BoomBox (Zion Rock Godchaux) is returning to Cincinnati for a show at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley on February 3rd. The uniquely talented multi-instrumentalist has been busy since last coming through Cincinnati–he’s been breaking in new bandmate DJ Harry for the past year and has a new album “Western Voodoo” ready for a 2018 release. BoomBox effectively captures his recognizable live sound–a house-y muted funk groove–in Western Voodoo, with an added bluesy element that Zion calls “dirty disco blues.”
The first single from Western Voodoo was “Right Around 2,” which was released in 2017 and was a collaboration with his mother and former Grateful Dead vocalist Donna Jean Godchaux, who was married to the late Keith Godchaux, Zion’s father and ‘70s Grateful Dead keyboardist. The second single “Restless Too” dropped just before the start of the Western Voodoo Tour kickoff this week in Charlottesville.
CincyMusic chatted with Zion before he brings his funk-house-disco-blues back to the Queen City.
It's been a couple years since you've been in the Cincinnati area–how has your sound progressed since then with the addition of DJ Harry?
The best way I could describe it would be to say the older songs have come into a sharper level of focus and definition. There also a bunch of new material making it into the sets. Other than that, I’d say it’s BoomBox as usual.
What was it like collaborating with your mom on last June's single "Right Around 2"? Was it difficult to navigate between a son-to-mother relationship and an artist-to-artist one?
The right around 2 collaborations with my mom was as easy and natural as could be. The lyrics actually tell the story of how the song came to be in a literal sense. It paints the picture of that night when she was woken by the bassline coming from the track I was working on. Instead of protesting my late night sonic adventures, she opted to walk up to the studio, which is adjacent to her house, and lay her own vocal track over what I was working on. From her bedroom, she could hear the bassline coming from the studio up the hill. It gave her a melodic idea that, regardless of the fact that it was 2 am, she had to contribute. She didn’t want to forget the melody. So, she came up and we cut it then and there. Like it was no big deal. She is definitely something else.
The Grateful Dead legacy has had a bit of a resurgence lately with the Fare Thee Well shows, documentaries, Dead and Company, etc. Plus there was a lot of re-hashing of the famed Barton Hall '77 show for its 40th anniversary of which your parents were a big part. You have a unique history with the Dead–what kind of emotions come out when you see the Grateful Dead sort of re-emerge in pop culture?
What blows me away is the amount of magic that comes through on the live recordings. It’s like an aftertaste, but it’s strong enough to turn on new fans and provide a glimpse into where all that was really at. And showing the world today where the Grateful Dead and their fans were at back then is kind of like trying to explain a dream that took place on another planet.
Your next album "Western Voodoo" is out in 2018 and I'm assuming we'll be hearing some of those songs in Cincinnati. What's it like to play a song live for the first time? Do you ever get curious and look out in the crowd to see how it registers on people's faces?
Playing a new song live is like having an imaginary friend be transformed into a real person. And then taking that person to the hippest party in town and they end up being the life of the party.