Hockey and Music: Interview with Dave Schneider of The Zambonis

The Zambonis

The lead singer and founder of the world's greatest all hockey rock band answers some questions about their creative process, their sound and their extraordinary place in the hockey world.

The Zambonis are one of the world's truly unique bands. The Connecticut-based outfit is the greatest (and only) rock band dedicated to songs about hockey, and have been since forming in the early 1990's. Whether focusing on a team, a player, an anecdote, a fantasy or a single moment in a hockey game, the Zambonis have a song about it and have performed it everywhere, from concerts to NHL All Star Games to prime time network television shows.

Thanks to a simian friend of a friend of the blog, Lighthouse Hockey was put in touch with Zambonis founder, singer, guitarist and leader Dave Schneider, who was kind enough to let us pepper him with questions like a coach after a playoff game.

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Lighthouse Hockey: When you're playing the NHL All Star Game, at what point do you reflect on the fact that you're a band of hockey fans playing hockey songs at the NHL All Star Game?

Dave Schneider: We are so grounded and aware of every bizarre and wonderful moment that happens to us now, it is great. The first five years of the band, we might have been worried about minute details around the show and not realized how great the actual deal was. To play music live is a dream, to play hockey music at any hockey event, is a heavenly dream with crushed M&M's and homemade whip cream on top!


LHH: How did your relationship with the NHL begin and how have they treated you and your music?

DS: Very early on, we were playing in NYC at a great place called Under Acme. After the show, some guys came up to us and said, hey we work for the NHL, we really like what you guys are doing, do us a favor, take a black sharpie and cross out the NHL logos and Rangers logos off of your new 45 / record (this was the 90's and vinyl was the thing..it;s actually back now) and we would love to do some stuff with you guys.

Regarding how they treat us and our music, they treat us fine and we have a few friends/supporters in high places. But, we never push them, rarely pitch them and, maybe we should. We are very laid back and that is probably a negative for the band. The music/songs we write should honestly be played at every freakin' hockey game in the world. That sounds completely obnoxious but, I challenge you, game ops for teams, people that play music at the local rink, college rink even music supervisors for teams, movies, tv etc etc. You will not find better and more fitting songs about hockey than ours. "Drop That Puck," "Fight On The Ice," "Hockey Heart," "Captain," "Now's My Time To Shine." They all work. We have all heard the Nickelback and Bush songs enough, it's time for The Zambonis.


LHH: You've been writing, recording and touring since 1991. Where and how does the inspiration continue to spring from?

DS: Honestly, it's our passion to make music. We have so many new songs, it's insane. If recording was more affordable, we would probably have 25 records done by now. Inspiration is all over. Remember, we write songs about hockey, love, life and, hockey. A song like "Captain" (Ed Note: watch the official video at the top of the post) off our new record is about being the one that can carry the weight and lead. It's about a leading a team, a relationship and a band. That's the trick and the joy of doing what we do. We believe firmly in taking odd left turns to keep it interesting. That said, the biggest left turn of them all is to write songs about hockey for 23 years.


LHH: Do you feel writing songs has changed the way you watch games?

DS: Definitely. Something always happens and you say, "that could be a song". Bad example but, I was watching a minor league game recently and guess what happened. Hint, here is a new song. "Goalie Fight".


LHH: The Ramones and pop/punk bands are clearly a big influence, but your songs cover a wide range of styles. Do you find you try to fit the hockey elements to a specific genre, or do you prefer to match the right style to the right subject?


DS: We don't think like that. We seriously love music and are completely obsessed with it. Between all of us we probably have 15,000 records, 15,000 cds, 30 guitars, 5 drum sets, etc, etc. We write a song that comes from either a title or just a groove, riff or cool chord progression. We love every style of music - except opera. The great thing about this band is, people already will think we are a joke band from the concept alone so, we basically do what ever style/genre we want. what do we have to lose.


LHH: When you write a song about a specific team, is there a research process or is it all about feel?

DS: 95% is about feel. We were recently approached to write a song about Hobey Baker. I had to research that a bit. What an interesting and heroic figure.


LHH: "Hockey Monkey" was used as the theme song to the Fox show The Loop. Is it surprising to see your songs used outside of the hockey world?

DS: Absolutely but like I said before, some of the songs can slide by and nobody would say, oh, this is a hockey song. "Now's My Time To Shine" off the new record is like that.


LHH: What are the advantages of being a band with a dedicated, focused niche? Are there disadvantages?

DS: The advantage is we don't have to write songs about basketball. The disadvantage I guess is when people say, your songs are so good, you should change the words and make it a non-hockey song but, then I just punch them in the face. If it's my mom, I give her a soft, loving kidney punch.


LHH: What's next, both for the band and for your hockey fandom? Who do you enjoy watching play now and what are you looking forward to seeing in the future?

DS: We have some great stuff happening in the near future, we recently ebayed a guitar signed by two Ryan Millers. Ryan No. 1 is the goalie for the Buffalo Sabres St. Louis Blues and Ryan No. 2 is from The band Guster. Also signing the guitar were members of The Talking Heads, Mates Of State. All proceeds went to a great charity called "Save the Children." The guitar sold for $770 and we have another one ready to go. We are psyched to do that again all for a great cause.

We will be playing in Philadelphia in April for the NCAA Division 1 tournament and we are recording as I type so please be ready for new Zambonis tunes.Here are titles to peak your interest: "Joey Saves" (about the coolest thing in the world i.e. The Ramones blasting out of all Jumbotron speakers at all NHL and other hockey games), "End Of The Bench," a Stones-like romp of that kid who wants in and can't wait to skate and "Cheap shot," a tale of a guy doing the nasty cheap shot and the victim hunting him down no matter how far he runs or, plays.

And a couple of song specific questions:

LHH: "Johnny Got Suspended" is about a kid with an "Islanders Suck t-shirt" and plays with the Islanders/Rangers rivalry. True story or convenient storytelling device like Hatfields/McCoys, Montagues/Capulets or Aliens/Predators?

DS: True story. An old friend Johnny Pizani wore the Islanders Suck shirt and his father was huge Rangers fan and was actually proud of him. The only false bit was he actually got a detention but, suspended sounds way better in a song.

LHH: Andy Moog never struck me as a prog rock guy. Have you ever talked to him about "Andy Moog Meets Robert Moog?"

DS: Never. I am not sure if he heard it or liked it. That is one of my top three Zambonis songs. The fact that we could bring hockey and the inventor of the analog synth together in a song is really sweet for us.

LHH: Do you think Ron Hextall plays the vocal canon from "Hextall" to psych himself up before going to work for the Flyers?

DS: Sadly, no. I used to be the on-ice MC for The Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Did it for 11 years. As you know but some of your readers may not know, they are the affiliate for the New York Islanders. So, one game, I see Hextall up in the stands, I guess he was scouting for some team. I walked over to him and as I started to introduce myself he said, I know who you are, get away from me. It was a bit of a bummer for this reason. The whole point of that song was by no means to make fun of him but to turn this ugly chant into a beautiful song/chant.

Just for the record, one of our proudest moments as a band was to make that the opening track of our record "More Songs About Hockey (and buildings and food)." That was the dumbest decision and, we still love it!

LHH: Were you hoping to hear "Russian Pop Song" played in Sochi?

DS: I wish they played it. It would have been quite fitting although, it is about Russian players leaving and playing in the NHL so, I could see why it did not. That said, they did play our song "Drop That Puck" at some of the games so, we still win. HAVE AN ICE DAY!

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We want to thank Dave for taking the time to answer these and being generally awesome. Follow him and the band on Twitter at @TheZambonis and like them on Facebook at Facebook.com/TheZambonis. All of their music is available on iTunes and through the band's website www.thezambonis.com.

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