Unknown (Rock) - Maine

-Interview- (10/1/23)
1. How did you get started with music and how did you develop your sound? Who thought of the name "Unknown" and is there any meaning behind it?

Ron Hanscom (Guitars/ Backing Vocals): I have always been musically inclined and never realized to what degree until I got older. Coming form a musical family where my aunt and grandmother were Organists for our local church, where my Grandfather was the pastor for over 40yrs. Family gatherings always ended up with either my aunt or grandmother sitting at the piano and we would sing and paly and enjoy music. I developed an obsession with the guitar, not the piano organ, due to my uncle allowing me to listen to his Kiss and Little River Band records or 8 track tapes....(yes I'm that old). I enjoyed the Kiss music much more than I did the other stuff my uncle listened to. LRB and Bob Welch were his jams, but they were not for me. For me personally, after hearing Kiss and the way Ace Frehley played guitar, I was blown away by what I was hearing. It was about a year or 2 later that I one of my uncles friends told me that if I liked Kiss that his bet was that I would love AC/DC and Led Zeppelin. Things could not have been closer to the truth for me. It only took the first few riffs from Angus Young, and my mind was not just blown, but completely exploded! The power of those heavy riffs and the element of a groove feel that Angus and Malcolm had. Being raised in with gospel music and country before that, I had not been allowed to own or listen to this type of music. My parents had only allowed a bit of Blues music here and there sprinkled in between country and gospel. I knew at that age (12 or 13) that I needed to pursue the guitar and figure out how and what I needed to do to make it sound like that. If it were not for Angus Young, I would not have ever picked up a guitar. The hardest thing to tell someone is how you as a guitarist actually arrive at your sound or style, and the tone you have. I remember in an article interview one time Eddie said that the "tone" comes form your body, fingers and your heart, and that statement stuck with me for a long time, and honestly, it still does. As far as tone, I derive my tones from a bluesy tone mixed with the sounds of late 70's and 80's classic rock tones that come from a powerful Marshall tube head and the bands with styles that have that sound. I have many influences that helped me create the sound and tone I currently have. I love AC/DC, Judas Priest, Zeppelin and Van Halen. I still to this day am in a constant never ending search for the perfect tone for me, which is always IMHO a destination for all guitarists. For me, our bands name :UNKNOWN' was derived as a simple concept. Our vocalist had one of our recorded songs in his drop box file and when he played it in his car the radio listed the song as "Unknown artist", as corny as that sounds, that's how it started from our previous name of Aloe Kane. Our vocalist Mike picked a logo for us being an old style Reiki symbol for power and strength that seemed to fit our back story very well. To some, it means just that, but to us, it means power and strength regarding the longevity of our band and our mindset of never giving up no matter our ages or any struggles we may go through.

James Holzrichter (Bass Guitar/ Backing Vocals): Both of my parents were musicians. I started playing bass guitar in 1991, graduated music school in 1994. I still use my mother's old 4 string bass. I'm the new guy! I have no idea what the name means for the rest of the guys. For me it's just part of being a bass player. Not many know who the bass player is.

Aaron Hazsard (Guitar): Well I started small got a guitar and started learning all of my favorite 90s punk song. I was a bed room player for year until I met Ron and next thing you know I was jamming with a full band. Just kind of happened quickly. My sound has changed a lot over the years of playing it was very simple straight punk. As I got older I got way more into modern metal so my personal sound evolved into more of a modern metal with a punk edge sound. As far as the band name Mike started recording our jam sessions and the tracks were saved as unknown tracks on his phone so we just kind of went with it.

Russ Witt (Drums): My start in music: My father was a musician his whole life and I always heard him playing his guitar and singing. Any time I heard him, I would always gravitate towards him and just listen. Eventually I’d start tapping along with my hands and so began my interest in drumming. There would be times where I would go to his band practices with him and I would get to experience all the other instruments associated with his band, be it guitars, bass, drums, piano, steel guitar. Anything that had to do with music, I wanted to be around. Not that I’d get to touch any of them, but the seed had been planted. Fast forward a few years when my oldest brother was on the high school football team, I would of course go hang out with the marching band and would drum along on my legs or the bleachers. I’d always ask to play their drum, but to no avail because the game was going on and they weren’t even allowed to play at those times. I was thinking that there had to be a way that I could play one of those drums one day.

Come middle school, my dad had bought my first snare drum from a family friend. I’ll never forget that sparkly red Premier concert snare drum with the Remo Pinstripe top head. It was a whole new ball game learning to play and read snare drum notation. Eventually the rest of the drum set came and learning my favorite songs was a great new feeling that I had been waiting for for a long time. I had the opportunity on numerous occasions to jam with my honorary brother Frank who lived with us for a while ( and whom was also a very very good guitarist,) during his and my older brothers last few years of high school.

Going forward to my own high school days, I had gone to a Vocational school and had found out there was no band. It had only been a few weeks but I had transferred back to my own school and got into the marching band that I had always wanted to be a part of. Also I had taken up the Music Theory class that was offered. Now me being me, I struggled with some subjects in school, and sadly theory was one of them. I was never able to catch up in that class and needless to say, I was very disappointed in myself and my interest was beginning to decline. By the end of my sophomore year, music was starting to fall by the wayside and my drive to be a mechanic had taken over. Back to the Vocational school I go, and began to excel in that field. Luckily there was a few kids I had hung out with that had musical interests. By that time I had gotten into my first band which lasted a few years, but went nowhere. There was a lot of good memories that came out of that time and it seemed that it wouldn’t end.

But like anything that good, it came to an abrupt end that would unfortunately last for the next 20 some odd years. Life happens though.

Michael Lemons (Lead Vocals):I joined the group about 4 years ago as a new cover band. When covid started, we couldn't play anywhere. So, we decided to start writing our own music and made our first album 3 years ago. Our sound has been evolving as we grow. The name unknown, came from listening to recorded tracks in my car and it kept saying unknown for artist name. We thought it was perfect.

2. What do you want people to take away from your music?

Ron: For me, it's very simple. If people take away one thing form our music, it's really up to them what they take away from it. Some of our music is not for everyone (who's music is though right) in my opinion, And there are some bands that their music is written totally for the masses. It bothers me to no end that bands get buried and forgotten about due to general consensus and favorable sounds that warrants charting and such. I love our music and we all take a lot of pride in what we do. It is in no way studio polished to the umpteenth degree, and I wouldn't ask for it to be any other way either. I am a fan of the bands that have "raw" sound. When people listen to our music no matter what tune it is, my hope is that again, no matter what tune of ours it is, that it takes the listener on a memorable journey in their mind of a certain time in their life and or memorable situations, that's the only thing I could ever ask for as an original artist, and I know I'm not alone feeling like this.

James: Whatever they want to feel. Dig into that shadow work.

Aaron: We’re just a group of friends having a blast playing music we love to play and we just want everyone to enjoy it as much as we do.

Russ: For people to take anything away from my music would be very flattering, and humbling. If my music can have any kind of effect on just 1 person, for me, would be profound. I don’t look at myself as a great anything but my experience in the automotive field came over a long career. I have shared my knowledge, thoughts, and experiences with many techs, and also the beginners. I was told recently by one of my former coworkers that he wouldn’t be half the tech he was today without my help and would have given up on it a long time ago, and thanked me for all I have done for him. My first thought was WHAAAT?? MEEE?? Are you sure it was me? What I told him was Thank You, but you have also helped me on numerous occasions as well. I personally feel that if there is information that I can give to someone else who may need it, I’ll freely give it. There are those who will say “Figure it out yourself, I had to!” I don’t want to be “that guy.” His words made me feel like It was all worth it, I helped someone along their way even though I really didn’t realize the impact. That is how I want people to feel with my music. To have many influences in life, in music or whatever can lead to the person you feel that you want to be. To be an influence to someone can make you feel like you’ve done everything right. Be “that guy” because you never know who’s watching you.

Michael: We just want people to enjoy what we enjoy. Having fun with music and telling stories.

3. How would you describe your sound to the average listener?

Ron: To sum it up as far as our sound, well for me it's different than the average listener. For the Average listener, I would describe our sound as, a blend of heavy bluesy riffs, with a very hard rock edge with metal overtones. The reason I classify it this way, is because it's what I have been told by many of our attendees at our shows. We get comments all the time like "wow, your sound is unique and it touches on many different genres of sounds", which is a huge compliment for me, and it's appreciated more than anyone knows.

James: Grungy prog heavy punkish.

Aaron: Hmmm well we’re a blend of all of our favorite genres or rock kind of mixed up. Best way to describe us is hard rock, blues, metal, and a dash of punk.

Russ: My sound, If I can describe it, would be basic. I would love to say anything else, but as I gain experience, what I want to play and what comes out are 2 different things. When at practice I will stray away from what I’ve been playing, and if it sounds good then I’ll make note and work it in to the normal routine. But live experimentation is a big NO NO. Ask me how I know this! My experience is only recent as mentioned previous in the bio. I have been with Unknown since 2019 and I have been getting better and better, and will get to where I want to be as a drummer eventually. Right now its about having fun and playing music with my friends.

Michael: I would say it's hard rock with many influences from each of our favorite artists.

4. Who are three bands you’d like to tour with?

Ron: The 3 bands I'd love to tour with if I were ever that lucky would be AC/DC, Judas Priest and Megadeth.

James: I'm not a tourist. Oh, um.... Primus, L7, Megadeth.

Aaron: Wow, here goes, Green Day (Billy Joe Armstrong is my idol), AC/DC and Trivium.

Russ: There are MANY bands I’d like to tour with… and like any star struck human being I’d say ANYONE YOU WANNA PUT ME WITH. Beggars cant be choosers, right? But if given the choice, and in no particular order, Number one would be Shinedown. I love a show that brings the energy. And these guys BRING IT! Their stage presence, mobility, musicianship and ever changing writing style is the total package. I’ve had the pleasure of seeing them live twice, once on either side of Covid. Number 2 is Godsmack. I had a short time in radio between 1995-1999. It was a small town A.M station out of Floyd Virginia, after that I had moved to Kansas City and had gotten back into more Modern Rock and less classic rock that my area in Virginia had offered at the time. 98.9 KQRC and The Johnny Dare Morning Show had reintroduced me to that genre which brought Godsmack to my interest. An even bigger role they played was that they were from Boston, my home base! The power of the vocals of Sully Erna immediately grabbed my attention as well as the drop D tuning. As I looked more into the band I had discovered that Sully was also a drummer, guitarist, and played piano. Then Faceless came out in 2003 with one of my favorite songs of all time on it. Still trying to talk the guys into doing Straight Out of Line, I’ll let you know how it turns out. Number 3 is The Violent. The summer of 2018 was a real big turning point in my music life. Not only did I see Godsmack and Shinedown on the same stage, the opener was a 5 piece band that I hadn’t heard of. Red Sun Rising captured me from the very first song. It was something familiar, yet it was still a very new feeling. It was bright, but dark. I still sit and try to think if it was one thing, or the whole thing about them that hooked me. Though they were still new to me, having found out the band separated was a real downer. A while later, this new band surfaced with an amazing single called Fly On The Wall, hearing the vocals, I knew it was Mike Protich, but who was the other guys? What was the name of the band? Surprise!! Mike Protich, Pat Gerasia, and Dave McGarry… 3/5 of Red Sun Rising. Their No Bullshit, THIS is US, Here We Are attitude is what makes me like them even more. If you haven.t heard them yet, please do!

Michael: Three bands I would personally like to tour with are Godsmack, Disturbed, and Blacktop Mojo.

5. How has Covid affected what you do?

Ron: As far as COVID and how it's affected myself as part of the band, is on some different levels of thought. First off, it was a devastating pandemic that took the lives of an insurmountable amount of people, much like the flu virus did. I feel terrible for those families who had loved ones taken by it. As far as how it relates to our band, for me, it was actually a blessing in disguise for us. At the time COVID hit, we were pretty much a cover band only, we had not written anything. I mean myself and my guitarist Aaron had bunches of riffs from our own writing or from riffs we wrote previously that never we never did anything with. So, during COVID, venues were not hiring bands and understandably so, and even when you could get a gig at all the social distancing was so bad that hardly any patrons would go...I mean, most people didn't even want to leave their own houses! So we had a band meeting to decide if we were going to continue or fold our gear up and not play at all, or write original music. At that time we weren't even sure if we could write together, and if we did, how would it be received. Well, I can tell you that after 3+ years of writing, we now have 2 full albums of originals, and we have enough material for another 1 or 2 albums which I am very proud of. COVID actually helped us grow tighter as a band and give a new found lease on our musical lives, and I couldn't be happier about that.

James: The mania didn't affect how much local bands get paid at all. It's still the same as it was in the 1970's.

Aaron: It hit us pretty hard at first. We stopped getting together for quite a few months and at the time we just did cover songs with a handful of originals. Then at some point we just said the hell with it and started jamming again and that’s when we really came into our own. We just started writing songs left and right someone would start play a riff and next thing you know we’d have a full song so we just really focused on writing and recording seeing how we really couldn’t play out. So it was tuff at first but because of it we became an all original band and ended up recording two albums

Russ: With Covid being a friggen monkey wrench in what we were trying to accomplish at the time, the situation gave us time to rethink our priorities as a band and as individuals. I’ve been dabbling in guitar and piano prior to Covid, but when it hit, and we were unable to get together for a while I had started thinking about the times I wish I had time for this or that and I took the time to actually sit down and give piano a real chance. Going to the basic elements of music gave me a much better understanding of the one thing I could never grasp, Theory. Basic cords, structures, the differences between majors and minors on piano as well as guitar. There were things I could do just by listening and doing, but it was very incomplete. Things sounded “like” what I wanted to play, but it was never as good as it should be. As a treat and a test to myself, I learned my first 2 complete songs on piano. I had heard these songs at least 1000 times each, but when I first started to learn them, I had to decode them completely, because I still had No Idea what I was doing. As a band though, when we were able to start getting back together, we all had the same thought in mind. We wanted to play, we wanted to join our fellow streamers on FB Live, make a few bucks and keep things going. Here was the problem: Lets do this song… NO, blah blah does that one and so does the blah band. Ok, well, how about this song here? NO the 30 other bands in the area do that one.. and so on, and so on. Ok, how about we do more of our own songs, OK, Lets Begin! One song led to another, then another idea pops up, alright, now lets put this here, and that over there… Awesome! Guess what? We have a new album! Not only that we have more than enough jams to plan our next album… and so begins our journey as an Originals Band. I’m not trying to down cover bands at all, but when you have 5 people with 5+ influences and ideas, we just put it all on the table. Some of it meshes, sometimes we trim it up and put things here and there, take 2 or 3 different song ideas and make them one, you have something to call your own. This Is Unknown Music! For us, this is what we needed to do. You can learn a song and feel good, you can also write a song and feel great!

Michael: Covid made us. We became an original band because we couldn't play out for a while.

6. What’s your take on the current state of Rock?

Ron: I think honestly the current state of rock is slowly coming back to the forefront of music. It's really hard to tell which genre of music will be the flavor of the month or the flavor of the year tbh.

James: More is needed.

Aaron: My personal opinion on the current state of rock is it’s a little stale, overly processed and has to much pop influence even in the harder metal scenes again in my humble opinion.

Russ: The Current State of Rock: Honestly, I have listened to quite a bit of some of the new stuff especially on SXM Octane, I’m sorry but, a lot of it sounds the same. The sounds of the drums are the same, its like its all been mass produced and put thorough the same effects processors. I’m hearing quite a bit of screaming and incoherent growling. There is countless songs now with a hip hop feel to them with drum machine hi hat grooves. Everything that rock was, doesn’t seem to be rock at all anymore. But, To Each Their Own. Lately, I’m on either Hair Nation, Ozzy’s Boneyard, and SXM Turbo for example.

Michael: I think rock is going through a transitional phase and hopefully we can all keep it alive.

7. What's the current music scene like there in Maine?

Ron: From what I have seen about the music scene here in Maine, so far, especially after COVID, 90% or more venues hire mostly cover bands still. They seem to turn their noses up at bands like mine unless we as a band can guarantee at least 50-60 patrons to follow us in order to fill the seats so the bars can make money. I mean I guess I understand to a point, but how are original bands suppose to get out there and play with parameters like that, it's stupid and I refuse to accept that. My vocalist Mike has his finger more on the pulse of things like that though. I mean, festivals seem to dig original artists sometimes. It's just my observation and I'm in hopes we can make a change to that thought process.

James: Strange, excellent amazing musicians playing local bars. Who knew. Open mics, as far as the eye can see.

Aaron: There are some very talented people in the area but it’s very easy listening stuff. There’s not a whole lot of room here for the heavier sides of music but it’s coming.

Russ: The current music scene in Maine, at least in our area is pretty much the same, cover bands are ruling the roost. There’s not a lot of opportunity for original bands to get the play time without it being for an “exposure” spot. If I were a writer, I would not be able to take a Stephen King book, change a few words, and make a living selling “my” books. Like I said earlier, we can do covers like anyone else, but a few here and there to fill when we need to.

Michael: Maine has a decent music scene. Not as many people coming out to see original music as they used to. Especially rock. We need to wake folks up and get them out of their houses once again.

8. What’s your take on the royalties that streaming services pay out to artists?

Ron: For me, as far as the royalties from streaming platforms, it seems to cost more to stream them than it would to pay the artist who created them, It's a shame really. I understand but to me streaming now is the god child of companies like Napster in the early 90's where listeners try and get new music they can download for free without paying. I'm sure I'll have push back from people about my opinion on this matter.

James: There are tens of millions of artists streaming hundreds of millions of songs. Be happy anyone can afford to pay you anything. Promote yourself no matter how sick of it you are.

Aaron: I think it’s kind of a joke how little they get especially seeing how everyone uses the streaming services to get there music out now a days.

Russ: Royalties: Here is something I personally know very little about. As always, wish it could be more but everybody wants to make money. I feel it takes away from the artist and you can stream any song, anytime, anywhere, and you never have to buy it with very little going to people who actually put the work into making the music. I’m not sure how it is justified in that way.

Michael: It seems the music industry is changing. Most money made is from merchandise and not the actual music sale.

9. What's next for Unknown?

Ron: I'm not really sure what's next for UNKNOWN. The one thing I do know is that sometimes the unexpected is always welcome. In all honesty, if we continue to do what we love and are happy with our music, sometimes at the end of the day, that would be enough for me, but.......I will continue to refuse to stop trying to see where our music can take us with great musical brothers and effort and a desire to succeed.

James: More awesome, fun, deep, heavy music.

Aaron: Hopefully we get to keep playing out. Maybe trying out some acoustic unplugged style gigs and definitely recording a third album.

Russ: What’s next for Unknown, The next single, album, show, whatever it is, I’m having fun on this ride with these friends making our music. If it comes down to it, and I can make a living playing music for the masses? You bet your ass I would! Some want to be a doctor, lawyer, rock star, football player, baseball player. For me, if music is the calling, I’m going.

Michael: We hope to keep this going as long as possible. We want to travel the world and share our music with everyone.

10. Any shoutouts?

Ron: As far as shout outs, yes there are a few for me. I'd like to shout out to my Grandmother (deceased who had always believed in me and my music, she always said I would go somewhere with it. Next is my father (deceased) who taught me that no matter what you choose to do with your life, you better do it 100% or not do it at all, otherwise you are shorting yourself and everyone around you. Another shoutout to FTD Entertainment for reaching out to us after finding us, this is huge for us, so thank you very much. Another shout out to my bandmates and their support of me. I mean I'm not accepting a Grammy just yet so I'll save all that other sappy speech stuff for when I do...lol (jk). Anyways, this is my story and how I feel from my heart.

James: Thanks to everyone in my life. Thanks to Unknown LLC for adding me.

Aaron: Shoutout to the pink elephant, everybody loves Kielbasa!!!!

Russ: Shout Outs!!! I’ve been waiting for this part. Biggest Shout out goes to my Wife Jodi. Your support and patience with me and my crazy dreams and schemes is astounding. You have been with me through my lowest lows, and my highest highs. We have taken every step together from rock bottom to where we are today. We started all the way from hiding from the landlord because we didn’t have the $70 for the trailer lot rent for the month, to our home in NH with our 2 grown up kids, new cars, AND the Harley’s!! My daughter Nicole for re-sparking my interest in drumming by joining the school Drumline and building my drum set model. You encouraged me to pick up the sticks again, you let me use your practice pad, and even taught me the Drumline Anthem. My Son Ryan for also keeping me interested in drumming. You’ve come a long way yourself in your musical journey. I am still so proud of both of you for your Most Excellent Drumline Performances. My Dad and Mom for your encouragement to stay with it and for coming to all my school performances, you had to drive me and all, so, you were there anyways.. HAHA and for buying my first drum set too, I know it was loud. Brothers Bobby and Rick for calling me Little Drummer Boy all those years.. maybe you still do.. either way, THANKS BROTHERS! To all the others who have been an influence on me, there’s just so damn many of you! Peace, Love, and Music to you all!!

Michael: My biggest shout out goes to all the people who said I couldn't do it. The people that said that I wasn't any good. The folks that said original music is not what people want to hear. It drives me harder than anything. And now I want to prove them wrong as well as myself.