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a zen orchestra


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zen orchestra - a short history


Zen Orchestra are:

Mark Barrett - Vocals and sound design

Steve Smith - Keyboards

Stewart Milner - Basses

Steve Rix - Drums

James Stephenson - Guitars
Alberto Rigoni - Bass
with John Sammers - Rhythm Guitar on circles

Steve and Mark were founder members of Walking on Ice, a progressive rock band that toured extensively during the late 80s. 

Steve and Pete left the band in 1991 with Mark Barrett departing Walking on Ice (mark II) around 1992.

After some time Steve got back in touch with Mark and they worked together with Stewart Milner and Steve Rix on a series of recordings that culminated in Zen Orchestra mark I.

One of these tapes found it’s way to Shattered Records who offered Steve and Mark a record deal in 1996. Unfortunately a suitable contract could not be negotiated and Zen Orchestra went into hibernation whilst the members got on with the real-life challenges of careers and family life.

Mark and Steve did stay in touch in the intervening years but it wasn’t until mid 2014 that Steve delivered a CD of new material to Mark. This was ostensibly a Steve Smith solo project but, spurred by Mark's enthusiasm, the two conceived a re-awakening of the Zen Orchestra project.

Stewart Milner and Steve Rix were quickly contacted and indicated their willingness to rejoin the project. Steve and Mark set work developing the new material, adapting and rewriting Steve's existing pieces and jointly writing additional material. 

After most of the material was finished and demo'd, Steve and Mark set to work harmonising their recording facilities so they could work remotely. They commenced recording the final material from scratch. 

There were numerous false starts and technical and life challenges along the way but in late 2022 the material was recorded - albeit without a six string guitarist. The search for a suitable candidate took some time but finally they stumbled upon John Stammers who expressed a keen interest.

However although John played rhythm guitar on the Circles radio edit release it was finally James Stephenson who picked up the axe duties. 

In March 2023 just prior to the release of Circles the band had the tragic news that their much-loved friend and bass player extraordinaire Stewart Milner had suddenly and unexpectedly died. This was a massive shock and the band are still feeling that loss today. With the encouragement of Stewarts wife a bass player was searched for to help finish the album and Alberto Rigoni from Italy volunteered to step in and help finish the album 


Zen Orchestra are now inching closer to finishing the album and recording has continued in the UK, Ireland and Italy – with most of the tracking completed and several already mixed. The band now have THREE radio edit releases under their belt and the reception to the work has been beyond expectations.

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