Paramore drummer Zac Farro was playing on the world’s stages at an age when most of us were trying to figure out what middle school was all about. Now, at the ripe old age of 30, he has toured the world, paused his music career, taught himself photography and music video making, restarted his music career, produced records, built studios in L.A. and Nashville, rejoined Paramore, and continued to make records for his band, HalfNoise, as well as other artists, all while learning along the way.
What gave you the recording bug?
I was a freshman when I dropped out and we started touring. We started doing showcases at the Viper Room when I was 12 or 13. I always loved being in the studio; this intriguing other side of being a musician. I was mainly a live musician and had started at my worship team on the drums. But I got Logic for Christmas when I was 18. I’d been dabbling in GarageBand and found it fun to mess with synths. I loved sampling, so I’d sample a snare and a kick in order to create and build beats. I was into more of the electronic side. My first thing wasn’t to set up a drum kit and record it. I wanted to program one. Logic was user-friendly, whereas Pro Tools felt so daunting and “pro studio” at that point. I never planned on being a producer or getting into recording. Then, from Paramore and HalfNoise, my other project, not touring a lot, I realized I loved to stay busy and working with people. I’m such an extrovert, so producing was a cool thing for me. The only thing that was getting in the way was that I was not super-confident in it. “I don’t know how to record well. I’m not good at this.” I learned that the knowledge that I had, which was working on my own and self-discovery, was a lot cooler than YouTubing or going to college.
Yeah, of course.
I went my own way. It took me years to learn, like it was all out of phase the entire time. That’s what got me into it. I’m into my fourth record this year that I’ve produced. That’s what takes up most of my time now, which is crazy.
Your productions have a unique approach and sound. It’s very different than Paramore’s big guitars and drum sounds.
Well, yeah. It’s a big band. It matches that sound. That’s what that band has morphed into. I was talking to Hayley [Williams, Paramore’s vocalist, keyboardist] yesterday about it. We never set out to be a certain thing. It just turned out to be that way. A lot of our musical influences are evolving and changing. What I love about both HalfNoise and Paramore, is that Paramore lets me have that one outlet of a big rock band; touring and everything. Then the downtime is my freedom and time to explore creatively. That’s what HalfNoise has come out of. I just released a dub-inspired EP, Zafari. I like to incorporate what I’m inspired by at that time. I get the privilege to do that within HalfNoise, because I also have a big band that I get to be a part of as well. I feel very fortunate. That’s why my own music has changed. I took a six-year break from touring with Paramore. I stopped when I was 20 because all seven of my teenage years were on the road. I felt the train was not gonna stop. I didn’t want to tour; I wanted to see what regular life was like, and see if it was for me. It turns out that it absolutely wasn’t. I do not know what I would do without music. I was fortunate to rekindle things with Hayley and Taylor [York, guitar] and join back up with them on After Laughter. I was just intending to play drums on it, but then they invited me back in the band, which was really cool. It’s a healing process of rekindling friendships. Taylor is a big gear nut. When we were making After Laughter, he started getting into vintage synths and recording gear. He lived on Reverb.com for a while. I learned a lot from him. I started recording my own music by myself, producing myself, and collecting some gear. I had a bunch of HalfNoise music previously that I’d worked on with friends and producers; but this latest HalfNoise record, Natural Disguise, I did everything besides mixing. While I was doing that, my friend, Becca Mancari, heard what I was making, and she asked me to produce her record that came out on Captured Tracks, The Greatest Part....