Interview: Unearth

interview by michael bushman

“It was pretty scary. We were all away in Florida and we’re from Boston. With a broken window with AIDS splattered all over the van.”

Unearth are proudly metal. Wearing their influences loudly while managing to create the heaviest, thrashiest metal they know can pour their hearts into. Hailing from the bubbling metalcore scene of Boston (and the upper east coast in general), Unearth hit hard with a distinctive dual guitar approach that pays tribute to 80’s pioneers like Iron Maiden and Judas Priest, but the intensity and general attack is much more vicious in line with say Pantera for the 80’s kids and InFlames for the 90’s reference. For those thinking that rap saved metal, think again. Look over your shoulder and be scared of those kids waving a big middle finger in the face of all that. They are in their garages cranking out riff mad aggression and bringing up the new school of underground heaviness and continue to truly progress the genre.

Words with vocalist Trevor Phipps.

Bushman: While by definition, you fit somewhere into the east coast metal-core scene, but the first striking impression of Unearth is the IronMaiden/JudasPriest type metal influences in the dual guitars movements.
Trevor: That comes from listening to Maiden and InFlames. And Crowbar, who does a lot of harmonies and stuff like that. When we are in our van on trips, we put in a lot of Crowbar and InFlames.

The band has only officially been together since 1998…
We formed in August of 98. We were all in a bunch of local bands that really hadn’t done much. We just kinda got to together. The intention was to go out there and write metal that we liked and not to please other people. It turned out it did please other people. We cut a demo in December and put that out (I think 225 copies or something). And then Endless Fight Records picked it up and put out a CD for us. They put out the first Overcast record. We did small tours in support of that record. We sold like 2500 of them or something like that. We sent out a press pack to the labels after we did two new songs. In our top three choices was Eulogy Records. And he actually called back, and said he liked it, but was too busy. He said he’d call back in a couple of months. We got offers in the meantime and we kept him on the backburner hoping he’d call. The day we were going to sign with a different label, he called. He had an offer, and we worked with it and it’s been good since. They’ve been doing a lot of promotion and ads and lots of good stuff for us.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far?
The CD is the biggest thing. We just had a 13-day tour down the east coast, but I think our biggest thing is definitely our CD. Its ten songs we all like and are very proud of. It’s something we listen to in the car for ourselves, y’know?

But the general vibe is much more crushing.
The breakdowns and stuff probably come from listening to bands like Hatebreed. We grew up metal heads listening to Testament and Maiden. And then kind of transformed into the new side like EarthCrisis and Hatebreed. And that’s what we like so it comes out in our writing material.

Lyrics. A heavy feeling of being lied to? Who has lied to you?
Everyone lies dude. Everyone. People lie. The government lies. Work, school, people lie on a daily basis. I lie once in awhile. It’s a daily thing for the whole world to lie. People cover up different things that shouldn’t be covered up, sometimes they should. It’s just left a rotten taste in my mouth.

Any mistakes you’ve made along the way you can help others avoid?
Going from our last tour, we got to put an alarm in our van. Because we parked out back of a club (don’t ever park out back). This dude broke into our van and he bled all over the interior of the vehicle. Some neighbor guy told us where the guy lived so we called the cops. Most of our stuff was there, but they found AIDS medication. Sure enough, he had AIDS man. Had to put gloves and bleach the interior of the van. It was pretty nasty. It was pretty scary. We were all away in Florida and we’re from Boston. With a broken window with AIDS splattered all over the van. He went to jail though because he couldn’t afford bail. I felt kinda bad though because he had to go to jail for three or four weeks.

Any bands that have taken you under their wing and helped you out?
Trevor: We’ve gone on some weekends with Diecast and some small stuff with Shadows Fall. Those are two bands we look up to and they’re our friends. They are going lots of places. Especially Shadows Fall. I just saw a picture of them in Guitar World. Full-page interview with the guitar players.

Is there a healthy environment for heavy music such as yourselves in Boston?
The whole area is cool. I’ll drive an hour and its all different kids. New Hampshire, New York. The whole Northeast scene is good all around. Always good shows up here because there is a lot of good bands.

Do the kids understand the old school metal influence you guys display?
I’m not really sure. The kids all go off. But I’m not sure if they are like us listening to Maiden and Testament. If its younger kids, they’ll say Inflames. But the older kids all say Maiden and Testament.

What was the last album you wore out from listening to it too much?
Overcast’s last album. I just got so much stuff and not that much time to be wearing out albums. Poison the Well was the last one I played a bit too much.

What motivates you to create and be in a hardcore band?
Just loving music and growing up listening to this type of stuff. My father was big time into rock n roll. My whole life I’ve been listening to music. That’s my thing. I got my first guitar when I was 11 or 12 and it had a little 13-inch speaker. I hated playing guitar. So I took my fathers $10 microphone and put it in the jack there and sang with my records. I always wanted to sing metal and hard music. I got into bands when I was 14 or 15. Same with my bandmates. They’ve always just wanted to play hard music.

In today’s world of “Let’s market everything” does the media (Television, Movies, Magazines) reflect the arts, or control and dictate them?
I think they definitely control everything. I think the biggest power for music out there right now is MTV. Bands like Slayer, Testament, Anthrax and Metallica. If Headbanger’s Ball wasn’t around back then, those bands wouldn’t be as popular as they are or were. If they brought it back, bands like Shadows Fall would be enormous. They’d be huge right now. Just more people would be exposed to that type of music on television instead of trying to find it through the Internet and small time records shops. If they put a 3-hour show from Midnight to 3 Am on Saturday’s I think bands like Poison the Well would be even more popular than they are now and have more records sold.

What’s the most messed up thing on television right now?
Jackass. That’s messed up. There was some kid out here, in New Hampshire I think, and he copied Jackass. He’s 13 years old. He put steaks on himself and put gasoline on top of the grill just like on Jackass. He has second and third degrees burns. He almost died.

No offense to him, but that’s called “weeding out the flock”.
Exactly. What a moron. I hope they don’t get taken off the air.

What are the plans for the bands future?
We’re doing small tours until mid-May until myself and guitar player finish up school. And then we’ll do as much touring as album sales allow us to. If we sell 10 CDs in Europe, we aren’t going to Europe. It’s not a moneymaking thing, but enough to break even and see the sights and do this for as many people as you can. That’s the best feeling.

Messages to the masses?
Just keep on listening to hard music. Best music out there. Have to keep it going.