Features
May 16, 1996

FEATURES


Unwound

Story and graphic by Mike Noren

The critics are all missing

The point of what you're doing

This ugly conversation

Is getting really boring.

-"For Your Entertainment," Unwound

Olympia's Unwound haven't always gotten along with the music press. The reason is simple: Unwound believe that sound cannot be accurately described with language. Frontman Justin Trosper requests that interview stories be written in straight question-and-answer format rather than as completed articles, and their publicist attributes this to the way the band has been misinterpreted in the past. Trosper seems vaguely satisfied that I'm willing to comply with his request, but he still seems irked by the whole music journalism thing, as his answers to my questions rarely exceed a polite but disinterested sentence or two.

I guess the point is that Unwound's music speaks for itself. Singer/guitarist Trosper, drummer Sara Lund and bassist Vernon Ramsey are as intense a three-piece as you'll find, and their fifth album, "Repetition," might be their best work yet. Unwound's brand of inventive punk is as unique as it is powerful, and one trip through "Repetition" is sure to tell you much more than a single magazine story ever could.

INT = Mike Noren

JT = Justin Trosper

INT: I heard that you request that the interviewer just write the story as questions and answers instead of as an actual article.

JT: Mm-hm.

INT: So that's how you like it to be, generally?

JT: Yeah. That's a preference.

INT: Why's that?

JT: It's because I like reading interviews over reading articles, personally, when I read a magazine or whatever.

INT: Do you think bands, or Olympia bands in particular, have had problems being misinterpreted by the press?

JT: Yeah. I mean, it always happens. All bands get misinterpreted.

INT: Does it happen to you a lot?

JT: Yeah, I think it does. I think at first it's shocking or annoying or something, but then after a while I don't really care.

INT: In what ways do you think you've been misrepresented?

JT: I don't know if it's misrepresentation as much as just misinterpretation. I mean, it's just hard to describe music, I think. Some people just get carried away or something with their descriptions. Or they hear something and blow it out of proportion.

INT: The song "For Your Entertainment" on "Repetition," was that inspired by your problems with the press?

JT: It's sort of a combination of that and just - I just woke up, sorry - a combination of that and things outside of music, or I mean, around music that aren't music that affect - fuck. Never mind.

INT: That song seems sort of rare in that it seems to have a more specific subject matter than most Unwound songs. Would you say that, lyrically at least, your songs are generally somehow non-specific?

JT: Yeah. I mean, sometimes they have specific meanings to me, but I don't really ever go out of my way to explain it, because I don't think it necessarily matters. But that one definitely is more pointed.

INT: So how was the approach to "Repetition" different from the approach to previous albums?

JT: I don't know if the approach is that much different. We took a little more time recording it. I mean it sounds a little different, but I don't think our approach was that much different. I mean, a couple songs are like songs we don't play live.

INT: Why's that?

JT: We just wanted to do something that was just studio-oriented.

INT: Which tracks are those?

JT: Like the instrumental ones. I mean, I'm into the idea of having stuff that's kind of just studio.

INT: Do you think you've experimented more in the studio recently?

JT: A little bit. There's like keyboards and stuff. It's not that experimental.

INT: So is there any reason why you decided to call the album "Repetition"?

JT: I like that word. It sort of describes a lot of things. People have said that our music is repetitious. So I thought it would be funny if we called out record that. Plus it's our fifth record, so we're like repeating things over and over.

INT: Has it been hard doing five albums in five years?

JT: No. We just work that way, you know - write songs, go on tour, record, put out a record. It's just like repetition, man, over and over.

INT: So how did Unwound get started?

JT: It was like summer of '91 - so it's almost five years - and that was with our first drummer. We'd been in bands before that, for a few years. So it was just like an extension of what we'd already been doing, but more focused, and more musical.

INT: Did it help that you got started in Olympia?

JT: Sorry?

INT: Was there definitely a more receptive scene in Olympia than you'd have at other locations?

JT: You mean when we started out?

INT: Yeah.

JT: We played all of our early shows here, in our other bands too. I mean, this is where we grew up. I don't know, we've gotten more responsive crowds other places. But yeah, we've always, at some level or another, been accepted, and people have always been supportive and helpful and stuff. In that respect, Olympia's really good for us. Not for everybody, I guess, but we've got a lot of friends here and stuff.

INT: I've heard rumors about Unwound signing to a major label and all that. Is any of that true?

JT: No, we didn't sign to a major label. We did a publishing thing.

INT: And so what are the terms of that deal?

JT: It's hard to explain. If we wanted to be in a movie or on a movie soundtrack or something, they would deal with that, you know with radio airplay and money and just crap that no one cares about. But it was a way to get some money so we could survive.

INT: Who's the deal with?

JT: BMG.

INT: So how big is this tour that you're about to go on?

JT: Well, we just went on a six-week tour of Europe and now we're going on a six-week tour of the States, starting Monday.

INT: You looking forward to it?

JT: Not right now. But I'm sure it will be fine once we're on tour.

INT: Have you played at the Bottom of the Hill in San Francisco before?

JT: Yeah. We've played there twice, I think.

INT: Yeah, you're playing there on the 16th.

JT: Of June?

INT: No, of next week.

JT: Oh yeah. I forgot. Because we're going there twice. We're not playing there the second time. I forgot. Because we're going there and then we're going east from there and then we're circling all around and coming up from LA. I couldn't remember which time we were playing there.

INT: So what sorts of music have you been listening to lately?

JT: Actually, I haven't been listening to very much music. On tour I've been reading more.

INT: What have you been reading?

JT: Books. The last book I read was "Painted Bird" by Jerzy Kosinski. He's a Polish writer. Rudy Rucker, science-fiction guy. Philip K. Dick.

INT: So what else do you do in your time away from music?

JT: I play in a couple bands.

INT: What other bands do you play with?

JT: Severed Lethargy, Replicants and this band called Worst Case Scenario.

INT: What do you play with them?

JT: In Worst Case Scenario, I play guitar. In the other bands, it just varies.

INT: So all those are based out of Olympia?

JT: Yeah.

INT: Are their approaches similar or pretty different from Unwound?

JT: They're all different.

INT: Umm, anyway, this is going to be for a one-page feature that's going to run on the 16th, the day of your show. So is there anything else you want to add or anything you think should go into one of these features?

JT: Watch out for the fascists. I just took a nap, so I'm sort of out of it. Umm, I hope the Sonics win.


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