Based in Switzerland, ZENIT was founded by ex-CLEPSYDRA bassist Andy Thommen together with keyboardist Ivo Bernasconi. Ivo toured with CLEPSYDRA in 1995 and is well-known for his active involvement in the music scene in South Switzerland and northern Italy. Joining the pair is drummer Gigio Pedruzzi. Also having toured with CLEPSYDRA in the past, he has worked with the Swiss band CHANGES, and more recently SHAKARY's Alya Project. Completing this line up is Italian Fusion/Rock guitarist Frank Di Sessa and vocalist Lorenzo Sonognini.
The debut album features 9 songs with both Italian and English lyrics. Entirely self-produced, "Pravritti" features an interesting mix of classic Progressive Rock together with dazzling elements of Fusion.
I got in touch with the band and the various band members answered my questions.
When, where and by whom was Zenit formed ? Besides of Clepsydra, did any
of you, past and present members, play in any other bands before joining up
in Zenit ? Why did you choose that name ?
Ivo Bernasconi (keyboards):
I previously played in different local bands, like “Pictures of Us”,
“Brainstorm” (Jazz Rock), “Pravritti” and “Zenit” in the very first
Andy Thommen (bass guitar): Before Clepsydra I played in a band called
“Angels Eyes” with Pietro Duca (Clepsydra drummer) where we performed rock
Gabriele Schira (drums): I played with Ivo in the first Zenit setup
and after that with lots of other bands , musicians and recording sessions
(jazz, rock, funk, theatre...) around Lausanne.
How was the music scene
in your area when you started ?
Ivo Bernasconi: Certainly the scene was
not favorable to progressive rock.
Andy Thommen: When I started with
Clepsydra, we didn’t even know about a progressive rock scene. There was a
non-scene just tolerating mainstream rock. With the rise of the internet
community, the scene got independent from geographical restrictions, and that’s
how I see the scene today.
Over to your two albums. Your debut album was
Pavritti from 2001. Please tell us more about this album.
Thommen: We recorded Pravritti in an external recording studio within one week
and then mixed it in the same studio the week after. Several keyboard tracks
where previously recorded at Ivo's home studio. The master was than done by
Etienne Bron (who previously did mixing and mastering also for Clepsydra). We
had a very tight time schedule, and it all was also a masterpiece of time
management (LOL). From the content point of view, I personally consider this
album a sort of “collection of older prog songs”. Despite the fact that some
consider it as a concept album based on the theme “you are what you do”
(Pravritti is the Sanskrit word for “moving forward” or “evolution in action”),
it was never conceived as a concept.
Ivo Bernasconi: Zenit was found around
the “Pravritti” project: Andy knew that I had a lot of old music and he proposed
to realize it within the production of an album. Of course I accepted and we
immediately started the search to complete the band setup. Gigio (drums) was
there from the beginning, and later on Frank di Sessa (guitars 1999-2002) and
Lorenzo Sonognini (vocals) joined the band. When the first album was released
(Pravritti, 2001), we already were working on some new tracks, so we went on and
then released “Surrender” in 2006.
Your second and most recent album was
Surrender from 2006. Please tell us more about this album.
Thommen: This is the first album we recorded and mixed in my home studio. I was
acting as a recording engineer while Etienne Bron came for the Mixing phase. We
had a lot more time to try out different things and had a chance to go deeper
into detail. The children choir in the outro of Surrender was recorded by the
Calicantus children choir (www.corocalicantus.org).
Bernasconi: On “Surrender” we welcome Luigi Biamino on guitars who did replace
Frank di Sessa that meanwhile decided to leave the band. We also decided to go
for words exclusively in English, a decision I am a bit sorry
Lorenzo Sonognini (vocals): The choice of English vocals comes
from the need of conformity of the language. The English language has a
different sound from the Italian one. The rhythm of the metrics is completely
different. It’s not impossible that in future we’ll do something in Italian
again. I can anticipate that on the third album there will be pieces sung in
The latest update on your homepage is almost one year old and
reports about an album in the works. Please tell us more about the progress
of this album.
Ivo Bernasconi: the writing of the songs is finished,
however we are reworking some details with our new drummer Gabriele Schira. I am
convinced that the overall sound will benefit a lot from this.
Schira: Thank you, Ivo :-)) I listen a lot of different music and try to bring
those influences in Zenit's music. The songs allow a lot of different drumming
aproaches, it's really exciting.
Andy Thommen: Oh, yes, the home page
updates… I am a bit lazy on that however I’d like to add that home pages aren’t
that much “in” at the moment. Out stats show more traffic on our mySpace site
of this new album, what have you been up to since 2006 ?
Too little! But it was not only up to us.
Andy Thommen: Besides working on
our third album we had 3 concerts. The concert in Montreux wasfilmed and can be
found on youtube (http://www.youtube.com/user/swissproghead?feature=mhum).
We’ve also been very busy with our families!
How is the creative
processes in your band from coming up with an idea to it's being recorded
Ivo Bernasconi: The base is found on songs I propose. We then work
them together and everyone participates on the arrangements. It was a surprising
result when I brought an old song without a recording to hear or a sequencer
file: we studied and arranged the track piece by piece ant it incredibly evolved
compared to my initial version.
Lorenzo Sonognini: An important part of the
creative process, for me, is the choice of the vocal melodic lines and the
creation of the words. For the last ones I get inspiration from my personal live
and spirituality influenced by oriental philosophies. On that point I am in line
with Ivo who is a great connoisseur especially of Indian philosophies. This can
be noted on our second album with the use of a poem of Sri Aurobindo in “I
Ching” and in “Yin & Yang” that has a clear Taoist inspiration, as well as
in Surrender in which I elaborate the story around the personal legend from the
book by Paulo Coelo “L’Alchimista”.
For those of us unknown with your
music; how would you describe you music and which bands would you compare
yourself with ?
Ivo Bernasconi: Casually one could refer just to “prog”
related to its origins, with influences from other styles and bands. On that I
would name early “Spock’s Beard” or “The Flower Kings”. Personally I don’t
consider “prog” as a genre, but more a way to interpret and perform music, and
the “evoking” aspect is the most powerful. “Pink Floyd” and early “Genesis”, in
case very different, are excellent examples for it.
Gabriele Schira: I
started working on Zenit's songs just before joining them for the first
rehearsal. I listen to “Big Big Train” and “Kaipa” (among others music). Nick
D'Virgilio and Morgan Agren got a way of "getting through"...I
What is the availability of your two albums and where can they be
purchased from ?
Andy Thommen: Legal digital downloads can be found
on Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Zune, Payplay, Napster, MySpace Music and
many more. Compact Disc albums can be ordered worldwide at progfactory.com, or
at Garden Shed in Japan and Pendragon Merchandising in the US.
your plans for this year and beyond ?
Ivo Bernasconi: If possible, and
it will be, we’ll finish the recordings for this third album by the end of this
Andy Thommen: We are lucky not having any contract forcing us to
release something at a given time. After the album we will see… concerts will be
the obvious sequel.
To wrap up this interview, is there anything you
want to add to this interview ?
Ivo Bernasconi: Two things: a
persuasion and a personal dream. I am convinced the with the actual band lineup
there are new horizons opening. The dream is to orchestrate some of the songs,
but this will require a well prepared musician with an open and non-academic
Thank you to Zenit for this interview
Their PA profile is here and their homepage's here