Interview with vocalist Darren Chaney
Interview conducted by Luxi Lahtinen
Date online: December 5, 2019
These lads from Auburn, California, aren't rookies. Unprovoked first formed in 1990 and hung around for five years before calling it quits in 1995 due to losing their practice place, which happened to be the living room of guitarist Cless' mother. There's always the chance that some neighbor will get totally freaked out by high volume noise and eventually call the cops. But hey, kids must have some fun, right?
Twenty years passed and Unprovoked were back but this time they weren't just terrorizing the suburbs uncontrollably and maniacally as perhaps they did some when they were a bunch of angst and hate-filled teenagers. The band released their debut album, aptly titled Out of the Ashes, independently at the beginning of May 2019.
The Metal Crypt found these veteran thrashers by accident and was impressed by the band's hard-boiled and well-executed Crossover/Thrash Metal. We decided to contact the band to ask who they are and how long they plan to stay amongst us and provide a serious beatdown for our fancy and fragile ears...
Luxi: What's cooking in the Unprovoked camp at the moment? Planning to do a series of gigs in the near future?
Darren: We had a busy summer playing a few festivals with some smaller shows mixed in but now we're working hard on writing new material. We have around five songs for our follow up to Out of the Ashes.
Luxi: Let's talk about the band's past as Unprovoked have a lot of history. The band was formed in 1990 but unfortunately split up in 1995. What killed the band?
Darren: We were young and most of us didn't have jobs and if we did, they weren't good paying jobs. We used to practice at Cless' moms house in the living room and kept getting harassed by the cops. Finally, they said no more so we lost our place to practice and that's what really did it. Also, we were hitting our 20s and we had to learn to be responsible, ha-ha!
Luxi: In 1993, the band recorded a 5-track demo titled Population 0, and you released it as an old school cassette. How was it received among metalheads both locally and internationally?
Darren: lol, well cassettes weren't really old school at that time. Some local bands had just started to release stuff on CD but cassettes were much cheaper. We had lots of great reviews, mostly positive, but I will never forget a really bad review from some Death Metal magazine mostly pointed at me. We received some airplay from the underground college stations here in the States, Europe and even in the Middle East. All good responses and we also started receiving lots of letters by way of snail mail.
Luxi: Did you try to shop it around the labels hoping to get the band signed? How was the response from them?
Darren: You know I don't really recall if we did or not. If we did it was very few and we must not have had much interest. We recorded in '92 and finally got to release it mid '93. Thrash Metal was dying out so we would just sell some at shows and we did a lot of trading through the mail. Everything we did then and now is to put something out, try to make our money back and just have fun.
Luxi: Fast forward to 2015, that's when Unprovoked reformed, with "new" guys Loren Scott on bass and Cless Limperio on the second guitar. Right off the bat, I would like to ask how you found those guys to complete the lineup?
Darren: We actually found those guys back in '93. The original lineup was made up of Justin Woods on drums, Mark Burcher and Ben Barnett on guitars, Dave Kelly on bass and myself. Then we had a mutual parting with Ben and found Devin Manzanares in '91. Then in '93 Devin and Dave parted from the band. My friend's band had recently broken up, so I talked to Loren about him and Cless joining and that's how it came to be. In 2010 Mark was MIA and Dave lived in a different state but the five of us in the lineup now found each other through MySpace and thought it might be fun to jam again. We actually went to a studio and jammed together one night but I don't remember quite the reason we just weren't ready to do this I guess for another five years. Then in 2015 everything lined up.
Luxi: Do you feel that both Loren and Cless brought a lot of new energy and new motivation into the band, sort of making all of you feel it's great to play in a band again?
Darren: Back in the day I think Loren and Cless brought a little more of a crossover sound to the band. When we started back together, Cless and Devin had never played in the band together and they both have quite different styles, but I think that's a big part of the Unprovoked sound.
Luxi: Would you say the songwriting process in your band is an equal thing with all of you participating in the songwriting process?
Darren: Writing has always been one of our downfalls. We only get to practice one day a week if we're lucky and we're usually getting ready for a show. Luckily, we had a lot of old songs that we just had to relearn, but we have written two new songs since we've been back that made it on our first album. That was until this past month and a half. We knew we wanted to do another album before 10 years had gone by, LOL, so we've actually put our attention to writing this past month and we have busted out four new tracks. Definitely the most at one time that we have ever done. It's just kind of pouring out of us right now. One guy will come in with a riff and as a band we just work it from there and see where it goes. We're really excited about these new songs.
Luxi: Your debut album, Out of the Ashes, is in my sincere opinion at least, a great piece of Thrash Metal mixed with bits of Crossover, came out this May and has gotten some words of praise already. How happy are you with this outcome? Do you feel the album represents 100% of what Unprovoked is all about?
Darren: Thank you, I really appreciate hearing that. I think we're very pleased with it. Six months after its release there are a few things I would change but as a whole I'm definitely happy. We have a few guys in the band that have recorded a few times but to do a whole album, this is all new to us. Tom Jimenez at the Audio Edge was learning as well. He did such a killer job. We all just worked together to try and get the best sound we could. We didn't want it to be too polished, we definitely wanted some rawness to it. I think it's very close to how we sound live without being overly produced.
Luxi: After the album was released, did it bring some extra attention to the band in regard to new gig opportunities, label interest, and stuff?
Darren: We didn't really shop it much. We sent it out to a couple labels and again not much interest so I always figured we would go with my friend's label Anunnaki Studios. We are doing this for fun, we all have day jobs and family so we're not looking for much, but I will say the best thing that has come from it is the awesome response we've gotten from people all over the world. We really have heard nothing but good things. Never expected that. I had seen a couple thumbs down on YouTube, you can expect that, but all the comments have been nothing but awesome to read and that's what excites us. Also, we're really happy about the packaging, I think it turned out really cool. When I was a kid I couldn't wait to go to the store and pick up my favorite bands CDs or records and open it up and look at the pictures and read the lyrics so that's why we wanted to make it special and also for the people that spend their hard-earned money. I honestly can't believe people are buying our CD when shipping costs more than the CD. It sucks and I feel bad to have to charge 25 bucks for overseas, so we always try to send something special with it.
Luxi: You have very socially aware lyrics in your songs. Do you consider lyric writing an integral part of the band, expressing your freedom of speech to say what's wrong with society?
Darren: When we start writing the music, I will just make up stuff and sing along just to get the feel of how and where the vocals will go and then things will pop in my head. I might repeat a line and then it will trigger me into what the song might be about. When I start writing, I don't really try to convey a message or be too political. It's usually something that's on my mind or something I've dealt with in the past and then I make it tenfold, LOL! I try to make each song have very different topics. I'm definitely not a lyric specialist but I've been pretty happy with what's been coming out.
Luxi: Where does the name Unprovoked come from?
Darren: Well that's kind of ironic. Like I said, when we started we were all pretty young and I believe the story is that Mark's stepdad said, "You know, you don't have to make your BAND name all satanic or violent, why don't you just name it Unprovoked or something." So, it stuck. Little did he know we were thinking Unprovoked Violence, LOL! We had some shirts that said, "Music that causes bodily harm for no apparent reason."
Luxi: When you originally started out in 1990, what bands were your main inspirations and/or influences? You mentioned via email that the whole Crossover scene was a big thing to you, with its countless bands and releases...
Darren: We have lots of influences. All the great Thrash Metal bands of that time. Exodus, Vio-lence, Slayer, Destruction, Death Angel, Coroner and all the great crossover bands. D.R.I., S.O.D., Suicidal Tendencies, Crumbsuckers, Dr. Know, Verbal Abuse, Ludichrist just to name a few. I could go on for days. Music was such a big thing to us growing up in the '80s and we were lucky enough to be close to the Thrash Metal capital of the world. So many killer shows back then.
Luxi: You guys come from Northern California. How's the local Thrash/HC/Punk scene there? Any killer young bands that you'd recommend that people should keep their eyes out for?
Darren: There are so many good bands around Sacramento and the Bay Area and there's a great camaraderie amongst the bands that we've dealt with. It's not so much competition as it is just a need for everybody to put on a good show and have a lot of fun. The scene isn't as good as the old days, seems like a lot of people just want to be on their phones and stay at home. There are so many good bands out here worth checking out. You're going to get me in trouble if I start naming them because I know I'll leave someone out, LOL! Oh well what the hell. Your readers should definitely check out these guys; The New Plague, West Coast Fury, Solanum, Severpull, Hellbender, From The Ruins, 24Gore, Psychosomatic, Rage of War, Angerhead, Short Fuse, Potential Threat, The Ellusive Furs, Monster God, Cultural Warfare, Gurschach, Twitch Angry, Crimson Eye, Mudface, Skitzo, Plague, Incredulous, Scythe, and Violent Obsession just to name a few. There are many, many more.
Luxi: Bay Area Thrash Metal legends, Vio-lence, announced on January 8th this year, that they are officially reformed. What kind of thoughts did this announcement generate in you?
Darren: Hell, Vio-Lence is one of the greats. I went to both shows. They didn't skip a beat, they sounded amazing. We were lucky enough to play with them back in '93. Hopefully, we'll get to do it again soon. I know you're a big fan of Sacrilege B.C. Every time I see Gary I try and encourage a reunion. I think it's great that a lot of these old bands are coming back. Defiance just announced that they were back together. It's like being a kid all over again.
Luxi: While some bands are making their reunions, some are making big announcements that they are about to call it quits soon—much like Slayer did a while ago. Slayer have, of course, been a big institution for many decades, so do you personally feel any sadness that they will leave the scene soon? Slayer is Slayer, of course, and it's very hard to find any substitute for them really...
Darren: The world needs more Slayer. I am sad to see them go but is it forever? Hopefully not. Gary said he had some Slayer riffs in his pocket. I would've liked to have heard a Slayer album with some of his writing. The guy is the riff master.
Luxi: Okay, let's go back to your band for the last couple of questions if you don't mind. What kind of plans do you have for the remainder of 2019 and how much have you planned in 2020 for what you'd like to do and achieve with this band?
Darren: We plan to keep on writing. We may or may not do one more show before the end of the year and we always take the last half of December off so everyone can hang with the family. In 2020 we're already thinking about big plans. Probably do a few early shows and then hit the studio to start tracking the new album. Play a lot of shows this summer and then hopefully get this album out late fall or early winter. That's the plan at least.
Luxi: Obviously, now that you are back and have got your debut album out, you want to keep the engines going on and create new music. My question is how much new material is ready and what are your plans regarding it? Hoping to get a new album (or EP?) recorded in 2020/2021?
Darren: I think I answered most of this in the last question, but we'll probably do 10 songs again since we're halfway there. We're not going to rush it though; I think the songs we have right now is a good continuation from Ashes.
Luxi: Here's one more question and then we are done; If you promoted Unprovoked to some "uncivilized" metalhead who had never heard of the band before, how would you sell the band for him/her?
Darren: We're an act or a display of energetic aggression. A Thrash Metal punch to the face. That last sentence was from someone that left a review on our Facebook page, so I'll take it. lol!
Luxi: I want to thank you, Darren, for your precious time for making this interview happen and wish you all the best with all your future endeavors with the band. Thrash on... Party on... whatever you prefer doing in your life really... Eh, any last comments left?
Darren: Thank you very much, Luxi, for giving me the time and opportunity to reach your readers and congratulations to The Metal Crypt for 20 years in the biz. Hopefully, one day I'll get to meet you in person.
|Other information about Unprovoked on this site|
|Review: Out of the Ashes|
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