Robin Taylor Zander of Cheap Trick: The Interview

Robin Zander Of Cheap Trick Interview

Feature Photo: Robin Zander by Tammy Vega

Robin Taylor Zander of Cheap Trick

Interview by Andrew Daly

With the blood of rock royalty running through him, and an intrinsic need to create rocking music that any self-respecting music junkie could love, you could say that Robin Taylor Zander has got it going on.

But make no mistake; he’s not living in the shadow of his uber-famous father. And though he lends his licks to Cheap Trick’s continued cause, Zander makes his own music which in many ways is equal to his father’s. His debut record, The Distance, is a modern-day classic. What’s more, it’s primed to take the rock world by storm, showing in full force that his legacy is now only beginning to unfurrow.

As he continues to promote his debut record, Robin Taylor Zander dialed in with to dig into the origins of his music, his approach to songwriting, and more.

What can you tell me about your latest music?

I wrote all the songs on my debut album, The Distance, over a span of 10 years. They are all tunes stockpiled from youth to adulthood. They were written in different towns, with different people surrounding me. You can hear the influences; you can hear when I wrote something while living in Nashville, as opposed to something in my dorm at age 19. You’ll hopefully appreciate the production as much as I do. They were recorded at a 19th-century house in Catskill, NY. I did all the basic tracks, layering everything until I put a vocal to the final product. It was a labor of love, and I can’t wait for everyone to hear it from top to bottom. I’m old school and like to sit down to listen to records as opposed to just the singles.

How have you progressed from your last record? What does the current approach look like from a compositional standpoint?

I think I’m getting better all the time, but that’s for you to decide when I release the second record. I’m listening to a lot of different things at the moment. A lot of Jazz and Avant-Garde records. I’m trying to incorporate catchy melodies with not-so-catchy chord progressions, and I’m really excited for the next collection of songs to come out. I’ve been writing a lot more on piano recently, and I think it’s opening up possibilities that wouldn’t have happened on a guitar. 

Are you more comfortable in the studio or live? Why?

Studio, even when my day job is as a touring musician. I love getting lost in my home studio; I could sit there all day and write music until my ears bleed. I put all my effort into writing; it’s more of an addiction than anything else.

Some have said rock is dead. Where do you stand on that notion?

Rock as a genre is alive and well; you just have to look harder, and you’ll find it. If you’re into that kind of music, there are plenty of great bands carrying that torch. I think the genre is very much diluted and always has been since it started in the ’50s. It’s always been a combination of other types of music (R&B, pop, and country). You can hear them all. Music has become more blurred nowadays when it comes to classifying genres, but there’s more music out there now than ever before. Check out your local record shop; we have the internet, too, you know…go searching for it, and you’ll find plenty of rock ‘n’ roll.

What are a few things that you know now that would have been helpful during your earliest days?

It’s important to get your sleep and keep tabs on your I.D./passport at all times. Set 10 alarms in the morning. Drink lots of water. 

What are some of the hardest things about making new music for a low attention span world?

If you have a low attention span, you need to take a break from your phone! In all seriousness, though, it’s a great question. And I think the best answer as an artist is to stay true to your craft. Don’t sacrifice your passion for what the mainstream is craving. Be honest with your art, and good things will come from it. It’s easier to get your music out there, but in a way, it’s harder to last in the music business nowadays. Everyone in the future will be famous for 15 minutes, so make the most of your 15.

How has your overall approach evolved from your younger years? Do you have any cringe factor when listening to older work?

Artists naturally cringe at older music whenever a few years have passed by. But some of these songs are so old that they’ve actually become more of a positive nostalgia than anything else. I’ve already gotten over the cringe and learned to enjoy these songs as much as anything else I’m currently working on. All songs are part of the journey, and I always say my favorite song is the next one.

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