LOS ANGELES, January 15, 2014 — Donnie Paycheck plays drums for the Seattle-based punk band Zeke. It has been 20 years since the release of their debut album, Super Sound Racing. In February, Wells On Music spoke with Donnie Paycheck from his Tacoma, Wa. barbershop, Supernova, regarding the origins of Zeke and what the future may hold for the band.
Kevin Wells: Where did the name Zeke come from?
Donnie Paycheck: Well, you know, it was kind of a joke. It’s a person’s name. It was a guy that Mark [Felchtone], our guitar player, knew and would he basically go listen to punk rock records with him. It’s the guy that introduced him to punk rock in, I believe it was the ‘80s. So, we were joking around and Dizzy [Lee Roth], who was in the band at the time, said, “We should call the band Zeke,” and, you know, it just happened. The next thing I know the band was named Zeke.
KW: What bands influenced you to want to start a band?
DP: Well, you know, we were in the middle of the ‘80s in the middle of the Seattle scene, but nobody knew about it. It hadn’t broke. We were real tired of hair bands and whatnot and so we just wanted to have a band that sounded like Motörhead and the Ramones. We weren’t really set out that way, we were just into that stuff, you know. So it turned out to be what it turned out to be, you know? Pretty much an accident.
KW: How have you guys been able to keep it going for twenty years?
DP: Yeah, this is our twentieth year now. You know, I don’t know how we kept it together for the first year being full blown drug addicts and whatnot. And we’ve been a band since getting sober and, you know, it comes down to me and Mark playing together and having to go through lots of trials and tribulations with each other and come out the other end still wanting to be friends and try to work on that rather than beating the s**t out of each other. If you know our history, you know we’ve done that on stage and, you know, now we don’t. So, things change.
KW: Do you have anything special planned in 2013 to celebrate the 20-year anniversary of Zeke?
DP: We’re working on some stuff and we’re gonna play Seattle. We’re working on O.C. [Orange County, CA] for April, we’re working on going to Alex’s Bar in Long Beach and Texas for May. And just doing some choice fly-in dates for fans. I wish we could go everywhere and I wish we could get back over to Europe, but my passport is still messed up. So we’re not going to Europe for this anniversary, which pretty much sucks.
KW: What is your favorite Zeke album?
DP: Oh man, you know, mine? I really have to go back to Flat Tracker. When I listen to it, I just like the time. It puts me back to a place, you know what I mean? We’ve had a couple albums since and they’re amazing, you know, that I like, but it’s more of a sentimental thing for me to go back to Flat Tracker.
KW: It’s been awhile since your last full length album, can fans look forward to a new album anytime soon?
DP: Well, I mean, you know, the thing is, we’ve been working on the material a couple years now and we’ve got a bunch of material and with everybody’s lives it’s been hard for us to get it all completed. Mark says to me the other day, you know, “we’re gonna go record,” and I’m like, “okay.” So we’ve talked to the label about getting money out of them to go to the studio and whatnot, but I can’t say what day we are recording and I can’t say what date it will come out. All I can say is that we will have another record. I don’t know when. It’s one of those deals, it’s like when you have ten albums or whatever, you know, when people see us play, they’re not necessarily looking to hear us play any new material anyway. They want to hear the songs that they love and we can’t play ‘em all at this point, having as many records as we do.
KW: Do you prefer recording or touring better?
DP: I prefer live shows to recording and I don’t really prefer touring much anymore [laughs]. I like it in spurts, you know. I’m not getting any younger.
KW: What is the craziest thing that has happened on tour?
DP: There’s been a multitude of things that have happened. You know, it’s a lot of, we got in bar fights in Texas with the Voodoo Glow Skulls and I broke my hand. I ended up in the hospital from too much drug use, and I put a drumstick in my eye on that tour. Ummm, we were on tour with Nashville Pussy and we played 13 minutes in Minneapolis and they’ll never let us live that down. A girl got up on stage and started stripping, you know, just crazy s**t. Jeff lost his passport in Holland and barely made it on the plane home. I mean, I don’t know, that’s probably just the tip of the iceberg, you know? I remember getting in a fist fight with Mark at the Troubadour [in Los Angeles] in front of a sold out crowd, so you know, that’s pretty epic.
KW: I was told about a show when you threw your drums through a window at a bar called The Factory in Bellingham, Wa.
DP: Well, see, that’s, there you go. Now that’s another story, “threw the drums through the window.” It totally gets embellished, but what happened was there was a Marshall stack in front of a plate glass window. And the stage there wasn’t connected to anything, it was just, like, free floating. The pit was going, the crowd was so big in there and they were jumping off the stage into the crowd and the crowd was making the stage move. The stack started swaying and went through the plate glass window. Mark’s Marshall hit the sidewalk outside. So, obviously, the show stopped and I look out the broken window and a guy, thinking he’s funny, picks up the amp and throws it on the ground. So, with the drumsticks still in my hand, I just punched him in the face as hard as I can, picked up the amp and put it back on the stack. It worked and we continued to play. That’s the real story!
KW: Have you noticed a change in the crowds at your shows?
DP: Yeah, they’re getting older just like us. It’s still the same people. It’s not as young as it once was. I also think what happens is, if you play on a Monday night, you gotta play early because people got their babysitters and got to get to work so they gotta get home before 2 a.m. We tend not to play on the week nights anymore.
KW: What is your favorite band to tour with?
DP: My favorite tour we ever went on was with Motörhead and C.O.C., but it’s different because my favorite band to tour with would have to be The Hookers. Trick question, dude!
KW: What bands would you like to tour with that you have yet to tour with?
DP: This will never happen, but I would like to tour with KISS. It would be amazing because they are one of my all-time favorite bands.
KW: Are you working on any side projects right now?
DP: Well, Mark and I have a little thing that we added a different guitar player, so that’s three guitar players. It’s called The Stoker Brothers and it’s more of a southern rock type thing. We haven’t recorded and we haven’t played anywhere, but we got a bunch of songs and it’s fun. What we do is, we rehearse with Zeke and then the guy shows up and we do some of those songs and then go home.
KW: Is there anything else you would like your fans to know about you or Zeke?
DP: No, we love ‘em, you know, but they know that. We’ve been lucky to have such a great fan base and have such a cult following over the years. I feel fortunate because a lot of bands come up, do their thing, die out, and no one cares anymore. Zeke has been very fortunate to have, you know, that cult following of people, die-hards who will do anything for us. So, it’s cool.
Kevin J. Wells writes about Major League Baseball and punk rock music. Follow him on Twitter @WellsOnBaseball