My introduction to ZoLo music.

July 27, 2006 at 9:50 am 7 comments

One day in 1995 or ’96 I tuned in to Portland’s college radio station KPSU to listen to the latest indie rock and ended up with something completely different. I am not sure what the song was, but I remember it sounding like circus music played at twice the normal tempo. My friends and I giggled at the song and at the cartoon voice that followed. The voice belonged to Terry Sharkie and we were listening to his radio show, the Zany Zolo Music Hour. Terry’s hyperactive, out-of-breath airbreak ended with an upward trill which sounded like a zipper and an ascending UFO. We answered with stunned laughter. I was amazed.

After my first experience with the Zany Zolo Music Hour, I only caught the show infrequently. Once I met my high school girlfriend I needed all my after-school time for making out. She and I formed a band that was more interested in Beat Happening and childrens music than anything else. By 1997 I had discovered synthesizers and became interested in New Wave music. My initial forays into the genre were the first two LPs by the B52’s and Drums and Wires by XTC (whose name I had heard on Terry’s radio show). I still wasn’t sure where to find ZoLo music (though Helicopter and Scissor Man on the XTC record referenced the style).

Then by a stroke of luck, I found Devo. Whilst pillaging the local Blockbuster video for weird titles, I came across The Men Who Make The Music–Devo’s video collection and promotional film from 1979. I had heard Whip It and loved its music video, but I did not expect finely honed plastic weirdness that the video collection revealed. The bold synthetic textures, mechanistic rhythms, and energetic, agressive oddness blew my mind. The Men Who Make the Music is Devo’s purest statement. I blame Devo for pushing me fully into Zolo.

Terry Sharkie was still on the radio in 1997 and I listened as often as I could (which was tough because the show was on while I was at work). By that time his show was called the Sforzando Cappricci Extravaganza and was slightly toned down from its initial explosive zaniness. One day I went to the KPSU studios to meet Terry. He was just finishing his show and was dressed in a casual form of Zolo attire with pointy flats, pegged jeans, and a loose colorful tee-shirt with the collar and sleeves cut out. His eyebrows were plucked into pointy spikes and this hair was sculpted, tall, and abstract.

I asked Terry for a discography to introduce me to Zolo. He wrote down a few things on a scrap of paper and we exchanged phone numbers. He also gave me his website address, which was hosted on the KPSU servers for years and now resides on my geocities account. His Zolophile Homepage was a complete manifesto and discography of the Zolo phenomenon.

After meeting with Terry I walked straight to the record store (Portland’s formerly excellent Django’s Records) and picked up Bill Nelson’s Red Noise Sound on Sound, Godley and Creme’s L, and Gentle Giant’s Interview. I had arrived.

Terry and I traded tapes, even after I moved to Austin to attend the university. Between his website and tapes I built a Zolo foundation and expanded from there. My main goal after moving to Austin was to get a radio show. I wan’t a student at UT yet, so I went to the community station KOOP. I volunteered as much as I could, but only did one show as a substitute.

As soon as I was accepted to UT, I applied to do a radio show at KVRX. In December of 1998 the Newave Zolocoaster was born. The show ran until the summer of 2000 and, after a hiatus in Spain, from the summer of 2001 until December of 2002. My personal goals for the show were to promote the Zolo concept and to give people the experience I got when first accidentally finding the Zany Zolo Music Hour. Both goals were met.

When I got back from Spain in the summer of 2001 I put together the first (self consciously) Zolo band, The Oblong Boys. With our name borrowed from a song by Renaldo & The Loaf and attire resembling X-Ray Spex on the cover of Germ Free Adolescents, Patrick Healy, Erich Ragsdale, Matt Lacomette took to the streets to force Zolo upon an unsuspecting public.

The Oblong Boys began performing in Austin clubs and at parties. We developed a solid repertoire and posterboard approximation of Klaus Nomi’s angular Zolo costume. We were Zolo to the hilt. The Oblong Boys released a CD before breaking up. It was called Pizzazarama Universe and is still available from Instincto Records. Personal differences (of course) broke up the band at the end of 2002.

After another Europen hiatus, I returned to Austin to focus on Zom Zoms–a project I started with former Oblong Boy Patrick Healy (aka Pat A. Physics). Originally intended as a studio-only project, the band was invited to play a show. We needed another musician to help us reproduce songs from our album Lumboba’s Tube–which came out at the same time as the Oblong Boys CD. We found Travis Beaver and performed as a three piece until the summer of 2005 when we added Seth Nemec.

I originally intended Zom Zoms to be a synthpunk band, but with Patrick and I involved we couldn’t help but make Zolo music. Zom Zoms are much punkier than the Oblong Boys were, though. Our style is pure Zolo, with custom made tops that fall somewhere between Split Enz and 1920’s Ballet Russe.

That brings us to the present. Now we have the Zoloscope blog where I will echo and expand on Terry’s Zolophile Homepage and further cement the Zolo concept in the 21st century.

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Entry filed under: Uncategorized.

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7 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Matthew Nicholson  |  July 27, 2006 at 1:32 pm

    Happy to see this…a pleasant read. Reminds me of how much zoLo style has effected my own identity as an artist and as an individual. More blogs…soon?

  • 2. Courtney  |  July 27, 2006 at 2:27 pm

    Hi Chad! I remember when you bought that sweater!

  • 3. DigiDan  |  July 27, 2006 at 2:29 pm

    Yaaay!
    I’m going to try and check this every day.

  • 4. Lars Larsen  |  August 2, 2006 at 1:49 pm

    Definitely in my daily first thirty minutes of work use company time to goof off routine, now.

  • 5. jonny fell  |  June 7, 2009 at 11:33 am

    where is terry now? I knew him in portland when he was doing his kpsu show.
    thanks,
    j

  • […] What aesethetic is this, exactly? the answer is ZOLO Filed under: Uncategorized — neuronoid @ 7:15 am Around 1989 a west coast character named Terry Sharkie came up with the idea of zolo: […]

  • […] they were much, much weirder. Often mentioned in the same breath as the obscure and bizarre “Zolo” movement (not YOLO, just to clarify) — which comprised bands that blended prog-rock and […]

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