We talked to bassist Dave Curran from influential noisemongers Unsane about 'Sterilize', their latest album which is out now via Southern Lord.
PRT: Unsane got its start in the late 80ies when NYC was still a completely different city from what it is now. Do you think Unsane could have started anywhere else during any other decade? Or is your sound defined by how NYC was back in the day?
Dave: I think anyones surroundings will affect them one way or another. In our case, the way things were and what it was like to deal with that on a day to day basis certainly played a role in how we felt. I believe the music itself is tapped from many sources, external or internal, and life in NY at the time played a role for sure. Whether the band could have started in any other decade or anywhere else is hypothetical, not sure what the answer would be… probably not.
PRT: I read you wrote this album separately and then sent each other files. Did that way of working turn out to be a blessing in disguise in some way or just a pain in the ass that came out of necessity?
Dave: It wasn’t a pain in the ass at all! It was out of necessity as we all live in different cities now, but it worked out well. Seems we were able to focus individually on writing and churn out more songs than we need for the record. We were then able to pick and chose the strongest ones to release and still have a couple in the bag for a single or something else.
PRT: It is also the first album that you produced yourselves… did not having an extra chef in the kitchen make things easier or harder?
Dave: I would say easier. This way, once we met up for rehearsal a couple of weeks before going to the studio, we already had an idea of what the record would be. We recorded in complete isolation in the desert, and I think not having another persons schedule to work around allowed us the freedom to get everything just right. Plus we did basic drums, bass and guitar in the desert then finished overdubs and vocals at Chris’ place in California. It was probably the most ease we’ve had doing a record.
PRT: “Sterilize” is only your eighth album since your self-titled debut came out in ’91 with the last albums coming out with 5-year intervals. Is that simply a matter of life getting in the way?
Dave: That’s one way of putting it. There were various reasons along the years. Chris had other projects, as did I. I think, in the end, when we do decide to make a record, we try to insure it will be as great as possible in whatever manner is necessary.
PRT: “Sterilize” is out now on Southern Lord. How did you end up with them? And while we are on the subject of labels… how come you guys switched labels quite a lot over the years?
Dave: Chris had known Greg from SL and wrote him an email and that was that. We were looking for a label for Sterilize because Alternative Tentacles informed us they would be unable to release it. Most deals we’ve had over the years were handshakes with a couple of exceptions of course. Those exceptions led us to the conclusion that one record deals seem more fair to both parties for a band on our level. If all goes well, we simply work together on another record and everyone know what to expect.
PRT: I’ve always compared your music to a gore-filled horror movie where you can’t look away during even the most grisly moments and where you can find beauty in the most unexpected places. What is it about that darkness that appeals to you so much that you keep revisiting it?
Dave: The aesthetic just fits. We’ve all been big gore movie fans since we were kids. I feel there’s elements in our songs that make some people uncomfortable, for others it’s the opposite. Gore / horror films, and even just the use of gore in a photo or a painting, evoke similar reactions. The combination of both just works for us.
PRT: The same goes for your album covers… they are grisly, but there is something beautiful about them as well. Do you pay a lot of attention to the artwork?
Dave: That’s Chris’ department, but I would say he most definitely pays extremely close attention to it. In fact the last cover he took all pictures for and went to SL to do the mockup.
PRT: Your most grisly album cover to date has to be the one for your self-titled debut… did you ever look back on that and thought ‘well, maybe we could have gone with something else’?
Dave: That would be a Chris question again, but i doubt there were any regrets in using it.
PRT: Speaking of movies… If you could have written the soundtrack for any movie ever made, which one would it be?
Dave: For me, probably Apocalypse Now. That movie takes you for a pretty intense ride into mayhem, both mental and physical. It’s also very dynamic in the sense that there are some long psychological introspections contrasted with the carnage of war and sadistic madness.