March 2010 and following four acclaimed studio albums and years of relentless touring ZP Theart departed power metal heroes DragonForce. September 2013 and his new band I Am I are playing in Ipswich. It's here that eGigs are able to grab some time with the South African born vocalist.
We find Theart in good spirits and as we sit down outside in the cool evening air it's clear that he is where he wants to be. Talking with Theart it's also clear that he wasn't in a good place when he decided to split from his former band. "I was so disillusioned by the whole industry at that point in time, and I didn't really know what I wanted to do" reminisces Theart. What he decided to do was to step away from the spotlight. I took a year out completely, and just cleared my head and went on holidays and stuff; just chilled out and sorted my head out."
When Theart was ready to return to his day job, he set about finding the right people to surround himself with. However it wasn't easy finding his new band mates, Theart explains "It was a brutal process. I went online and just searched websites and people. I scoured youtube and it was just a long winded process to find the right people. I got introduced to people by some people but it takes a while to actually know whether you've got the right person."
In fact even after the recording of the band's debut album 'Event Horizon' the line-up still underwent a number of changes. Some would see this as an issue, but not Theart "Every new band starts out like that, but unfortunately because of my history it started out in the lime light. When young bands get together, they jam and they fall out and by the time they actually release an album and start getting momentum the line up people see for the first time is the line up. But unfortunately in this case it wasn't that, but you have to carry on. Now we've got the perfect bunch."
Obviously though the focus so far on I Am I has been Theart's involvement. Given Theart's past, the line-up changes and even the name I Am I, some people perceive this to be nothing more than a solo project for the former DragonForce man. Theart however will have none of it, "No! It's our band. I organise stuff and all that but everyone gets a say. It's not a solo project otherwise it would have been called the ZP band or something like that. Some people say I Am I is pretty much the same thing, but it's not in the bigger picture of things." In fact Theart offers that the name came to him in a dream "when I woke up, the last echo in my mind was I Am I, but I don't know what exactly led up to that."
It's clear from talking with Theart that his most important find was that of guitarist Jacob Ziemba. "I was really lucky to come across Jacob; he plays the guitar the way I like the music to sound. He's an exceptionally talented guitarist, probably one of the best I've ever worked with. Me and him together, it's good, he writes great melodies and that is why it sounds like it does." And it was with Ziemba that he set about recording 'Event Horizon'. "It was done between me and Jacob as we were still busy putting a band together. He's the first guy I came across and we gelled straight away. We immediately started writing songs, 'Stay A While' was the first song we wrote, and that was within the first three days we met."
With 'Event Horizon' Theart set about distancing himself from his past, whilst staying true to the music that he loves. 'Event Horizon' was released last year and Theart has been delighted with the reaction. "I think it did exactly what it had to do. It had to tell people this is a completely brand new card game, new players, new deck of cards. So yeah, I think we hit the mark." Theart also took the unique decision to initially release the album exclusively on USB. "It was a unique step. It was just an advertising gimmick as I didn't have the cash to blow into big promotional scheme. So we went and let the media and press do it on our behalf, pretty much saying "this is weird" but everyone read and knew about it and because of that people know who we are."
When the record eventually received a physical release, that release came through Thearts own label ZeePeeTee LTD. It appears that this could be the way forward for I Am I and it doesn't sound like fans will have long to wait for a second I Am I album. "It's pretty much written. We've got a surprise coming up in the next month or so, there's loads of stuff happening. You have to keep the wheel turning, these days' peoples attentions span are so limited and thirty days is too much. You have to pepper their faces all the time just to keep their focus. The market is so flooded with bands it's really tough and you have to try and outdo everybody else."
Theart is passionate on the fact this I Am I is a live band, and since their inception the band have been no strangers to the stage. A headline tour, tours supporting the likes of Skid Row and a scattering of festival appearances have introduced the band to fans across the country. This Ipswich show is somewhat of a one off as the band keeps busy but more dates are sure to be incoming. "We are doing guerrilla warfare, we're just doing gigs everywhere at the minute. We did Bournemouth last weekend and we're doing a few shows here and there whilst we're keeping busy writing. We're working on a few loose dates in November and early next year there's some big things happening."
Theart is certainly no foreigner to performing, having done so all over the world with DragonForce. One show that has stood out for him this year was I Am I's Download Festival appearance. Recollecting Donington Theart says "We played the Red Bull stage and there wasn't any space for anymore to come in. People were bobbing around outside, it was fantastic. The vibe was really good, there were so many other bands to go watch and all these people turned up, it was great. We had a fun show."
Fun is a fitting word for an I Am I show as one moment during their performances in particular has proved to be a highlight for most concert goers. This is the moment that the band produce a lifting cover of John Farnham's 'You're The Voice'. "We like playing it and released it as a digital single in November last year. It's a really fun song and everyone knows it, everyone's forgotten that they know it. Everyone's faces light up and it's great, it's a great song to play. It's fun."
Having fallen out of love with this industry, it's great to see a man rediscover his love for performing and being in a band. If 'Event Horizon' is just the starting point for this band then they should go far. But Theart for one is under no illusion "Where do I see us in six months time? I don't know, I don't look ahead, everyday comes as it comes and you make the best of that day, tomorrow is another problem. Obviously you look into the big scheme of things to what you want to try and achieve as that's what makes your plans of today and what you work towards, but I just want to keep going. This industry is in such a f*cked up place these days. You don't really know, you can't see in the future anymore."
Asked for his final thoughts Theart offers simply this "We're a very young band and we've amassed so much. We've been a band for just over a year and its all down to the fans, so thanks first of all. Come check it out, this is a completely new deal. We have a lot of fun and so will you, so see you at the next show."