The word "keytar" isn't often paired with "seductive," but don't tell that to Phoenix-based electro-rock trio Access Zero.
The band's music is hot-blooded and aggressive, not the brittle, dweeby synth-pop typically associated with the instrument. When the band performed live at Fetish Ball a couple of years ago at The Venue Scottsdale, the crowd — an assemblage likely taking the night off from S&M, World of Warcraft, and hacking into Bank of America's master files — couldn't decided whether to head-bang or freak-dance. Is it mere coincidence The Venue doesn't host concerts anymore?
I met keyboardist Scott Levy in a hostel basement in Rome in 2008, and we bonded over absinthe and an "agree to disagree" mentality about my love of heavy metal and his of electronic music. But when I listened to his band, I discovered that Access Zero didn't come off as a hard rock, electronic, or industrial band. Which isn't to say that the music is not heavy, the word that best describes Elias Lewter's lyrics and energetic vocals. Nearly two years later in the heart of Scottsdale, the crowd lost it: A woman in a dominatrix outfit gyrated against her leash-linked date, and mohawked, eyeliner-wearing guys were skanking.
Access Zero's fans are a diverse bunch — spanning Pokemon nerds to skinheads — for a number of reasons. The band's stage presence is electrifying, the band's records display influences like Phaser Kontrol, Heliosphere, and NIN, and the lyrics' technologically minded slant reflects Lewter's day job in software engineering.
"Our tastes in music are all over the map," says Lewter. "And I think that results in an interesting mix of ideas and elements in our songs."
Access Zero's first album, Living in Transition, is a techno-charged playlist for parties where latex- and mask-bedecked patrons relax at the bar sipping cocktails while watching others experiment with whips, chains, and hook suspensions in every nook and cranny of the body.
"Some of our songs bridge the gap between industrial and pop, which can be a very cool thing, because it helps introduce more people to our genre of music," Levy says.
"These Things They Fell Apart" is a whimsical build-up of energy that could've been on the soundtrack of the 1996 film Romeo + Juliet — romantic and poignant, but with an edge of raw brutality. "Lost Among the Reign" is a sexual, forward-charging anthem with Marilyn Manson-esque vocals and driving synth riffs.
What's remarkable is that the trio even finds time to get together as Access Zero: Lewter was a founding member of respected electro/industrial act Dubok and also lends his talents as a drummer to Pressure:Penetration and plays keyboards for Manda and the Marbles. The band's drummer, Nick P., is a member of Sang Rael, and keyboardist Steve Laskarides has created music that's been on MTV's Made and is one of the founding members of The Azoic, a band with tracks featured on Dance Dance Revolution UltraMix3. Levy replaced the original fourth member, Yana, right before Access Zero went on a West Coast tour in 2011, and he does double duty with electro/industrial act The Strand, as do Lewter and Laskarides.
However, to local alt-electronic and industrial hardcore fans, Access Zero is a musical "brand"; they love the band but what its members (individually and together) have contributed to the local scene as a whole. And since they relish working on their own time, I can only imagine that their second album (currently in the works) will be just as blood-pumping as their first — reassured by Levy when he says: "It's going to be an exciting year for Access Zero."