Massachusetts heavy hitters Unearth have enjoyed a front-runner status in the contemporary metal scene for some time now. With the band (along with joint headliners The Black Dahlia Murder) about to hit our shores for one of this year’s most anticipated metal gigs, Unearth vocalist Trevor Phipps was kind enough to chat with KYS about music, touring, Australian beer, and an interesting German train ride.
Could you please state your name, role in the band, and your favourite all-time thrash metal record?
Trevor Phipps, Vocals. My favourite thrash metal album of all time would have to be "Among the Living" by Anthrax. The album is raw, high energy and has some all time classic thrash songs like "Indians", "I am the Law", "Caught in a Mosh" and "N.F.L.".
Last time Killyourstereo caught up with Unearth, you guys were preparing for Soundwave (which feels like a lifetime ago now), how are things going with the band at the moment?
Soundwave was an unreal experience playing the metal stage with a ton of our friends’ bands and then having the chance to go watch Alice in Chains and N.I.N. at night. Good times had for those two weeks. Since then we have done a few North American tours to support our latest album "The March", one with Testament, another with Hatebreed and Cannibal Corpse, and the most recent one a headlining tour in which we took out Stick to Your Guns, Veil of Maya, The Ghost Inside and Carnifex. We also did a European co-headlining tour with Chimaira this past fall. So the band has been busy as hell, but we wanted to hit up Australia one more time before we start writing for the next record.
I remember seeing Unearth the first time you guys played in Australia back in ’05 with Atreyu and Norma Jean, if I’m correct this upcoming tour will mark your fifth visit down under. Do you think we can start to claim you as honouree Aussies by now?
I fucking hope so. I have said it before and always answer the question "Where is your favourite country to visit while on tour" and I always say Australia. The country and culture are obviously different than the U.S., but also similar enough where you don’t get that "homesick" feeling. Plus, I like the beaches, different wildlife, different sports to watch and the fact that there are casinos in every city is pretty damn cool. The U.S. is too old fashioned when it comes to legalising gambling. They don’t seem to understand the financial benefit and job creation it can create for every city, so it is generally put in Vegas and Native American Reservations.
I also have a minor obsession with sharks, especially Great Whites, and Australia is the place to see those. The shows are also always good too. We aren’t just tourists when we come… (laughs). Ever since 2005 when we first started playing in Australia the gigs have been great and the band feels well received. We hope to continue to build our fan base so we can keep coming back.
This time around, The Black Dahlia Murder is coming along as joint headliners. What can we expect from Unearth and co. on this particular tour?
I would say sick metal gigs, good times and lots of Coopers and V.B.! We plan on playing songs from all four of our albums and mixing things up from the last few times we have been over there. We have toured in the U.S. with Black Dahlia and they are old friends of ours, so the vibe should be good and I know both bands are ready to bring some hell to the stage.
Is there anything in particular Unearth would like to do in Australia i.e. places to see etc, that perhaps you haven’t had a chance to do in Oz yet? I vaguely recall you guys mentioning you liked Australian football the first time you were here.
We have done a ton of stuff so far. We visited Bon Scott’s grave, the Opera House, Manly Beach, been to a few zoo’s, been to an aquarium, been to two Aussie Football games and have done site seeing at a few beaches. I would love to see the Great Barrier Reef, Ayers Rock and also head out into the Outback for some hiking and camping, but with shows every day it is tough to get the time to do that. Will anyone volunteer to take a few of us out there? (haha)
Your most recent album ‘The March’ came out in the latter part of 2008. How far away are we from hearing new material? Is the band currently in the writing stage, recording stage, or is touring the main priority at the moment?
Touring is still the main priority as we want to keep turning people on to "The March", but we are getting our heads around getting ideas on the table. The guitar players are starting their riff writing process and I have been jotting down lyrical ideas for the past few months. Every little bit of inspiration over the past couple years will make it onto the next album both musically and lyrically. We are hoping to have a new album out by spring of 2011.
The past five years or so have seen an influx of heavy bands and the subsequent creation of many sub-genres. Do you have a certain opinion on this whole ‘metalcore’, ‘deathcore’ scene? Or is it more about just sticking to your own devices when performing/writing music and letting the rest take care of itself?
The worst thing a band can do is try to change their sound to fit a trend. You are who you are and most of us write from what we were influenced by in our youth. You’ll never get the thrash metal and hardcore influence out of our brains and we are who we are. We write songs that we like and if they stick they stick, if they don’t, then oh well – time for a new record. The best example of staying true to your sound and your fans is AC/DC. They have had the same exact sound for over 30 years, and some records were huge and others were not. They kept doing what they do best and they have remained one of the biggest hard rock bands in the World for that entire time. Of course, we like to challenge ourselves with different time signatures, scales and song arrangements, but for the most part Unearth is Unearth and always will be.
I have read that you guys have a certain pre-show ritual where you like to listen to music really loud and enjoy a few drinks. What kind of albums/songs and beverages are Unearth’s favourites to achieve this?
Classic metal and hard rock is always what we choose with the occasional mosh song thrown in. A lot of Van Halen, AC/DC, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden to get us in the right mood and then to get the blood flowing we’ll throw on some Terror, Hatebreed and Pantera. Drink of choice is always our version of a black tooth, a shot of Jim Beam Whiskey with a splash of Coke. Good tunes, whiskey and some limbering up always gets us in show mode.
Although there have been line-up changes along the way, Unearth as a band have been around for the best part of twelve years. You have probably had some interesting things happen in that time that make for good stories. Any tales in particular that stands out? Any Spinal Tap type situations?
We watch Spinal Tap a lot on tour and swear that the movie was written about us before we existed. We have had a revolving door of drummers over the years (luckily, Derek Kerswill seems like the right fit and has for over three years – hopefully he doesn’t choke on his own vomit or spontaneously combust). Our name has been under some ridiculous things on Marquees at times and there are numerous times where we feel like the "stone henge" scenario has hit us hard. The writers for that movie knew a lot about being a touring musician.
I can share a story about a crazy thing that happened in Germany a few years ago. Our old drummer, Mike Justian, downed an entire bottle of Jagermeister in less than 30 minutes and then disappeared on the festival grounds we had played at that day. We couldn’t find him all night and bus call was approaching to go to the next fest. Ken went off to take a shower because he didn’t think the bus would leave without him and our drummer, but our tour manager fell asleep and didn’t tell the bus driver two guys were missing. So the bus travels six hours across Germany to the next gig, Ken finds the bus gone after his shower and goes to the production office (he only had his shorts, flip flops and his shower bag) and then Mike Justian shows up with vomit all over him. Apparently, he had passed out in a porta-john puking and woke up covered in vomit and not knowing where anyone was. So basically the two of them were put in worker jump suits that the festival had, the fest was at a race track, and they were put on a train to travel together six hours to the next gig in a foreign country. They must have looked like a couple of assholes in those jump suits. They barely got there in time to play, but it was great seeing them show up in ridiculous clothes and looking miserable.
Just some quick ones to finish off with,
What was your favourite album(s) of last year?
The Red Chord "Fed Through the Teeth Machine" and Armed for Apocalypse "Defeat".
Your favourite Australian beer?
Coopers Pale Ale and Coopers Sparkling Ale.
Favourite band(s) to tour with?
Every Time I Die, Lamb of God and Protest the Hero.
At the Gates – Slaughter of the Soul or Slayer’s – Reign in Blood?
Reign in Blood for me. I know Buz would say Slaughter of the Soul though.
What are Unearth’s plans for the rest of the year?
We go from Australia over to Europe for a bunch of festivals and club shows. After that we are headlining a festival in the U.S. in August and are in the plans for one last Canadian run with some scattered U.S. dates before we hit the studio at the end of the year.
Any final words?
Thanks for the support and see you all soon.
Thanks for the interview mate.