Note: This was the first interview I did, and it wasn’t really my best. I found this dude to be not exactly stoked about doing an interview. My guess is that they drew straws and he got stuck with it. Taken from Unchain the Underground, from when I wrote for them.
For many, the name UNEARTH is synonymous with everything they like about metal-core; hardcore breakdowns mixed in among technical, melodic guitar lines, topped by sometimes-political, sometimes-personal screaming that’s always lined with angst. Having always been a metal kid, I’d never really given any of these “Luke Skywalker” types who “sound like AT THE GATES” any credence until I heard UNEARTH. So, of course, I was thrilled at the chance to sit down with Ken Susi over a beer and have a quick chat before their show in Minneapolis (w/TERROR, BLACK DAHLIA MURDER, and REMEMBERING NEVER). Here’s a bit of that conversation.
So why did you choose to work with Adam D. [KILLSWITCH ENGAGE] on the new record?
Ken: He’s my best friend, and we’ve done all our other albums with him, so we just decided to keep it together.
Why did you choose to sign with Metal Blade as opposed to staying with a more hardcore label?
Ken: The hardcore label wasn’t really working out for us, we were hitting roofs and basically we couldn’t stay there because we were bigger than the label. Nothing against Eulogy in any way, shape or form, but we needed more promotion, we need more money to do recording in order to make it sound well [sic] and to be an established band. So we decided to take the next step, there were other labels that wanted to sign us but we chose Metal Blade because it was an honest deal and those guys have always been cool. We could’ve shot higher and been on Road Runner or whatever, but we didn’t want people stepping into our music and telling us what to do.
Ok, cool. Personally I think that The Oncoming Storm has a much cleaner production than your last two, at least your last full length The Stings of Conscience.
Ken: It’s more time, it’s more time in the studio. We spent a month on that album, versus four or five days on Stings. So, you can tell by that.
Do you think the more technical aspects, the more “Metal” aspects of your music, the sweeping, the solos, etc., are going to isolate your more Hardcore fan base?
Ken: No, not in any way, shape or form, because we’ve always integrated it tastefully into our music. We’ve kept the happy medium between the two, we are a metal band, but we are a hardcore band, there’s no separating the two. We’re a true metalcore band, kids who like hardcore will like us, and kids who like metal will like us as well.
You do clean vocals on this record, don’t you?
Why did you choose to include them?
Ken: The parts called for it. There’s a couple parts that called for some parts, and we’re not afraid to do stuff like that. It’s not like we’re trying to mold or shape our music to be anything mainstream or anything like that, it’s just like the CAVE IN approach, if the part calls for a good clean part, then we’re going to do it.
Right on!Â So then why did you choose to re-record Endless?
Ken: Because it was only on an EP, and that song needed to be on an album so that the world could hear it.
So as far as your sound goes, you’ve got kind of that AT THE GATES, IN FLAMES, Swedish Death sound. Do you think you’ve gone over better in the US, where the sound is more of a new thing, a commodity, or in Europe where the sound has been around a lot longer?
Ken: The sound has been pretty big in the US for quite a while now but as far as Europe goes, it’s working out on both spectrums, I mean, we’re doing well in both markets. I think if anything this is becoming a new style, a new form of music, the way we integrate IRON MAIDEN parts with the CROWBAR stuff, we don’t really worry about specific points of our music, we’re taking the big picture and throwing it out there. Some people will be like, “Oh, you sound like HATEBREED at parts,” and then someone will be like “Oh, well you sound like IN FLAMES, or AT THE GATES, or IRON MAIDEN.” It’s like “Well, that’s cool, those are our influences” but we’re going for that other type of thing, and that’s the UNEARTH sound.
Why do you think this sound is taking off, why do you think it appeals to people?
Ken: The style that we’ve been doing for the past six years is unique, not many people have done the IRON MAIDEN meets hardcore stuff, a lot of kids have jocked us throughout the years, which is OK, but, I mean it’s time for the band who started doing that kind of stuff to start progressing and make things happen.
Alright, cool. So now, onto politics! Â The new record obviously has a political undertone to itâ€¦
So how influential have the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act been on the lyrics?
Ken: I mean, the war in Iraq, we’ve got friends and people who are being shipped off to war. In the band there are dudes that are pro-Bush and there are dudes that are against Bush. It’s not really like the band came together and said “Oh, we believe in this and we believe in that.” It’s not like we’ve had any of these in depth conversations about it. But what we do is that we understand this one general thing, that the world in general, not Iraq, not Afghanistan and all these other places that we’re invading or that people are invading every day.. it’s just that we’re adamant about people in general, and the way that society and humans act in this time, y’know, in this period of time and even in the past.
History, basically, is one of those things that foretells the future and after WWII, after we dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki people should’ve understood that war is an awful thing and that we should stay away from this and shy away from it, but it seems like it’s been on hiatus for a few years and now it’s all back, like, everything is escalating, everything’s happening. Countries need to get together and people need to get together in order to sort out their differences, because education is.. I mean, we’re very educated people, the world is very educated, not all places, but people should know better and work out their differences. If we don’t, we’re all going to be fucking wiped off, so, the way we see it is, y’know, it’s not about like, this war or that war, or the right or wrong war, it’s about people in general starting within their families, raising their kids right, being home, spreading it throughout their community, and have their community start to spread it elsewhere. The more positive means of living and culture, or whatever, is excellent . That’s what’s going to prosper, that’s what’s going to make the world a great place.
So, did you pick up the new SONATA ARCTICA record Winterheart’s Guild?
Ken: I love SONATA ARCTICA, they’re fucking amazing!
Yeah, they should’ve been on Ozzfest. Speaking of which, who were you most excited to play with on Ozzfest?
Ken: Um, I was most excited to play on the same bill as JUDAS PRIEST and OZZY and BLACK SABBATH, because they’re main influences in my life.
Did you hear about the thing with DIMMU where they were kicked off the air for calling saying that anyone talking shit about Rob Halford being gay was “Fucking Bullshit?”
Ken: Well, I never heard about it, but I can say that dude is brutal as fuck and whether he’s sucking someone’s dick or eating a pussy, I could care less. He’s a good dude, he’s a great singer, and he’s inspired a lot of people. So, y’know, race, or sexual orientation has nothing to do with metal or hardcore music in general, music is a feeling, music is an emotion, it’s not race or sex.
Kris Kross will make you…
Have you seen any changes in your success since going on Ozzfest?
Ken: No, we’re still broke-ass motherfuckers. [laughter] We still play the same show we’ve played the last six years.
You were forced to shut down a show earlier on this tour because of ‘too many fights that broke out’ during TERROR’s set. What happened?
Ken: Oh, it was just a riot. It happens. Yeah, it was just fights and shit like that, we didn’t have to shut it down, the club shut it down, the police shut it down, so, you roll with the punches. Y’know, there’s a ton of shows where people have gotten stabbed or hurt, y’know, it happens. It’s part of heavy and aggressive music.
Righto, cool man, thanks for the interview, and good luck tonight dude.
Ken: Cool, thanks man.