Editorial Note: The band is now going by Unto Others due to a trademark issue. This interview was conducted when the band was still named Idle Hands. The article has been retroactively updated with their new name.
I stumbled across Unto Others (Idle Hands) purely by accident really. I often find myself spending hours just trawling through the internet looking for good music – something I highly recommend. Granted there are times when you find some of the worst shit imaginable, but for the most part, it’s a really effective way of finding some seriously good emerging talent who are using the likes of YouTube to get their music heard.
Unto Others (Idle Hands’) debut EP Don’t Waste Your Time was something that just leapt out to me. It was a fresh take on a familiar style conceived by many bands who made their names in the 80s, sometimes sounding like if Dave Gahan from Depeche Mode had fronted Blaze Bayley-era Iron Maiden (conceptualize that!…yeah go on!). Their brand of high-energy melodic metal with a distinctive dark atmosphere is something that has recently earned them comparisons with Ghost – impressive when you consider Ghost are cementing themselves as the biggest metal band to emerge in recent years.
Formed by Gabriel Franco following the split of his first band Spellcaster, the Oregon quartet is making steady waves on the metal scene and look destined for big things as they work on their debut full-length album. I was thrilled that Gabriel accepted our invitation for an interview where he came across as a really grounded and intelligent guy. We also share some common ground in the form of Cradle of Filth being an introductory band into metal for the two of us.
Check out our interview below:
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Your influence by the likes of Iron Maiden, Sisters of Mercy and Depeche Mode are evident for all to hear, but which band really stuck out for you and made you say “That’s what I want to do”?
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: The band that made me want to play music was 100% Cradle Of Filth. I didn’t even know Heavy Music existed until I was 15. My friend was downloading music on Limewire and showed me the CoF cover of “Hallowed Be Thy Name” by Iron Maiden. I listened to that song maybe 1000 times. Borrowed my friend’s bass and learned it. The next year they came to Portland and that was the first real concert I ever paid money to go to. From there I got into bands like Children of Bodom, Arch Enemy, At The Gates & Dimmu Borgir. All my friends at the time were into Priest and Maiden and I got made fun of a lot but didn’t really care. Despite their teasing me, they played a key role in exposing me to the older music, and I worked my way backwards from Extreme metal to eventually enjoying bands like La Bouche and Men At Work [laughs]. But Metal is always where my heart is. I would never want to be in anything but a metal band, at least seriously.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Do you have a particular go-to album that you would say is your favorite and gives you the most inspiration?
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: An album that always ends up back on my rotation is Slaughter of The Soul by At The Gates. Untouchable. Particularly the track “Unto Others” – Equally played is Rumours by Fleetwood Mac and First And Last And Always by Sisters Of Mercy. But I really don’t have a go-to album for inspiration, mainly because Ive found the easiest way to find inspiration is to not look for it. When it hits it hits, and it could be anything.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: You previously played with Spellcaster. Can you give us an idea as to why that band dissolved last year? And how does your music with Idle Hands differ from that of Spellcaster?
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: That was everyone’s first band pretty much, we didn’t know what we were doing, everyone had different ideas of what kind of band we were supposed to be, we liked to drink too much, we pretty much did everything wrong. Without going too deep into it, it was bound to fail, and when it did I wasn’t surprised. The first emotion I felt was relief and that’s the truth.
People who liked SPELLCASTER will hear a bit of it in my music. I had a heavy hand in writing the 2nd and 3rd SPELLCASTER records. (The 1st being written almost completely by Cory Boyd). The difference in this music is I focus on song flow, at the base level these are very simple tracks. Play them on a bass guitar and you’ll see what I mean. The simplicity leaves open a world of room for layering, I love layering, it’s how you create things you didn’t know you could. So that, I guess, and the lyrical content/vocals. I am always working on creative ways to use my voice, so expect something weird I guess.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Digital downloads of your debut EP Don’t Waste Your Time have been made available to purchase now, but I noticed that pre-orders for physical copies of the EP to be shipped in October include the option to not only buy in CD and Vinyl format but also tape. Whilst finding new music on tape is, for the most part, a rarity, it is something that a fair few bands are now electing to do. If someone would have told me five years ago that tape would make a comeback I would have said they’re nuts! Do you think that this is a good indication of a growing preference for a more organic way of consuming music in a pushback against streaming?
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: Perhaps, I was actually thinking about the same thing today. I think in this modern age people are being fed so much crap digitally it’s hard to keep track of it. When you turn on your phone or computer screen there is a war for your attention. I think most people would agree that they’ve gotten on their computer at one point or another to look up directions or a song or some item they want to buy and somehow ended up scrolling through their Facebook feed for 10 minutes not knowing how they got there. People don’t like that. It makes you feel like you don’t have control over your own life, Just another cog in the machine so to say. People value their individuality. So yeah I think die-hard music fans especially prefer some kind of item they can store and show off and share and listen to without having to enter a password. Whether it’s a tape or vinyl or a CD. It becomes a part of them and an indicator of a small side of their character. Furthermore, I don’t think there is anything wrong with streaming at all, and I don’t believe there is a war between physical and digital formats anymore. They seem to be co-existing pretty well and I think it’s only going to get better.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: With the obvious influence of bands that made their name in the 80s, do you feel like listening to the EP on tape also comes as part of the experience of listening to your music in a nod to those bands?
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: Interesting question but I wouldn’t know, I haven’t listened to it on tape! I don’t have any desire to try and re-create the 80’s – I happen to love a lot of music from that era, and it influences my songwriting, but going around and pretending it’s 1986 is just fucking crazy in my opinion. The only person I want to be is myself, right here and now in the present day. I listen to most music on my phone. Someday I’d love to have the money to properly collect vinyl, but right now everything I got goes towards the band.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Idle Hands have recently garnered comparisons with the likes of Ghost who are one of the big successes in rock/metal this year. How do you feel about such comparisons being made?
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: Complete honor, I’ve followed Ghost since their first US tour and absolutely love the band. However, I have no desire to be “Ghost II” or labeled as such. I want to be Unto Others (Idle Hands) through and through.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: What are the types of messages you want to convey through your music?
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: I just sing about the way I feel about things… and I like telling stories, fact or fiction. hopefully, the listener can identify with something. Here’s a message: don’t be a dick.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: Tell us about your touring plans for the near future. There are a lot of people who will be eager to hear your music live!
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: Expect the debut full-length in 2019 – and if you live in Europe, USA, Canada or Mexico we will see you soon.
AltWire [Luke Morrison]: So we get that you’re heavily influenced by some pretty massive bands, but what newer bands if any get you excited for the genre’s future?
Gabriel Franco / Unto Others: Tribulation. Hands down the sickest band out there right now. I wish In Solitude was still around. I’m holding out hope for a reunion someday. I really enjoy Baroness and I think the next Visigoth album is going to be a magnum opus.
Unto Others (Idle Hands)’ debut EP is available to download now. Check it out here.