By Laura Hunt Little
Desert rock band, Unida, first formed in 1997 with Arthur Seay on guitar, Mike Cancino on drums and John Garcia on vocals. After fifteen years, numerous bass players and multiple side-projects, the band is making their resurgence. The route Unida has taken has been more than long and winding: it has been filled with detours and bridges out. But Arthur Seay describes himself as a “lifer, and for him, nothing will deter him from music. “We’ll play until we die,” explains Seay, “We play music because we love music. The music business is a whole other story! But you have to know both.”
The band had been gaining momentum up to 2001 when they were signed with Rick Rubin on American Records under Sony/Columbia. The band’s most significant “bridge out” came when Rubin’s deal with Sony expired before Unida’s album was released. Long story short, Rubin went to Island, stranding the completed project at the starting gate. American still owns the record. “It was a super traumatizing thing,” remembers Seay. “We kept going on after that, but it got kinda weird, kinda crazy….”
Mike Cancino remembers thinking, “Well, what are we gonna do?” “We all just needed a break,” recalls Seay. “But, letting it go or not doing it ever again just wouldn’t be right.” Unida was the center of all of their attention and although they had just gone through a great ordeal, they did not want to scrap the band entirely. As “lifers” in music, the members of Unida all have or made other projects. It has always been that way over the years. So, Unida was shelved for a while.
John Garcia maintained ties with his original project Kyuss, along with recording four albums with Hermano, guest appearances with The Crystal Method; and on Metallica tribute album “Metallic Assault.” He is currently working on a recording with original Kyuss bandmate, Brant Bjork.
Mike Cancino’s projects include House of Broken Promises with Seay. HOBP recorded and toured for the past few years. HOBP signed a deal with SmallStone records and released their debut full length CD, Using the Useless. HOBP created 2 video’s “The Hurt” and “Obey the Snake”, which went to #1 Highest Rated on MTV.com with Rick Kosick, who is known for his work on JackAss (the series and movies). More recently, Cancino joined Los Angeles-based hard rock band Soul Sign, playing drums in recent live shows. The band is comprised of Bjorn Englen (Dio Disciples,Yngwie Malmsteen) and Mark Boals (Yngwie Malmsteen. Cancino grew up in a family of drummers, “no one seems to pick a different instrument,” laughs Cancino. Arthur chimes in that Mike’s family has “103 musicians who all shred!” Shredding or supporting, Cancino says his family is really excited that Unida is playing together again.
For Seay, the disaster of the unreleased album motivated him. “I’m glad that it happened to a point because, after all that debauchery and the depression, I was like ‘you know what? I can do all this shit myself.’” Along with Cancino, Seay started House of Broken Promises – and he built an infrastructure for a self-sustaining band. They built their own studio, everything from sanding the floors to installing and learning Pro Tools to make recordings. As a visual artist, Seay produces his own fliers and marketing materials. “It’s music, but it’s still a business.”
Seay also works on tours for Limp Bizkit, Godsmack, Five Finger Death Punch and Slipknot as guitar and or bass tech. For him, it’s a double-edged sword. He travels the world, builds connections in the music business, and earns a great paycheck, but he recognizes how tough it is to hand off that guitar and watch someone else go have fun on stage.
Traveling has also afforded Seay the opportunity to explore his photographic interests. All of these bands have utilized his photography and video skills as well as Rob Zombie, John 5 and Joey Jordenson.
He also documents his travels and sometimes sets up studio shoots when he is on the road. Eventually he plans to exhibit his works and produce a couple of books of his adventures. “I film everywhere I go and luckily enough I’ve been all over the world and I’m working on turning it into “The Arty Love Show!” laughs Seay. These past 2 years I’ve been to Europe twice, South America, Australia, Japan, Russia, blah blah blah and have filmed all the crazy shows and comedy and bullshit that goes on.”
With all these diverse projects, it begs the question, “do the side projects support or distract from Unida?”
“It all depends,” explains Garcia. “There’s a certain vibe and certain feel and temperament and personality when you work with different songwriters. Arthur brings that personality [of Unida] out in me.”
“When we do House of Broken Promises,” says Seay, “it’s a different mindset and we play differently. Sometimes we’ll be jamming and I can hear a part for John in there, so I put that bit aside in a different pile.”
In speaking about Unida in contrast with his current recording project, John Garcia explains “They are two totally different monsters but it’s still hard rock and there’s time for both.”
Overall, the sentiment is that music and musical expression trumps the name on the marquee. These musicians are committed to their craft; committed to making music. “Every project is a little bit different and I look forward to that because when you do the exact same thing, you know what happens?” asks Garcia. “Boredom. So to be able to expand and go off on these different avenues and tangents, it’s great.”
When the band is together and the side projects are aside, “Unida writes itself,” according to Seay. More writing is what’s next for Unida, along with rehearsing and shows. The band is currently working Owen Seay into the band as bassist. “We have my nephew on bass now,” says Arthur. “He’s a young, positive, no baggage dude. I’ve been molding him since he was twelve.”
Upcoming shows include a performance at The Hood in Palm Desert on November 9th, the Bunkhouse Saloon in Las Vegas on November 10th and the Whisky A Go-Go in West Hollywood on November 24th.
By Laura Hunt Little