Zoli Teglas: A Pennywise Interview

Zoli Teglas circa 1998, Tramps NYC

When word dropped a few months back that Ignite front man Zoli Teglas would be picking the vocal reigns for Pennywise I got a excited. I was weened on both Pennywise and Ignite during my formative years (1994-98) and to call them two of my favorite bands is a bit of an understatement. While it is sad to see Jim Lindberg leave Pennywise, Zoli is hands down the best real singer in punk rock today. I don’t think anyone can match his pipes–he’s like the Bruce Dickinson of hardcore.

I got the chance to chat with Zoli while he was in the studio with Pennywise finishing up demo vocals for a new record. The first thing I did was mark out because I thought I’d have to pry hard to find out any news of a new record. Instead he was very forthright and excited to talk about his new day job fronting one of the biggest punk bands in the world.

So what does it feel like to be the singer of Pennywise? I assume you were a fan of theirs too back in the day.
It’s kinda surreal. I was at my house in Budapest, Hungary and I was trying to call a friend of mine in Australia, and I accidentally called Fletcher. So I talked to him and he told me that they were having some problems and Jim was quitting the band. He told me that they were going to be looking for singers and I should come back to America. A couple months later I’m on stage with them.

It just seems like it fits. It’s not like one of those things where you jump for joy, but it seems like it was meant to be. We have the same background musically. The only difference is that my voice is a lot higher and I write in a different style. The cool thing is that the new songs we’re writing are a mix of my voice and the Pennywise style of songwriting.

Do you need to adapt your singing style to work with the Pennywise songs? Obviously you need to maintain your integrity, but I was wondering how you were mixing Jim’s gruff vocal style with your melodic style.
Pennywise has been around for 20 years. There are guys that have their logo tattooed to them. My responsibility to the Pennywise fans is to give them an album that they are going to like. The really cool thing is that I’m learning a new style of writing. The way they wrote their albums in the past–especially the vocal melodies–was to place it right on top of the beat. The way I’m used to writing with The Misfits and Ignite was on the back end of the beat. It’s almost like the vocals start the song.

Did you talk to Jim before or after the break up? I assume you were friends with him too.
I called him before my tryouts and I said, “Jim, we’re friends and I want to stay friends. I want to do justice to these Pennywise songs that I’m going to be singing. If I get the gig, can we sit down over dinner so you can tell me what you wrote because there’s a lot of history behind the songs. I really want to have your blessing.” He said yes and told me I’m the first person he’d want singing for Pennywise. We’re still good friends and there is no bad blood at all.

The last thing I wanted was any sort of beef between me and him and there shouldn’t be any, because it was his choice to quit the band. At the same time, I want to do justice to his music and to the fans. I thought it was my responsibility to talk to him and ask him for his permission.

This is the second time I’ve seen you fill in for a pretty big singer. The first time was with The Misfits, now Pennywise. You are like the fill-in guy for legendary punk bands.
Dude, I’m like a musical prostitute. I got a call from the Aerosmith camp and I told them absolutely not. Led Zeppelin is looking for a singer too, but that’s not my thing at all. It’s funny, but I did the musical for The Who and Roger Daltrey came on stage and told me it sounded great and I said, “Mr. Daltrey, that’s the way you are supposed to sing it.” <laughs> I’m like a living karaoke machine.

That said, if I write an album with Pennywise, I’m not just going to be stepping in with them, I’m going to be the new guy–the new singer. My whole vision and purpose and drive is to make sure that this new album is Pennywise, particularly for the fans that completely believe in the band. They have such loyal fans and I don’t want to let any of them down. I want them to say, “I’m bummed that Jim left, but this is great stuff.” My goal right now is to just write an album that is going to kick ass.

Are you guys writing the record from scratch or were some of the new songs already written by Jim?
We’re starting from scratch. We have 15 tracks demoed and we just finished another today. At first we were going to try to put out an album and then go on tour, but we decided to go out on the road first. Touring helps me get molded a little more to their live show and the writing process.

 

It also makes sense to introduce you to the new fans, because while older guys might remember Ignite, Pennywise has a massive fan base worldwide.
Yeah I think so too. They also haven’t toured that much recently for different reasons. Now we are going to tour our asses off and I want the live show to really kick peoples’ asses. We played the Long Beach arena in front of 13,000 people and I jumped into the crowd and really tried to be on for that show and they seemed to love it.

Ignite was a band that would play for a while and then disappear for a while. Is Ignite going to remain a part time situation?
Those guys have another band on the side, and we’re still going to do another album, but my focus right not is doing Pennywise. I don’t want to let Ignite fans down either and a new record is due. When you are on the road you have 23 hours of doing nothing so it’s a good time to write and focus on music. I’m going to be writing a lot.

So is there anything you still want to do? Did you think that at your age and at this time, you’d be doing something like this?
You know, I have a solo album coming out called the Zoli Band…

Wait, didn’t that come out 10 years ago?
It’s that one, plus another–It’s a red and blue album and it comes out in three or four days with like 15 new songs. That music is stuff that I can never put out anywhere, but it’s music that I really like.

Have the fans been supportive? I know in some cases fans can get pretty annoyed with the new singer.
So far they have been very supportive. I never visit the forums to see what people say about me, but as a joke I went on the comments section the other day and 90 percent of them were positive. The thing about it that they have to remember is that Jim quit the band and the rest of the guys don’t want to stop playing. They need a singer to fill in for Jim that has a message and a meaning that stands for something. If they found some guy to just fill in then I think it would have been a different case.

I stand for environmental causes, social issues, and I stand on so many different political agendas that I think I fit the Pennywise mold a little better. I try to talk the talk and walk the walk, and on top of that I do a good live show, and on top of that I want to make a better album–and the fans come first. I think that with me being in the band, they’re not going to be so let down. People say that they wish Jim was still in the band, but hey, if Jim quit, it’s not fair that everyone else has to stop playing, because Pennywise is these guys’ lives.

It’s like AC/DC. The first guy died, but that doesn’t mean that they had to stop doing AC/DC. They just got a really good singer that wanted to do AC/DC and write hits and that’s what he did. Just because a singer leaves doesn’t mean the band has to break up. They put 20 years of their lives into this and if someone doesn’t want to do the music anymore, they need to find a person that can not only replace the lead singer, but maybe do better.

Author: George Koroneos

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11 Comments

  1. That Long Beach show was possibly the best Pennywise show I have ever seen! I’m excited to hear this new album! See you at the HOB San Diego!

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  2. yeah, so obviously this has been known behind the scenes that Zoli would not only just fill in but replace Jim from the get go. no tryouts. just Zoli. It sucks that it was made to look like Zoli was just doing them a favor when he apparently actively wanted the job… Wow. I really love PW and look up to Zoli very much but I’m just not digging on the arrogance. I mean, I know that’s how you rolled with Ignite but to openly say you’re a better singer than Jimmy is unnecessary and unjust. All he ever did was sing with the voice he was given, in range he was allowed, he was never going for vibrato. whatever. after reading that I have a totally different perspective. It’s simple don’t fuck it up I guess. Oh, can’t wait to see the extra-curricular activities in full effect. Fletcher will break you down.

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  3. I think you’re confusing arrogance with confidence. There’s no reason why he can’t take the reigns and maybe step up Pennywise’s game a bit. I’ve been a Pennywise fan since I was a kid, but after “Full Circle” every album has sounded the same. Not bad, not great, they just exist. I think this a chance for the band to start fresh while keeping the same vibe.

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  4. Just put all the bullshit and say with me: GO PENNYWISE GO!!!

    =)

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  5. I have a feeling this is going to be the best Pennywise album since Full Circle. As much as I loved Jim, Zoli is going to kick these guys asses to produce the best shit they’ve ever done. Can’t wait!

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  6. Those who’ve seen Zoli sing for Pennywise, how was his vocal delivery compared to Jim’s? Zoli has an amazing voice while Jim was always very monotone in comparison and I’m just trying to figure out if Zoli “dumbed it down” or did he change up the vocal delivery to be more he does with Ignite. Can someone post some info?

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  7. Guys, I’m a 34 year old man with a family, so I know my opinion does not mean squat. However, I just have to say, I read Jim’s book last year and I could see where he was coming from. I was not overly surprised when he left the band but I was still very disappointed. “Reason To Believe” is one of the best albums I heard in years. I’ve been a fan since Unknown Road and seen these guys three times. I fully agree it’s not right for the band to give up after losing Jim, but I wanna say, I see Pennywise as a legendary band. Much like the Descendents and ALL, I kind of feel they should have continued (with Zoli cuz he’s friggin’ great!) but changing the bands name (to another related Stephen King name). Leaving things open for Pennywise to continue in the future if Jim were to re-unite… also having the new band play Pennywise songs live and releasing new material. I know, I know, it sounds like I’m bashing Zoli.. I’m not, he’s awesome.. I guess I’m still holding on to the thought of Pennywise with Jim again at another time. I love that band and I’ve listened to them for a very long time.

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  8. i never heard his voice on a pennywise song but jims voice was distinctive for the band, so i hope for the best now with zoli but fear it wont fit..

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  9. One Truth i’ll tell you that at no time did PW know that Zoli would be the permanent singer and at first he was doing PW a favor. They talked and thought about many, many, singers to take Jim’s place but after Zoli helped them out things seemed to be a natural fit and so they went with it. HB Dad, Zoli’s vocal delivery is great! While he’s different than Jim his cadence and tone are almost spot on. He doesn’t, “dumb it down,” he does Zoli but it’s more of a punk PW Zoli than the Ignite-metal Zoli.

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  10. Looking back now… It was pretty obvious that Jim’s heart wasn’t in it for some time. I haven’t seen Zoli perform with Pennywise yet, but have seen him several times with Ignite and he’s the Biz! I think that the arrogance others (here) are detecting is more of a knowing on his part… It really does seem like a very natural (and obvious) fit. If you don’t know that… You’ve never heard Zoli sing. I HIGHLY recommend Our Darkest Days by Ignite to anyone who needs proof. Better yet… Go to youtube IMMEDIATELY and watch Sunday Bloody Sunday… He really is The Karaoke King (who’s so arrogant that they say that btw?) – I love his version more than U2’s (see for yourself).

    Plus Ladies: I’m not sayin’ he’s hot… But if the boner police are here… I demand a lawyer!!!

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  11. I rally like ignite and I’ve seen them live, the place was cheezy, but they rocked. I had the oportunit of seening Pennywise live for the first time with Zoli and he rocked, really kicked asses, a lot of attitude, great sound… It seemed like the band was enjoying, and the times I saw them before live in the net with jim it hasn’t had that power. It’s a fresh air for PW, that the last thing I enjoyed was from the ashes, it’s been a long time…
    PS: The track list of the concert was AWESOME, old school songs. Time of my life

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Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Zoli Teglas será el cantante permanente de Pennywise | Musicópolis: noticias de música, conciertos, festivales, entrevistas, discos y videos musicales - [...] in a Bungalo acaba de publicar una entrevista con Zoli Teglas en la que éste habla de cómo casualmente…
  2. Que Fim terá o Pennywise ? | HORNSUP - [...] real, tudo bem, em certo ponto concordo que não, mas quando li uma entrevista do Zoli para o site…

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