Metal loves a great story – An inside look at Sean Zatorsky and Gergő Hájer’s Vented

In the first weeks of 2022, word got out that Gergő Hájer, guitarist for Budapest’s Omega Diatribe, started another band in which several important players from the New Wave of American Heavy Metal have been involved. The new band is called Vented and was originally going to include legendary drummer Joey Jordison (Slipknot, Sinsaenum, Vimic etc.) before his untimely death last summer. The lineup eventually grew to consist of vocalist Sean Zatorsky (Dååth, Sinsaenum, Chimaira) and drummer Austin D’Amond (DevilDriver, Chimaira, Bleed the Sky) with Simon Bondar (Sexual Education) providing samples. In advance of the group’s debut record Cruelty and Corruption coming out later this year, lead single Requiem for Myself was released in June.

Back in May, Zatorsky made a trip to Budapest to take part in the band’s first music video shoot, which is when we sat down with him and Hájer to gain some insight into the beginnings of Vented, the album itself and the band’s future plans. Lasting more than 70 minutes, the conversation eventually covered pretty much all of the two musicians’ various other projects and the inner workings of the music industry. We also tried to find out what metal is in the first place. See all of the rather in-depth interview below.

Let’s start with the band name. Not its meaning as it is pretty straightforward but rather the similarity. Corey Taylor’s son announced his band called Vended and then here’s this other project in which Joey was involved called Vented. That’s bound to cause some confusion.

Sean: Lately I’ve been doing a lot of music marketing, [watching] interviews and just trying to kinda dive in and learn stuff and one conclusion I came to is that metal loves a story. The more the story, the better you’ll do. Dave Mustaine fires his whole band–that’s a story. People talk shit about that behind the scenes. I think it’s great [that the names are so similar]. If anything, it may sway people in another direction and maybe accidentally click on a link so… They don’t mean the same thing, the logos don’t look the same and the music doesn’t sound the same.

So you’re not losing sleep over it?

Sean: Not one bit. I actually spoke to Monte [Conner, famous A&R rep of Roadrunner and later Nuclear Blast], I sent him the name of the band and he was like ‘did you know that Corey’s son has a band?’ and I basically told him the same story and he was like ‘awesome.’ Labels would see that from behind the scenes and say ‘that could either be a positive or a negative’ but there’s not really a way it could go bad. You can’t be sued over that. As far as I know, I’ve had the name before he did. And they mean two different things: Vended means you’re making a monetary transaction. Like buying a soda at a vending machine–I fucking hate that.

Yeah, Vented is more relatable. It doesn’t make you think of a product.

Gergő: The other reason why we really wanted to stick with this name is that we figured it out with Joey and Sean and it means a lot to us [as far as] keeping the legacy of Joey.

Sean: As I said, having a history and having a story for people to talk about makes a huge difference. We kinda go way back–Joey and I talking about the band and coming up with the logo.

Let’s go back to the very beginnings of Vented. Gergő reached out to you for you to do vocals on a song for his solo project, then one thing led to another and there’s this new band. Then you brought in the other guys. Is there more to this story?

Sean: We did one song, I sent it back to him and it was fucking killer. Then I said ‘hey man, do you wanna do another song?’ so we did another one. Then he reached out to me and said ‘you wanna do another one?’ and I said ‘dude, let’s do another one!’ So I immediately turned it around–I mean, we’re talking less than 24 hours to get the songs done. Each one. After the third song we started talking [about how] we should do an album, and the rest is history. Then we started piecing it together–we wrote 16 or 17 songs over the course of a month.

Just the two of you?

Sean: Just the two of us. Nobody else actually contributed to the writing process. It was all him, then I just laid down the vocals, and then we just brought in people to fill in the gaps. We were originally going to do it without a drummer, then I asked Joey to do it and he agreed to do it. I brought him on board and we started talking about a name ‘cause we didn’t have one. We were going to do the Audionerve thing but Joey kept saying ‘it sounds like Audioslave’ so we went away from that. Of course we jumped to another band name that sounds exactly like another band name! [laughter] I was trying to get Joey to get on at least two or three songs so I was sending him stuff. He’s like ‘I love the music.’ We’re talking about getting him engineers or whatever we need to pay, then obviously he passes… So we kinda sat on it for a minute. We asked my buddy Simon who I do tons of electronic music with to do samples, he agreed and he did an amazing job. Then the time came to do drums. I started reaching out to a few people, I reached out to Ernie Iniguez who’s in Suicide Silence now. He really wanted to do it but he was too busy. He went out on tour with Whitechapel. He said he can’t do it until maybe January [and I was like] I can’t wait that long. I’ve known Austin for a long time, we go back to the Chimaira days. I hit him up around September, I said ‘hey man, do you wanna do some drums?’ – ‘I’d fucking love to!’

Gergő: And man, what the fuck is up with Austin’s drumming? He completely changed the songs. When I received Austin’s drums I had to retrack the guitars. Come on, man, those fucking drum fills! So I think Austin is also part of the writing process.

Sean: After everything is said and done, we literally dissected the band and had to rebuild it with new drums. He had to record every single guitar track again.

Gergő: 17 songs, double tracked and with lead tracks. My wife fucking hates me! But let’s be honest, it was absolutely worth it. By the way Austin also tried to keep Joey’s vibe.

Sean: Yeah, that’s the whole thing! I told him Joey was originally gonna do the drums and he said it kinda inspired him to reach to the depths of his soul and heart. He definitely pulled from the vibe of the first Slipknot album.

Gergő: Vitriolic is like a hidden track from the first Slipknot album! That was the first tune you sent to Joey, right?

Sean: Yeah, it was. When I named that song, I was like ‘that even sounds like a Slipknot title,’ The scariest thing is, I really wanted to release it before Slipknot releases their new album ‘cause I’m having a feeling there’s gonna be a song called Vitriolic on it. And then I’m gonna get blamed for stealing Slipknot song titles. [laughter] ‘I swear I had it fiiirst!’

Did Joey get around to actually writing drum parts?

Sean: He would have ‘cause I sent him stuff and he said he was having all these ideas that I wanna lay down. He kinda wanted to do his own thing but we would just use the drum tracks [Gergő] wrote. I mean, that’s how it goes these days. It’s easier, especially when you’re working digitally across the ocean. Right now, in Dååth, we’re doing a similar thing. Our new drummer said ‘it’s easier if you send me the drums kinda complete so I have an idea of what you’re looking for, and then I can do my own thing.’

You’ve been doing promotion for Vented for months now, at least here in Hungary. Are you doing a lot of press internationally too?

Sean: We’re kinda playing it cool and not doing anything because nobody knows who we are. There’s no rush as to when to release it. It’s important to take the right steps in the right order. There’s a lot of music marketing bullshit I’ve been doing for Dååth. I’ve been doing zoom calls with these dudes who are music marketing majors, just taking in as much as I can, sucking it all in like a sponge, learning how to grow a band in 2022–it’s actually all Spotify. That’s what every single label is looking for. No one cares about Apple Music or iTunes or Pandora or Deezer. [We’re] utilizing that with content and release schedules and getting on playlists. I came here to shoot a video, we have a lyric video, we’ll do some playthrough videos. You don’t wanna just drop a song week after week after week. You wanna bait people to want more and crave the content. As for promotion, we haven’t done much but when we [eventually] do everything, I have a bunch of friends at all of the metal websites so I’ll just [go] ‘can you post this?’.

Gergő: The lyric video is for the first single and we’re going to shoot an image music video.

Is it just the two of you in the video?

Sean: We will Simon and Austin in the video, and a bass player too. But I find that it’s easier when you have vocals and guitars [at one place], you can do more side shots and front shots. And when you cut to the drums, no one will even know the difference if the drummer wasn’t there.

So Austin isn’t even here.

Sean: Nah, there was no way, he’s so busy. He’s gonna shoot his parts in his studio with a similar background.

Gergő: The main idea is that we’re going to shoot our scenes here in a black box because it’s easier to reproduce in Los Angeles where Austin lives. He’s going to shoot his scenes in a black box and we’ll edit it together.

Who’s the bassist in the video?

Gergő: My good buddy Tomi [Höflinger] from Omega Diatribe. He’s going to play on my bass. He’s a guitar player but the basslines are all [mirroring the] guitar playing anyways.

So have you had the chance to meet up in a room and jam or rehearse with Austin?

Gergő: Not at all. We’re contacting on WhatsApp, doing conferences.

Sean: It’s so rare, I can’t even remember the last time I’ve practiced in a room with a band. The only reason why we did with Sinsaenum was because we had to tour so we practiced for like a week. We all met up–we never met before in our lives, we practiced for a week and went on a tour.

So you’re not gonna do that until you have a tour lined up?

Gergő: Yeah, this is how it goes in 2022.

Have you had a tour offer or anything so far?

Gergő: I can’t say anything because it depends on so many things. I can say that we would like to tour.

Let’s move onto the album–which is fully completed, mixed and mastered, right?

Gergő: Yeah, since January. With a booklet and everything.

Last I heard you’ve been negotiating with various record labels. Have you signed with anybody yet?

Sean: Not yet.

What’s the greatest thing about this record? What makes it stand out from this oversaturated scene?

Sean: It definitely has a unique vibe to it because it takes back to the earlier roots of the New Wave of American Heavy Metal which isn’t really around anymore, I mean everything is fucking deathcore.

Gergő: It’s pretty weird to hear that I wrote a classic American heavy metal record as a Hungarian.

Sean: I guess it’s one of those things where you write the music you like listening to. You listen to Machine Head, you listen to Meshuggah, to Dååth, Chimaira…

It’s easy for him ‘cause he’s stuck in like 2004. [laughter]

Sean: [The record is] very emotional, and it’s also very fucking heavy.

Gergő: [The way] this motherfucker sings is so killer. He’s a killing machine. Right now I feel like I’ve been waiting for him in my whole life. Out of this world. The screams, the clean singing, it’s absolutely right. And it’s been the happiest period of my life. I always send the demos to Sean at 10pm when I go to bed, and when I get up in the morning, he’s like ‘I’ve finished it, check this out!’ So I’m taking the train to my workplace and I’m like ‘I can’t believe this guy and his vocal lines.’

Sean: It was very rare that we had revisions to do vocally. Sometimes the song would be just perfect the first time.

Sean, this is the second time you’ve been in an international band with a Hungarian key member. Have you noticed anything different about Hungarian people when compared to American or Western EU musicians?

Sean: There’s a lot of passion and blood, sweat and tears that go into the music. It feels more real. In America, there’s a lot of artificial shit out there, people are not sincere. I find a lot of sincerity in Hungarian–and just European writing in general. It feels more natural, it doesn’t feel forced.

When it comes to songwriting, which one is you: the ‘sit down and concentrate’ kinda guy or the ‘always thinking about something in the back of the bus’ guy?

Sean: I’m neither. I have to have things to inspire me. A lot of this record was just shit that was happening in my life. And weirdly enough, as it came out, a lot of it seemed to hit hard about Joey. It’s weird how I was almost predicting it happening. It’s crazy. Like Vigil, for instance, fucking blew my mind. The song basically is about Joey, even though it wasn’t, but now it is. I watch this show Manifest and it really blew my mind so I wrote a song about that. When I write, I just black out sometimes and I don’t remember writing any of it. I don’t even remember recording any of it. It’s like I went to a different place.

Gergő, as a songwriter, how do you distinguish between your bands? When you sit down to write riffs, do you approach it with a mindset of ‘I’m gonna write a Vented song’ or an Omega Diatribe song?

Gergő: Definitely, because it depends on whether I’m picking up a six-string or a seven-string. If it’s a six-string, it’s always–now it’s for Vented and before that it was for Audionerve. It’s kinda the same vibe for me because the first Audionerve record with Andres was kinda the same vibe that we’re doing now with Vented.

Jamey Jasta once said something to the effect of when he’s writing songs, the determining factor is whatever tuning the guitar he picks up is in. Like drop C songs go to Hatebreed, songs in A become Kingdom of Sorrow etc.

Gergő: It’s almost the same for me. If I pick up a six-string, my mind is immediately [set up for that] and I come up with totally different riffs than on a seven-string. If I pick up a seven-string, it’s immediately for Omega Diatribe.

Sean: This guy’s tone is another reason why I fell in love with the music. It’s unbelievable.

What’s up in the Omega Diatribe camp right now? The latest album is turning 2 in a few months–are you still in full-on touring mode or are you already prepping the follow-up? Can you even write while you’re touring? Are you the ‘sit down to write’ kinda player or are you just humming riffs everywhere all the time?

Gergő: I’m writing constantly, almost every day. I’ve got thousands of riffs and parts laying around so we always try and pick out the best ones and put those together into a new single, or an EP, or a full record. I just need to do it because if I’ve got something on my mind that I need to vent about, or if I’m having a shitty day or I’m depressed, this is the only thing that helps. Sitting down and writing riffs. So there’s a lot of riffs. But since this year is the band’s 10th anniversary, we’re looking to have a little surprise out in the fall which is going to be a new song with a music video. We might also rework a song off Iapetus with Milan [Lucsányi on vocals], fully rerecorded and reimagined. You might have an idea which song. [Molecular Torsion] It’s a classic and we miss playing it and it’s important to me to bring it back and recapture that vibe.

So I suppose that’s it for this year. Or is there anything else in sight?

Gergő: We’re booked throughout the whole year. We had a 5-date tour in the spring which was pretty short for us. We’re doing 5 festival dates in the summer, and we’ve got over 20 dates for the fall. We’ve got a longer European run with dates in Spain, France and Portugal, I think it’s 16 days in a row. And we also have some Hungarian dates here and there. So right now we’re preparing for that and we also want to work out a brand new setlist for that, which is another reason why we’ve been rather quiet.

Sean, you said there’s gonna be a third Sinsaenum album dedicated to the memory of Joey. How is that coming along?

Sean: The album’s basically written. In 2020, we had written a fuckload of songs. I even did a song called Patient Zero which is amazing but I don’t think we’re gonna use that song. A lot of the stuff we wrote is more black metal than anything this time around. There’s some fucking heavy riffs. The vocals and the lyrics need to be finished. Sinsaenum is a project where everybody writes [lyrics]. Everybody has influences and everybody has an idea of what it should sound like so it’s kinda nice because I never step on my own toes and rewrite the same line. I typically go in, freestyle all the vocal parts and then we just fill in the blanks. We had a few options for drummers–I don’t know if I can say anything about the drummer but we do have a new guy who knows the stuff well.

Did Joey have any input on the Sinsaenum record as far as drum parts?

Sean: Of course. You know, Fred wrote all the drum parts as most guitar players do–again, the same concept [I was talking about earlier]. Joey actually did more input to Repulsion than for Echoes because Echoes had been written for a long time. Some of those riffs Fred wrote in ‘98. Like Kings of… whatever it’s called, I don’t even know my own songs, damn it… But on the second album, Joey had a lot of input, that’s why it’s different. The second one sounds more Slipknot-y, Joey-y.

And the new one?

Sean: The new one is all over the place. I don’t even know how to describe it. It just sounds like Sinsaenum. I just gotta figure out how to get Attila on it since he’s so busy with Mayhem. I don’t wanna do it without him. I told him ‘you have to be on this one again, even if it’s just a couple of songs’.

Could you see Sinsaneum going further after this one or is it going to be just this one final thing for Joey?

Sean: I guess it depends on what kind of response it gets. To see what people think, whether they lose interest or regain interest. I guess the metrics will tell. Maybe we’ll do something later down the road but I don’t really know. I’ve got so much shit going on musically, it’s pretty insane. Actively, I’m in like 10 bands right now. All different styles of music. Dååth is coming back, so I’ve been writing a lot of Dååth stuff.

That’s something we haven’t really even heard about yet.

Sean: It’s interesting because Eyal is the sound of Dååth but the other guys–we’re just in our own worlds. We wanna do it and Eyal has a lot of connections and right now he’s using that Spotify release radar algorithm where we have all these people play parts on the album so they put it in their release radar and then all their fans see it. We’ve got some pretty big names contributing guitars. We’ve also got a new drummer ‘cause Kevin [Talley] has kids now and he’s doing a roofing job and it’s tough getting people together as we age. But it gives people shit to talk about–how we move on after we don’t have the guitar player or the drummer who we’ve had before. It’s just a story, man, it’s shit to talk about, and then eventually people forget. Like Suicide Silence–people are like ‘Mitch who?’ You just move on and people accept it.

Or they keep bitching about it for 10 years.

Sean: And that’s great, because [whether it’s] negative or positive press, people are still going to come see it so they can talk shit about it, or they come because they like it. And then you turn on all the new fans and keep the brand going.

It seemed to work for Chimaira when Mark pretty much reorganized the band.

Sean: Same thing, literally! There was a lot of hate, of course but… I mean, dude, I’ve been obsessed with Chimaira my whole life. Now I can never listen to it again, unforunately. It kinda did that thing where once you’re in it… Don’t meet your idols, you know. But it’s more because I had to play all those songs every night so they lost all their lustre. Dead Inside is literally the perfect way to describe it. When we did that song on a Christmas show, I about literally shit myself, I could not believe it. It was always my favorite Chimaira song.

Gergő: Mine too. Pass Out of Existence is one of my top 10 records.

Was the situation in Chimaira really that bad towards the end? I mean, Mark’s a self proclaimed control freak and you guys all quit at the same time.

Sean: I have nothing negative to say about Mark. There were some money issues like most bands have. There’s a lot to be said about the other members as well. In order for a band to work, everybody has to be able to speak freely, and when you start letting shit get to you and start dwelling on that, you’ll never come back from it. Just like any job. Never look at the negativity of the job, because all you’ll ever do is focus on it. If you can stay positive, you’ll last forever, but as soon as you have that one negative thing, you start literally picking everything apart that you hate about it. The band definitely was cursed. We were robbed. There were so many issues when we were travelling to South America, so much fucked up shit kept happening. Getting robbed [in Mexico] was kinda the straw that broke the camel’s back because we all lost a ton of shit. I lost fucking everything–my passort, my wallet, cellphone, laptop, clothes, backpack–everything. I think [Chimaire] had just run its course and it was kinda falling apart at the seams. But Mark and I are still best friends, we talk all the time.

I’ve just seen the movie Metal Lords, I don’t know if you’ve seen it…

Sean: I’ve loved it! I talked to people who hated it, but I think they’re looking at it from the wrong mindset. To me, it brought this nostalgia ‘cause they weren’t just playing metal, they were playing Iron Maiden and Black Sabbath, shit that I grew up playing and wanting to be in a band the first time. I saw a lot of myself in the movie. I’m neither of those characters and I was never an asshole but you always have that one awkward person and that one control freak in a band. It’s always like that. It hit really close to home for me. It made me feel young again. I mean, yeah, generally the movie sucked, it was cheesy as fuck. The end where he breaks his leg? Come on!

The movie made big statements about what metal is, like ‘metal is commitment’, ‘metal is sacrifice’…

Sean: Yeah, it’s true!

…or ‘metal is calling your teacher a cunt.’

Sean: Nah, not that. But it’s commitment, it’s sacrifice, it’s being open and being able to express yourself without any reservation. Just be yourself, show your pain, show your aggression, but you also have to not be crazy. But you have to appear to be crazy, but not be crazy. And then the ones that are crazy–it usually never works out.

Gergő: For me, metal is everything. It’s the one thing that saves me from depression and anxiety I got from the past. Metal is the only thing I can express myself through without speaking any words. When I play metal, there’s so much more about it than I could say with words. It’s all about energy, about feelings, about conscience. It really does everything for me. It’s kind of a therapy for me. I have to push negative things into metal music which is heavy, dark and full of energy. I don’t play dark music because I’m a sad douchebag, I play dark music because I want to push bad energies into the music and get rid of them.

Metalsucks did a reader’s poll in which they determined that you have the greatest beard in metal history. Do you think that did a whole lot for your public profile? Do people even remember that or bring that up, like, ever?

Sean: The person who remembers it the most is Chris Kael from Five Finger Death Punch. He will never let it be known. Go to my Instagram, I have 3 or 4 photos with him where it’s always him and I comparing beards. He would come out to see Chimaira because he was a fan and he’d always be like ‘I should have won that’. But to me, the biggest, coolest thing from all of that was when I went head to head with Dimebag Darrell and the official Pantera facebook page was like ‘get out there, vote for Dime and help him beat this Sean Z. guy.’ What the fuck?! It blew my mind!

Have you thought about what if Vented really takes off and makes a breakthrough? Could you see it becoming your main band?

Sean: Of course! I’d say this is the music I’ve had the most creative freedom to write. So it’s kinda like my baby as well. And Austin feels the same way.

Gergő: Same for me. This is the music I’ve always wanted to do. These guys are masters of what they do. It’s kinda unbelievable that I’m part of this record with them. We created it from ground zero.

You also created Omega Diatribe from ground zero. Wouldn’t you feel bad that your first try didn’t work out so well?

Sean: That’s not how it works! You keep going. That’s why I’ve been in so many bands. It’s always about the next thing. When I don’t have shit to write or do, I get depressed. Last year I think I did 65 songs on vocals–that’s a lot, and I still have a shitload more I have to do. I think saying ‘your main band’ is an antiquated way of thinking. I don’t think that really exists anymore. You do something, you have a break, and then you do something else. You can only do so much, you gotta have a break at some point. You do an album cycle, then somebody else needs a tour, you do a tour. If there’s a conflicting tour, you have to pick and choose which is the better tour to do. But it’s rare that you have that happen because you work with a schedule. ‘Yeah I can’t do those dates.’ ‘Ok, so we won’t look for anything on those dates.’ Everybody does it, it’s just the way you do shit now.

Are those 65 songs all your own bands or is it session stuff?

Sean: Yeah. I did 17 with [Vented]. With Sinsaenum we’ve done about 12 or 13. When I asked Austin to do drums, he said ‘I was gonna actually hit you up to do vocals for me.’ He has another project he’s been working on for 10 years and he said ‘will you do vocals?’ ‘If you do drums.’ So he did drums for us for free, and for them, I wrote 14 songs in 7 days. I have another band with Simon called Sexual Education which is kinda electronic [stuff] like Orgy, an 80’s, 90’s, 2000’s kinda vibe. Then I have the band Velositor which has 15 songs we wrote last year. So we’re close to 60 and that’s not even counting all the dumb shit for random guys like ‘Hey man, I’d love to have you on this song!’ ‘Sure.’

One last thing: what’s been your latest unexpected music discovery?

Sean: You see, the thing is… you get to that point where you’re stuck with the same 20 bands. I find that happens a lot. I mean, everything just sounds like deathcore these days so it’s tough to get into anything. What’s that band with Alex Terrible? I liked that one.

Slaughter to Prevail.

Sean: So that would be something I’d say is pretty cool. I don’t understand this Lorna Shore thing, I actually think it sounds stupid. I don’t mean to be that guy–I’ve been sounding like a pig my whole life, I mean, what are you gonna do in a metal song? Pig squeals, obviously. But actually sounding like a pig being slaughtered? I guess that’s what people want now. But it made me lose all respect for music and where it’s going. ‘What’s next? Farm animal noises!’ [Neighing and barking noises, laughter.]

Anything outside of metal?

Sean: I like a lot of hip-hop. I mean, I’m from Atlanta so it’s tough for me not to listen to hip-hop. But even hip-hop is going the way of ‘fuck, I hate all this music now.’ So I don’t know. I was turned onto Birds of Tokyo and they did an album called Brace. Everything else they’ve done is trash but Brace sounds like Tool. A heavier Tool meets Deftones.

Gergő: My latest discovery is Kublai Khan from Texas. It’s a fucking destroyer. I’m a huge fan. I’m in love with everything they release but I appreciate their earlier records more. 2013, that was the hardest fucking record. It’s a mix of hardcore and groove metal, and the singer sounds like a mexican dog.