The third track from our new EP is called Zodiak. Our bassist Kenny already had the title and most of the tune when I first met him. I don’t think he had the Zodiac Killer in mind at the time, but with that title the song couldn’t have been about anything else.
The Zodiac Killer is part of popular culture now, the subject of films and books and podcasts and rock songs. That’s primarily because he was never caught, so we never got to discover the banality of his evil. In today’s era of true-crime podcasts there’s plenty of speculation over who he was and how he got away with it (the police work wasn’t exemplary and may have ruled out the most likely suspect), but it’s likely to remain an open case.
It’s hard to write about this stuff without falling into clichÃ© or tired “edginess”: for example one of my favourite bands, Therapy?, once sang “I know how Jeffrey Dahmer feels / lonely / lonely”, which is pretty teenage. I tried not to do that.
What I ended up with was more of a colour piece. I read a lot of the killer’s letters and was struck by the language in them (eg: “Wouldn’t none of them be missed”) as well as their tone. The killer, most likely a deeply inadequate man, clearly believed he was smarter than the newspapers, smarter than the police, smarter than the public â€“ but at the same time I think he wanted them to decode his code, to give him an out, to stop him because he couldn’t stop himself.
They didn’t stop him, but something did. Whether he killed five people (the official count) or 37 (his claim), there were no reported Zodiac killings after 1969. Jail? Death? Recovery from multiple personality disorder? There are lots of theories, but nobody knows the answer.
Did I get it right, or have I fallen into the heavy metal clichÃ©? That’s for you to decide. But I really love this song, not least because Kenny’s bassline is phenomenal and I get to pretend I’m in Led Zeppelin for much of it. It’s one of our favourite songs to play live. I am not usually the sort of person who says something rocks, but Zodiak rocks.