once KISS took their makeup off, it was AC/DC. That's a tough question. I hear both probably just as much as the other.

What band would you most love to blow off the stage?

That's a strange question. Playing-wise, I can say any of the badass bands. But the problem behind that is, you'd have to sell as many records as Metallica or Iron Maiden so people know the songs, because that's what it really comes down to.

I know that we've played in front of many of our favorite bands -- the Dwarves or Supersuckers or Nashville Pussy -- and had them say to us: "Wow we're going to have to wait for half an hour to go on because that was fucking amazing." In that setting, it's a different story, because people who have bought the Supersuckers records or those other bands have bought the Zeke records, so then it really does come down to who has kicked ass and who has came out and fucking played the best set.

When it comes down to Motorhead, people who've seen us with Motorhead are seeing us for the first time. Unless we came and just blew stuff up - for real -- and had a stage show like KISS where people see what they hear, I don't think the music or the performance alone can carry over past songs like "Ace of Spades" that you've been hearing since you were twelve.

It's a great thought. Man I'd sure love to blow away AC/DC -- how great. The fact remains, every one of their albums has so many hits on it. How do you compare with that? Plus they've got all the fucking best songs in the world.

How was it playing with Motorhead?

It was awesome, man. What else could you ask for, Zeke and Motorhead.

Was Lemmy a nice guy?

He is a real rock star. As many guys as I've met that have sold a bunch of records and have had a chance to record with Ed Ved, they're not really like Lemmy, because he's been a rock star since he was very young, and he comes from this era of, like, superbands. So it was almost hard to approach him a lot of times. Even though when I hung out with him, he was really super laid back and funny and cracking jokes. It's just, hanging around, it was hard, because he's one of those guys that's a super rock star.

Finally we got up the guts to ask him if we could interview him, and we interviewed him on camera, and we got to ask him a lot of questions like about his days in Hawkwind... He told us why he started to play bass and why he plays bass the way he does. So it was really cool hanging out backstage with him.

This is a whirlwind tour it's nine shows in ten days. Do you have any plans for any tours beyond this?

We're definitely going to be doing more touring. We're just not in the position to be out 200 days a year anymore. We're not in our twenties anymore, and it's a lot harder. Mark has kids; I have two businesses. Everybody is buying houses, basically we're growing older. But we're definitely going to do more touring. We're looking at a tour with the Dwarves in the fall. We've got three shows with the Hookers on the West Coast in June.

Yeah, we're going to do more touring, but it's going to be on a two-week basis. We do have plans to work on the stuff. We want to get back to the East Coast, but it just has to be set up, so that we can get away from work and do it correctly and be able to come back and still have the bills paid. We don't tour enough to pay the bills anymore. All of us can take off from work whenever we want, but everything has to be just set up right. Mark's a carpenter now, which is funny. He's in the union now, so he can leave; it just has to be right. It doesn't sound very rock and roll, but its true.

When you go out on tour is it really a chance to get back to one of the things you love, get out of that normal mindset and have some fun?

Definitely. It really is. We all wish we could do it like we used to do it. Because it was a good time. Nowadays, it's a little bit easier when we do it because we're not kicking each others' ass on stage, because I'm sober and what not. So it makes it a little easier to sit next to me in the van or whatever. And with that you'll see a longer show as well [laughs].

Are all of you guys sober now?

Yeah. Actually everybody in the band is sober. Not for the same reasons. Just, I guess it happened, you know.

Have you been playing out in Seattle and the Northwest a lot?

It's pretty regular. We don't try to overdo it, but we play Portland a couple times a year. We'll play Seattle maybe one more time this year, which will make it three times this year. We'll play in Tacoma once this year. We're going to Bremerton; we played there once this year. We don't overdo it, but we play regularly and we've done some fly-ins. We flew into Vegas last October, did some fly-ins to stuff in California, Long Beach and stuff. So its pretty regular. It's just not 200 days a year. We probably played about fifty shows last year.

For fun: Where's the worst bathroom you've seen?

There's been so many, but I'll have to say -- what the hell was name of the club -- it was in San Francisco. It's been closed down for so long, I can't remember the name of the club. It was so filthy, and there wasn't a seat on the toilet. It was during the times when we were just coming up, so we were kind of playing smaller clubs, smaller than even the punk rocker clubs we're playing now. There was fucking puke everywhere and no seat on the toilet and completely filthy.

You know, you've just come off the road and the first thing you've got to do is shit. I went in there and was like, "Oh, my god!" I couldn't even use the bathroom. I ended up at the gas station next store. But you know, I'll have to say there are plenty that have rivaled that.

Alabama's pretty bad -- when you stop at a gas station, and the store's pretty nice, and you walk into the bathroom, and there's three inches of standing water, and you can't do anything but pull your pants up to your knees and then pull the rest of them down and take a shit -- uuughh! That's happened to me a couple of times.

Other times I've flushed the toilet, a courtesy flush, and it's overflowed -- while I'm sitting on it -- and I've had to basically do the same thing, roll up my pants and tip-toe out of there. Bathrooms are fucked up in general. They're gross.

The worst thing is people knocking. Someone's in there. So you're going to come back every five minutes and knock? I'm going to be here a lot longer every time you knock. Because every time I start to get my business done you knock, and it scares the crap back up in there -- 'Oh, shit! Someone scared me!'