Over the past several years, many people who have gone to see Vince Neil in concert have left the show saying the same thing: “Can you believe that drummer?”
That drummer’s name is Zoltan Chaney. Originally hailing from southern Ohio, he joined Neil’s band in 2007, and ever since, he has been making a name for himself with his high-flying, electrifying style. As Neil rips through Motley Crue’s biggest hits — along with a handful of newer songs from his Tattoos & Tequila album — Chaney can be found behind the drums, keeping the rhythm with reckless abandon.
His technique is unorthodox, like a mix between Keith Moon and a Tasmanian Devil, yet his talent is respected by the the musical community, and he is adored by fans who go to concerts to simultaneously hear exceptional music and be entertained.
No. My first “ear” towards drums in general was being at a live parade and hearing the marching percussion line blocks away listening and feeling them getting closer with anticipation.
The next actual phase for being a drummer with a drum kit would be seeing Animal on The Muppet Show and Buddy Rich as a guest on that show doing a drum battle.
Musically, the greatest influence has been top 40 mainstream pop radio along with a mix of hard rock. I like to hear great songs and drumming to them in a studio or live situation is where I feel most purposeful in life. Being in the moment, recording history or sharing that emotion in a live situation of how a song moves you is a true outlet of expression I am thankful to have.
You joined Vince Neil’s band in 2007. How did that come about? Was there an audition process, or had he seen or heard you play previously?
Vince had never heard of me. His current guitarist and I played in a cover band at one time for a brief period and he always enjoyed how I played and the show that I put on. At that time, their drummer was leaving so I got a call from him, and he asked if this would be something I was interested in doing. I bought my round-trip ticket across the country and was the first guy they tried out. After going through rehearsals with just the band, they brought Vince in and he stood about 12 feet in front of me and watched 3 songs. At the end of the third song he said, “Are you ready to have some fun?”
At that time, I hadn’t been playing drums for years and was a janitor for a commercial cleaning service. I had no previous track record of any notable band, artists, discographies or accomplishments that opened the door to that opportunity.
When you got the invite to join Vince Neil’s band, how did you break the news to the cleaning service? Did they try to talk you out of leaving?
No. I was upfront on the invite for the audition and possibility of my leaving if I got the position. The actual tour dates didn’t start for about a month after I was hired, so I turned in my notice and finished out the mission and helped train a new hire for my replacement.
How has your drumming style evolved over the years?
No changes really. Just get up and go for it and let the chocolates melt where they may!! For me, it’s all about your attitude and desire that you put behind your passion that impacts, influences, and inspires all witnesses. If it’s genuine, then it’s undeniable. What you show up for… will show up!
What is your most memorable concert experience? Have you played at any particularly awe-inspiring venues, or in front of any exceptionally raucous crowds?
Both. The most inspiring place was Sun Life Stadium in Miami and thus far the most fanatic witnesses would definitely be in South America. They are aggressively passionate for living “in the moment” with live music and in ways a little sketchy in the realm of security. It’s a mix of making you feel life is fragile, so celebrate and express how you feel no matter what the cost, be heard. There is a different value of despair and no limit to what is permissible, yet you know that you are more alive than you’ve maybe felt in while. They give back what you give and are excited to see a concert. It’s the same vibe if you tune in to watch a soccer game with everyone chanting and rowdy…. it’s bananas.
What’s your favorite song to perform live?
With Vince, “Dr. Feelgood.”
Have you ever gotten injured on stage?
Nothing major. Smashing fingers and knuckles, stick hit to the eye, a few gashes and open wounds but nothing out of the norm. Just rock drumming 101.
What is your current drum kit setup?
The setup I use has two bass drums, one rack tom and one floor tom. As for actual gear, it varies with different brands and sizes as the artists I play with do fly dates and not bus tours. Bus touring allows you to carry you own gear, giving you the same comforts and setup at every show. Fly dates are whatever a backline company brings me to play, I have to make work. There may be requests for my preferences made in advance, but that doesn’t mean when I show up that’s what is delivered.
The show must go on regardless of what I am given; the buyer who bought the show and the audience who bought a ticket don’t care about what did not go on. They paid to see a show and to see you do your best so I have to be able to adapt and make it happen regardless if I may not be set up for success. When the lights come on, it doesn’t matter what you went through to get there or what you got to do to get through the night, it’s about delivering what you contracted to show up for, do work!
When playing on someone else’s equipment at one of those fly dates, do you play a little less recklessly? Or are you allowed to smash a cymbal or two if the mood strikes you?
This is the number one reason I don’t like doing fly dates, because I am under the microscope with gear owned by a vendor. I don’t have much planned when I take the stage and that for me is the beauty of playing music as the platform of expression it allows you share. We play a lot of the same places each year, so once you go back to a place and they witnessed from the first show they did with you they get and idea for the next time of what to expect. That doesn’t mean they are okay with my aggressive style, but they are okay with taking the money for providing the gear.
Backline companies make a very nice profit of renting the same piece of gear out to multiple shows over the course of months and years. There are a lot of times these companies don’t honor the contract by bringing gear that is less than pro.
I love what I do. I love sharing my passion and gift with the band on stage and then the crowd getting inspired, so this is why I do this. On the other side is travelling 3,000-6,000 miles to play one show and then arriving for our setup and soundcheck only to find cheap drums, hardware, and not the proper cymbals for a rock show. It’s a hurdle to conquer for the entire day. You showed up to give it your best but you weren’t set up for success, neither sonically nor durability-wise. Drumming is very physical and all of the components necessary to do a proper show matter.
So back to your question, “yes” I am allowed to do whatever I want just as much as the next guy. Everything is permissible — but not beneficial — for business or the artists I play for. Nor my own career. At the end of the day, I have to make it happen for all the parties involved and if that’s means hold back — much to my disliking — then so shall it be!
Are there any drummers out there now who inspire you?
My two top drummers of all time would be Alex Van Halen and Dave Grohl. I have much respect for Travis Barker on how he has been able to play with so many artists, DJs and bands in staying current and relative in marketing himself as a brand. It’s always refreshing to see someone become successful and have longevity in the music business, which is very hard to do.
What is Chozen?
The word chosen means “not common” or “set apart.” There are seven billion people on earth, and no one has your fingerprints. So it is a reminder of how unique and custom made we are. The spelling of it with a “Z” reflects its definition… not common.
When you’re not touring, what does a typical day for you consist of?
Rest! Eat and refuel with good foods and water. I always try to do some physical activity at least four times a week and that usually is jogging and basketball. I also like to ride motocross which is a great all around fitness sport though getting to ride is rare. No schedule here, just whatever the day is offering and to keep in motion.