In 2001, stoner-rock group Unida recorded an album for Rick Rubin’s American Recordings.
That album, now called For the Working Man, has become legendary: It was never formally released, due to various legal issues. It’s been said that the band sold CD-R copies at some shows, and that a rough-cut version was sent out on accident by the band’s management.
I recently saw a posting in a Facebook group by someone selling a version of the album on eBay. I alerted guitarist Arthur Seay—who hastily responded to the post, which was soon taken down.
Unida consists of John Garcia (formerly of Kyuss), Arthur Seay (House of Broken Promises and ApeShit), Miguel Cancino and Owen Seay.
During a recent interview with Arthur Seay in Palm Desert, he told me the story about the album.
“Do you want the long version, or the short-as-possible version?” Seay asked me with a laugh. “What happened was Rick Rubin signed us, and we recorded at Sound City Studios in Los Angeles. We did the record, but what we didn’t know when we signed is that Rick Rubin does four-year-long deals.
“His company, American Recordings, was signed with Sony/Columbia Records. Rick Rubin owns American Recordings, but Sony was the machine doing all the work at the time. Sony/Columbia loved us at the time and thought we did great shit. They wanted to build their rock; Alice in Chains was the only other big rock band (on the label), but that was when they were kaput (and wanted to build up their rock presence).
“When we were done with our record, Rick Rubin’s deal was up, and he could have signed with them again, or he could go somewhere else. He was pissed off at Sony about something. He made a deal to go back to Island/Def Jam, which was a 6-to-8-month-long deal, and another 6 to 8 months of, ‘Well, what the fuck is going on?’ All this crazy shit was happening, and we had it in our contract where we could get out, because they weren’t meeting deadlines. We used that to get out of our deal … but we didn’t get the record. We had other labels that wanted to buy it, and it cost $350,000 to record it. George Drakoulias, who worked with Tom Petty and the Black Crowes, produced it, and Rick Rubin executive-produced it.”
Seay, who has been a judge during recent local-music showcases, has been known to give bands not only pieces of criticism, but lessons in how the business works. He said musicians often have similar issues to the ones Unida faced.
“It’s one of those things that happens every day in the music business,” Seay said. “It happened to 10 other bands on the label, and a lot of those bands got totally fucked and couldn’t even get out of the deal to do anything else. Island/Def Jam didn’t have any rock bands at the time and didn’t really give a shit. It’s why you need to pay attention to the business, and that’s why I preach that to other people coming up in the business.”
Seay said he hopes the album will eventually see a proper release, possibly as soon as this year.
“It was actually supposed to come out last year, but due to our schedules, we pushed it back to this year. It just depends on everyone’s schedules,” Seay said. “All the other guys want to do it, and I’ve had meetings with the label. They went in the vault and found the record after a period in time where they couldn’t find it. It’s all there. It’s pretty much just everybody’s schedules coinciding where we can have the focus and do it right. I have new House of Broken Promises, Death in Pretty Wrapping and ApeShit records coming out. John is doing another solo record … but I definitely want to get that Unida record out. It’s been a thorn in our sides forever. It’ll be a mainstream, major-label push, which will help all our other projects. It’s going to be new to a lot of people, and it stands up today as it did then. The music is as cool now as it was then.”
While there unofficial mixes from the album on YouTube and in other places that Seay can tolerate, he had a big problem with the aforementioned offering I saw mentioned on Facebook.
“We did this whole rough mix with another engineer before we even did the final mix, and the guy had that—and I don’t even fucking have that,” Seay said. “I’ve been trying to track that guy down, because that’s our property. That’s like the actual CD master from the studio. It’s not just that he has a copy; he has the actual CD master from the studio.”
Seay said he has high hopes for For the Working Man.
“I hope people buy it; we make money; and we tour our fucking asses off,” Seay said. “We’d like to get it out and figure it out from there. We’d like for it to do well, and tour. I just want to get it out for it to see the light of day. If it grows legs, and we do a lot more, awesome.
“This has been like having your kids kidnapped for over 10 years. I worked really hard in writing all that music, and it’s like it’s been kidnapped, and I can’t do anything with it.”