RRI: Interview with local artist and musician Rick Zillhart

By Todd Houston
Exclusive to TRRT

Rockford Rocked Interview: Word on the street is that you have a new project in the works. Do tell.

Rick Zillhart: I am currently involved with 3 1/2 bands. The first of which is called The King Of The Demons. We’re a psychobilly, cowpunk, acid twang sort of outfit and have been banging around Rockford for about four years although the last two have felt a little more like a hiatus (laughs). The second band is called Staggg and that’s a heavy psychedelic, improv, noise circus that sits somewhere between Sabbath and Floyd with sprinkles of Ornette Coleman. Finally, Name the Moon is our newest project which is myself, Mossy Vaughn on guitar, Derek Lattrell on vocals and guitars, Scott Ford on drums, Jerry Saffron on bass and Gavin Epperson on violin. I guess the best way to describe the band, is to say that it falls somewhere in the folk/psychedelic movement but also has a lot of improvisation. Our first show is at Memorial Hall October 31.

RRI: What are you currently grooving to?

Rick Zillhart: I am currently grooving to the new Taboo Blah Blah record. They are young local guys that wrote one hell of a great record.

RRI: You started getting serious about playing guitar during the onset of the “shred” era. Bands like The Scorpions, Ratt and UFO were churning out guitar orientated rock ‘n’ roll and selling millions of albums. What was it about the guitar that first lured you in?

Rick Zillhart: I started playing guitar because we had an old 1969 Fender Telecaster in the house that my dad bought new. My mom and dad got me lessons with a local punk rock legend, Don Bush and I just kind of took off from there. I started out playing songs by the Sex Pistols, Cheap Trick and such and then progressed into heavier territory. It was and still is so much fun to play and jam with friends.

RRI: You were also a member of a couple very popular local bands including Falen Prey and Armed Vision. These bands worked very hard and would sometimes play five nights in a row at local clubs. What’s the difference between today’s live music scene and the circuit from back in the day?

Rick Zillhart: The thing about playing clubs when I started out was that you generally played four 50-minute sets and you were on a 6-8 week rotation with other bands that were often coming from out of town. That’s a lot of music so you played mostly covers and would just sneak original music in here and there. It was crazy playing that much, but it forced the band to be really good and you had to have new material every time you went back. We worked almost every night because if we weren’t playing we were driving around putting Armed Vision stickers on everything or working on promo stuff. Today, you just sort of grab a show here or there and try to stay busy with more than one project.

RRI: I’m told that you have been teaching music theory and giving guitar lessons for many years. It must be extremely rewarding to see a student excel and develop a real passion for playing. Thoughts?

Rick Zillhart: The teaching thing is cool because its fun to watch a student finally conquer some chords and to be able to play a song that they love. Sometimes just teaching a kid some power chords and where the distortion button on their amp is can be the coolest thing ever. It’s fun to see their eyes light up when they learn something like “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath.

RRI: I’m going to say a word or phrase you answer with the first thing that pops into your head. Ready? Jack Torrance (Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining).

Rick Zillhart: The Shining is an awesome movie and winter is coming.

RRI: Jay Samp (Local Musician).

Rick Zillhart: Great friend, father, husband a lovely human being.

RRI: Favorite place to have a cocktail and appetizer in Rockford?

Rick Zillhart: Octane.

RRI: Steve Lynch (Autograph Guitarist) or George Lynch (Dokken Guitarist)?

Rick Zillhart: Edward Van Halen

RRI: Pit Bulls and Parolees (television show).

Rick Zillhart: I don’t watch regular television.

RRI: At the end of the day what does Rick Zillhart want to be remembered for?

Rick Zillhart: I would want to be remembered as someone who made some good art, always tried to help people out and do the right thing.

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