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Unsane Look Back on ‘Scattered, Smothered and Covered’ and MTV

Justina Villanueva

This winter, Noisecreep had the privilege and pleasure to watch Unsane perform a one off show at Union Pool. Great and rare shows are one of the few benefits of being a New Yorker. This summer, residents of Maryland, Ontario, Ohio, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota will have the same advantage when Unsane visits their cities and plays ‘Scattered, Smothered and Covered’ in its entirety.

They are bringing along Keelhaul and Pigs for the party, too. All this good news got Noisecreep so excited we had to ask frontman Chris Spencer a bunch of questions about the band, his dog and playing Amphetamine Reptiles’ 25th anniversary show.

Your shows are fun for everyone. It’s like recess for adults. How do you guys get anything done at practice?

Practice is usually fun for us. It’s great to get together with two of my best friends and hang out and play, but it’s also a real endurance test. Playing music with the intensity level of the stuff we do can be really rough if you’re not up for beating on yourself almost to the point of blacking out. A lot of practice is to get ourselves prepared to go through a sort of catharsis every night. Playing live is full on, so you have to be able to take it. It’s always been like that, thank god.

How’s your buddy Jake’s legs?

Strange that you would ask about my dog. Jake’s good. He’s had two toes cut off one of his back leg and one off the front because of some weird cyst thing that’s been going on. We now call him ‘ole two toe.’ He’s somewhere in his mid 90s (in dog years), so he’s not as fast as he used to be, but he’s still the best guy ever.

Why did you guys decide to play ‘Scattered, Smothered and Covered’?

I think the main reason would be that it was the only album that was released by AMREP and we’re doing their anniversary show at the end of August in Minneapolis. We wanted to do one of our older albums, so it was kind of a choice between ‘Occupational Hazard’ and ‘Scattered.’ We were trying to decide between the two when the AMREP show kinda made the decision for us. I’m really looking forward to doing it. I personally have wanted to do this ever since ‘Scattered’ came out.

Maybe I’m the last person in the world to realize this, but is the album a Waffle House reference? If so, why just onions and cheese?

Having done a ton of touring we ended up late night in a lot of Waffle Houses. One night we were joking around and thought it would be a funny name for an album (obviously suffering from roadburn). We also thought that it sounded strangely like the MO of some serial killer. We thought about calling the album ‘scattered, smothered, covered, chunked, diced, peppered, capped and topped,’ but thought it best to keep it simple.

‘Scattered, Smothered and Covered’ also includes ‘Scrape’ — the song with the music video that earned the band a spot in MTV’s top ten funniest videos. Do you still get laughs watching that video?

Honestly, I never get tired of watching that video. It came from just sitting around with my friend Thomas Campbell (who had offered to maybe work on a video for us) watching a skate video, and saying to him, “Can we make a video where everyone bites it with maybe only around six seconds of the band?” He was into it, went with us for a few shows to shoot some live footage, and when we got back from tour had it done. If I remember correctly, for $169. We were shocked! He did an amazing job! One of the funniest things I saw from that vid was being in First Avenue in Minneapolis and watching a giant club full of people see it on the big screen. You could literally hear the moans of people whenever a guy got hurt.

Do you miss MTV?

It was fun to be on there talking to guys like Matt Pinfield (he’s actually very nice) and seeing the video on there, but we were definitely the black sheep. It was really strange to see something like Janet Jackson being played after ‘Scrape.’

What band are you most excited about watching at the American Reptile 25th anniversary show?

I’m really looking forward to seeing Vaz, Melvins and Boss Hog, although I’m really looking forward to seeing all the people that worked with and for AMREP. It’s been a long time, and it’s gonna be good to see everyone.

You get to see Keelhaul and Today Is the Day four times in a row. I’m so jealous. Who set that up? Did you call up Steve Austin and say, “Hey dude, let’s play a couple shows together?”

No, it’s not quite like that. We’ve obviously known the guys from Keelhaul and Steve Austin for a really long time, and done a lot of touring together, but our friends at ACTION! got that together for us. I guess I could have called, but they set this whole thing up. I’m really glad we’re playing with them.

I believe the last tour Unsane did was three years ago for ‘Visqueen’. What has prevented the band from touring more frequently? Or has that been a conscious decision (to only tour when the time is right)?

We have all been doing our own thing for a while. Dave has been playing in a band called Pigs, Vinny has been playing with a few different bands (A Storm of Light, Fear Factory) and I started a band in Berlin called Celan with Niko from Oxbow and Ari Meyers. Me and Ari also did the soundtrack for a French horror flick called ‘La Meute’ that’s coming out in September. I think it’s good to take a break from something that you’ve done for so long. It has really reaffirmed how much I love playing in a band with Dave and Vinny.

What has been your best show experience?

We had just flown into Belgium for the Dour festival and had no idea what to expect. We were driven to the back of a tent and started to get our stuff together (string changing, drum stuff, etc.). We had no time to actually look around and see what the situation was out front. We get onstage, they open the curtain, and we’re looking at somewhere around 20 thousand people freaking out! We start playing and Vinny accidentally hits himself in the brow with a stick as I get whacked in the bridge of the nose with a tuning peg. We’re both bleeding heavily from the head, but put our nose to the grindstone and manage to play a really good show. It seemed kinda perfect, all that blood and noise.

What has been your worst?

The one in Stuttgart that was canceled.

Do you think that if you met original members Shore and Ondras somewhere else and Unsane didn’t develop in New York City that the band would have had the same sound?

No way.

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