“It’s important to stay ahead of the curve,” says keyboardist and pianist Zac Baird. Having worked with everyone from Edie Brickell to the Cure, he knows that an impressive resume isn’t the only key to staying competitive in today’s music industry. Zac regularly takes music courses to keep his skills sharp, even enrolling in a few Ableton Live classes with Berklee Online.
Zac began playing the piano when he was only seven years old. He credits his childhood piano teacher with fostering his creativity early on, teaching Zac his favorite Beatles songs in between scale exercises. He went on to graduate from a prestigious arts high school in Dallas, Texas where he gained access to electronic music equipment allowing him to grow his interests and skill set. By the time he reached his early 20s, Zac moved to LA to try his hand in the music business. He credits his knowledge of computers and early adoption of programs like Reason and Pro Tools during live shows as the factors that gave him his competitive edge. Today, Zac tours with KoRn but also takes all of the auditions that he can. Working as a professional musician, he’s learned how to be versatile, molding his sound to fit each individual artist. Artists like Everlast require organic keyboard sounds while playing with KoRn requires a lot of sampling, he explains. Additionally, Zac has done sound design for Evanescence and acted as Adam Lambert’s music director.
So what’s it like for a pianist and synth-obsessive raised on bands like A-ha, Depeche Mode, and Orchestral Maneuvers In the Dark to play in a guitar-driven metal band like KoRn? Zac says that his keyboards thicken KoRn’s sound, supporting the guitars and allowing the band to explore more electronic-based music. Before his KoRn audition, the band sent him some of their newest music. Zac was drawn to the creepy interludes in the songs, so he created his own sounds to fill them out. He brought these sounds to the audition and only 30 minutes after it concluded, KoRn offered him a job. Nine years later, Zac is still working with KoRn. Though he works mainly as a touring member of the band, he did contribute to KoRn’s 2007 untitled album produced by Atticus Ross. He has also worked on frontman Jonathan Davis’ solo projects.
Zac encourages aspiring professional musicians to learn everything they can about their instruments and equipment. “It’s about how you use it and the creativity inside the person,” he says. He also urges young musicians to finish college so that they can broaden their career options. “Being a musician is not an easy job,” he admits. But he’s also quick to note the amazing opportunities and collaborations that can arise in this field. Watch the video below to see Zac and KoRn invite Slipknot on stage in London for a cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage.”