Unwound: Earthquake rock
An interview with Unwound
(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
An Introduction to Unwound - Scheda

You were born minutes from the epicenter of grunge, yet nothing could be more removed from grunge than Unwound's music. Can you tell me something about your musical/cultural/personal development?
I guess in a way we were reacting to grunge. The Seattle pseudo-rock star thing was really uninspiring and cynical. We were into the Melvins alot and Nirvana, but more influenced by the DC punk thing happening back then and just more interesting US hardcore(husker du/black flag/mission of burma) and punk from England(wire/gang of 4/joy division).

Can you comment briefly on Unwound (Honey Bear, 1995), which I understand is your real first album, since very few people ever heard it? Why was it released only years later? What kind of style was it? Are there songs that you wish had been on a better-promoted album?
We never finished mixing it after Brandt quit and then later decided it was good, finished mixing it and put it out the same year as"Future of What". I guess its a little more hardcore influenced and energy oriented. Its distributed through Revolver USA, so maybe thats why you dont get it over there.

Fake Train (Kill Rock Stars, 1994) covered a lot of ground. I found references to avantgarde music as well as blues, to the Sonic Youth as well as the Velvet Underground... Where did you get inspiration for this album and how were the songs born? My favorite tracks: Dragnalus , Nervous Energy , Pure Pain Sugar , Gravity Slips, Kantina . Any comments/remembrances that you may have about the birth of these songs are welcome.
Yeah, VU and Sonic Youth are big influences. I think at that time I was listening to alot of The Royal Trux "Twin Infinitives" record and alot of Chrome too. I was living in a fucked up house where we took cough syrup everyday and stayed up all night rarely seeing daylight for awhile. Needless to say I was in a weird state of mind. We practiced in Sara's basement(a house called the Red House) and as usual in Olympia it was a dark and soggy winter. The cover of the record was a collage I made that was hanging in the hallway of our house. We were trying to figure out the cover art and the deadline was really soon, I just looked up and said 'lets just use that fucked up thing.' Much laughter ensued and for some rason we thought it was a good idea. Also, we overdubbed amp-hum on the first side.

New Plastic Ideas (Kill Rock Stars, 1994) is more mature, while no less explosive. Entirely Different Matters and All Souls Day : any comments/remembrances that you may have about the birth of these songs are welcome.
We were busy writing and touring in that time period, it was definately are most prolific. I dont really know how to comment on the songs other than we were just trying to evolve, like always. Alot of people think its our best record.

Are What Was Wound and Usual Dosage. intentionally a little more melodic?
It is hard to say intentional. Its just what happened.

What led you to cut an instrumental track like Abstraktions?
We have always been into instrumentals, like how Black Flag put out entirely instrumental records and also Jazz and improv music. I think there is an instrumental on every record, just out of principle. We've always tried to place equal importance on the muscial aspects of the band, whereas alot of pop and rock music is all vocals and loud guitar, stupid sounding drums and no bass.

So many of your best songs were being published only as singles? Why's that?
We would have extra material from albums for singles. Now you can get almost all our singles and comp tracks on one record that came out recently called A Single History.

With The Future Of What (Kill Rock Stars, 1995) you are now firmly beyond hardcore I find the instrumental parts still very appealing. Can you talk about your style at the guitar?
Well I like guitar music alot. Should I list my influences? Greg Ginn(black flag), Sonic Youth, Greg Sage(wipers), Jimi Hendrix, David Lester(mecca normal), Helios Creed(chrome), Tom Verlaine(televison), Toni Iommi(black sabbath) and more. Theres alot of other non-guitarists that influence my playing too, like John Coltrane and Peter Brotzmann. I dont remember what I was into during Future of What. I was under the influence of Situationism.

The singing is no less unusual: how do you marry your guitar with the angst of the vocals?
I just try not to let either get in the way of each other.

On this album I hear more Neil Young and Nirvana than in previous ones: comment?
I like the album "Trans" by Neil Young and that song Cortez The Killer, but I'm not a freak. Nirvana, I dont know, they were more of an early influence.

Another instrumental, Full Explanation Of Answer, steals the show...
Thats just Vern making his amplifier sound like a tractor.

Repetition (Kill Rock Stars, 1996) is almost your "noise-pop" album, far more "accessible" than the previous ones. The atmosphere is still depressed, though... why do you keep talking about depressing things?
Focusing on depressing in the right way can be positive, at least for me. I dont worship death but I think its good to work through that thought process. I'm not trying to depress people, thats not the intent. People can decide for themselves on how to interpret these themes.

This time the instrumental jam, Go To Dallas And Take A Left, is a bizarre mixture of ska, surf music and free-jazz ...
We were just playing around in the studio...

Tell me something about the Replikants: why and what? This Is Our Message (5RC, 1998) Slickpahonics (5RC, 1999) are the only albums, correct? Is this a new career or a parallel track?
More of a parallel track. Brandt (the first drummerof unwound) is the other key member of the band. We have been playing music together for like 13 or 14 years now and Replikants is what we do now. We're influenced by more free music and trying to expand our musical horizons. Not just rocking out.

What are the other members of Unwound doing?
Vern runs a label called Punk in My Vitamins(PNMV) and we all have a small studio together. Sara lives in Portland, which is two hours from where Vern and I live.

What can you tell us of Challenge For A Civilized Society (Kill Rock Stars, 1998)?
With Challenge we tried to expand our studio sound more than anything. The song structures are tighter and it contains some of our best songs, but as a whole I think its not our best album and it was less inspired than the others. It has really ausome production by Steve Fisk. He does things that most other people would never think of. I think most producers are wankers with no ideas except comercial potential. Challenge just makes me want to make an album that goes even further out and really question the whole process even more. What is a record? What is production? What's the audience? What's an artist? ETC.

A Single History (Kill Rock Stars, 1999) is a (partial) anthology of singles published between 1991 and 1997. Listening to it today, what do you think of Unwound's long journey?
Well we covered alot of territory between those years. I dont know. I think we are a good band. I dont know how we'll stand up to history.

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