With over 30 years experience on stage and in studio; Z has spent the last 20+ years performing live with 70s retro touring act, Disco Inferno. They perform over 150 shows a year all over the continental USA.
The first question I always hear from people I meet is… “What does “Z” stand for?” I tell them that “Z” is my professional name and that’s how I want to be known. Actually, I was born Zeljko Cenin in Zagreb, Croatia. My parents in their pursuit of the American Dream immigrated to the United States when I was 6 months old. My name was promptly changed to Zelko because they felt it was easier
My parents were not musicians but both of my father’s brothers were multi-talented musicians. I grew up listening and seeing live music as long as I can remember.
While most others claim the Beatles inspired them on the Ed Sullivan show; for me it was KISS on the Paul Lynde Show. To me, Rock n Roll was cool and should be visual as much as sounding good. Music was slowly taking over my life as I entered my teens. I loved sports but while I was playing little league; I was trying to figure out Bonham’s intro to “Rock n Roll” in my head. Next, I took formal lessons for the next 4 years. Learned to read music, learned all the rudiments, learned Jazz, learned Latin, and best of all… Learned Rock and Roll.
In order to bash drums in my house; formal training was necessary. My first teacher at a young age, Jim Murphy (pictured with me) taught me rudiments and basic beats. I still own those lesson books to this day and enjoy revisiting them. From there I went to Bob McKee (jazz drummer and house band for Mike Douglass Show) to study drumset. Soon after in High School I studied with John Stebal (owner of Stebal Drums) where I learned progressive rock and transcribing drum parts. I was fortunate to be recommended by John to teach at the same music store where my lessons began 10 years earlier. I taught there for five years.
At the blossoming age of 13 (seen here), I was in my first band and the highlight of that year was performing to a standing ovation at the school talent show and later that summer; an outdoor community festival. A bug that never went away bit me, performing for an audience.
By high school, I chose Marching Band over football and baseball. Those years had me performing as lead snare in marching band and pep band, drum set in jazz band, and at 16 was playing for money in local bars with my first real band. To this day, I appreciate my parents for never discouraging me from this passion. My father even saved money to buy my first “real” drum set… a 5 piece Ludwig Vistalite kit with Paiste 2002 cymbals. I was John Bonham whenever I heard the crack from my snare drum. Soon after, I saved money and added more drums and cymbals to this kit.
As I entered college, I worked three nights a week in bar bands, came back to my high school alma mater as a drum line instructor and toured the country during the summer in a 30 piece orchestra. That large ensemble taught me to read all types of percussion music and play with dynamics. It was an invaluable musical experience. We traveled everywhere on a charter bus from upper Minnesota to Washington D.C.
During my college years, I performed in countless rock bands and earned enough money to buy my own dream drum set. This was a double bass Yamaha Custom Tour kit in bright yellow finish. All deep shells
Due to networking I landed an audition in 1999 with Perfect World Entertainment and have been part of their musical family ever since. Since then, I have performed in every major U.S. city and formed enduring friendships with other performers from this company.
What’s next? Inspiration from some of my band mates that also perform for the same organization. These are the most talented musicians I ever worked with or met and they do the same act as me but in different markets. Ray Luzier is now with Korn, Jeff Scott Soto is with TSO and sang with Journey, Ryan Hoyle is now with Collective Soul, and the list goes on. Believe me, if the opportunity presents itself again… I will grab it by the balls!