What does the world’s most famous Hungarian-born rock star think of patriotism and his Hungarian blood? Why does he like if Hungarians chuck their weight about? Zoli Téglás is the singer of Ignite and was previously the soloist of Pennywise. He was also the singer of Guns N’ Roses for 3 minutes, but what did he feel when he met the singer of Kiss in Los Angeles, and how did it feel when he performed with Lemmy? And how can Hungarian bands get famous in the USA?
Origo.hu writes that Zoli Téglási has been the leader of the American band called Ignite for 23 years and they launched their newest album in January at one of the biggest rock music publishers. His father immigrated to the USA after WW II, his mother immigrated in the 1960s and his parents met there. Zoli was born in 1969 and he always spent his summer vacations at his grandparents’ house in Veresegyház.
His Hungarian being has always been important for him; he speaks and sings in Hungarian fluently, Ignite had worked with Hungarian songs more than once. After he visited the House of Terror a taxi driver asked him why to think about the past – this inspired him to get the holey Hungarian flag tattooed on his body with the words “Never forget”. He is all about the conservation of the environment, he saves pelicans stuck into fishing nets as an activist on the ocean; his lyrics are about politics, society and his Hungarian roots.
He sang on one of Pennywise’s records, did vocals with Lemmy on Motörhead’s Kiss of Death album, toured as the singer of The Misfits and Velvet Revolver (formed by former Guns N’ Roses members) who auditioned him when they were looking for a singer. He was also featured on several Hungarian bands’ albums. Since he grew up in Hollywood he had smaller movie roles and also made an appearance in Argo 2.
According to origo.hu, he moved to Veresegyháza not long ago into the house he inherited from his grandma. The band performs in Barba Negra Music Club on the 28th and 29th of January. Origo.hu managed to get in touch with him via a telephone interview.
Origo.hu: How famous is Ignite in America?
Z.T.: Hardcore is not really present in the USA; there aren’t too many people to perform for. They don’t listen to you pleasantly if you’re not playing country. But people love us in Canada.
Origo.hu: So you don’t get recognised on the street or in bars?
Z.T.: There are so many bands in America that, if you’re not a big celebrity, then you’re only an average musician. Of course, if you’re a country musician, that’s a different case.
Origo.hu: Many Hungarian bands try to make a career in America. Do you think that they have a chance?
Z.T.: They can only make a breakthrough if they do something very odd. Omega would’ve been able to make a breakthrough in the 70s, people would’ve loved them, and they could’ve gone on tours. When Scorpions was their warm up band at their Europe tour, Omega was much better than they were.
The problem with the Hungarian language is that the pronunciation is very different from English. In the beginning I sang badly in Hungarian. This is hard because people notice the Hungarian accent right away. This is why if you want to make a career in the USA as a band, don’t try to be American. Be different, like Rammstein, who are so German that people are crazy for them. Or even Scorpions: they sang in English but they stayed very German. Tankcsapda does this great: they don’t want to become American and still, there were many people at their concerts in the USA.
They really like it if people stay true to their identities. That’s why they love Japanese bands. The problem is that many Hungarians want to be anything but Hungarian. However, if you’re not honest, if you want to look or be like someone else, you won’t be successful in anything.
Origo.hu: In Hungary, for many people the definition of patriotism is equal to hatred and exclusion. Is this what you experience when you come home?
Z.T.: You have to be very careful when talking about patriotism. A lot of times I hear people speaking about Hungarian blood. What is Hungarian blood? This is a mixed nation. I don’t want to use my music for political pressure or hatred, Ignite’s patriotism is not about politics, it is about the what I feel. I went to Hungarian scout camps for 15 years in the USA, I love Hungarian folk songs and my American friends love when I sing in Hungarian just like they fancy System of a Down’s Armenian things.
Origo.hu: In your experience, in what direction have Hungarians changed during the last decades?
Z.T.: When I was a kid everybody beat me in Veresegyház because I had short hair and they thought that I came from a borstal. I couldn’t believe that someone would hit me without knowing me. When I get off the plane in Budapest the taxi driver wants to overcharge me. When I greet the workers of a gas station they just growl back at me. That’s when I feel I’m home. It’s strange, but it feels good. Hungarian people are complicated; you need time to get to understand them. Many people leave the country and many return. We somehow like this crossness.
Origo.hu: Not long ago you sued the companies that contaminate the lakes of Veresegyház. Do you think that you have a chance against these companies as a private individual in Hungary?
Z.T.: It was hard to fight for natural areas in America because we always lost lawsuits. But we realised that we can only win if we stick together. That is what’s missing in Hungary. They took five 100-year-old trees that I inherited from my grandpa and they wanted to cut them down. You can’t swim in the lakes because they are so contaminated. Veresegyház is very proud that it is a city, not a village anymore. My ‘Is This Progress?’ song is about this. Development is not chopping down trees, contaminated water and air. It was much better when Veresegyház was a village because people cared for the nature and did not profit from it. I’m very sad that people don’t stick together and don’t think about the future.
Origo.hu: Your new album, ‘A War Against You’, is less hardcore than your previous albums.
Z.T.: We are getting older and we returned to where we come from, the world of metal. I ran into Paul Stanley, the singer of Kiss, in a sushi bar in Los Angeles and he talked about how important performers like Chuck Berry are to him. When you write a song you cannot lie: if you are not honest with yourself your music will be crap. I come from the world of rock and roll and metal, I listened to Edda, Omega, Piramis. This is how the album turned out, I just wrote what I felt was right.
Origo.hu: How does it feel to meet rock stars?
Z.T.: I feel like a fanboy from Veresegyház. I’m just a lucky boy who can live his dreams. I am very thankful for the chances I get. Being on stage with the members of Guns N’ Roses, being the singer of Guns N’ Roses for three minutes, being in the studio with Lemmy, singing in Social Distortion and Pennywise – these are all unforgettable experiences. I live very close to everybody in Los Angeles and it is a privilege to even know musicians like Lemmy and Slash.
I come from a small village house and I accidentally fell into this metal world. Yesterday, as I was sitting on the tour bus, I looked out the window and gazed at the stars. It felt good. It is good that music became a part of my life.
Copy editor: bm