[Aural Reports] Old-School Headbangers Unorthodox Regroup for Long Beach Show

Heavy Melody
Unorthodox Stick to their metal guns

Mike Lucero of “original headbangers” Unorthodox didn't give up on metal when the rest of the world did.

So Unorthodox first existed in the '80s, then broke up, and have now reunited?

Yeah. We started off as kids in high school. We had our peak in the early '90s. We'd finally been playing our instruments long enough. At 15, we were good for 15-year-olds. In the early '90s was when we'd finally made a name for ourselves. Then the band gave way to growing pains—unfortunately, some drug abuse by some of the members of the band and everyone not seeing eye-to-eye. It was never because we didn't enjoy playing as a band. It was everything else getting in the way. In high school, you just have to get up and make it through school. At 21, 22, people get married, people have kids, people are looking for that good job. All of those things came down on us, and the band wasn't making any money, so it kind of went away.

What brought about the reunion?

My wife, as a Christmas gift, got a shirt made with a picture of the old band from the '90s. I wore it to a New Year's party, and a lot of the old crowd was there. By the end of the night, everyone was calling everybody up, saying, “You've got to get the band back together.” Within a week, everyone had found one another.

Do see many differences between the old band and the new band?

Not really. It used to seem like there were metal bands on every corner. But I just refuse to change my perception of things. I was there when they were terming it the “new wave of British heavy metal.” No one had heard anything like that before. Now, when we go to book a show, we say we're a metal band, and they say, “Oh, no, we don't do that screaming crap.” These kids are ruining it for us. [Laughs] No, we're like an original metal band, like Iron Maiden and Scorpions. “Oh, you guys have melodies.” We try. What they're calling metal nowadays, I don't know what that is. But some of it is good.

Was the original breakup influenced by metal waning in the early '90s?

Yes. First, the singer left the band. We knew there were problems, and we knew we were imploding. We knew it was over, but we were trying to hang on. It used to be you'd look in the ads and see “Singer—looks and acts like Jon Bon Jovi” or “stage presence of Halford and the voice of Dio.” Then it was, “I'm the next Eddie Vedder,” or grunge-this and grunge-that. Headbangers Ball and KNAC went off the air, then it just dried up. This used to be the capital of metal. Then we were just like a bunch of ugly girls waiting for a date. “What happened?”

Is your reunion at all connected to the resurgence of metal that's been taking place?

In a roundabout way. We never said, “Maiden's back, so we should come back.” A few years ago, I went and saw Whitesnake and was surprised how many people still had long hair. It was kind of gray, but they still had long hair. It kind of subconsciously sparked it back up. I remember when I was listening to metal in the early '80s, my uncles would say, “Oh, there will never be a band like Grand Funk Railroad,” or, “CCR is where it's at.” I'd think, “That's so old.” I guess I reached that point where now I'm like, “These guys today don't hold a candle to Randy Rhoads.”

Has the band's sound changed much since reuniting?

As metal has evolved, we don't want to be out of touch. I remember being kind of lost at the end of the band in the '90s, like, “Do we stick to what we're playing? Do we roll with the times? Is this grunge thing just a trend, and we'll get laughed at because we jumped on the bandwagon? Or do we stick to our guns and get left behind? What do we do?” I thought that we should stick to our guns, we just shoot it with steroids . . . just do it better.

Unorthodox perform with Vagrant, Rejn, Psychic Lovers and others at DiPiazza's, 5025 E. Pacific Coast Hwy., Long Beach, (562) 498-2461; www.dipiazzas.com. June 21. All ages. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/unorthodoxfans.

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