'Firing Up The Nightmares!'
UNEARTH are a hardcore hybrid combining crushing metal with uplifting lyrics. They formed in 1998 in eastern Massachusetts with the intention of bringing fresh, emotionally charged songs to the metal genre. Combining the fundamentals of metal with a novel, new school urgency, Unearth weave elegant harmonies with stark brutality.
Their lyrical focus does not fall into step with common metal troops. They steer away from the common contrived ballads of destruction, hatred and ill will toward man. They draw upon their collective visionary and inspirational beliefs in hopes to motivate and captivate their audience.
Unearth's music is not easily partitioned into one style. Dual guitar harmonies are matched with brooding bass-laden breakdowns supporting harrowing vocals. They produce a caustic metal-hardcore sound near where Turmoil and Indecision meet. Unearth produces a poignant feeling of power and beauty, conjuring up visions of the atmospheric and apocalyptic.
John ĎSloí Maggard (bass) was unable to meet with me, so they sent out Mike Justain (drums) instead. We walked out back of the Royal Oak Music Theatre and took a seat on one of the street benches. Mike is very relaxed and laid back. In fact, itís hard to imagine that in a couple hours time heíll be tearing it up behind his set.
You guys just started this tour yesterday, so asking how itís going isnít exactly appropriate. But I would like to ask how it feels to be out on tour again? "This is sort of what we do, you know? Tour incessantly like we always have, and I imagine we will be for at least a couple more years. I think we were all getting the itch to be out on tour, and this is a great package. weíre all excited to be out with such awesome bands and to hit such cool places. Playing nice venues too. I mean, these are the nicest venues weíve ever played."
Right, itís a long way from Massachusetts! "Yes, itís a very long way from Massachusetts, playing Knights of Columbus function halls, where this band started. Itís crazy."
Because there are such good bands playing with you guys, I wanted to know what itís like working with them "Well, weíve toured with Terror and Bleeding Through before actually. With Terror about this time last year. It was a headlining tour, and that was an amazing tour. One of my personal favorites. They are one of my favorite hardcore bands around right now, so itís great. And Bleeding Through, I think this is our first legitimate tour with them so far, outside of Ozzfest. Weíre still excited to be out with them, and they bring a lot of people out to the shows who otherwise wouldnít come out to see us. There is a great camaraderie. Through The Eyes of The Dead are good dudes, and you know ... Animosity, they are good guys, a great band. Itís just a great tour."
You mentioned Ozzfest, how was that? I mean... itís huge! "Ozzfest was sort of like the day that never ended. Because you go to sleep in a parking lot and wake up in a parking lot! Itís just the cycle that repeats itself over and over. But the tour was good and we played for a lot of people everyday which was fun. It was sweltering out everyday... thatís not so fun. But, it was a good tour all around. It was definitely a successful tour."
Your new release has been hailed as one of your angriest releases to date. Do you guys feel angrier? "Uh, well ... you know, I do," he laughs, deadpan style.
Yeah I can tell, itís rolling off of you in waves, the anger! "Yeah, Iím a super aggro guy. Really though, I donít think itís necessarily that we feel angrier emotionally speaking. I think a lot of it was just dropping our pretenses with music and basing the record on Ďwhat not to doí, you know? What we didnít want to do was get lost in the fray of the bands that are sort of candy-coating their sound now. We didnít really make a conscience decision to refute that and go in the opposite direction . Maybe if we were angry about anything we were angry about the fact that this music is becoming so diluted. So, we sort of made a statement."
Because there are so many watered down hardcore bands out there now? "Well, itís just the whole idea of hardcore is supposed to be about expressing yourself and having the freedom to express yourself in any way that you see fit. Thatís what constitutes hardcore and punk rock to me. You know, slipping on the clothes and attitude, and putting on the uniform isnít, you know, you might as well have the white or blue collar noose around your neck. Thatís just my opinion. It loses itís power. It loses itís intensity. Itís not dangerous anymore. Itís not exciting anymore and itís certainly not hardcore anymore."
Right, so it totally negates the point of it existing in the first place? "Yeah, exactly, so you know, we just wanted to bring that back and bring back that sort of angry, frustrated, disenchanted ethos to it."
Speaking of where itís coming from Iíve heard, and seen in a few different places, people saying that you are coming to a more European sound. Is that intentional or do you think thatís just a result of natural evolution? "See, I donít really ... I donít see why everybody is so fixated on us being Euro."
Itís this strange sort of Gothenburg revolution isnít it? It seems like everyone wants to use that classification "Yeah! Itís funny, because itís like even when you just want to do your own thing you can't. Itís like people like things in neat packages, even hardcore kids, even metal kids, even punk rock kids. Thatís what is sort of starting to bum me out about all of this. Yeah, I donít really think that we are more Swedish influenced, or Scandinavian influenced, or whatever. I mean, Ken and Buzz have always been big fans of Iron Maiden and it definitely resounds through their playing and some of the riffs that they write; but Iím not influenced by that stuff at all. I have absolutely no interest in Scandinavian Metal. You know, thereís a lot of good stuff out there, but itís not at the forefront of our minds to sound like it."
Right, itís not like you sit down and think Ďwhat can we do to sound more Swedish?í "Exactly, itís not like we sat down at a conference table with our manager and consciously said to ourselves, you know... weíre going to be more Swedish, and our breakdowns are going to be more hardcore. We just kind of play, and pool our resources together, and our influences. I mean, I personally am very influenced just by hardcore and just straight rock and roll. I actually try not to be just Ďthe metal drummerí on this record even though obviously, thereís some of that still. You canít really get away from it completely. I donít know. I donít think we are more Euro sounding now. I think people are just using that; just emphasizing that, because thatís what they want to hear."
On this album, you guys worked with Terry Gate, what was that like? "Terryís awesome. Heís like, you know ... he doesnít claim to be a man of God. He doesnít claim to re-write history or see the future or make miracles happen; heís just a normal guy. You get a lot of these producers now who I think are just making records for the sake of getting their own ego boost."
Oh, like a ĎI had my hand in that cookie jarí type of deal? "Yeah, you know. And a lot of producers, especially with ProToolsģ, all the digital technology that makes it so easy to dot iís and cross tís, you end up with a lot of guys playing God, and exploiting this technology. Using it in a way that itís not really mean to be used. Terry is an old school guy. Heís got a really old school work ethic. Itís just do it and do it, do it again, until itís there, you know? And thatís kind of how I am too."
Thatís how it should be "Yes! Thatís how you make records, and Terry, he respects that, he understands that and you know. I really liked working with him because of that. I think that everybody in the band really appreciated what he did for us, what he brought to that band."
Where do you see your sound or band in 5 years? Do you see a revolution coming on? Any major changes? "No, I think weíre just going to stick to our guns, keep producing pulverizing music. Whether it just naturally absorbs more of a metal sound or more of a hardcore sound, I donít know. Itís definitely going to be heavy, and itís definitely going to be indicative of Unearth, and what Unearth has done for the last 8 years."
Right, one thing you could say is that you guys have been very consistent throughout your career. I mean, you can evolve and you can change it up, but at the core itís got the same feeling behind it all "Yeah, yeah. Exactly, I mean ... listen to this bandís first record, I mean, ultimately itís the same band. There is a natural evolution, but I think thatís the way it should be. There should be a natural development. Artist development and a core audience that wants to develop with you. Outside of that, Unearth has always done what they did. And they always will."
On a more personal note, is there a particular song that you enjoy playing the most? "Um, off the new record, honestly I really like 'Imposters Kingdom' and 'The Devil is Risen.' I mean, I like all of them. I seriously like playing every song on this record. There are songs that I would really like to play, that we donít play, you know, because ... Iím only 20% of the vote."
Which songs would those be? "'Internal War.' Iíve always liked that song. We tried to play it once, but it didnít work out."
You guys are skipping across the pond to quite a few different countries. Is there any particular place that you havenít seen, that you get to see now or that you are looking forward to playing? "New Zealand. That will be exciting. I think the plan is to stay for a couple of days, to soak it in. I love Europe. We have great shows there, the people are fanatical. They are good people. And Europe has this wisdom about it. Itís really settled into itself, so it has a really cool vibe. I think some European countries, some of the older countries especially, they sort of stand there adversely with their arms folded over their chests to our culture, and the lack of development to our culture."
Right, weíre just a group of unruly teenagers to them! "Yeah, which is understandable, because to some degree we are. I mean, speaking about culture and all that kind of stuff. We are. Europe is the wise old uncle to Americaís insolent teenager. I canít say I blame them. Overall Europe is great. Germany is awesome. Hamburg, I spent some time in Hamburg, and that was really nice. Switzerland is one of my favorite places on earth. Itís just a paradise. Barcelona is beautiful ... tons of places. Oh, and Australia."
So basically you're just excited. How could you not be? "Well, yeah! I mean, I get paid to see the world, drink and play drums. Not a bad gig."
Lastly, do you have any messages to the fans who might read this interview? "Just, thanks for everything, thanks for your support. We look forward to watching you all kill each other ... keep it up!"
Interviewed by Natalie Borsh
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