INTERVIEW: Zilch Patrol | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Outside of friends, family, ardent Bandcamp enthusiasts and folks at their first (and at the time of writing, only) gig, word of Zilch Patrol’s arrival has yet to propagate among North Eastern music circles. And yet, even at this fledgling stage, guitarist Michael Bridgewater notes that their sharp, mechanised rock is reaching ears in unlikely places…

“Somehow, the few tracks we’ve released have circulated among community and college radio stations. We’ve been played in Massachusetts, San Francisco, South Dakota… even some station in Bulgaria! It’s fun to know that whole college rock scene and hardcore continuum is still going. These hosts are real nerds who’re actually invested in music – it’s not like some Spotify playlist has come and parked us under their noses.”

Vocalist Hannah Bridgewater is equally enthused: “I must admit, I do get a kick from hearing some random American say [affects accent] ‘This is Zilch Patrol! From out of Tyneside, England!’”
While Stateside fans can perhaps be excused, Zilch Patrol (married couple Michael and Hannah, plus bassist John Baldasera) are specifically and proudly based in Byker, and display scant regard for orthodoxies such as generating fanfare, or recruiting a living, breathing human to replace their trusty drum machine. A stalwart of acts such as Shy Talk and Waskerley Way, Michael established the group in 2021 with two principle motivations – to engineer a regimented, machine-like outfit somewhere in the nebula between Big Black and early Cocteau Twins; and to justify the several hundred sterling he’d dispensed in a lockdown guitar splurge.

I had this romantic idea of actualising the sort of music I enjoy listening to

“I had this romantic idea of actualising the sort of music I enjoy listening to, so I thought I’d record some of the riffs I’d been harbouring for a while,” he recalls. “Once I got rid of the ones which weren’t hard enough, I realised this solo project would make just as much sense being a full band.” There was one crucial snag: “I didn’t want to sing. But I thought melodic vocals would be a contrivance, so as far as technique goes the bar was pretty low…”
“Cheers!” Hannah chimes in.

“Let me backpedal on that!…We do a lot of karaoke, and Hannah’s always been very expressive and dynamic. We were driving to Grasmere for a wedding and listening to The Great Destroyer by Low, and I thought ‘Well, if they can do it and sustain it for as long as they did…’ It felt a bit like asking Hannah to marry me for a second time!”

Bearing a blank band CV, with only experiences at Cosy Joes and The Cluny’s NYE Grafteoke to call upon, Hannah nonetheless integrated with relative ease. “It’s been fun so far!” she insists, making little attempt to mask her surprise. “Recording was nerve-racking, and I got imposter syndrome before soundchecking at our first gig – I knew I had no idea what I was doing, but nobody else did! – but once we reached the second song I started to loosen up.”

With an eponymous debut album ready to roll, an unflinching beat to keep pace with and further shows in the pipeline, that learning curve isn’t about to let up. On the strength of Compound’s automated groove, Negi Reserves’ relentless riff spiral and the raw speed of Brezhnev’s Moped, Zilch Patrol’s days as a Byker state secret are surely dwindling…

Zilch Patrol’s self-titled debut album is released on 6th October. The band play The Cumberland Arms, Newcastle on Saturday 28th October.


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