Exclusive! Interview With Unearth Guitarist Buz McGrath

By Charlie Steffens aka Gnarly Charlie, Writer/Photographer
Monday, September 12, 2005 @ 1:12 AM

Zombie Autopilot (All of Us Ar

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Buz McGrath, along with fellow axesmith Ken Susi, share the brilliant guitar work in one of today’s finest heavy metal/hardcore bands, Unearth. Buz took a few minutes to talk about Unearth, being on the Sounds of the Underground tour and what happens when he puts on his business suit.

KNAC.COM: : Your band, Unearth has been out on the Sounds of the Underground tour for how long now?
McGRATH: : It's been three of four weeks, so far.

KNAC.COM: : After this what's next?
McGRATH: : We get August off and then we're doing a headlining tour starting mid-September. It's going to be with Dillinger Escape Plan, Zao and A Life Once Lost. It’s a good package; I think it’ll do well.

KNAC.COM: : Your drummer is fairly new?
McGRATH: : Yeah, we got him about a year ago –and right when we were writing The Oncoming Storm he came in. We wrote some of the record with him and got him on the road with us and it's been going well ever since.

KNAC.COM: : He's pretty high caliber.
McGRATH: : He can play those drums, man.

KNAC.COM: : I believe you have three releases prior to this record, and obviously this is the one that has caught on the most.
McGRATH: : As soon as we signed on to Metal Blade and put out this record it just took it to a whole new level, because we had it out on a smaller label like our last record and it did pretty good, but nothing compared to what our latest record's doing.

KNAC.COM: : It seems like anything that Adam D [Adam Dutkiewicz from Killswitch Engage] gets involved with usually does well.
McGRATH: : He's fun to work with. We're good friends with him so it's always a pretty relaxed atmosphere.

KNAC.COM: : As a band from the Massachusetts scene, it might be easy to throw you guys into a pool and say you sound like the other bands like Shadows Fall or maybe Diecast, to name a couple. Are you guys tight with these bands?
McGRATH: : Diecast --we played our first show with them, actually. I filled in for them on guitar on one of their first tours and Ken filled in for them too. Before Unearth we weren't really doing anything, so we kind of helped them out because we knew them from before. And the Shadows Fall guys –we toured with them several times, so we're bros with them. It's pretty tight, man; everybody knows everybody and has a good time.

KNAC.COM: : Do you hang out with any of the bands much on this tour?
McGRATH: : Yeah, whenever possible. There are a lot of long drives ... (lets out a long, loud burp)

KNAC.COM: : Good rip!
McGRATH: : Did ya get any on ya?

KNAC.COM: : No, we're cool.
McGRATH: : There are a lot of long drives and we usually end up leaving right when the party gets started, but we've been hanging out as much as possible, because all these bands have come up together, a lot of these bands were on Ozzfest last year together, and it's just a good time. You can't walk two feet ...

answer to Buz's burp with a very loud carbonated belch)

(I McGRATH: : There you go –play a little volleyball! ... But, you can't really walk two feet without seeing somebody you know out there.

KNAC.COM: : I saw Gene [Hoglan] from Strapping Young Lad out there.
McGRATH: : The guy is ridiculous.

KNAC.COM: : He's a fuckin' animal. I love his drumming.
McGRATH: : He plays with fuckin' 10-pound weights on his legs.

KNAC.COM: : I know. When a guy from The Agony Scene told me he played with big combat boots, I didn't believe him until I saw it for myself.
McGRATH: : He's actually playing drums for Opeth, too, on this tour. Opeth's drummer had to go home for personal reasons and Gene just picked it up –like they told him that day. And Opeth's stuff isn't exactly easy. There are a lot of weird changes in the music and he just took right to it.

KNAC.COM: : You were out with Lamb of God for quite a while.
McGRATH: : Yeah, we've toured with them extensively ever since we first started touring. When they were coming up, they probably sold 10,000 records and we toured with them. We did Ozzfest with them, the first Headbangers Ball tour they played, we just did Europe with them, and so we're pretty tight with those dudes.

KNAC.COM: : Are you guys all family men?
McGRATH: : I'm the only one in the band who's married. I've been married for five years. My wife is actually here today, which is cool. She's on the tour, so it makes life a whole lot easier, you know, when she's here and I'm not pacing around on the phone, you know -- “I miss you. This sucks.”

KNAC.COM: : That affects your playing sometimes, huh?
McGRATH: : I can't play when I'm too busy thinking about her. [Laughs] I'm just kidding!

KNAC.COM: : Yeah, well it's one less distraction, having a steady wife and not being strung out to the decadence out there on the road. I imagine it's just as “off-the-hook” as it's always been.
McGRATH: : It's pretty cool. It's nothing too crazy. It's when the whiskey comes out. People start acting up once that whiskey comes out.

KNAC.COM: : Like when Randy Blythe is on a tear, huh?
McGRATH: : Yeah, that dude's pretty crazy, man. We were just in Europe with them [Lamb of God] and it's like 6:00 in the morning and everyone's sleeping on the bus—be at a truck stop—he'd still be up drinking. He'd come storming onto the bus screaming, with a beer in his hand - “Get up, motherfuckers!” -- dragging sleeping dudes out of their bunks. [laughs]

KNAC.COM: : Were people going for it, or was it just him drinking solo?
McGRATH: : It was just him. Their bus was at the truck stop where we were at and he just jumped on our bus still wasted. He probably just started drinking at 6 AM, and he starts yelling. It was pretty funny.

KNAC.COM: : You share guitar duties with Ken [Susi]. You switch leads and nobody dominates.
McGRATH: : No, if you look at the CD it doesn't say lead guitar on one person. If somebody comes up to the lead themselves then that's theirs. So, we switch off.

KNAC.COM: : What's going on after these tours?
McGRATH: : We got, like, five weeks off in August into September and we're going to try to get to get together as much as possible and get some material out. Ideally we'd like to record in late winter, early spring and have something out by July of next year. That would be the ideal situation, but when writing and recording music it doesn't always go according to plan, ever. Not for us, anyways.

KNAC.COM: : Do you see Adam D getting involved again?
McGRATH: : Yes, I think we’re going to have him involved in the producing aspect of it. We’ll track guitars with him, hopefully get his input on it. We’ll be doing a few different things, because Ken has his own studio where we practice and he’s recording a lot of bands and getting really good at engineering, so we can use that to our advantage. We can track guitars there. We’d have to drums at another studio, but having the luxury of just doing it at Ken’s house is like …we could take a week out if we wanted to try out a hundred different amps to get guitar sounds, so that’s going to be convenient. But, yeah, we’re going to try to have Adam’s input on it, because when we’re in the studio he’s like the sixth member of the band. He knows what we’re trying to do. He knows what we’re trying to achieve and he helps us get there.

KNAC.COM: : In terms of the “Rock and Roll Animal”: who’s the nut job in this band?
McGRATH: : It would definitely be Ken. He’s quite the showman. Onstage and off –he’s always got to be doing something stupid or causing some kind of disturbance [laughs], so it’s pretty funny. It gets old when you’re in the band; you’re like –“This kid! What’s he doing now?” He’s pretty funny.

KNAC.COM: : Nothing like bailing him out of jail or anything?
McGRATH: : No, he’s not brave enough to do anything illegal. But, I mean, we’re pretty mellow. We definitely party and drink and have a good time, but we don’t hurt anybody or do anything too illegal, anyways. It looks like there’s a crack pipe here …somebody’s smoking out of this can or something.

Buz points to the ashtray next to me, where there is a bent Coke cant with puncture marks and tell-tale signs that it was used as a pot pipe, possibly hashish.

KNAC.COM: : Yeah, it looks like somebody was smoking a bowl there.
McGRATH: : I don’t know anything about that!

KNAC.COM: : They’re probably losing it all, those holes look pretty big.
McGRATH: : Well we share the bus with Opeth. Those guys like to blaze.

KNAC.COM: : What do you do when you’re home?
McGRATH: : I usually just hang, go to my house -- take my dog up to the woods. That’s about it.

KNAC.COM: : Where do you live?
McGRATH: : I live in Lynn, Massachusetts.

KNAC.COM: : Now you guys are making a couple of bucks. When did you decide for your self that this was it and there was no turning back?
McGRATH: : I haven’t worked in probably …March of ‘04 was the last time I worked. I took a year off and my job said I could come back in a year, but if you’re going to take over a year, forget it you’re gone. So the day came when I had to make a decision to commit to this and that’s it, no tuning back or I go to work. I jumped on this and never looked back and it’s the greatest decision I’ve ever made, I think.

KNAC.COM: : You took the leap of faith and the net appeared! And here you are –this is a big tour, man.
McGRATH: : This tour’s great, man. I think we’re going to be doing it every year and it’s only going to get better.

KNAC.COM: : Out of the line-up, who do you want to see the most everyday?
McGRATH: : Well, usually I wake up around 11:30, go to catering have a cup of coffee –that helps the poop come out of me –take a shit and I usually go watch the first bands like All that Remains, A Life Once Lost, Devil Driver and then get some lunch. I try to watch the bands everyday, like Every Time I Die is great, Strapping Young Lad …Gwar is amazing! I never saw them prior to this tour and I was just blown away. They’re the nicest dudes and that show is ridiculous. Clutch is great; I’ve been a huge fan of them for a really long time. Lamb of God has got the huge show and the production is just amazing. I don’t know if you’ve seen them recently.

KNAC.COM: : I saw them a couple times this last year in both a huge arena and then a small club the next night. They held it up very well in the big venue, but their small club performance was the best, and they played a healthy set.
McGRATH: : Yeah, they’re definitely like a big metal band, they play for a long time. We play for an hour, and we’re like “Man, what the fuck happened? It’s a marathon out there!”

KNAC.COM: : What’s you’re ritual right before you go out or an hour before you go out?
McGRATH: : On stage?

KNAC.COM: : Yeah, as a guitarist.
McGRATH: : I get changed into what I call my “business suit”, which is basically the same thing as what I’m wearing, just a different pair of shorts and shirt. You wear the same thing over an over so you don’t dirty everything. Just sit down, have a couple beers, stretch out my fingers and warm-up little bit and play. We call it “show potion.”

KNAC.COM: : Oh, brewski?
McGRATH: : Yeah, beer or the other guys like Jack Daniels, so everyone gets a little primed up.

KNAC.COM: : Get them creative juices flowing. I wish you guys all the guys the best on the tour. I know you’re gonna kick ass tonight. I appreciate your time.
McGRATH: : No problem, dude.

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