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Exclusive Interview: Pat Kim from Unwritten Law
American rockers Unwritten Law are about to embark on an Australian tour to coincide with the release of their sixth studio album ‘Swan’. The first single ‘Starships and Apocalypse’ was released in January and has been met with positive reviews only exciting the fans more, anxious to hear the complete album which is set to be released on March 29. Forming in 1990 the band have built up a reputation as one of America’s finest and hardest working touring bands, billed on many different festivals including the Vans Warped Tour.
The band made their first of many treks to Australia in 1997 starting a love affair with Aussie rock fans that have grown stronger and more dedicated with every visit. With the band heading back here later this month, there is no doubt they will once again be playing to sold-out audiences around Australia. I had the pleasure of catching up with the band’s long-time bassist last week to discuss the upcoming Australian tour, the bands previous visits and heading into the studio to work on the bands forthcoming release ‘Swan’.
Settle back as we discuss the ‘Dark Dayz’ in the studio with Unwritten Law’s Pat “PK” Kim.
Rock Confidential: Hey Pat, thanks so much for putting some time aside to answer these questions for our readers. How’s everything going mate?
Pat Kim: All good here, just chasing my little rugrats around and getting as much time with them and my family as possible before the whole Unwritten Law touring cycle begins.
Rock Confidential: Let’s start with the fantastic news that you will be in Australia later this month for some shows… you guys must be thrilled to be heading back here?
Pat Kim: Always, it’s a good way to ease us back into the touring cycle. Oz has always been a second home to us so it will be great to reacquaint ourselves with our fans and to catch up with old friends. Oh yeah, meat pies and cooper green is always a plus as well!
Rock Confidential: [Laughs] I’m sure it is mate! It’s been a while since your last Australian visit, what fond memories do you have from that tour?
Pat Kim: Well the memories that I can actually remember [laughs]! Probably for me, it was visiting where Bon Scott is buried in Perth and paying my respects to the most badass singer known to man. Honestly, who else on the planet could have sang “TNT, I’m dynamite” and actually make it sound cool? No other man could pull that shit off! Also getting to see the finished Bon Scott memorial statue and meeting the artist Greg James who made it, that was the shit.
Rock Confidential: Pat that is certainly one awesome Aussie memory man! For a band that has been together for a little over twenty years now, does it ever get any easier to leave the comforts of home and hit the road for weeks at a time, especially when you’re travelling to the other side of the world?
Pat Kim: Well, we haven’t really toured in quite awhile so can’t really say at this moment. I know for sure it will be harder for me because I haven’t really been away from my kids for a long period of time before. It’s weird, my days are going by so fast now as it gets closer to having to leave for tour. The seconds seem to tick like a time bomb…I can honestly say I’m kind of dreading leaving my kids and it will be very tough but I am looking forward to playing with the boys and reintroducing ourselves to the world again.
Rock Confidential: Whilst in Australia will you guys have a lot of time between shows to get around the cities and check out various sites?
Pat Kim: I noticed we do have few days off in between shows so, I will definitely take advantage this time around and try and see more things than I have before. In previous tours, we were usually nursing over hangovers and trying to recover so we ended up missing out on seeing and doing so much stuff.
Rock Confidential: What can the fans expect when you guys hit Australia; do you have anything special planned for these upcoming shows?
Pat Kim: You can expect for sure a rockin’ good time and energetic show. Shit ain’t rocket science, its rock n’ roll! We are just gonna come out play some new songs, old songs and just have a good ol’ time.
Rock Confidential: Pat, whilst we’re on the subject of touring I wanted to discuss the set-lists. No doubt as time goes on it gets harder and harder to put together a set list that keep fans of all eras of the band happy as well as yourselves, how do you guys tackle that problem these days?
Pat Kim: Yeah, it really gets tougher as the catalogue of songs get bigger. You know for us, we’re so excited with the new album and songs that we just want to play all the new stuff but alas we have to make everyone happy. I know if I went and saw a band like Slayer and they didn’t play anything off ‘Hell Awaits’, ‘Reign In Blood’ or ‘South Of Heaven’…I would be pissed, [laughs]! So with that, we try not to be selfish and keep the fans in mind at all times and try to keep a healthy cocktail of songs to make everyone happy.
Rock Confidential: Over the years you’ve had the pleasure of sharing the stage with many other amazing artists. Whilst on the road who has given you the best advice and what was it?
Pat Kim: Probably Mike Clark from Suicidal Tendencies…he told me not to give him hard liquor, may make him crazy. We still swigged a little crown together though, [laughs]!
Rock Confidential: I wanted to talk to you also about the new album ‘Swan’. The album is due to hit shelves very soon… what are you hoping the fans will take away from this one?
Pat Kim: Everyone interprets music and song differently. Some songs are therapy for some and a big party for others. Really, we are just happy to finally get this thing out. We went through a lot to get this thing done so we just want our fans to enjoy the ride with us.
Rock Confidential: The first single ‘Starships and Apocalypse’ was released in January and has had a fantastic response. How has the response been thus far from family and friends who have heard the whole album?
Pat Kim: Everyone I’ve played it to really seem to enjoy it. Not sure if they are being biased and too afraid to say otherwise to my face but the general response has been really positive. My wife would tell me straight out for sure if it sucked…plus I have the best critics of all, my children…you know it’s good when they are singing all the words (at least the words they are allowed to say) and dancing around to it.
Rock Confidential: It’s been six years since you entered the studio [with the exception of The Hit-List] to record a full length album, having such a long break from the process did you find it hard to get motivated and coordinated to put ‘Swan’ together?
Pat Kim: Yeah, it was really hard. We had spent so much time on the road prior and relations within the band were not at an all time high. Steve and I started having kids and we were all just pretty burnt out on the band and each other. For me and I’m sure the other boys, our hearts were just not into it. We were also without a label, manager, booking agent so we had a lot of things going against us. Luckily we pulled out of it though.
Rock Confidential: Every band certainly has their own way of tackling the writing process, how does it work with you guys… do you hold writing sessions, send files online after so many years together what process have you found to be the less painless when it comes to the writing process?
Pat Kim: We are all songwriters in this band plus Dylan and I live in Los Angeles whereas Scott and Steve live in San Diego so getting together is not so easy. There was a lot of swapping of demos done between us all. When we finally did get into the same room together to start writing, we took the best elements of everyone’s songs and built off them. As far as the music, this has been the most group effort I feel. Still it is never painless to write in this band, there are too many strong wills and characters in this band. However at the end of the day I feel that brings out the best in each other…and worst of course! Once the music was all done, Scott and Steve took to the horizon with all the vocals and production on that end. We were lucky enough for Scott to be able to do all his vocals at his home so he was able to just get out of bed and walk into his music room and do vocals at anytime.
Rock Confidential: Take us through the writing process for the new album, six years since the last album certainly leaves plenty of time to find inspiration, what inspired you this time around?
Pat Kim: Well, once break silence/suburban noize gave us a home we attempted to write ‘Swan’. Shit was still not great internally, so really our only motivation was the pay check honestly. We wrote half assed and even recorded the album twice. However listening back we realized that there was actually a diamond in the rough within the nonsense, so we went back to the drawing table and really started writing and hashing things out properly. That is when we started to get kind of excited and found the inspiration. ‘Swan’ was initially supposed to be our last album. We all went into it saying let’s call it a day after this but it slowly unfolded into something really nice and pure after starting off so toxic. We started to get along better and hence it reflected in the songs as well.
Rock Confidential: As I said, the new album is due out soon… now that it’s completed and you’ve had time to listen back to the final mixes is there anything you would have changed or wish you’d done differently?
Pat Kim: As an artist always! Nothing is truly ever finished to an artist I believe. You always strive for perfection and there is no such thing except maybe a newborn baby and of course my hair!
Rock Confidential: [Laughs] Mate we’ve hit the part of the interview where our readers get to find out more about the real you… what was the first concert you ever attended and how much of an impact did that have on you musically?
Pat Kim: For me, I believe it was U2’s Unforgettable Fire tour that I actually went and bought tickets with my own money. It was a huge impact because up to that point, I hadn’t experienced anything that grand. It was massive to see a band play in front of an audience like that. However on the other side of the coin, my first punk rock show gave me the same emotion as well. I remember my first punk show was seeing The Cramps with Social Distortion opening up and remembering how petrified I was. It was such an equal rush for those two totally different shows for me and obviously put me on the path that I still walk to this day.
Rock Confidential: Growing up did you always envision yourself as someone who would end up in the music industry or were your goals different?
Pat Kim: Initially I was on a not so different path; I wanted to be a visual artist. I studied art in school and originally wanted to do that. I got a little sidetracked with the whole music thing though. I have been getting back into art more as of lately and I’m really lucky to have Unwritten Law open the doors to get my stuff seen to a wider audience.
Rock Confidential: Unwritten law have been rocking out now for over twenty years, an amazing achievement in itself, looking back over the bands career what do you consider to be your biggest achievements to date?
Pat Kim: When you start out in a band, you never really expect to be able to travel the world and be able to make a living at it. To be able to make music for a living is equivalent to winning the lottery. When I started playing music, I thought I made it when I made a demo tape. Playing with these guys, travelling the world, making lifelong friends and playing and meeting fans…shit holmes… that is the achievement. How many people are able to say that?
Rock Confidential: That’s true man, not too many! Who have you been surprised to learn is a fan of the bands work?
Pat Kim: Always a surprise when you see fellow colleagues from bigger bands being fans, however for me…I was floored first few times Venus Williams came backstage to a few of our shows…that was a trip!
Rock Confidential: How about rumours… what’s the craziest rumour you’ve heard about yourself and or the band?
Pat Kim: Rumours… what rumours? All that shit you hear and read about us is absolutely true!
Rock Confidential: [Laughs] Over the past few years the music scene has changed quite a bit and we have seen an explosion of punk, rock and metal bands. What new bands / albums are currently blasting in your home?
Pat Kim: I gotta be honest with you, haven’t really been up to date with the new bands. You know; much respect to any bands out there doing their thing but I haven’t really been too keen on anything out there right now. Been going back to the roots and listening to the classics.
Rock Confidential: Pat, I want to thank you again for your time today, Just before we wrap it up, the new album hits the shelves next month; you will be hitting Australia next month also, what other immediate plans are in place for Unwritten Law?
Pat Kim: Well, like I said Australia will be the start of this whole touring cycle. We will be putting in our work and promoting and touring for ‘Swan’. This well oiled machine is about to go.
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