Yesterday I was very fortunate to have the chance to interview Felipe Eregion of the Brazilian blackened death metal band Unearthly. Unearthly has been around since 1998 and since their inception they have released five full lengths, one DVD, b-sides demos, one MCD and one websingle. In the interview we discuss everything from religion in Brazil to his favorite places to play as well as the importance of their very first U.S. tour.
Hails Felipe! I’m sure you’ve been pretty busy the last couple of days doing some interviews before the U.S. tour.
Not just all interviews. I’ve been busy with a lot of stuff, all of the preparations to perform the tour. One month ago our guitar player left the band and this week the drummer left the band too. It’s kind of a shit situation, fucked up and crazy, but I have other options for musicians that want to play. I’m solving this shit, but it’s still shit if you know what I mean.
What made the members leave the band?
First of all, both of them don’t like the extreme metal; death metal, black metal. They are kind of more professional musicians, they prefer other kinds of music, they don’t like playing in a brutal band too much. So for us, like a black death metal band this is not proper work. So we did a long tour over in Europe this year, we did a lot of shows last year, we did a lot of stuff with the band from the last two or three years. We released a DVD, released a new album etc. etc. We did a lot of stuff and these kinds of struggles kind of pushed them. It’s difficult. It’s a difficult kind of life being on the road for a long time especially when you don’t like what you are doing too much. So our last tour we did in Europe, we did from February until April. For us, like a band, for the company Unearthly was pretty good was one of the best tours that we did. When we finished the tour we had a lot of different plans for us, personally talking. So we had to deny our concert in the Inferno Festival. We had to deny our participation there because the guitar player and drummer went back to Brazil to play with Paul Di’anno the former Iron Maiden singer. They joined his band and did a short tour here in Brazil; they did six or seven concerts. They prefer playing with him, and keeping on doing their personal stuff. I and the bass player are more focused on Unearthly. Our entire life is surrounded by Unearthly. Everything that we do is for Unearthly. This is it haha. It is a fucked up situation.
I’m sorry to hear about the departure of the band members. But you do have some replacements, or people in mind to fill the spots I’m sure.
For guitar we did one concert with one guy here in the city of Minas Gerais six hours from here and we did one concert with one guy, and we practiced a lot with him. For the tour he’s kind of afraid to perform the entire tour so he won’t be with us. We got another guitar player and we are practicing and doing everything. He’s a very good guitar player, and he’s on the same level. Guitar players are easier to find, we have a lot of them. For drummers I have one sentence. It goes like this: “A drummer is a drummer” haha. They always fuck up everything. For the drummer we almost made a deal with a Polish guy named Damien. He’s a very good young guy. We did two or three tours with his band, we know him very well. So maybe it will be him, we are just waiting for the Visa confirmation. So he is solving this shit of the Visa. If he will not play we have another Brazilian drummer called Thomas. Maybe he will be able to do the tour, maybe it will be him, but we prefer to keep things out of Brazil. We would prefer the Polish guy, he is more professional, and we want this. We want to focus on the professional thing. We have to think about business, not just to have a friend to hang out with. It’s a fucked up situation, so that’s why we prefer to keep with the professional guy. So I have to wait for the Visa confirmation. If any of these two guys fit, our label Redefining Darkness Records, the guy from the label Thomas is trying to find someone else that is able to do the tour.
As far as the Visa situation goes, I’ve been hearing about a lot of bands having issues with the Visa situation either not getting Visas or not being able to play shows. Has that ever been a problem with you guys getting Visas and being able to play anywhere, or having to cancel shows because of not getting Visas?
Not in the U.S. We were actually afraid of not getting Visas or getting them on time, but for getting them for the U.S. But we did have issues with Visas to go play in Belarus in 2013. This year we had a problem to cross the border between Russia and Lithuania. Sometimes this Visa stuff gets us mad. We had issues with Visas in 2007, between Ecuador and Columbia. We don’t always have a problem, but we have to wait a long time to get into Russia. We crossed the border in Russia so many times into Ukraine, Estonia, and Belarus and always we had to wait because the politics in Russia is kind of shit. I love the crowd and respect the people there; we made good friends and have really good fans. But the politics is completely fucked up pretty much like Brazil haha.
How exciting/important is it for you to be playing your first tour in the U.S.?
For me it’s kind of a dream come true. When you are young and starting the band you just want to play, travel, meet some people, and go to different places. For me, I have family in the U.S.I have family in New Jersey. I have been in the U.S. three times, but just in New Jersey and New York. I’ve always had a dream to play in the U.S. because the U.S. is a better place to be. For me I’m a producer, I work recording and producing bands, so for me it seems the material, the equipment, the American bands, so it’s everything that I like so I really want it for personal reasons. And for professional reasons I can say for the band, we are all very excited so that’s why we want to play there so much. If it was a European, or South American tour then we have problems with lineups and other issues, so we’re just trying to postpone or figure out other tours. But for the U.S. business talking it’s fucking important. It’s very important, so we have to do this no matter what.
Can you tell me who some of your influences are, as far as other bands go, or artists?
Of course. For me I try to listen to different kinds of metal, or rock n roll. If you listen to Unearthly the first thing you think of is it’s brutal but it’s not always brutal. I put more melody; I try to put more feelings inside the music not just the brutal shit and riffs. It’s more chords, notes, frets. It’s not exactly complex, but it is deeper. I have a lot of different influences. I love more brutal stuff like Hate Eternal. But I am focused on old stuff like Dio, Deep Purple. I heard Creedence and they have good lyrics, they have good stuff there, and I picked up some stuff from Black Sabbath, and worked to be darker. We try to put more Brazilian influence, more Brazilian roots. Just not be like Sepultura did it on the Roots album. Brazil is a fucking huge country. It’s like the U.S. You can’t just take one piece and say everyone is this certain way. You have such different people living here, we are all very different. So we try to put in more Brazilian influence from everywhere in Brazil. I think you can hear it on our music without it being like Sepultura did it. When we start to compose we try to practice a little bit together on rehearsals. Actually we don’t work on it properly, we just work on some ideas. Most of the work happens at my place. I pick up my acoustic guitar and start to play alone and try to reach some directions and just play, play, play and I record some ideas with my cellphone. When I am on the road I try to write some ideas, I always keep my phone and record some lyrics and then I put everything on paper and record some demos. After that, I show it to everybody in the band and say what they think and we try to push and put everything together the best way. Not the last album but the previous one, we did it together. Me our former guitar player and the bass player, we wrote almost everything together. This last album, I did about 95% of the songs alone. Like I told you I try to keep focus. When we were composing everybody had issues, everybody had different ways of doing things. It was difficult for everyone to meet together, but I kept my focus and I did it. Like 9% of the album the guys just listened or knew when we were in the studio recording. But I am satisfied with the result. I always try to keep focused, so if someone doesn’t want to keep working, I keep working for him.
As far as the lyric writing/music writing goes; I know that most of Brazil is of the Roman Catholic religion. Does that play a factor at all into the lyric/music writing?
Now a days we don’t have problems with writing whatever we want. We can say a lot of shit about religion. Back in the day when the band was started, it was kind of a problem, especially on the first album in 2002 we had problems, but now days we have no problems. The Catholic shit, the Christian shit, the religion here is still huge. Here in Brazil we have more evangelists, and this shit, the Christians demonize everything. Everything for them is the demon way, everything for them is demon, everything different from them is demon. Sometimes we know some people that try to demonize and say some stuff, but we don’t give a fuck haha.
Do you guys get a lot of backlash from the religious groups there?
We hear some stuff, and get some messages on the internet and sometimes people talk some shit, but we just don’t care. When I joined the band ten years ago, all of the concerts we went to we had problems, we had fights, from the metal scene from the crowd from the religious groups we always had issues. So that is why the band kept unknown for a long time. We were always fighting with someone. When I realized that we just didn’t have to give a fuck, so we had to just look professional and keep our focus, and that is when the band began to get more notice. We had a lot of issues with a lot of fights. Now days we don’t give a fuck and look straight ahead and keep working.
With not as much backlash now, and you guys have been around for a while now, did you ever think you would be a household name in the metal world?
You know. When I started the band I couldn’t imagine how hard it would be. Of course like everybody we had a lot of thoughts and dreams of being successful. You just don’t realize everything. The band now is turning seventeen years old and when you look back you never imagine that you would be playing in Russia, Estonia, and Lithuania. We played in different cities in Brazil that I’ve never heard of before. We’ve played in South American countries like Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Columbia and different countries that we’ve never heard about before. When we look back we think, “We did it.” Of course we dream a lot.
What have been your favorite venue to play in / your favorite favorite place to play?
You know, we’ve had some good venues. As far as being a producer, I like the huge venues. We played in Sao Paulo with Marduk, Vader, Sinister at a huge venue and it was fucking awesome. In Latvia we played a huge venue, it was very good. Sometimes it is good to play in small venues with huge crowds. I can’t say I prefer this or that, but I of course like the good stuff. I like the good equipment, the back lighting and everything else. The most important thing is the crowd. It is the feeling that you get when you see the crowd enjoying the music, head banging and really interested in your music. We play in Bolivia and Peru and Ecuador and they are poor countries. We played with really terrible equipment, really shitty stuff but in front of a really huge crowd with people who really love our music. It was fucking great. In Russia it is pretty much like this too, you get really shit equipment, but you always have a good crowd there.
You’ve played some festivals of course. What are some of your favorite festivals that you have played?
We played here in Brazil in a small city called Virginia in Minas Gerais. For us it is a huge festival, there are eight thousand people. It was a very good festival, it is all heavy metal and rock ‘n’ roll bands playing. We played in Belarus in a festival; it was a very good festival. It has a lot of history behind it. Belarus is like Cuba just it’s in the middle of Europe. It is completely strange and completely different there. We played festivals in Poland and Germany. It’s always good playing in festivals. When you play festivals it’s awesome because you meet a lot of people. Maybe for next year we are trying to do two tours in Europe. One in clubs and another is just a summer festival, but we are just negotiating. But we’ve played with a lot of different bands like Vader, Obituary, Behemoth, Sepultura, and Marduk. We’ve played with Marduk maybe four or five times. We’ve played with a lot of different bands. We have a long history haha.
What are some of your favorite songs to play live?
Some of my favorite songs to play live aren’t exactly good to play for the crowd. I like to play some music from our last album. Like Where the Sky Bleeds in Red and Agens Mortis. But these songs don’t work properly live. We have some highlights like 762, Baptized in Blood, Eshu. Eshu is the song in Portuguese, it is a very powerful song.
Most of your songs are in English, with the exception of a few that are in Portuguese. Is there a reason behind a lot of the songs being in English instead of Portuguese?
Of course. We are trying to reach more people. It is easier to sing in Portuguese, and I can write better in Portuguese, I can speak it better because it is my native language. If we just sing in Portuguese keep people out of understanding the music. That is why we prefer to use English. Sometimes we have a sentence or an expression that works in Portuguese. The song called Eshu from our last album, is Yoruba which is an African language. It has a lot of influence in Brazil and African culture. It is like voodoo. It is popular here, but underground. We have a lot of Voodoo religion and black magic, but people don’t like to say they are doing it. When I wrote this song, I wrote it in English to be more understandable for people. I try to match the language and Portuguese doesn’t work properly. For the booklet I put the translation in English so people know exactly what the lyrics are about.
Do you have any future plans for future albums?
When we finish the U.S. tour, we have three or four concerts here in Brazil then we will put everything back on track. I’ve started composing some riffs and lyrics and some ideas. I don’t know what will happen, we will have to discuss this when we get back from the U.S. but maybe we will start composing and finish composing at the end of this year. Between January and February we may start recording and release the album in April or maybe June and start to be on tour again.
I just have one last question for you. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans, or is there any news you have?
First I want to say thank you Anthony our tour manager, and thank you Thomas from Redefining Darkness Records , and you Jared for this amazing interview. I just have to be grateful for this opportunity, like I told you it is a dream come true. I love the United States and we are very excited to play, and be there and be a part of the metal scene in the United States, so just thank you so much.