“…it’s hard for a band like us who you know what you’re going to get when you get an Unearth record, but we kind of wanted to change that, we took it so extreme and we upped the technical level so much that I think it’s gonna make some noise and people are going to be forced to talk about it…”
From Release: After an awe-inspiring 15 years of blazing trails and dominating stages, Unearth is now institutionalized as a relentless force in heavy metal, standing the test of time with consistently triumphant creative output, tireless road warrior resilience, Blue Collar style workmanship and a resolute determination to deliver the goods.
Like Slayer, Cannibal Corpse, Testament and Anthrax before them, Unearth emerged as part of a burgeoning revolution in heavy music but continued to maintain their relevance and mastery of their craft. They’ve resisted and prevailed against changing trends, subcultural fashions and the way music is obtained and distributed with their credibility, integrity and unique persona intact.
You’ve gotta love it when an interview starts like this when you pick up the phone…
“Hello Sir, this is Buz McGrath from the band Unearth… you are listening to the sound of my voice, can you hear it?”
“Good… I’m trying to sound like a recording” *laughs*
At home in Massachusetts we chatted to Buz from Unearth about their new album ‘Watchers of Rule’, how it came together as well as their last Soundwave experience, Australian beer, and much more…
Thanks for your time again, Buz. We last spoke as you’d just released ‘Darkness In The Light’ and here we are now with ‘Watchers of Rule’ just about to drop, talk us through the last three years and how this album came together…
Not too long after ‘Darkness In The Light’ came out, we found ourselves a permanent drummer by the name of Nick Pearce, actually even before he was permanent, him and I started writing and throwing some ideas around and that’s kind of where this album started was with him. So for two of those years we were writing this record, and the record ‘Watches of Rule’ was pretty much done last year around this time, but there was some delays, it’s hard to explain but it’s a cascading effect, one delay sets off another delay, sets off another delay, so we kind of had to wait a little bit longer than we would have liked to release it, but it’s here, it’s like a baby being born and we’re very excited about it.
So when we spoke in 2011, talking about the drumming position, and Nick Pierce and I quote “he may be our new guy it’s still kind of the try out mode right now just to feel him out” and he has turned out to be the new guy indeed, has he now completely settled into the drummer role in Unearth?
Yeah I mean he is one of the most phenomenal drummers I’ve ever seen, let alone played with and everyone that we tour with who are bands that we’ve toured with for years and know our band well are like, this guy is unbelievable, where did you find this guy he’s insane… so that’s awesome, and writing wise with him, we were very prolific I mean we threw away probably two albums worth of material just because we had so much songs going on. Obviously they weren’t really that good the stuff we threw away but it was good to be productive like that, and he’s a good guy and that’s a huge thing too for us, just to be able to gel with me and Ken and Trevor, I mean we started this band and we’re a gang, so to get in with us and to get out humour and the way that we bust each other’s balls, it’s a weird dynamic and he fit right in which is great.
Where did the idea behind the song and title ‘Watchers of Rule’ come from?
The title of the record from what Trevor has told me in conversations about it, ‘Watchers of Rule’ is I don’t know if you remember very recently in the United States, the national security administration there’s a guy named Edward Snowden who worked for them and then he really opened up a can of worms on the NSA revealing secrets that they were holding about how the NSA monitors and does surveillance on American citizens and people worldwide without their knowledge, everyday citizens they keep a record of phone conversations, so that’s kind of based upon that. People much more powerful than us just watching over what you do and to what end we don’t know. As far as music goes, we just wanted to make something as aggressive as we could, it’s hard for a band like us who you know what you’re going to get when you get an Unearth record, but we kind of wanted to change that, we took it so extreme and we upped the technical level so much that I think it’s gonna make some noise and people are going to be forced to talk about it and at least say ‘Hey, you checked out that new Unearth?’ ‘oh, I don’t really like Unearth’, ‘Well you should check this one out because this one is something different.’ So that was kind of our motivation behind that without actually trying to come up with a whacky gimmick like putting keyboards in and giving ourselves cool haircuts or whatever… whatever bands do to get attention, I don’t know.
Except for Ken who’s got the cool haircut…
That kid, he’s been cutting edge fashion for a while now, I’ll give him that.
Side note, I do love his band USA! USA! USA! They’re fun…
They’re fantastic, I saw them live about a year ago and I had a great time, it’s such cock rock, singing about chicks, Ken has a great vision, he can pretty much do anything.
You also worked with a new producer in Mark Lewis, why was he the right choice for this album?
I think without knowing it, he was the right choice, we’ve known Mark for years and we always talked about getting in the studio together and over the past maybe five years or so, that guy has got a hot ear for extreme metal projects, he’s done like Devildriver, whitechapel, Battle Cross, his resume has really come up in the past several years and we said alright, let’s try a record with Mark and try something different and I think it worked out well just because of how extreme ‘Watchers of Rule’ is and how dark it is, I think it was a perfect match for his ear and what he could do with the sounds. It’s got an interesting vibe when you compare it to the other Unearth stuff but it’s very dark and very heavy.
You had a major change recently in the fact that you’ve moved away from Metal Blade to the Century / eOne / 3Wise family, what has this helped do with the band?
Basically what we wanted to do was to maximise our presence in every market, a lot of labels are good in one particular area but maybe aren’t as strong in another, so we signed a multi-territorial deal, we did eOne in The States who is a great label over here, and then 3wise in Australia, we’ve known about them for a while, and these are territorial specific labels who have a good reach in those areas, so having the opportunity to do that I think maximises our spread. Metal Blade was always a good home for us, nothing bad went down and we said ‘we have to get out of here’ it was just the fact that this was going to be our sixth record and let’s just try something new and Metal Blade backed it they supported the move and I’m thankful for that.
3Wise down here is attached to my next question because you’ve hit our shores for Soundwave a couple of times now, when can we expect to see you back?
I hope this one, we’re pushing hard for the one coming up, I don’t know if it’s all booked up yet but that’s one of the funnest tours we can do. We had a tough time on the last one we played I think it was 2012, we were up against Slipknot every night, that kind of sucked because people wanted to see them, which is fine. You know what happened, I don’t know, there was some underhanded shit that went down with that, I think with our previous booking agent I don’t know I can’t really point any fingers but I suspect it had something to do with him, but normally we’re a band that should be playing that festival at no later than 1pm, we should be on that lower tier on that stage, then we got the schedule and ‘oh cool, we’re on at 8, how did we get that slot?’ that was totally out of the blue, and then I noticed that we go up against Slipknot every night, and, not only that, was that Machine Head and Lamb of God rotated around us, so that they wouldn’t conflict with that spot and I think we were a patsy for somebody, and as appreciative as I am to everyone that runs Soundwave and we always have a good time on it, I feel like that particular year there was some backhanded shit going on and somebody was out to get us. Not to say that it was a total loss, the shows were great, we still had a large crowd there but it was interesting how it was setup, I guess that’s what I want to say most about it, it was interesting how that happened, a band that is not that big that should be on at noon or 1 o’clock suddenly gets the 8pm slot and it’s up against Slipknot, and you got two bands moving around you, so we were going on after Machine Head, it’s like come on, somebody’s up to something… I didn’t mean to rant on that for a while, but we were talking about it, so it’s interesting.
What’s your favourite thing about Australia?
You know what it is, the people, they’re all beautiful… dudes, chicks, I mean I’m not a homosexual but I can appreciate good looking humans, and there’s a lot of them there. The beer is ok, actually the beer is complete shit, Copers red label is my favourite, and what is it, that carling?
You mean Carlton draught?
Oh my God, I’ve never almost threw up in my mouth from a beer, that was just horrendous. The weather is nice, so you’ve gotta find a good beer and chill out, but the vibe there, I’ve always just loved going there. It’s probably my second favourite place to tour, behind The United States.
You’ve been in Unearth now for fifteen years, what do you still enjoy about being a part of this band?
Just the hour that we’re on stage connecting with people that have come to the show that are fans. I also like this period, like the lead up to when a record comes out that’s a lot of fun I think, for me just because you get a lot of attention, people talk about what you did, I get to do interviews, so to me that’s fun. We’ve been doing it for a long time and hopefully we can keep doing it for a while.
Lastly, let’s look ahead, so if you can finish this sentence for me, in 2015, Unearth will…
Unearth will finish out the year 2015, hopefully with an announcement of going into the studio for 2016…
Oh cool, already?
I hope so, we got a lot of material written in the downtime waiting for this one to come out, so I think if this one does good, it’ll be time to capitalise on some momentum and put out another one pretty quick. I don’t know if that’s what’s going to happen, but that’s what I would love to see happen.
From: Boston, MA, USA
Band Members: Trevor Phipps – Vocals, Ken Susi – Guitar, Buz McGrath – Guitar, John “Slo” Maggard – bass guitar, Nick Pierce – Drums
Forthcoming Release: Watchers of Rule – (released 31/10 – 3wise Records)