It’s always interesting when members of different bands join together to form a new side project. I usually shake my head because it sounds exactly like the band that they normally play in. I recently came across the band Stillwell which is comprised of rapper Q-Unique, Fieldy from Korn, Wuv from P.O.D. and Pablo “Spider” Silva. The band recently released its sophomore album Raise It Up which does contains elements familiar to fans of Korn, P.O.D. and Q-Uniques, it’s also a bit of a departure from those bands. It’s an explosion of sounds leaning more towards a straight up rock record that incorporates some of those familiar elements. If you were around at the beginning of this band’s journey and are familiar with their debut album Dirtbag, then this new album is really going to surprise you. We had the opportunity to talk with band’s frontman Q-Unique who gave us some insight into this new album, what may be ahead for the band and some pretty craptastic Christmas gifts he received as a child.
The music nerd in me always likes to know if there’s a story behind the band’s name, so tell me about your name.
Q-Unique/Stillwell: I’m from Brooklyn, New York and, here in my part of Brooklyn, there is an avenue called Stillwell. This neighborhood was known historically for a lot of Mafia action when I was a kid and obviously, it has slowly faded away. What was interesting back then was there was a section where Stillwell had separated a very rough part of the neighborhood from a very regular suburban family area. You could cross the street into the roughest housing project or you could cross over and be in nice houses and it was just weird to me how the dynamic of this one avenue separated those. In my artistic mind, I like how this one place separated rough and calm or dark and light or however you want to encapsulate it, but that’s how I saw it. When I had the chance to name the band, I wanted to call it Stillwell Ave., but it just stuck at Stillwell.
I know that all of your paths had crossed and you were all friends, but was there a catalyst that made you guys start this project?
You know, it was something I did on a whim because at first Fieldy was working with me on this straight rap music and we did the “Killing Myself to Live” song. Eventually, we started making more songs and I actually started to sing on them. When he heard them, he started pushing me to go further with them. The song that changed everything was on the first album and then we put the original version on the EP and it’s called “Tripidation” and that was a song that turned everything around from the production of doing just hip-hop to doing this mish-mosh of all these different things that we come from.
That mish-mosh is one of the cool things that I love about this album in that you may hear some elements of Korn or P.O.D. in it, but at the same time it doesn’t sound like those bands at all.
Thank you; you know we had to do that. It was more of Fieldy’s thing because of his integrity; he didn’t want to do anything that copied his band. He and I both felt like if you wanted to hear Korn or P.O.D. or Q-Unique, then you could just go to where we had those things and listen to that. You know, why make a Korn Junior? That’s just not cool at the end of the day.
There was a quote on one of the press releases that we got and it was from you and I wanted to ask you about it. You said, “when we connected with Chris Collier, that’s when for me, vocally, everything changed.” Can you elaborate on that?
Chris is a super talented musician and to me an incredible producer. He was able to come in and look at what we did and hear what we were doing and tell me where I needed to be. He would give me pointers and he became my vocal coach from that point on until we completed everything. He was like a drill sergeant, even down to the point where he would ask if I warmed up today and if I didn’t warm up, he would make me feel goofy or stupid about it and he was on point. When we did Dirtbag, neither Fieldy or myself had a real grip on what we were doing; we were just going along with it. Now, we had someone with knowhow and instruction and told us this is what we did wrong and this is what needed to be doing. That was super important to us and that’s why this album sounds the way it does.
I think in any form of art that every now and then you need that creative a push to get you out of your comfort zone.
Oh, definitely and that’s what he and Fieldy did and they were both very instrumental with me. If you know where I come from, this is really a huge leap from where I come from musically. They were both instrumental in saying, ‘hey, you’re going to go this way and you’re going to look this way and it’s going to be very uncomfortable and people are going to take shots at you, but at the end of the day you’re going to be happy’ and they were right.
I will admit that I was not familiar with the group until this new album came out.
I read that you were a rapper and in the group and I thought this was going to be interesting and then I saw the video for ”Mess I Made” and it was not what I was expecting. Then, I see the video for ”Raise It Up” and that was pretty freaking cool as well because of mixing the rap element in there. I think you’re catching a lot of people off guard with that mish-mosh that you referred to early.
Right, we definitely wanted to catch people off guard and give them a little taste of who I am, plus P.O.D. definitely has that flavor and Korn always had the element of hip-hop in it as well. Now, you’re bringing someone straight from Brooklyn in who brings in a certain type of hip-hop element, but then being twisted and molded into this lead vocalist. It is what it is and that’s where I’m at right now and still learning.
With everything that I’m reading and hearing, it sounds like this album is definitely a progression for you guys and more of what you were going for when you began this.
You are absolutely right and when we signed with RatPak to put this album out, Joe, the president of RatPak, he sort of guaranteed us redemption and he delivered. I’m totally happy and satisfied with where the sound is and where we ended up with this album. You definitely hit the nail on the head with what you said.
On a personal note, I myself am a huge fan of that label and I’ve worked with quite a few of the artist that are on their over the last few years and it sounds like this was a perfect fit for you guys to be there.
I feel like we brought something different to the label because knowing what the label is predominantly known for, we brought a twist to them and it’s fun to be that person. Plus, with Joe bringing his know-how to the project and letting him and the others be the professionals that they are over at RatPak, it was great.
I can only imagine how difficult it must be try to line up everybody’s different schedules to make some live dates happen again, but is there anything in the works that we can talk about?
You know, it’s one of those things where we are playing it by ear. You’re going to be the first person that I tell this to, but there might be a lineup change. It won’t be anything drastic, but I can possibly say that Fieldy may be switching back to bass for this and bringing in a guitar player. Let’s just put that as a “maybe”, but you’re the first person that I am coming off the head with this. As I was walking along just now I was thinking about it prior to you calling me because he and I have been talking about the possibilities of going on the road and it is difficult. Fieldy and Wuv both have incredible schedules when it comes to touring; P.O.D. just got off of something like eight months on the road and Korn, they live on the road. So, trying to figure out how to get Stillwell on the road may include the angle of changing pieces around in order to get it moving, but it has to be step-by-step and we don’t want to shock people or those who are actually paying attention.
Speaking of paying attention, the “Mess I Made” video was my introduction to you guys and what a great choice to put out there because I feel like it’s a subject matter that everybody can relate to.
Yes and going back to who I am musically, if you know some of my music then you know a lot of it is very personal. So, this was my one chance to bring something very emotional to Stillwell and if you listen to the rest of the album, it’s a very strong feel-good type of album. We were working on that song and just like you said, I wanted to say something in it that we all can relate and leave it at that and that was the one subject.
2016 is just around the corner and is there anything in the Stillwell itinerary that we can talk about?
Right now, it’s all full of possibilities; I’ve already told Fieldy that I’ve started writing new material. You how you feel good about something and it leaves you feeling inspired? When this album came out and the feedback started coming in and there were new people reaching out to us. I started speaking to new people like you, I started getting all of their perspectives and their angles after they listened to the album and that stuff really leaves me inspired. It made me go write things down and ideas down and I told Fieldy about it and right now it’s all about when the opportunity opens up for he and I to sit down and start putting together another album. I think this time, it will come about much easier having Chris in our corner, so let’s see where that goes. Plus, the whole configuration of trying to get on the road and figuring out how all of that is going to work is challenging.
We’ve been asking in some of the interviews this month about Christmas memories that you might have, whether it’s the best gift, the suckiest gift or just something cool that pops into your mind. Can you share with us one of your memories?
I’m going to give you two; thinking back, the coolest would have to be, especially with all the hoopla going on right now, getting all my old Star Wars toys for Christmas since everyone’s getting all excited about the new movie. The funniest gift that I ever got, which was also the suckiest gift that I ever got, was from one of my cousins and I’m not going to say which one. They got me and my brother spiral notebooks and pens for Christmas and I remember being a little kid opening that and the look of horror and confusion on our faces. Notebooks for Christmas; what the hell? Oh yeah, another one, now you’re making the floodgates open, I was about eleven years old and my cousin gave me a shaving kit and I didn’t have any hair on my face at all (laughs). I thought it was hilarious and I remember my father laughing as well because he didn’t understand it either.
One last question and this goes back to just because you read it on the Internet doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true. I wanted to get some clarification straight from you and ask if you did some work with C and C Music Factory?
Yes sir and you know it’s interesting that you bring that up and it’s crazy that you have been the only person to ask me about that. My first major gig that I had was writing for them and they asked me to perform a song that they did for the soundtrack to Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What’s interesting now is that when that charted, it made it to number one on the dance charts. Then, when I did my group The Arsonist, which was a hip-hop group that charted in the hip-hop charts. Now, with the Stillwell album, it charted on several different charts, so in my career I’ve charted on the dance chart, the rap chart and rock charts, so it’s pretty cool that you asked that question.
Okay, the country chart is next! When can we expect to hear some “Q-Country?”
(Laughs) I think I need somebody to sit down with me and try to pin something. That should be interesting to get some sort of a Brooklyn country thing going.