Interview: Zero Trust's BJ Allen on Creating an EP in a Pandemic, Spreading Love and Unity with Music, and More


(Photo credit: Samuel Orrego)

Today, I’m pleased to bring you a very exciting new band from the New Jersey/New York area.

Zero Trust are a five-piece band that describe themselves as “experimental hardcore.” To give you some background, each highly talented member carries some pretty strong roots behind them from being in countless legendary bands - the lineup consists of members of bands like Bulldoze, Agents of Man, Skarhead, Homicidal, Coheed and Cambria, Full Scale Riot, and more. That’s certainly quite the list!

With all those varied experiences in mind, Zero Trust combines those influences to make something awesome and multifaceted. Their debut two-song release, featuring “Birch” and “Get It,” stands out as one of the most unique things I’ve heard in heavy music this year. BJ’s strong vocal capabilities help him carry his message with equal parts melody and aggression. Those messages range from criticism of the powerful systems in place that try to keep citizens down, to the calls of unity he responds to those citizens with. The band definitely leans on the more metallic side, with the two former Bulldoze guitarists showing off their skills with riffs that are as dextrous and impressive as they are memorable. The end product is an interesting sound that shows individuality, while also having the capabilities to reel in all sorts of metal hardcore listeners from across the board.

Vocalist BJ Allen and I discussed a myriad of topics, including collaborating an EP apart from his band in a pandemic, systemic corruption and the need to speak on it, the future of shows, and the need to spread more unity and love in a world like ours. It was a pleasure speaking with him, and I hope you enjoy reading the interview!

AA: Introduce yourself with your name and what you do in Zero Trust.

BA: Hello! My name’s BJ Allen, I am the singer for Zero Trust.

AA: Who played your first hardcore show? What impact did that have on keeping you involved in hardcore?

BA: That’s a great question! It was Outburst, at a club called The Anthrax in Connecticut. I was hooked from day one. The energy and everything that was involved with the scene, I was like, “Oh. Oh. I get this.” And, you know, hardcore was way more integrated than [something like] metal, so it just felt better.

Courtesy of - my best guess

AA: You’ve all been in many different well-appreciated bands over the years. How did you guys come together and decide to form this project?

 BA: Evan [Rossiter, drums] and I were in a band prior called Full Scale Riot, and Travis [Stever, bass] and I have been friends for a long time. He moved back to Nyack, NY, which was great, so we were hanging out, and… Our kids go to the same jiu jitsu school, so we’d all be hanging out, and we’d all geek out on music. Evan and Travis were like, “We need a place to do things, we need a place to just go and create,” and that's how our studio was formed. Basically, the place was founded, they moved in, and we all just started getting there. We were working on all sorts of stuff. 

Evan and I, prior to that, had started a project with Mike [Milewski, guitar] and Zach [Thorne, guitar]. So, we started this project together and had a few songs, but we didn't have a bass player, and Travis was like, “Man, I really dig these. I'd love to play bass,” and we were like, “Absolutely, get it on the books, let's do this,” and that's pretty much how it was born. We all became pretty fast friends throughout that. I've known Zach and Mike for many, many years, and we had always wanted to do something together, and luckily, the stars aligned, and this is what happened.

AA: For sure. Did you set out to stick to any kind of influences or genre, or was it more just a decision to say, “okay, let’s make something together”?

BA: Not really! That’s what one of the fun things about this is, we just decided that we wanted to make what sounded good to us, regardless of how it happens. We really wanted to just make good sounding tunes, and so, obviously, with our background, it was gonna be heavy and hard-influenced, but we weren't gonna throw any ideas off the table unless they were just horrible.

AA: To my understanding, this EP was written during quarantine apart from one another, correct?

BA: Yeah, a good portion of it. We started before quarantine happened, and things were moving along pretty well, we could all be in the same room, and… You know, it had a different vibe. Then, the very last day that we were all in the same room together is the day everybody found out that Tom Hanks had Covid. And, as silly as it may sound, it was like - “holy shit, Tom Hanks has it?”

AA: Oh, that’s not silly! I think everyone had that moment where it was like…  “Oh! A person I know of got it. It could happen to anyone. Okay.”

BA: Yeah! Like, it made it really real. Not that it wasn’t real before, but like… This is the beginning of it, and we were still all hanging out, going out, and doing whatever we wanted, so then we had to understand the grasp of it… But finding out that America's actor had it, we were like, “oh shit.” That was the last time we were in a room with each other [as a band]. It stayed stagnant for about two months, until me, Evan, and Travis got together on Travis's block and stayed 6 feet apart from each other, brought our own beers, sat down and were like, “Let’s do as much as we can digital, and then when things get back to normal, we can do that.”

 Luckily, we were able to do that, Zach and Mike were able to send tracks back and forth, and we were able to hash out ideas - so, when we finally decided we were going to “pod” together, we had all of this material to take from, all of this stuff that we just started to put together, and really focus on,  once we decided that it was okay to hang out with each other. [laughs]

AA: You said electronically - what did that look like, sending riffs back and forth and doing what you could that way?

BA: Yeeeah. So, it started off slowly, because... Um… Not all of us are super tech savvy. [laughs] So, that took some getting used to, and everybody getting programs and all of that shit - and once we all got the hang of it, we started rolling with it. It helped, it changed it, because you could sit down with [ideas] for a little while longer. It's not, like, you hashing it out with a bunch of guys in the room, so you could think about things a little longer, and that might’ve crafted a bit of the sound as well. But yeah, a lot of the initial portion of this was done [via] sending files back and forth, “What do you think of this,” “Let’s change that,” and, you know…  That’s how we began. Now, it’s like, we can all get in the room together, and we’ve been in the room together for several months now, so things are a little different. It’s nice, because I like to work off of feedback and so does everybody else, so when you’ve got us all in the room, it’s a good vibe.

AA: For sure. I would imagine that’s especially new for you, since you guys do have that background of being in so many different bands, you know, it’s like… you’re probably used to a more collaborative experience, and then it’s like, “alright, what does the computer have to do with this?” [laughs]

BA: [laughs] Exactly. This is all new to all of us. Like, [I’ve been] having to do Zoom meetings for my kids’ school, and that’s just, like… “Ahh, this pandemic has just fucked up everything.” [laughs]

AA: Yeaaah, exactly. I mean, I’m pretty tech savvy, but I’ve tried to avoid Zoom meetings as much as possible, because there’s just something that still feels a little weird about them? Which is why I was like, “Okay, let me just get on the phone with you.” [laughs]

BJ: [laughs] Yeah, yeah. It’s super dystopian, like, “Okay, guess this is the future now, I guess this is how we communicate!”

AA: Sitting in your house with pajama pants on, trying to look nice from above that… [laughs]

BJ: [laughs] exactly! Exactly.

BJ and Evan with their previous band, Full Scale Riot - photo credit to Steven J. Messina

AA: How did it feel to get together and finally play the songs together once recording started?

BA: It's better. Don't get me wrong, I was happy we were even able to just create however we were creating digitally, but there’s something about being in a room and getting the instant feedback, getting the vibe. That’s something that, as of yet, you can’t create with sending files back and forth. I mean, I'm sure they’re working on it, because… Who knows what the future brings?  [laughs]

AA: What are some important lyrical themes you tapped into while writing?

BA: We’ve got a whole bunch of songs for the full length. And as I'm looking at each one of them thematically, the general gist of it is... Love each other, don't be a dick, what someone else is doing, unless it directly affects you, is none of your business - just kind of, like… Get along. We’re all moving along this spaceship however long we are on it, you know? [laughs] Let’s just not be an asshole while we’re here. 

And that seems to be the general theme - that and, you know, systemic corruption, racism, sexism, all the -isms. I’m not really too sure how the future’s gonna look either. I guess this is how the band’s name evolved. I don't really have much trust in our institutions anymore, and it’s obvious that they’re not for individuals, they’re for massive corporations and the wealthy. That's a damn shame, because it's the people who do the work. It’s the people who are playing the taxes, and doing all the things that help infrastructure. But there’s lots of rich people who don’t want to give up… Their share, I guess. That’s also something I talk about. No matter what color you are, unless you’re a billionaire or a millionaire, you’re fucked. [laughs] you know? Like, we’re all in the same boat. Figure that out. 

And that’s probably why it’s so easy to divide people, you know? Like, you divide the people, and then you can do whatever you want to them. Sell them on a bill of, “That person shouldn’t be doing as well as you should be doing. Why is he doing better?” to create envy, and then it’s an easy person to control. That's a part of the themes that we’re exploring as well.

AA: Yeah. In the last year, especially, there’s definitely been a lot to work off of in those scopes, so… I think a lot of the music that’s coming out now is very anti-establishment, maybe more aware versus, like, “my band is all tough guys, and we’re gonna beat your ass!” [laughs] not that there’s anything wrong with that! It has its place.

BA: [laughs] Yeah, yeah! And I’m certainly not opposed to writing about that, but with all the shit we’ve got going on right now, it's like, you know, I look at it this way… I’ve got limited time on this earth. I want my kids to be able to say, “Hey, my dad at least focused on this shit. Stuff is still going on, sure there’s the… water wars that we’re all dealing with now, and I'm having to fight for clean air all day, but… at least my dad spoke about something when he was younger.” You know? [laughs] So…

AA: What made you guys want to do a two-song release, as opposed to an EP or something similar to that?

BA: Well, right now, there's not a lot of bands playing, and we figured, instead of releasing a whole big amount of stuff, let’s give a taste, and then, hopefully, when things start rolling around, we can play some shows and start releasing the other material. And luckily, it’s starting to look like that’s a thing that’s happening. It’s like, whether you like it or not, that Madball show was... beautiful. It was just such a beautiful thing to see. And luckily, nobody got injured from that, so with that being said, this is where the future is going - maybe we can get back to that, you know? And that’s what I hope. We’ll see.

AA: Yeah! We will. I saw a lot of dystopian takes on the internet through all of Covid where people were like, “Shows are never gonna be the same! They’re gonna be, like, $30! Bands aren’t gonna do tours anymore!” and I was like, “well, that sounds terrible.” [laughs] and, you know, now there’s a new show announcement every week that’s $10, standard fare, local bands, so that turned out to not be true! Guess we’re back! [laughs]

BA: Exactly, exactly! And whether you’re into that or not, I mean…. At least we have the idea that things are going to be safe. You know?

AA: Exactly. It’s the hope I think a lot of people needed. 

BA: Right, right.

AA: Do you guys have any plans to put out more music or play shows as a band in the future?

BA: Yes. The short answer is yes for both of those, but we have a full length that should be coming out. We’re just finishing up the details on that now. I’m looking forward to seeing the reaction from people with our live shows. Now, all of the members are currently in other projects as well, but we do thoroughly intend on treating this as a band that will go out and do shows with its full members as much as possible. There may be times where we can get a cool show where one of two of us might not be able to make it - we’ve got plenty of talented friends that would be able to fill the bill - but, for the most part, Zero Trust is a band that hopefully will be playing a bunch of shows, and will be able to bring that energy. And then, with that, maybe the full length will have a lot of push behind it.

AA: Any loose ideas when the full length is coming out?

BA: I would say it’s on the way. I have some loose ideas, but me and having to do anything with remembering shit is a very [laughs] … Big problem. So, I know there’s timeframes, but without me looking at a piece of paper or something in front of me with actual words telling me what things are, I don’t remember. It’s on the way!

AA: Any last words you want to share?

BA: Basically, when the full length comes out, thematically, it’s just … There’s not enough love, for lack of a better way of putting it. So, let’s hope we get to encourage more love with what we’re working on. We all look forward to playing shows, and I really appreciate you taking the time out to give us an interview. 

AA: Yeah! I really appreciate you being available, thank you.

BA: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. We want to talk to as many people as possible, spread the word, and hopefully, you know, gain some new interest amongst a whole new, different crowd of people, who are just interested in good music and... Not being an asshole. [laughs]

AA: Exactly! We need more of that. We need more discussion of minding your own business, and loving other people, and less…. I don’t know. Hardcore internet drama. [laughs]

BA: Yeah! [laughs] Enough of the internet drama. Let’s get these shows back, and let’s get back to the fun of hardcore.

I truly enjoyed hearing BJ’s perspective on things and appreciate him talking to me! I can’t wait to hear the LP when it comes out. If you want to keep up with Zero Trust, you can do so at the links below:

Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | Merch

Keep an eye out for their LP sometime this year, and listen to “Birch” and “Get It” below!


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