Tom Zvoncheck interview
First published Fodderstompf, September 2002
© 2002 Fodderstompf.com
Fodderstompf.Com: One of the more obscure PiL members, Tom Zvoncheck briefly played keyboards in the much maligned "Cabaret Band" that toured Japan in summer 1983. The following interview gives a unique outside take on PiL from someone who had never talked publicly about his time in the band… Interview conducted via email for Fodderstompf September 2002.
Can you tell us a little about your musical background prior to PiL?
Tom: Prior to PiL I played with Kasim Sulton (former bass player from Todd Rundgren's Utopia) touring for his EMI release Kasim. I also have a master's degree in classical piano. I had already appeared on albums and had played with Clarence Clemmons, Kasim Sulton, and a band from the 70's called Musique. I was an established studio/recording
Did you know of PiL before you got the job? What did you think of them?
Tom: I'd heard of PiL, I knew it was Rotten's new band. I first heard their music before auditioning for them. Basically I thought (and still do) think it was (is) crap. LOL!
Apparently, you got the PiL job through Bob Miller, is that right. How did he get you involved. Did you have to audition?
Tom: NO, I got the chance to audition for PiL through Louie Bernardi. We new each other from the New Jersey Bar Band scene. Apparently Keith and John had a falling out. Joe Guida (friend of Louie's) and I had played together several years before. Joe and Louie were friends with Bob "somebody" who was PiL's engineer. Joe doesn't play keyboards so the guys figured I'd be a good choice.
Did you know the other guys? Were you really all in cabaret bands?!
Tom: I'm not sure what a "Cabaret Band" is. Lou and Joe played in a top 40 funk band called Waterfront. Although they didn't write their own music they did a good job of playing cover versions of popular songs. I also played in various cover bands one with Joe called Zap that lasted one week end. LOL!
Why do you think PiL decided on that approach? Less money, proven players, a bad joke?!
Tom: Less money, higher quality musicians seeking stardom. The bad joke was the original line-up of PiL.
Was anything said about Levene's departure?
Tom: He had dearly departed before I arrived. He had an awful ugly white guitar that he left behind.
How did Martin and Lydon treat you all. What were your impressions of John and PiL at the time?
Tom: John and Martin were fine. Larry White (their manager) was an asshole. Boob Miller wasn't too pleasant after a few drinks, come to think of it, I wasn't too pleasant after a few drinks either.
What sort of reaction did you and the band get from the PiL fans, I take it it wasn't pleasant!
Tom: The fans were Ok, I just wasn't used to being spit on while performing. You know, they made me get my haircut for the tour, I also shaved my beard off!
You only played the LA warm up gig, and the Japanese tour. Why did you leave after the Japanese tour, were you offered the European leg too?
Tom: I was already involved with a few other artists, I was also working on an album with former Blue Oyster Cult drummer Albert Bouchard. When the tour of Japan was over we were no longer getting paid to be part of PiL. We were "hired hands" NOT band members. While in Japan I got an offer to do some gigs with Flo and Eddie (the 60's group The Turtles). It was a short tour in August, I was available, and I needed to make money. PiL had no plans for any other shows. After the Flo and Eddie gigs I was asked to play for Aldo Nova, who was releasing his second record, his first went Platinum. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I was also asked to play on an album with a band from California called the Dream Syndicate for A&M Records. I told Louie that I had other things to do. Plus PiL was probably the stupidest band I'd ever played in. I made it clear at the end of the Japanese tour that I wanted out.
What do you make of the quote that you were sacked because "you weren't good enough" ?
Tom: I wasn't "sacked" and I probably said the gig wasn't worth having, it wasn't, and I moved on.
What do you think of the 'Live in Tokyo' album? It's not the best is it!
Tom: It probably was the BEST performing line-up of PiL. If PiL fans didn't like it they would have really hated the original line-up of PiL.
The other musicians (Joe Guida and Louie Bernardi) seem to have completely disappeared since, do you know what happened to them after they returned to the States?
Tom: The last time I saw them was 7-8 years ago, they were playing in a wedding band. I know that they tried to record their own songs and get a deal, but nothing came of it. They were good cover band musicians but not studio quality players. They were nice guys, PiL was their 15 minutes of fame. Funny story, after a couple of gigs in Japan Joe and Louie were called to Larry White's room (John's gay tour manager at the time), I was laughing 'cause I thought he wanted to get it on with them. Anyway, they were told "not to smile so much on stage and to stop doing rock poses." They were told that PiL was not about rock posing, and to look mean on stage like me.
What did you do after PiL? Who did you work with?
Tom: All that info is on my website www.zkgmusic.com
Do you still
see the other guys from PiL? Have you ever spoke to John again?
Tom: I haven't seen Joe and Lou in ages, I would say "hi", we just don't hang out anymore. No, I never spoke to John. John was a funny guy to hang around with, and I laugh when ever I see him on TV, he has a great sense of humour, BUT, he is also unbelievably full of shit. Have you actually ever heard him say something "nice" about anybody? It's not his style. Did you know that John couldn't remember the words to his songs so he had a big notebook on stage with his lyrics in it? LOL!
You now run your own studio, and release your own records. Can you give us a little history of that. What sort of records are you making?
Tom: I have my own ZKG Recording and Mastering Studios in New Jersey. I also released a solo album in 2000 entitled 'ZKG', and plan to release a follow up soon. Again, all that info is on my website www.zkgmusic.com
Finally, did working with PiL influence your later work or your approach to music. Or was it simply just another gig?
Tom: No, it didn't influence my future work. I do like the the organ introduction I did for "Religion". I may steal that back and record a piece around it. It was just a gig to make some money for a few months and see Japan.
There was a funny story about Zvoncheck and PiL on a Blue Oyster Cult fan page: "With PiL,Tommy experienced his scariest on-stage moment ever. At the famous Hollywood Palladium, the audience got into some heavy stage diving and slam dancing, and too many people managed to get by security and get up on stage. Not being used to such behaviour, with all these crazy's jumping up and off the stage like maniacs, Tommy was ready to leave the stage in fear of his life…"
Picture Credits (top to bottom)
Tom Zvoncheck; circa 1983/84 © courtesy www.zkgmusic.com
PiL Japan 83 luggage tag
Solar Twins © courtesy www.zkgmusic.com