Metalcore contemporary stalwarts Unearth return to our shores this month. The Massachusetts outfit has enjoyed a successful career, so far spanning six current studio albums. In the lead-up to the shows, drummer Nick Pierce kindly sat down with us to talk about his influences as a musician, his day job and assimilating into the band.
What have you been up to today?
It’s about 4:30pm here and I just got home from work. Living the dream man. When I’m home I work for an electrical company so I do contract work for aircraft and support equipment.
Do you purposely have a side job to keep yourself sane?
More or less. It helps pay the bills and it’s also a long term – I don’t want to say back up plan – but, you know, it helps with the income and retirement. That’s why I keep it around. Playing in a metal band isn’t too much for retirement benefits.
That’s not foreshadowing anything is it?
No, not at all (laughs), Unearth is doing well. We don’t have any long term plans of taking a hiatus or anything unlike most metalcore bands. We are still going at it.
How’s ‘Watchers of Rule’ feeling live a year down the track?
[It’s] feeling really good. The [tracks] that we play live is the material that Buzz and I worked on, which is kind of nice for a change, because it’s my first album with the band so I get to play my own material and stuff that I helped write. With all the other stuff it was playing the previous drummers material, which is awesome, because they are all incredible drummers so I’m always keeping a level head, but with the new material I tried to push the envelope a bit for Unearth, or at least I hope . It’s a nice change of pace playing that stuff. It’s good vibes and based on the morale, the new album gave us new hope moving into the next album. It was the kind of trial and error phase with ‘Watchers of Rule’ getting the writing styles all dialled in. I live in Seattle and all the other guys live in Boston so everything was done online. It was a little bit different compared with how they usually write; jamming it out in a shed all day long or going into a studio. With the next album we are all dialled in on how things need to go and be, and we are a lot more efficient at it, so the next album is definitely something to stick around for, you know.
What was the hardest Unearth stuff to learn?
I think most of it was the live aspect, getting accustomed to playing to their click tracks. The clicks from the first few albums, the tempos are really wavy, so making those transitions musical and sound good. There is a lot of flow with what Unearth does and the last few albums have been more mechanical, but getting used to those clicks was one of the major struggles. When it came to speed and all, nothing stood out to me that was too wild. But yeah, the hardest was the live aspect. It’s always a growing experience, whether it’s throwing in new stick tricks or just playing night after night, you find out things progressively as you go along.
What are some new stick tricks?
I’ve been working on one behind the back, throwing it in the air and catching it with a spare hand. I’ve taken that one from Adam Gray from Texas in July, he was incredibly good at it, so I watched them playing and stole some of his stuff. You can go online and look at me be a tool dropping sticks (laughs).
Who are some current drummers who you have encountered that stand out to you?
We just went out with Wovenwar. Jordan, who used to be in As I Lay Dying, like most of that band, is a real heavy hitter, a great metal pocket player. We went out with Fit For an Autopsy over in Canada and their drummer [Josean Orta] is one of the better dudes I’ve seen. When it comes to metal and just pure power and chops combined, the dude can pull off some serious stuff and he still hits with a primal rage. It was impressive seeing him play. Adam Gray is a born natural, which was frustrating watching him play because he made everything look so simple and he had so much flow when he played. You watch that night after night doing the exact same shit and he just makes it look better every time. I just thought, ‘oh, fuck you dude.’ He makes me try and step it up. The guy from Killswitch Engage is a sight to be seen, he’s a machine like a cyborg. Jason Bittner from Shadows Fall is always a classic [too].
Where you always a metal drummer?
Growing up I played jazz for about four years and did marching and symphonic. I played in cover bands, like rock ones, and I do a lot of other learning from big name drummers like Thomas Lang and Marco Minnerman and Virgil Donati – guys who play trad grip and all. I can pick apart what they have, pick it apart and apply it to my own playing. These progressive fusion drummers and also D&B is great too. All those drummers I can relate to, and there is a lot to learn from there.
Your tour with Nile, Whoretopsy and Feed Her to the Sharks kicks off this month. It is an eclectic mix of metal bands on paper – what are some other varied bills you have played?
We played a cruise called 70,000 Tons and Nekrogoblikon and Fear Factory where on there, but tonnes of weird bands like the Nekrogoblikon dude getting dressed up as a Goblin. We played with some locals on the East Coast, and one band set up a drum machine where the drummer was supposed to go. There was a picture of the programmed drums on a laptop and going through the PA. It was fucking hilarious, as a drummer seeing that I couldn’t believe someone did it. It was a bit of a gaffe. Watain, when we were in Australia back in 2012, were full on so if you’re into Satanism and all that then that’s your thing.
What’s the set going to look like on the Aussie tour?
We are going to try and keep it mixed with six albums out to make sure everything is played. The hit stuff off each album and all, plus about four new songs. A lot of new and old.
What are the plans for next year?
We are going to start writing, it’s been talked about but not set in stone. We will finish the cycle with ‘Watchers of Rule’ and when that’s done we will try and get into the studio. We are in the works of doing some new stuff. I’ll guess late 2016 or fall 2016 for a new record, but who knows with all the roadblocks around.
Catch Unearth on tour with Nile, Whoretopsy and Feed Her To The Sharks this month. Details via the Facebook event.