Monday, June 23, 2014

Unkured Interview

Sometime in the middle of my recent NY trip, I decided to walk across the Williamsburg Bridge, and came across a trio of young heshers. I flashed them the horns, as required by law. Imagine my surprise when I saw those same young heshers play a set at Saint Vitus Bar that night. And that's how I discovered Unkured; I was blown away by their chops and after the set asked if they wanted to do an interview. The result is as follows:

Dreams of Consciousness: I have never heard of you guys before - what's that about?

Cody Knarr (guitar, vocals): Basically, this is the first time we've ever been up here [New York]. We're just about to put out our first full length album, so we're just getting the ball rolling right now. So that's probably why.

DoC: How long have you guys been around?

Cody: I started the band in 2011...right around 3 years.

DoC: What were you doing before that?

Cody: Nothing!

DoC:  I have to say, you guys look incredibly young.

Cody: We're around 20 years old. They're 19, I'm 20.

DoC: If I'm being honest, the reason why you guys stood out to me on the bridge is you (Cody) were wearing a Massacre shirt. And I'm not exactly a death metal OG, but I did grow up on death metal in the 90s. And then it came back, and then it became "old school", when we used to call old school death metal just "death metal".

But it is interesting to me that you guys are significantly younger than I am, and are basically getting into the same stuff that I did.

Ben Stanton (bass): That's where it's at, man. That's where it's all at.

DoC: Was there a cool factor to the fact that the stuff was so old?

Adam Green (drums): For me personally, I like the old stuff, it's not whether it's cool or not. I like supporting new music [too]. Because if we just support old's going to die. Jeff Hanneman passed away; the dude from Gwar, Dave Brockie, just passed away. They're getting old, and if we just support the older stuff, who's going to carry the torch? We've got to support the newer bands. Support everything if you can.

Cody: As far as support, I agree with him, but as far as listening, the stuff I listen to on a daily basis, it is mostly older stuff like Massacre, Nocturnus, Death, and stuff like that. And it's just because it seems more legitimate. Because [those bands] weren't listening to other death metal bands from 10 years ago and just recycling it. Like when Nocturnus said, "Let's put keyboards in this album'', it wasn't because some other band had done it; they just did it. And it was more legitimate. There's just something about that authentic sound that just makes more sense to me, than the new regurgitated stuff.

DoC: Yeah, I have friends who are really into the old school revival kind of stuff, and the thing I keep trying to impress upon them is death metal the first time around was revolutionary. It was game changing, and it was never conservative... It was just, "We're going to do crazy shit and we're going to keep pushing it as far as we can." And that's how you end up with Human, and Individual Thought Patterns and stuff like that.

Cody: There's even people like Obscura that I have no problem with, who have taken that Cynic/Human-era kind of stuff, and tried to do that, and it's awesome stuff; but it's never going to be as good as the real thing. So that's why I just go in that direction as far as listening.

DoC: So does that influence the way you write? Are you constantly thinking, "What haven't we done before?"

Cody: The way that I write, it accidentally comes from bands that I listen to. What I normally try to do is, there are thrash metal bands, there are death metal bands, there are black metal bands, there are progressive metal bands, there are technical metal bands, and I iust want to cram all that together and figure out the perfect balance of all those things, and just make it work. I don't want to block out an idea because Cancer didn't do it, or because Grave didn't do it....

DoC: "This isn't 1986 enough!"

Cody: ...right. So I want to find that authenticity in that, just trying to put those things together, and if it ends up sounding like Death or something like that, that's just a plus.

Ben: For me, when I'm writing bass lines, sometimes I'll follow along with Cody, and sometimes I'll just do something in the same key. My goal isn't to sound like anybody, it's just to sound as bad ass as possible (laughter). If it sounds good, it sounds good; if it sounds like shit, it sounds like shit and you should probably write it again.

Cody: And that's another thing, we're really hard on each other and probably need to be even more hard when the writing process comes, because I actually had this album finished in August, and then we completely scrapped almost half of it. And then redid everything. And it's because we're okay with [criticism]... if it's bad, then tell me it's bad.

Adam: Well, honestly I didn't think a lot of it was bad, we just kind of took a look at it and thought, "Dude, this is going to be an album. We have to make the top product. That's how we're going to get shit done."

Ben: It had to be the Arise, the Domination, the Human of our generation.

DoC:  Dude... you just listed all the albums I grew up on. It's crazy.

Cody: Yeah. Because they're the best.

Ben: So we're just trying to outdo that. High standards.

DoC: Would you classify yourselves as "technical"?

Cody: I guess so.

Adam: I think a better term for what we do would be "intricate". Because I feel like "technical" can get skewed into just being hard to do, and that's not really musical. We have a lot of layers that go into our music, I think that's different than being technical. Because being technical can be just playing three notes really fast, and that's not hard to do.

Cody: I feel like that term gets used a lot for, "I'm going to write a riff for the sake of being technical and hard to play," whereas we just write the riffs and they might end up being intricate, or there might be ones that are really simple.

Adam: Just as long as it sounds good, I don't really care about technicality. I kind of do on drums, but there's a time for that and a time to be a little more straight forward.

Cody: There has to be a balance.

DoC: Where do you draw the line? When is technical too technical, and when are you happy with a riff?

Cody: Honestly, I don't think of it as a technicality issue. I think of it as: Once it has a groove, and once it fits in with the other riffs, if it ends up being technical, it ends up being technical. Like I said, there has to be a balance. And that's really necessary, because I feel like there are bands who write stuff for the sake of being technical, or are slow for the sake of being slow, when you can combine both of them, and they balance each other out.

DoC: When I was watching you guys, I remember thinking, "This is what it was probably like to see Death play back in the day." Is that [band] a big influence?

Cody: It is for sure, that's my favourite band.

Ben: Me also.

Adam: Same here, I guess!

Cody: It wasn't like, "We love Death so much, we have to be like that band 100%." It kind of ended up being that way, that after every show, somebody would say,"Hey, you kind of sound like Chuck Schuldiner." And now it's become a thing. It's a great honour, and I love being compared to that. But I don't think it's [conscious].

DoC: What made you decide to be a band?

Cody: Around middle school, I just had been trying a lot of different things, and I always kind of had an interest in guitar. And I picked it up and started writing random stuff, and started talking to people who had an interest in music. I've gone through a lot of line up always made sense to do, and I've always had fun doing it.

Adam: The three of us, we work well together, and I don't know if we can work with anyone else, because we're very picky and we have very high goals. And the people around us had high goals too, but we wanted to go a little higher than them, to just write the best possible music we can. We didn't want any limitations on it. We're just the right people for each other.

DoC: Did you guys grow up together?

Adam: Well, Ben here is my cousin...

Ben: Yeah, we're family so we did. I met Cody at one of his concerts, like the first Unkured concert that was ever at a venue. And we were really into thrash at the time, and Unkured was a little more straight forward...

Cody: Yeah, it was a little more like "The Big Four".

Ben: ...and we were just excited to have another thrash band in Cincinnati at the time. Or to have "a" thrash band...We were playing grunge at the time, damn it!

Cody: So we just became friends from them coming to the show, and getting in contact that way. Then, I had band members drop out, and had to get rid of them for whatever reason, and they were there to have my back, so I'm thankful for that.

DoC: Did Unkured already have a reputation back then?

Ben: I would say no (laughter) because that was in the middle of "deathcore".

Cody: Basically, we just wanted to play really bad, and we would get on bills with deathcore bands that were just as small as us, and pop punk bands that were just as small as us. And we had to deal with so much of that shit...

Ben: Fuck you, pop punk people!

Cody: ... so it's just good to get out of that trend, and be able to come here [New York] where there's actual people who are interested in this genre of music be able to see us, and not just the pop punk bands that were playing [the same gig] watch. So that's where we started, and it was kind of shitty, but we dealt with it, and now it's better.

DoC: What's the scene like in Cincinnati?

Ben: It's better. There are a lot of better bands [now], our friends Valdrin, Gomorrah, Verment, Faithxtractor - all really good bands it seems risen up in the past year.

Cody: We've just been playing shows with them it seems like over the past year. And the promoter Joe Grizzly has really just helped keep it all together by not dicking everybody over and just creating a good atmosphere. Our friends Dismemberment from Columbus came down, and had a good touring experience. Which was the big problem in Cincinnati, [there were] a lot of religious venues that would want you to play, so that was an issue as far as genres go. It just wasn't good for a healthy death metal scene.

Ben: Promoters would just screw bands, [out of] like 20 bucks. The screwing would go both ways. That's just lunch money, man. You can't live off that at this point in Cincinnati, so there's no point in taking that super seriously. You should be doing it for fun, or doing it for the love of the music.

Cody: Those people still exist but almost nobody uses them in the death, thrash or black metal scene in our area. Those people get pretty much the metalcore and deathcore stuff, which is dying out.

DoC: Do you guys have regular venues to play?

Ben: We do now, called the Backstage Café. It's about the only one we play in Cincinnati anymore, we used to play all over.

Cody: That's the one that's run by that promoter. We've kind of been making regular stops up to Columbus, where we'll play the Alda Rosa, the Shrunken Head, Ace of Clubs, and we recently just played a new place called the Rehab Cavern. The metal scene seems really strong there, and everyone's really cool. [Columbus is] where we normally go up to, it's only about an hour and a half from our house.

DoC: What are the crowds like?

Cody: It's getting better. It was like a whole bunch of people standing around, and now when we're playing this Backstage Café, people want to move, people want to mosh, people are into it.

DoC: You guys have an EP out (As Reality Melts); tell me about that.

Cody: It came out last February. It's more of a demo now. It had 5 tracks on it, that I had pretty much written all of, aside from the last track that our old guitarist had helped on. We got kind of dicked on it, we recorded it in only 2 days and it was mastered that same day. Probably 16 hours all together just to make it.

Whereas the new one we're recording now, Mutated Earth, we're entering our second month [of recording] and it's like night and day. Those songs are good on the EP, but the new stuff that's going to come out will be just so much better. It's just going to blow it away.

Adam: It's a lot more mature, it's a lot more developed. Our skills in the course of a year, we've all grown together by playing Together. Especially me because I feel like I was worse than Lars Ulrich when we recorded that EP.

Cody: The first show that he played with us...our [old] drummer quit about a month before we were supposed to open for Morbid Angel, Dark Funeral, and Grave. And basically we got together with Adam about a week after he quit. And Adam just had this drum set that he got off the side of the road...

Adam: My neighbours were throwing it out, we went and picked it up real quick. It was like a 90's Pearl Export, which isn't too bad, but it was still "beat to the shits"...

Cody: we got together with him, and I didn't really have to teach him any of the songs. He knew them from seeing them live. I think that was only about 4 months before we recorded the demo.

DoC:  And how'd that Morbid Angel show go?

Cody: Oh, it was great. Cleveland rules as far as metal crowds go, we love playing there. Grave liked our stuff apparently; that was just fucking cool. And the bassist from Grave said I sounded like Chuck Schuldiner, so that was nice.

Adam: That was my second show too, I think.

DoC: Let's talk about Mutated Earth.

Cody: We started recording that first week of March. I just finished everything guitars, guitar solos, and vocals right before we left, and Ben's about to record the bass, and then it's going to go into the mixing and mastering phase. It got pushed back a little because of financial issues and stuff like that.

DoC: Are you self releasing and self recording it?

Cody: Yeah, everything is self-done except for the artwork - I had a guy named Rivian do that for us. He does really good work. As far as recording goes, and as far as distribution, everything is on our own right now. We're just hoping it catches someone's eye, and we're going to be able to get some help.

Tridroid Records are going to be putting out a cassette of our EP. So that's a step towards something, because it's a label. So hopefully that'll get the ball rolling on a label getting interested; that or keep booking tours, and distribute it that way. Because what we do is, when we get into a town, we'll get to a record store, and take the EP there and give it to them, and say, "Give it to whoever you want to." Just to try and get it out.

We're working on vinyl pressings - it'll probably be limited to a hundred, but those are really hard to get everything figured out.

DoC: So what do you have planned for the rest of the year? You have an album coming out, do you have a tour lined up?

Cody: We're going to start something for july, we're going to go south east...we're trying to go through Virginia, West Virginia, and the Carolinas. See where that takes us. We do have some people looking at us to try and help us with booking, but that's all kind of up in the air. After the album is released, I'll probably be selling it through Ebay as bundles.

The stuff we have coming out has been written for months, and I've already started writing the EP that will come out probably in winter. It's going to be a three or four song EP. And that's just going to be ridiculous. I've got that stuff brewing and it's just going to be crazy.

You can pre-order Mutated Earth through Unkured's Bandcamp page - HERE.

Unkured on Facebook