No official statement was made when Zed split up this year. It was kept low key, but former frontman Nathan King insists there is no gossipy story to it. "There were heaps of reasons why we should have kept going, and heaps why we shouldn't.

"I think the most important one was where our hearts lay, and that's what it came down to. Were we as committed as we had been, and if not, was it really the right thing to keep the band going?

"We got to the point where we were together as a band, but we were looking to different things to satisfy us and to meet our needs and excite us, and I think they were too spread out to keep us together.

"You have to really believe what you're doing or it doesn't look right to the public, and it doesn't feel right to yourself," says King, who plays at Christmas In the Park tonight at the Auckland Domain.

After the local success of their debut album, Silencer, which sold more than 50,000 copies, Zed were destined for big things. And the young band had a strong sense of ambition to make it in the United States and around the world.

Their second album, This Little Empire, was polished - possibly over-polished - and recorded with an American audience in mind. But it didn't break them overseas.

For King, that's a lesson learned. "Once you've been through the mill, so to speak, with Zed we definitely learned loads of stuff about the record industry, and one of the most important things is that you have to be true to yourself. We were told that right from the beginning, but maybe you have to learn it for yourself.

"And you also have to be true to what inspires you rather than trying to fit into any box. That is what will hopefully sell you."

He still gets the "There's that guy from Zed" line but he laughs that his new songs are "definitely not going to be every 13-year-old girl's dream".

His as-yet unnamed solo album will be released early-to-mid next year on King's own label, Hum Records, and distributed through Universal.

He has spent the past three weeks recording it with producer and drummer Brady Blade who was behind Brooke Fraser's What To Do With Daylight.

"He's such a cool guy, with heaps of energy and lots of drive and we've just been able to motor through it. All the songs have scrubbed up really well," he says.

"I set out to write songs in my head and then get them as close to completion as I can, so I had something substantial ready when it came time to work with the band.

"I had a rough idea of where I wanted them to go before hitting the studio but with Brady [and two other guest musicians]. I think we formed a rockin' little band. That's made the big difference."

Zed's songs were about growing up, girls called Glorafilia and being young (Renegade Fighters). But now the 27-year-old is writing songs that deal with "bigger picture" issues.

"I don't know, maybe I've mellowed in my old age," he laughs. "I've become more interested in things that organisations like World Vision do, and look at the bigger picture and look outside my own world and look at other people and how I could be an influence.

"It's changed from a more personal point of view in what I'm writing about, what's getting me going nowadays and what I'm more interested in.

"The last year has been a really satisfying one for me in songwriting. I realised that if I was going to do an album on my own it had to be strong, and had to have great songs. But I was more focused on writing a great album rather than great pop singles. I wanted to get a bit of depth in there."


WHO: Nathan King, former frontman for Zed and now solo
WHERE & WHEN: Christmas in the Park, Auckland Domain, tonight
NEW ALBUM: Debut solo album due out around April
SEE ALSO: Zed - Silencer (2001); Zed - This Little Empire (2003)