Unearth Frontman Talks “Scam” Election, His Early Days, And Touring

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Since 1998 Unearth have brought their furious blend of metal and hardcore out from Boston, MA to the world at large. Considered a prominent figure in the New Wave Of American Heavy Metal, their recognition and dedication has earned them many of valuable metal tours. One of such tours is the currently running “Fury Tour” which pairs Unearth with Soilwork, Wovenwar, Battlecross, and Darkness Divided. During the Fury Tour’s stop at the Stanhope House, a roadhouse in Stanhope, NJ, I was fortunate enough to speak one-on-one with vocalist Trevor Phipps. We discussed Unearth’s current tour, future tours, music, politics, and other topics.

Watchers of Rule sounds way different from most of your previous albums. Seems to be a little more death metal influenced. Was that the band’s intent?

Nope. It just kind of happened naturally. The drummer we had on the album is Nick Pierce who’s not with us today because he had back surgery this Spring. He joined the band in 2011 but that was his first record with us. Just his style of playing led us to a more progressive and faster metal, and that’s just what came out of us. That record was just a natural thing that happened.

Metal these days, seems to be very fast-paced when it comes to output. Are you guys already brainstorming ideas for a follow-up to Watchers?

We are. We have a few skeletons of songs but there’s no immediate plan to jump into the studio. We still have a lot of touring left. We just got this tour started yesterday, then after this we have 2 weeks off and then we go to Europe to do a full tour. There’s talk of doing Spring tours as well. We still got a lot of touring lined up but we’ll probably be in the studio sometime next year.

You have some festival dates on your European tour right?

We did a festival circuit in August in Europe, and we’re doing this Headbanger’s Ball Tour in December. There are some festival dates on there, but it’s mostly just club shows.

And who else is on this Headbanger’s Ball Tour?

It’s Iced Earth, Ensiferum, and Kataklysm

I know The Fury Tour just started but who’s been the most fun to hang with?

Well, we’ve known the guys in Wovenwar for a long time, so immediately we just kind of hit it off with them as usual. They’ve been our friends since the early and mid-2000s from being As I Lay Dying. We know them very well, and it’s great sharing a bus with them. It’s a bit messy, there are about fifteen of us on this bus, a little bit cramped but it’s all good. Woke up to a smashed Jack Daniel’s bottle in front of me this morning. We left it on the counter and then while we were driving, maybe it fell. Smashed everywhere, Jack Daniel’s on the floor, it’s a nice thing to wake up to in the morning.

Speaking of cramped, did you ever figure a tour as big as this would come to this place? It’s a roadhouse.

Yeah. I’m surprised by the size of the tour. Besides the five-band package, there are five bands from the area as well. So it’s like a festival and it’s a tiny stage. So it’ll be fun, it’ll be packed, it’ll be hot and sweaty and energetic.

How’s your record label doing, Ironclad Recordings?

It’s on hiatus right now. I haven’t done a record in 3 years. I’ve started something new called Lifeblood Inc. it’s an A&R imprint of EOne. And I just put out the first record at the end of June with a band called The Schoenburg Automaton. They’re pretty extreme progressive death metal. It’s pretty killer. February will be our next release by a band from Rochester, NY called Unwill. And that’s a bit different. It’s lighter, more in the veins of Deftones but with more of a modern sound. So we got 2 different sounding bands for the first two releases.

You guys are obviously still tight with the guys in Killswitch Engage. Do you keep in touch regularly with other bands from the Boston metal scene?

We’re all friends on social media, we’ll comment and ‘like’ pictures and stuff. I personally don’t hang with dudes outside of a tour because I’m gone on tour so much that when I’m home, it’s family time. I hang with my wife and kid, my brothers and parents and make sure that home time is for home stuff and tour time is for hanging with the dudes.

Have you listened to any good metalcore bands lately, or do you believe the scene is oversaturated with your imitators who have hollowed out the hardcore influence?

Every genre will have imitators. Of course I like my friends bands that I consider younger but have been around for a long time. Bands like August Burns Red, or Carnifex. You have deathcore and metalcore, all that stuff is all cool. And Darkness Divided, that’s a good young band. I think they’re pretty tight.

What was the first concert that made you realize “I want to be a singer”?

I realized it before I went to a concert. I was a kid listening to KISS albums performing in front of my parents, aunts, and uncles with just an air guitar and shitty drumkit. Then I started singing when I was 12. I played guitar and I sucked at it, and I didn’t have the patience to learn. So I just plugged in and started singing along with my Testament records and I learned I could sing. When I was 14, I went to a band practice, the singer left early, so I just started singing for them, and then the next day they asked me to join the band, and it just went from there at 14 years old.

You’ve been the lyricist for almost 2 decades. Do you ever look back at a set of lyrics from early releases and think; “What the hell was I thinking”?

No. I’m pretty proud of these lyrics. I think mainly because I was an adult when this band started. If you go back to my first bands, yeah those were pretty immature funny lyrics, and at the time I was dead serious about them. It was some hokey shit when I was a kid. This band started when I was in my 20s. So as an adult, I had adult thoughts in my head, and not childish writing.

Are you aware that there was a death metal band from Albuquerque NM, in the 90s called Unearth?

We became aware of that later on. When we started the band, they weren’t really popular and no one really knew them. There’s also a grunge band from the early 90s from Seattle by the name of Unearth. And this was before the internet was so widespread. Our name was fresh, so we copyrighted it, trademarked it, and now it’s all ours.

Who are you going to write-in for president?

Bernie Sanders.

It’s all a scam. Hillary’s gonna win. There’s gonna be more and more stuff coming out about Trump. And I feel that it’s all orchestrated. The Clinton’s aren’t like a royal family or dictators but the family’s forced on us. Trump was never a serious candidate. He fooled everyone into voting for him. Not me of course. But he fooled a lot of intelligent people into voting for him, and all he was going to do was derail his own campaign. And the Democratic Party had it out for Bernie from the start. He did really well, and they didn’t expect him to do so well. With the DNC leaks, it’s an embarrassment for our country. Our vote doesn’t really matter right now. It’s all bullshit. So Hillary’s gonna win, she’ll be our president, it is what it is. Anyone with half a brain realizes that this was not a fair and true election. At least that’s my thought. I’m not upset with people who are voting for Trump or voting for Hillary. I just see things from a certain perspective. It’s cool if people think from another perspective. I’m not gonna be like “This is the only way to think”. It’s just the way I think.

What is your desert island album?

It’s a tough one, but I’d have to go with NOLA from Down. I feel like I’ve listened to that record more than any other record in my life. Because it’s heavy when you want heavy, but it also has mellow parts when you want mellow. All of the songs are just so well-written that I can listen to it over and over again and not get sick of it. It’s a timeless record for me. I can’t even say it’s my favorite record, it’s just if I had to listen to a record forever it’d be that one.