Profile: Zack Hembree of TORO


Atlanta, Georgia based TORO self-released their debut EP, Departure, back in March and in case you missed it, today you can rectify that. If you count the heaviness of Anciients, the prog approach of Crack the Skye era Mastodon and the crushing weight of doom metal as some of your favorite things then this EP should be in your ears, pronto. If anymore persuasion is needed, Matt Bayles manned the mixing. The doom/prog/rock concoction this five piece has put together is nothing short of amazing for a debut and truthfully the sky’s the limit moving forward. We recently had the opportunity to ask Zack Hembree (vocals) our set of Profile questions, read on to see what he had to say.

Toro - Departure

How did you first get into playing music and have you achieved the level of success that you always hoped to achieve?
I was subjected to a constant bombardment of music since birth. My Dad was a gospel music performer. My Grandma and Great Grandfather on my Dad’s side of the family were blue grass and country musicians. My earliest memories are of people singing, playing piano, guitar, banjo etc..around my house. By the time I was 5 years old, my Dad was forcing me to perform with him at various churches and gospel concerts.
I have yet to achieve the level of success I have always hoped for, but TORO will!
What’s the most you have ever debased yourself to get your band onto a show, into a magazine or otherwise promoted, covered, debased and praised? If you don’t have a story please tell us any embarrassing story.
The first “rock” show I ever played was at a coffee shop called “Above Bookstore.” I was 14 and a nervous wreck. I had four originals and two cover songs for the set list. I got onstage and couldn’t remember anything about my four original songs, not the lyrics, not the riffs, nothing. I was forced to play the two cover songs three times each! The cover songs were Danzig – “Mother” and Type O Negative – “Burnt Flowers Fallen” and I absolutely butchered them! An embarrassing introduction to gigging to say the least. Haha.
What do you see as some of the great things happening in metal and what are some of the worst things happening inside the scene right now?
One thing I have noticed recently at metal gigs is the great turnout of younger people. That is always a refreshing sight. It’s what keeps the life’s blood of metal flowing. As far as negative aspects of the scene, it’s the flip side of the coin to my last sentence. More people need to go out and experience shows in a live setting. Watching clips online is fun and I do it myself, but nothing can substitute a live show.
It seems that now everyone has a passion for some cause and that those people are very open about displaying their passions. This is probably a very, very good (and progressive) thing socially. What are some of the most important issues (social/political/humorous/etc.) for you and how do you insert those issues into your music? (This question is especially appropriate for you since your music is quite an outlet for your physical and emotional pains).
I do think it’s a great thing for people to get behind causes as long as they are genuine with their stance. As far as issues we insert into TORO, I write lyrics in a way that can be deciphered in a variety of ways. I always know what they mean to me, but you can get any meaning you want to out of most of them. I don’t like to explain too much of what is behind the meaning of a song. I always felt that it should be up to the listener to decide.
What, or who, got you into metal and how old were you? How did your family take the news?
I think I was 11 or 12 when I got into metal. Right out of the gate it was Black Sabbath, Metallica, Slayer, Dio…the basics. Pablo (Davila – guitars), Adam (Mitchell – Guitars and vocals) and I grew up in the pre internet days, when MTV actually played lots of videos. I was basically attracted to any band that was “heavy” or that scared the hell out of me! My family was devastated at my interest (obsession) with metal. My Dad forbade me to buy, listen to, or watch anything that was metal. I had to hide my music collection from him. He would eventually always find it. He would burn or throw away entire CD collections, metal magazines, and posters. He sent me to Christian school because of metal music. I just wore my Slayer shirt underneath my uniform, hahaha. All that did was fuel my fire more to play heavy music. My Dad didn’t understand and I’m glad he didn’t, because if he did I may not have stuck with it this long.
What advice do you have for aspiring music critics and outlets out there? How can we all better serve the genre in the eyes of a hard-working musician?
That’s a tough one. I would just say to always stay open minded and to keep a watchful eye for young and hungry bands.
What’s your goal? You guys thinking world domination? Maybe saving a continent? Maybe invading one? Any interest in starting a cult? Do you guys have day jobs or hobbies you want to share? Whatever it is, please let us know.
With TORO we want to write, record, and perform songs that are not only of the metal genre but of a wide variety of sounds, styles, rhythms, and perspectives. Songs that WE love first and foremost. We put a lot of thought into making this a band that we could all appreciate. Our main goal now is to keep writing and playing out as much as possible. We give it everything we can in a live setting. I, for one, am never satisfied with a performance if I am not physically injured in some form or fashion.
When you’re not obsessing over your own material, what are some of your favorite albums to listen to currently? (Feel free to include non-metal)
I am listening to the brand new Suffocation album as we speak! Morbid Angel’s “Gateways to Annihilation” has been virtually living in my stereo for months. I’ve been listening to “Invisible Birth of Death” by Savagist a bit lately as well. That being said, metal is by far not even close to the only genre we are influenced by or appreciate. The styles of music that revolve within this band are so vast it would take far too long to dive into right now. We love MUSIC. Not just metal, but we love music.
Summarize your band in exactly one word. (Disclosure: If you include additional words, we will select our favorite for the final publication.)
Many thanks to Zack for his time!

Departure is available now on the band’s Bandcamp page. For more information on TORO visit their Facebook page.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s