Rock music fans take note! Vocalist Stephen Shareaux (Kik Tracee, Zen From Mars) and Drew Fortier (Bango Tango, Zen From Mars) are hitting the road for an acoustic mini-tour. The tour will feature Shareaux performing Kik Tracee songs live for the first time in 25 years in addition to the live debut of songs from the duo’s highly anticipated new project Zen From Mars.
The tour kick off on April 5th in Chicago, Illinois at LiveWire Lounge Chicago and then take them to Rock n’ Roll Land in Green Bay, WI on April 6th. From there, the duo will make the trek to Jackson, MN from April 7th – April 9th to perform at Ellefson Coffee Co.’s Grand Opening weekend. David Ellefson will be in attendance along with comedian Don Jamieson and Adam Albright from Dopesick. Also performing will be Zen From Mars guitarist and Flipp frontman Brynn Arens. The acoustic tour will be capped off on April 10th with a closing show at The Aster Cafe in Minneapolis, MN with Chris Mochinski.
Jason Price of Icon Vs. Icon recently caught up with Drew Fortier to discuss the upcoming dates, the latest from Zen From Mars and what he has been taking away from his time with some notable rock ‘n’ roll lifers!
Stephen Shareaux and yourself will be hitting the road for an acoustic mini-tour in early April. It seems you guys are shaking the rust off and gearing up for a big year ahead. Is this a safe assumption to make?
I would definitely say that is indeed a very safe assumption! It’s going to be a lot of fun to crawl out of “hermit mode” for these gigs. We’ve been working and massaging the ZFM songs so much and it’s going to be great to finally get to show some of them off!
What can we expect from these upcoming shows?
Oh the shows will certainly be a blast! We will be digging up, pulling out, and dusting off some Kik Tracee tunes for the shows. The cool thing is that the KT songs haven’t been heard live in 25 years. Kik Tracee are probably one of, if not the only band from that era to have never reunited in some way shape or form which adds a really cool mystique to the whole thing. Aside from the KT tunes we will be showing off a lot of the Zen From Mars songs for the first time and can’t wait for people’s feedback!
You will have a bit of a residency on this mini-tour at Dave Ellefson’s Ellefson Coffee Co., which will be celebrating it’s grand opening. I have to ask — Have you had a chance to sample any of the product at this point? Any recommendations? Will they be keeping Stephen and yourself properly caffeinated at these gigs?
Oh absolutely! Roast in Peace is absolutely incredible and has to be my favorite. There’s really something for every coffee drinker, I would say check them all out! There’s also “She-Wolf”, “Kenya Thrash”, as well as “Urban Legend”! Mr. Ellefson has such an amazing thing going with his coffee business and it keeps on getting bigger and bigger. Needless to say, Stephen and I will surely be blitzed on some Kik ass coffee! See what I did there? [laughs]
What can you tell us about the experience of putting the set lists together? Was it challenging to break these songs down into a raw acoustic form be it the Kik Tracee or Zen From Mars stuff?
It was a lot of fun arranging the Kik Tracee songs for acoustic! It’s so great how well those songs stand the test of time and still sound fresh today. Great songs truly are timeless! The cool thing with the ZFM tunes is that they were all born as acoustic demos, even the super heavy ones! I was just at Stephen’s house for a week in gorgeous Ojai, CA and we rehearsed everything. We may even perform the whole ZFM record live acoustically, you never know! There will be a few surprises as well that will certainly make Mr. Ellefson smile! Also our ZFM bandmate and Flipp frontman Brynn Arens will be performing with us as well, it’s going to be a blast!
I’m sure some songs are easy to nail down than others. What came easy and what were the biggest challenges?
The easiest ones were definitely the ZFM tunes because of us being so familiar with them for the past year and a half. I’d say the biggest challenge was arranging a version of Kik Tracee’s “Don’t Need Rules.” There are so many great guitar parts in that song and to keep them in tact I worked? out an arrangement where I do the rhythm parts as well as lead guitar parts during the choruses, it came out really cool and you can hear it in that version we performed that’s up on Facebook!
You have been working with Stephen Shareaux for quite a bit now with the Zen From Mars project. What has he brought out in your creatively?
Stephen is without a doubt my musical soulmate. We definitely bring a lot of amazing stuff out of each other. He’s so great at knowing how to capture the perfect vibe lyrically and melodically for every piece of music we work on together. It all starts with him and I and then everyone else adds their parts and ideas. Brynn, Mike, Chip and Kate each bring something incredible to the table for each song. We are all super excited to finish the record, get it out there, and start doing shows. The band is an absolute beast sonically and visually. But me and Stephen going out and performing these songs is the perfect way to show off these tunes in their most purest form and when people hear the record it’s going to be like “Woah! I definitely did not expect that!”
Stephen Shareaux’s voice sounds as solid as ever. As a guytar player and fan of his work, you know better than anyone about his capability and range. What song from rock and roll’s rich history would you most like to hear him lend his voice to?
That’s a great question! One thing I love to do is take Stephen out of his wheelhouse and hear how he approaches the heavier ZFM tunes which he does incredibly. With that said I’d be stoked to hear him interpret any Megadeth song or even some Nine Inch Nails.
What has been happening in the Zen From Mars camp? No pressure!
[laughs] Things are going great! We have just been fine tuning everything to a “T” and are making sure these songs are as great as they can be. Mike, our drummer, has played such a huge part as being our quality control manager. His creative input has taken these songs so very far in the right direction. It’s gonna be good!
Recently, you have been working closely with Thom Hazaert and have been helping him out with Megadeth bassist David Ellefson’s record label EMP (Ellefson Music Productions). I’m sure these guys a wealth of knowledge when it comes to the business. What are some of the lessons you have learned from these guys that have applied to your work?
One thing I definitely learned was that nice guys don’t always have to finish last! Thom and Dave are both some of the most kindest and talented people I have ever met and it has truly brought the best out in me. I have learned so much from Thom about how everything works vs. how everything should work. It’s really about keeping on top of everything and consistency truly is key especially when running a record label. It’s like a well oiled machine and every day is a small victory. I love learning from these gentleman and I look forward to what the future has to offer with this incredible label. It’s definitely only the beginning!
You always seem to have a few irons in the fire, which is awesome. Anything else on the horizon that has you excited?
There’s definitely a few things that I can’t bring up at the moment that will be made public very soon that has me insanely excited! You will definitely know when it happens! Aside from that, I’ve poured my heart and soul into this ZFM record. Much like how I poured my heart and soul into the Bang Tango Movie. I am incredibly proud of what myself, Stephen, Mike, Brynn, Chip and Kate have created with each other. We are all very excited about this band and album!
Jason Price founded the mighty Icon Vs. Icon more than a decade ago. Along the way, he’s assembled an amazing group of like-minded individuals to spread the word on some of the most unique people and projects on the pop culture landscape.