Nick Zammuto on how the music he makes with Zammuto is different from the Books
It looks like you're always working on some kind of do-it-yourself project and either building or inventing things. Is there anything that has fascinated you of late that you're teaching yourself how to make or a concept that has fired your imagination?
I haven't had much time to do anything except set up this record and rehearse the show. Actually, I guess I can say we've really been into screen printing. We make all our own merchandise here, so we got a four-screen, screen printing set up. So it's basically swivel arm with four different screens to put on there so you can layer four colors. It's a beautiful process, especially when it's working smoothly. Each print is different but different in a really spectacular way from the rest. So when people look at it, they can tell it's handmade but still you can make additions.
So what we did was to do a fundraiser for the project and the first 500 copies would be a special orange and black splattered vinyl and we hand printed the covers. So we just finished an edition of five hundred and it took most of last week. But it was really, really fun. I learned a lot from it and I'm really happy with the results. The cover is a picture of the zebra butt.
Just like your song.
Exactly. I was cautioned against using the title "Zebra Butt" by everybody. But I was like, "Trust me guys, Google "zebra butt" and you will change your minds. It works every time. Try it. Google "zebra butt" in Google images, it will change your life.
It seems as though you take a very hands on approach to everything in making your music and your home life at this point. When did that become very much a lifestyle, and why is that important to you?
It didn't really come out of idealism. It came out of, I guess, instinct. It's something my wife and I share. When Molly was pregnant with our first boy -- I have three sons now all under the age six which is an amazing thing -- she had this incredible nesting instinct. She said, "We've got to find a place." I happened to be on tour at the time. She was looking around the town we were living in, which was North Adams, Massachusetts, and not finding anything that was affordable or a place where we could grow anything, really.
So she started looking further afield and found this property on forsalebyowner.com. On the advertisement was a picture of a dilapidated shack, but next to it, it said "beautiful meadows, open mountain views." So I said, "Okay, I'll drive up and check it out." It was about a half hour outside of where we were originally looking and it was in the middle of the winter when we bought it, but she was so adamant that this was the place. I'm looking at her like, "I think you're crazy because this is just like a shake in the middle of a giant, arctic tundra." She said, "No, trust me, I dug underneath the snow and I found blueberries under there."
Sure enough, once the snow melted, man, it's paradise up here. Especially during the warmer months. Luckily there's a patch of land here that's really fertile, and Molly has an incredible green thumb, and she can grow anything up here. So everything came from that. [When we had] this space to expand into, we started getting a lot of ideas about how to use it, and become more self-sufficient. When the Books went on hiatus, it was kind of the perfect time for me to buy some power tools and learn how to build things. So that's mostly what I did in 2008 -- construct our house. Starting with the shack and adding on to it since then.
People look at it and say, "Oh, it's part of the back to nature movement," or whatever. But really that's not what it's like for us. It's a lot of hard work to live up here. It's not for everybody. My friends from the city come up here and they're exhilarated to be up here for four days and they say, "I couldn't do it. This is hard." But it's our place and we're really putting roots down now. Every time the season comes around, we know a lot more than we did the year before.
We don't have a lot of money so the idea of hiring a contractor to fix my plumbing or whatever -- no, I'll do it myself. Apart from it being a financial necessity, it's just really satisfying. Nothing scratches that primordial itch than creating the space that you live in. When you're framing a new space from scratch, and you realize a year later that this space didn't exist until you created it -- it's so deeply human.
Now two of my sons have been born in the building that we made ourselves. It just means a lot to have done it ourselves for that reason. I'm really glad we had the opportunity to do it and things came together in a way that allowed us to in terms of time and resources.
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