Jyro Xhan, guitar, voice, electronics
Jerome Fontamillas, bass and vocals
May 9, 1998
Heart & Soul Cafe
Mt. Prospect, Illinois
Interviewed by Linda T. Stonehocker
It would only seem natural that a rock band as committed to electronics as Fold Zandura would have a big following on the Internet, a major hangout for technos worldwide. Armed with questions generated by some of our more technically savvy writers, I approached Jyro Xhan and Jerome Fontamillas at a recent Midwest appearance. They were polite, pleasant, and discussed their art in everyday terms. Only one subject elicited a strong response--their previous artistic incarnation as Mortal.
Xhan - Are they going to ask us about Mortal?
Tollbooth - A little. No? Okay, I don't have to. . . Let's talk about where you are now. How do you define your band?
Fontamillas - I think we're treading on uncharted territory.
Xhan - We're fighting the whole Mortal thing. Our music is completely different from what we used to do. Mortal's a stigma we've been trying to overcome. But it's not because Mortal wasn't a great band. It's just that we wanted to do something different.
Tollbooth - And what are you doing? Just straight rock 'n roll?
Xhan - No, it's definitely not straight rock 'n roll. It's electronics, it's 90's, it's year 2000 music. Not very many bands do what we do, very few in fact anywhere. Especially, the kind of pop music we make. It's got such a different slant than anything on this planet.
Tollbooth - And what instruments will you be playing?
Xhan - Most of the work for the live show is done way before we go on. We have a four-track mini disc digital player that does all our samples. We just follow it. Plus your regular rock setup-drums, bass, guitar. But our music is not complete without all the electronics that are going on, all the samples, drum loops, etc.
Tollbooth - All that is laid down in advance? No one is mixing for you on stage?
Xhan - Our drummer controls a lot of it.
Tollbooth - How would you define your fans?
Xhan - Eclectic, snotty, music people. (Laughs)
Fontamillas - They are people who are into art, more into the music aspect, not just going to a concert to mosh or to skank or something. Our fan base is growing. That's an indication that they understand what we do.
Xhan - A lot of our fans aren't Christian. They're not as trendy. It seems like whatever is happening in Christian music is real trendy, and then they drop you.
Fontamillas - When we play out in the clubs, people seem to just enjoy listening to the music more, rather than to what you have to say or sing. We really like that.
Tollbooth - And you have a commercially acceptable sound that fits the venues.
Fontamillas - Oh, yeah. We've played with a lot of bands. It's easy for us to play with a lot of bands.
Tollbooth - What percentage of your gigs take place in a mainstream venue?
Xhan - The ones at home, mostly. But when we're on tour with Stavesacre or the Insyderz, it's mostly Christian. We have played some clubs on this tour. We're opening for John Taylor from Duran Duran.
Tollbooth - Even though your message is not your biggest emphasis, would you say that you still have one?
Xhan - Definitely. See, during Mortal, it seemed like I became molded into youth pastors's expectations. They were telling me to say the right words and the Holy Spirit would come. That's why I had to quit. I had to stop Mortal because it was just getting to the point where people believed they were changing lives. Which is never the fact, and will never be the fact. The Holy Spirit does that.
What we're called to do is make great music. Just because I have Jesus in my lyrics or I do altar calls doesn't mean that God is going to use it. Assuming that is the worst thing that you could ever do. At the same time, it doesn't mean that God can't use Marilyn Manson. He says, "I don't need your praises. I can make the rocks and mountains to sing." That's how huge my view of God is, and I think He uses us in clubs. In fact, in a youth group setting, if you say "Jesus" a lot of people will cheer, but you don't know how many of those people get it, how many have really embraced it. In the club setting, when someone comes up to you after the show and says, "There is something different about your music," you know it is the Holy Spirit. I think we're always open to what God decides to do, and people's lives have been changed by the Holy Spirit at our shows. We're not trying to hide anything; there is no hidden agenda. I think the Lord uses us in spite of ourselves.
Tollbooth - Some people complain that they have problems playing in clubs because they are Christians. Do you find that to be true at all?
Fontamillas - Like getting heckled? Yeah, people heckle. Even in a Christian show.
Xhan - Most of the time, we get heckled more in Christian shows than in mainstream clubs.
Fontamillas - It makes the band stronger to be able to play and take all the abuse.
Xhan - They'll respect you. They may not like you, but they will respect you.
Tollbooth - What do they hassle you about at Christian shows?
Xhan - That we're not ska.
Fontamillas - We don't have a lot of heavy moshing type stuff.
Tollbooth - Are you following the dance trends?
Fontamillas - We have a big influence from dance music. We listened to dance music for a long time. I think it shows in our music.
Xhan - I always try to keep current with what's happening electronically, all the trends in programming and so forth.
Tollbooth - Do you have some rap influence?
Xhan - Not really. I've listened to tons of early Grand Master Flash.
Tollbooth - How much of "Rapper's Delight" can you recite from memory?
Fontamillas - Actually, most of it.
Tollbooth - Has the Internet changed how you interact with your fans?
Fontamillas - It is more accessible. You can stop rumors right away. It's just easier to get the word out.
Xhan - You don't have to spend so much money on newsletters.
Tollbooth - You've been evolving and changing. Have you finished changing? Is this what you are going to sound like forever?
Xhan - No, no. Actually, anything we've ever done in music has been an experiment. Most bands end up doing one thing for the rest of their lives, and I think that's completely boring.
Fontamillas - Since we're artists, we try to push our creativity.
Xhan - We could do an R & B record, we could do an electronic record, we could do a heavy record. With Fold Zandura, we just decided to chose a certain path which is pretty wide open and still use our expertise with electronics to make pop music. I just want to make pop music like the Beatles.