Two years after The Long Walk, New York based trio Uniform – Michael Berdan (vocals), Ben Greenberg (guitar, production), and Mike Sharp (drums) – have released a new album called Shame which is out now via Sacred Bones. For this new work, they’ve joined forces with Randall Dunn (Marissa Nadler, Sunn O))), Earth).
According to the press release, For the first time, vocalist Michael Berdan made a conscious decision to include lyrics which focus on the static state of an antihero as he mulls over his life in the interim between major events, just existing in the world. The trio strain struggle through an industrialised mill of grating guitars, warped electronics, war-torn percussion and demonically catchy vocalizations.
Watch the new video for the track “Life in Remission” and check our talk with Michael Berdan who details the new album, their collaboration with Randall Dunn and much more.
“Shame” is your new album and it is also a strong word which has a remarkable impact as a title. 2011’s Steve McQueen Movie “Shame” comes to mind because it reflected the protagonist’s addiction. A story of an antihero which seems the focus of your album. Right? What’s the story behind this word and the album?
Thank you. Amazingly, this is the first time the Steve McQueen movie has come up when talking about this record. I usually try to repurpose the names films and books for our record titles, but Shame is an exception. It is a universally understood, instantly relatable word. The themes of this record deal with someone coming to hard realizations about how their own actions and attitudes have negatively impacted themselves and those around them. I feel like Michael Fassbender’s character in Steve McQueen’s film would be able to identify with all of these ideas. We are the architects of our own Hells. Trauma might lead to self medication might lead to addiction, but we are all responsible for our lives.
“ Shame” marks the debut of Mike Sharp on drums and I think it’s your second album with a drummer (The Long Walk with Greg Fox). How has this change had an influence on your sound, and your way to think it, compared to your first two albums?
Mike Sharp has a tremendous musical vocabulary, spanning all things from krautrock and new age music to metal and punk. These songs we’ve made together are as informed by Tangerine Dream as they are Discharge. We have continually stepped further and further away from genre conventions as the years have gone by and at this point, I think it’s safe to say that we feel liberated. I’ll always love the cold nature of programmed drums, but nothing offers real flexibility like a fantastic drummer.
You collaborated with Rundall Dunn for this album. How was working with him?
Randall is a genius and a lovely human being. He and Ben have a productive working relationship together as producers, plus the guy is responsible for a number of our favorite records. Getting the opportunity to work with Randall was a joy and an honor. The guy understands the mechanics of heavy music unlike anyone else. I feel that his insights and abilities really took this record where it needed to go.
I was impressed by the video for the track “Dispateches From the Gutter”. Can you tell us something more about the song and the clip?
The song is all about the fine line between relative personal stability and chaos, as well as life in acceptance of a disintegrated standard of living. I took the basic idea from Alan Moore’s Batman: The Killing Joke in which a single bad day can be blamed for the collapse of a whole life and transposed it to be about alcoholic loneliness. The video was directed by our dear friend Jacqueline Castel. She wanted to capture a vision of unburdening through fire. We let go of the objects and ideas that tether us to our pain and hold us back. Liberation through immolation.
You are from New York. Which aspects do you like the most (and least) of your City and What are your favourite places where you like to play live music in NY?
There’s no place in the world quite like New York. For all its beauty and all of its faults, it ruins you for other cities. There is a tremendous variety of culture here and you can pretty much design a life tailored to your interests. That being said, it’s increasingly cost prohibitive and that just serves to homogenize the area for the comfort of rich and boring assholes. Covid has been awful but maybe the virus will drive these dickheads away, which may cause rent prices to drop and serve to renew the core personality of the city. One can only hope…
Let’s talk from the current situation. How are you living these strange times and what are the main concerns as a band?
It’s a rough time for sure. We’d love to put out this record and immediately hit the road to tour, but that isn’t even close to an option right now. Still, I’d like to think that we’re making the best use of the downtime. We’re writing a ton and we’re about to go back into the studio to work on another collaborative record with one of our favorite bands. Ben is still doing production work. Sharp is taking care of his young child with his wife. I’m catching up on a whole lot of television. We’re all constantly working on solo projects as well. Things certainly could be worse.
Ritual question. Have you seen or heard anything good recently?
Definitely. I’ve been listening to recent releases from Himukalt, Crawl of Time, Ireen Amnes, and countless others. It’s been kind of a slow time for cinema but I really enjoyed (if that’s the word for it) The Golden Glove and Monos. Looking forward to reading the new Donald Ray Pollock book when it comes out.