Mike Ziegler and his adventures with Unwound

Olympia band Unwound is back on the scene

By Nikki McCoy on January 10, 2013

Imagine it's the early '90s. You are young, have an ear for music and love going to and recording shows. You hang on the scene long enough to make friends, start selling merch and next thing you know, you're at roadie status.

Fast forward to 2001, after working with the Melvins - and on the road with Kill Rock Stars band xbxrx - tours collide with a group that asks you to come along on its next tour.

With a Honda Civic Hatchback and Sony TCD-D100 DAT recorder and Core Sound Binaural mics in the trunk, plus the incentive of a little cash for doing what you love, you agree. Little do you know that you'll be driving a tour that will take you through the East Coast as the Pentagon is still smoldering from 9/11, that you will be accompanying a band that has been strong for the last 10 years, on its final tour, and that the music you record along the way will be compiled and released 10 years later in limited edition vinyl and unlimited digital downloads.

If this scenario happened to you, you'd be Mike Ziegler. Yes, that Ziegler - aka "The Kid," the man behind the recordings and known for his love of Nirvana, touring the circuit and bootlegging. The band was Unwound. Yes, that Unwound - the band that shared a stage with Fugazi, Bikini Kill and Sonic Youth, to name a few. Released Dec. 11, 2012 as a double live album, Live Leaves is a compilation of songs recorded by Ziegler from that tour, combed through by Unwound's front man Justin Trosper and polished up the best a bootleg can be.

"All the Unwound shows I taped were just for my personal archives," says Ziegler, who submitted roughly 30 recordings. "I never thought that they would be used for anything when I was actually recording them."

The tour that lasted from Aug. 28 to Oct. 21, 2001 and included an unusual five-piece line-up - which the group admits both added to and relieved the culminating pressure - landed smack dab in the middle of the twin tower attacks in New York City.

Unwound was set to play Sept. 12, 2011 with Mecca Normal and the Thrones at the Bowery Ballroom in New York City. The show was cancelled for obvious reasons.

"It was weird not able to watch TV and see what was going on in the world," says Ziegler, who met up with the band the following day in New Jersey. "I remember we attached an American flag to the antennae of my car hoping we wouldn't get pulled over for speeding."

Ziegler stayed on for the rest of the tour, mainly driving with bassist Vern Rumsey as his passenger, and "getting into shenanigans."

Little did he know that his time with Rumsey was helping alleviate the growing tension between core group members Rumsey, Trosper, Brandt Sandeno and Sara Lund.

Ziegler, plus touring guitarist David Scott Stone, a merch person and sound guy, helped cushion the soon-to-be breakup of the band.

"It was a weird tour," says Trosper. "In the middle, 9/11 happened and needless to say, that affected everybody. We were supposed to play New York the day after and we were already experiencing personal problems, so when that happened, it was kinda the straw that broke the camel's back. By the time we were in Cali, we were done."

Justin Trosper and Brandt Sandeno, Sept. 4, 2001, Southgate House, Newport, Ky. Photo credit: Mike Ziegler

Sara Lund, Sept. 4, 2001, Southgate House, Newport, Ky. Photo credit: Mike Ziegler

Vern Rumsey, Sept. 4, 2001, Southgate House, Newport, Ky. Photo credit: Mike Ziegler

Now, 10 years later, with the help of Ziegler and others, Unwound is back on the scene. They've launched a new website, are re-issuing everything they've put out, and have branched out into side projects, including up-and-comers Survival Knife, featuring Trosper and Brandt and rocker couple Kris and Meg Cunningham.

And of course, "The Kid" has already recorded all four of Survival Knife's Seattle shows.

"If I'm at a concert," he says, "I have my recorder at the ready."

LISTEN: unwoundarchive.com

LINK: Best of Olympia 2013



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