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

Diamond Terrifier at the Rotunda in Philadelphia, April 2012

How did the Diamond Terrifier concept come to you? There was a song on Zs' New Slaves LP entitled "Black Crown Ceremony I: Diamond Terrifier."

The New Slaves album was unique in our output in that there are tracks on that record that feature each individual as a composer and a performer. So, "Gentlemen Amateur" was Ben's track and my track was those two at the end. So the ground work Diamond Terrifier began in Zs around the New Slaves record and the touring that happened for that record. So for me, when I came out of that and was like "I'm gonna make the solo thing into a legit project," I took that name [Diamond Terrifier] and kept it moving.

You just came back from a tour. Does Diamond Terrifier improvise or do you do rehearsed material?

I have a set. Sometimes, I do other things. But I have a set that I've been honing in.

Are you into improvising?

Oh, sure, of course. There is a lot of improvising happening in the set, but it's also a pretty choreographed thing.

Weasel, a collaborator of yours, is an improviser.

Really a cool guy. He's an old, old friend and major, major supporter of Zs. [Zs have] played a million shows [with him] and he's helped us out in a lot of ways. When we first started playing in 2002-'03, we met Weasel pretty early on. We met him at SUNY Purchase.

Was he doing Flying Luttenbachers at the time?

He was in the middle of doing Flying Luttenbachers. We've been tight ever since. He did do some stuff with Zs. He was on the Essence Implosion! record and was really involved with it. Weasel is doing four out of the five Tuesdays in May with me [at Zebulon]. It's really awesome. He's got Elliot Sharp, Paul Flaherty and Peter Evans coming through—gonna be a deep hang.

Do you categorize Diamond Terrifier as "jazz?" You have the saxophone...

No [Laughing]. That's the thing: the way in which the saxophone is bound up with jazz music has been a career long obstacle for me. I don't really seek to situate myself as a jazz player or in that community. No commentary or judgment, you know, but the frame is just not interesting for what I'm doing. To me, it's not interesting—the values that are espoused. I have a lot of experience in that community but I'd rather be around people who are doing interesting stuff with synths and other noise-making objects, things that are less invested in some notion of genre, or a stylistic tradition, or what have you.

But you take the improvising aspect and the saxophone and a duo set with Weasel and it equals...

... jazz. But Diamond Terrifier and Zs—I wouldn't describe them that way.

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