Zig Zags Channel Heaven’s Gate in ‘They Came for Us’ Video
“It’s definitely a Heaven’s Gate song. The lyrics are all about planning to exit the Earth and going on a post-apocalyptic voyage — gathering supplies and looking to the sky to wait for this comet or whatever to take you away.”
So says Zig Zags vocalist / guitarist Jed Maheu of “They Came for Us,” the leadoff track from the band’s second and latest album, Running Out of Red. At six and a half minutes, it’s also about twice as long as most Zig Zags songs, which tend to be fast 'n’ dirty in the balls-out thrash-punk tradition. This time, however, Maheu and his bandmates — drummer Dane Arnold and bassist Caleb Miller — decided to get high as fuck and bask in Maheu’s love of Hawkwind. “It’s the only song I’ve ever recorded stoned,” Maheu concedes with a laugh. “I’ve written a lot of songs stoned, but I never record stoned because I don’t wanna fuck it up while we’re paying money for a studio. But it was getting late and we just couldn’t get the tempo down because it’s so slow. So, everyone got stoned, including the engineer. As soon as we were high, we nailed it on the first take.”
Check out the world premiere of the “They Came for Us” video and an interview with Maheu about aliens, band mascots and errant babysitters below.
The Heaven’s Gate mass suicide happened nearly 20 years ago. What drew you back to that event?
I think it’s always stuck with me in some way. There was a lot more of that stuff happening in the '80s and '90s as far as cults because maybe it was a little easier to hide them back then — before shit went south. No one heard about the Branch Davidians until the compound was raided. No one really heard about Heaven’s Gate until they found all the bodies. Then you’d start hearing the whole history of the cult. Whereas now I think it’s harder to hide that stuff because of the Internet. Now if there’s a cult, you hear about it on Facebook.
Does being in a cult appeal to you at all?
It appeals to me more than it used to. [Laughs] With everything else going on, you start to think, “Maybe those guys have the right idea.” I mean, who’s to say?
Like they got out while the getting was good?
Exactly. [Laughs] Maybe they knew something we didn’t know. Maybe they foresaw where we’re all headed right now.
The cult footage is incorporated in your new video the same way you’ll see stuff like that used in many videos — with the emphasis on the strangeness of it all — but then some of it, like the close-ups of the members smiling and talking, reveals the humanity and sadness of the situation. I found myself wondering about what these people were like before they joined Heaven’s Gate and how they ended up in this insane mass suicide scenario.
I totally understand what you’re saying, and that was definitely intended. The whole idea of killing yourself and believing that a comet is gonna come and pick you up afterwards — that part I don’t understand. But these people were not dumb. They were educated people — they all had money and businesses and stuff like that. And they all seemed to have a sense of humor about the whole thing, like, “I know it seems weird, but … ” They’d kind of joke about how weird it was.
I can’t understand how they could have that kind of healthy perspective, but still go through with the suicide.
That’s the million-dollar question as far as what actually happened. It’s inexplicable. When you hear them talk, they seem very rational. How they wanted to accomplish their goals and how it ended seems crazy, but their desire to escape seems kinda natural. There’s wars, there’s famine, there’s global warming — so they wanted to exit the planet. They were trying to find another habitable planet because our planet is dying. That’s a very sci-fi idea. I guess you just have to believe.
Heaven’s Gate was essentially a UFO cult. Do you think aliens exist?
I don’t see any proof of them, but I really want them to exist. I hope they do exist, and I hope in my lifetime there is contact. That would be amazing, but I haven’t seen any proof.
The Zig Zags mascot, Randy, commits a Heaven’s Gate-style suicide in the video. Is that you playing Randy?
Yeah, in the video it’s me. But it’s been a number of different people over the years, depending on the situation. Like if we’re playing a show and we decide that Randy is going to be onstage, then someone else is in the costume. In another video, we’ve got a little kid in the costume.
Randy is like your version of Iron Maiden’s Eddie.
Yeah — or Vic Rattlehead or … what’s the Motörhead guy? Snaggletooth. It’s funny to go through that game because Mötley Crüe had one that no one remembers.
But of all those, Eddie is the only one who comes out onstage like Randy does.
Right, like an actual guy in a monster suit. Ours is a very low-budget version of Eddie. [Laughs] It’s just a guy in jeans and a T-shirt with a mask on.
Why is he named Randy?
Because Randy was my babysitter when I was a kid growing up in this trailer park outside of Portland. He was this 16-year-old long-haired hesher dude that gave me a bunch of Def Leppard tapes when I was a kid. He was friends with all these older scumbag dudes who drove [Chevy] Novas, so when he was babysitting me, he was supposed to be watching me at the house, but instead some dude in a Nova shows up and we go hang out under a bridge and then some chicks show up. And I’m like six years old, running around, watching these dudes smoke weed. [Laughs] It was a very Over the Edge / River’s Edge kinda vibe. I don’t know what happened to Randy, but I’m guessing it didn’t end well for him. I hope it did, though.
ZIG ZAGS on TOUR
Dec. 1 — Dallas, TX @ Three Links w/ The Shrine, Dirty Fences
Dec. 2 — Austin, TX @ Good Vibrations Festival w/ Reigning Sound, Nobunny + more
Dec. 3 — Denver, CO @ Decemburger Festival w/ The Shrine, The Well