Mark Civitarese (a.k.a. Mark Unseen) is probably one of the most recognizable punk rockers playing today. Sure, he’s got that impressive Mohawk, but he’s also got a solid two-decade reputation for turning out gritty, blistering street punk that pays tribute to everyone from Black Flag to Bad Religion.
Best known as the front man for The Unseen, the Boston-based group that blends hardcore/punk rock/metal and just about every other teeth-rattling genre, Civitarese has spent the past year lending his voice to a new band: Ashers.
Relax. The Unseen isn’t gone forever; they’re just taking some time off. Civitarese spoke recently about the new band, trying to break even, and yes, he even put up with the inevitable question about the future of The Unseen.
Innocent Words: So, is The Unseen officially over?
Mark Civitarese: Ah, so we start with an Unseen question. I’m here to talk about Ashers (laughs), but ok, no, The Unseen is not over. We are just laying low for a while. We toured non-fucking stop for over five years and some of the guys are just burnt out. The Unseen members all lost girlfriends, jobs, did not go to school, etc. We threw away our lives for punk rock, and I don’t regret it at all, but maybe some others do (laughs). For now, a few of them want to work, pay off debts and enjoy a normal life; myself, I wanna rock, so here I am with Ashers and I’m fucking psyched to release our album Kill Your Master. It’s one of my favorite things I have ever recorded, right up there with Unseen’sExplode album and the Self-Destruct EP.
IW: So is Ashers a one-time side project or a full-time band?
Civitarese: Ashers is a full-time band. We just got home from Europe where we had an amazing tour with Rejected Youth, Ticking Bombs, Riot Brigade and Obtrusive. All are European bands, and all are awesome; check them out! Anyway yeah, Ashers is a real band; we have an American tour (this summer) then some weekend local shows and then off to Europe in for some festival shows and club shows.
IW: Aside from the members, how does Ashers differ from some of the other bands you have all come from (The Unseen, Crash and Burn, etc.)?
Civitarese: Well Ashers, to me, is a blend of hardcore punk similar to Black Flag and Circle Jerks mixed with some other styles like Motorhead and Zeke. This band is a bit different than what any of us have done because we are blending different styles and trying different things; meanwhile, we are recording it to sound stripped-down and raw. This recording is way more raw than the last Unseen albums. It is recorded basic, not many overdubs on guitars and vocals. We did this on purpose.
IW: How did you and Billy (Brown, lead guitar) first meet?
Civitarese: I have known Billy for a long fucking time. He used to live with friends of mine, and we used to share a practice space in the basement of his house. We played shows together for years. I was in Unseen and Global Threat, and both my bands played with his old bands Crash and Burn, and Bill’s other old band, Shoot the Hostages. Aside from playing shows, he recorded Unseen demos for the So This is Freedom album; that was in like 2000. After the demos, I invited him to sing backups on Unseen albums. He has been on albums since Unseen’s So This is Freedom.
IW: When did you decide to finally put a formal band together and start recording?
Civitarese: I think it was ‘07 or ’08. We just said “fuck let’s start a band.” We are friends and wanted to see how it would sound to write together, so we wrote four songs in a week and recorded them. We then released it as the Cold Dark Place EP.
IW: Where did the other members come from?
Civitarese: Our bassist Joe (Packard) was in the Deadly Sins, Billy’s last band. He is the best bassist I have ever played with! He also gets drunk and thinks everyone stole or moved his sleeping bag, shoes or jacket (laughs). Justin (Brooks) plays second guitar. He lived local and wanted in. We tried him out, and he sounded good and had a Mohawk, so we let him join. Kasey (Rivera), our drummer, joined the band after our last drummer quit 10 hours before tour. He is weird as fuck but anyone who is willing to join on 10 hours notice is OK with us! Yeah, ok so I was being a wise ass in explaining the other members, but in honesty, it’s a great, tight-knit band and family. We also have two people that tour with us and are part of the family: Mike and Crystal both work for free and sometimes even buy us stuff, so cheers to them.
IW: When you’ve been working with another group of guys for years and know how each other communicate, is it tough to start all over again, working with a new band?
Civitarese: No, not really. We all just clicked, and again, I have known Bill for a long time. Plus, I am used to traveling with different bands and having different people on tour with Unseen, like different bassists and different merch people, so I’m used to change. Often, a small change is good. The only thing that sucks is coming home from tour broke (laughs). The Unseen was not Bon Jovi by any means, but we did make enough to at least cover bills. Ashers is new, and that means we are broke as fuck! The fact that people don’t buy CDs anymore and the economy sucks balls does not help either. People are not able to get to shows due to being so broke, so that is affecting every band. We wish we could play for free, but we have bills to pay and gas is not free, so we have been trying to tour as much as we can while being in the red.
IW: When did you start working on Kill Your Master?
Civitarese: Well, four songs on Kill Your Master are over two years old. They were written when we started and are on our EP. We rerecorded them because they are great tunes and did not get the justice they deserve… The rest of the songs were written over the past year and a half, but a good chunk of them were done in past five or six months. I think the later songs, the newer ones, are our best. The last three tunes we did, ”Vanished” and “Time Lapse,” both thrashy Black Flag meets Varukers sounding and “Blood and Grain,” a Motorhead meets filth sounding song, are all great. We had to wait longer than we wanted to record the album, and I’m glad. The wait gave us some great tunes!
IW: Can you talk a little bit about the song “Class of ’94”?
Civitarese: (Laughs) Well, “Class of 94” is an ode to Nate Dogg and Warren G! It’s a tribute to the greatest adult beverage of all time: Saint Ides special brew. Ashers drinks Saint Ides, and so should all of you.
IW: Are there plans for more albums?
Civitarese: Yes, for sure. We will start writing in a few months. We want to do some split seven-inches, comps and stuff like that to spread the word, then eventually another album. We signed on for two albums with Thorp Records in America and two albums in Europe with Concrete Jungle Records.
IW: What’s next for you?
Civitarese: For me? Hmm, well I’ll be making music and touring with Ashers for a while and probably doing some Unseen shows next year. Aside from that, I’ll be drinking Scorpion Bowls and listing to Blood for Blood.