Zen For Primates
Zen For Primates are undoubtedly great musicians with a style all their own, but how does one classify such unique music? They were once labeled as “Cabaret Rock,” and the description stuck, but maybe only because choosing a genre is nearly impossible. The real question is do they really need to be labeled or classified? Their music speaks for itself and it can be heard loud and clear.
A popular spot to enjoy the Zen For Primates experience is at the Deer Head Inn, located in the Delaware Water Gap in eastern Pennsylvania. This medium sized bar/restaurant is frequented by many amazing local musicians and always has a great crowd and atmosphere to listen to live music. Zen put on a wonderful show on February __ , 2009 to a packed house, there were even people listening from outside because they couldn’t get in. Every table, bar stool, and doorway was occupied by a content listener as Zen For Primates played their fan favorites. However the band has come quite a long way to get where they are today.
Zen For Primates started as a thought in lead singer T. Roth’s mind when he saw guitarist Mike Krisukas perform in a club in Pennsylvania’s Lehigh Valley in 1987. They joined with saxophonist Dave Smith and violinist Mark Golin in the early nineties and started performing as Zen For Primates. It was Roth’s love for music and theater that pushed the band in the direction of “Cabaret Rock.” They released their record “Albatross” in 1992 and eventually broke up in 1994.
The band would however rejoin in 1996 after Warner Brothers showed interest in using their music for the movie “Addicted to Love.” They finished recording their second album, “Blessed are the Sheep Herders” and began touring afterward. The band from this point on has gone through various face lifts but the quality of the music and musicianship has always stayed the same.
One unique feature of Zen For Primates is their lack of a percussion section. From the beginning they have never had a drum section of any kind. They have joked that drummers always seem to break up the band so they decided not to have one. They all see themselves as the percussion section and they believe that if they added a drummer it would be too overwhelming. The lack of a defined rhythm section has not brought down the band, probably because of singer T. Roth’s naturally beautiful voice, which he seems to project with little effort. Krisukas believes that the band would not work without T. Roth singing; he has been compared to Neil Diamond and Jim Morrison by some. Roth has admitted to smoking about 4 packs of cigarettes a day and perhaps that’s what gives him his deep, soothing voice.
Zen For Primates are now performing a lively combination of original pieces and creative covers. Some of their fan’s favorite covers include: “Riders on the Storm” (The Doors), “I Feel Good” (James Brown) and “Whole Lotta Love” (Led Zeppelin). It is their re-invention of these classic songs that really draws in their audience. They go beyond simply reproducing what is on the original records to create something new, giving them more life.
When you hear Zen you may think that most of the night they are simply improvising but it’s actually the opposite. They say that their arrangements are very precise and just about everything is written out. Because they often play with new musicians from time to time they’ve found it’s more beneficial to have things written out. Their music is well known in their local area and they often play with some other great musicians, which doesn’t hurt either.
The band now primarily performs close to their home in the Pennsylvania but still has dreams of touring internationally sometime in the future. It’s tough to say exactly what to expect from Zen For Primates with their scattered past, but they plan to continue to please audiences for years to come. If you are in the Lehigh Valley area and have not heard them, please do—you will not be disappointed.