TANGENTS’ Derek Kerswill: The Gun Shy Interview


So, get this: Derek Kerswill, who amicably parted ways with Unearth just two weeks ago, has already auditioned to be the drummer for another band. Only, it didn’t work out. That band? The Sword…I think. You see, last week, Kerswill told his Facebook friends that he was going to Austin, Texas, for a possible gig. Yesterday, the same day The Sword announced that Kevin Fender was their pick to replace anxiety-addled former drummer Trivett Wingo, Derek was back to reveal the Austin thing “didn’t work out.”

When I spoke to Derek this afternoon, I had to ask him. “I’m just putting two and two together,” I told him.

“Well, your two and two equals four, I’ll tell you that much,” Kerswill responds. “It was so close, but basically, they were looking for somebody [who lived] closer. Things went awesome; they were really happy but when all was said and done, the timing’s not right for me to relocate my wife and myself. Don’t get me wrong. I am absolutely in love with Asheville and Austin and they are very similar to each other, and would I ultimately love to relocate and be in one of them? Yes. But to make it happen so fast and really take quite a gamble would be really tough right now.”

Not once during our chat does Kerswill even mention The Sword, but it’s clear that’s the band he auditioned for. “Well, I am going to say this without giving away too much…I am first and foremost a rock guy. I played in Seemless…that is the heartbeat of everything I am, musically. If you were to take that and mix it with the new TANGENTS stuff…metal was the least of what I played. I could just do it well and people wanted a rock guy who hit hard, had killer grooves and could play some double bass. I will say that this band would be a very good fit for me. It could’ve been them, it may not have been them.”

It was them. I guarantee it. But Derek didn’t call me to talk about The Sword, he called to discuss TANGENTS, his new project with long-time friend and song-writing collaborator Dave Witham, formerly of Of The Hour. The band’s debut album, One Little Light Year, is in stores now and sounds nothing like Unearth, The Sword, or even Seemless. TANGENTS is more atmospheric, more ethereal. It’s organic music that’s dizzying and ambitious. The closest thing I can compare it to is Radiohead, and that’s saying a lot.

“This whole album is personal for Dave and I,” Derek tells Gun Shy Assassin. “We did this whole record ourselves. I used to manage Of The Hour, but it didn’t work out. Dave and I, we kept in touch, and he always loved my playing, I always loved his writing. I remember I was on tour with Unearth overseas and I get an email from him with four song ideas. I listened to them; he just wanted to get my opinion. Two days later, these songs are stuck in my head.”

Derek wrote back to Dave, and told him he saw a lot of potential in the songs, wanted to be involved, and even had some ideas for the songs. “He emailed me back, ‘Yes — my plan worked.’ He baited me with that stuff, and reeled me in pretty quick. Before I know it, we were writing sixteen songs.”

The band is now working on material for the follow-up, and Kerswill’s also working on “a side project that caused problems with Unearth.” That side project includes Matt Bachand and Jonathan Donais from Shadows Fall and Jeff Fultz from Seemless. “It’s rock radio stuff,” Derek says, along the lines of Alice In Chains. “Its not cheesy, but its not metal; it has a real ‘80s influence at times.”

This leads us to what happened with Unearth. He parted ways with the boys two weeks ago. But why? “I was never the dude to be playing technical stuff, and one of the main issues with Unearth was they wanted to go in a little bit more chaotic, extreme and technical direction, and I wanted to take the spirit of [Iron] Maiden and Anthrax, and make anthemic, arena metal. We were not seeing eye to eye. I literally said at one point, ‘Man I don’t know if I’m the guy.’”

While he claims the split was amicable, he hasn’t spoken to Unearth’s members since.

On The March, Unearth, Derek says, wanted “a mini Vinnie Paul. Someone to be in the pocket and play for the songs and let the music breathe, and I am really proud of The March. Unfortunately for me, and our relationship, they’re going into something that I wasn’t excited about and I think they were, so I got even more stressed and bummed out because I felt so out of place.”

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