You may know Hal Sparks as a guy who can bring the funny as a stand-up comic, TV personality, and film actor. But few know him as the lead singer and axe man in an alternative metal band (I know! We didn't either!). This Friday (June 15th), Hal is busting out his the eye liner and shredding skills for a show at DiPiazza's in Long Beach with his band Zero 1. With a long career that has crossed over so many genres, you may think you already know Hal but when it comes to the way he rocks out, it's a whole other story.
OC Weekly (Ali Lerman): I think we all know you from TV and stand-up but when did you get into playing music?
Hal Sparks: I started acting, stand-up, and music almost at the same time when I was about 15 or 16 years old. I was in a band in high school. I didn't play an instrument well enough to be in a band, but I was the only guy who knew the words to all of the songs they wanted to cover. So I became the singer by default. And I was a shit singer, I mean terrible. But over time, I started improving as a singer and I found my voice.
What made you change of your band from the ever-so-creative name "The Hal Sparks Band" to Zero 1?
[Laughs.] Well, originally they were just songs that I had written and I had friends playing back-up so I booked gigs as Hal Sparks. But then people would be like, why is Hal Sparks doing stand-up at the Viper Room? They didn't get it. So I tacked on "the" and "band" on either side of my name and hoped that clarified it, and it did for a while. I think that a band deserves a name though, if it's a real band. Especially now with this line-up. Everybody has a personality and everyone is an important member of the band so I think the name is better that way.
So is singing kind of like a release for you or do you think it's something you could do full-time?
That's interesting because I don't think I separate the art that I do into activities. None of these things are something that I do. I don't do stand-up, I am a comedian. I don't do acting, I am an actor. You know, playing in a band isn't something that I do, I'm a musician. For me it's just natural to my life and expression. If that makes any sense.
It totally does, you want to do it all and you clearly can! Who or what do you think helped to inspire your sound?
We're a melodic metal band. I'm a huge KISS fan and I grew up listening to everything from Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath, and Iron Maiden, to Winger. From hair bands to grease metal, I just genuinely have a love for it all. My dad is a bluegrass musician and in my family when you learn to play an instrument, you learn to play it well or you don't pick it up. I distinctly remember buying my first KISS record when I was five. The only problem my dad had with the band was that they smashed their instruments at the end of the show. His thing was, give it to someone who'd rather be playing it. You have to really respect it so I've always felt that way about stuff.
And you have a new album coming out?
It'll be out at the end of July but the single, "American Psycho" is out online so people can hear it on our ReverbNation page. The reason we did our Midwest tour was because the video got leaked online and we got all of this demand for it. It was playing on the local radio out there and we were like, let's do a quick tour because everybody there wanted it.
So the video leaking was to your advantage.
Well, yes but arguably if we would have just put it out when we wanted to, the same thing would have happened. It's like, people hear it when they hear it. Like my argument about celebrity deaths, TMZ is always in such a big fucking hurry to let people know that a celebrity is dead before their relatives know. Guess what? It's not news! It'll be the same story tomorrow! When an album is released it's out there so you don't really have to get a jump on it!
Very true. It's cool that you are big into Ustream so that fans can get the behind the scenes stuff.
Yeah you know I just did the Queer as Folk convention in Germany and a lot of people over there are watching it. It's kind of amazing! It's like with Ustream I turn my laptop on and, taaa daaa! The world can see me for better or worse. I'm a big social media freak. It can be good and bad, I mean I've had my share of stalkers and nut cases but they are 2% of the entire experience.
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So why should people come out to di Piazza's to see Zero 1? Sell us on it!
It's our first time there and the thing is, it's so good to see a rock-n-roll show. There's every spectrum of emotion in the songs but it's not made of anger. There's none of that "marble mouth" rock which is overwhelmingly creepish. It's a good time. Again, we learned from the KISS machine which is, do the show you would want to see. There are no flame pots because the ceilings are far too low to do the craziness we'd want to do but once we do a festival, watch out! That reminds me, glitter cannons. I might need some.
Catch what's going on with Hal on www.halsparks.com and Zero 1 on their ReverbNation page at www.reverbnation.com/zero1. You can also follow Hal on Twitter at @HalSparks. Di Piazza is located at 5205 E Pacific Coast Hwy in Long Beach.