Slaves to the Grind

Unruh carries the bloodied flag of grindcore into the next millennium

"The loss of Tempe Bowl was tragic for us and the scene," Beutler says. "We played just about every show there, and I've spent many hours there. They would book any band, and the great thing was that we got 100 percent of the door. That is so rare.

"Plus, I loved the feel of the place. We like to play small shows where we're a part of the audience. When we opened up for Neurosis at the Nile, we felt so out of our element being up there like that. We said, 'Hey, let us play on the floor since you won't mike all of us.' They said no. But we do like the basement of the Nile."

Beutler sees promise in the recent emergence of Modified, a downtown Phoenix art space/music venue run by Stinkweeds owner Kimber Lanning, but he's not sure that Unruh would be a good fit for the place. "It's also an art gallery, so she couldn't have a grind marathon there. We're friends with her, and she's asked us to play, but I don't want the place to get messed up."

Grindcore lives on the tenuous fault line between punk and metal, which is a source of near-constant frustration for its purveyors. Unruh regularly finds itself with mixed metal and punk audiences, and struggles to meet the expectations of both camps.

"Sometimes we play with bands like Dystopia, and 17-year-old crust punks are giving us dirty looks because we look semi-normal," Beutler says. "Then they start moshing when we play. The metal heads like the music, but they don't listen to the words and they miss the message. They don't care, as long as it rocks."

Despite the fact that grindcore has been in existence for well more than a decade, it's remained such a fringe wing of what was already a fringe movement that there hasn't been much public awareness of the distinctions involved between Green Day-style pop-punk and the scabrous approach of bands like Unruh. Nonetheless, Beutler and his bandmates are undeterred by the obstacles they face.

"I know this is extreme music," Beutler says. "It takes a lot for someone to go from The Beatles by your dad to go home and listen to an Assuck record three times. It's sadistic music, and I don't expect it to be accepted by the public like NOFX. Sure, we'd like to make more money, but that's not our goal. We just want to have fun playing the music we love. It has always been an issue with us, but it's more important that all kinds of people come to the shows to experience it and later on pick up a lyric sheet."

The band's CD release, set for early June, isn't the only major news on the horizon for Unruh. Before the year is out, the King of Monsters label will release a discography CD that scrupulously stitches together the group's various efforts, including the Friendly Fire EP, Unruh's side of a split-single with Enewetak, the Misery, Strength, and Faith album, and a track from the compilation CD Cry Now, Cry Later.

"It will be called Setting Fire to Sinking Ships, and should be out in the next few months," Beutler says. "They're putting the money together. And we're also going to be recording a split five-inch with Crucifixion, amongst other things. And I'll be getting married in June, so we're going to have to stay here for a while."

In September, the Unruh boys will be going to Europe to do a five-week tour. "They're also talking to our label about a Japan tour, but now it's definitely Europe, and we're really looking forward to going to Germany, where this type of hard-core is huge," Beutler says. "Our discography will be released through Per Koro there. We'd also like to do an American tour. We did the West Coast last summer, but it's been two full years since we did a full-blown tour of the States. We're lucky to have jobs that will let us go when we want to do this kind of thing once in a while. My goal is to get a job I can leave for a month and be happy there as well."

But they insist that there's a lot of work that must be done to help create a sense of unity within the Phoenix scene. "There's too much dissension," Beutler says. "I grew up straight edge and hung out with kids who drank. Now you can't do that. It's too cliquish. We don't claim an affiliation to any style. In fact, I wouldn't call us grindcore. We have grinding parts, but we also have slower elements and we blend all sorts of things. We're hard-core kids and we play hard-core music, and anyone can be at our shows. We're just trying to break down the walls.

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