We recently sat down for a phone interview with Mike Henneberger of the Zero Platoon charity just after a Boston show with Dave Hause and Rocky Votolato sponsored by the charity.
Zero Platoon is an organization founded by and staffed by veterans--with a little help from our friends. Our goal is to help make the adaptation into military life a little easier for those younger members who may struggle with emotional and psychological issues that stem from being away from their homes and loved ones for the first times in their lives. With the help of tour musicians and other entertainers and artists, Zero Platoon offers live entertainment and online resources for anyone struggling with the intense lifestyle change that comes with serving in the military. We are grateful to everyone who serves and we just want to give a little back.
Soft one to start, like we talked about last night, you’re currently sponsoring the tour with Rocky Votolato and Dave Hause and Chris Farren. Maybe the three things you must have with you while on the road to survive?
Well, my camera is one. I’m a photographer and videographer. That’s what I did in the army as well and I did it long before that. So I love taking pictures and shooting videos. Just doing what I can. This tour has been pretty crazy as you saw last night. I don’t have a ton of free time to do that but that’s what I love to do. So yeah I like to always have my camera with me to capture whatever I can. Let’s see, what else? I really hate to like go to technology because that sucks but I definitely need to have my labtop as one because there is always something going on. There are always emails to answer. There’s always merch to order or I’m trying to work out military shows. Stuff like that so I need to be in contact with people and also so we can communicate together. A third thing, okay I’ll mention this. Rocky makes fun of me about it but a loofah.
A loofah? Very crucial.
Yeah! I’m riding with Rocky on the tour and I stay with him in hotels and stuff after shows. Like the first night, he saw my loofah and made fun of me but there’s just nothing that lathers as well as a loofah. I don’t know how any of us ever took a shower before that. Like washcloths do not lather. I’ve left my loofah at a hotel probably three or four nights into the tour and I as soon as possible went out and bought another one because it also cuts down on shower time by half. There’s not a lot of shower time. Like sometimes there isn’t shower time and I’m not a clean freak or anything but I get pretty gross sometimes. Hauling in all the merch and working merch all night and trying to run around and take pictures. When you’re in a band, you play a show and you might get sweaty but you get to relax after but I’m at the merch table all night. Setting it up in the beginning, tearing it down at the end. Loading up the car, all that stuff so yeah I’m always pretty gross at the end of the night. It’s one of the nice things about staying in a hotel is that I’m okay being gross in the bed. I wouldn’t come home to my bed and sleep in it when I’m disgusting but yeah there have been one or two days I didn’t get shower time and it’s like your shower is deodorant. Yeah I try to shower whenever I can. Whenever I can fit it in but yeah the loofah cuts down like half the time and there have been a few days where I’m like okay let me take a five minute shower then we’ll get out of here for these long drives and stuff. So there’s a third thing, my loofah. That was pretty dumb I know.
It’s good! You’re on this tour now and you’ve been active with the music scene. How did Zero Platoon first get involved with the music industry?
So ever since I was like eighteen and I’m thirty two now, I’ve been interviewing bands. My brother and I started a magazine back in Texas mainly because I just loved music but I started playing in bands when I was fourteen. I played in bands and then when I wasn’t playing in bands anymore, I started interviewing bands and writing about music. Taking photos of concerts and stuff. So ever since I was fourteen, I’ve been involved with the music industry in one way or another. I worked at a tiny record label in Nashville for a little bit awhile back. I just loved music. It’s been my life. So I’ve always tried to do stuff in the music industry. So yeah for over a decade, I’ve worked in music journalism and interviewed bands. I made some really great contacts with bands, labels and publicists. When I was in the army, I was diagnosed with major depression disorder and anxiety disorder. I always felt like if I had the same freedom to go to shows that I used to have before the army, I would feel a little better because you when go to a show you have that escape. You have that community of people who you bond with and that’s one of the main reasons I started Zero Platoon is because I didn’t have that freedom to go to shows like I used to. So I wanted to take shows to people in the military who have had a loss of that. There are plenty of people who don’t relate to music and you know they find that in something else but for people who relate to music, like if you take that away to the extent that they had it before, it just makes life so much harder. That’s why I started this. So I could use the history that I had in the music industry to help out younger people who are just like me when I was in the army. They would be missing bands that were playing just twenty minutes away because they can’t get away from the base for some reason. Or they might be deployed or something like that. So yeah, I got involved in the music industry by starting as a music journalist then doing this. I guess. Yeah a lot of the people that I started working with when I was eighteen, I’ve stayed in contact with and they’ve all been super supportive. So that leads us to where we are today.
Amazing and then you have obviously the first hand experience with the music industry and yourself going to shows. Maybe what have been one or two of the more memorable moments? Like maybe things you have been able to do with your charity?
This tour definitely is exciting just because for one, the length of it is crazy. It’s forty four dates and I’m still not going to be on all of them but I’m on like thirty of them. It’s the longest tour I’ve been on since I’ve played in a band. When I played in a band, I was an idiot and I booked us this two and a half month long tour for our first tour ever. That was crazy and any band I ever tell that to is like you are crazy. So that’s the longest I’ve ever been on tour. This one, I’ll be on the road for like two months but this is super exciting. Also because Rocky, Dave and Chris are all great guys. You can tell they really care about their fans and they really care about people. Those are the kinds of people that I want to work with. I don’t want to just go out with a band because they’re popular or because I just like their music. Like it’s more important for me that they care about their fans. They really care about people and they care about the people in the military that Zero Platoon is doing this for. So this is really exciting to just be on this tour because Zero Platoon was something I started less than two years ago. It’s just like skyrocketed and it’s very hard to keep up with and sometimes overwhelming but I think thanks to this tour, it’s going to be a huge thing for Zero Platoon. Like last night, I don’t know if you saw but Tim from Rise Against was there.
Yeah I know they play tonight in Boston.
Yeah so Tim was there for the whole show just kind of standing in the back by the merch table. Dave mentioned Zero Platoon from the stage then Rocky mentioned Zero Platoon from the stage and then on his way out, Tim just came to the table. I mean I was super nervous because I didn’t walk up to him and just talk to him because he’s friends with those guys. I don’t know them and I was going to ask Rocky to introduce me to him but I just never got around to it but I’m a huge fan of Rise Against. He came to me at the Zero Platoon table to tell me that he thought what I was doing was a great thing. Then I told him, let me know when you guys are passing through New York. Maybe we can do an interview or something, work together. He said he’d love to do it. So this tour has definitely helped. That’s a huge thing but also, like through Zero Platoon, one of my first interviews ever was Matt Pryor from the Get Up Kids. I just went to their twentieth anniversary and I had probably been listening to them for fifteen of those twenty years. So that’s a cool thing about this too is that I’ve been able to meet a ton of these people that were my heroes. The people who got me through hard times in my life. Like the first person I interviewed ever for Zero Platoon was Brett Detar from The Juliana Theory and I was a huge fan when I was growing up. Going through break ups and getting depressed about that stuff. Then Get Up Kids were huge for me too. Then at the beginning of this tour, I flew to Seattle to meet with Rocky and while I was there I was on Mike Herrera’s podcast from MXPX and the first CD I ever bought like me and my brother was ‘Teenage Politics’ by MXPX. I took a ferry to Bremerton and Mike Herrera from MXPX picked me up at the ferry in his car and drove me to his studio and then we just talked for an hour then he drove me back to the ferry. It was two days after the twentieth anniversary of ‘Teenage Politics’, the first CD I ever bought. I guess I was like thirteen when I bought that CD and I was like this poor kid who lived out in the country in Texas and I was this skater punk who listened to MXPX. I never thought that the singer for MXPX would pick me up at the ferry. That’s a band too that really helped me in life. As a teenager like following their career. So that kind of stuff isn’t just exciting because I get to meet people who are famous to me but it’s exciting because those people have the effect on me that inspires you as a kid. These are the people I want to work with and it’s the principle behind Zero Platoon. Twenty years later, Matt Pryor and Mike Herrera both mean that much to me because they helped me live. Helped me become who I am. So I want to give that opportunity to these people in the military who signed up to do something crazy. They signed up to risk their lives. Like oh well, maybe I can meet somebody from this band who helped me get through something. I want to do that for them too. So that’s mainly why that’s exciting. There was a girl at I want to say Chicago. I don’t know it was a few days ago but a girl came up to my booth and she was a veteran and she had been deployed. She struggled with PTSD and she has a lot of friends who do too. She had brought one of her friends to see Rocky Votolato because she told me that Rocky Votolato’s music got her through her deployment. She was depressed and she was a thousand miles away from anyone who loved her. Anybody who cared about her and Rocky Votolato’s music got her through that. That’s one of the reasons I’m working with Rocky too because he makes such great meaningful music and he cares about people. As I’ve gotten to know him more, more then he cares about being a famous musician. He cares about his music touching people. That is amazing to me. So yeah that’s why I’m going out with him. That’s exactly what I’m trying to do. I want to help out these people who feel like maybe they’re alone. Like nobody is around to care about them. So I want to bring these people, these artists, to them because I know how much music can mean to somebody. Like honestly the most exciting thing that comes from doing Zero Platoon is not seeing my musical heroes, not being on the road. It’s that at almost every single show, at least one person comes up to me and tells me that they are either in the military or were in the military or have friends or family that are in the military who deal with depression. Who deal with PTSD. That are having a really hard time. People who are in the military ask me why haven’t I heard of this? We totally need this and that is exactly why I’m out on the road because I want people to hear about it. I know they need it because I needed it when I was in the army. That’s really the most exciting thing about it is to see that it’s something that is needed. I knew that but to have people telling me that because it’s a lot of hard work. It’s tiring, it’s exhausting but the best part about it is when somebody comes to the Zero Platoon table and tells me how much they need it. It just makes everything worth it because there are a lot of great organizations that help veterans once they get out of the military but there aren’t really a lot of organizations that help people while they’re struggling while they’re in the military. That’s really what I’m trying to do.
Well then I wanted to ask you, from what you said and maybe even last night with Tim coming up to you, I was looking at the website. If people want to get involved like if musicians want to get involved or just regular people want to donate, maybe how can they do that? How can they get involved with Zero Platoon? How can they reach out to you?
Well, for people who want to donate to it, it’s pretty easy for them to do it on the website. There’s a link to donate on there. Just go to zeroplatoon.com/donate but there’s also like a straight link from the website. As far as like people getting involved, like if artists want to get involved, I think it’s pretty easy to figure out how to email me or message me on Facebook. That information is up there too or really it’s just firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s something that I struggle with sometimes too because it’s still a very new organization. It’s really just kind of me just doing it. I mean we got a grant this year in order to do this tour but there’s no real funding behind Zero Platoon yet. Like I don’t make any money from it and the merch that we sell goes straight back into sponsoring the next tour. So I have had people message me on Facebook to see how they can help. I think right now the only way is just to spread the word as much as possible. Whenever we do interviews and acoustic videos, just share those online. Just if you know anybody in the military that’s struggling with this stuff or even if they’re not in the military. The stuff still applies to anybody dealing with depression or any kind of mental illness. Again, there are a lot of great organizations helping people with that and suicide prevention. Just in the general population but as far as I know, there aren’t any that are focused on the military. So while that’s what I’m doing, I think all of our interviews and stuff still apply to anybody who’s not in the military and like struggle with these things. So yeah as of now, the best way to help is just spread the word online. Share with people. Come out to a show because if you come out to a show, and even if you can’t buy a t-shirt, you’re supporting the bands that support Zero Platoon and that’s really helpful.
Perfect! Well, thank you so much Mike for taking the time! I really appreciate it. I’m glad we could do this.