"X7, an artistic band in vein of Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and Nine Inch Nails." – Interview and Video

X7 is an up and coming independent band. Over the last month founder Michael Kraus and I have been emailing back and forth trying to work out interview times, a potential album review, etc. During our conversations I’ve come to learn that like a lot of good independent bands that stick together for awhile, there is a certain amount of buzz around X7 that is attracting some various labels. It’s quite the cross road really, because Michael Kraus and X7 love the freedom to present their art the way they want to present it. Check out my interview with Michael Kraus of X7.

Q - You guys come from several different types of influences. You're also a very artistic band. If you had to describe in words X7's sound could you do that and if so how would you do that?

A - I will try to be objective. I know where the music comes from so it can be challenging to answer this type of question. So here it goes: X7's sound in my opinion is artistic and cinematic, with a good amount of traditional classic rock, a mix of refined and edgy music. Think of a Led Zeppelin and Beatles feel one moment and then a Nine Inch Nails and Radiohead feel the next.

Q - Who are some of your early influences?

A - Led Zeppelin, The Beatles, Radiohead, Bjork, Bach, Nine Inch Nails, Depeche Mode, Johnny Cash, Elvis.

Q - This band started as your project, now that you're a band and not just a solo project, what is the dynamic of the band? Is it your vision, or is it more of a collaborative effort?

A - I am the arranger, conductor, producer and the guy with a vision. I present the ideas to Hans and Geoff. They put their touch to it and we come to a consensus. Then we refine the song over and over until I feel it is ready to document and record it. The band is a real band and there is chemistry that makes our sound happen. Hans' and Geoff's input is integral to what we do and how we sound. Think of us as an orchestra. I do the conducting but there would be no band without the individual musicians.

Q - You wear several hats within the group; what keeps you from being over worked and burning out?

A - Hmmm, coffee, naps, prayer, jogging, trips to the gym (laughs). Well, seriously, that is a good question. I do have assistants that help me. However, I do all of the administrative decision making. I also handle all of music and video directing and editing. I try to take my time so I do not go crazy and sometimes I almost do. Recognizing that breaking point is key before I do some damage. I will not deny that it is a real challenge but that is what makes me get out of bed in the morning. I need a real challenge. I have a strong desire to express myself. Put it this way, I got it in me and I gotta get it out. I think most artists can relate to what I am saying. Artists will go to great lengths including pushing themselves and burning out at times to do their art. A healthy break from time to time is key.

Q - So far the only song I've gotten a chance to check out is "Eve," which I like a lot by the way. What is the band’s song writing process?

A - Songs start off as my vision and I present things to the band in the form of rough arrangements/parts. Then I try to pull out of each member what I think they would do best for their parts based on their style and abilities (being that I am obviously very familiar with each of their styles and musical personalities). Hans is a very Paul McCartney (Beatles) kind of bass player but also has a rough almost punk rock style at the same time. He is brilliant with melodies. Geoff is very technical but also has that hard-driving heavy animalistic approach. Geoff is like Neal Peart (Rush) meets John Bonham (Led Zeppelin) meets Stuart Copeland (The Police). My approach and style is from all over the place. I write almost everything on a cheap $200.00 acoustic guitar most of the time. If it works on that guitar, it will work as a full arrangement. However, I may also write a groove on a drum machine and have almost a hip hop or industrial feel and then shape it into an X7 song. My influences are from rock to classical to industrial to hip hop to techno. I weave my vision throughout all of that process starting from my arrangements to the guys in the band. I am a kind of a compass of sorts, and/or a navigator, and I steer things. Yet, I let Hans and Geoff be who they are. They have an interesting way of doing things. We do have chemistry. We rough things out and then refine all of our parts in the rehearsal room like a real live rock band. Once in the studio, I will orchestrate slightly, adjust parts, and create new arrangements within existing ones.

Q - Could you tell our readers what X7 is, because after viewing your website, I've come to learn that it's more than just a band.

A - What is X7? Well there is a secret deeper meaning, simple yet complex. It actually means a lot and that could be another interview all together ( Laughs). X7, regarding the band project, in general, means artistic freedom. It is a creative experiment starting with music. We have no interest in boundaries at this point in time. We want the freedom to create all types of multi media with a strong technology presence with video, animation, and the web. I created a different piece of art for each song which is included in the 28 page booklet that comes with our CD. That is a starting point for concepts that could later be communicated via videos and other media for each track. I hope to do some shows with performance art and multi media if things work out. We'll see.

Q - What was the first concert you ever attended and how did that experience
affect you?

A - The first thing that was like a concert was a packed movie theater that was playing "The Song Remains The Same," a concert video by Led Zeppelin. Up to that point, I had mostly only saw photos of them. To see them moving was like seeing an alien from another planet land in your back yard after seeing only a photo of a UFO. Mind blowing! What 4 guys could do artistically on a tiny stage without a ton of lights, video screens, dancers, and all of the stuff you see at concerts today. They created magic right in front of you with just the band members. They improvised and took chances. They painted pictures with sounds. It was like watching someone create a masterpiece painting or sculpture right in front of you. It moved me the way good art should. It inspired me to want to play live music the way they did. It also inspired me in countless other ways like any great artist does. Their album artwork was real concept art beyond what most bands had done up to that point. They changed the world in the same way Elvis or The Beatles did.

Q - How would you describe the X7 live experience?

A - Powerful. Artistic. Dynamic. Moving. Rock n' Roll.

Q - Every artist has that moment in their life where they realize what they want to do with their life. What was that moment for you?

A - Well if you are talking about music, I would say the first time I saw the Elvis and The Beatles greatest hits commercial advertisements on TV at age 7. The music and the imagery were very appealing to me. I begged my mother for an Elvis or Beatles album. The Beatles Greatest Hits 1967-1970 (The Blue Album) was my 8th birthday present. A gift that keeps giving! It changed my life.

Q - I mentioned the song "Eve." There is also a video which you directed for that song. What is the music video process like for you?

A - I start with a vision. I then storyboard and create a blue print. Then I hire a camera crew. At the shoot I direct the camera crew and the band. In the case of the “Eve” video, we not only followed the storyboard outline, but we improvised too. Next, the editing process begins. Editing is very time consuming for me. I sort through hundreds of clips. A few seconds take hours or days sometimes. I am trying to create a dance of imagery. It is like choreography. I am trying to get a flow that feels right to me. It is very tedious but very rewarding. FYI - after I finish a video, I rarely look at it again. I feel almost uncomfortable watching it. The process is so intense that I am pretty well sick of it by the time I am done. To further explain, did you ever eat so much of something, so often, that every time you think of that food you feel sick? (Laughs) No, but seriously, I love making videos. I just don't like to look back on my work too much, I want to move on to new projects.

Q - What was your first live performance and how did that experience affect you?

A - A college bar, playing old 60's rock like “Louie Louie,” “Wild Thing,” “Purple Haze,” etc. The place was packed. It was standing room only. Lots of pretty girls. It seemed like a fun thing to do for a living (laughs).

Currently X7 is working on their second CD as well as a music video for their song “She Believes.” For more information on X7 check them out at http://www.x7project.com/. Check out their latest video for their song “Eve” below.


Bob Zerull is the Managing Editor of Zoiks! Online. He writes pop culture commentary, does interviews with bands, and reviews music and stand-up concerts. He also administers Zoiks! Online's Facebook page. Follow Bob on twitter at bzerull. Email Bob at bob@zoiksonline.com.
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