Central PA's LGBT News Source
ZAO, Jesse Smith & The Holy Ghost
The Capitol Room
10/08/2017 06:00 PM EDT
Supporting Acts: Tonka Tuff, Flesh Of The Lotus, VoidHidden
Zao is a metalcore band from Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and one of the metalcore groups that rose in popularity at the end of the 90's. Founded in 1993 in Parkersburg, West Virginia, Zao has hosted several musicians and endured numerous roster changes to the point where no original members remain. Former drummer Jesse Smith, singer Daniel Weyandt, and guitarists Scott Mellinger and Russ Cogdell are seen by most fans as the "core" of Zao.
Christianity has been a key influence in the band's work; because the founding members claimed to have a strong relationship with god, they were considered a devoted Christian band, which changed as time passed. Former drummer Jesse Smith slowly changed the band's vision. Because only half the band's members identified themselves as Christians, Zao no longer considered itself a Christian band but rather a group of open-minded artists.
To date, Zao has completed ten full-length albums, three EPs, a two-disc DVD documentary and multiple concert tours, garnering a limited but global fanbase and earning critical praise in the process.
Roy Goudy - Guitar (1993-1997)
Jesse Smith - Drums (1993-2004)
Eric Reeder - Vocals (1994-1995)
Mic Cox - Bass (1994-1997)
Shawn Jonas - vocals (1995-1997)
Kevin Moran - Touring Bassist (1997)
Ron Gray - Guitar (1997-1998)
Brett Detar - Guitar (1997-1999)
Rob Horner - Bass (1999-2004)
Corey Darst - Touring Vocalist (2000-2001)
Matt Auxier - Touring Guitarist (2001-2002)
Joshua Ashworth - Touring Vocalist (2003-2004)
Shawn Koschik - Bass (2004-2005)
Stephen Peck - Drums (2004-2005)
Russ Cogdell - Guitar (1997-2006) (Left due to knee surgery, but joined the lineup again in 2007)
Jesse Smith & The Holy Ghost
Hailing from the small town of Parkersburg, West Virginia, Jesse Smith has lived the all too familiar "ups" and "downs" of the music business for the last 20 years. As a founding member of the seminal Christian metal-core band Zao, Jesse went on to sell thousands of records, tour the world with some of the biggest names in metal, and influence the sound of countless major heavy acts.
Zao was praised in many circles as ground-breaking innovators but often times riddled with criticism and controversy.
"Sometimes it was hard dealing with the pressures of the christian music world," he recalls. "We were sometimes the hero but often times the villain. After leaving Zao in 2004, I wasn’t sure if I would play music again, but through encouragement and guidance from my friends Mathew Holmes (Kingsfoil/Bobby Church/The Underwater) & Brandon Zano (This is a Shakedown/Dozen Dead Roses/Ragers) I began to find solace again in the one thing that brought me true happiness, which was a love for making music."
Spending 2013 and 2014 writing and recording, Jesse found the niche that truly represented Jesse Smith as he is today. He found himself in the studio with Zano, recording his debut EP. Smith’s debut EP showcases a post-classic alt rock sound and is a mixture of Jesse's wide range of influences. With extremely personal lyrics laid on a sonic landscape of unique vocal hooks, infectious grooves and intricate guitar work, listeners will be left with an unexpected sound from Jesse Smith.
"Over the years I have struggled to find my place as a songwriter," explains Jesse. "I'm a fan of heavy music, but I've always been into all types of stuff. When I began writing these songs, I just wrote from the heart, with no preconceived notions of what they would turn out to be."
Smith and his live band - drummer Brandon Joy, bassist Ralph Moyers, and guitarists Breyer White and Dakota Walker, also had the opportunity to hone their chops and test new material live as they took to the stage at renowned festivals like Milwaukee’s Summerfest and Delaware’s Dewey Beach Music Festival, as well as headlining and support gigs throughout the East Coast and Midwest.
Many a great lesson is learned through inner turmoil; Jesse came away from his struggle with personal demons with new perspective on life, one that allowed him to open himself up to help and guidance from others, and to mend past relationships gone awry. That same perspective brought his new music to a different level.
"It’s been an amazing experience creating music and art with so many dear friends,” Smith says. “These songs are straight-up what I was looking to do. When I began, I wasn’t sure who I was, but now I know. "
Jesse Smith & the Holy Ghost’s debut full length was recorded during the tail end of 2014 and the spring of 2015. The group of studio musicians, worked through Ohio’s minus-15-degree winter at Michael Seifert’s Ante Up Audio (Dave Matthews Band, Tori Amos, Fountains of Wayne) with Brandon Zano producing and engineering. With tours running through the end of 2015 and a release date set for spring 2016. The future is bright
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