"some music was meant to stay underground..."

Interview

Ken Susi of Unearth talks the Fury Tour and "Watchers of Rule"

Matt: I'm here with Ken of Unearth. I like a lot of the black metal elements on “Watchers of Rule.” I also noticed the alternative rock elements on “Darkness In the Light,” Swedish death metal stuff on “Oncoming Storm,” jazz on “The March” and a lot of grunge on “Stings of Conscience.” It's been two years since “Watchers of Rule” and you're probably gearing up to record soon so I've just got to ask, what have you been listening to?

Ken: We always try to keep our records different. Our first album had a lot of hardcore mixed with Iron Maiden. “Storm” was kind of a derivative of that and more heavy metal and “Eyes of Fire” was more thrash. So on and so forth. We always try to mix it up. They try to pigeonhole us as metalcore but I think that all of all the bands out of our era or generation we've been the ones that have taken the most chances. We don't put out the same record every time. Right now Buz and I are putting out another record and it's super cool.

Matt: I always liked the Guitar Tone on "Eyes of Fire." I'm curious about what guitar tuning and amp levels you used when recording that one.

Ken: Eyes of Fire. Used a VHT Pitbull. I borrowed it from Paige Hamilton from Helmet. We used that and a 5150 back then through a Mesa cab. Pretty cool tone for the time. It's a bit different from what we normally go with.

Matt: This tour is really a combination of hardcore, metalcore, deathcore and grindcore. Was it intended to have a really diverse lineup? And was it also intentional to get some more new artists on here over more established acts?

Ken: I mean Ringworm are veterans and Fit For An Autopsy are one of those up and coming new bands. We're good friends with everybody on this run so we put together a package that's kind of eclectic and make sure that everyone who came to the show was pleased. I think it's a good lineup and the shows have been great so far.

Matt: What's the schedule like between the Fury Tour and Hellfest and Bloodstock festivals you're doing later this summer? Are you going to be recording during that time or are there some tour plans that you absolutely can't talk about?

Ken: I'm not the guy who keeps an eye on the schedule. I know that we're doing those festivals. It should be pretty sweet and in an around it we'll always be writing and recording and doing stuff.

Matt: A lot of bands have trouble topping their early work. I never thought I'd say this but I actually thought that “Watchers of Rule” was better than your first three albums. How are you going to manage to top “Watchers of Rule” with your next release?

Ken: It's not about topping any one specific record. It's about coming up and writing stuff what we think we want to do at that time. “Watchers of Rule” is kind of a more technical record. We wanted to prove to out listeners that we can play with just about anybody. Before that was “Darkness” which was a bit more commercial. It was heavy but the songs were a little more structured. I don't know where we're gonna go with the new record but it's not about topping it. You're never gonna top or put out a worse record than you last one, you're just gonna put out whatever you're feeling at the time. We'll see.

Matt: Besides the fact that I think that you and Buz are one of the best guitar teams this side of Tipton and Downing, what do you think kept you in the game when a lot of the 2000s metalcore bands are either gone like As I Lay Dying or Shadows Fall or they changed their sound to a more alternative metal sound like All That Remains and Avenged Sevenfold or they just lost the hardcore elements like Lamb of God or you can't even put them in a genre anymore, like Dillinger Escape Plan and Converge? You and Killswitch are the only bands that really stuck to your sound and even Killswitch are a lot more accessible than they were back in the Alive or Just Breathing days. How do you manage to both keep and grow your fanbase while not changing things too much?

Ken: We try not to limit ourselves. We know what we're good at and we know what like to hear. We were the first band to come up with that sound. That modern day metal/hardcore/breakdown kind of stuff. We coined that. We know what we want to do. Other bands change because they feel like they have to. We just write the music that we want to and we live or die by it and whether we're the biggest band in the world or the smallest band in the world we're gonna consistently make records where we put ourselves on the map and we're not going to take ourselves off of it by doing the wrong thing.

Matt: How's Chris fitting into the band and how's he juggling Unearth with Turbid North?

Ken: Chris has been touring with us for a year or now, maybe more. I don't know how many shows Turbid North really plays but he shows up when we're playing so that's all the really matters, you know?

Matt: I don't think that I've heard you play “Imposters' Kingdom” live on any tour that I've seen you do. I even looked at setlist.fm and I can't see any time that you've even played it. Any chance that you'll break that one out on a future tour? On Twitter you're mentioning that you're doing some deep cuts and you're rotating your set list on this tour. Nobody' really posted anything that you've played on this tour yet. I'm hoping that maybe, just maybe, you could break this one out tonight?

Ken: I don't think we have that one in the tank. We're definitely pulling from our first record “Stings of Conscience” this tour since it's a 15 year anniversary. We're mixing it up a bit. When we make a new record we try to play as many songs off the new record as we can. We find out the ones that we feel that we're comfortable with and put them on rotation. So I don't really know about “Imposters' Kingdom” but probably not.

Matt: I'm surprised that you didn't work with Terry Date again after “Eyes of Fire.” What was it like working with him?

Ken: Terry's a really good producer. He's got a lot of years in the business with a lot of successful records. Terry is a very motivational producer where he records and that's his strong point. I'd definitely work with Terry again. He's a good guy and I enjoyed making a record with him. We just haven't done that yet. We've been venturing into using other producers like Mark Lewis and Adam D. So, you never know.

Matt: I feel like “The March” was unfairly judged due to its production. Any plans to remaster it like Meshuggah did with “Nothing?”

Ken: No. I think “The March” was a time and a place and I think that Andy Sneap mixed that record and I liked the way it was mixed. The tunes may not have been laid out the way that we wanted to hear them but it was a good record nonetheless. We thought it was a good record at the time and I don't feel like we need to go back and remix and remaster. My Will Be Done is one of the most viewed songs that we've ever done and that's off that record.

Matt: One thing that I noticed that that you're one of the few metal bands out there who are able to draw an audience from people who usually hate metal or who love metal but hate nearly anything related to metalcore. Like I know that one of my brothers likes you when he usually hates anything metal in general. I actually got him to go out to see you when you were out touring with Protest the Hero in I think 2008 or 2009. What I hear most from people who I'm surprised listen to you is just that you've got some serious talent. This isn't even a question. It's just a statement.

Ken: That tour was a great run. Protest the Hero are guys that we consider friends and brothers. I talk to them every month of so like Luke or Keven. Real great guys.

Matt: Any plans for more music videos from “Watchers of Rule?” I feel like “From the Tombs of Five Below,” “Never Cease,” “Lifetime in Ruins,” “Guards of Contagion” and “To the Ground” have a lot of single potential. Any chance of a second video? Keep in mind that I just love the whole album.

Ken: No. The producer that we used just exhausted our whole budget and didn't edit the video right or shoot it right so we had somebody else come in and do the video so we exhausted our whole budget. So I don't think we have enough funds to put out another video for this album cycle.

Matt: Have you ever considered founding a seafood restaurant called Ken's Sushi? It's okay, my name's Dasher and I get hit with the same reindeer jokes every December.

Ken: (laughs) I think that everyone's called me Ken Sushi growing up since they can't read but there's actually a funny story. Brandon from Atreyu sent me a picture once of a place in Sacramento called Ken's Sushi. Maybe someday I'll go there and eat there which would be pretty cool.

Dasher10's avatar

Matt is a freelance writer living in Chicago, Illinois and a metalhead since 1999.

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