Q&A: Sam Hilmer Of Diamond Terrifier And Zs On Booking PRACTICE! Gigs At Zebulon, "Zs" As A Genre, And Not Being Jazz

Sam Hilmer is one of the purveyors of daring, free-minded, sound-manipulating experimentalist local outfit Zs, and it's fitting that the seriously bearded saxophonist would refute the generic "post-minimalist, neo-no wave, industrial noise" descriptor tossed at the band he shares with guitarist extraordinaire Ben Greenberg and drummer Ian Antonio and opt for his own genre: "Zs is Zs."

For a decade, Zs has clung to that "It's Zs" philosophy, constantly reinventing then retiring its music from the live setting. At this weekend's Crossing Brooklyn Ferry festival, Hilmer and Greenberg will debut new material from their forthcoming LP, cryptically entitled Xe.

But Hilmer has a hell of a lot going on besides Zs. Under the nom de plume Diamond Terrifier, the sax-slinging Hilmer composes a storm of apocalyptic skronk waves of both face-ripping and hypnotic proportions; in the fall, Northern Spy will release his solo debut, KILL THE SELF THAT WANTS TO KILL YOUR SELF.

Sound of the City caught up with Hilmer at Williamsburg's Zebulon, where he books killer gigs every Tuesday evening and usually performs as Diamond Terrifier.

You've been booking the PRACTICE! gigs at Zebulon for a while now.

I've been doing stuff here at Zebulon since November [2011]. Zebulon is an amazing venue that does awesome stuff and lots and lots of people want to play here. The Zebulon vibe—the owners and everyone who works here—are really warm with people who bring the kind of music and the vibe and energy they want at the spot. It's a very familial attitude. They're pulling it off and it's pretty singular. It [my booking] started as every other week, then, in February it became every week. My hope would be that I could get it going to a point where I can step away from it and it would seem reasonable for it to keep going. But that's a long way off, and in the meantime I'm having an awesome time booking the nights!

You play in one incarnation or the other, either solo or with collaborators, every time you book a show. You just played a duo set with Kid Millions and you have one with Weasel Walter later this month.

I do. But I'm backing off that now. I literally called the night "PRACTICE!" because I was building up a solo set, and I was doing just that, practicing. So much of the evolution of the music I'm involved with happens in front of an audience. It's like you write, you get it conceived in your mind you feel like you can do it. But most of the learning that happens about how the music should actually be, takes place on stage. So, getting ready to put out this first solo full-length, I just wanted to be in that situation as much as possible.

Will your solo album be under the Diamond Terrifier moniker and released by Northern Spy?


It must be trippy to have Ben's Hubble project, your solo record and Zs stuff all on Northern Spy.

Yeah! It's intense, but they're awesome and we're stoked to be building so deep with them!

Is the new Zs full-length coming out on Northern Spy, as well?

That is uncommitted. There's nothing written in stone where that record is going. But N-Spy has been awesome! I think they're doing an amazing thing with that label. They're choosing really solid music that's kinda set apart from a lot of what's coming out of Brooklyn right now. The bands they're rolling are deep musically, have legit followings that are stoked on it, and N-Spy are consolidating all of it under one roof, and they're running it like a regular indie label, not like some kind of rarified, grant-based, secret avant music affair. It's a good look...

So the new Zs record isn't in the deal?

It's not in the deal. We did the 7-inch with them, the two solo records, we're doing a box set of the complete Zs catalog from 2001 to 2006, we're doing a project which is 100 remixes of that material and we're doing an EP of new material separate from our new full length record, which will be called Xe [pronounced Xe].

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