INTERVIEW WITH GABRIEL FRANCO OF UNTO OTHERS
Unto Others from Portland have become quite known within a few years. The band was formed by ex-members of Spellcaster under another moniker Idle Hands. Due to legal hassles the Portland glo0mesters were forced to change the name to Unto Others. Both the albums MANA and STRENGHT are fine pieces of great metal with a gloomy and dismal atmosphere. The band embarked on the European tour with Behemoth Carcass and Arch Enemy, therefore Metal-Rules.Com had a great opportunity of talking with the guitarist/vocalist Gabriel Franco before the show in Helsinki.
Interview and live pics by Arto Lehtinen
You have played with different bands like King Diamond and Uada, and now you’re touring with these extreme metal bands. So are you kind of a chameleon that you are able to tour with different and support all the way from classic metal to extreme metal bands?
I mean, I wouldn’t call ourselves chameleons, so we’re just doing what we do. I have a theory as to why it works. I grew up listening to all this music legitimately. Arch Enemy was one of the first bands I’ve ever heard as a metal fan. And so I think there’s something in our music that’s translated from that’s just– whether it be melody-wise or lyrically or just the atmosphere of the songs. It’s going to appeal to someone who’s an extreme metal fan because I’m an extreme metal fan, so maybe that’s why it works so much.
When you played in Spellcaster back in five-seven years ago, it was the more traditional heavy metal with power metal elements. When the band dissolved and three old guys from that band formed Unto Others. Was it some kind of plan you are switching away from traditional heavy metal to more gloomy and dismal-sounding music?
Well, I was always a bit interested in that anyways even when we were playing power metal. In Spellcaster, I played the bass. I didn’t really have a writing influence until the second record. And if you listened to that record, it’s actually a lot darker. My first band before Spellcaster was a black metal band, and so there was no general plan. I knew I wanted something pretty epic and stuff like that, so it just kind of came naturally. And at first, I was thinking, “Okay, I’m starting another heavy metal band,” but I can’t sing high, so I’ll sing low. I don’t know, just evolved into this. I don’t have any rules. I just play whatever you want.
When Spellcaster split up and you formed a new band. Since then everything happened quite quickly in a way, when you got the MANA album some years ago on the German label. How do you look at the whole thing compared to Spellcaster? Is it more like a step-by-step or do you think it has happened too quickly?
Well, Spellcaster, I learned how to do things wrong, right? I was learning by failing. So when I started this project, I made a point that I’m going to do everything right, and no one was going to stand in our way to get to where we needed to be. And so for example, Spellcaster, we’d write something and put it out, no plan, no idea, no release plan, no tour, no promotions scheduled, nothing. Just, here’s an album; hope you like it. This one like the first EP, the band was in the works for a year before I put out the first EP. I was working very hard, and so everything was– at least those first couple of years was very methodically planned. And we also just got lucky that people liked it, and that it worked, basically, yeah. I was not expecting it to move this quickly.
There’s a slight difference between MANA and STRENGTH. There are some elements of the sound on both albums that you can recognize which is important nowadays, and of course your voice. But how would you describe the difference? Or do you find a difference between those albums?
Oh, yeah, of course, there’s a difference. You can tell on first listen that production’s a big thing too. We have some heavier songs on there, but it’s funny. I hear both sides. I hear people saying that STRENGTH is more gothy. And then I hear people saying, “No, it’s more heavy metal.” Yeah.
I think it’s a mix of them.
Yeah, so I’m just like, I just think it’s a different interpretation of– it’s our natural progress forward, the music. And yeah, it’s the same band, just different, right?
The things that I paid attention to was the image. Was it an idea that, “Okay, we have this little bit gloomy and don’t look typical American metal bands. ” That’s the way I noticed it immediately after seeing your image… that you’re different ?
Yeah, well, we’re also going to dress properly or whatever to reflect the atmosphere of the music. But the thing is, we all wear clothes like that, I guess, so it’s like it’s not that much different than this except I’ve thrown on a black t-shirt or something, so. I think we kind of just followed the imagery we need. At some point, maybe we’ll get goofy with it; who knows? But for now, that’s the way we want to present ourselves with the music.
I read somewhere that you are very interested in obscure things to write about that. What is that fascinates you in those obscure things?
Well, I mean, I won’t say I’m particularly interested in obscure lyrics or music. I’m just interested in good music, so. Yeah, for example, in this last record, the biggest influence has probably been Rush and Neil Peart, his lyrics. But yeah, I’d say I just find whatever is good and we use it. I mean, the music we listen to in the grain would probably horrify some people sometimes, so. Horrify me, yeah.
There are many videos that all of you have done. I think it a very important thing for bands to promote themselves. The Downtown video, for example, is very known because it’s– have you shot in your hometown, Portland, because it’s very rainy and dark and stuff like that? It’s some storyline!
Yeah, I mean, I wanted to shoot that video in Portland, actually, but due to time constraints, we ended up doing in Salt Lake City because that’s where our director lived, so. But yeah, at first it was going to be Portland, but yeah, there’s a direct relation. I mean, it’s a pretty simple song, walking around downtown. Yeah, so yeah. That was an all-right video to film. I had fun on that one. We always liked going to Salt Lake, so.
It reminded me in a positive way, Sisters of Mercy. As I told you there is some kind of the same kind of gloomy elements of the ’80s, gothic rock bands. Everybody is putting a gothic sticker on you anyway.
Yeah, I mean, I don’t think gothic is really a term that properly describes music. I think it describes aesthetics. It describes the look and the atmosphere. It’s a hell of a compliment when people say that because we really like those bands, Type O Negative, Sisters of Mercy, etc. But yeah, goth, the whole tag is so wide-ranging these days.It could cover punk goth, metal goth. There’s just so much, so. I think music-wise, I just like to say we’re just a metal band, basically rock/metal band and then put out whatever we put out.
The first album came out under Eisenwald. I guess they have Uada ?!
Yeah, they do.
How did you end up having a deal with this German label Eisenwald?
Uada is from my neck of the woods. I knew they were on Eisenwald, and so I asked Jake, the singer of Uada, and I said, “Hey, is Eisenwald cool?” Said, “Yeah, it’s cool.” I’m like, “Can you put in a good word for us?” “Okay.” So he did, and Eisenwald, we started talking. And they were our first label.
You have the new album on Roadrunner. Was it a surprise to have a deal with the Roadrunner after the first album?
Oh, yeah. I mean, yeah, once MANA was out, that was like every label was after us. And we decided on Roadrunner for a few reasons. They seemed like the most competent. And then also because there is kind of a legacy label, and they had all the bands that I listened to when I was growing up. So to have them reach out was kind of like a dream come true kind of label, right? But yeah. And that was basically that, we
I guess you have a long-term deal with them.
We do. We’re probably moving labels now though. Yeah, yeah.
Oh, can you unveil something?
I can’t say which label, but yeah, Roadrunner’s like they barely have any staff. Yeah, it’s kind of a bare-bones label at the moment, and yeah, it’s just been a weird transition with them through the pandemic and stuff like that, so yeah. I’ll make the announcement of something coming up.
Do you think that having to deal with the Roadrunner kind of catapulted you to the next level and you got more chances to tour or have more visibility in magazines and the net?
I think it was a combination of that, our MANAgement, our music, our booking agents. Having a label like that behind you gives you an air of legitimacy that you couldn’t get otherwise, basically. You say, “Hey, we’re on Roadrunner Records.” Well, people perk up their ears as opposed to being labelless or something, right, so. Yeah, it definitely has helped us along the way. But I tried, this tour at least, to really– my management but also Michael Amott and Nergal, they found out about us through my manager. And they’re the ones who approved us to come onto this tour, so really.
They invited you?
Yeah, so really, it’s those two guys that deserve the most credit. And I think that also adds another thing to what you were saying earlier, why are we on these extreme metals, so. Not only do we like this music, but the bands that are playing extreme metal music like our music as well, so there’s got to be something there. There’s got to be something that’s connecting because we play and the responses are great, and the crowds have been– the halls have been filled when we go on at 6 o’clock, which is crazy, so. At 6:00 PM. I don’t know if the concert’s at fucking 6:00 PM, so.
You toured with Tribulation. Was it more like a solid package because you have basically the same kind of audience?
Yeah, yeah. That one was the same kind of vibe, just on a smaller scale. That one was tough at times because we were brand new. Nobody fucking knew who we were. That was before MANA came out so we’re working on– Yeah, we were working off of one EP, five songs. Yeah, so it’s like at that point, I mean, shit. If you had asked us to play an hour at that point, we’d tell you we can’t. We didn’t have enough songs, so. So it’s like that was a bit– that was our trial by fire, right? Sometimes, you’d have a crowd. Like I remember we played in Prague or something. I was like, “How’s it going, Prague?” And silence. And then some guy’s like, “Huh.” [laughter]And you’re like, “Oh, boy. All right, let’s start the set.” But yeah, I think we were well-accepted. And by the end of it, we could probably do it, basically.
You’re from Portland. What’s going on in Portland because there are a lot of killer bands coming out from Portland nowadays like Agalloch.
Yeah, Agalloch, yeah. Lord Dying, Toxic Holocaust
You got a really good scene there.
We got a lot of good bands coming out of the city. The scene sometimes feels a bit weird because it’s so segmented in the USA. Everybody just divides themselves. And it’s like sometimes it doesn’t really feel like there is a scene or it’s hard to find it, right, so. But yeah, we’re kind of an odd band because we don’t really, I feel like, have a scene. We just pull people from each one. You come to our shows in Portland and stuff, and there’s punk rockers there, goth people, and regular heavy metal guys and even thrash metal guys and stuff. And death metal and black metal people, so it’s just–
I think you must have a pile of new songs.
Oh, at times, yeah, yeah. Yes.
What kind of direction you’re going to? More like STRENGTH or MANA or something new?
The natural progression, right? So I always try to get a reaction out of people, for example, that’s why the opening track of STRENGTH was Heroin. Was like, oh, nobody’s going to expect this, so. That’s kind of what you’re going to get from the next record. It’s going to be good, but different,.So I think anyone who’s a fan of the band will enjoy it and be surprised by it and maybe find some things they thought they wouldn’t like and actually end up liking. So there’s a lot going on there. It’s going to be pretty epic, and it’d be cool. I’m trying to make it sound big, yeah.
Thank you for the interview
The Official Unto Others Sites