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
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:
Nervous Energy ,
Pure Pain Sugar ,
Any comments/remembrances that you may have about the birth of these songs
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
Entirely Different Matters and All Souls Day :
any comments/remembrances that you may have about the birth of these songs
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
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
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
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
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
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.