Hella busy

Drummer Zach Hill plays for more record labels than he can count, but he really just wants to make burritos

Hella’s Zach Hill and Spencer Seim face off.

Hella’s Zach Hill and Spencer Seim face off.

Hella, a Sacramento-based duo formed out of the ashes of the now-legendary band Legs on Earth, has been wreaking considerable havoc in just about any establishment its agent can hustle it into. However, in contrast to its earlier years, the band is now enjoying success both at home and abroad.

Zach Hill, Hella’s drummer extraordinaire, is a master of multi-tasking. Aside from Hella, Hill has played or plays with Tough Guy Fantasy, Arctic Boys, Crime In Choir, Nervous Cop, Flossin’, Onibaba (featuring Mike Patton and Kid 606), Les Claypool, Team Sleep (featuring Chino Moreno of the Deftones), John Zorn, and the Holy Smokes. Last year, he even played a benefit at Los Angeles’ Greek Theatre—as a solo performer, no less. The show, which featured System of a Down, was held on Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

Although Hill currently is signed to multiple label deals with several different acts, he still remembers Hella’s early days with great pride. “Our first tour was pretty slow-motion,” Hill recalled. “We booked it ourselves with the help of Ben McOsker [of Load Records]. It was a lot of laughing, and we broke even [financially], but it was scattered. Lots of, ‘Call Benjamin Franklin tomorrow ’cause he knows blah blah.’ Dude! I remember we played Chicago, like, five times in one week. It was mostly all-ages clubs, houses and art spaces; very crumbs and pennies.”

Besides recently signing a one-album deal with Patton’s Ipecac Recordings, Hella will release an ambitious double-CD project on March 22 via Suicide Squeeze Records. Church Gone Wild/Chirpin Hard features guitarist Spencer Seim’s music on one disc and Hill’s music on the other. “It was an exercise in trust of each other musically,” said Hill. “We didn’t hear a peep of the other’s until it was turned in. It was probably the healthiest thing we’ve ever done for our friendship. It’s both sides of the brain, assuming our group has brains … and it’s my favorite Hella record.”

What started as merely a hobby and a new form of experimental expression for the members of Hella has now turned into a business and, more importantly, their livelihood. “I’ve been very fortunate to pay rent with sound, but any day I could be back to washing dishes,” said the humble drummer. “I’ve thought about getting a job at Taco Bell, just for the daydreams you get in those environments,” Hill continued. “I think fast-food and dishwasher jobs are actually gold mines for personal epiphany. It’s valuable to be uncomfortable.”

Hella records for multiple record labels simultaneously with almost concurrent release schedules. “We’re on probably about six or seven … it’s hard to exact,” Hill admitted. “Up until the present, we had never held a paper to pen for music. It’s all been high-fives. All of the labels are on good terms with each other. When we signed to Ipecac a month ago, that was our first experience of actual signatures. That doesn’t suggest less trust. We just thought we should start getting a little organized and futurist about things. It’s still high-fives, and we are vibrant about the situation.”

As if they weren’t already busy enough writing, playing and recording separate solo albums, the guys in Hella plan to tour for the better part of 2005. “We’ve played all over Europe, the Eastern bloc, all over Canada, Texas,” Hill said. “We leave in a week to do the States twice, Japan, Canada, Europe, U.K., and then Australia later on. Then we do the same thing in the fall when our full-length, Concentration Face, comes out on 5RC/Kill Rock Stars.”

Oh yeah. Team Sleep’s long-awaited new opus, also featuring Hill, finally will see the light of day on April 26 via Maverick Records. It’s tiring just thinking about it. With all that touring, Hill probably won’t have time to make quesadillas and burritos. Maybe next year?