Authority Zero is a band that doesn't give a lot of thought to product placement. Just ask AZ guitarist Bill Marcks. "A lot of bands would ask us, 'Where you gonna put your disc in the record store-is it gonna be punk or reggae or ska?' And that's not what we're about."
Straight outta Westwood High School-the same Mesa, Arizona, institution responsible for Jimmy Eat World-Authority Zero started kicking out the jams in 1994 when Marcks met vocalist Jason DeVore and quickly learned that the Wyoming native "could write catchy songs in fifteen minutes with really sticky hooks." Next, the pair recruited bassist Jeremy Wood, who had actually taught Marcks how to play guitar (Stone Temple Pilots' "Plush" was his first lesson). A drummer or two later, Los Angeles transplant Jim Wilcox was a fixture behind the kit. "We're all from different musical backgrounds," Marcks offers. "I'm a Chili Peppers, Buddy Guy kind-of-dude; Jason's into SoCal punk; Jeremy's all about Metallica and Slayer, and Jim's into hardcore and Hip Hop."
After a best-selling local EP recorded between cigarette and skateboarding breaks, Authority Zero hooked up with Lava Records and released their full-length debut, A Passage In Time, in 2002. Loaded with nods to musical entities as disparate as Sublime, Bad Religion, Dick Dale, and Manu Chao, the album put AZ on the road for the better part of two years, thanks to the success of the singles "One More Minute" and "Over Seasons."
Tours with punk stalwarts Guttermouth and H2O ensued, "which was cool, because those are the bands we listened to growing up," DeVore enthuses. Stints on Warped Tour, the No Use For A Name/Starting Line tour, and Sum 41's "Sum On Your Face" extravaganza followed. "Our audience has grown a lot as we tour more," Marcks explains. "It's good to see our efforts pay off-sleeping for four hours a night, driving for six to get to the gigs, partying all night afterward." The Warped Tour was especially gratifying for AZ. "We loved it, because that's our crowd," Wilcox beams. "That's what we grew up on. That's what we based our band around."
Remember the days before wireless Internet, Friendster, and email-when people used to talk to each other? AZ's fans certainly do. "Whenever we go back to towns, we're playing bigger shows," Marcks confirms. "We don't always have a lot of radio support everywhere, so it's been word-of-mouth. It's pretty cool…like alternative communication," he laughs.
By the time the band landed back in Arizona, the word-of-mouth had taken on a life of its own. The group wanted to be sure and stay close to their local scene, so AZ began playing under aliases in their hometown. Bills featuring bands called the "Irish Car Bombs" or "Hurley Bro Dogs and The Pop Bitches" would occasionally surface in and around Phoenix. "There was this shit-talker on our message-board who said all our fans were Hurley bro-dogs and pop bitches. So we kinda wanted to irk him by calling ourselves that," Marcks explains. An Authority Zero song even turned up on Playstation 2's Tony Hawk Underground. "We think it's because Tony Hawk watched our set out in Aspen at the Winter X-Games," Marcks offers.
Before AZ could catch their collective breath, it was time to record a new album. They enlisted famed Fat Wreck Chords/NOFX knob-twister Ryan Green and unofficial Sublime member Mike Happoldt (a.k.a. Miguel) to co-produce. "We pretty much wrote the album in a month," DeVore says. "It all happened pretty quickly," Marcks adds, "but I think the short amount of time added to the intensity."
Authority Zero has dubbed their second album Andiamó. "It's the Italian equivalent of 'we go,'" Marcks-the band's resident linguist-explains. "Jeremy is of Italian descent, and he's always saying it to us. We've always had Irish and Spanish influences in our music, but we haven't had any Italian yet. Also, if you say it out in English, it reads, 'And I am zero.'"
Andiamó was recorded at Steve Smith's SJS Studios in Scottsdale, Arizona, where Marcks had a run-in with the local wildlife. "Instead of putting our garbage in a can, we were putting it in a bag outside the door of the studio, and it attracted a family of Javalinas [the Mexican name for the Southwest's indigenous peccary, or wild boars]," the guitarist laughs. "I went outside one night to use the phone, and we scared the shit out of each other. One of them grunted at me, so I ran back inside, but he ran after me, and I had to slam the door on him."
It's these kinds of brushes with maiming that provided AZ's creative inspiration. From the strident Bad Religion wail of "Painted Windows" to the taut Dead Kennedys velocity of "1000 Years Of War" to a cover of Wall Of Voodoo's "Mexican Radio," Andiamó is the sound of a band that has honed their far-flung influences to a surgical strike. "It's all really new, but at the same time, we went back to the roots of what we played originally," Marcks says. "There's a song on there, 'Society's Sequence,' that we wrote back in '96, and we have this old recording of it that we did with three mics that we clipped and put on the beginning of the new track." Former Sublime DJ "Field Marshall" Goodman even lent a Long Beach all-star hand to Andiamó, mixing a recording of the Bill Of Rights into "PCH-82" (Pacific Coast Highway-82 beats per minute).
As with A Passage In Time, Authority Zero maintains their Portuguese and Spanish tendencies on Andiamó. From Marcks' flamenco guitar fills to the occasional song title ("Siempre Loco"), the members of AZ are always looking to give the musical gyroscope a healthy twirl. It might confuse the shit out of the genre police, but that's the local record store's problem.
"People are no longer taking what's being fed to them," Marcks says. "It's forcing the world to become more contemporary. The borders are starting to get blurred; there are more influences involved-and we've been doing that for ten years. Good music is universal-anyone can dig it."