“I don’t think you’ve got to keep those interesting, it kind of happens. When you’re out there, there is no turning back and going home no matter how bad things get.”
Hereditary by definition is a characteristic determined by genetic factors which is able to be passed on from parents to their offspring. I’ve often wondered if traits such as talent, skills and ambition can be inherited. Apparently so, especially if your last name is Unger. Derek and Devon Unger of Sin Circus are the sons of renowned bassist Steve Unger.
Fostering a schedule of hard work and determination of their own while utilizing guidance from their father, the brothers formed their first band when Derek was only twelve years old. There is little doubt these young men have the ingredients for success. Although, they have big shoes to fill. If they continue down their current path, there’s a chance to inherit the throne.
Sin Circus is a high energy heavy metal band hailing from Puyallup, Washington. The group currently has one full length record and an EP, with a new studio release expected by the end of this year. In the words of the band’s manager, who happens to be Steve Unger of Metal Church, “It’s going to blow people’s minds!”
A single and video will be released on July 15th 2019 to hype up this new effort. We recently caught up with the band, please enjoy some excerpts of our June 26th 2019 interview.
Steve: Go ahead and let Mr. Unger know we wish him a belated Happy Fathers Day!
Sin Circus: 10-4!
Steve: Anita and I have a several questions for you.
Anita: How is your summer?
Sin Circus: Well, so far it hasn’t been summer yet, standing here watching it’s still raining, but so far it’s been good. In the studio finishing up things, getting ready to release this new song getting that all squared away. We’ve been busy! So you know, a few shows here and there to keep our wheels nice and greased up until we get on tour pretty soon.
Steve: Awesome, I’ll trade ya… it’s been about 90 degrees all week here.
Sin Circus: Where are you guys based out of?
Steve: We’re in Northwest Missouri.
Sin Circus in unison: Oh yeah.
Steve: So if you ever go to Kansas city, we’ll catch ya.
Anita: Yeah, there’s the Riot Room in Kansas City.
Steve: A couple of decent places that play real music.
Sin Circus: Right on, yeah.
Anita: What can you tell us about the song writing process? How does that work in the band?
Sin Circus: Man that’s difficult, the deal is – generally how it ends up happening is that we have Derek our primary song writer show up with varying degrees of a nugget of song. In various stages of development like sometimes show up with something that’s like pretty much the whole songs written and we’re just putting on the finishing touches or like sometimes it’ll be this collaborative thing where it’s like this idea that has a bunch of really good potential, but it isn’t quite polished yet. So he’ll show up with that first idea and then there’s a stage where basically we get familiar with the song, learn the parts and all that stuff. Then there’s the stage of going over arrangements – how long can this go, who should sing what, how should things be played, how long should this section go on, should the solo be this long. However once those details get squared away and the outline of the song is ready, we get into this pattern where it gets into individual part development, which is where we each take our own individual parts and amp them up to a level where we’re happy with them, whether it’s rhythm or leads, vocals, bass line, drum part ect. That’s generally how it works. It starts with an idea of a song then we all collaborate on it to the level it needs to be to actually put it on a record and make it that final product that we are all happy with and happy to have the Sin Circus stamp on it.
Steve: Following up on that, has it been your experience songwriting generally starts with lyrics or does it start with a riff?
Sin Circus: It starts with music first then the vocals are usually last. Like literally there’s one song on the last album where the lyrics hadn’t been written and finalized until a day before we went to record it. Another good example of this is a new song getting ready to be released called “I’m A God.” We were doing this kind of show and tell where we were all trading ideas of what we had drumming up. All told Derek had 3 of these song ideas that had awesome parts to them and Chase, our drummer, actually ended up taking those 3 and was like ‘Ok, this part that you were using is the chorus, this part is a verse, this part you are using that’s going to be the chorus.” We took 3 song potentials and turned them into one. It ended up being one of the best songs on the album.
Anita: Speaking of drums, I hear several different styles of drumming on that album. Who would you say influenced you the most?
Chase: Well that album, like the first album in particular, I would say Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater. I kind of get weird about that because I listen to it and it’s like “Hey look, it sounds like another Mike Portnoy that’s played by somebody that’s not Mike Portnoy.” I got a lot of influence that shines through to varying degrees on this new upcoming album. A lot of the stuff I grew up with being Alex Van Halen, Nicko McBrain of Iron Maiden, there’s a lot more that comes out.
Steve: I heard Lombardo in there as well. I was hearing especially more of the off-beat, more syncopated stuff. I was just hearing Dave Lombardo from early Slayer?
Sin Circus (Chase): Oh yeah, I wouldn’t say I went out of my way to do anything Dave Lombardo-esque. I’m sure it’s happened.
Steve: That’s part of the charm, it just happens.
Sin Circus (Chase): Yeah I mean there’s a lot of – especially when I was in high school – Bay Area thrash metal was kind of a big deal for me as a player so I’m sure there’s a lot of those players that break through in my playing in one form or another.
Steve: For sure.
Anita: Who came up with the band name / logo? Was there any other band names before deciding on Sin Circus?
Sin Circus (Devon): Oh boy. Yeah, me and Derek – cause me and Derek have been playing together and trying to start a band since we were both 8. I was 8, Derek was probably 5. We would sit down at our desk, not even playing anything, we had guitars in our hand and we thought we were super cool. We just wanted to get a band together. We didn’t even know which one of us wanted to play what. There would be days where I wanted to be the drummer and there were some days where I wanted to be the guitar player, but we had a bunch of fun names, like “Stars.” We had stage names and stuff with our friends, it was so long ago. But the heart and chains logo Derek drew. That’s his art work, he’s actually an artist.
Anita: What were the names you guys would think of?
Sin Circus: For a band ? Or for each stage name?
Sin Circus (Alex): Answering stage names, when I first joined the band I had an attempt of a stage name during the previous band. So my middle name is Orpheus. My name is Alexander Orpheus Black. You know Orpheus Black would be a pretty sweet stage name and then I tried that name on tour in Texas. Our sound guy told everyone, “Ok everyone call him Orpheus, make it a thing.” Then our sound guy leans into the microphone while we were doing sound check and there it was: “Orifice.” Well there went that!
Sin Circus: As far as band names go, Sin Circus is the one that stuck.
Anita: As a young upcoming band on the road to success, how do you keep the road trips interesting?
Sin Circus: I don’t think you’ve got to keep those interesting, it kind of happens. When you’re out there, there is no turning back and going home no matter how bad things get. It doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of five tornadoes or not, which we actually were in in Texas.
Anita: Oh my gosh, you were in that storm?
Steve: Up by Denton, wasn’t it?
Sin Circus: This was a couple of years ago, by Austin I think. We were in Austin, Texas when all of our phones went off with a special news bulletin about a tornado. Basically we ended up in the middle of this triangle of tornado warnings. There’s always stuff like that, where a tire gets blown out and we end up spending the night on the side of the road in the middle of the desert for 20 hours until someone can come and change our tire because the other tire blew the night before, there is always something. There’s drive-thrus you can’t get out of, so you have to unhook your trailer, unload everything from the trailer, get the bus to the normal spot, drag the trailer by hand back to the bus and then reload the trailer. Sometimes Derek has a tendency to carve his name in the national monuments in Arizona or wherever the hell that was. Let’s just say there is never a failure of entertainment on the road to keep your days lively while you’re stomach is hungry.
There’s going to be a bunch of things to keep things interesting regardless of what you do in your off time. If things go perfectly, that’s the only time we’re going to be bored. I guess if you’re bored on the road, just make sure you’re with people you really enjoy hanging out with and you guys will find a way to entertain yourselves regardless. Whether you’re having a conversation that keeps you laughing for 3 hours straight or not, definitely get along with the band if your going to be on tour. You have to love playing music, it can’t be just something you’re doing or for whatever other reason. It doesn’t matter what happens on the road, if you’re bored or bad things are happening like being stranded in the desert for 20 hours with a blown tire, being on stage fixes all that. 45 minutes from now you’re solid, nothing matters, everything’s fixed until the next travesty – which is usually the next night – or the next five minutes after you go off stage. Generally you’ll be fine, you’ll show up for the show 5 hours ahead of time, set up, sound check, all that stuff. So you’ll be occupied by doing your job for 5 hours and there’s like 20 hours between gigs. After you get done with the gig, go back and hit your bunk or spot in the suburban or whatever and pass out for the next 10 hours. So you only have to worry about keeping yourself entertained for 5 hours.
Anita: So basically when you have 2 whole seconds available, what do you like to do with your friends?
Sin Circus: I usually play my guitar but we have games to play like cards. We do all kinds of stuff in our free time but it’s usually not a whole lot of free time. We got to the point where we are our only friends, which brings us back to the point you have to do it for the music. So even when we have spare time, “What are you doing with your free time? Well I’m researching to do this one thing having to do with music better than I could before” or “writing the songs”. Sometimes when we have a day off, if we’re in Las Vegas and don’t have a show until the next day, we might just stay the night in Vegas and hit the town. Once in a while do something like that.
Steve: Bouncing around a little bit, I do have a question for the guitarists, for Devon and Alex. It goes back to the question before on who gets lead vocals, do you have any sort of debate who gets the solo on any given song?
Sin Circus (Alex): We’ll just both play one, or at one point on this last album there was this one song that we were going to have somebody else do a guest solo and he got back to us and said, “Yeah, I don’t have the time.” So we ended up having a debate over who would have the responsibility for writing another solo. There’s a mutual admiration between Devon and I as far as the guitar writing, because far as guitar playing goes, anytime I’m not playing a solo and if Devon’s playing a solo, he plays amazing guitar solos so I get to hang back.
Sin Circus (Devon): On the rare occasions only one of us plays the solo in a song, which there aren’t many of our songs where there are not several guitar solos going on, I’ll just enjoy listening to his style and vice versa. Other than that, we usually both do a solo. He’ll come up with one and I’ll come up with one and then we’ll come together and do a harmony. We’re a guitar driven band. We both grew up listening to bands that are heavily guitar driven.
Steve: I definitely caught that, where you aren’t afraid to branch off and each do your own but also do a harmonized section as well.
Sin Circus: Yeah, I love that sound.
Steve: On some of them it seems your a little bit more shreddy than others, kind of like Racer X?
Sin Circus: Wait until you hear the new songs. This was recorded 3 to 4 years ago. I mean that’s 3 to 4 years of us playing professionally. We’ve all individually gotten so much better and we came together and made this next album – everything! Drum parts are way crazier, the vocals and lyrics much better, guitar solos zero to ten, a complete 180 degrees.
Sin Circus (Alex): Well there’s this one song where Devon and I are trading guitar solos, we basically “ego” our way out of the song. We’re going to be releasing that after “I’m A God” coming out on July 15th. The one we’re going to be releasing after that has this wicked dual lead at the outtro. We’re both like he does the solo, I do a solo, then we trade back and forth for riffs and licks and then we add a little harmony. Devon and I can’t count the amount of times we’ve been hanging out and after a few beers we would just be sitting there, basically stuck in this Canadian stand-off saying who could out compliment the other, because I thoroughly believe in this song that Devon kicks the shit out of me. That doesn’t make me upset, it makes me really proud of the fact the other guy gets to play. He’s on the other side of the perspective,
like “Yeah, all these things are tough, these are all the things you did that I can’t,” which is awesome.
Steve: In terms of touring, I know obviously you’ve got a pretty crazy intense tour schedule to begin with. You guys also play in Steve Unger’s Alive 85 project. What’s that like and also how are you able to balance touring for both of them? I bet that gets pretty crunched.
Sin Circus: We do our thing and just have a good time with it. Alive 85 hasn’t really started as far as a super busy schedule. Steve has been doing his other stuff, Metal Church just got done in Europe, so Alive 85 hasn’t done a whole lot yet. It’s in it’s kind of project stage. We’ve got some stuff and on top of that we’re getting ready to release a new album.
Steve: If you can pick any one single band to tour with, which band would it be?
Sin Circus (Devon): I’m just gonna make this easy. I just watched The Dirt for the fifth time last night, Motley Crue.
Sin Circus (Alex): Lamb of God. I love everything they do… probably Iron Maiden, maybe Def Leppard. I’ll take any band that’s bigger than us. Are you twice as big as us? Ok, we’ll go on tour with you.
Steve: Going back to the previous album, pretty much unanimously our favorite song amongst The Metal Channel was “Breathe”. What inspired that song?
Sin Circus: YES! That album is not a very heavy album, but we had some riffs and stuff with a super heavy metal hardcore vibe and we just wanted to do something with it because it would be different. A lot of the songs are more rock, they’re kind of heavy, kind of not. Breathe was going to be balls to wall heavy, so we wanted to expand on that. It was different so we pursued it and finished it and put it on the album. Derek wrote the lyrics and a lot of the riffs, the lyrics are brutal. I personally did not go through anything of that sort, but I had a friend of mine that comes from a family like that. I just saw the way it was and I wrote it.
Steve: It’s always been my experience the best songs are the relatable, especially if it can be written from a direct observation or a direct experience.
Sin Circus: Yeah, that song was an observation song as far as the lyrics go.
Steve: The one we’re going to wrap up with, you are close to the godfathers of metal and eventually the torch will be passed to you for future generations. What would you like Sin Circus to be remembered for?
Sin Circus: That’s a hard question to answer in any short amount of time. To be remembered by, I would definitely want to be the band that influenced other bands to get together and become good bands. There are not a lot of good bands, so it would be nice to pave the way for other bands that are younger than us once we’re old and gone, to keep rock going. That and be remembered as a really good experience, like a Motley Crue show.
Sin Circus (Derek): I would definitely want to be remembered for reviving a scene of what rock used to be like. Rock used to be how pop is now, where it’s popular and everyone goes to shows, everyone was excited to go to shows. That’s just what people did. They went around, they partied, they had fun. They went to cool rock shows. I want us to be remembered for providing that.
Steve: Hell yeah. Thanks for taking the time today for an interview and keep kicking ass!
Anita: We’re looking forward to “I’m A God” as well on the 15th!
Sin Circus: For sure, thanks again!
Check Out “I’m A God” Here!