From the many fists-aloft greeted announcement that reunited doom kings Saint Vitus will be playing the 2011 Metalalliance Tour (alongside Crowbar, Helmet, The Atlas Moth and more!) to his recent tenure in doom super group Shrinebuilder (with members of Neurosis, Om and The Melvins), the man known as Wino stays busy . Mastodon have an often overlooked EP called LIFESBLOOD, and Scott “Wino” Weinrich truly embodies the idea of music as life blood, the force that gets you through. Since the 70’s he has been one of the foremost pioneers in the underground rock world, delivering unapologetic riff after massive riff and grim lyrics that still aim for resolution. From The Obsessed to Saint Vitus to Spirit Caravan, Place Of Skulls, The Hidden Hand and his time in Dave Grohl’s Probot (to name a few), Wino pulls no punches and has earned enough stripes for several lifetimes.
Wino’s PUNCTUATED EQUILIBRIUM solo album in 2008 (featuring the brilliant Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch on drums) was critically acclaimed, but unfortunately Wino’s bassist for the material Jon Blank (of Rezin) died shortly into the touring. As a result of this and other personal tragedies, Weinrich looked inward and crafted his first ever acoustic album ADRIFT. He has just toured this pensive side of himself alongside Shrinebuilder bandmate Scott Kelly of Neurosis (and they even covered Joy Division’s “Isolation” together during the tour). If anyone thought ADRIFT would be a less intense experience than Wino’s heavier, occult referencing doom material, think again. He lays it bare and tells it like it is.
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A skilled photographer I knew years ago once lamented (when digital cameras were starting to be all the rage) that the art of dark room photography would eventually be lost. While it might be better for the environment and photographer to not involve/be exposed to so many chemicals in the development process (and a similar case could be made that MP3’s are better for the environment than CD packaging-who remembers when CD’s came in a jewel case AND a long display rectangular box back in the late 80’s/early 90’s?), there is something to be said for the craftsmanship involved in the old school approach. Many bands today cut corners and mask inexperience with Pro Tools trickery, eschewing the path of cultivated skill for the path of least resistance. The true lifers, the real deal musicians, will always soldier on nonetheless and even when they are the underdogs or “singin’ the blues”, they really deserve the most merit (the hidden meaning behind the Today Is The Day album title SADNESS WILL PREVAIL).
I was mulling over the difficulties of life as a musician and how hard it can be on relationships during a recent visit to Washington D.C. on this past Valentine’s Day. I’ve been singing for bands for 17+ years (currently for Kingston, NY’s Antidote 8). Financial struggles took a toll on several relationships over the years but I never stopped creating or writing as it is my true form of communication (note: AND why someone like Wino, Karyn Crisis or Henry Rollins are such big inspirations to me!).Walking through D.C. with my new girlfriend, white light was glaring off the Washington Monument. I was feeling particularly sensitive to the swirl of politics in the city around me and the onward march of the human existence. Where are we headed, Earthlings? Will we be remembered for authenticity or disaster upon disaster? What is the most honest form of our creative expression as a species and is it worth sacrificing everything for?
The Obsessed were big in the D.C. scene, the town that birthed Minor Threat and The Bad Brains. The themes of ADRIFT were on my mind, as well as the fact that Fugazi’s THE ARGUMENT was ten years old as of 2011. Music has changed so much and while it pays to be forward thinking, people shouldn’t mistake being “modern” for settling for gloss. Thank whatever god or goddess you prefer that Wino and his peers from the heyday to the present day or Eyehategod (playin’ their blues inspired, merciless sludge) or even new bands like Dallas, TX’s best space rock outfit Hello Lover or Brooklyn’s Made Out Of Babies really “keep it real”, obsessed (no pun intended) with rejecting artifice. If no one lives the dream for the sake of art and not just fame, all is Maya.
MORGAN Y. EVANS: I was wondering about the album title ADRIFT, this new album for Exile On Mainstream. This is your first acoustic record. There’s a sort of strength to the record. Even the cover artwork…It doesn’t seem lost or ominous as much as it is all a journey. Even during the songs that sound more troubled you seem to retain your identity amidst the wandering, so to speak.
SCOTT “WINO” WEINRICH: That’s really true. I had the music pictured for a long time but I didn’t finish the lyrical part until very recently. It’s how I feel. I had a lot of…I had one life I lived and all of a sudden it… changed. It’s almost like a dream. My music career has been great lately but my personal life… It seemed to be appropriate. It always seems to be a trade off, but you forge ahead. This music was a good way to blow off a lot of steam.
MYE: It has a feeling of change. There’s also a feeling of traveling or distance in many of the songs for sure, and not just in the Motorhead cover of “Iron Horse/Born To Lose”. You knocked that one out of the park.
WINO: I love that version of that song, y’know. I’m just happy to be doing it. I’m happy people are into the stuff.
MYE: Did you ever have an interest in any folk artists? This is a different headspace than your classic doom stuff but you’re able to maintain keeping the listener’s attention even when you are at minimal volume, which is difficult.
WINO: I was kind of late to the cool Americana stuff but I got turned on to Townes Van Zandt. I listen to a lot of Neil Young. When I got turned on to Townes Van Zandt, I was like, “Wow, man. This is intense.” Really dark stuff, so now I cover a couple of his tunes and started to investigate more of his stuff. I love all kinds of music including heavy, heavy rock. Some of my friends turned me on to that stuff and I think it’s fuckin’ cool, man. I dig it, y’know?
MYE: My friends band Nightmares For A Week just wrote a tribute to him and I’ve been digging him more and more. It goes to show…You’ve been playing music for a long time and pioneered a lot for the heavy music world but there is also always more to learn about and that’s cool. It keeps the conversation going.
MYE: I wanted to ask you about some of the songs in particular. I was hit hard by “Hold On Love”. It has powerful melodies and the lyrics are very personal but also could be applied to the outside world. It’s very powerful. You’ve always been a good lyricist (note: meant to mention here that I was thinking of the “Smile, Apostate From Hell” lyric about Bush from The Hidden Hand’s DIVINE PROPAGANDA) but this one is one of your strongest songs.
WINO: That song is on the radio today on NPR. It’s really great. I’m getting a lot of phone calls and people are talking about it. I was very excited to wake up to that, y’know? It kind of pulls it to the center. It’s nice when something like that happens. I do it because I love it but it’s nice and makes it more worthwhile when something like that happens where it hits the radio or something. It’s a goal that’s kind of hard to achieve these days to be in the public eye with all the stuff that’s out these days. I just want to keep writing my music and I’m glad I’ve got the opportunity to do it.
MYE: To talk some doom for a minute…I saw Vitus at One Eyed Jack’s in New Orleans a few years ago for a reunion show and now you guys are doing the Metalalliance Tour with Crowbar, Helmet, Kylesa and The Atlas Moth! I gotta try and catch one of the dates.
WINO: I’m looking forward to touring with Helmet. I met their new guitar player at a bar recently. It’s gonna be very intense, man. Without a doubt. Try and make it. It’ll be cool. It’ll be cool to talk gear with Laura Pleasants from Kylesa. With all the bands, it’ll be a lot of noise.
MYE: Back to the ADRIFT record, it’s really personal. You have the ability to really express yourself and put yourself out there as an artist. I’ve been thinking about freedom of expression in relation to what has been going on with the censorship in Egypt lately and I think sometimes people here take for granted that they can and should express themselves and enjoy that freedom.
WINO: Glad you appreciate it, man. A lot of people wondered why I wanted to bare my soul so much. It was definitely personal but definitely kind of a communion too. To me, I wouldn’t trade any of my past experiences for anything. That’s what gives you your insight. I’ve made a few mistakes. Shit happens, but I’m glad to get the music out there. That’s the important thing.
MYE: I loved how you incorporated a few blistering electric leads into some of the songs on ADRIFT still. It doesn’t tip the hand of the arrangements.
WINO: I liked the way they turned out on the album and unfortunately it’s hard to do live. When “Hold On Love” happened I was really mad that day. I was wondering and frustrated about the way the project was going. It was harder than I thought it was gonna be. I was pissed off that day and didn’t wanna do anything at all except play that lead on the end of “Hold On Love”. The first take I beat it and I think I’d walked into the studio that day and said, “I’ll tell you what…If I walk out of the studio with just that solo today, it’s a good day”. It turned out alright.
MYE: Was it hard from a sonic perspective or mixing?
WINO: There’s a lot of little things. Ins and outs. String noise. I recorded with Ray Tilkens, an old friend of mine. I was trying to do it with my friend J. Robbins who did PUNCTUATED EQUILLIBRIUM but he was booked solid. Ray is a great guy but he’s also a born again Christian. That’s ok, but he was really on this trip about preaching to me about it. (sigh) Man, we’ve been friends for years but at the same time it was getting to the point where I was like, “Dude, If you don’t fucking stop, I’m gonna leave.” Once I made it clear to him that he can believe what he wants to believe in and I’m gonna believe what I want and so, y’know…shut the fuck up! (laughing)
WINO:… Then that’s what it came down to. Once that was established everything was cool (chuckling). It seems like it was well worth it. He didn’t even want to play lead guitar anymore, but I got him to play some scorching solos. I told him, “You don’t have to worry, Ray. I don’t think you’re gonna burn in hell just ‘cuz you played a fuckin’ lead on my record.”
MYE: Jesus loves guitar. Speaking of which, you were at NAMM Convention this year, right? Did you do a presentation?
WINO: I didn’t really do a presentation but I was there. I noodled around a bit. I was there for a minute. It’s overwhelming. There’s a lot of people to talk to. I got offered a couple things.
MYE: I’ve heard there was tons of innovative new gear there this year.
WINO: The digital thing was really happening. I was pretty slow to embrace it but people are playing through their laptops now for preamps, you know? I had to be convinced. I’m a big fan of analogue so I had to be convinced.
MYE: Let’s talk aesthetics some more. People are obsessed with things being brutal but something mellower or psych rock like Roky Erickson can be just as wild as some far out metal. How do you approach the acoustic live shows versus playing with a full wall of sound roaring behind you?
WINO: Acoustically? Yeah, It’s a different challenge. The electric thing is always gonna be a part of me. People wondered if I am gonna go soft or something. I’m a heavy rock dude and I’m not gonna change.
MYE: It’s pretty funny people ask that since the Shrinebuilder record came out, like, last year or whatever.
WINO: People always speculate but the bottom line is I am gonna just do what I do.
(Wino Photo by Jimmy Hubbard)