So the big question, which I might as well get out of the way, is this; What prompted you guys to re-unite yet again under the Unearthly Trance banner? Had there been a bit of discussion for awhile about it or was it more a simple realization that you three missed playing under this moniker?
Jay Newman: We all missed Unearthly Trance. We love doing Unearthly Trance. We still have the desire and the will to write and record new music. I think taking this break was best thing for us. Having the time to reflect on the band and all we have accomplished, I think that gave us the prospective that was needed to start things back up. To me, it never seemed completely outlandish that we would do UT again, seeing that we are good friends and over our 3 year break we’re all actively playing together in other bands together (Serpentine Path, Humanless).
Ryan Lipynsky: We missed it. I think what we create and the chemistry we have in UT is very unique and is unlike any other band or project we do. For me it was like a void and it felt like there was unfinished business.
While you three have been making music together for years, that first practice together where you started playing actual songs from the Unearthly Trance back catalog – what was that like? Was it almost like muscle memory, something that had been encoded into the three of you or was there a bit of rust on the bike spokes, so to speak?
Jay Newman: Tapping into the our music is something that is not easily forgotten. The first UT practice was awesome. It is not like we walked away from playing heavy music for 10 years or wanted to just play old tracks out of nostalgia, like many bands do these days. We look forward to the future and creating new music.
Ryan Lipynsky: The first time we rehearsed again, we belted out a bunch of songs with relative ease. Minimal rust! We forgot a few bits here and there but it was very much muscle memory and being consumed by the sound and going to that place again. It felt amazing to have the songs alive again.
Along with the news that you guys have reformed, you also revealed that a new EP is in the works, which will be released by Relapse. What was their reaction when you guys contacted them and more importantly, what can we expect with these new tracks?
Jay Newman: We are actually writing and working on our 6th full length album. As always, the focus is good song writing. I’m sure it’s cliché, but I think this is our heaviest material to date. The new tracks are sounding killer, everything is coming together very naturally. We have had a relationship with Relapse for a over a decade and we are grateful they are still interested in the music we make after all these years.
Ryan Lipynsky: I have written many new songs and few older unused ideas from the past. We have worked out 3 songs completely that are sounding great; “Lion Strength,” “The Great Cauldron” and “Scythe,” two of which we have already played live. We are going to take our time putting together and picking the strongest material as a cohesive album. Rehearse them and make sure they are ready to destroy before we even step foot in the studio. I think we all want to make something that is really well thought out and massive sounding. Relapse has been great all these years as well with working with them with our other band Serpentine Path.
Doom Metal, which encompasses a wide variety of sounds and styles these days, has quickly become one of the most populated styles of extreme music. Compared to say, ten years ago when it was still on the fringes. Unearthly Trance have been it at this for a long time, before Doom Metal really exploded; how do you feel about this new found acceptance and interest in what was a niche sound for so long?
Jay Newman: It is fine people are into doom. “Doom” wasn’t as popular of a term when we started out but I think we did come in as a “second wave” of doom back in 2000. There were plenty of bands out there that were “Traditional Doom”; classic bands like Sabbath, Saint Vitus, Trouble, Solitude Aeturnus or the Death Doom stuff, Autopsy, Disembowelment, Winter etc. So many sub genres all have had their take on what Doom is or could be. Unearthly Trance was influenced by many of those bands but mainly bands like Grief, Eyehategod, Sleep, Neurosis, Burning Witch… also throw a pinch of Melvins and Darkthrone in there. We just played the music that inspired us, we didn’t factor in whether it would be cool or popular one day or not. Those are our influences and the bands we grew up listening to.
Ryan Lipynsky: From the start, we knew that Unearthly Trance would not be a one-dimensional sounding band. I think back then it was a cool time period because there was a wide open frontier in a way, as many sounds and styles were unexplored. We took it upon our selves to push our sound in any direction we felt we wanted to go without concern for genre restriction or how things typically sound. Even looking back, I don’t think many bands sound like us and vice versa. There are similarities of course with many sludge bands and doom things, but we took a bit from all of what encompasses Doom and added in other influences as well like Rock, Noise, HC and Black Metal. And until this day, we always try to sprinkle in new ideas to add and improve on our sound. But we have a core sound that is crucial to the band that we will never forget.
Jay Newman: I will say, a lot of newer bands these days are all about the shock and awe. Slow for the sake of slow or they’ve got the fanciest, loudest amps. But they forget about the most important aspect….the song craft. Playing slow is not some new idea, it’s hard to make it sound interesting. I have heard a few newer doom bands that are doing some cool interesting stuff, but not many. As far as the super slow stuff, I really like Bell Witch, who I’ve been listening a lot lately. So killer! Like a prog version of funeral doom. I’m sure just like all trends and fads, this new increased interest in doom will fade… People will move on to the next cool thing, and when the smoke clears, only the true die hards will remain.
So I’m going to veer away from the band stuff and get a little personal for these next few questions. There’s this point – at least there was for me – where you have to choose between the joining the real world and staying involved in the underground culture. The ability to juggle your involvement in either one seems to get harder and harder as each day passes. Did any of you have similar feelings to growing older and staying involved in this scene? Has it been difficult or even scary, growing older in a culture that caters to and attracts a younger crowd?
Jay Newman: I have to work and pay bills, and who doesn’t? If you work hard and take yourself seriously, these things happen with little effort. I don’t look at it in terms of selling out or anything. I don’t put a suit on everyday and sit at a desk, my life is music. Playing and recording music is my true passion; also my job which I have had for the past 11 years is music-related. I try to keep a good balance with all the things that are important in my life. That is my will. People choose the way they live; they might wanna be a banker in a suit and obsess over money or be the punk rocker with coolest band patches sewn on their jacket – both take the same mental effort and are as equally conformist in my opinion.
From the very start of Unearthly Trance, I never thought, “Man this is the way I’m going to make a living and pay my bills.” I’ve always been very realistic about the band in that respect. If wanted to make a financial career out of playing I should have picked a different style of music. HA. In terms of underground music, I think like .001% of bands actually make a living playing music, and even that, after a number of years, fades off once the new trend comes around… and once the band is gone, how will you support the life you want to live?
I never cared about staying involved in any scene. I’m not interest in politics, especially now that I am older, I care even less; I’m actually relieved I don’t feel connected to this new style scene that is all about the internet and social media which I don’t care about one bit. The new social media scene makes the underground actually less underground when you do it via twitter and Facebook. I’m not a total caveman, I do get certain aspects of social media, but I see it from a different perspective because the things that drew me to underground music happened at a time before the internet. When I was a kid getting into underground music, we didn’t have the internet. You needed to go seek it out for yourself, it was more private and hidden. The internet does make it easier for people to discover new music and for bands to be part of a ‘scene,’ but for the underground I’m not sure that is always necessarily a good thing?
Ryan Lipynsky: The older I get, the less I care about what is going on in the music world and scene and the more I just get into what I consider my craft. I just want to become a better songwriter, guitarist and singer. I want to create music that will be long around after I’m gone. Creating a legacy and good music is the point. I am more interested in my home life and doing things outside of music to be honest. But when it comes to writing, rehearsing and recording; I become consumed by it. I don’t care about touring and play shows like I did when I was younger but I still enjoy it, its just that my tolerance for all those things has become less and less as time goes on. People need to be realistic playing music but if you lose the spark and the reason why you pick up an instrument in the first place, it might be time to call it a day. I still find that spark often and to a certain extent, success in music is irrelevant. It only matters if it is truly fulfilling and worthwhile.
With the tone of the last question, metal and hardcore music have been involved in an incestuous relationship over the last decade and half. This inter-breeding of sounds has resulted in myriad of different bands and new avenues of music. From your perspective, where is extreme music headed these days? Is the road still open for exploration or will it turn into a re-treading of previous sounds and bands?
Jay Newman: Fads come and go, bands will always meld and blend influences and styles of music. What is cool today will not be cool the next year. I have no clue what people will be into. But there is always room for new and creative ideas.
Ryan Lipynsky: I have seen a big trend lately in bands rehashing things from the past in metal and hardcore. Basically, bands aping bands from the past. Even down to the look. I can’t relate to that kind of thinking at all. I think creativity and originality has gone down in the past few years, especially due to the fact that there are just so many goddamn bands out there. I think there needs to be/will be another dead period in metal and extreme music, as there is a bit of over saturation and things are being done to death. For me, I care less and less about extreme music. I just like good music. Quality is the key. Nothing even seems that harsh to me any more. Haha… Maybe I’m just old and jaded? Haha
Finally, Jay, I just wanted to say congratulations on becoming a father. For those out there reading this that are parents and involved in the counter-culture scene, raising a child in this world is no easy task. From a personal perspective, is there anything you’re hoping to impart upon your newborn over there years? Something that might prepare them for this fucked up world that we live in?
Jay Newman: Thanks. Abigail is only two months old at the moment, so no need for any doomsday apocalypse preparation JUST yet… I just want her to be happy and healthy. I want her to experience all life can offer (music, traveling, nature etc). I’m going to try to teach and protect her and be the best father I can. My dad was great man, so I learned from the best.