Iranian-born vocalist, Ali Tabatabaee, tells SHANE PINNEGAR that getting a new guitarist on board led to Zebrahead’s new album Call Your Friends being their heaviest yet.
Zebrahead’s 10th album in 17 years, Call Your Friends, features new lead guitarist, Dan Palmer, replacing founder member Greg Bergdorf, and sounds like a non-stop frat party in spite of vocalist, Ali Tabatabaee, turning 40 earlier this year.
“You know what?” he says, a mock serious tone in his voice, “it’s just sad because if you were to hang out with us you would be so shocked to see how immature we are.”
Tabatabaee laughs before continuing, “it’s just kind of who we are, and I think hangin’ out together in this band for so long, we just try to make each other laugh and have a good time. Honestly dude, we’re just stoked to be able to play music for a living, and travel and see all these great places – and we don’t take that for granted.
“Fortunately we’re all brothers and we like to hang out together, so it’s a very cool thing we’ve got going, and I think that comes through in the music.”
The singer may have a life less ordinary, but he’s well aware of having to balance the business side of being in a successful band, not to mention newly entering his 40s.
“The thing is,” he says, “being in a band and touring, you’re around so many young people all the time that you do forget that you’re fuckin’ 40 years old! Every once in a while I do have to remind myself that I am 40, but I guess you are as old as you feel and when you’re touring or playing music, I still feel like I’m in my 20s. It’s crazy man, I never thought I’d be doing it this long!”
Despite the humour of the band, Tabatabaee insists he’s still grounded by his connection to his Iranian family’s culture.
“I have a pretty big family,” he explains. “As far as the culture thing goes, we still celebrate the Persian New Year and other different occasions. I speak Farsi like my grandmother does, which is good. I’m Iranian, so it’s part of who I am, I don’t think that’s going to change.”
Tabatabaee’s family emigrated from Iran to La Habra, in Orange County, California, when the singer was six years old, and says he was lucky to have not been on the receiving end of much racial prejudice.
“There was just my sister and myself, so there were literally no Iranians there,” he recalls. “We moved onto a street where everyone knew each other, it was a really close community. I didn’t speak English at all for the first couple of years, but I remember one of my neighbours’ older kid, a really big dude – he was like, a football player – for some reason he kinda took a liking to my sister and I, and he introduced us to everybody and kinda looked out for us and made sure nobody really messed with us. Through him people became cool with us – so I think we moved into a really lucky situation.
“I haven’t personally had too much discrimination against me, so fortunately that hasn’t been something that I’ve experienced – but I’m sure there are places where that does happen.”