11 year old Rock Guitarist Zach Glantz talks Motocross and Music

The boy, with a voice still untroubled by puberty, announces to the camera that he will play a guitar cover, and dabs at the computer to start the backing track. Long-haired, unshod, dressed all in black with an AC/DC tee wrapping his slight torso, one might at first blush think that this is just so much bluster. Until the first fingerfalls on the frets, that is. The black guitar, that already looked menacing just hanging there, erupts into life, growling like a tiger that’s been set free. This is pure, unadulterated power, and small and young though those hands may be, they are wielding the instrument with great expertise, letting it have its head, unlocking its abilities, spewing its beguiling, powerful tones across the listener’s ears in a wall of mesmerizing sound. Within seconds, Zach Glantz has won us over. At just 11 years of age, this is a young musician with serious rock chops.

As the song shifts into gear, Zach is totally immersed in his performance, even if only for the camera for now. Massive recognition of this performance is yet to befall him, of which more anon. But for now, his is clearly a young man totally transported into another realm by his passion. His engaging smile is in stark contrast to the roaring cascade of sound he produces as he demonstrates his effortless mastery of power chords, complicated licks, a searing solo, and a few subtle, but telling taps on the strings here and there. He’s clearly deeply animated by his craft, and it is equally apparent that he’s spent many dedicated hours honing his skills to this remarkable level.
It is a stirring song, performed impeccably, one which bids one to pound the volume button into submission as you seek what reaches of volume might be found beyond 10. When the last notes have wafted by, and with the tune still ringing bouncing around in my head, it becomes time for reflection. It was an entirely agreeable experience, that is if hard rock is your thing. If autotuney tosh or much of the other drivel currently served up through our radio speakers is what blows your hair back, you would, we would imagine, steer clear, and you would be welcome to.

With thoughts of such dreck banished to nothingness from which they will hopefully never re-emerge, that what I like to refer to as my brain dwells yet again to a firmly-held belief – that rock music and motocross are fine companions, like cheese and wine (well, like anything and wine, really), strawberries and cream, fish and chips (and wine) – you get the idea. The drama of a technical racing section finds a perfect counterfoil in a stirring riff, a beautiful pass is best accentuated by the thrust of a chorus, and you can almost feel the jarring of a whoops section when accompanied by a few power chords. Powerful music and motocross racing represent visceral thrills, both.

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The mind dwells further, as minds often do when given free reign, and some clear similarities between Zach and talented motocrossers of the same age begin to crystallize. The passion is the same, the dedication likewise. Both activities require a lot of application and ceaseless practice to do really well. Both bring with them ecstatic highs when things go right and thudding lows when they don’t. When they fully understand each other, motocrossers and rock musicians (or musicians of any stripe, really) would probably see those traits of themselves mirrored in the other, and surely that is fertile ground for a mutual admiration society.

Having long dabbled in creative endeavours that couple exciting motocross footage with stirring rock music, whether or not in an inartful way not currently being under discussion, I promptly sent a cyber pigeon in the general direction of Phoenix (to reinforce the birdie imagery), Arizona. The Glantz household is not entirely unfamiliar with matters motocross, in fact they are avid fans of the sport, which lubricates the discussions like a season’s worth of oil. The idea of a tribute video to Tim Gajser, based on the Megadeth song that Zach had covered, gets floated, and finds favour like a pancake delivery during breakfast at kindergarten. With charming keenness, Zach agrees to learn the bass part for the song and to provide us with a video for that too, so that we might top our video with two little headbangers, one handling rorting, wailing guitar, and the other taking care of thumping bass. Oh, and speaking of the Megadeth song, about two cups of tea ago, we promised to elaborate on some of the accolades that Zach had received. “Symphony of Destruction”, the Megadeth song that he covered, was featured on the Facebook page of For the Love Of Bass, Guitar and Music, and at the time of writing, had clocked north of a million views and some 28 000 likes. That’s viral territory, and we speak here of the good kind of viral, so obviously recognition is starting to filter in in a big way. Zach, although naturally thrilled and honoured by the attention, remains modest, preferring to focus on learning new songs.

Without wanting to make it sound too much like homework, a four-letter word in 11 year old parlance, a raft of questions gets sent off floating in his direction to get to know more about this remarkable musician. We carefully straddle a fine line between public relations glam and homework drudgery in the amount of work we ask him to do, but soon enough we have our replies, and we are armed with enough information to reveal more about what makes Zach’s cams turn over.

Zach first felt the allure of music when he was eight years old in 2016. As an aside, that means that he has acquired all of his considerable skills in just on three years, an incredibly steep learning curve. He kicked off in a conventional manner, starting with guitar lessons, but those didn’t really inspire him to full-throttled excitement, and he was nearly ready to kick the whole plot into touch. He then started teaching himself a Greenday song, and that rekindled the fire. Countless hours were spent learning Greenday and Blink 182 numbers, and once the sound came out right, the fuse was properly lit.

Apart from grandpa Mike, who plays guitar and an uncle who tootles about on the accordion, there are no musicians in the family that Zach can use as references. He was pretty much left to his own devices, learning songs by ear, and when matters got too technical, deferring to Dr YouTube. He puts in a couple of hours’ worth of practice every day, and our own experience is testament to the fact that he can get the workings of even a fairly complicated song down within a day or so, once he sets his mind to it. The neighbours get to like his music choices whether they want to or not when he works on subduing a new tune, for he will listen to the song multiple times to get the technical sections figured out. Think of it as the guitar player’s version of a training session at Lommel.

Zach is the axeman for a band of merry minstrels of 10-14 year olds called Time Bomb. They have a busy schedule playing at fairs and festivals and promoting their own shows. With heaps of talent onboard, it is no wonder that they won a major Battle of the Band shootout, and their brand of music, covering rock classics with a few originals sprinkled in, is a sure-fire hit wherever they pitch tent. Given his musical weapon of choice, it is no wonder that his favourite bands are to be found mainly in the guitar-driven hard rock and metal quadrants, with groups like Judas Priest, Metallica, Megadeth and Guns&Roses claiming room poster space that in other households might have been occupied by Miley Cyrus or such like. Zach’s favourite individual musicians are mostly to be found amongst the famous axemen (referring here to axes with strings, natch) like Slash, Kirk Hammet, Joe Perry and the like.

Zach manages to find a balance between his school work and his music, for which we read that the books get jettisoned as soon as the guitar hovers near. Atypically for a musician at this age though, he has expressed a liking for the rocky terrain of the law, and can easily see himself combining careers as a musician touring the world and an entertainment lawyer. Like any young achiever, he owes a lot to those around him, and dad Howard, mom Amanda and brother Jake give him every conceivable support to enable him to spread his musical wings.

And here we get to the part of the feature that really cements Zach’s place as a musician worthy of mention in a motocross publication. When he wants to get some cardio pumping going, he indulges in a spot of basketball, but when his sporting endeavours turn to following online or on television, the preference goes out to motocross. He has a number of favourite riders, naturally Tim Gajser for whose video he contributed a song, but also riders like Adam Cianciarulo, Zach Osborne, Ken Roczen and Chad Reed. Interestingly, a fair proportion of those are riders who cut their teeth in the GP arena in Europe, before going to the ‘States. Gajser is of course still GP-focused for at least the foreseeable future, but he is US bound for the Monster Energy Cup at the end of the year, an event that Zach looks forward to with great anticipation.Tim himself was astounded at the level of talent on display when Zach’s video antics were shown him, and he’s sure to follow up on the youngster’s career as he plots his path all the way to huge stadium gigs, if all go well.

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The biggest highlights of Zach’s career are yet to come, of this much there can be precious little doubt, but what Zach has achieved so far yet is nothing to be sneezed at for an eleven year old. A major Battle of the Bands trophy on the shelf, a music video with a multiple motocross world champion and more than a million video views are the kind of things many people would consider to be lifetime achievements.

And so, with the echoes of the amplifiers ringing in your head (to quote Bob Seger, or Metallica, depending on how purist you want to go), you conclude a charming glance into the psyche of a very talented young musician. He is inspired by motocrossers, and he inspires them too. Over in the Europe, Julek Mikula, a new motocross friend of Zach’s just a few years older, takes in a blast of Megadeth-derived guitar work, dons his helmet, and floats over the track as if the bike weren’t even necessary. Rock music will do that for you.

Zach’s Links:
Tribute video to Tim Gajser.
Youtube Channel.
Megadeth “Symphony of Destruction”cover with more than 1m views.

Words: Tinus Nel