During punk rock’s renaissance in the 1990s, it was common for labels to release compilations featuring artists on their rosters. Epitaph Records’ series was called Punk-O-Rama, and their third installment included a fierce Seattle band called Zeke.
The group had already been around for six years and released two full-lengths when Punk-O-Rama III dropped in 1998. Zeke’s “Telepath Boy” dwarfed every other song on it with its fast, ugly, and greasy speed-rock. It’s not punk—it’s far too nihilistic and mean. Yes, it’s fast, simple, and short, but Zeke’s attitude isn’t like anything else from that era.
“When Epitaph was ready to offer up a pretty good chunk of change and put us out with some of their bands, we really didn’t know any better,” says guitarist/vocalist “Blind” Marky Felchtone. “We just thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is great! We made it!’ So we packed up the van and went on the road with a bunch of punk rock bands. Really, that [was] not who we were, and that’s not who we are at all. We never really fit in anywhere or with anything.”
Though Zeke have been the sore thumb on many bills, they prospered through the ’90s into the early ’00s—their high-octane rock played at unbridled speeds only got wilder with each new record. They released a few albums via Epitaph, followed by the steely masterpiece Death Alley on Aces and Eights Records in 2001, then landed on Relapse Records in 2004, where they released ’Til the Living End. After that—aside from a few one-off shows and splits—Zeke went silent for 13 years.
“We had a lot of personal stuff going on,” says Felchtone. “Everybody in the band did. I had a kid, and went to work as a carpenter during that time. I didn’t want to be out on the road, I wanted to be at home.”
Just as suddenly as they disappeared, Zeke are back. They’ve been touring the United States and Europe and have a new full-length out this fall called Hellbender. According to Felchtone, the decision to resurrect the band cemented when Relapse contacted them about doing another record. That, plus some encouragement from his daughter.
“I was hanging out with [her] in the truck one day and she said, ‘Why aren’t you doing all this?’ I said, ‘Well, your dad’s gotta make a living.’ And she said, ‘Why don’t you go back out on the road?’ If she’s saying go back on the road, maybe I should.”
Felchtone says he’s very excited to unleash Hellbender: “It’s definitely back to old-school Zeke, man. It’s just faster than hell, and it’s hard. I’m pretty proud of the record.”
And when it comes to fitting in with a particular scene, he isn’t stressing. “After the experience that I’ve had in the last three months, I’m not worried about it at all, man. I feel like we don’t have to fit in with anybody. We can be who we are, doing our own thing, and be integral on that level alone.”