Woodstock at Last: An Interview with Dopapod Drummer Scotty Zwang

In anticipation of their upcoming show on November 14 at Bearsville Theater in Woodstock, Dopapod’s drummer Scotty Zwang took some time to chat with NYS Music about summer tour highlights, Woodstock, and pranking Papadosio.

This weekend’s stop is part of the progressive groove quartet’s extensive fall and winter tour with soul-funk quintet, the Nth Power. The tour follows an action packed summer, with appearances at Bonnaroo, Mountain Jam, Red Rocks, Peach Fest, Electric Forest, Disc Jam, High Sierra and more. Dopapod refuses to stay within the boundaries of one distinct sound. Show-goers will get a taste of prog rock, synthesized keys, and even some country inspired songs, all that have aided in their ever growing and loyal fan base.

Tickets are available for $18 through Ticketmaster, or at the Bearsville Theater box office. Doors at 8, show at 9. Other upcoming dates include:

Nov 14 – Woodstock, NY – Bearsville Theater
Nov 18 – Buffalo, NY – Tralf Music Hall
Nov 20 – Brooklyn, NY – The Hall at MP
Nov 21 – Philadelphia, PA – Theatre of Living Art

Click here full a list of scheduled stops on their Fall/Winter Tour.

Erin Clary: Even though you’re touring, do you ever get a chance to go to shows yourself? And if so, who do you go see?

Scotty Zwang: Yes. That can range. I mean I’ve been off for about ten days since the last show. The day after I got home on Halloween I went to see Ben Folds with yMusic which was really awesome. All things can vary. I try to go to as many shows especially bands that really influence me and bands I don’t necessarily get to see all the time. I like to go see friends, like the Disco Biscuits are playing in New York the day after New Year’s so I am going to go see them after seeing Phish. I try to go to as many shows, not necessarily just jam band ones, but different ones as often as I can, not as often as I would like. Frankly, by the time I get home from tour sometimes the last thing I want to do is go see live music.

EC: It’s been a year since your last album release, do you have another one in the making or are you focusing on touring and improvisation?

SZ: We’ve been focusing a lot on touring for the last year since the album (Never Odd or Even) came out and yeah, usually in general we’re pretty busy with touring. We are actually planning on taking a good chunk of time off in the beginning of the year to finish songs that we’ve been working on on the road and also to write some songs from scratch so that hopefully by next year at some point, or maybe beginning of the following year, we will have an album finished. But we are going to take some time off first and see where that all goes and hopefully take some time to get in the studio shortly after that.

EC: Dopapod crosses a range of musical styles, some are sort of hard, others are a little twangy, others sound more like video games. What is your personal favorite?

SZ: I guess I really do love the darker and proggier kind of stuff. Although the video gamey kind of stuff when Eli synthesizes the sound I think is the more quirkier writing that the band does. I do enjoy all of that. And even some of the twangy… I mean we have a song that is pretty much country, bluegrass, more of an up-tempo kind of feel. As a drummer, I do have to say some of the proggier stuff, when I play correctly on stage, I do feel very good about myself like I’ve accomplished something. Even though we wrote the songs, sometimes I do end up still messing things up live. When something is that challenging it’s definitely rewarding and I still feel good about being able to pull that off live. I would like to say it’s done correctly every time, but sometimes people do mess up. I know Neil Peart from Rush said that anytime he played a song like “YYZ” or “Tom Sawyer,” he wrote it and spent a lot of time focusing on difficult drum parts, and he still gets that excitement when he actually pulls it off live and I would say the same goes for me.

Dopapod, Mountain Jam, 2015

EC: You guys have had some pretty interesting profile pictures on Facebook recently. Who is the creative genius behind those graphics?

SZ: They’re usually fan based. We have a fan page created by fans on Facebook. It’s our top fans around the country or wherever else and they call themselves “Dopafam.” There’s usually some weird stuff that goes around in there (laughs) and every once in a while there is a picture that is just gold. The one you’re talking about is Chuck in his underwear riding a razor scooter on the rainbow road from Mario Cart. That was created by a fan and I’m not even sure exactly who did it. We have some super creative fans I guess because sometimes they strike gold. If anyone in the band likes it, (it’s) usually Chuck and not just because he happens to be in this photo, but usually he will put it up. Chuck has kind of realized throughout the year – well we all have – that people don’t necessarily want to see or have the time and patience to watch a video, or read a long, thought out and touching thing.  They just want to see pictures of whatever. Chuck always says that when he goes on Facebook if he doesn’t see a picture of a dog within 10 seconds then he just signs off.

EC: Was that picture from Jam on the River in Philly?

SZ: (laughs) So yeah, there was a bet that happened with Papadosio that was betting Chuck to go out on stage and ride the razor scooter in his underwear. I kind of pushed him to do it because I think those things are funny and that is what people will remember…

EC: Oh I remember it quite clearly!

SZ: I kind of pushed him to do it and I kind of had this thought of how funny this with be if this was an ongoing prank with Papadosio because we play so many festivals with them and they truly are some of our best friends. So at High Sierra, once again I egged Rob, our guitarist to do it and he went out in his underwear on the razor scooter. It was just hilarious and no one expected it. It kind of opened up a whole can of worms since I kept making people do it, I had to do it myself. So I finally did it at The Werk Out. We’ve all done it except for Eli but at this point I don’t want Papadosio to think that every time we play together that one of us is going to appear on stage in his underwear, so I’m not sure that trend is still alive.

EC: Do they ever prank you guys?

SZ: They tried to prank us at the same festival when I did it but because they had to get out of there and go to another show they didn’t have enough time. So it was passed onto the Werks and Dino, their bassist, came out in his underwear wearing…I got this poop mask, it’s a mask that looks like the emoji of the pile of poop with a smiley face. It’s essentially that exact thing. So he came out in his underwear wearing the mask because no one had a razor scooter I guess.

EC: “Nerds” from Never Odd or Even – what’s the story behind this? Are you guys mocking someone in the very beginning?

SZ: No…well kind of. It was Chuck’s idea when we were in the studio and we had a lot of empty space and build up before the lyrics kicked in, which aren’t really a lot of lyrics it’s just “no words.” But it was kind of a nod to Frank Zappa because in…I forget which song, maybe it was “Catholic Girl,” he kind of does a ‘Valley Girl’ impersonation, kind of making fun of people in the California area that he is from. Chuck just thought it would be funny. We came up with this song and originally the band just had a lot of instrumentals. Jam bands are kind of known for not having the best voices at times. We were kind of just mocking the same kind of valley girl and if she was at a jam band show, and all these songs are long and they don’t have any words. So Chuck, after we recorded all the instrumentals and everything was done, we just had a night at the studio where maybe we drank a little too much or something, and he went in there and gave it his all.

EC: I saw you a few times this summer at Disc Jam, and at Mountain Jam where you played two sets, one was on that outdoor main stage. Isn’t it huge?!

SZ: It was the biggest stage I think we’ve ever played on. I am trying to think back because we did have some big performances this summer, but I do remember getting to Mountain Jam and thinking, “this is definitely the biggest stage this band has ever performed on. It’s just massive.”

EC: Massive! I’ve been going there a lot of years and it’s just gotten bigger and bigger. I’ve seen you guys on plenty of regular sized stages so to see you on something like this was really impressive!

SZ: Thank you! It’s funny because that stage next to it is a pretty nice stage and you could have a regular production on it, but it is just dwarfed by how big that main stage is.

EC: What was your favorite festival this summer? You guys really went after it.

SZ: Yeah there were a lot of them. They start pretty early. Obviously we do have random festivals that go into the fall or destination ones in the winter, or musical festival in the end of February or beginning of march this year. So they just go all year long now. Summer Camp is a real great one as far as “real festival” season in summertime, its kind of the first weekend. Bonnaroo was a dream ours and the biggest audience we’ve ever played for. It was broadcasted over the Internet for RedBull.com and we were interviewed by Sal Masekela, who I’ve been watching as the host for the X Games since back in the day when I was a little kid and loved flinging myself off of stairs and other things, whether it was a bike or skateboard or whatever. It was just a really crazy experience to just look and someone is powdering his face and asking us if we want water, and actions like que cards in order to sync with the video. So that was definitely one of the most mind blowing experiences of the summer. There was just so many great ones. I mentioned The Werk Out is a lot of fun. High Sierra in California is great. It has a really nice family vibe and is one of those festivals that has survived two decades. It’s a festival that is almost as old as all of us in the band. It’s really cool to be a part of stuff like that.

EC: Now that the season has changed in the Northeast, it’s time to go inside. What are you looking forward to and what can we expect from your show at the Bearsville Theater in Woodstock on Saturday.

SZ: It’s our first time playing in Woodstock. Although my family has a house in West Saugerties, it’s actually on the same road as the house where The Band lived, ‘Big Pink.’ So I have a lot of experience in Woodstock and when I joined the band we actually went up to my family’s house and did videos of songs like “Nerds” and “Picture in Picture” for the first time. That was all shot in Woodstock. So really excited. I’ve actually never seen a show at “the bears,” and my family really loves it there. They’re excited that we’re finally there, we get to have dinner next door at the café. It’s going to be a great time. It’s got such a great vibe, especially with music and especially this time of year, it’s just very beautiful.

EC: Will your family and friends be coming to the show?

SZ: Oh yeah, I know I have my brother-in-law, my sister, my mom and dad, in-laws and my girlfriend, everyone is coming up. It’s going to be quite the weekend. I hope I don’t disappoint them.

EC: Looking forward to it!

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