Interview: Unearthly Trance

Since their formation in 2000, doom metal trio Unearthly Trance have gradually built a reputation as one of the most dynamic and skilled bands within their genre. The New York band, consisting of guitarist/vocalist Ryan Lipynsky, bassist Jay Newman and drummer Darren Verni, have never been afraid to explore new musical territory throughout their catalogue of releases, and their soon-to-be-released fifth album ‘V’, an impressive display of uncompromising brutality and ominous lethargy, looks set to significantly enhance the band’s status in the world of metal. I recently caught up with Ryan Lipynsky and Jay Newman to discuss the album, their inspirations, touring plans and more.

Can you give us a brief history about Unearthly Trance? If any of our readers are unfamiliar with the band, what are the main things that they should know?

Ryan Lipynsky (guitar/vocals): Aha! UT formed in 2000. We have been riffing away for the past ten years solid creating what we deem original and crushing dark loud music. If you are unfamiliar with us, I would say UT is a band that has many different colors, but the base is a molasses pace and occult focus with venting viciously vitriolic vocals.

It has been said that the band’s overall sound has progressed considerably, gradually evolving from black metal to doom metal. Is this something that you as a band are conscious of when writing, or when listening back to the completed material?

Ryan: Unearthly Trance was never a black metal band. We never really claimed such a thing. We are described as “black doom” or “blackened sludge” or whatever the f**k you want to say. The black metal influence is in the harsh vocals, and is from the influence of Lemmy, Warrior, Quorthon, and Culto. But let us face the fact that we are not pure enough for the uptight conservative traditionalists, and I understand that and respect it to a point. I love the 80’s as much as the next 30-year-old metalhead, but I have no interest in playing in a band that is trying to ape an old band. I believe it’s important to live in the now, not the past. We are heavy music in 2010, a year filled with chaos, confusion and war. Just like the past ten years, more or less (Darren joined in 2001?!). I am not conscious of conforming to any genre’s format. In fact, it repels me. We are three lifelong New York guys who have been into heavy underground music since we could tape it from our friends. It is simply just inside us. This is our will. We are in our own realm and you can like it, hate it or just be lukewarm towards us, but we are proud of our music and devoted to our craft. If you forced me to identify with a genre, then we are “occult metal” or “apocalypse metal”! Haha. Nah, just Unearthly Trance.

‘V’ is the fifth Unearthly Trance album since 2003, which is impressive in itself, but when you take into account the fact that you have also put out a number of split EPs over recent years, the rate at which you release new material is remarkable. What drives you to spend so much time creating new music?

Ryan: It sounds quite a bit cliché or cheesy, but I feel like I have been blessed with a gift to write. I may not be good at much else, but writing is something that is as natural to me as eating pizza. I think we have always been a band that didn’t need to take forever for a song to come together, and for the guys to learn and understand what I brought to the table. In fact, they always get my ideas and it’s a pleasure to jam with them as they “get me” in a way very few could. It’s a real friendship overall and we love to be creative, so that inspires me to write riffs at home. I usually have to take a break from writing as to not play myself out!

With five studio albums to your name, you are no strangers to the studio. How do you view the recording process? Is it something you relish, or do you see it as a chore?

Jay Newman (bass): Recording is definitely something important to us. We like to be hands-on with our craft, and with each recording you learn more and more about how you can improve your sound. Each record we do is a learning experience, and every recording is a record of time and progress, our magical record of our own “great work”!

Ryan: I love recording. It is as fun as playing live but with a lot less waiting around to get down to business. I love the process and the challenge of playing at your best. It is never a chore but the opposite, a rewarding and exciting process akin to creating a painting over a stretch of time.

What is your basic approach towards the writing process? Is there one member in particular who comes up with the main ideas, or do you all contribute equally?

Jay: I think we all contribute equally in the creation of a finished song, but no question Ryan is the main songwriter. He will come to us with guitar riffs and lyric ideas, and we will put it all together in rehearsal. When we rehearse, the arranging and approach is very collective. The songs manifest when we play as a unit. Ryan is very open-minded when it comes to ideas Darren or myself might have. We are very much on the same page about musical direction so the songs come together pretty quickly.

Ryan: I write and record ideas all the time at home on my 4-track. When I come up with something killer, I bring it down to show the guys. Sometimes I have the complete structure, tempo and repetition written already and other times we rearrange, shorten or lengthen repetitions and emphasize different elements in the jam room. I really depend on these guys to have input and to bounce ideas off them. Often I become inspired to change things myself just by the way Darren approaches the beat. It’s never the exact same way really.

‘V’ was engineered by Sanford Parker and Rich Trapper, and mastered by Colin Jordan. However, the album was mixed by Jay. Was it important to have a band member exerting their own influence in this way, and what were the others like to work with?

Ryan: ‘V’ was engineered by Rich Tapper. Drums and main guitars were recorded by Sanford Parker. Bass was recorded by Jay Newman on his own. Jay was very involved in the recording process from the beginning. This was very much a collaborative recording process. I recorded extra guitars, solos and noise on my own. We recorded vocals as a band. There was only myself, Jay and Darren in a room. Just the band. Sanford told us the right mic to use ahead of time, and with the right compressor we just went for it! Jay was responsible for collecting all of these tracks and layers. He was constantly working on mixing the beast. He would email me mixes and I would return with comments. It was a great process. Lots of fun and creativity flowing!

Which tracks from ‘V’ particularly stand out for yourselves?

Ryan: I would say ‘The Horsemen Arrive in the Night’, ‘Solar Eye’, ‘Adversaries I’, ‘Sleeping While They Feast’, ‘Submerged Metropolis’, ‘Into A Chasm’. All of them of course!

Jay, you created the artwork for ‘V’, which looks fantastic. Is art something that you pursue outside of music, and if not, do you intend to pursue it in the future?

Ryan: Not sure where you heard that. The ‘V’ artwork and layout was done by Glyn Smyth (scrawleddesign.blogspot.com), not Jay.

Given that your music encompasses a wide range of styles, each of you must have been influenced by a varied list of bands and artists. Who are your main musical inspirations?

Jay: Our main musical inspiration is Unearthly Trance! We all listen to a s**t load of music. Every style! At the heart of it all… Sabbath, Zeppelin, Kiss, Deep Purple, The Melvins, Winter, Grief, Morbid Angel, Sleep, Roky Erickson, Charles Manson, Deathpile, Neurosis, His Hero Is Gone, Wu-Tang Clan, f**king Alice In Chains! All that s**t.

Ryan: Eyehategod, Autopsy, Captain Beefheart, Darkthrone, Bathory, Swans, Burning Witch, Crowbar, GISM, Hendrix, ZZ Top, The Obsessed, Vitus, Wino, Pentagram, Danzig, Shellac, Dax Riggs, Soundgarden, This Heat, Tool, Van Halen, Wipers, Black Flag, The VSS, etc.

Ryan, in addition to your role as Unearthly Trance guitarist/vocalist, you are also a member of The Howling Wind, and have recently released the album ‘Into The Cryosphere’. How does this project differ from Unearthly Trance, and how easy is it to work as part of two active bands at the same time?

Ryan: It is a very different thing for me. In The Howling Wind, the songs are written through the mail. Tim Call and I spend many months sending demo recordings back and forth tweaking on our songs. Tim writes drum beats and then I write riffs to the drums. I would classify THW as experimental yet traditional black/doom/death metal. This kind of idea was the original blueprint of my old band Thralldom. THW continues on in that spirit. Sometimes we take it “out there”, but there is always a solid foundation of 80’s and 90’s underground metal influences. I mean Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, Bathory, Sodom and 90’s stuff like Darkthrone, Dissection, Burzum, old Katatonia, Autopsy, etc. They are two different things entirely. UT is a live, rehearsing regularly type of band. THW is a creative recording project that is very much the results of sonic time-lapse collaboration.

You are gearing up for a US tour alongside Suma, which will take place throughout the end of September and the beginning of October. Excited?

Ryan: Absolutely! It has been a while since we played the North East, Chicago and Philly. Can’t wait! Suma is also an excellent live band and cool guys!

Jay: Yes, we are excited for our East coast US tour with SUMA from Sweden. They are a great band. It will be the first time those guys have played in the States, so we’re looking forward to guiding them through the s**thole that is the US.

Are there any further touring plans in the pipeline?

Jay: We also have a West Coast tour planned with Aldebaren and hope to return to Europe next year to support ‘V’.

What are your views on the music industry as a whole? What significant changes, if any, do you think have occurred since you formed a decade ago?

Ryan: It is like night and day. Our first release was a cassette! Now it’s cool again to put out tapes, but back then it was the end of an era. We are a band that has experienced the growth of the technology industry and the decline of purchasing physical music/CDs at the same time. UT has always rolled with the punches and thinks that as long as people listen, we are satisfied. I sincerely hope that the major labels all crumble. Who needs this drivel they’re spewing out anyway? Not me!

Thanks very much for your time. Anything else you would like to add?

Ryan: 5+6=11! Thanks for the interview and massive thanks to all of our friends and fans around the globe!

‘V’ is released on September 28 in North America, and October 4 elsewhere.

     

About JJPorter

JJ is a 20-year-old student hailing from Scotland, who lives and breathes music. His favourite genres include a variety of styles of metal, as well as hardcore, punk, and just about everything in between. Contact JJPorter on Twitter or via Email.

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