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:: Spotlight :: Interview with Unearth

By: Justin Donnelly

Although having amassed a strong following within the metalcore scene with their first two full-length albums, it wasn’t until Boston based act Unearth released ‘III: In The Eyes Of Fire’ that the band really made an impact in a major way, elevating them into the ranks of metalcore’s elite. In the two years since the release of their third album, Unearth has maintained a gruelling tour schedule that has seen them tour across the globe (including two tours of Australia).

Prior to heading into the studio to record their fourth studio album, Unearth have released their first official DVD ‘Alive From the Apocalypse’. What can only be described as all-encompassing, the double DVD set not only features a full live set from the band, but also a seventy minute documentary that covers the band’s ten year history, eight promotional video clips and a host of extras.

With the release of ‘Alive From the Apocalypse’, Unearth have once again taken to the road for a quick two week sprint across the US. While in a stopover in St. Louis, Missouri, I caught up with vocalist Trevor Phipps to talk about the making of the DVD, the DVD’s runaway success in Canada and the group’s progress on album number four.

“If you were to ask me if the DVD came out like we had hoped it would, then I would say yes. Actually, ‘Alive From the Apocalypse’ came together much better than we all thought it would initially! (laughs) We’re all very proud of it. We really hoped that the documentary would tell our story in an entertaining way, but also portray the band in a way that we wanted to be portrayed. Doug Spangenberg, who works for Space Monkey Studios put it all together, and did a great job. When we decided to put this documentary together, we sat down with Spangenberg and went over the whole time line with him. Basically we wanted to stress to people out there that Unearth didn’t appear overnight. The band actually started as far back as 1998. We really wanted to explain in detail the whole story behind the band, beginning from the first line-up, right up to the point where we are at now. So we just told him what we were after, and he went to work armed with all the footage and pictures that we provided him. I think that we’re relieved that we managed to hang onto all the footage that we’ve shot throughout the years. It would have been a different story without it! (laughs) In the end, the whole thing worked out for the best, and I think the DVD tells a good story.”

What really stands out in the documentary is the number of well known friends willing to flesh out Unearth’s story. Names such as Corey Taylor (Slipknot/Stone Sour), Vinnie Paul (Pantera/Damageplan/Hell Yeah), along with members of Every Time I Die, Zao, Poison The Well, Shadows Fall, Underoath, Killswitch Engage, Terror, Madball, Lamb Of God, Divine Heresy, As I Lay Dying feature throughout the film with plenty of sordid stories and positive remarks about all members of the band.

“I can’t say that I’m surprised, because we’re friends with pretty much every band we’ve ever toured with. We’re just a bunch of laid back, easy going dudes that like to have a lot of fun. Every tour that we’re on, we just seem to get along with all the other bands. So I’m not surprised by their comments, but I was very happy and proud with the things they had to say. I mean, Vinnie Paul is like an idol to us. For him to say the things he said was great. Corey Taylor’s words were also great. Hearing the kind words about this band from those dudes is amazing and humbling.”

One particular piece of footage that isn’t credited at the tail end of the documentary is the three minutes of footage lifted from Boston TV, where the ultimate Unearth fan gets a one of a kind tattoo.

Oh man! You mean where the kid gets (guitarist Ken) Susi’s face tattooed on his ass? Man, I think that kid’s crazy! (laughs) The fact that it’s his very first tattoo is even crazier! I don’t know how he came to decide that having Susi’s face permanently inked on his ass was a great idea, but somehow he did. Maybe he thinks it’s something that people will enjoy seeing. I really do think that kid is nuts! (laughs)”

While the documentary is interesting, it’s the live concert that will really draw most attention from the fans. And for good reason too, as the band appears to have put in a towering performance that really demonstrates the passion and fun that Unearth are synonymous for.

“I’m pretty happy with that show. I mean a real Unearth show, or the best case scenario is when everyone is having a real good time. Our best shows are when the fans are stage diving and all of that crazy stuff is happening in the crowd in front of us. Unfortunately, the show we filmed for the DVD happens to have a barrier between us and the crowd. I guess the club owners insisted on having the barricades there. I wish they weren’t there, but I don’t think it was detrimental to the show. It was still a great show, and in front of a sold out crowd. We all played well, and it felt great being up on stage. I think this band is a very consistent live band. I don’t think we play the tightest at every show, but that doesn’t matter to us. I think it’s more about having a good time and having fun. But having said that, I think the DVD features a pretty decent show from us.”

Obviously the fans couldn’t agree more. So much in fact that within a week of release, ‘Alive From the Apocalypse’ landed on the Billboard’s Top Music Videos (debuting at number thirteen), and selling gold in Canada.

“Yeah, it’s kind of crazy just how much it’s already sold. For us, we’re just really excited to get this out to people so they can get to know our band, and see what an Unearth live show is all about. It still blows our minds the fact that it’s out there and in people’s hands right now. I was half expecting some good sales, but I certainly didn’t expect the DVD to go gold in Canada. I mean in terms of CD sales, we don’t sell anywhere near the numbers in Canada as we do in the US. It’s not even close. Plus, for a DVD. to go gold, you only have to sell a fraction of what you would have to sell in CD’s for that to go gold. It’s a different standard, meaning that they’re a lot lower. But having said that, it’s kind of worked in our favour! (laughs) Going gold reads great on paper! (laughs) I’m looking forward to hanging up the gold record at my place. I’ll probably put it in my bedroom or my office in my apartment. I’ll put it in a place where I can see it often, knowing that it’ll put a smile on my face for some time! (laughs) But in all seriousness, for a band that plays as heavy and aggressive as we do, it’s amazing to see our DVD sell gold. I think it’s great that it’s sold that much. It certainly makes us feel good, and that all the hard work we’ve put into the band being justified.”

As mentioned earlier, Unearth are celebrating the release of ‘Alive From the Apocalypse’ with a short run of dates, with support from Bury Your Dead, As Blood Runs Black, My Children My Bride, and The Destro.

“That’s right. We’re on a tour right now. I think today’s either day six or seven of the tour. I forget because I’m seriously hung-over right now. I don’t know if you can tell, but I’m having a tough time talking today. I’m mixing all of my words up, and I seriously feel like shit today. We had a real raging night last night. But I’ll be OK. I’ll get back into the action in the next couple of hours, hit the stage later tonight and everything will be back to normal. This tour is just a short break for us, and an excuse for us to go back out there, hang out, and have some fun and party. But from another perspective, these dates happen to fall around the same time that the DVD came out, and we thought it would be ideal to play some cities that we haven’t played in a couple of years. So far the shows have been amazing man. It’s been a great tour so far, and we’re having a great time. All those band members in the other bands have been cool dudes. We’re sharing a bus with Bury Your Dead, so there are fourteen sweaty dudes in a bus stinking things up to high heaven already. But we’re all having a great time. We’ve had plenty of rave up’s and parties. It just feels good to get back out on the road.”

While there’s obviously been plenty of partying going on within the ranks of Unearth, there’s also been some work accomplished as well.

“The band has been writing since October. We have almost all of the songs written for the new album. So far, the stuff we have is nothing that can be called a drastic change from what we have done in the past. It’s always going to sound like Unearth. But what I can tell you is that it’s going to be a lot more groove-laden than the last album. On the last album, we just wanted to prove a point. We wanted to play stuff that was blisteringly fast metal. We almost wanted to put a thrash metal album out there. The trend at the time amongst most bands was to put out albums that were more pop/metal sounding stuff. We wanted to go against the grain. Since then, there’s been a great resurgence of great young bands playing really heavy and dark metal. We’re all just stoked to see that. So this album is going to be more back to the bands basic roots. This album will feature more of the crushing slower breakdown parts, and more heavy parts that are a bit slower. And having Derek Kerswill on the drums on this new album is really going to help too. He’s more of a rock drummer, but he can really get that groove down, and he seems to make the heavy slower parts all that more crushing. We’ll head into the studio around the middle of June, with an aim of getting the album out around early October. That’s if everything goes as planned. We’ll also be working with Adam Dutkiewicz (Killswitch Engage guitarist/backing vocalist) again too. After working with Terry Date on ‘III: In The Eyes Of Fire’, we thought we would return to Dutkiewicz, who produced our previous full-length albums. We’re actually pretty excited to hit the studio with him once again. We have some more tunes to write, but we’re really stoked with the material we have so far. I really think this new album is going to be our strongest and most brutal effort yet.”

I would like to personally thank Trevor Phipps for his generous time, and Jeanna Sims at Stomp Records Distribution for making the interview possible.

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