With the announcement that post-Kyuss desert rock outfit Unida would headline this year’s Desertfest in London and Berlin, one of the genre’s most incomplete chapters was reopened. Unida, you see, has been through their fair share of what guitarist Arthur Seay — also of House of Broken Promises — rightly calls “bullshit,” having recorded an album with Rick Rubin only to have it sit shelved and go (officially) unreleased to this day.
Like Sleep, whose contractual immobility also resulted in their dissolution, there was really nowhere for Unida to go. They’d had the Coping with the Urban Coyote full-length out on Man’s Ruin and a split with Dozer, but what was supposed to begin their ascent was this full-length — varyingly titled For the Working Man or The Great Divide, depending on from whom you download it — and with it sitting in the can,Unida were shot down before they even took flight. The list is long, but it’s up there with stoner rock’s bigger bummers.
It wasn’t long before vocalist John Garcia resurfaced in Hermano with a promising first album in 2002 — his movement from Kyuss to Slo Burn to Unida having led him to that point — and the rest of Unida moved ahead as well. By 2004, Seay and drummer Mike Cancino had aligned with bassist/vocalist Eddie Plascencia in House of Broken Promises (Scott Reeder, who played bass in Unida, went on to produce acts, put out a solo record and join a slew of other bands, among them Goatsnake), though it would be half a decade before their debut LP, Using the Useless, showed up via Small Stone.
With Seay and Cancino in HoBP and Garcia devoting his last several years to revitalizing the Kyuss brand in Garcia Plays Kyuss, Kyuss Lives! and now Vista Chino, it’s been a winding road to get back to the unfinished business of Unida. But though there’s enough backstory to fill a book and then some, mostly it was the future that Seay wanted to talk about in our recent interview. New touring, new albums for both Unida and HoBP, and plans for things to come. Seay also built his own recording studio and works traveling the globe as a guitar tech for commercial metal acts like Slipknot and Limp Bizkit, so there was much to discuss.
Fortunately, Seay‘s a bit of a talker. There was a lot of the interview that was off the record, some talk about the desert scene, etc., but there’s a tremendous amount of information contained in his answers, so even if you’re a relative newcomer to Unida or just heard about them through Desertfest, I hope you’ll agree it’s worth a read.
Please find the complete 3,900-word Q&A with Arthur Seay after the jump, and please enjoy.
Definitely a conscious decision between me, Mike and John, where it’s time to do it for real and right. We’ve got holes in our hearts and chips on our shoulders from all the BS that we want to remedy and all that kind of shit. The time is right to do it for real again. What we’re doing now is these aren’t just a couple of one-offs for shits and giggles. We want to do it, we’re gonna do it, we wanna work. We’re gonna do new music. We’re just taking it slow and sure and John’s in a really good headspace right now too, which is awesome, so it’s the right time to do it. And even within the music industry bullshit. Back then, when we were doing it, we were the cool band amongst all the rap metal and whatever the fuck it was, and now rock is cool again or something, so I think it’d be a better time for us to do our thing too, it’d be more appreciated in a wider market as well.
How was the show at the Whiskey?
Whiskey was cool man. That place is a little weird, because it’s kind of given itself a bad rep, because all they do is pay-to-play and it’s 14-year-old kid bands from Calabasis that their parents paid however many tickets they had to sell to play so they can, “Oh, we played the Whiskey!” There was a couple of bands like that on the bill, but it was cool man. It went well. There was a good turnout for not playing L.A. in a while and all that shit. We’re gonna do some other stuff. We’re gonna do the Viper Room and blah, blah, blah. It was fun.
When’s that happening, the Viper Room?
We’ll figure it out. We were gonna shoot for January, but John’s finishing up the Vista Chino record, so we’re gonna figure that out. He’s still doing that, of course, and we’re working on a new House of Broken Promises record, so timing all our schedules is like, “You’re gonna be using that, so we’re gonna do this, then when we’re both done with that, let’s hit hard on Unida shit,” so we always have a lot of stuff going on, which is good. We wanna work. It’s balancing the schedules, which is not too hard to do. They’re gonna be done with their record soon and get that out, and they’re gonna support it, and we’re gonna do the same with HoBP, but we’re definitely gonna do Unida stuff in and during, when he’s not doing Vista Chino, “Okay, cool, you’ve got X amount, let’s book these shows or do Europe, blah blah.” It’s getting there.
House of Broken Promises is writing too now, right?
Yeah. Me and Mike are hitting hard on that. We pretty much have more than a record in riffs and songs and all that, so we’re just sitting down and like, “Alright, let’s work on that, let’s work on this and start putting together and arranging.” I’ve got tons and tons of riffs stockpiled, so we’re just going through jams of stuff and writing new stuff too. We’re really excited about that because the new stuff is really cool. It’s the same, but different, and we’re really looking forward to doing that.
I remember you guys came out east with House of Broken Promises and put a little road time in there too. Will you do that again?
Definitely. Definitely, definitely, definitely. When we do this new HoBP, we’re definitely gonna hit the East Coast – hopefully more this time, too – and Europe, because we got kind of screwed on that whole European tour we had with HoBP because there was that whole volcano thing. Which is fine. Wasn’t our fault. That’s the one thing where I can be okay with it, “You know what? Nobody fucked up. Wasn’t this or that, it was a fucking volcano.” It was like the universe saying wait. So that’s okay. We were sitting at our gates, we had an hour to go, like, “Yeah, we’re at our gate, awesome, yeah!” and we start getting Curt [Christiansen, bass] from Dixie Witch – because they were flying at the same time – and he was like, “Hey man, they just canceled your flight,” and I’m like, “Well, they canceled your flight, we’re going to the same place,” so I went to the lady and I’m like, “Hey are we still good?” and she’s like, “Oh yeah, you’re still good don’t worry oh wait they just canceled it.” So we’re talking to the Vibra Agency, that’s the agent in Europe, and we’re gonna sort that out and hopefully do some stuff before – I think we’re gonna do April as well. We’re probably gonna do Desertfest also and then we’re trying to work it out where we can stay maybe and do a couple weeks around that. Depends what kind of deal it is with Desertfest, because they want an exclusive show, so we’re gonna figure it out. Definitely in the summer, go over there and try to have as much of the record done before then, and if not, before we go.
Last time we went back and forth, you were in the process of building the studio. That’s done?
I built that a while ago. We built the studio first, me and Mike, fuckin’ till four or five in the morning, then we did “The Hurt,” the vinyl, and we did the record for Small Stone and all that. But I am about to get some upgrades, which I’m looking forward to and kind of not looking forward to because it always turns into some nightmare of something. I’m gonna get a new computer and update the ProTools, and I’m getting some new preamps and all the nerd stuff, compressors and all that kind of shit. My stuff runs real solid right now and that’s awesome and I think if it runs, then just leave it because every other day there’s always a fucking update, but I’m at the point where I’m like, “Alright, I need to get a new computer.” Get the UAD-2. I have three AD-1s, if you know what those are. The Universe Audio shit. I have three AD-1s and those are awesome, but because of latency, I have to use that Mellowmuse program to put what each channel wherever I’m going to use something, and ping it so they all align, and it kills the latency. I’m really sick of that. That’s kind of my main thing to upgrade, because ProTools 9 does all that shit for you. Then the UAD-2, that’s like, whatever, 40 times the power of one of those UAD-1s, so it’s time to step that up so this next record will be easier to make. A little less fatigue and all that bullshit, and more plugins, easier, run faster, all that kind of bullshit. I’m waiting until after NAMM so I can talk to all these companies and get some artist deals and whatever I can do, and/or free. Whatever. That shit adds up. Lucky enough, HoBP won this battle on this website where you put your video and they battle you against some other bands’ videos and there’s four weeks and then there’s the monthly battle. We actually won all that shit and won 10 grand!
Well that’s helpful.
Yeah! So we’re like, “Sweet! Studio update and whatever the fuck else we need.” That’ll probably eat up most of the studio shit – I’ll try to do it cheap for five or six, because I think I can get stuff reasonably – so that’s kind of my next thing.
Even better if you have a little bit leftover to work with.
Totally. We kind of need to get a band van too, and we’re just trying to split it where I can do it for five, depending. I want to find a good Mac tower, because I’ve got a buddy who’s a MacPro guy. He’s the go-to guy for studio shit, so I can find one on CraigsList that’s new and he can go through it and wipe it and put everything I need on it, ProTools, everything, all the shit I need. Video editing stuff – I’m gonna be doing a lot more of that, we’re going to be doing some more videos, yadda yadda – which’ll keep that at a reasonable budget. I’m definitely going to get a UAD-2, or they came out with that other thing I can’t remember the name of it, that has the interface of the UAD-2 in it, and with that, you can utilize all your plugins while you record. Because usually you can’t have anything running while you’re recording, and it’s after. With that thing, you can do it while you’re recording, so if you want to put a compressor or EQ or something you can do it while you record. It’s awesome. That’s where I’m now, just trying to figure out what do I get. And I’m just going to get one, maybe the 6176, compressor, so I have one mega-high-end channel for overdubs and vocals and all that kind of shit. Then I’ll be good. Then it’s all how you use it. We did the other record with like nothing. I got the basic ProTools and fuckin’ whatever came with it and that was it, and we said, “Fuckin’ let’s go,” and it worked. For cherry-poppin’ on everything, it came out good. Not afraid. Not afraid.
Do you have a timeline on when you’ll record?
Man, as soon as possible. Me and Mike right now, like I said, we’re just hashing it right now trying to get all these riffs together, because I don’t know if you know, we have a new guy in HoBP. We had to part ways with Eddie. You know, life. He had things to do, family, this and that, and it just wasn’t happening as fast as we need to get it done. Because me and Mike, we’re lifers. It’s what we do all day. We work our jobs so we can go play and rock and blah, blah, blah, and it just wasn’t happening as fast as we need it to do, but it’s kind of a better thing, to a point. I love Eddie and I love what he did, but the guy we’re working with now, Joe Mora, is in a band called HDR that we did a lot of playing with, a lot of tours with. He fits right in, he’s a badass singer, he’s a great writer, great musician. He’s a killer guitar player. He’s gonna play bass and sing and he plays tasty bass as well. It’s refreshing, because some of the stuff that I write, say, with Eddie, he probably couldn’t get the vibe maybe, and Joe’s got more of a bluesier, soulful vibe, and that’s what things are going toward now. It’ll be the heavier songs too, but then there’s like an old bluesy black band kind of thing. Joe’s definitely got that good rock voice and a bluesier soul, that feel, some James Brown and shit in there. The stuff we’ve been writing with him, it’s fucking awesome, so we’re all stoked. He techs too, so the hardest part is the scheduling. I’ve been teching too. I’ve been working a lot, padding my bank account as I can so I can focus on writing and recording. He does that too, so we’ve been balancing, “Okay, gonna be home this day? Alright cool, let’s hit it, bam, bam, bam,” but once we get in the room, it fucking flies. It’s all good. So that’s what’s good. We’re all busy, but once we get in that room, everybody’s on par musicianship-wise, and everybody’s like, “Oh this, do this, bam, bam, bam, done. Sick. Awesome.”
If HoBP’s going bluesier, how is writing different than for Unida?
You know what? Whatever riffs come out, they kind of decide themselves, man. Me and Mike’ll look at each other like, “I can hear John on that.” Because they’re totally different beasts. HoBP stuff will still have… me and Mike will call it high performance rock and roll, where it’s a little more bitchin’, we’re shredding a little more, some of it’s a little more technical – this stuff’s gonna be bluesier too and a little trippier and weird – but they’re definitely two different beasts, and when we come up with something or jam a riff, it’s kind of instantly like, “Yeah, John’ll like that.” Unida definitely has its own vibe, and when we write something, a riff, it’ll be like, “Okay, that’s HoBP, that’s Unida, that’s another thing we’re gonna do.” They decide themselves.
How did headlining the Desertfests come about, both London and Berlin?
Reece [Tee], he’s one of the promoters. I’m friends with him on Facebook and whatnot, and he hit me up and saw we were doing stuff and I talked to John. The timing’s right and blah, blah, blah, and it worked out where we can get it done and go do it. Unida’s definitely doing stuff full-bore, scheduling-wise, with busy schedules, but me and him kept talking, talking about the logistics, financially and whatever, all that kind of stuff, and it worked out. We got it all nailed down. Fits in with John’s schedule too before they go out and do their stuff, yadda yadda, so it’s gonna be fun. I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be awesome.
And Unida won’t tour around that? It’s just exclusive to Desertfest?
It’s just exclusive, yeah. That’s kind of part of the deal with Desertfest, just doing those shows. We were thinking about, what we wanted to do was at least do a couple weeks if not more around it, but kind of the whole deal with doing the fest and headlining it and whatnot and everything that was involved was making those two exclusive shows, so if you’re gonna go see us, you gotta go to those shows. I get that. That’s part of the big selling point and if we were doing other shows besides those, “Oh, I can go see them at this club,” you know what I mean? So I get it. It’s just gonna be those two exclusive one-offs, and then we’re gonna figure it out from there and we’re gonna work with that promoter Reece and Vibra Agency and come back and do a full-blown tour, hopefully in the summer, depending. I’m sure Vista Chino’s going to be pretty swamped, so we’re gonna try to see what their schedule’s like and in between, we’ll do stuff too. Adult scheduling (laughs).
Would you do a double-duty HoBP/Unida tour?
Fuck yeah, I’d love to do that. I’ve talked to John about that too. Or even Unida/Vista Chino, but that’s kind of hard on him.
That’s a lot of John Garcia Voice for one night.
Yeah. Unida’s a different kind of style. The same, but different. We talked about it and he’s kind of like, “Man, it’s kind of harder singing the Unida stuff than the Kyuss stuff.” That would be cool, but it would probably wipe him out. I would love to do it. We’re gonna try to figure that out, because we can pull that off, HoBP. We’re gonna do Desertfest as well, and that would be awesome. I’d have no problem with that.
Any chance Unida will hit the East Coast?
Definitely. It’s just figuring out time schedules. Like I said, they’re gonna be busy doing the Vista Chino stuff, and depending how it goes with that, then once their cycle’s done – we’ll do stuff between and during – but once their cycle’s done, we’re gonna work on new material and get it out there, whichever way it may be. Definitely hit the States as much as we can. Europe’s definitely our market and we’re gonna hit that, but we gotta hit East Coast, me and John are already talking West Coast, and the right thing can work out for the East Coast.
Especially for what we do. We can go over there and get quadruple what we’ll get here. Plus it’s in Europe. I love the States and all, but yeah, when you go over there, you go, “Oh, this is what it’s supposed to be like,” you know what I mean? They love it, they care. If they’re into it, they stay into it. They support. They buy the shirt and the vinyl, the CD, whatever. They come to the show. They’re not standing there with their arms crossed just listening. You know what I mean? They are fully into it. I look at Europe as they’re more connoisseurs of music. If they’re into it, they’re more fully into it. They’re not afraid to be into it, they support and love it. The US is like followers. It’s like back in the day when we started doing that. We went to Europe and did all this shit, then after we did that, the US was like, “Oh wow, they’re cool over there?” Followers. Europe will definitely be our main aspect, but we definitely want… because we haven’t done much East Coast with Unida. East, West, we’re even talking to a promoter in Canada right now and a promoter in Australia. It’s just all timing with everybody’s busy schedules, which we’re sorting that out slow but sure. Yeah, god damn it, we will go to the East Coast.
Australia would be something else too.
Yeah! We’ve got a promoter over there, he’s brought over Fu Manchu and so we’ve been talking to him and figuring out probably for their fall, because right now Soundwave is coming up and every band in the fucking world is over there right now doing Soundwave, and then they do side shows. I did Soundwave last year with Limp Bizkit, and there was 97 bands on that tour, and everybody was doing side shows too. Yeah, 97 fucking bands. It was seven or eight stages or some shit, and all those bands, whatever city, they’re doing side shows. Kyuss Lives! or whatever is gonna do Soundwave, so we were trying to figure out, “Okay, so he’s gonna be there, maybe we can do two weeks after that,” and the market’s so saturated. The promoter and us as well said let’s wait. Everybody blew all their loads because there’s 8,000 fucking bands in town. So we’re gonna try to figure it out for their fall, after it mellows out from all that bullshit so we can blow it up bigger. That’s always been a good market too. We haven’t gone there too, but Kyuss does well there. They get it there, so we’re definitely gonna shoot for that as well. I love Australia, man. If there’s anywhere that, like, I hit the lotto and buy a pad somewhere else, I’d definitely buy one in Australia. It’s pretty rad. Just even basics like, say, public transit, like Sydney. You can get anywhere, anytime, easily on the train, on a bus, all night long. I did Soundwave and I stayed three or four days after just to mellow out, chill out – because I’m in fucking Australia, why am I gonna go home? – I rented at a hotel, stayed for like three days in Bonzai Beach, a couple blocks off the beach, and dude I went everywhere. I walked to the bus, and they come like every 10 minutes. It’s not weird, there’s an express bus, and then there’s a normal bus that comes like every 15 minutes. I took that to downtown Sydney, museums, this, that and the other, took it back to my hotel. Even when I left, took the bus to the train, took the train to the third train stop, hopped off that train, jumped on the train to the airport – the fucking train goes right inside the airport – you get off, go up the escalator, check in. It’s fucking brilliant. Why don’t we have that? How come L.A. doesn’t have that? What the fuck happened? Who fucked up? Who paid off who to not have it so we’d spend more on gas? L.A. used to have the best transit in the world back in whatever fucking year when they were building it, but then whoever dropped the ball or got paid off. It was so easy! I just, boom. It goes everywhere. You can take a train to any major Australian thing you want to see. The red cliff thing, or mountain that, or go over there. And women? It’s five to one! They love Americans. Every dude over there is a total fucking douche, they hate all the dudes, and seriously, five to one ratio and they’re hot and they have Latin booties but they’re white girls. It’s retarded.
You should work for Australian tourism.
That’s the only thing. It’s like a $2,000 flight. It’s ridiculous. It might be cheaper, but looking at my Bizkit ticket, like, “What? Jesus Christ.” It’s worth it, though. It’s worth it. It used to be cheaper, but now it’s expensive. The dollar is a little under and shit’s expensive, but their minimum wage is like $15, $20 an hour? I met so many people from Europe, London and like that, who moved there to work and whatever. “Oh yeah, I work at a restaurant,” and they’re making like $20 an hour. I think it was $22. I remember because Switzerland, their minimum wage is $24.50. It’s expensive as fuck there, but their minimum wage starts at $24.50. We did like two weeks – no a week – of pre-production for this Limp Bizkit tour, and we started in Switzerland. We’d go get a beer and the cheapest draft beer is like $12. We were there for like a week. They would jam for an hour, then, “Okay, we’re done. Let’s go to the bar and spend all our money.” But it was awesome, I wouldn’t change it.
You’re still drinking in Switzerland at that point.
I’m drinking in Switzerland. Exactly (laughs). I’m not complaining. I’m lucky. I have a job, and the perks are seeing the world on somebody else’s dime and getting paid. It gets old too, handing the guitar off, but it beats flipping burgers.
Before I let you go, what’s next? What comes immediate next?
Immediate next is we’re gonna work out the most amazing, badass set for Desertfest to give the people what they want, nice variety, hit everything we’ve done. Then after that, definitely gonna start writing music. We already are writing music. We’ve already sent John a couple of new ideas and all that, so we’re just taking it slow and sure. This time around, we’re doing it for real – well, we’ve always done it for real – but we’re just making sure everything’s cool on all aspects. We went through a lot, a bunch of bullshit, and that shit sucked. Business-wise, we’re taking it nice and slow and talking to who we need to talk to, and we’re kind of handling everything ourselves at this point, but the next big step after we do these shows is to write new music and do a new record.California, House of Broken Promises, Unida