HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine met Unida in Athens and discussed with John Garcia, Arthur Seay and Miguel Cancino about tattoos, stereotypes, zombie movies, stoner rock's current flourishing and the reasons why Greece reminds them of California.

Interview by Eirini Katsara & Ino Mei.
Photos by Ino Mei.

Ino: How long have you been in the band altogether? 

Arthur: John, Miguel and I started jamming out in 1997, when we just met. We had been jamming regularly for a whole year and then we started looking for a bass player. 

Ino: John, for a rock musician, it appears that you have very few tattoos (laughs). How come?

I’ve just never really got around to getting a bunch of work. One of these days I would like to get some more tattoos done. That’s not an obsessive – compulsive thing, although tattoos are addictive. 

Ino: What does the “WKG” tattoo stands for?

John: It’s my wife’s name.

Ino: Guys, when it comes to rockstars and musicians in general, do you think that tattoos are a stereotype?

Arthur: I think it’s a stereotype. Personally, I have always been into artwork and my tattoos are another extension of that, whether it’s a painting, photography or photoshop. I am a fan of artists; like Vance Kelly, who did the poster for our Athens gig and for the tour. 

I’ve always been fascinated by tattoos and there are stories behind them. The journeys and the times in your life. To me that’s what tattoo is. A lot of people and especially kids these days say “I might get sleeved in a month” and there you go… They think they’re cool. To me there has to be a meaning about it. 

Miguel: For me tattoos are strictly for the artwork and personal meanings. It’s up to you whether you like it or not, whether it’s good art or a bunch of scribble. 

Arthur: I started getting tattooed when I was about twenty-four and it was about finding the right person. Everything I have was done by Friday Jones. She has a good name and though she has a studio on 5th Avenue in NYC, she travels a lot. Like I do. When I am on tour we will meet. So I got my tattoos done in various locations; in New Orleans, in LA, in my house, in the desert, in Philly, in Washington D.C. For me tattoos are a personal thing, cause you sit there getting drilled on and it’s odd and painful. Friday is a really good friend of mine. She is aspiring, doing her craft.

Ino: Miguel what is your main influence when it comes to tattoos?

My buddy Arthur (Arthur laughs). He knows all the great tattoo artists. We waited forever to get my tattoos done by Friday Jones. I enjoy tattoos artistically and I want them to mean something to me, at least when it comes to aesthetics.

Eirini: What’s your next step as a band?

John: We’re going to finish up this tour and we’re going to talk about new music. With Unida, there’s no rush. We are all desert locals, so when time comes to take the car out of the garage and take her out for a spin again, we’ll do that. Arthur and Miguel have a great other band called “House of Broken Promises” and I am doing my solo stuff. We are all going to be busy, doing those projects and when the time comes, we’ll probably do some more music.

Eirini: How are you experiencing Unida compared to Kyuss?

John: Anybody who knows about my track record knows that I don’t like to stay in one place for too long. With all the different projects I’m into, it’s all just different energy. In Unida though, there’s by far a really high up-tempo energy over any other band that I ever played in.

Eirini: What’s the atmosphere within Unida?

Arthur: Every day that we are together, we have a good time. We laugh like little kids.

John: We don’t take ourselves seriously. We don’t have “cool hats”. I don’t think this band wants or needs to be cool. We are who we are; we are family men, we are dads, we are husbands and we love to play on stage with each other.  Sharing the stage is part of our trip. We are here to do a job and have fun while we’re doing it.

Ino: Is it true that your audience is mainly dudes with beards (laughs)? 

Arthur: There’s a lot of that, but you know what, there’s also a female audience when it comes to Unida. Unida is more like a rock band. There’s the stoner rock part of it, however it’s like straight head rock 'n' roll, where people can groove and can shake their booty to, and that’s not a bad thing. I listen to everything: from Iron Maiden, Elton John, and Stevie Wonder to Metallica and classical music. Michael Jackson is my favorite artist of all times. Right now I listen to a lot of Motown.

Eirini: “Judging” from your sleeve tattoo, is “The Return of the Living Dead” your favorite movie?

Arthur: I am a huge zombie fanatic. So “The Return of the Living Dead” is definitely one of my favorite movies. I’ve also enjoyed all the George Romero stuff, since I was a kid; I would rent three horror movies every day and scare the shit out of myself.

Ino: So when it comes to your tattoos, are movies your main influence?

Arthur: It’s more than just “the movies”. It’s that time of my life. We lived in the desert, so there weren’t so many things to do. I was super into movies and played the saxophone, before I started playing the guitar and doing bands and so on. I am still very much into movies and I am actually working on a short film. I am going to do my little zombie 20 minute short. 

Like I said earlier, all my tattoos are stories of my life. Like this stuff (ed. Arthur is showing the lower part of his left sleeve) was done when my tattooist and I were both in New Orleans. I was doing a lot of photography at the time and I went to some cemeteries in order to take some pictures. And we based everything on those photos. I never followed some “tattoo trend” whereas especially in LA it is very hipster. I mean that’s kind of America in general: very fast food for the brain. I say be yourself.

Ino: Speaking about trends was there ever a moment in your opinion that stoner rock was “popular”?

Arthur: You know what, back in the day – around 2000 – when we did a big signing, it was growing. Then it kind of tapered off, but the scene has always been there, especially here in Europe and in Australia. It never went away, when in the States nobody cares.

Eirini: In Greece, the last years there’s been a stoner rock outbreak.  

Arthur: Right now it seems that it’s really growing and it’s becoming a bigger thing. We can see that when we do our shows. I mean stoner rock has been around for more than twenty years now. Hopefully that second “wave” stays true to itself and to good music. It’s an awesome thing and we’ll see what happens.

Ino: Though stoner rock supposedly comes from the desert, why is there a scene here in Greece – far away from the Californian desert…?

Arthur: This is my first time here. I’ve always been dying to come to Greece. Just flying in and driving over here, it felt like home. The trees, the brownish colours, the landscape, are very reminiscent of were we come from.

HeartbeatInk Tattoo Magazine would like kindly to thank Eva Kolomvou and Evacuate Productions for the realisation of the interview and AN Club for the hospitality.