UNDEROATH drummer Aaron Gillespie is one laid back and interesting fella. Informing him that it was past midday here in this part of Australia, after his enquiry as to the time HM was phoning for the allocated interview, Gillespie responded that he was “having a drink and just sitting on the couch” cruising through “the Aussie phoner grind”. Interviews are something that Gillespie is adept at handling. Talking about the many strange and wonderful experiences he has encountered as an artist on the interview trail, he is quick to point out that the language barrier may be responsible for some rather unique methods of questioning.
“I think that the weirdest ones are like the German ones. Because I think somehow it’s lost in translation. So, for the last 10 years I’ve always wondered … my friend Matt who used to be in Taking Back Sunday has the best story. He was sitting in a dressing room and I forget where it was, I think it was in Munich, and this guy comes in and he goes, “Your last album is way worse than your previous album. Please explain? [laughs]”
It’s certainly not the first time HM has heard an artist single out our German friends for special mention.
“I think in the language barrier you lose a little bit of brevity. You know what I mean? So, you end up with like your ‘last record was a pile of shit, tell me why?’ [Laughs] Obviously, the people love you, they don’t mean for it to be that way. Australians are a bit more jovial than I would say most of the people in the world. An English interview and Australian interview are kind of the same. Australians might be a little happier, but people are still people. We’re lucky to get to do this anyway. So for me it’s like ‘who gives a shit?’. Everyone’s super kind and willing and super great this time around. So, we’re just kind of doing the thing, you know?”
As the interview proper gets underway HM thought it best to get the elephant out of the way first up. Can fans expect a new Underoath album any time soon?
“I’m not going to say ‘yes’ to that. Right now, we’re kind of just focusing on doing this and being the best friends we can again, the best band we can again. Speaking for myself I would never rule that out. Why wouldn’t I want to make music with my best buddies, but I just don’t know.”
It has been well-publicised that interpersonal conflict Underoath endured led to the band’s initial hiatus, HM asks Gillespie if enough water has passed under the bridge.
“Imagine if you were with a buddy in a bar and there was this big fight and it was a huge deal and then 10 years pass and you saw each other again, it wouldn’t be like you would still be angry. I mean there is no transgression that was done to each other. It was just stupid shit. When you are in your early and mid-twenties and you have a lot of success and things are great and then stuff happens. You get wrapped up in your own thing and you have to learn ‘wait a second, I do love these people’ regardless of the shit we’ve been through, so it’s not that big of a deal.”
The bands hiatus lead to Gillespie starting a band called The Almost, and he also released solo material. Did many fans follow him from Underoath?
“I’ve been really lucky. I’ve had a very successful career. But nothing is what Underoath is, nothing to the fans, I think that’s their first love and the way that things should be. I just think that is what people really gravitate towards. But yes, I’ve been very lucky, people definitely came along for the ride and I have no complaints of any kind.”
As HM has already mentioned Gillespie is extremely talented. On top of occupying the drum stool in Underoath and Paramore, he’s a parent, studio owner, multi-instrumentalist, and according to Wikipedia at least, a pastor.
“I wouldn’t call myself a pastor. I don’t know why that’s there. [laughs] I’m definitely a believer but I’m not really in the traditional sense most of the times. So, I can see why some people maybe think that.”
Musically his influences are straighter forward, with a big nod to his father.
“(Its) Dave Grohl and a lot of jazz drummers like Elvis Jones, Tony Williams, Art Blakey. Ronnie Vannucci is a drummer I love a lot, a more modern drummer. And I love so called weird music. I love Peter Gabriel and Lou Rawls. When I was a kid, my dad would drink beer once a week on Friday and he had this giant record collection, like hundreds of records. And I kind of inherited that obsession from him, I have like a thousand records in my living room. I’m actually sitting in front of them now. But every Friday night he would just play records, everything from the Beach Boys to Metallica and everything in between. I remember just hearing all those records and saying to myself, ‘This is what I’m going to do when I’m older. I’m going to make music that makes people feel the way that I feel now’ and I think that whether that is through the lens of whatever belief system you believe in I think that music is probably the most powerful language there is, I think, even more so than literature ..for me. Obviously, literature is the most important thing in the world, but to me it’s like they say there is nothing more powerful than the pen. Then if you add a melody to that then you have napalm. So, for me it just changed me so much those moments with my father and it really made me focus on what I wanted to do. So, for me it’s just kind of all over. But the biggest influence would probably be those Friday nights with my dad from the time I was eight until I was a teenager.” (continued below)
HM recalls watching Gillespie’s stellar performance in Paramore on GMA that was broadcast live from Central Park in 2014. How was that experience?
“We had to get up at four AM to be there. I almost overslept and we had the pouring rain. I started playing drums for them and it just was crazy. They’re such great people and that record (the eponymous titled album released in April 2013) was so wildly successful. It was bucket list stuff for me getting to play Madison Square Garden and Red Rocks and all the late-night television here in the States. It was pretty amazing, it really was. I did the whole album tour cycle for that record, the whole world tour. It was really fun. They are some dear, dear friends of mine. It really kept me sharp, I’m so glad I got to do it.”
If the opportunity to join Paramore as a contributing songwriter and an actual member of the band was offered, would Gillespie take it?
“I don’t think that would ever happen. But if it did I don’t know. But I’m 99.999 per cent sure that would never happen. But if it ever did I don’t know. Right now, I’m really happy that Underoath is back together.”
One of Florida’s more prominent musical exports is death metal. Gillespie must have had some exposure to the percussive brilliance of Morbid Angels Pete Sandoval and Deicide’s Steve Asheim, surely?
“You know we were so far removed from that world. I mean those guys are so good. I don’t really like metal, I never have. I love, like, aggressive music because of the passion behind it. But I would probably say death metal, I’ve never really listened to too much. Of course, I’ve heard of Chuck Schuldiner and Death and the creators of the genre. I like (NWOSDM luminaries) In Flames because I think they constantly push the envelope. And there have been a few bands back in the day, I liked (NWOSDM originators and crown holders) At the Gates as well. For me it was more like the world that turned Underoath on were like The Mars Volta, Glassjaw and Taking Back Sunday. We weren’t really too keen on the double pedal kind of metal stuff. I’ve never really been that kind of player. But I definitely think there is a place for that music and it was everywhere. There is a venue maybe 15 or 20 minutes from where I grew up called The Brass Mug and you could walk in there right now, at 9:30pm on a week night and Morbid Angel’s singer would be the sound guy for some local band. That place kind of birthed Deicide, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, and all the bands that are from there. I don’t know what made Floridians want to play metal because it’s so damn hot. [Laughs]”
Alluding to Australia’s tendency for producing top shelf hard rock acts, if the probable Australian equivalent of California is New South Wales, Florida’s equivalent would be Queensland, which has supplied a ton of memorable extreme metal bands over the years such as the brilliant Aversions Crown. It turns out Gillespie is especially fond of the Sunshine State.
“I grew up surfing so whenever I’m in Brisbane I always try and go down to (the Gold Coast’s) Burleigh Heads or wherever I can get to. I love it there. It’s probably in my top one or two places to go in the world, mostly because whenever an American band comes to Australia it’s in our winter and your summer. So, it’s a beautiful thing to kind of escape the bullshit for a couple of weeks.”
Underaoth perform at the following venues on the upcoming Australian tour.
February 10 -Eatons Hill Hotel, Brisbane.
February 11 – Enmore Theatre, Sydney
February 12 – 170 Russell, Melbourne- SOLD OUT.
February 13 – 170 Russell, Melbourne
February 15 – The Gov, Adelaide
February 16 – Metropolis, 58 South Terrace, Fremantle