ZED YAGO: Warriors of Fantasy!

The story goes on and on. We already told you the whole story of ZED YAGO and VELVET VIPER in our interview with Jutta Weinhold. Seven years after Jutta left the band, she was being replaced by Yvonne Durand. She is the wife of guitarplayer Jimmy Durand and no real stranger to ZED YAGO. In this interview, you can read how the story of this German band continues, and what happened after Jutta left the band. Their fantastic live album, released to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the band, was the appropriate ocassion to get in touch with Jimmy and Yvonne. While the internet and email are the perfect tools to do this. Obviously, they became ‘the invisible guides’ for the continueing story of ZED YAGO....

Why did you continue under the name ZED YAGO, instead of forming a new band? And why did you decide to give ZED YAGO a restart in 1997?
Jimmy Durand: “Hello Toine, this is a beautiful question! To your information, I am ZED YAGO. After the split from Jutta, I have been searching to find a good singer to sing my music for a long time, because I was always the songwriter from ZED YAGO. I thought, it would be better to try a male singer, but none of them could actually sing the old material and that’s very important for our fans. Yvonne and me had been a couple for two years already, when she asked me to let her sing for ZED YAGO. She never told me, that she was a good singer! So I said OK, let’s give it a try and see if it works out. She was smiling at me, and asked me to give her three months. After we had our first rehearsal, I knew ZED YAGO was back.”

Who was the initiator of this restart?
Jimmy: “It was never a question not to continue ZED YAGO. It’s like I told you before, after I heard Yvonne’s voice, it was decided.”

Who was in the original first line up of this restart?
Jimmy: “Tatch on the bass, Claus “Bubi-the-Smied” Reinholdt on the drums, Yvonne on the vocals and me, Jimmy, on the guitars.”

Your first huge live gig was at Wacken Open Air in the Northern part of Germany. What can you recall of this gig?
Jimmy: “Oh yes, that was a great day! It was also the first gig of Yvonne. To our surprise, noboby even realised, that Jutta was not in the band anymore. After the show, there where a lot of press people coming to Yvonne and calling her Jutta. Which I could not understand, because she looks totally different. But I tell you, the band was very proud of Yvonne and she did a great job for the first time as a rock singer on the mainstage of Wacken Open Air.”

Why did Tatch leave the band so fast, after you reformed?
Jimmy: “That was his own decision. He found a new girlfriend and moved with her to Berlin.”

There’s quite a gap between 1997 and 2002, when a ZED YAGO compilation album, in fact a ‘best of’ album, was released. What happened to the band during that particular time?
Jimmy: “First of all, it was Jutta, who was in need to promote her new album. So I got a call, that she wanted to meet me. All she wanted from me was the permisson to use the name ZED YAGO. What I didn’t know at the time was, that she told the label, that the band ZED YAGO would play on the release party. Honesty was never her strength.”

From there on, the band continues with a keyboard player, who is called Hansi Kecker. Was this addition necessary for the continuation of the band?
Jimmy: “I am a big Hammond fan and Hansi asked me, if he could try and play with us. It was really fun while it lasted, but he’s also committed to other bands. That doesn’t work, if you want to play in ZED YAGO. To make good music and to be a good band, it means you have to practise a lot, which takes a lot of time and effort and you have to be focussed for the full 100 percent.”

In 2004, you did a tour with BONFIRE. Please tell us more about this experience. Where did you play and how did it feel to do a longer tour again?
Jimmy: “We played with BONFIRE in Bremen and Lübeck. The rest of the tour, we did on our own. We played about ten shows in South of Germany. This tour was a lot of fun from the first day to the last. After the first day, the tourbus got broken brakes. Then the wheels from the trailer were flat. But there was a good understandig between the crew and the band, so we had good vibes.”

After that, you released a new album. Who wrote the lyrics and are they following the original concept story of ZED YAGO?
Yvonne Durand: “The lyrics have been written by me. For sure, Zed Yago is living in the twilight zone, but she is also visiting earth or any other planet, that we probably don’t know the existance of. She loves to meet the spirtis of ancient times and the spirits of the wolves and other animals, because she is certain that humans have to get back to their roots, otherwise they will be lost. Best example is the problem of the global warming. [Note: the rise in time of the average temperature of the atmosphere on earth and the oceans.] So you see, that ZED YAGO always has got a message for you.”

ZED YAGO might even be the first fantasy metal band around. What do you think about this observation?
Jimmy: “I agree with you. Fantasy is something that gets you alive and it’s the same what we would like to transmit with our music. When your thoughts are free, you gotta use it. Feel free to create your own world, if you are in need of doing this.”

How would you categorize or describe the music of ZED YAGO nowadays?
Jimmy: “We are still a dramatic rock band and we will always remain faithful to the music of ZED YAGO.”

When listening to “The Invisible Guide”, I can’t think of a better follow up album to “From Over Yonder” and “Pilgrimage”. What were the reactions of the press like towards this new album?
Jimmy: “Should I be honest? Press people, who were not influenced by Jutta, loved "The Invisible Guide" CD. But this recation is absolutely normal. So to answer your question, we did get a lot of great reviews!!”

And do you think you pleased the long term ZED YAGO fans with this album?
Jimmy: “Yes, for sure. We get a lot of emails from all over the world. The fans are very happy that ZED YAGO is back now with the release of the CDs “The Invisible Guide” and “The 20th Anniversary of Zed Yago”. And be sure, that they love Yvonne’s voice and her acting on stage.”

My personal faves on this album are “To The Top Of The Mountain” and “Don’t Stop Me Now”. What are your favourite songs on this album and why?
Jimmy: “Warrior Of Fantasy” and “Custer”.
Yvonne: “Warrior Of Fantasy”, “To The Top Of The Mountain”, “The Invisible Guide” and “Custer”. I love them all!!”

Can you also name the favourite song of your audience, or do the reactions constantly change?
Jimmy: “They are different each time. And ZED YAGO on stage is like having a party the whole time!”

What’s the biggest difference for you between the old ZED YAGO albums and this one?
Jimmy: “When you create new music, you are always looking for other sounds. That’s the same with me, but always in the well-known ZED YAGO style. I think, the new album has actually got a lot more power.”

Yvonne, how did Jimmy find out about your singing abilities?
Yvonne: “After Jimmy had been searching for a new singer for over two years to replace Jutta, I just had to tell him, that I am actually a classical trained singer and I would like to try singing for him. His reaction….ha,ha,ha. He laughed at me, but well, he didn’t know my voice yet at the time. So he gave me some old material from ZED YAGO to find out, if it would work. For sure I had to change my style of singing, but I had a lot of fun doing it. After three months, I had my first rehearsal with ZED YAGO. It was really funny for me seeing Jimmy’s reaction. The other band members asked me why I didn’t tell them, that I’d got such a good voice, but I thought that Jimmy was looking for a male singer, so there was no reason to tell him, was there?”

When did you actually start singing?
Yvonne: “I started singing at the age of twelve. I have to admit, that I’ve inherited the genes from my grandparents. My grandma, who gave me her voice, was a very famous opera-singer in France. My grandpa was director of many opera-houses throughout France. As a child, I sang many operas together with my grandma (for example pieces from “Carmen” and “Madame Butterfly”), although my heart, even then, has always belonged to hardrock and heavy metal music.”

Who can we see as your biggest influence?
Yvonne: “My biggest influence in music is Jimmy. When he is playing some riffs on his guitar, it makes me dream away and I start to get involved in my world of fantasy or reality to create a song or to write lyrics.”

I read that you originally wanted to be a guitarplayer. Are you still playing guitar?
Yvonne: “Sometimes, but nothing really serious. It’s much better and useful to keep my voice in shape.”

I have to be honest with you, when I say that your voice shows a lot of resemblance to the voice of original singer Jutta Weinhold. Just coincidence and do you see this as a compliment?
Yvonne: “I think, I’ve definitely got my own voice. The only thing, that we might have in common, is the power. The difference is, that my voice is extremely rough and Jutta`s like a valkyrie. Each one of us has got their own style and sounds different.”

What’s it like for you to sing the older songs?
Yvonne: “I have a lot of fun singing the songs from the earlier days. But I think it’s very important to keep your own style and also keeping up with time by using modern sounds. And that`s what Jimmy did.”

It was very hard finding a copy of your album “The Invisible Guide”. Almost a year after its release, we finally have been able to find it. Was that also one of the reasons you changed from Atomic Symphony to Twilight Zone Records?
Jimmy: “Unfortunately, things didn’t work out. After being with Rough Trade and nearly a year with BMG, we decided to start our own label, Twilight Zone Records. It’s a devision of Twilight Vertrieb.”

When reviewing a CD, I always take a good look at the CD booklet as well and especially focus on the ‘thanks’ list. Sometimes I wonder why a certain person is thanked in there. I also found some names that I would like you to respond to. What have they added to the success of ZED YAGO? A) Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne, B) Moses Mo of MOTHERS FINEST, C) LITA FORD
Jimmy: “I met Sharon and Ozzy in 1989 during the Metal Hammer festival in Dortmund. They strenghtened my faith in music and told me always to go my own way. It doesn’t matter if it’s dark or clear, just believe in yourself. Same goes, when I met Moses Mo of MOTHERS FINEST and LITA FORD. All of them gave me the advice to take things my own way. I am very grateful for this.”

Did you actually release any singles from this album?
Jimmy: “No, not yet.”

You did make a video clip for “To The Top Of The Mountain”. Where did you shoot it and maybe you can tell what exactly happens in this video, for the people who didn’t see it. (although it’s viewed as an enhanced track on your album!)
Jimmy: “Zed Yago is taking you to the world of an ocean shaman. She is asking him to clean up all minds from trash and crime. Here you can see Yvonne’s best friends, the wolves. She knows them since they were born and she can not resist to visit them, whenever she has time. It is Yvonne’s best friend Tanja, who is responsible for the education of the wolves.”

In 2006, you did your 20th jubilee tour throughout Germany, and you also released a live album of one of the shows. In the booklet, we see Vince Viking as the keyboard player of the band. What exacly happened to Hansi?
Jimmy: “As I told you earlier, Hansi continued playing with other bands and Vince Viking is our outstanding new keyboardplayer.”

Did you bring a support band on stage as well, and if yes, which band(s) was/were that?
Yvonne: “We had a great support band in Essen, called NEVERLESS. I tell you, they rock and they are very handsome blokes, too!”

I would have thought this was the perfect occasion to film one of your shows and release it on DVD. Any plans for that at all?
Jimmy: “We’re definitely considering a DVD in the future….”

The live album also contains two unreleased songs. Are they leftovers or new material?
Jimmy: “They are two completely new songs.”

Where was the album recorded, or are they from different gigs?
Jimmy: “The recordings are from different shows throughout Germany.”

When the jubilee tour is over, long term drummer Bubi is forced to leave the band, as he suffers from severe hearing problems. What exactly happened?
Jimmy: “It was a very hard decision to make, but what else can you do, when it concerns your health? Bubi didn’t have any choice, other than leave the band. And we also had to react quickly and found a replacement in Jörg Cassel.”

How did you find him? Did he play in other bands, before ZED YAGO?
Jimmy: “It was our bassist C. Shark [formerly CRYSTAL SHARK and with ZED YAGO since 2005], who recomended us to Jörg Cassel. He is really doing a great job! He has been playing before with KINGDOME COME and MAD ROSTER.”

What can people expect of the new songs?
Jimmy: “Pure power and melodic riffs with classical influences.”

Any touring plans for 2007?
Jimmy: “We are playing at the Rock Harz festival (Osterode) in July and the (Open Air) Basinfirefest in the Czech Rebublic (June 2007).”

How come you never played in Holland?
Jimmy: “Since nobody has booked us yet for Holland. So, if somebody is interested in ZED YAGO, don’t resist and contact us at: . We are ready to play Holland and bring you some good dramatic rock!”

Are you still in contact with Jutta?
Jimmy: “Not really.”

In your ‘thanks’ list on the live CD, I read the names of the former band members of ZED YAGO. Does this mean that the arguing between the different ex-members is over?
Jimmy: “Yes, definitely. What’s the use?”

What’s the main difference between Yvonne and Jutta, besides the fact that you and Yvonne are a married couple?
Jimmy: “Yvonne is not only a good singer, she is also a real good friend. She always says what she means and will never shit with you. She also has a good friendship with the band. I am very proud, that she is my wife.”

Are there still any goals left, that you want to reach with ZED YAGO? And if yes, what are these goals?
Yvonne: “As an artist, you can never stand still. Sure, I´m looking forward to achieve other goals. For example writing good songs in the future to satisfy our fans.”

We told Jutta, that the story of ZED YAGO was perfect to visualise during your live shows. But she anwered us, that her main purpose was to play live music with the band. Did you add any show elements during “The Invisible Guide Tour” (your jubilee tour, in fact?), or was this show pure powerful music brought by the band live on stage?
Jimmy: “The lyrics are telling you the story of Zed Yago and this is involved in a powerful show. So each one can free up his mind, to follow her into her world of fantasy.”

Are there any bands/people, you would like to go on tour with?
Yvonne: “Yes, OZZY OSBOURNE, Zakk Wylde (BLACK LABEL SOCIETY) and/or Robert Trujillo (METALLICA) would be dream come true for me.”
Jimmy: “DREAM EVIL” would be great.”

Yvonne, who are your biggest influences as a singer?
Yvonne: “Without any doubt my grandmother. But I am also a big fan from Steven Tyler (AEROSMITH).”

And what do you think about the many female-fronted metal bands in the scene nowadays, like LACUNA COIL, WITHIN TEMPTATION, LEAVES EYES, THE GATHERING, NIGHTWISH, AFTER FOREVER, etc.etc.?
Yvonne: “They are doing great and we definitely need more of them.”

Yvonne, you may know that we are an online zine, which is totally dedicated to all the female rock and metal musicians in this scene. Do you feel, that women still need this kind of attention? Or do you think, that women already get the recognition, that they deserve so well?
Yvonne: “I think, if you are a good singer, you will get the attention and recognition.”

Do you have other hobbies or interests, besides playing music in a band?
Yvonne: “Jimmy and me love to visit the wolves at our friend Tanja’s house and to play with them. I am also riding a stallion and love to go jogging through the forrest on my own or to take some good aerobic lessons. All this is very good to free my mind and to write new songs for ZED YAGO.”

Do you play in other bands besides ZED YAGO?
Yvonne: “Are you joking?”

Is there anything you’d like to add to this interview? Maybe there’s something we forgot to mention here, which is essential for the story of ZED YAGO?
Jimmy: “If somebody wants more information about us, you can go to: http:// www.zed-yago.com or visit our MySpace site. Or if you want send us an email, we will answer your questions.”

Do you have any personal messages for our readers?
Jimmy: “Don´t dream your life, but live your dreams.”

The last words are for Yvonne and Jimmy of ZED YAGO....
Jimmy: “Thank you Toine and Rita and thank you Metal Maidens for you support. I hope to see you soon in Holland.”
Yvonne: “Toine & Rita, a special thanks for this nice interview and a big kiss to all of our fans in Holland.”

copyright: METAL MAIDENS
interview by: Toine van Poorten, March 2007.

Website: http://www.zed-yago.com

Also visit ZED YAGO at My Space: http://www.myspace.com/officialzedyago

Discography ZED YAGO
CDs
*From Over Yonder (1988; SPV/Steamhammer)
*Pilgrimage (1989; RCA Records)
*From The Twilight Zone - The Best Of Zed Yago (2002; SPV/Steamhammer)
*The Invisible Guide (2005; Rough Trade)
*Live 20th Anniversary(2006; Twilight Zone Records)

CDS [maxi]
*Black Bone Song/Zed Yago/Rockin' For The Nation (1989; RCA Records - UK only)

CDS [regular]
*Black Bone Song/Zed Yago (1989; RCA Records - UK only)