PunkTV.ca exclusive interview by Dixon Christie with Mark Unseen of The Unseen in support of Internal Salvation.
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Dixon: I'm Dixon Christie here from PunkTV.ca with a true punk band and one of quite a few punk bands on this particular year on Warped Tour.
Mark: It seems like punk is making a return which is good to know.
This is Mark from the Unseen, why don't you say hello?
So how has the tour been going for you guys?
So far it has been going great. This is... I want to say the 5th show. It started in California, which is a long drive for us because we live in the East coast so we had a four or five day drive across the country to start the tour; we were tired before it even started. Once it got into gear it got a lot better though, and all the shows have been great.
You guys have been all the way across North America basically, and then coming up the coast and then back across Canada. Did you choose a bus or are you still traveling in a van? Do you guys kind of have a philosophy about touring?
Well this is the first time we have ever done the whole entire Warped Tour. It is two months and a week for us to drive out to California, and then a week to drive home, so with eight weeks we decided we had to go into something that was going to keep us sane because it can be really grueling and hot. We are basically in something that is a little bit smaller than a bus; it's bigger than an RV but it's smaller than a bus. It's great and it's got 6 bunks, a TV and a shower in it. It's above our standards, that's for sure, so we are living like kings.
Do you ever say to yourself "this isn't very punk rock but it's comfortable"?
Well, actually, I would say that our vehicle is kind of punk rock because it is smaller than the buses. So, it's like we're comfortable, but we aren't in what Yellowcard is riding in or anything.
Still DIY because we don't have the buses yet?
The guy that is driving us is actually a DIY company, he owns an RV and he owns this other RV that he is driving us in, and it's cool because it's not like a big corporate company. We got a great deal on it, and he comes form the punk/hardcore community, so it's cool.
How important is that DIY ethic and the roots of business for you guys?
To us, it's really important. We have been doing this for a long time so there are times that we do things with bigger corporations, things that maybe some people disagree with, but for the most part our roots are still really DIY; we do a lot of work on our own. We are on Hellcat records and they do a lot for us, but we still do a lot of the leg work on our own. We always try to associate with other people that have their roots in the punk or hardcore community, or just in the DIY community whether or not it's punk or hardcore. We try to do what we can to stay away from the majors basically.
That's kind of hard to do when you consider that the success of Hellcat is based fairly largely on Epitaph, and that the dichotomy there is that Epitaph is founded by a punk rock band that really had to learn a lot about business in order to become successful; punk has a DIY ethic but you can be successful and still be punk rock.
Absolutely, you are talking about like Bad Religion and Brett Gurewitz. They started their band in like '80, '81, or '82, and nobody would sign Bad Religion so I think Brett and Jay from Bad Religion were like "well, fuck it, we'll do it ourselves". They named the record, they named their label, they found someone to press it, and they were smart enough to just do it themselves; the guys from BYO records, fellow Canadians, same thing for them. They started up their label because no one would touch Youth Brigade. I have so much respect for BYO and Epitaph because they came from nothing and did it themselves and now, 25-30 years later, they are still doing it.
And BYO, I have to say whenever I can I have to remind people that they released SNFU's And No One Else Wanted To Play which is one of my favorite records.
They have done a lot of great shit. They did some of the early 7Seconds as well as comps with Bad Religion, Social Distortion and Aggression...just so many great bands.
I got to say, the more punk bands I interview the more I realize that the bands that stick around are really all very true to that DIY ethic.
There's nothing else they want to do. You can tell the people that really have the passion for it because they stick around. I have been doing this now for over 12 years and there is nothing else I want to do; I worked a regular job before I was able to be a full time touring musician and, even though I don't make shit for money, I would rather do this and make a little bit of money than go work 40-50 hours a week and get a better paycheck.
When you say a little bit of money, maybe you get a little bit more of a per diem but are we probably talking 10 or 20 dollars a day not including your merch if you are really smart with that?
Well the way we do it, it depends tour to tour. On this tour you really don't need money to survive because they feed us everyday so what we do is at the end of the week we pay our gas expenses, our rental for the bus thing that we have this year, and any other things that we have to end up getting throughout the week whether it be beer because we don't got any or a guitar that broke and we have to fix. Whatever we have at the end of the week we just split up between us. Sometimes it could be $5,000 or it could be $500, so if its $500 that's not good because you make $100 a week. You have your good weeks and your bad weeks basically.
Do you guys all have family back at home?
None of us have kids. All of us have families and brothers and sisters or girlfriends and stuff like that, but none of us have made that leap to get married or had kids yet. If we were to do that it would be really tough to be able to keep doing what we are doing.
It would be quite a strain eh?
So we were just talking about your new album, why don't you tell us about that?
The new album is called Internal Salvation. It comes out July 10th,which is right around the corner, and it's on Hellcat records. To me, and I think the rest of the guys in the band, it just seems like it picks up where our last album, State of Discontent, left off. It's not too much different, and I think it sounds a little bit better musically because we spent a little more time and money on the recording process and I think maybe we got a little bit tighter as band because we toured non-stop for two years after the release of the last album. Anyone who knows The Unseen knows they can expect something that is kind of similar to our previous album with a couple new twists, but nothing major really different.
You're like Bad Religion: you're not out to remake the wheel or anything.
You got your bands like Anti-Flag or Bad Religion or The Casualties and The Unseen where you buy one of their records and you know what you are in for basically. Yeah, there are going to be a couple twists and turns but it's not going to be completely different than the last one.
Since we have been talking about Hellcat, you said you guys spent a little bit more money on the record, how does that process work with Tim? Do you say "we want to spend a little bit more on this album" and they say "yes"? Is it a democracy between you? I have heard he is really great to deal with.
Yeah, they are really great to deal with. When you are a band on a label, what they do is they give you like a set budget and it kind of depends on how many records you are doing with the label and what you sell. If you're a band that sells like 1,000 copies of an album and you ask for $60,000 to record a record they are going to say "sorry, we can't do it". We do well; we're not nearly one of the biggest bands on Hellcat or Epitaph, but we are not one of the smaller ones. We are like in the middle and we are a really hard working band so they gave us what we think is a good budget and, sometimes, whether it is the album or anything else, like if we need a little bit more and it's reasonable, then we will ask them and usually they will give it to us. We're not unrealistic or are like "we need $100,000 to go do this!" They are really fair, basically. As long as you are fair and realistic with them, they are the same right back at you.
Did Tim or Lars offer to pitch in on this one?
On this album no, but on the last album Lars actually sang a song on it. This time around though we knew what we wanted to do and we had a limited time to do it so we just went in and did it ourselves. As far as the collaborations go, it's something that happens a lot on Hellcat, and it's because Tim really does like all the bands he signs. He has an interest in all the bands because he respects the work ethic, or what they are trying to do or what they sound like, so it's one big family. Rancid went over to Europe last November and they asked us to come with them; we did 2 weeks in the UK with them and it was an amazing opportunity for us to go over because they are probably bigger over there than they are over here, so to get to go over there and play to so many people its great. Again, it's just because, like I said, they could have brought any band up from any label but they chose us because they appreciated what we were doing and the fact that we were on his label and stuff. All the bands on the label just try to help each other out.
Basically, it's like one big family for the most part.
Alright well we got two more questions that we ask everybody and the first one is which of the following experiences have you had: have you seen the face of God, have you had an alien encounter, or have you seen a ghost?
I have not had an alien encounter, but I do believe in them. I have not seen the face of God and I am not religious. I believe in a higher power, but I don't really believe in a God, especially as in organized religion. As far as ghosts: yes I do believe in them, and I have had probably about at least five experiences with ghosts actually. I tend not to tell people because I think they will think I'm crazy, but I definitely have. A lot of the experiences that I have had actually have happened on tour believe it or not; hotel rooms, I tend to think that hotel rooms, with there being so many people staying there so, especially if its an older building, odds are something bad has happened at that room at one point, and I think that I have definitely have one experience in Wisconsin where the whole band was staying in a room together. Two guys woke up in the middle of the night, both of them were in different beds and both of them were sharing beds with other people. I was in the bed with one guy and the next morning he said he woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't sit up, that he was being held down by something, but I was in the same bed and didn't experience anything. Then, someone else woke up in the other bed like an hour later and said the same thing. Earlier that night in that same room we all heard weird dripping noises, it sounded like dripping water but there was no water dripping. We checked the shower, and we checked the water under the sink; it was weird and it was in this really weird, creepy place. Then, another experience, and people are going to think I'm insane, was we were in England about four years ago with the Dropkick Murphy's. I was alone in a hotel room, and this hotel room had bunk beds: I was on the bottom bunk all by myself, I passed out, and then I woke up to the bed shaking. My first thought, honestly, was that one of the other guys was on the top bunk jerking off because the bed was shaking but I realized it was shaking a little too much for that and I looked up and nobody was in there. So I have had ghost encounters.
The last question is what would surprise people most to learn about Mark or the Unseen?
A lot of people think that if you're in a band you live a crazy lifestyle: you are wild. I guess people would be surprised to know that the whole band is pretty mellow. We don't go raging after shows and snot cocaine off stripper's asses or anything like that. We are pretty mellow for the most part so I guess I would just say that. People expect bands to show up, play and then party but there is a lot of hard work that goes into it.
It's difficult to get loaded every night then have the energy that you guys do on stage.
Definitely, our drummer plays hung over a lot and I don't know how he does that. He says that he plays better hung over which I don't get at all. But it's tough and once in a while we'll get really wasted and sound kind of bad the next day, but we try not to. My thought is if people are paying to come see you then you should try your best to put on a good show for them.
You feel like you are ripping people off if you get shit faced before hand.
Once you stop caring, what's the point of doing it?
Well this has been a great talk.
Thank you very much.
Interview by: Dixon Christie, PunkTV.ca