Story By Jonathan D’Auria - Photos Provided by Unwritten Law

   Being a rock & roller just ain’t what it used to be. Remember when rock stars were troubled and confused romantics who courted jail time and notoriety by indulging in scandalous womanizing, reckless drug abuse, unlimited alcohol consumption, and wild, socially unacceptable behavior? Truth is, most of today’s rockers are quiet intellects who can usually be found reading fine literature while enjoying a glass of aged pinot noir in the solitude of their humble quarters. For the unruly pop-punkers of Unwritten Law, however, being rock stars—“real,” old-school, over-the-top rock stars—is a full-time job they relish with passion. 

   OK, so maybe I’m overstating it a little bit. But the 18-year, seven-album career of the San Diego, California four-piece has been nothing but dramatic, violent, and turbulent. One might perceive that to be a bit troubling, but the band members of Unwritten Law don’t mind it one bit. If it’s true, as they say, that it takes pressure to create diamonds, Unwritten Law must have a mine’s worth of treasure—over two million albums sold, a half-dozen radio hits, and a Number One single in “Seein’ Red.” Sound worth the journey? We think so.

  What has kept this band together through eight member changes and innumerable fist fights, onstage and off, for two decades? Most likely, it’s the excitement of finding out what’s next. These dudes thrive on chaos. They coast through the whirlwinds and hurricanes of life looking for their next high and their next conquest. The best way to witness the true essence of Unwritten Law is to see them live; even if you don’t care for pop-punk as a genre, you will be amazed by the band’s energy and stage antics. Their latest album, a CD/DVD package called Live and Lawless (Organized Noise, 2008), is a candid glimpse at exactly that.

   Bassist Pat “PK” Kim stepped away from the mayhem to talk with us about mushroom trips, assaulting bus drivers, on-stage bouts of fisticuffs, getting kicked off the Warped Tour, and loving every minute of it.

You’ve been a member of Unwritten Law for 10 years. How does it feel to be part of the band’s success?

Very satisfying. Bands come and go, so we just feel lucky to have been around this long. I don’t think anyone would’ve guessed that we’d still be on stage together after all this time and all the shit that’s gone down. But it feels good to be on this end of a career.


That’s a long time for any band to maintain success. How has your dynamic changed from the beginning?

Man, how hasn’t it! Actually, we’re really lucky because we’re four way different guys with many different interests who come together successfully for our common one. We’re lucky because we all have the same mental path, so we all understand each other. We’re usually in the same place as one another, but man, can we spark each other—for better or worse.


What has been your favorite part of your musical journey?

Man, music is my bread and butter; just being able to do it at this level has been my favorite part. I hit a major crossroad when I got out of college. I studied art, but my real passion was music, and there really wasn’t much else I knew. Everyone was choosing careers and I was like, “Fuck that, I just want to play.” So that’s what I did.


Your rigorous touring schedule must be a major perk to your career, right?

Traveling is one of the best things a human can do. It’s been so amazing to see the world with my boys and play on stages in places I’ve never heard of. Playing for fans is the ultimate rush, but playing for international fans is unreal.


Where is your favorite place to tour?

Australia, no doubt. The fans there give us that extra bit of energy; they go absolutely nuts for us. I love the country, too—it’s very familiar, a lot like the U.S. I still wanna get out to Asia and Brazil. There are still some places left on my list to cross off.


How did you get into music in the first place?

I got into music because my older cousins would babysit me and play AC/DC, Queen, and Journey. Then I got into punk music. That shit just lit me up like nothing else. That’s what got me into this band. I guess I also got into Motorhead in fourth grade. I actually saw them play in LA last night and I got to meet Lemmy. It was crazy!


What are you listening to right now?

I wish I could say I was listening to some cool shit, but right now my two-year old just wants to listen to Barney. I hear those songs 24/7 and they get stuck in my head all day long. That’s probably the least punk thing I could’ve said, huh?


I’ve heard worse. I would take that purple dinosaur over lots of recent releases. And he has a big posse, too—that gets him some cred.

Yeah, it makes my kid happy, so that’s all that matters.


What do you attribute the band’s early success to?

Honestly, I’d give all our success to the skate and surf communities. They blew us up big time. A guy named Taylor started putting us in a lot of skating videos, and before we knew it, there were a ton of kids showing up at our shows. That’s how a lot of bands like Pennywise and Offspring got their start—it was all the X Gamers.


How would you describe the music of Unwritten Law?

Uninhibited, without boundaries, raw, and loud. We do what we want and we never pigeonhole ourselves. Some bands get stuck in a rut and never evolve; we always have that spark that ignites us. It’s powerful.


And what has kept you guys together after all these years?

Good question! That’s the hardest thing—keeping it all together. But we always stay united. When we fight, we fight hard, and when we click, we click hard. It’s the weird Metallica thing, I guess. We just skip the therapist.


So what propelled you guys to put out a live CD/DVD? That’s a risky move for a lot of bands.

A lot of times, you see a band live and it sounds nothing like the album. A lot of people think we’re just some shitty pop-punk band, and then they see us kill it live and they love it. We’re a band you don’t expect to be that good, but then we bring it and shatter those expectations. We’ve been playing these songs for over a decade, so it’s not really rocket science. I could play these songs with my hands tied behind my back, so there’s no reason a live DVD/CD shouldn’t be good.


And how has the response been?

It’s been great. People see what goes on behind the scenes and they begin to understand us. I consider us to be a “live” band, and there’s nothing fucking fake about it.

How do you guys write the songs?

We all write and bring in ideas, but Scott (Russo, guitarist) is the main songwriter. We all have a big part in piecing it all together, though. No one really brings in a finished product—it’s like building with Legos. I’ve been writing a lot on my laptop lately and recording the other parts to give my ideas some shape. This album we’re working on now is the most advanced project we’ve done yet. Everyone has a clear and obvious voice on it.


What’s the material for the new album like?

It’s another left turn for us, for sure. We have 10 drum tracks so far and whole lot of ideas spinning around. It’s all in a very embryonic state at the moment, though. The writing process has been chill, too; sometimes we just want to kill each other in the studio, but this time we’re having fun. I think it’ll sound more natural because of our new mind state. Our influences have changed so much over the years. We’re not kids anymore—there’s more clarity now.


What do you like more—recording in the studio or hitting the road?

Touring, for sure. That’s where all the crazy shit goes down. The studio is work, and the road is play.


So what are some crazy things that have happened to you on the road?

Man, the stories that stick out are never good (laughing). Once, we got in an argument on the tour bus and it turned into a fistfight. The bus driver got pissed, pulled the bus over, came to the back of the bus, and hit our drummer with a huge metal flashlight in the head. We all stopped fighting each other and turned on the bus driver and just beat the shit out of him. That was a bad situation that turned into a bonding experience. But we fucked up the bus driver so badly that he kicked us off and we were stuck in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night with all our gear and possessions. We just laughed about it, though. I’m glad that guy never sued us.


Wow! Nothing seems to bring a band together like assaulting a bus driver.

Yeah, for sure. We got kicked off the Warped Tour a few years back for starting a massive food fight, too. It got crazy and people started getting a bit aggressive, so they made us pack our bags and leave.


That seems to be a reoccurring theme to your tours. Are you guys a violent group of dudes, or do your vices just spark up your mean streaks?

We’re just intense a lot of the time. It’s all passion and drive and emotion in what we do, so sometimes it gets the best of us. Even the bad stuff is good eventually. For example, we were playing a huge show on the East Coast and our guitarist and singer had been fighting all day about some stupid shit. We got on the stage and before we knew it, they were beating the shit out of each other in front of the whole crowd. That may have seemed bad back then, but now it’s one of our favorite stories together.


I see. So do you have any bonding moments that don’t include attacking each other?

Of course, man. Just a couple of tours ago we ate a ton of mushrooms during a 12-hour ride across country. They were these huge, beautiful stems and caps. We laughed and freaked out for the whole ride. My abs seriously hurt when the ’shrooms wore off. Come to think of it, a small tour bus is a horrible place to take shrooms. No wonder we were freaking out so badly!


And oddly enough, no one engaged in fisticuffs during your psychedelic trip?

Not so much, but we don’t do mushrooms that often. My usual vices on the road are a few joints after a show and a bottle of Jameson.


Ah yes, the Guns N’ Roses diet—a cornerstone of health for touring musicians.

Hey man, I’m not an athlete. I’m just a kid who got lucky and gets to fulfill his dreams by playing music all day. 


Well, I can’t argue with that. I don’t think my health care covers flashlight wounds to the head.

Naw, we don’t fight with the press—unless they give us a shitty review, that is.


“Unwritten Law, Live and Lawless: 5 stars out of 5.”

OK, we’re cool, then (laughing).

                                                                                                   -GX-

Unwritten Law– “Save Me” (live)

Unwritten Law– “Up All Night” (live)

Unwritten Law– Bassist Pat Kim, Vocalist Scott Russo, Guitarist Steve Morris

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