PunkTV.ca exclusive interview by Dixon Christie with John "Slo" Maggard of Unearth in support of III: In the Eyes of Fire.
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Dixon: So tell us about who you are and your place in the band?
John: My name is Slo, or John, and I play bass for Unearth.
Where are you right now?
I am in Pittsburgh...I had to think about that.
Tell us about your spot on the MTV's Headbanger's Ball and what video still means to your band?
Having anything on Headbanger's Ball is awesome for us because we are constantly out on the road, so it's good to have any thing on MTV. We have the new video completed in LA for the song, "Giles", and that is out now. We are touring to support it, so hopefully they will get that in rotation on there as well.
When will kids be able to see it?
That will probably be in the next couple weeks.
Let me ask you this, obviously there are advantages to being on the road so much. The bands that we talk to that are doing 200 shows a year seem to all be respected by MTV.
I would agree with that. I think that there are some bands that are getting their break with that, at 200 shows a year, but they are young bands. They are starting to get breaks from MTV just because they are touring so much.
Trevor recently moderated a conversation with Al Jourgenson and Mercedes from Kitty. Tell us how that turned out. We don't get MTV2 up here.
(Laughs) Actually I haven't even seen it, yet. We have been on the road and I don't have access to MTV or a laptop to look at it, so when I check the email and see an attachment to it, I don't even check it because there is always a line up of people behind me to check their own email. But, I hear from my little brother or sister about that stuff.
We managed to catch you up here in Alberta, Canada and to be honest compared to the other bands, you guys were hands down better and tighter. Tell us about your tour regiment and what you think of Canada.
Really? Thank you. We respect all the bands that are out with us, and we love to watch them get better, but we try to never compare ourselves to other bands...but it is good to hear that we are doing a great job.
That's a hockey player answer (laughs).
That's all right, I don't have any problems giving a hockey player answer.
I didn't mean to get mean, but honestly, since you practice all the time -- obviously -- and since with that Euro-flair, you have a sound that makes you stand out from the rest. How does it feel to tour with post hardcore bands that don't have that uniqueness?
That's a hard question to answer. I do believe that there are a lot of bands out there that don't stand out. They are part of a secondary tier, for lack of a better term, they are not part of the pioneers sorta of that genre of music. I think that there is an overwhelming number of bands that don't stand out so much. I don't say names because essentially all of the bands that we tour with we hand select and we feel that they do all stick out, so it's hard for me to comment on that. So we watch these bands grow and they get better and better. Bands like Walks of Jericho, for example, to see them play years ago and to see them now, there is a huge change. And they get better and better. A lot of these bands are still defining what they are on every level, and in a lot of ways, so are we. We have been lucky to have had played a lot of stages, from small ones to big ones, so we are just fortunate that we have learned to handle ourselves in all those levels. It's hard to say that one band is better than the other, because I see ourselves as a community of bands that are growing better and better.
Why is Massachusetts called the center of the metal universe? We don't really have a center of our universe up here -- well maybe the province of Quebec I have been told.
Massachusetts is a fun play, man. A lot of bands are really rocking. Every band from Mass. has interchangeable members. We have helped each other over the years. There is a friendly competition, and it's kinda weird, man, where it grew into this thing that we can't control. Whatever people say, the center of the universe, I don't know anything about that, but everywhere seems way better, in my opinion.? There aren't very many hardcore shows in Boston, but that seems to be picking up a lot. There is one venue in Worcester called "The Paladium" that has always been supportive, and that's been the venue that supports metal. That's the mecca venue out here. That club has quite a big outreach in old New England. You have a lot of people that can come from a lot of places to go see a show there.
So tell us about III: In the Eyes of Fire and how the album continues your musical journey?
It's a heavier factor, more agro album -- it's a raw album, man. We took a different approach to it. It's a real performances, it wasn't done to a click track. We just went in there and played it like we did it. And I think people will really dig it. I hope they have a new found respect for us, and they will see that we haven't gone in the direction that they thought that we would go, and hopefully they will like it...
Tell us about working with producer Terry Date (Soundgarden, White Zombie, Pantera, Deftones, Alice in Chains, Nirvana, Pearl Jam). That must have been a trip?
Yeah, that was amazing. I grew up listening to all those bands and it was kinda like a real fantasy just working with him. I never thought that we would ever get to the level. He was real down-to-earth, just kick back with a 30 pack of beer, and he made us all feel very comfortable, and he was all about getting the best performances out of us.
He would kick back with a 30 pack to himself?
Yep. He would start early and go all day and he would leave and he wouldn't even seem like he was drunk. He was amazing, he could just kick them back.
This is your fourth studio album, and second on Metal Blade, so why was it called "III"?
Umm, it's our third full length album.
I screwed up.
No, we have 2 other 5 song EPs, but this is our third full length. So you were right, kinda...
Tell us about your European influences and the sweet guitar sweeps and flourishes on your records.
Anything from Maiden to At the Gates to Pantera... In Flames. There's a lot of American meets Swedish influences in our style of guitar work.
Speaking of Europe, why do you think metal has stayed so strong in Europe, whereas over here it did see a drop off and now a renewal?
'Cause it is America. In America, we are just kinda stupid. It's just popular culture over here is just so erratic, there are just so many peaks and valleys in the industry. Over in Europe, it's not about what's cool and what's not as cool, it's just about being into the music, and going out and being entertained. In America I think that people have lost that, if I am not wearing tight pants, or have the right hair, I am not cool. Over there it's not about all that. It's about having a good time and loving the music, more about your personality.
Can we talk about your guitar setup in the studio? What amps are you using and what heads? Mics?
I was using Warwick heads in the studio, and for guitar heads, VH2 pitbull and Deliverance amps, and I believe there was a Peavey 5150 involved at some point, and I believe there was a few different Framus heads as well. I believe that they used the Dragon and the Cobra heads at one point, and if I am not mistaken for some guitar parts throughout the album here and there there was a Marshall here and there. I think we may have had more, we had a lot of stuff in there.
What about drums? Do you remember?
He was using a lot of different stuff. I believe he was using Tama stuff, and Meinl cymbals, of course, and a bunch of different snares.
Let's talk about Pro-Tools and auto correct plug-ins and how raw the sound is?
Basically what we did was we would just record straight off with Mike to get takes off the drums, and we would just play it over and over and over. We would just take sections of the songs in one piece that we would grab. In fact, everything that you hear on the album is all just live playing, basically. That was the only way that we used Pro-Tools actually, it wasn't about moving hits or slipping in notes here and there, this album is actually us playing it.
So why did you decide to take that route, not to hold anything against guys that do edit a lot?
We just wanted a real album. We are a live band. When you listen to the onvomign Storm and you listen to us live, it's two different experiences. And we wanted to put out an album that shows what we do, with a polished album, which becomes the status quo. Now those polished records are being done all over, and computers are aiding in the production, so we wanted to do an amazing album that sounded believable and was amazing, but we did it live basically, so that was our goal.
You are touring leading up to the release. Why not just wait till the album comes out like many other bands? Tell us about your touring ethic.
We just get on the road. We are a working class band, that's what we do. We wanted to get out and pre-support this album, so we are like, "Ya, we are out to support our new album coming out soon". We felt like we had disappeared since December when we were out with Slipknot, so we felt that it was time to get out again.
When are you happiest?
When am I happiest? When I am at a casino (laughs). And I feel a lot at home when I am on the road, believe me. That's my getaway. When I was on tour, you are dealing with the same drunkeness every night, you sit in an air conditioned casino, and win some money, lose some money, just get away from the madness for a while.
You have toured with everyone: Terror, The Black Dahlia Murder, Judas Priest, Black Sabbath, Pantera, Atreyu, Slipknot, Killswitch Engage, As I Lay Dying, Hatebreed, Damage Plan, The Dillinger Escape Plan, Zao, Eastpack Resistance, Sick of it All, and Lamb of God to name a few. Tell us about some of your more memorable experiences and good times on the road with these great bands?
I think one of the big memories that sticks out with us is that we played the Fillmore in San Francisco. It was Headbanger's Ball 2 tour, and Zack Wylde was at that show and he ended up doing that dueling guitar solo with Dimebag. I was 5 to 10 feet from him and I was thinking like, "Man, I am never going to see this again". So that was surreal. And then just doing shots with him after, and I am thinking, I remember shoplifting these albums when I was a kid.
What about out with Slipknot?
Going out with them was a rager every night. With them we definitely brought out the drunken hi jinx. We get along with them really well, so every night we would be causing problems. This one night Slipknot and us totally trashed our dressing room, and As I Lay Dying? did not. So we just switched signs. So they got the shitty dressing room the next night. But we were joking, and we apologized, but we play dumb shit like that all the time.
Does it seem all too surreal at times? Like playing with Sabbath?
Yeah, every day. You wake up and you are like, "Where the hell am I and how the hell did this happen?"
How much of the new album will you be playing, and how does the selection process work for you guys?
Well, we have basically been practicing as many of the songs from the album as we can. On this part we are only playing 1 of the songs 'cause the new album is not out, we just have a half hour set. On a full tour where we headline we will play 3 of the songs. Some of the songs are a little rusty but our goal is to play all of the them at one time or another and rotate them.
What's on your rider for food and booze right now?
Food and booze right now? Lunch meat, beer, whiskey, water, Gatorade, bread, that's about it, all the basics, a bit of food, a bunch of beer...
Okay, you die and form a super band of the best players from all metal bands -- but not from Unearth. Who would you have in your band?
(Laughs) Oh boy, damn that's too hard. I really want Geddy Lee to be the bassist, 'cause I would have to be in it, but I could manage this band, so Geddy Lee would play bass, who would play guitar? Frank Zappa would play guitar. John Bonham would play drums. Let's see... vocals, that's fucked, John Lennon... this is going to be a weird band.
(Laughs) No doubt.
Let's see now, let's throw a keyboardist in there, Tori Amos (laughs).
Okay, last question. What would surprise kids most to learn about you or members of the band?
Ummmm, gawd I couldn't tell you. Ken draws a dick on his arm every day.
I am not even kidding, he draws it every day. Sometimes it is a monkey with a dick, or something eating a phallic piece, or a dude. No one really knows what that means. I think that is really funny...
Interview by: Dixon Christie, PunkTV.ca
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