Nir Perfect Replacement
An Exclusive Interview with Nir Z


World of Genesis' own Dave Negrin got an opportunity to do a little Q&A with former Genesis drummer, Nir Zidkyahu (also known as Nir Z) on November 16, 2001. Nir, who took on the task of replacing Phil Collins on drums, sheds some light on his stint with Genesis, his work with Ray Wilson and Cut, and his various projects as a session musician. 

NZ: We started the rehearsals, and everything was great. We knew that the album was not doing well in The States, but we knew it would take some time. After four or five weeks of rehearsals, we took a break, and I flew to visit my family in Israel. I remember when I got there, I had a bad feeling that something was wrong. 

World of Genesis:  I know you just finished a summer tour with Billy Squier, can you tell me about any new projects you are currently working on? When will they be released? 

Nir Zidkyahu: Yes, I did the summer tour with Billy Squier which was great, we played with Bad Company and Styx. Billy is one of the most talented artists I ever played with, and that includes the band members: Alan St. Johns (Keyboards), Mark Clarck (Bass), and Steve Contie (Guitar).  

Since I did the tour with Cut, I mostly did studio work which I like very much. Some of the albums I did recently include: Alana Davis' Fortune Cookies (Elektra), John Mayer's Room For Squares (Sony), Paul Ruderman's Wish (Atlantic), and Sherry Jackson's Catalyst. I'm also playing some live shows with John Mayer and Alana Davis. 

WOG: How did you first come to get involved with Genesis? What was the audition like? What were your initial thoughts about working with the band in the studio and on the road? 
  I was sitting with my brother in my parents' house, and we were watching VH-1. The program was about Genesis, and they showed us rehearsing. As soon as they had a close up on me playing, we had an amazing storm outside and the TV just shut down. At the same time, the phone was ringing and it was Tony Smith telling me that we are not going to tour in The States. It was so eerie, first the weather was beautiful and, second, we don't get storms like that in Israel. 

WOG: As a drummer, did Genesis allow you to maintain your own unique style of playing (or was there pressure put on you to play in a style somewhat reminiscent of Phil Collins)? 

NZ: Mike and Tony never put any pressure on me. They gave so much freedom to play the way I just play. It was so obvious when I had to play Phil's drum parts just because his drumming is such a big part of so many songs. To play a song like "Mama," you must have Phil's drum part and sound, but I always had the freedom to improvise around those parts. 

WOG: When you were in the studio with Genesis, were the (music) tracks for many of the songs already completed before Ray was officially involved on vocals? 

Genesis in 1997 with Nir Z (far left)

NZ: When I moved to New York nine years ago, I joined a band called The Hidden Persuaders... I know bad name! ...At the time, I really wanted to be a member in an original band, and it was a great alternative progressive group. We were playing mostly in New York City, and we had a serious following. About two years later, we got a publishing deal with Hit & Run Music, which is owned by Tony Smith (Genesis' Manager).   NZ: I think they had the basic idea for most of the songs. I know that they changed some stuff when Ray came in to record the album. He did put a lot into the songs. 

WOG: When did you first hear that there would be no follow up to Calling All Stations

NZ: About eight months after the tour. 

WOG: I understand that you replaced another drummer during the recording of the Cut Millionairhead album. Was there any material already recorded with this other drummer or was he fired before the recording began? What were your thoughts at the time on joining the band? 

At that time, I was playing with the band and also doing sessions for other people. I had offered to play with different bands and tours, but I really believed in my band and wanted us to make it. After four years of playing with The Persuaders and all that time "almost getting a record deal..." I decided to leave the band and move on in 1996. A few months later, I got a phone call from Joey Gmerek, who was working for Hit & Run in New York, asking me to come to a meeting. I was sure that is going to try convince me to stay with the band. I went to the office, and Joey was telling me that Tony Smith called him and said that Mike Rutherford and Tony Banks had listened to some of The Hidden Persuaders music, and they would like me to come to England and audition for Genesis. I was sure that he was joking but, the day after, I had a plane ticket to London. 
  NZ: They had some demos they did with the other drummer , but we started totally fresh in the studio . Working with Ray was always a great experience. I truly think that he is one of the most outstanding singers out there , and the fact that Genesis didn't continue was not a reason  for Ray and I not to work together. In fact, it gave us a good kick to make a great album and to carry on. 

True, we were angry and disappointed, because we believed...  and we still do, that we did a good job with Genesis , and that we should have made another album , but fuck it! We  play too well together to let anything stop us . I had a great time with Cut. I love the album, and I loved the tour. It was difficult to continue, because I live in New York and Ray lives in Scotland , but ... maybe one day ... 

WOG: Do you think you'll ever record with Ray, Mike or Tony again in some other capacity (like a solo project)? 
The audition was great!  Mike, Tony and Nick Davis told me to play whatever I felt along with the tracks, and that's exactly what I did. I just played over 22 tracks in two days, and it was great! I could feel that they liked what I was playing, and there is was good chemistry. I remember Nick Davis telling me right before I left for the airport that they wanted me to play on the album (Calling All Stations), and that he thought that they would ask me to play on the tour as well. Working with Genesis in the studio was very creative experience, because they let me be myself and always let me play the songs the way I felt them, That made me very comfortable without thinking all the time "Oh my God, this is Genesis....", and I thank them for that.

The same thing happened when we started the rehearsals for the tour. I had to keep focus on the music and not think all the time about the name Genesis and how many people were going to see us and criticize etc... Because it could be very terrifying. I just wanted to enjoy the tour and of course to carry on. 

Genesis in Germany in 1997 Promoting Calling All Stations With Ray Wilson and Nir Z

NZ: I hope so. 

WOG: Since you've worked extensively as a session musician, as part of a band, and as part of various groups in a touring-only capacity, which of these types of work do you find most rewarding or enjoyable? Why? 

NZ: I enjoy every time I'm playing music as long as I'm playing with talented people. When I'm playing 
as a session drummer, it
I was sitting with my brother in my parents' house, and we were watching VH-1. The program was about Genesis, and they showed us rehearsing. As soon as they had a close up on me playing, we had an amazing storm outside and the TV just shut down. At the same time, the phone was ringing and it was Tony Smith telling me that we are not going to tour in The States. It was so eerie...   feels great to become a part of something completely new, because it's your personality and style that you put in to the music as long as  you and the producer have a good chemistry.

Playing live shows  can make you feel and experience adrenaline which you can get only on stage , especially when you make  people move and dance. That's my goal as a drummer in general . Of course, there is nothing like  playing your own music with your own band. That's  when you are one hundred percent yourself.
WOG: I recently interviewed Nick D'Virgilo (the other drummer who worked on the Calling All Stations album), and he mentioned that he had no idea that another drummer was going to be involved with the project until he showed up at The Farm. Were you aware that another drummer was going to be involved and were you at The Farm at the same time?

NZ: Nick Davis did say that there was another drummer, but that I would play on most of the album. We were not at The Farm at same time.

WOG: Why do you think Mike and Tony opted for two drummers for the album? 

NZ: The reason they had two drummers is because they liked what each of us played at the audition on specific songs so they had both of us play on the album. Also, After reading your interview with Nick myself, I would like to make a correction: on "Alien Afternoon" D'Virgillo played the first half, and I played the second half. I'm the only drummer who played on "The Dividing Line." 

WOG: At what point did you know that it would be you and not Nick that would be touring with Genesis? 

NZ: Right after the audition. 

WOG: Previously, when I interview Ray Wilson, he talked about his disappointment when Genesis decided not to play outside Europe. When did you first start to get the feeling that a North American tour wasn't going to happen? 

WOG: When did you first start playing drums? Who were your early influences as a drummer? 

NZ: I started to play drums when I was 12 years old. I had a great teacher named David Rich, an American who lives in Israel . At the time, I was  in to jazz music, so I used to listen to all those legendary jazz drummers like Joe Morrelo , Buddy Rich, and many more.. Over the years, I got more in to progressive rock and fusion. I used to listen to anything from Bill Bruford and Brand X to Middle Eastern music.

WOG: In your opinion, did Genesis do the right thing by hanging it up after the 1997/98 tour? Why? 

NZ: No. I think we played great together. We had the best singer, and  the tour in Europe was successful. That is a reason right there to carry on. So many people who saw us loved us, I'm sure that if we have done one more album we would be accepted all over the world as Genesis. I know it, especially with the  amount of e- mails that I still receive from all over the world from people who really want us to record another album. I don't know what went through Mike and Tony's minds, in fact, I never knew....  

WOG: As a well respected drummer, how would you rate the past Genesis drummers on a one to ten scale with ten being the highest (Collins, Bruford, Thompson, D'Virgilo, etc.)? 

NZ: I think that Collins has had the most impact on drummers all over the world, but I think that each one of the Genesis drummers is great. Let those who cannot play rate the drummers, you can find a lot of them on-line (laughs)!

So many people who saw us loved us , I'm sure that if we have done one more album we would be accepted all over the world as Genesis . I know it, especially with the  amount of e- mails that I still receive from all over the world from people who really want us to record another album . I don't know what went through Mike and Tony's mind , in fact, I never knew.... 

WOG: On the GMS Drums site, who claim to be your "official website," it mentions that you are working on a new project of your own. Can you share any details about the project? 

NZ: First, I don't have an official web site. Soon I will have one. I am working on my own music, and it's hard to describe what kind of album it's going to be, because there are so many different styles and influences. I promise that I will keep you posted (Webmaster's Note: Nir Z now has an official site, and the link is provided for you below).
Special thanks to Nir Z for this interview. For more on Nir, check out his official website. This interview 2001-2007 Dave Negrin and may not be reprinted in whole or in part without permission.

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