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Unearth - Trevor Phipps (2006) Print
Written by Patrick Douglas   
Monday, 25 September 2006
ImageUnearth’s brutal style is often explained as a Pantera meets Iron Maiden with a little of Hatebreed tossed in. That blending of sounds is what has given Unearth an advantage over many other bands in the genre. Just ask vocalist Trevor Phipps, who recently talked to The Culture Shock from a tour stop in Atlanta Monday, September 25, 2006. In addition to talking about the band's influences, Phipps talked about the recent release of "III: In The Eyes of Fire."

Hello.

Can I speak to Trevor?

This is him.

Hey Trevor, this is Patrick Douglas, how you doin’?

How you doin’, man?

Pretty good. Got a few minutes?

Yes I do.

Awesome. So, you had a little accident today?

No. I didn’t. My girlfriend was in a car wreck. I had to call, ‘cause it was my car, so I had to call and do all the action reporting and all that stuff with the insurance. That took up a couple of hours of my day and you were calling as I was taking care of that stuff.

Is everything alright?

Yeah. She’s fine. She bumped her head a little bit, but she’ll be fine. The call sucked. It’s kind of frustrating ‘cause I’m a thousand miles from home, you know what I mean (laughs). I can’t really do much about it except make a bunch of phone calls. Thanks for your patience, man, I appreciate it.

No problem at all. Are you guys in Atlanta today?

Yeah, we’re in Atlanta today.

How’s the tour going thus far, other than having the occasional car accident?

(laughs). The tour’s been amazing so far. We hand picked this bill. Bands that we all believe in to open as our main support. It’s been a bit of a bummer the past couple of days without Terror being here ‘cause I think they’re one of the best live bands in the world right now for hard music. Scott got sick a few days ago, so they’re missing a total of five shows. We’re filling in local openers on each of the shows that they’re missing.

That’s an interesting way to help out fans in the case of a problem like this you just put the call out and give a band the opportunity to share the stage with you guys.

Yeah, I think it’s always a good thing to have a local on. We couldn’t really do it this bill ‘cause we already had five bands. That’s a pretty long night to begin with. If we do a headlining tour, we always try to help out bands in that region, but somehow we couldn’t. We try to make it feel good for the kids and have a local hero band come on and play the show.

I see you guys are hitting the road overseas next month. Do you get excited with that looming on the horizon or is it tedious to have to go overseas?

I love traveling. That’s a huge perk of this job. We get to travel the world for free, you know what I’m saying. It’s heavy music, so we’re not gonna get rich on it, but we’re getting all this experience just traveling the world. We’re hitting Japan, Australia and New Zealand and right after that we’re going to Europe. It’s amazing to be able to travel the world and play music for people that dig it.

A lot of people out there may not realize that you guys have been touring like crazy for a long time. How different is it for you to finally be the headliner on many of these tours as opposed to opening the shows?

I prefer headlining because the majority of the crowd are there for you. They know your material. They’ll sing along. It’s not like you have to win the crowd over ‘cause they’re there for you. It’s more like a straight up party for us to play. We play an hour, we play 11 songs, it’s just a great time. That being said, I love to open for bands to try to win over and try to impress people who haven’t heard us before. Like an Ozzfest was such an important thing for a band like us to do, ‘cause we’re not gonna get radio play. So the best we can do to expose our music to people is to play for people who have not heard of us or haven’t heard us yet. I enjoy both, but I definitely prefer headlining.

It’s definitely been a crazy past couple of years for you guys. You smashed through with “The Oncoming Storm,” you did the Headbanger’s Ball tour, Ozzfest, Sounds of the Underground. Now you’ve got the new album out and you’re still touring your asses off. What do you think when you reflect back on the non-stop marathon of metal that you guys are still on?

(laughs). To me, it’s a dream come true. This is what I’ve wanted to do since I was a kid. Either this or become a professional baseball player. That kind of fell by the wayside when I was a teenager, you know what I mean (laughs). This is awesome. I love doing this. I wouldn’t have it any other way. We’re gone from home for about eight months a year, but at the same time, we wouldn’t be doing this if we didn’t want to do it. We’ll do it for as long as people will have us.

What’s been your stand-alone favorite moment so far?

That’s a tough one. I’d say there’s a few. Just playing on Ozzfest in ’04 with Sabbath and Slayer and Priest was rad. Touring with Damageplan in ’04 was also an amazing thing. I got to hang out with Dime and Vinnie for several weeks. To form a friendship with those guys who were the main part of my personal favorite band of all time, Pantera. Just touring all around. That’s a huge thing for me. Like I said, I love traveling. I love meeting new people and I love playing music for people that enjoy what we do. That’s a huge highlight for me. I’ll keep doing it forever as long as there’s people here.

Speaking of Dimebag. Actually I spoke to you during that tour when you were with Damageplan and you told me a story about Dimebag getting you completely shitfaced

(laughs).

I also spoke to Dime a month or so after that and asked him to recall that story and I’ll just read you what he said. He said ‘He came up and told me that he prides himself on drinking everyday and he was ready to go and he was ready to fire up. I started lightin’ him up with a couple doubles man. Next thing I knew he had to get carried out and then I found him out in the parking lot sitting in the car passed out and we woke him up and gave him another double and he’s kind of eased off ever since just a little bit.’

(laughs)

It’s a good story, man. How proud are you to have had the opportunity to spend time with Dime and have stories like that?

Extremely proud, man. Like I said, that’s my favorite band of all time. It’s kind of nervewracking to meet somebody that you kind of looked up to as a kid growing up. He was more than I thought he would be. He was the coolest guy on the planet. To get to form a friendship with him, that meant the world to me. I feel like I’m doing something right, if I’m getting experiences that make me this happy in life. To be able to meet a guy like that and become friends with him is just amazing. I’ll always cherish those times with Dime. That’s a pure tragedy of what happened. I think about it almost everyday. I wear the bracelet everyday in his memory. I wish we could all turn the clock back and change what happened. He’s an amazing person and I’ll always think back on the good times.

Your style is similar to Pantera meets Iron Maiden. A lot of people make that connection. What is it about this band, in your opinion, that makes it unique from other bands in this genre?

I would say that mixture hadn’t really been done when we first started doing it. We definitely have some of the hard core elements in there too. The Hatebreed style is in there as well. You can try to make yourself unique by writing what comes from the heart. People are gonna say you’re different, people are gonna say you sound the same. We feel that we create totally, original heavy music. Of course, we have our influences. We have our old thrash influences, bands like Testament and early Metallica, Anthrax, stuff like that. Obviously we’re fans of Pantera, Hatebreed, Iron Maiden as well. There’s a whole range of different musical influences that we all grew up with. Metal’s been around for 35-plus years now. So, there’s a wide range of different styles of metal that we’re all fans of. I think it works its way into our writing style.

I imagine it was somewhat challenging to follow up such an amazing album like “The Oncoming Storm.” Was there any pressure on you guys as far as that goes?

There was pressures from the label and management and everything, but we’re confident enough in ourselves as musicians that we knew we would write something that we enjoyed. We never would go into the studio if we weren’t ready. We were roughed a bit. We only had three and a half months to write it, but if we weren’t ready, we would’ve said, ‘yo, put the brakes on, we can’t record yet.’ What it actually did, was it actually put on the focus more. It forced us to practice four to six days a week, as opposed to having a more relaxed atmosphere of two to three days a week. It actually gave the record a more overall complete pop, because we were in one certain mindset in a certain amount of time whereas our other records in the past feel more like songs, we’re fans of the songs, but they’re more or less songs that were written over a couple of years. It’s more or less a collection of tunes over a time frame, so it’s not really a complete vibe feel, whereas this record was done all in one time, so it feels more like a complete record.

With the hectic schedule that you guys have, was there any kind of hectic vibe going on when you were recording this as far as trying to get it done and get back out on the road or did you get comfortable in the studio and take your time?

The first part, we were very comfortable. Towards the end, though, it got a little nervewracking ‘cause I got a little bit of a cold, so I had to postpone singing for a few days and then we confirmed ourselves for the Sounds of the Underground tour in Europe. We had to be there by May 8 and we had the studio, I think, until the 14th or 15th, so with me getting a slight cold and having to take a couple of days off, I had to put the pedal to the metal the last few days of being in there. What was kind of bummer was we had to hear mixes of the CD transferred over the Internet while we were in Europe. That was kind of a headache. It’s always better to be at the studio, have the guy who’s gonna mix it, you come in at the end of the day, you hear it in the speakers, you take it out to your car, what have you. We had to do it with these bum speakers on a bus in Europe. That part was nervewracking. We got through it. We actually didn’t confirm the actual mix until we got home, ‘cause were weren’t comfortable approving a product that we weren’t totally into the speakers that we were hearing it on. I think if we didn’t go to Europe, I think the record might have come out a week or two before that, but it doesn’t matter at this point.

ImageWas this one of those deals where you had a ton of songs that you wanted to put on here, but you had to pick and choose, or was it something where you had an idea in mind and said ‘this is what we want to do’?

We wanted to do an 11-song record. We had 11 songs going in and one of those songs didn’t make it. We actually wrote one song in the studio and that’s the last track “Big Bear And The Hour of Choas.” That song was written within one hour. It was written and recorded all in a one hour timespan. We were done recording for the day, the drums were still set up. It was the end of the drumming sessions for Mike, ‘cause the drums always go first. We all got drunk on this 40-ounce malt liquor called Big Bear and we were all just hanging out and having a good time and just jamming. We had the studio from noon to midnight everyday, so we were done. We were jamming, Terry was watching TV and just hanging out and we had these ideas that we just kind of pieced together while we were drinking and partying and we’re like ‘hey this sounds good.’ We just told Terry to press record and we did it in one take and were like ‘that’s fuckin’ magical.’ It was different for us and it was cool, it was just the vibe that we caught at the moment. Doing that song, actually kicked off another tune that just disappeared (laughs).

That’s cool. The title sounds chaotic and it’s about you guys drinking Big Bear (laughs).

Yeah and it truly came out of nowhere. It was great. It was something that we really hadn’t ever done before. We’ve always gone to the studio with the songs prepared and this song was kind of out of left field.

As you guys continue to produce amazing albums, how much does your confidence and maturity level come into play when you go in to create tunes?

That’s a big thing too. We’re all very confident in what we do. We’re all in our late 20’s now and we’ve been playing music for 15-plus years each. We all know we can do our jobs fairly well. We’re all confident in what we do. That was easier this time around, to actually go in there. We’ve been in the studio for years. Just go in there and punch it and do your job and just make sure and get the best performance possible.

Where do you dig the most for your lyrics when you’re sitting down to write stuff?

This record was mostly from a personal perspective. That’s where the actual album title comes from as well. I’m just like every other person on the planet. We all go through our trials and the bullshit that life’s gonna hand you. In the past couple years for some reason, my personal life has gone through some not-so-positive changes and so this is my chance to vent about ‘em and get them down on paper. I get to use screaming as a therapy by screaming about these things each night on tour.

When I did talk to you a few years ago, it was before “Oncoming Storm” had come out and you told me that you wanted this band to get as big as it could without selling out the bands integrity, which you guys don’t have to worry about. How difficult a task has it been with pressures from outside influences for you to maintain that level of quality?

We’re very lucky that we’re on the label that we’re on. Metal Blade gives us full freedom to do what we want. They’re not asking us for a radio hit. They’re not asking us to do anything. They want us to make the decisions that we wanna make. They’ve been around for so long that they’ve seen when a band writes from the heart and writes what they wanna write and that’s gonna prolong their career. They’ll actually sell more records over a long period of time then they would with a band that gets big off of one album. A band like Cannibal Corpse has been around for 20 years and they’ve just been writing and they’ve been putting out record after record of stuff that they love to do and that’s a mold that we wanna follow. A band like Cannibal and a band like Slayer always put out solid record after solid record and their fan base will always stick around and always be there for them and that’s what we wanna do. This band doesn’t have any aspirations of becoming a multi-platinum band. If we do, for some reason, blow up like a Pantera or Metallica in the early days when they were a real metal band, that’s amazing. But that’s not something that we’re setting our sights on. This band wants to be here for a long time like a Slayer or a Cannibal and continue to put out good record after good record.

Have you seen the new Adult Swim cartoon, Metalocalypse?

Yeah, that’s a great cartoon. We were actually watching that last night.

What do you think overall?

I’ve seen about four or five episodes. I think it’s hilarious. There’s spots where it feels like they came on our bus and watched us hang out for a little while. It’s kind of like a ‘Spinal Tap’ thing. It’s definitely written by people who know what bands are like behind the scenes. It might be a slight bit exaggerated, but it is pretty much what it is.

Trevor, thanks for talking to me on this chaotic day.

That’s cool, man. It’s all settled now. Thanks for those Dime comments too man. That’s really cool. I got the chills when you spoke those back to me.

That’s awesome. Talk to you down the road.

Take care.

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