Solo Metal Musician Zac Leaser Talks About His Music and Living With A Rare Vocal Disorder
When you search “Zac Leaser Bandcamp” on your browser, you will come across 6 astonishing releases from a melodic/tech death solo musician based out of Fort Worth, Texas. Leaser has been releasing solo music on his bandcamp ever since April of 2016.
When you hear how uniquely crafted and in-depth each song is, it blows you away how one can release that many EPs and albums in just a little over two years, at such a high level of musicianship.
With melodic guitar solos, progressive song structures, clean and harsh singing, and technical guitar riffage, I was instantly hooked the first time I checked out his music. Each one of his songs stands apart from each other and I remember truly laughing out loud with how sick his riffs were the first time I heard his music.
Tom Sundgren was fortunate to get Leaser to answer some questions about his music background, the metal scene in Fort Worth, dealing with a rare neurological disorder and more.
Hey Zac, thanks for taking the time to do this interview. How have things been? How is this week going for you?
No problem man! I have been good, taking a break from writing for a bit. Just working and finishing up my degree in electrical maintenance in a few weeks from now.
When did you start playing guitar? Did you take lessons for some years?
I started playing guitar when I was 15 years old. I am 34 now so quite a while. There was a time in my mid 20s though where I quit playing completely for about 4 years. I never took any lessons, always self taught by ear mostly. My dad taught me a few basic chords when I was young, and I just took off from there.
I found out about your work from your solo music on bandcamp. I actually think it was from sometime last year when Denis Shvarts from Dark Matter Secret shared a song of yours, where he took a guest solo on. You are also in a band called A Prodigal Son. When did you start playing in that band? Can you tell us more about that project?
We started that band up when I was 21, so about 13 years ago. We had a bunch of demos on Myspace back in the day. We played quite a bit of local shows, but had quite a bit of member changes making it hard to stay together. Our drummer moved away also for about 4 years. Once he moved back, him and I started jamming again and started writing an EP. We got another guitarist, and the 3 of us decided to go into the studio and record a 3 song EP around 2014 I believe. Since then we played two shows, but as we get older it is just too hard to get everyone together. That is why I do the solo thing. I have a lot of ideas that I want to get out there!
You are currently living in Fort Worth, Texas. How is the music scene there? Is there a lot of tech or melodic death metal bands there?
I would say it is awesome! It is right in between Dallas and Denton which both have huge music scenes with every kind of music you can think of. We have pretty much every kind of metal you can think of here, and some really amazing talented musicians as well. I am nowhere close to some of these guys level of playing!
I remember seeing a Facebook post last year on your page where you briefly talked about a rare neurological vocal disorder you have called spasmodic dysphonia. It is truly inspiring to see you still recording vocals and putting the solid work in with your medical condition. Can you tell us more about the disorder? What does it feel like to have it? Is there a cure?
I am going to go ahead and allow google to answer this one correctly. “Spasmodic dysphonia is a neurological disorder affecting the voice muscles in the larynx, or voice box. When we speak, air from the lungs is pushed between two elastic structures—called vocal folds or vocal cords—with sufficient pressure to cause them to vibrate, producing voice. In spasmodic dysphonia, the muscles inside the vocal folds experience sudden involuntary movements—called spasms—which interfere with the ability of the folds to vibrate and produce voice.
Spasmodic dysphonia causes voice breaks and can give the voice a tight, strained quality. People with spasmodic dysphonia may have occasional breaks in their voice that occur once every few sentences. Usually, however, the disorder is more severe and spasms may occur on every other word, making a person’s speech very difficult for others to understand.”
I have had it for about 5 years now, and luckily it isn’t as bad as it used to be. When I first started showing symptoms it was hard for me to complete sentences without my voice spasming and breaking. After 5 years I have learned to retrain my voice almost to where I don’t spasm as bad. I still get embarrassed by it sometimes, just because it is so rare, and a lot of people will give you that funny look when your voice starts breaking mid sentence. The main treatment is botox shots which paralyze the vocal cords and helps keep them from having spasms. Since I don’t have it as bad as others, I chose not to go that route and just live with it. It doesn’t bother me when I do vocals surprisingly. Only when I talk is when my voice will break.
Since 2016, you have had six releases on your bandcamp. All of them are flawless and I am always blown away how fast you release such talented musicianship and song writing back to back. Are you always recording ideas and songs? What is your process like? Do you have a home studio and do the mix and mastering yourself?
My process isn’t as organized as you would think. I literally sit down and fiddle on the guitar until I come up with a cool riff. As soon as I do I record it immediately, and just go off the top of my head from that riff until I get some more material to record. It usually takes me about a day to finish writing and recording guitar parts for a song. I then will record bass and program drums over it. Once I finish all songs I will throw down vocals all at once. They don’t take me long because I write lyrics and vocal patterns off the top of my head as well. That’s it. No magic here! (laughs)
Who are your top 3 favorite guitarists? What are some of your favorite bands or artists you are listening to these days?
I am so bad when it comes to music these days. I literally only listen to sports talk radio. If I had to name top three though right now it would be Denis Shvarts from Dark Matter Secret. He just released his second solo album which is simply incredible. Also, James Malone of Arsis is one of my all time favorite songwriters and guitarists. I have had the honor of having both of these guys do multiple solos on my albums. Both are so humble and great guys. Third I would say Marc Okubo from Veil of Maya. Every riff that guy writes is just so tasty!
Will you take your solo work live one day?
I would like to, only problem would be when I have to play some of the amazing guest solos on some of these songs! I can play my solos, but I may need to find a bad ass second guitarist to shred the guest spots for me!
Thanks again for taking the time to do the interview man. Any last words for the fans out there?
No problem Tom! I did just release my new EP “Effigies” at Zacleaser.bandcamp.com for free. Anyone who takes the time to read about boring old me should check it out!
Author: Tom Sundgren