Q&A with Zach and his new track "WAR!"
" I love being able to be entrepreneurial at my own pace."
Packed with unstoppable energy, big band sounds, and a whole lot of attitude. The Debut single, "War!" introduces Zach Callison with a sprawling, epic chapter of an intense Hollywood love affair. Produced by Chase Ryan, Anthony Mazza, and Callison himself, the single is a dynamic fusion of sounds that incorporates inspirations from blues rock, theatrical storytelling, and fast-paced rap verse. The unapologetic revenge track introduces Juanita as the feuding lover of the protagonist, who despite his vengeful promise to outshine her music career, is still the object of his obsession. A big band symphony of horns rages beneath Callison's alchemical control of rhyme and diction, spitting lines alongside wild piano (played by Callison) and fuzzy electric guitar.
The Los Angeles-based musician, voice actor, and actor is known for his work as the voice of "Steven" on Cartoon Network's hit show Steven Universe, his on camera acting as villain Chuck for Amazon Studios' Just Add Magic as well as guest appearances on ABC's The Goldbergs and CBS's NCIS: Los Angeles. Music has always been a huge influence— as a kid he watched his father play rock music in the blues bars of St. Louis— an experience that lives on in the sounds he creates today. He's been featured on a number of soundtracks including the Emmy-winning Sofia the First and Steven Universe Soundtrack: Volume One, the latter of which hit the number one spot on the iTunes charts. No stranger to the stage, he's performed in massive musical theater productions at the St. Louis Muny Theater and cover bands throughout venues in Los Angeles, eventually shifting his focus to songwriting.
The sound born from his unique background is a surprising mix of rock hooks, energetic theatrical instrumentation, and hip-hop rhyme schemes that already has his fans excited for the full record. On " War!," Callison presents a preview into the storytelling experience he's crafted throughout his debut EP, "A Picture Perfect Hollywood Heartbreak," due out later this year.
What did you listen to growing up?
Nothing but rock until I was ten or so, that was my dad's influence for sure. He showed me a lot of old and new...Beatles, Zeppelin, Styx as well as early 2000s Maroon 5, Linkin Park and Incubus. To this day all these acts remain favorites, and have made their mark on my music.
How did you start writing music?
I putzed around and wrote a couple little things around twelve or thirteen; one was a nice Christmas song for my grandmother, the other a political rock song about overthrowing dictatorships with my old band. Between those two set I was pretty much set for a while. I only started seriously writing music a few years ago when I broke ground on this EP. I didn't intend to do a record from the beginning...it was more of a personal side project that I took up after I finished a couple songs at home on my piano. Nowadays I'm constantly writing, almost daily.
How did you start voice over acting?
By accident, really. I came to LA for on-camera acting, as the market back in St. Louis was pretty small. At a certain point, my agents started submitting me for cartoon auditions...it had never really occurred to my and my parents that voice acting was something I could pursue. When I was eleven, I booked a radio show called Adventures in Odyssey that ended up being a five-year gig; I got to do a bunch of ensemble records with incredible veteran voice actors like Jim Cummings, Jess Harnell and Will Ryan. It was an invaluable learning experience, and it set me up for work in a field that I didn't even know I could be in.
How are the two different outlets unique for you?
I think the biggest difference is that in my acting, I'm constantly switching gears and playing different parts all the time because I'm a hired gun on all these different projects, and new auditions are coming in every week. On the flip side, my music is all self-made and entrepreneurial as that's the nature of the business. Both outlets have elements of the other, but I'm really enjoying being able to have both in my career at the moment; every month is wildly different and that keeps me engaged.
What inspired "War!"?
A girl I used to know, that isn't actually named "Juanita" like I scream in the song. We didn't part on good terms, and there was a lot of shade being thrown from her and her friends...I wrote "War!" to clap back where I knew it hurt. She's a singer, and has been working on the same album since long before we ever got together; this song is me dropping into the music scene with a loud message by asking her where she's been all this time. I wanted something very theatrical and soaked in flair to punctuate that question, and that's where the grandiose feel of the track comes from.
What has been the biggest challenge in your career?
So far, the biggest challenge has been growing up normally and figuring out who I am while working on building my career. I was homeschooled from fourth grade to the end of high school, and always had major work responsibilities from the time that I was ten. Everything awkward about growing up is magnified when it's under the lens of Hollywood; acne becomes much scarier when you have an audition the next day, and your voice dropping two octaves can be the worst thing that's ever happened when you're banking on playing eight year olds in cartoons. This was reality for me and all my friends that came up together. Nowadays, we're trying to find time to have our crazy college years and go see the world while also grinding out as much of a climb as we can here in LA. I'll never regret coming out west to do what I do, but it definitely gives as much as it takes away.
What has given you the most fulfillment from your experience in the business?
There's so many things...the industry has given me so much so early in my life, and I love being able to be entrepreneurial at my own pace. I love being able to make my own projects now, like this record. I think the biggest reward, though, has been the circle of people I came up with that are just now getting into adulthood after years of child acting and performing. We're a unique and quirky group of kids, and we all understand each other very well because few others can relate to our upbringing and circumstances. Most of us are born creatives and have stayed in the field somehow; once we were all just actors, and now I'm surrounded by writers, musicians, composers, cinematographers, and producers. They're all extraordinary somehow, and for that I'm very grateful.
I'm taking off to Canada when I finish the record, just for fun this time. Then, I'm releasing the album, finishing some new video content, recording for some new cartoons, going on tour eventually, and getting the brakes in my car fixed. They're squeaky.
Follow Zach Callison on Twitter | Instagram | YouTube
Dan Victor is editor of Popdust and producer of Popdust Presents. He is also a music producer, bassist for Low Profile (live hip hop) & The Coldpress (indie rap) and front-man for Ductape Halo (indie rock). Follow on Youtube.
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It was an inside job.
TW: This article contains references to sexual assault and abuse.
Let's get one thing straight: Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself.
According to official reports helmed by top medical examiner Dr. Barbara Sampson, Epstein hanged himself in his cell—but later medical reports suggested that his injuries resembled those of a homicide more than a suicide. When Epstein died, he had been removed from suicide watch, left alone and not checked on for hours because the two guards assigned to watch him were "sleeping," and, conveniently, the cameras outside his cell "malfunctioned." Recently, a former Navy SEAL went on Fox News and blurted out, "Jeffrey Epstein didn't kill himself."
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Porn videos games and video game themed porn are suddenly on the rise.
One of the biggest things that sets Millenials and Gen Z apart from previous generations is their relationship with technology, a common critique being that video games have replaced real life for many young people, particularly young men.
It's true that many 20-and-30-somethings began playing video games when their brains were still malleable.This was before psychologists began raising concerns about the effect it may have on the brain, concerns that are now backed by a mountain of evidence. Frequent video game playing has been connected to a myriad of issues, including decreased life satisfaction, loneliness, decreased social competence, poorer academic achievement, increased impulsivity, increased aggression, and increased depression and anxiety.
These concerns have only been further highlighted in cultural conversation by the sheer number of people who play video games: 67% of Americans, to be exact, a number that has grown exponentially in recent years. Perhaps even more startling, according to Pew Research Center, 72% of men younger than 30 report playing games often. Scariest of all, Douglas Gentile, a psychologist who's been studying the effect of video games on the brain for decades, estimates that roughly 8.5% percent of young people who play video games in the United States are addicted — not including the number of people who are inevitably underreporting how much time they spend playing.
There's also plenty of evidence that video games can be a positive thing for brain development. According to Psychology Today, playing video games can help children develop "perception, attention, memory, and decision-making," as well as "logical, literary, executive, and even social skills."
But regardless of what side of the evidence you choose to believe, there's a new factor to consider in the conversation about video games' psychological effects: their relationship to porn. Most notably, according to a study by Laura Stockdale and Sarah M.Coyneif, playing an excessive amount of video games greatly raises your chances of becoming addicted to porn, and, likely, vice versa. This is because both sources of stimulus, primarily visual and aural, affect the same pleasure center in the brain, specifically the ventral striatum which helps elicit the good feelings you get when you do something good, can be done in the same environment (alone, in a technologically connected room), and are both sources of immediate satisfaction and escapism.
Prominent Stanford University psychologist, Phillip Zimbardo, conducted an in-depth study into 20,000 young men's relationships with video games and pornography. He said of the experiment: "Our focus is on young men who play video games to excess, and do it in social isolation - they are alone in their room. Now, with freely available pornography, which is unique in history, they are combining playing video games, and as a break, watching on average, two hours of pornography a week." He goes on to say, "It begins to change brain function. It begins to change the reward centre of the brain and produces a kind of excitement and addiction. Young men -- who play video games and use porn the most -- are being digitally rewired in a totally new way that demands constant stimulation. And those delicate, developing brains are being catered to by video games and porn-on-demand, with a click of the mouse, in endless variety."
As these commingled addictions develop, they soon (similarly to drug addictions) require greater and greater degrees of stimulation to get that same chemical release. But since these two addictions seem to affect similar demographics and often coincide with one another disproportionately, there's something that sets them apart from other forms of addiction. According to Zimbardo, porn and video game addictions are "arousal addictions," which differ from drug and gambling addictions in that the attraction is in "the novelty, the variety or the surprise factor of the content." So while drug addicts need increasing amounts of a substance to get high, they still crave the same substance over and over, while arousal addicts need an increasing intensity and variety of stimuli, as well as more and more.
This leads to a desire for increasingly intense stimuli, leading addicts to more violent and bizarre video games and porn in pursuit of novelty. Fascinatingly, and perhaps disturbingly, while these addictions are interwoven, they used to require separate stimuli to satiate — but even that's changing. In an inevitable progression, the two addictions have begun to seamlessly merge in the form of pornographic video games and video game-themed porn, allowing an addict to satiate both needs simultaneously, setting off a veritable fireworks display of dopamine responses — at least until the viewer becomes desensitized. For example, Fortnite-inspired porn is apparently so widely consumed that "Fortnite" was one of the top 20 most-searched terms on Pornhub in 2018, and in 2016, when Overwatch rose to popularity, searches for Overwatch porn jumped by 817% in a matter of months.
Perhaps even more distressing is the advent of porn video games, where players take an active role in the plot of the explicit content they're viewing, perfectly intermingling the already connected addictions. While some of these games show consensual sexual intercourse, many do not. For example, RapeLay, produced in Japan, is a game where a player plays as a disembodied penis to simulate rape of a woman and her child daughters over and over again. There was a massive outcry against the game when it was released, ultimately causing Amazon to stop selling it — but not before millions and millions of people purchased the game.
As an article on the topic in Men's Health points out, this trend of combining two similar and symbiotic addictions is understandable as video games already often feature hyper-sexualized characters, porn is being watched more and more on video game consoles, and animated porn allows for a level of fantasy live-action porn can't reach. If your brain is lighting up in a similar way when you play video games and when you watch porn, of course you'll begin associating the two. Throw in the feeling of power that comes with having control over the results of the stimuli, as a player does in porn video games, and you have a perfect chemical spider web, one that ensnares young men in an endless and isolating cycle of escape.
There are legitimate physical issues that can result from addictions of this kind. There's evidence that it can lead to debilitating sexual dysfunction in young men, called porn-induced erectile dysfunction (PIED), a term coined by Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, an associate clinical professor of urology at Harvard Medical School — an affliction that can get worse as a video game addiction feeds off a porn addiction in a vicious cycle of dopamine release. Many doctors are reporting that more young men than ever before are coming to them with ED, and they think the cause is, at least in part, because of this rise in virtual escapism in young men. "I have absolutely seen a pretty drastic increase in ED rates among young men, especially in the last two, three years," says sex therapist Vanessa Marin. "My average client base is starting to get younger and younger."
Even more troublingly, Zimbardo concludes that the effects go even deeper, and that this toxic combination creates a "generation of risk-averse guys who are unable (and unwilling) to navigate the complexities and risks inherent to real-life relationships, school and employment." Of course, this estimation doesn't take into account countless other factors at play in the lives of young men, not to mention the risk that comes with shaming people for sexual exploration. As Dr. Marin goes on to say, "We're not having any conversations about what are healthy ways to engage in porn. So no one has a general sense of what's healthy and unhealthy when it comes to porn. And of course it's not black and white either, but I do see a lot of younger men engaging in porn in ways that aren't healthy, in ways that make it more difficult for them to connect with partners and make it more difficult to engage in their own healthy sexuality."
Perhaps the same can be said of video games, that are treated dismissively by parents, as a quirk of young men that should be, for the most part, discouraged until outgrown. Perhaps, the culturally polarized narrative surrounding video games and porn is part of the problem, and the conversation we need to be having is how young men can indulge in video games and explore their sexuality, without the shame that can often foster addiction — and without letting it consume their lives.
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