interview by Keavin Wiggins
Edition: You heard about them from their "Metallica Sues Band Over Guitar
Chords" hoax, now get to know the band behind the hoax with this indepth
special extended edition of Unsigned Heroes.
This month we venture to Montreal to
look into the creative mind of Erik Ashley and his musical labor of love,
Unfaith. Over a year ago, our readers got their first exposure to the magic
ingredients that make Unfaith so appealing, when we featured their cover
of the Duran Duran classic "Save A Prayer" in our Song of the Day / Mandatory
Media section. That song made a lasting impression here. Unfaith took someone
elses songs and made it new by adding a lot of subtle and not so subtle
nuances to the mix and at the end of the day it was a composition all his
own. Those who liked what they heard, ventured on and checked out the original
songs available on Unfaith's website and many became fans.
Others jumped on board earlier this
year when a little hoax about Metallica suing the band over the use of
a guitar chord progression was picked up as a legitimate news item by various
mainstream publications and media outlets. The original hoax and the aftermath
became international news and put the Unfaith name out there and many of
the curious, have been converted to fans because they liked what they heard.
Unfaith is unique in that they are one
of the few bands that actually "get the net" and have used it to build
their fan base. But they are also a perfect example of what is wrong with
the music industry. The music has tremendous commercial appeal. At the
same time, each song offers a different glimpse into the group's creative
mind and the things that inspire them. As I write this I have over 50 CD's
sitting on my desk for review. I can tell you off hand that 30 are going
to fall into the generic "pop-punk" category, 20 will be played out, sound
alike nu-metal, 5 will be bland singer-songwriters that come no where near
James Taylor or Cat Stevens, 3 will be hip-hop that got sent to us my mistake
or by a clueless publicist and maybe 2 will show a spark of imagination
and actually break out of the trends of the day.
A band like Unfaith falls into that
latter category. The music isn't groundbreaking in the sense that when
you hear it, you say "wow, I've never heard that before" but it is original
in the sense that they bridges a lot of different musical roads together
that manage to meet in perfect unity in the end. It's really not that different
from what we see on MTV or hear on commercial radio, BUT it doesn't fit
nicely into the record companies little trend box either. That being the
case, even though the music could sell millions, it's difficult to have
the right person with the right amount of balls hear and take the chance
on it. But that doesn't stop them, as they keep pushing ahead and creating
music for the right reasons, because they love it. That enough reason
to earn our respect.
In the end, it's that passion, along
with the music, that may just get the right person's attention.
Now let us meet Erik and learn more
about his musical journey and what makes Unfaith tick.
RNW: Ok we’ll start off with the obvious
one, the Metallica hoax. How did that come about? Did you just decide to
screw around and have fun to illustrate a point, or was it more thought
Erik: The whole thing started out
as a joke to help an indie webzine out with its hits. We put up a parody
article that jokingly announced that Metallica was suing Unfaith for the
unsanctioned use of what they felt were two "Metallica-branded" chords.
The fact that it seemed almost believable was only supposed to make the
article funnier, not help it spread onto legitimate news media the way
As it turns out, it was a happy accident,
and we were all too happy to milk it. We keep hearing about how if you
want to get into the game, you need two things : A great product, and an
original way to get yourself noticed — preferably one that speaks about
who you are. Now, whether or not Unfaith has a great product is a matter
of individual opinion; but as for getting noticed in an original way that
speaks about who we are, I believe we accomplished that.
RNW: Were you shocked at all the press
outlets that picked up the story without verifying it?
Erik: You have no idea. As a people,
we tend to have this image of larger news media outlets having their own
team of reporters and researchers verifying what it is they run; or if
they can't research it, they'd at least credit its source so as to cover
themselves. Some of the most respected publications on earth did none of
the above. They just went ahead with the rumored story without questioning
any of the players involved, despite the fact that our contact info was
published in the original article that spawned all the controversy.
It was Court TV's Matt Beane who was the
first to contact us, and got the real story. He earned himself a legitimate
scoop — that the Metallica chord litigation story that was spreading like
wildfire was nothing more than satire — and his article not only made the
front page of the Court TV website for over a week, but ended up being
picked up by everyone from CNN to Yahoo News. Someone took his job seriously
and was rewarded for it. Good for him.
One funny anecdote I haven't told anyone
yet is that among the thousands of people offering us their genuine and
heartfelt support through our "time of trial" (before everyone realized
the whole thing was a joke), was a legitimate Onion staffer. Can you believe
that? The Onion, of all publications, thought this story was real.
RNW: What about the subsequent response
from the public, and Metallica themselves?
Erik: The vast majority of the people
thought it was a great idea. There was the odd complaint about feeling
used, but nothing resembling backlash.
As for Metallica, they've been great sports.
Lars Ulrich and Kirk Hammett both have been quoted as saying that the whole
thing was actually quite clever, and hilarious, respectively. Lars likely
realizes that we ended up making a point FOR him, as much as anything else
: the media will report what the media WANTS to report, and people will
believe what they WANT to believe. And let's be honest, who has suffered
more from both those truths than Metallica in recent years?
RNW: Has anything positive come about
as a result of it?
Erik: Yeah, Eric Eckstein finally
returned a year-old call. [Laughs] But all kidding aside, it really was
like every cliché you'd ever heard : people who'd been completely
ignoring us were suddenly quite friendly as they got their interview and
radio appearance requests in. They were all coming out of the woodwork;
but I knew it was temporary. I was ready for it, and just had fun with
it. At best, I was hoping for something to pad our press kit with; quotes
from known publications, that sort of thing. We got that, so it's all good.
I should point out to everyone reading
this that you guys were into us for all the right reasons over a year ago,
long before any of this hit. That's why I'm so happy to take the time to
do this with you, and why no matter what the future holds, that will continue
to mean a lot to us.
RNW: Ok, now on to the important things;
your band and music. How did Unfaith come together?
Erik: Unfaith isn't your typical
4-piece rock band. It's more of a solo studio project à la Nine
Inch Nails, only slightly adapted for pop.
I've been writing songs since 1992. I always
knew I'd form my own band eventually, but didn't originally picture myself
fronting it. That's why I spent the first few years looking for a singer,
before reluctantly adopting the role myself. Then, I did the same with
production. I'm pretty methodical, so I wasn't really thinking of things
like band names or stage attire. It just wasn't time for any of that yet.
It was all I could do just to concentrate on developing my singing, songwriting
and production techniques.
It wasn't until 2000 — when I first went
public with my MP3 demos — that I actually needed a project name, or a
guitarist for that matter. An old friend filled the role before quitting
music altogether. He was replaced by current guitarist P.L. Trepanier.
There hasn't been a need for any other musicians thus far, but when the
time comes, we'll tackle the need methodically and with great attention,
RNW: Unfaith is a pretty unusual name
and evokes a few thoughts on first glance. Where did that name come from?
Why not use your own name?
Erik: I didn't want to use my own
name because I didn't want it to be about me. I find it unfortunate that
today, the songs don't seem to be the stars of the show anymore. Many of
today's artists are using their material to promote themselves, instead
of the other way around. In fact, many of them can come across as almost
jealous of their own songs' success, refusing to play some tracks live
so more attention can be put on themselves.
"Unfaith" is a name a friend of mine (whom
we refer to simply as 'priior') suggested, one that suited me and was abstract
enough to lend itself to various imagery possibilities. "Unfaith" also
doesn't have a hair color, driver's license, or political views; so it
allows the songs to have all the attention.
RNW: Where would you place your sound
in the musical spectrum? In other words, how do you describe yourselves
to those who haven’t heard you?
Erik: If you believe CNN, we do
"Christian Pop Tunes". :) I guess there are elements of Pop, Rock and Alternative
in there... but what percentage of each do you need to qualify for any
given label? Where do you draw the line? I always liked the Alternative
Pop label, but only because it's an oxymoron and generally confuses everyone.
RNW: That's an interesting description
from CNN. I never picked up on the "Christian" message in the songs. Were
they totally off-base, or is there an underlying "Christian" message in
Erik: Don't you start too! [Laughs]
Way off-base. They basically saw that we had songs called "Your Jesus"
and "True Faith" in our repertoire, and concluded that we were a Christian
band (imagine if "Save a Prayer" had been up).
The ironic part is that the very word "Unfaith"
is anything but Christian. In fact, some consider it an affront to Christianity
in and of itself. Personally, I think everyone needs to lighten up. Having
a song called "Your Jesus" doesn't make us a Christian band, anymore than
having the name Unfaith makes us Anti-Christian. They're just words and
references to help evoke thoughts and images. Religious themes in general
have always made for beautiful metaphors for life, which is why musicians
like using them. That's all.
RNW: You're the singer, songwriter,
and producer for Unfaith. Which role do you associate with the most?
Erik: The songwriting. To refer
to me as a singer is an insult to real singers worldwide. As for producing,
it's something I still don't feel I know enough about yet. But the songwriting
is something I take very great pride and joy in, and feel I've hit my stride
RNW: Do you see yourself becoming a
hitmaker or songwriter for other artists?
Erik: In my wildest dreams, absolutely.
Unfaith is something I enjoy every minute of, but there is also something
quite liberating about the idea of writing for various artists, and not
being limited by my own vocal range, or the overall Unfaith sound.
RNW: If you only had one chance to win
a fan over with one song, which Unfaith song would you use, that you think
best represents what you are all about?
Erik: Those are actually two very
different questions. If I had only 1 chance to win a fan over, without
knowing what his general musical tastes are, I'd probably go with "Alia"
or "Home"; simply because those are the two people seem to prefer overall.
But a song that best represents what Unfaith
is all about, then I'd say "Whispers". The lyrics, the melody, the arrangement,
the imagery... everything about it excites me. And I've been dying to play
this one live for years.
RNW: The artist is often the last to
know which of his songs will catch on or not. With that in mind, which
of your own songs are you most surprised caught on as much as it did?
Erik: "Higher", without a doubt.
The entire song is built around a single chord, and the lyrics are an actual
self-parody of over-abused rock rhymes (higher, fire, desire). I like the
song, but never expected it to be among the most downloaded on our site.
RNW: On the other hand, which of your
own songs are you most surprised didn't catch on more than it did?
Erik: That's a tougher question,
because you don't really expect any demo release to set the world on fire...
but I'd probably say "Tell Her", if only because it's one of the more commercial
and hook-driven songs in our current repertoire, and I kind of expected
it to appeal to a broader range of people as a result.
RNW : What is it about the overall public
reaction to your songs that surprises you most?
Erik: Probably that each song —
bar none — seems to have its own loyal cult following. "Alia" may be among
the most downloaded overall, but you'd be amazed to witness how there's
a contingent of people for each of our songs that care only about that
For instance, I sometimes have some fun
singing home-made CDG versions of Unfaith songs at karaoke bars around
Montreal, and the bars' clients have grown to enjoy "Home" so much that
not only do they insist on this song each time I go up there — and sing
along every time I do — but I often get asked by strangers if they can
go up there and sing it themselves. As if that's not enough, the bar itself
will request a CDG copy of "Home" for people to sing along to, because
it actually gets requested when I'm not around.
Each song in our repertoire seems to have
a contingent of people that swear only by that song.
RNW: Any talks with labels yet? Are
we going to be hearing about the bidding war situation anytime soon?
Erik: If such a war is being waged,
no one let us in on it. While our fanbase continues to expand, the labels
have been standoffish. I'm not sure they know quite what to make of us.
Then again, we haven't really approached anyone, either. Contrary to popular
thinking, most major labels simply do not accept unsollicited demos; and
we don't know much about the smaller ones. The scuttlebutt is that if you're
good enough, the industry will find you. So we must not be good enough
yet. We'll try harder.
RNW: The reality is if you ARE good
and original enough, the industry WON'T pay attention. Have you ever thought
of jumping on a bandwagon and writing a couple of songs which follow the
current trends so you could land the deal but in the end put out what you
want for the rest of the album? Or is that too close to selling out?
Erik: I think you may be giving
us way too much credit for originality, there. I don't find that what we
do is anymore intricate than what's generally considered mainstream. I've
always been very lucky in that what genuinely turns me on — what I listen
to as a fan, and what usually ends up influencing the music I write naturally
— usually *is* mainstream. So while I agree that some artists may have
too much originality for their own good, and sometimes need to "dumb it
down" a bit for mass consumption, I don't think we fall into that category.
I think we're plenty dumbed-down quite naturally. [Laughs]
RNW: The responses I have heard (and
from my own personal experience) is that your music easily hooks the listener
on the first listen. When I first heard that mp3 of your Duran Duran cover
("Save a Prayer"), I knew something really cool was going on with you guys.
Are you surprised it hasn’t taken off in a really big way for Unfaith yet?
Erik: That's a tough question. I
remember when old friends of mine in bands used to complain about the injustices
that were keeping them from their destined superstardom... they came across
as sore losers, and I didn't want to be like that. That's why I told myself
going into this that if I gave it my best shot and no one was interested,
I'd gracefully take a bow and let someone else have a whack at it.
But then, what should we make of all this
fan interest? How many bands can claim close to 4,000 subscribers on their
mailing list from New York to Australia without shows or airplay of any
kind — via word of mouse alone? How many get asked on a near-daily basis
by money-wielding fans when a CD will be made available for purchase, or
when we'll be playing their town? Even fans who admitted they normally
cannot stand the style of music we do have taken the time to drop us a
line to say that they feel these are great songs.
So it's not as much that I'm surprised
that things haven't taken off — the surprise comes from the sharp contrast
in interest between the industry and the average listener. Each side seems
to be making a case for the other being way off base in their assessment
of us. Which one has got it right?
RNW: I know you have some tracks on
your website, but where can people get a hold of a CD of your original
Erik: Nowhere at this moment. A
lot of people still don't understand why we're not selling demo CDs like
other successful bands did in their early stages, and I guess I can understand
their frustration, since I never really took the time to explain my position.
Here's the thing : though our current mixes
have impressed some given the limited means behind them, they still can't
rival the big-budget studio productions we are often compared with. I can't
even find anyone to master them properly, nevermind mix them (if someone
reading this thinks they can help, drop us a line). Plus, in this day and
age, the internet archives everything you do, good or bad. It forces you
to think long and hard about WHAT you want to release, because it's never
going to go away. Things were different in the 80's, when a band's only
means of distributing its songs was tapes & CDs. Additionally, they
could print 1,000 copies of their demo and not have to worry about the
internet multiplying those copies infinitely, and archiving their early
Printing CDs and setting up somekind of
distribution service is a huge undertaking, one we will tackle only if
it can help in the long run. I continue to see Unfaith as a long-term investment,
rather than a short-term cash-in.
RNW: On your music. I personally hear
a lot of new music all the time, but a lot of it sounds the same, or it’s
basically a rehash of what’s been done before. One of the things that immediately
struck me about Unfaith is that your music takes some of the best elements
of some of the music of the past, like the 80’s, mix it with more modern
edge of today but also give a definite unique spin that sounds wholly original.
Has your sound developed over the years or do you go into your songwriting
with a definite plan? i.e. "I want to have this bit of 80’s alternative
pop and a bit of 90’s grunge"?
Erik: As a fan, I'll always choose
to listen to a new CD over an old one, simply because I like being exposed
to new things. So while my current interests may not be in my old CD collection,
I did grow up on it. So when I sit down to write, that 80's pop influence
is still very present; and to be honest, it annoys the hell out of me.
Because I've never been one to consciously revisit the past — I'd rather
be contributing something new, if possible. But the influence is there,
and will likely be a permanent ingredient in anything I do. I've grown
to accept it.
Don't get me wrong, I appreciate that a
lot of people seem to enjoy what that duality ends up producing. But it's
not a carefully planned formula. It's just me trying to be as loyal to
how the song wants to sound as possible. I have a lot less say in how a
song will come out than people think. It makes most of the decisions itself,
I just try not to get in the way of it too much. But I'll admit that there
are limits to how much cheese even I can take. Sometimes, a song will sound
just a little bit *too* 80's for my liking. That was the case with "Take
Me Over", which I've removed from our playlist entirely, pending somekind
of future retooling. I am constantly battling the cheese within.
RNW: I know there was a lot of cheese
in the 80's, but to be honest I don't hear that side of the 80's influence
in your music. Are there any other influences that you try most to exorcize
from your consciousness when you are writing?
Erik: As I said, I can generally
nudge a song in this or that direction, but essentially I'm just a tool.
The song will decide where it wants to go.
Michael Jackson once said that songwriting
isn't about creating, it's about not getting in the way of something being
created. He was dead-on. The song will tell you what it wants; the challenge
lies in listening properly for it.
RNW: What do you feel is Unfaith's greatest
strength, that fans and labels alike should know?
Erik: Probably that we don't have
to work at sounding commercial. Pop is what comes out of me naturally;
a lot of people have a hard time grasping that concept. I'm not a closet
Jazz or complex Progressive Rock fan making a conscious effort to dumb
down his sound to ensure a larger fanbase. This is what I do, but also
what I listen to in my spare time, and make no apologies for it. Some people
may find it too wimpy for them, and that's fine. Diversity of tastes is
normal. But I think you can tell when an artist truly feels what he's doing,
regardless of what that is; be it Pop, Speed Metal or Jazz/Fusion. And
I hope that's conveyed in our songs.
RNW: What do you feel is Unfaith's biggest
Erik: The lack of a truly qualified
sound engineer helping us out. I know that some people will call me crazy
for worrying about that sort of thing at this stage of the game, pointing
out that anyone signing us will probably ask to re-record everything with
a decent budget anyway. But I can't help it, the producer side of me could
really use a hand with mixing and/or mastering, and we just can't afford
it right now. It's just frustrating to know that these songs are just a
few knob twists away from really standing out sonically.
RNW: What are some of your favorite
Erik: If I'm going to answer you
honestly, I'm going to have to say Jon Bon Jovi. It might not be the most
fashionable answer I can give you, but it's the truth. Not as much for
what he's doing today, but what he managed to accomplish back in the 80's.
He spearheaded the movement that united pop and metal — and was originally
shunned by both clans for it. Unfaith is in a similar position, albeit
on a microscopically smaller scale : too heavy for the average pop fan,
and too wimpy for the average hard rocker.
Another would be Nine Inch Nail's Trent
Reznor; not only for the originality of the music, or having achieved everything
on his own — although that's part of the reason — but mostly for paying
as much attention to the visuals as he did the music. Reznor didn't create
a song, an album or even a band — he created a universe. I have so much
respect for that.
RNW: Ok now we move on to the standard
questions for this series. What inspired you to first make music?
Erik: "Wanted Dead or Alive" (Bon
RNW: On that same token, Who are your
Erik: Generally speaking, people
don't influence me, songs do. Songs make me want to write songs, and you
wouldn't always guess which ones. Like The Cure's "Burn", or "Doin Time
by Sublime. There's also "How Soon is Now" by The Smiths, or U2's "New
Year's Day". Metallica's "Fade To Black". "What's My Name" by DMX. Radiohead's
"Paranoid Android". Martika's "Toy Soldiers". "Superhero" by Garrison Starr.
Duran Duran's "New Moon on Monday". I could keep going and going...
RNW: What’s the most important thing
you have learned from your experience in this business, and what advise
would you pass on to new bands?
Erik: Find a band you like. Look
like them. Sound like them. And most importantly, follow the exact same
career path they did. If they played clubs for 3 years before being discovered,
do that. Try to play the very same clubs, preferably on the same nights
that they did. Find out what they drank, and drink the same. If they used
public transportation, sell your car. Learn which groupies they slept with,
and call them.
Then, labels will know what to do with
RNW: Ok, but what do you think is the
biggest obstacle for new bands these days to making it in this crazy business?
Erik: Nepotism. Everyone seems to
be someone else's son, nephew, or best friend growing up. I've begun to
liken Hollywood to mythical Mount Olympus, where Gods reside and hold court,
and where only their own are welcome to partake in its various riches.
Honorable mention as well to the lack of
original thinking on the corporate side. If you deviate in any way from
the model that executives learned to recognize in their "How To Be A Music
Industry Executive" handbooks, expect them to nervously lock all their
doors and windows, and chant incantations around a sacrificed pig to purge
you from their lives.
RNW: What’s the collective goal for
Erik: Honestly? I'd really like
to finally see one of our songs go up against today's best on your average
radio countdown, even if it gets destroyed. I mean, we can talk and talk,
but there comes a time when you just have to throw the song in the ring
and see how it fares. I hope we get that chance before all is said and
I'd also love to see one or more of our
songs on movie soundtracks, even independant ones. I'm a *huge* movie junkie
— you have no idea. Just imagining one of our songs in the backdrop of
a movie scene, or even at the end credits... I get goose bumps just thinking
about it. People will think I'm nuts, but that would be as rewarding to
me as any long-term record deal.
I'm not looking beyond that. Those are
our medium term goals.
RNW: What do you think of the current
state of rock? Any bands that do it for you?
Erik: Sure, there's a lot that I
like. Stuff from POD. Linkin Park. Trapt. Eve 6. Evanescence. Billy Talent.
Loads more. I can't predict which ones will still be around in 10 years,
but that doesn't prevent me from enjoying what they're doing right now.
RNW: What would be your dream tour,
the band you would most like to go out on the road with?
Erik: Bon Jovi would be the easy
answer, just to be able to hang out with guys I looked up to as a kid.
But beyond that, I have a hard time picturing who we'd be a good fit with
musically. If anyone has any ideas, I'd love to hear them!
RNW: What has been your proudest moment
as a band so far?
Erik: As far as I'm concerned, we
haven't really accomplished anything yet. So we have no moments to be proud
RNW: On the other side of the coin,
what has been worst experience?
Erik: My biggest disappointment
would be the realization that as you get better at what you do... as you
display more and more potential... people around you start to change.
Twice this year alone, I've had people
I considered personal friends tell me that they had contacts who could
help change my life, but won't hook me up unless I sign over a percentage
of my future earnings to them in an official contract. And when I politely
decline to, not only did they opt to pass on the hook-up, but they actually
chose to hold a personal grudge over it.
As a result, my music has put a strain
on several friendships; and I haven't even accomplished anything yet. It's
a scary look at what may lie ahead. People usually start with the right
idea — genuinely wanting to lend a friend a hand — but somewhere along
the way, greed sets in. And the question becomes how can they personally
profit from what's going on here. It's shown me a side of certain people
that I'd rather not have known existed. Those of you going into this need
to be ready for that.
RNW: You’re based out of Montreal. For
the sake of those of us in other parts of the world who can only go by
the artists that manage to break out of your local scene onto the international
stage, what is the music scene like there? Are there a lot of bands
and opportunities for young bands to build a local following?
Erik: Oh, don't get me started on
that. See, here in Quebec, there are laws in place to protect and promote
this -thing- that Quebecers continue to refer to as "the French language",
despite the fact that nobody in France can understand a word spoken or
written here. [Laughs] What's less amusing, however, is the insane amounts
of tax dollars spent each year forcing this mutation down the throats of
its population, trying to restrict the use and influence of English as
one would try to block out the sun.
Part of that deal means that the Arts are
only funded in one language : French. Radio stations have a quota of french
music they have to meet, while released albums are subjected to that same
quota if they want to benefit from various Government grants, loans and
Basically, no one wants to have anything
to do with you if you're an english-speaking artist here. Not the labels,
not the radio stations... no one. So yes, there is a music scene in Montreal.
A French one, and we're not welcome in it.
RNW: What about translating some of
your songs into French, to break into the local market and get a foothold
there? Then you can move beyond that with your English material?
Erik: Sure, and we did just that
last year. Renamed the project Vil Verset and shopped a 4-song demo which
included French versions of "Alia", "Higher", "Your Jesus" and "If I Promise
You Tomorrow". In fact, I was surprisingly happy with how they came out.
The reaction from the local industry was
good - we got contract offers - but no sooner were those offers made that
we were told we sounded just a tad too American. They felt that Quebec
wasn't ready to embrace the American sound so radically (despite the fact
that Americans dominate our local sales charts week after week). They wanted
us to add more piano and acoustic guitar - strip the electronics - and
essentially become clones of Eric Lapointe, La Chicane, and various other
local acts sharing a formula that hasn't changed since 1988. Don't get
me wrong, they're very good at what they do, but it's just not me.
That's when I woke up and said "What the
hell am I doing?" and just walked away from the French scene to everyone's
surprise, to return to doing what I love, with Unfaith... even if it strands
me in a land that has no use for me.
RNW: I always tell bands that aren't
being appreciated by the labels to remember that the Beatles were turned
down twice by all the major labels before George Martin agreed to put them
on his little vanity label. I can see the problem with French being the
situation with local labels, but what about the majors? They have branch
offices in Montreal, don't they?
Erik: That's where things get even
more f'ed up. Major labels like Sony, Warner and BMG *do* have offices
here in Montreal. Right across the street from where I live, in fact. But
even THEY will tell you that the purpose of those offices here is to mine
the local French talent pool; and that any English material should be forwarded
straight to Toronto.
How unnecessarily bizarre is that? We could
be the next U2 for all they care. They'd never know it, because we've got
to go through Toronto first. And don't go thinking they'd recommend you
to the right people if you're good enough... because they won't even listen
to you. One major label A&R guy here in Montreal told me quite bluntly
that even if he recommended us and we turned out to be the proverbial next
big thing, he won't see a dime from it - the Toronto guy will. So there's
nothing in it for him to even bother listening to the CD.
Sometimes I wonder if the international
head offices know just how their local offices are run.
RNW: Have you considered relocating?
Erik: There's a joke we like
to make around these parts that says that what you hear on Canadian radio
isn't the best of what Canada has to offer - it's the best of what Toronto
and Vancouver (and their suburbs) have to offer. So yes, I'd relocate,
but not without a plan. I have to support myself; my becoming a hobo -
even if it *is* in Toronto - isn't going to help Unfaith. There are times
that call for impulsiveness, but others that call for reason.
Plus, things are a bit different today
than they were 10 or 20 years ago. We live in a global village now. The
internet allows you to carry on live video conversations like you're standing
in the same room. Material can be transferred within seconds worldwide.
That's no substitute for the real thing, but I'm counting on the fact that
it's at least enough to generate some interest, and have someone there
invite us over.
RNW: But given a better local environment,
would Unfaith perform live? Or is that something that's just not in the
cards for this project?
Erik: Quite the opposite, I look
forward to doing shows. We simply can't afford to put one together right
now. Trying to transport the Unfaith sound and energy onto a live stage
would require more resources and manpower than we can afford.
Evanescence — a band we've oft been compared
to — recently stated in their bio that "Even without the benefit of live
performances, we began to establish a reputation. The local rock station
decided to play us a lot. We gained this popularity around town, even though
no one knew who we were or where to find us. It was because we could never
afford to play a show."
That's the situation we're in right now.
Whatever we've been able to accomplish on our own, we have — and in no
small way. The songs, the imagery, the website... we even drummed up our
own worldwide press through the Metallica hoax. But if you believe the
music director at our local rock station, none of that is worth anything.
They won't play us, because we're not playing live. Rock bands have a formula
to adher to, and if you deviate in any way from it, the suits just don't
see how it can work.
RNW: Do you think Evanescence's success
will change their minds?
Erik: I certainly hope so. This
is 2003, but the industry is still playing by 1985's rules. That's why
I feel it's suffering so much. They're continuously playing catch-up. Until
Metallica brought it to their attention, labels didn't know or care what
Napster was. A revolution needs to happen at the top of today's record
labels. They need to be led by people who not only understand today's world,
but can predict tomorrow's, and plan accordingly. The music industry hasn't
yet BEGUN to understand today's reality.
RNW: We know you gained exposure from
the net, but has the Internet helped you really reach new fans? Do
you think like some that the net will eventually open up the music business
or will the major labels still dominate things?
Erik: Given the fact that there
is no local scene for us here, we'd have absolutely no fans to speak of
without the internet. So it didn't only help — it's our sole reason for
existing right now.
As for the internet replacing labels —
it has yet to replace newspapers, so I wouldn't worry too much about it
right now. Could it happen? Sure, anything's possible. But I'm more concerned
about MP3 piracy issues at the moment.
RNW: In what way?
Erik: Fans claim that they should
have the right to sample what it is they purchase, while labels claim that
this is why radio singles and music videos exist. This has led to a stalement
that has forced legislation to be passed in the U.S. that can now land
you in jail with a criminal record for downloading a single song off Peer-to-Peer
services like Kazaa.
Is this deserved? Technically, yes. Whether
you're stealing with a modem or a crowbar, the end result is the same :
you acquired something you didn't pay for. Yet music fans have a point
when they say that the record company's chosen single doesn't always reflect
the quality of the other 90% of the album that has been bought and paid
for. Would you buy a car if you were only allowed to look at it from 10'
away, at a specific angle? In fact, labels have been known to actually
encourage their artists to save a certain hit song for the NEXT album,
because each album only requires as many hits as they plan to release singles
— typically 2.
Both sides have strong arguments that shouldn't
be ignored. But what if the industry adopted the Unfaith model and limited
MP3 song files to 1 minute in length? All of them, across the board : 1-minute
previews of every song from the album. Fans get a taste of everything that's
on it, no strings attached, while the industry gets paid should the previews
prove to be good enough to generate a CD sale.
RNW: True, and Apple's iTunes shows
that a paying download model, for singles at least, does work if the price
point is right..... Where do you hope to be five years from now?
Erik: Making of living from my songs,
regardless of the context.
RNW: What do you want people to take
away from your music?
Erik: I want everyone to realize
that this is 2003. That the string of faceless pre-packaged rock bands
on our radio dial won't be broken unless the industry in general rethinks
its definition of what a rock band is, or needs to do to be considered
one. That's not a small company or even a small team behind all things
Unfaith. It's two people - with no money. Now what could we do with actual
Maybe someday we'll be lucky enough to
find out. Until then, all we can do is what we've been doing - working
hard on what we can control, and trying to make the best decisions we can
along the way. They won't always be homeruns and they won't always please
everyone, but there is usually a plan behind them.
is believing.. check out Unfaith's cover of the New Order classic "True
Faith" click here to download the mp3
now that you know a little about Unfaith it is time to go to their website
and learn more
of a great unsigned artist or band? Let us know.
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