Underoath's Tim McTague: 'It's Been A Struggle'

artist: Underoath date: 01/23/2007 category: interviews
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Underoath's Tim McTague: 'It's Been A Struggle'
Underoath was in the news quite a lot in 2006, with break-up rumors popping up in many of the headlines. The Florida natives pulled out of the Warped Tour earlier than expected after tensions within the band got to a breaking point. The rumors ran rampant - some stating that Fat Mike of NOFX made life uneasy for the band during the tour by making fun of its religious beliefs, while others claimed that the band was pretty much over and done. But despite the gossip, Underoath seems to have no intention of calling it quits. Guitarist Tim McTague, possibly the most vocal member when it comes to his firm Christian beliefs, believes that despite this year's troubling events, Underoath is ready to learn from its past mistakes. McTague recently spoke with Ultimate Guitar writer Amy Kelly to talk about how he and his bandmates are working out their troubles one day at a time. Ultimate-Guitar: Underoath had to unexpectedly pull out of this year's Warped Tour. What was the reason behind it? Tim: There were a lot of different things. It all came from just all of us sinking into our own lives. In order for Underoath to function as a band, we function completely on our emotions and our relationships at home, relationships with each other. We're not a band that plays music and songs and sets that don't have feeling. So when something's not right in the bus or something's not right on tour or at home, that transposes and translates into the live set. It just got to the point where tour life and home life and our friendship life were so messed up and not taken care of that we needed to kind of stop it. I think everyone felt like, As long as we were selling records and making money and on the way up, all the other stuff could just kind of go to the wayside. We could kind of just ignore it and have it all work itself out. Other issues need attention, but might not as well not deal with it now because it could cost us a tour or the record is coming out. So we better just deal with it later. It kind of just got to the point where you just kind of forget who you are and why you're here. Then all of the sudden you're on tour for the completely wrong reason, with people you hate. It's kind of like we just got to the point where we just couldn't do it anymore. So we went home and had to figure out what was going on with everyone in their heads and try to come back to square one. It was like, We're going to love each other and try to be friends and try to be family and try to be honest, or we're just going home for good. So that's kind of what we did. It's been a struggle. How have things been since the Warped Tour? Every tour we've done there since then has been out of the country. So we've been out of the country with like a 5-day break in between. It's kind of a very awkward circumstance to try to kind of come back from that type of thing. I think we've all seen ups and downs, but overall, I think we all know where we want to go. It's just a matter of trying to figure out how to get there. There was a rumor that the band had arguments over religious beliefs. The arguments over religious beliefs potentially holds water at face value. But as we dove into that we realized it was more of a lack of people showing other people respect on their beliefs. I feel like open-mindedness and just an overall collective letting down of guards is the only way to get through anything. If you expect to be in a band with 5 identical copies of you, you're kind of unrealistic. For me, that's been what I've struggled with and stuff. At the very surface, it is difference in beliefs, whether it's religious, moral, ways to run the band. We were arguing over all this. It wasn't the fact that we were arguing Everyone's going to argue. Every married couple argues. Every boyfriend and girlfriend argue. Every mom and dad argue. Every brother and sister argue. It's not a matter of getting to a point where you don't have differences, but a matter of getting to the point where you can settle your differences as civilized people who are still in love with each other and not every time something else happens put more fuel on the fire of changing each other or wishing bad on each other.
"If you expect to be in a band with 5 identical copies of you, you're kind of unrealistic."
I've heard that Fat Mike of NOFX played a part in the band arguments with his comments he made onstage at the Warped Tour. Is that true? That wasn't an issue. I mean, that was an issue on the tour in the sense of like there were some things that were said that probably shouldn't have been said by him. But it never really got to the point where it affected us. That wasn't the breaking point really for us at all. I think he definitely played a role in making a lot of our stuff public and exaggerating a lot of our beliefs and a lot of our conversations that we had to him. So he definitely loves to stir the pot, and I'll give him that. But beyond that, we shouldn't have been on Warped Tour to begin with. It definitely wasn't a Fat Mike thing. When you say that you shouldn't have been on Warped Tour to begin with, does that mean that you wouldn't want to do Warped Tour in the future? No, we're actually going to do it this year! We're going to come back and do the 2 or 3 weeks that we dropped off of last year and make up all those dates for all the kids. Kevin Lyman, the guy from Warped Tour, is the guy who owns the tour that we're on right now, Taste of Chaos. The night we went home, he came in our bus and talked to us. He completely understood and supported us. So it wasn't an issue of like us burning a bridge or acting out of line or disrespectfully or unfairly to someone else. You have talked about Define The Great Line in the past by saying, We didn't want to take the normal approach, with just two guitar tracks, drum tracks, vocal tracks or whatever. What did you do in the songwriting to ensure you accomplished this? For me, it was just kind of a chance to separate ourselves from everything else that's going on. Every record that's come out in the past 2 years has been the same thing. We kind of were able to separate ourselves and make ourselves a little niche with Chris and the electronic thing and all that stuff. And even there, bands started using samples and all this stuff. In the scene we were in, it became more popular and we just knew we wanted to go and do something completely different. In order to do that we couldn't just be limited by just the standard rules of recording with like drums here, two guitars there, vocals there. When you're writing songs, is there any one member of the band that usually comes up with the base melody? A lot of the songs are going to come from a riff or two that I might come up with in an amp sound check or something. You just kind of start off there and branch out. Sometimes we'll write it all together in practice. Sometimes it will take a couple of months. Sometimes there will be a grasp of where you want to go and then put it all together before practice. Overall, the possibilities are completely endless. There's not really one formula we stick with. The last track To Whom It May Concern is sort of the epic song on the record. Did that take a while to write? That one was actually the longest. We had that piece of music over a year and a half. It just kept progressing and kept building. We wanted something slower and less chaotic, and less focusing on the vocals and the riffs and the heavy and loud. It was more like everyone playing small parts, the bigger picture kind of deal.
"We're not a band that plays music and songs and sets that don't have feeling."
Are your religious beliefs something that consistently shape where a song will go when you're writing? Not really. I mean, not consciously. I feel like it's more of a subconscious product of who you are. I would say some songs more than others, wanting to musically provoke certain emotions that would hopefully inspire someone. There's definitely motive of that nature behind certain parts and certain songs, like the last track and stuff like that. But I think overall I never personally sat down with the guitar and singled out this verse in the Bible and try to write a riff around it. It's not like that literal. It's more that we're Christians and if you really believe in something, it affects all aspects of your life. You can't help but let it evident in your music. Have you had many opportunities to meet or talk with some of the fans who have found a source of inspiration in your music? Yeah, I have and it's weird. It's definitely a weird thing to have someone telling you that this thing you wrote or this thing that you played and this that you said or did or whatever helped shape my worldview or change my life. There are 2 effects it has. One is kind of a desensitization effect. You can't ever really sit and unpack something of that nature in the short time that you have between the venue and the van, trailer, bus, or between sound checks or at a meet-and-greet or signing. So it kind of cheapens it because the kids only get like 2 minutes to be like, Hey, this song changed my life. My dad this or my mom did this, and this is what happened. You kind of have to just be like, Thanks, man. I'll see you later. So I think in a way you never really get what that really means. At the same time, you kind of can't really comprehend it, even when someone has the time. So I think, for me, I never really get the full spectrum of what that actually means because there are bands that changed my life. I feel like if I had met them or was asked to express that or let them know, I feel like even after I talked to them, they wouldn't really grasp what their music really did. Because you don't really think of it like that. You don't really sit in a garage or a living room or in a back of a van or during sound check saying, This lyric or this chorus is going to change someone's life. It's more like, Man, let's do the best we can. We know that it can and we hope that it does, but you never really know. How does that affect you personally? I think, for me anyway personally, I feel like that's more of a good thing than a bad thing. I feel like it would bring in a whole new world of potential pride and self-centeredness if you really knew that something you did or were a part of was used to do something great. I guess in a weird way it would kind of come off like that because you would feel as though you've accomplished something. I think the less compliments that we receive and the less understanding we have of things that are good coming from us, the more of an opportunity I kind of have to hold on to that, which seems to be fleeting more and more everyday. So when you hear people say that you're the best-selling band on the label Solid State or see the numbers of records you've sold, is there anything you do to distract yourself from that? I don't know. I really don't. Like that's the perfect example, someone telling us, We're the biggest-selling band on the label ever. That doesn't really do anything good. There's nothing of any good that can come from that. All that does is talk about how awesome Underoath is and how big of sales Underoath has. At the end of the day we can all be like, Yeah, well, that's not really our thing. You feel blessed. But at the end of the day, you keep getting fed that crap. It makes you forget why you starting playing music. When you get there, it's cool to get there. But when that's all you hear, you kind of lose focus. For me, I try to understand that that's the reality of certain things and also understand that as quick as it came and it's here, it's going to be gone. Like next year, you probably won't even want to talk to me because it won't be of any worth of anyone or real substantial value. I think as long as you keep that mindset, you kind of enjoy it and take it in stride and hopefully not allow that to be like your expectation or standard for being happy and content. This all just came about a few years ago. It seems to be slowly becoming the norm and expectation. I think the second that happens, like any decrease in sales or weight or momentum or pull on tour, it's just gonna be like a devastating blow. Anything from here all the way down to back to a van was all just unimaginable goals anyway. It's kind of a weird psychological battle that you kind of have to fight. The days when you don't, you kind of become a douchebag.
"It definitely wasn't a Fat Mike thing."
What kind of equipment are you using on tour? Right now, I'm using a JCM 800 and a Marshall stack and a Gibson SG. Do you change up the guitars and amps you use when you're in the studio? No, not so much the studio. In the studio this is pretty much the same. It's just trying different heads for different songs or different parts. Did you come across any pedals or effects that helped you create the sound on Define The Great Line? Yeah, we used a Soldano head and one my heads, a Matchless head. So Gibson is your favorite guitar to work with? The SG is definitely my favorite guitar. It's light. It plays better, to me. I think a lot of people would disagree, but overall I think it's definitely a superior guitar. James (Smith, guitar) plays a Les Paul. His sounds awesome. It plays good and he loves it. So I could play either, but I prefer the SG. There's a string quartet tribute to Underoath out right now called Painted Red. Have you heard of them? Ha! Yeah, it's kind of weird! They emailed us and told us they were doing it. I guess you don't really have to ask for permission on those things. You just kind of tell them. So they did it and it was cool. We were a little skeptical because we really didn't know how that was going to work out because we don't really have songs that you can play with strings. But overall, it was at least flattering for the fact that people would want to take time and score out our music. What are the band's plans for the coming year? We're going to write another record next year. But overall, we're just going to be touring and just doing what we do. We write all the time, so after this tour we have a 2-month break and are going to go home and write some songsnot write some songs - we've already kind of written a few songs. But demo them out and try to get them to where they're listenable and people can start writing lyrics to them and what not. We're definitely going to just keep writing and touring, and probably at the end of 2007, early 2008, we're going to go in the studio and see what happens. That's all speculation! Ultimate-Guitar.Com 2007
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