Portland may be known for its soft, hipster-ish exterior (insert a “put a bird on it” joke here), but metal fans need not fret. Our fine city also attracts its fair share of hard and heavy metal acts
Portland may be known for its soft, hipster-ish exterior (insert a “put a bird on it” joke here), but metal fans need not fret. Our fine city also attracts its fair share of hard and heavy metal acts.
Though I’m not ruling out the possibility of Odin’s divine intervention, it’s largely thanks to Mike Thrasher Presents that I’ve been fortunate enough to see some live music that doesn’t revolve around a six-piece band playing accordions and xylophones while some chick sings French lyrics in a phony, childlike voice. I’m able to escape all of that rubbish and instead indulge in relentless double bass drumming, heavily distorted galloping guitars, rhythms, punishing riffage and vocals that I can’t even understand half the time.
I was able to chat over the phone with Unearth guitarist Buz McGrath. We discussed several topics, including Unearth’s new album, Darkness In The Light, Buz’s guitar work, the band’s creative process and touring.
VANGUARD: Is there an underlying theme for the new album?
MCGRATH: Vocally, the themes are usually either political or personal. In general, there was a “sink or swim” kind of vibe for us. We’ve been doing this for a long time and we really wanted to deliver on this album.
VANGUARD: How about the writing process?
MCGRATH: With all the technology that’s available now, we did a lot of at-home recording and emailing ideas back-and-forth when writing this album. The stuff that was cool stuck around, and the stuff that was forgettable got forgotten.
VANGUARD: Is there a song on the new record you’re particularly proud of as a guitarist?
MCGRATH: All of the solo sections have really been stepped up a notch, but if I had to pick one I’d say the opening guitar fireworks in “Arise The War Cry” are pretty cool. When I first wrote it, I couldn’t even play it [as it sounds on the record]. I had to keep practicing until I could get it up to speed.
VANGUARD: How are you hoping to grow as player in the coming months and years? Is the goal in metal simply more speed?
MCGRATH: Actually, the main thing I’m working on is my vibrato technique. I want to have more control and make it sound better. It’s one thing to have speed, but it’s another thing to make the guitar sing and to give it personality. Like when you hear Yngwie [Malmsteen] play a riff, you know it’s him.
VANGUARD: What are your thoughts on the time you’ve been able to spend in the Pacific Northwest?
MCGRATH: We’ve been through Portland probably 10 times. It’s always beautiful and always breathtaking. Portland kind of seems like the “home to the homeless” [laughs], butI dig it.
VANGUARD: Any favorite spots in Portland?
MCGRATH: We all go to that donut shop…
VANGUARD: Voodoo Donuts? You know, now I have to ask if you’ve seen the donut that’s shaped like a penis?
MCGRATH: Yeah, it’s a pretty intense donut. [Laughs.] One of our guys definitely got one.
On that high note, Buz and I said our goodbyes. He thanked the Vanguard for spreading the gospel of metal in Portland and reaffirmed his excitement for the upcoming Portland date. ?