Editor’s Note: Let me tell you, this was one of the most chill interviews I have ever done. Trevor Phipps of Unearth was like a long lost friend that I reconnected with. Unearth was getting ready to dominate the Vans Warped Tour and we talked about everything from games on smartphones, to Vinnie Paul and Dimebag Darrell, to even Donald Trump’s skewed environmental policies. Unearth’s single “Incinerate” recently hit number one on “The Devil’s Dozen” via Liquid Metal. Fans can find Unearth at the following locations:
Madness To Creation: (As Trevor is finishing up with a game on his smartphone), What kind of video games do you like to play?
Trevor: Not much of a gamer, but on the road, I like to play games. I’ll show you, (pulls out his phone), it’s Clash Royale, it’s like Clash Clans, basically it’s a war game, it’s like the playing card “War” game, you have different sides and different cards and you just battle. I love card games and dice games.
Madness To Creation: Are you into casinos and gambling, stuff like that?
Trevor: I’m a poker player, I’ll play blackjack for fun, and some slots, the other day we were at an all-slots casino right near the venue and I put $2 into Wheel of Fortune and I won $25, so it was kind of nice, and if I have time and there’s poker here, I’ll sit down and play some poker. I’ve been doing that for about 15 years, but since I’ve had kids, I’ve slowed down playing it, but I’ll play it a few times a week.
Madness To Creation: Would you ever go on a World Series of Poker tour and enter in a tournament?
Trevor: I do tournaments, but that’s above my pay grade, it’s $10,000 buy-in for that, so I would love to do that one day, I feel like I could do pretty well, I usually place in the tournaments that I enter.
Madness To Creation: I know magicians and poker players should never reveal their secrets, what’s one strategy that you have when you play?
Trevor: I’m better at tournament play, I play pretty tight, so I can tell what the other player is up to, if they’re bluffing a lot and always raising, and if I have a good hand, you might want to push them on it, if you raise them and it’s not too hefty, and if you raise them, you just get them off the hand, I play tight and try to make the money, and once you’re in that cusp, let’s say there’s 100 players, and once you’re in that top 25, then you can start making crazy bets. I play tight until I get close to the money, and then I go for broke.
Madness To Creation: I’ll give you my secret, when I have pocket 6’s I go all in, it’s one of those things that I’ve had luck a couple of times, I went all-in on that hand and someone had pocket kings, and I ended up winning. Kind of like Doyle Brunson and his 10-2 hand.
Trevor: A lot of times when I have a low pocket pair like that, I just call or go for a small raise, if there’s a big raise, you might have to alter your strategy, then if I hit that six on the flop, then I make the bets to trap them in.
Madness To Creation: I’m not usually very good, probably cause of lack of poker face.
Trevor: Better put on sunglasses then.
Madness To Creation: With you being one of the metal bands out here in the midst of all of the genres, how has it been out here on the Warped Tour?
Trevor: It’s been different, we’ve done Mayhem Festivals and one summer we did South Underground, they’re all heavy music festivals, here it’s different, there’s hard music, there’s pop-punk bands, rock, and electronic music, but there are heavy bands such as Kublai Khan, Every Time I Die, and Chelsea Grin, there are bands that are heavy. It is a different vibe, as far as the bands go, we’re out here with the youngest bands. We are used to play when Judas Priest, Ozzy, and Slayer, and Disturbed, and other bands that have been around for 25 or 30 years, it’s a little different for us, we have to make sure to stay fit and get healthy for this upcoming album cycle. It’s been fun to be on this tour and to put our sound out there every day.
Madness To Creation: What’s the secret to winning over a different audience?
Trevor: Luckily, we’ve been around for 20 years, so we have our crowd here every day, it’s good to get them motivated out of the gate with a song that they know, and we just mix up the songs on the setlist from each record, with our single “Incinerate”, just put on a good performance. We play hard, we’ve been doing this a long time, so we know what gets the crowd going, we have fun up there too, that’s part of our gig. Back in the day, our friends used to call us “Funearth”, we would do beerbongs up there and we would shotgun beers, they would throw beer grenades and we would just catch them. It’s only a half hour set, so we don’t have a whole lot of time for all of that stuff, but we’re still up there partying, having a couple of beers and trying to get the crowd going with a couple of circle pits and stagediving. We run around like idiots up there, as long as portray the party, we try to make them connect with us.
Madness To Creation: If you could only pick one thing that a crowd could do during an Unearth show, what would it be?
Trevor: It would probably be moshing. Our music is heavy, it’s more tribal, you can see that people feel it. My favorite show is when there’s no barricade and it’s a packed venue, and people are stagediving, crowdsurfing, mosh pits, and singing along, when it’s pure chaos and mayhem, I love it, but it’s a controlled chaos, no one is out there to hurt anybody. That’s a misconception that some people have for our music. We’re not trying to intentionally hurt anyone, everyone is just trying to have fun, and to let the aggression be controlled in a peaceful way, no one is out there trying to murder anybody.
Madness To Creation: You brought up the single “Incinerate” a couple of minutes ago, take us into that song, and how is it different from other Unearth songs?
Trevor: It’s kind of a throwback to our first record, it kind of goes up and down. Our first record was in 2001, and a lot of that style has come back to that, bands like Code Orange have brought back that low d sound, that style of metallic hardcore. The solos have a more metallic vibe to it, that true metal sound, so we merit those sounds together, so that’s where it stands, with this new record, we took different routes as far as song structures and even styles go, we went down different avenues of metal, there’s going to be some stuff that borders death metal, and some stuff that borders on grindcore, and other structures of metal, but it’s heavier than anything we have ever done, we just kind of went for it with a different style on this record. Some songs are going to sound like Unearth, some songs are not going to sound like Unearth.
Madness To Creation: Do you think it will throw some Unearth fans by surprise?
Trevor: On this record, there are enough songs that sound like Unearth, to appease our fans, I hope that they like some of the different direction songs, I’m not saying that’s the direction that we’re going in permanently, some of the songs, I just want to try something different, there’s ten songs on the record, we’ve done this for 20 years, we just want to try some different stuff. For four of those songs, Ken our guitar player, worked with a guy named D.L, who was in band called The Acacia Strain, he co-wrote the music for a couple of songs, and with the lyrics, that’s always me, no one ever touches those, a different avenue to have a different person come in to help us write, some of them are different but some of them are very traditional Unearth songs.
Madness To Creation: What is one thing you want to learn as a vocalist that you have not accomplished yet?
Trevor: I want to keep on growing as a vocalist, I think that I have grown a lot as a vocalist, there’s clean vocals on this record that I do for the first time in 16 years, and that was on a 2002 EP called “Endless”, and I did the clean part, but I was struggling to do it live, and Ken is our rock singer and he just took over live, and in 2004, he just took over the part and I didn’t think anything of it. My daughter was born five years ago and I started playing acoustic guitar to her as a baby, and I started to learn guitar and started to sing, my voice kind of matured cause I haven’t used clean vocals in forever, and also what that did is that it expanded my range by playing on acoustic, instead of screaming in the studio and screaming on tour, and screaming in practice and trying to learn different pitches with my voice, doing the clean vocals really opened me up and strengthened my voice, so I get as high in my voice as I ever have, and on this record, I also have the lowest gutteral vocals that I have ever had before, so I really think that has helped me, so I want to continue expanding on that front, and it’s really fun playing acoustic guitar and singing with my daughter, I would like to do some open mic nights and see how that evolves, it’s such a departure from metal, that’s its just nice and relaxing to play acoustic.
Madness To Creation: Is your daughter really musically inclined?
Trevor: Yes she is, I had her exposed to music when she was nine months old, there’s this nationwide thing where they put on certain talent shows, it’s kids’ songs that they learn, and I got her a guitar a couple of years ago, actually my father played guitar and an old one is my brother’s, so this year I got her a coco guitar, so she’s been playing on that, and for her preschool the past couple of years, I’ve gone in and played for her class, and she sang with me this year, so we sang together, so she knows two chords, the E and C chord, she’s only five and she’s learning to play the guitar, she’s a good singer too.
Madness To Creation: Let’s say she’s making an album, what Unearth song would you have her cover?
Trevor: It’s funny, it comes from the last record, there’s a song on there called “Never Cease”, so a lot of times when I’m personally writing songs, I’ll come up with a pattern, and I’ll start singing the lyrics to the song “Never Cease“, and she was in the bathtub and I was singing it to her, so those lyrics and that part just kind of stayed, the chorus is different as it has some of those lyrics in that song, since she already knows it, maybe she’ll learn that one.
Madness To Creation: Unearth is releasing “Extinction(s)” in the fall, what are some themes covered in the record?
Trevor: There’s a whole bunch of themes in there, but a lot of it has to do with the different forms of extinction that there are, environmentally, animals, science is pointing to the sixth mass extinction that the world has ever seen, with the amount of animals that are dying off, the amount of plant life that is dying off, sea life is dying off, we’re living in a mass extinction right now, a lot of the record deals with that, deals with climate change, deals with the Arctic and polar bears starving to death, it’s changing the ecosystem around the world. There’s also socially conscious lyrics on there that deal with the great political division around the world and it’s about bringing people together. Things like that, whatever news you watch, they’re trying to polarize us, they’re trying to push us away, it’s almost like they’re trying to start a civil war, yes we are all are human and we all have our differences, but they’re exploiting our differences to push us further away from each other. I’ve gotten into fights with family and friends about politics, it’s a bummer that we’re in that climate, and I think at the end of the day, we have more in common then we don’t, and we need to start having more conversations and forget about what our leaders and sometimes what our media is telling us what to do, and have real human conversations with people, and we’ll all figure out how we can get along better.
Madness To Creation: So you think President Trump has it wrong when it comes to climate change?
Trevor: 100%! When 99% of scientists around the world tells us one thing, depending on what you think of his politics is one thing, but the one thing that gets me the most is the environmental thing, we see it in the field, all the signs and science points to it, the oceans are rising, the animals are dying off, there’s famine in the world, and it’s going to cause more people to migrate to different areas because where they live is uninhabitable, the food source is dying off, if things don’t get better quickly, the human race is going to be in for a lot of trouble, and that’s really happening and for them, and with Scott Pruitt gone, I’m not sure it’s going to get any better, it’s going to be very dangerous for us all if we don’t all get on the same page. I know that they’re doing it for the money, I know that they’re in with the lobbyists that invests in fossil fuels, but those aren’t going to last forever and they’re damaging our atmosphere and damaging the planet that we live in. Earth is going to be fine in a million years, but if we don’t start taking care of Earth, Earth is going to erase us. That’s what one of the songs is about, called “One With The Sun”, in our atmosphere, the Earth can harness the sun’s energy to erase whatever is affecting the Earth, the human race is killing off and affecting everything that lives here because of what we’re doing to it, so its just harnessing the sun’s energy, so 5,000 years or 10,000 years we’ll be gone, maybe less. That’s my views on it, that’s what 99% of the scientists believe. I just hope as a human race we can figure that out sooner than later, all of us get on the same page and invest in renewable energies: solar power, wind power, water power, everything. Even if it’s all just a hoax and a coincidence, those are cleaner forms of energy, what’s wrong with that, why can’t big oil invest in solar, why can’t they just make that transition, why poison the planet, why poison our air and our water, when there’s already forms that are cleaner. Even if you don’t believe in climate change, the energy is cleaner, it just makes everyone’s lives better. Invest in that!
Madness To Creation: I love that you have a heart for the world and a heart for humanity. I know that Unearth has to get on the stage later, what are some thoughts on legendary drummer Vinnie Paul who recently passed?
Trevor: Pantera is my favorite band of all time. I’ve seen them 11 times growing up, saw them on every album cycle from the tail end of “Cowboys From Hell”, I was too young to go to the club show in Tennessee when they toured with Exodus, I was 14 or 15 and I was too young, and the club was 16+, it was small, but I saw them on a followup tour that they did direct support for Skid Row, “Vulgar Display Of Power” wasn’t out yet, it was pretty amazing, and I got a Diamond Darrell pick before he turned into Dimebag, and a bunch of times after I was always in the pit and caught a bunch of Dimebag Darrell picks, and fast forward to 2004, and we got on a seven week tour with Damageplan, it was Damageplan, Hatebreed, Unearth, Drowning Pool, so we got to party with those guys for seven weeks, and they came as advertised, they were the nicest dudes you could meet. They treated us as the best of friends. We were just an up and coming band and they treated us as peers, to this day it was the coolest tour that we have ever done, they were my idols growing up, and they taught us how to tour, and they taught us to party and to be professional, they would drink a few before they went on, but afterwards, they partied. The next day, they would rehydrate have the Pedialyte, the water and the Gatorade, in order to stay pro for the next day, and they would always treat the other bands and the crew with respect. They were like our touring uncles or something, it was the coolest thing from these guys. We did a Headbanger’s Ball appearance with them, we rolled dice on the air, and I won, I got trip 2’s, it was sick! We stayed in contact with Dime until he died, he called me three days before he was shot and killed, that was the most devastating thing I had to deal with in this job, he was my idol, and became a friend and now was murdered on stage at clubs that we would play at all of the time, it just threw all of us for a huge loop, and then Vinnie Paul died of a heart attack, and that’s tragic as well. Saw him a couple of years ago when we had an off day in Winnipeg, and we saw him, awesome guy, good drummer, just that legendary Pantera style of play, that you still hear today.
Madness To Creation: I’ve had yet to hear anything bad about Vinnie.
Trevor: I’ve never heard anything bad about Vinnie or Dime, it’s just knowing them on the level that we did, and I can’t imagine anyone ever having anything bad to say about them, and on that tour we played in Vegas, and I was also in New York, New York at a casino and Dime handed me a $100 bill and said “triple it motherf*****”, out of nowhere, and I was like “thanks man” and when we would roll dice, and he would say let’s roll for $100, and I’m like, “I don’t have $100”, and he would hand me a $100 bill and say “I just want to see you sweat”, all kinds of good memories with them, it was fun.
Madness To Creation: You have some great memories and cherish those memories.
Madness To Creation: Craziest memory on Warped Tour?
Trevor: All of the cookouts, bands play, freestyle DJ, every show is sick, unfortunately I got pneumonia two weeks into the tour, felt like shit. We were in Nashville, and I could tell my voice was working right, and I was feeling really achy, and the next day I woke up, we had an off day show in West Virginia, and I’m like, “man, there’s something wrong”, it wasn’t just a head cold, and I went to the doctor and explained my symptoms and they took an x-ray, my left lung was fine but my right lung was all clouded up, and there was pneumonia, they got me on antibiotics and within a few days, I got back to strength, it sucked! And I couldn’t party at night, while everybody was raging and drinking having a good time, playing beer pong or whatever, and I was just sitting in the bus and watching movies, and I was like “Damn it, hate being sick” especially while out on tour.
Madness To Creation: Anything else you would like to add?
Trevor: Thanks so much for the support! Check out “Extinction(s)” this fall via Century Media, the single is out called “Incinerate”, we’ll be out on tour in October and November.
And there you have it! Unearth will be playing the Blue Ridge Rock Festival before headlining a November tour with special guests Fit For An Autopsy and The Agony Scene in November. Check out tour dates below.
Sun. 9/2- Blue Ridge Rock Festival in Concord, Virginia
Fri. 11/2- Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, New York
Sat. 11/3- Sonia in Cambridge, Massachusetts
Sun. 11/4- Fish Head Cantina in Halethrope, Maryland
Mon. 11/5- Voltage Lounge in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Tue. 11/6- Drunk Horse Pub in Fayetteville, North Carolina
Wed. 11/7- The Alchemy Ballroom in Ocala, Florida
Thu. 11/8- O’Malley’s Live in Margate, Florida
Fri. 11/9- The Haven in Winter Park, Florida
Sat. 11/10- The Orpheum in Tampa, Florida
Mon. 11/12- Scout Bar in Houston, Texas
Tue. 11/13- Alamo City Music Hall in San Antonio, Texas
Wed. 11/14- Gas Monkey Bar & Grill in Dallas, Texas
Thu. 11/15- The Diamond Ballroom in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma
Fri. 11/16- The Firebird in St. Louis, Missouri
Sat. 11/17- The Forge in Joliet, Illinois
Sun. 11/18- Magic Stick in Detroit, Michigan
For tickets and further information on any of the shows listed above, click here.
Fans can find Unearth at the following locations: