An Interview with Unearth Drummer Derek Kerswill
Edit: Because of the distortion in the (stairwell when this interview took place some words were not translated right) I do apologize to Derek Kerswill for some of the misinterpretations so everyone can flame me instead of him. Keep in mind that we were in a busy stairwell and their was "noise" that interfered with the audio recording.
When we all think of metalcore, we tend to cling on to the bands that made this genre mediocre at best. People forget that the metalcore lies on a broad spectrum and bands such as Bullet for My Valentine would never be allowed to tour with Converge, God Forbid, or the Dillinger Escape Plan. One of the big names of the metalcore scene is a band called Unearth. Unearth has been around since the early 2000’s but never really got the full recognition that they deserved. There are bands like: As I Lay dying, All that Remains, and Trivium, and there are bands like Unearth. One of the major factors that separate Unearth from the rest of the metalcore bands perhaps lies within the original, crisp breakdowns they write.
I sat down with drummer Derek Kerswill at the House of Blues. He forewarned me that he was rather loquacious, and the interview was nearly a half hour but a lot of information was acquired as I can describe Kerswill as a man with strong convictions about his drumming.
Daniel Becker: Back in 2004, you along with Tool and Lamb of God really broke me away from nu metal into the more real metal stuff. How does it feel to know that you were part of a historic movement in the mid 2000s that really brought the underground to the mainstream and brought an end to the era of bands like Limp Bizkit and Motograter?
Derek Kerswill: Yeah, thank god, because Nu Metal was horrid. We grew up as fans of grunge. Dudes that were into hardcore and metal, that is where the sub-genre of metalcore came from. It was something new and heavy, but it was not progressive enough for a normal person to understand what was going on. It just spawned from that. A lot of bands have come like Killswitch Engage and Lamb of God and Shadows Fall and we all are still friends. I was with Shadow's Fall before I played with Unearth. So I was with Shadow's Fall at that time. The funny thing was I never was a hardcore kid. I did like most post- hardcore like Quicksand or bands like that, but hardcore, I wasn't a big fan of. I was more into metal but it was easy for me to play with all these bands.
Becker: As a front runner in Metalcore what kind of bands are underrated and overrated today?
Kerswill:Any of those bands like Bring Me the Horizon and Attack Attack and shit. They're going to be gone in a couple years and nobody's going to care. To me that has more to do with fashion than anything. I don't think anyone cares about that music, just the scene.
Becker: The scene kids?
Kerswill: A band like us, we walk into a room and people know we are not trying so hard. Like, we don't have the full sleeved tattoos and pierced shit and our haircuts don't look like we blew our brains out with our hair stuck to the back of our head. We are just normal guys that exude metal.
Becker: When I look back at some of the best albums of the decade, the Oncoming Storm is definitely one of them. Do you have any stories about the recording process?
Kerswill: I don't know if you know this but I joined the band three years ago. But when I was with Shadow's fall, I helped them write the drums for half of the songs. So I was part of the writing process behind that record for sure. The first song I helped write for them was "The Great Dividers." It was the first time I played any of that so it was really weird for me. There are no inhibitions since this music had not really been introduced. The sub-genre was not even created then. "The Oncoming Storm" is a monumental metalcore album, but I think it is just a great record.
Becker: You and Converge and Dilinger Escape Plan have a lot more credibility with the metal scene and you have been touring with bands such as Testament and Slayer, but bands like Devil Wears Prada, Bullet For My Valentine and Waking the Cadaver would never been touring with a band like that. So what do you really think makes you different from your peers?
Kerswill: A lot of those other bands is just about fashion. It is hardly timeless just very trendy. It's just a fad.
Becker: Like Bullet for My Valentine and Atreyu?
Kerswill: Yeah, Yeah.
Becker: Are they even metalcore?
Kerswill: Well, I think that Atreyu were Metalcore but they latched on to that glam hardcore image. Whatever they were doing. But I don't knock that band because they are pretty good. But I just don't understand a band like Trivium getting tagged. I have heard people call them Metalcore and I am baffled why. They are just a metal band. They are all genres. When their is a genre called crabcore it is just a trend; give me a break. It will come and go. Like take a band like Testament. Testament is one of my favorite bands of all time. I saw them with Priest and Megadeth in 1990 in the arena.
Becker: Now that deathcore and folk Metal are the new trends, are you surprised that metalcore is still around?
Kerswill: "The March," I don't think that there is anything metalcore about it. It sounds like a thrash record. It sounds great live and there are a lot of guitars. It is a good metal record. I don't think that metalcore is still around like the big names are, we struggle too man. We are in a rebuilding process right now I think. We are no longer headlining. We have to take a few steps back in order to move forward.
Becker: How do you manage to write creative and memorable breakdowns while other bands don't?
Kerswill: We don't think of them much as breakdowns as much as we do think of them as heavy memorable parts. Like an album like Sepultura's "Chaos A.D." there were breakdowns but nobody called them that. They were just heavy memorable parts. So we don't approach them like breakdowns anymore, just brutal parts. Now there are bands that just sound like just one breakdown.
Becker: You did a cover of Pantera's "Sandblasted skin." Any particular reason why you chose this particular song in their catalog?
Kerswill:Because it the heaviest song they ever wrote and has a punk rock aspect to it. We wanted to go for a deep cut than something typical.
Becker: What was performing at the Wacken Open Air?
Kerswill: It was the heaviest and most brutal show I ever played in my life. There were like 16,000 people there. We saw Iron Maiden and Children of Bodom the night before.
Becker: What is your favorite album by them?
Kerswill: Probably Killers.
Becker: I'm actually quite surprised you did not make it to Gigantour or Mayhem Festival this year. Is that in the works?
Kerswill: I'm surprised too. With Mayhem Festival there was so much politics. They said that our last record has been out for too long. We are going to see what we can do over the summer. There are rumors that Ozzfest might happen again. We are still working on that. At the moment we are booked. We are doing the Atticus Metal Tour which is from March until the beginning of April. We are going to Japan and Australia and we are working on summer right now.
Becker: On "The March" the last two tracks are untitled. Any reason for that?
Kerswill: The printing guys fucked up. The last track was meant to be untitled and the second to last track was supposed to be titled: "Silence Caught the Stubborn Tongue." The last track was supposed to be a European only bonus track. It was supposed to be a secret track.
Becker: When you play the songs live, do you have to announce what it is going to be ,or do you just say the "silent track?"
Kerswill: We have never played them live and I don't know if we will. One might go into a video game.
Becker: Do you know which video game?
Kerswill: I don't know, but it has something to do with zombies. It is suppose to come out April or May of 2010. For the set-list of our tour we just put out what is best. So we put out the songs in the first week and see what people like and we go from there. We don't usually change the set-list.
Becker: Are you guys going to do any voice-overs for Metalocalypse??
Kerswill: No. But I am also keeping myself busy with side projects like Kingdom of Sorrow with Jamie from Hatebreed and Kirk from Down. I have a new project called "Tangents." It is more like eccentric Indie pop rock. Other than that we are finishing out the year.
Becker: On your new album, are you going to stick with the sound of "The March," or try something different?
Kerswill: We are probably going to experiment with new stuff. There will probably be less breakdowns and more melodic guitars.
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