Sacred Words: An Interview With Scott “Wino” Weinrich
In which I chat with one of my musical heroes, a living legend, about life, new music, old music, Jean-Paul Gaster and The Obsessed‘s upcoming tour.
Boss The Ross: [phone rings]
Hi, Mr. Weinrich?
This is Boss the Ross with Toilet Ov Hell.
Hi! How’s it going? You can call me Wino. I appreciate everything, though.
Oh, alright [nervous laugh] We can roll right into it if you’re ready.
Yeah, you can start it out, that’s totally fine
Cool! To start off, How’s life been treating you right now?
Life is actually pretty good right now, I’m sitting in Maryland right now where I live with the drummer of the band. It’s also the state where my family lives, so I’ve been here for a couple of years. Things are great, things are good, man, we’re rehearsing for the tour and we’re getting ready to take it out to the peeps.
Very cool, to jump right in, you’ve been in quite a few bands over the years throughout Heavy Metal’s history, what does The Obsessed represent to you?
The Obsessed represents to me, sort of like my real, true vehicle for my art and for my vision. It represents passion, it represents my drive. But mainly, it’s primarily my vehicle for allowing me to continue to carry the torch because I think that’s what I’m here to do. I think that I was given a gift, I think that it’s my job, my duty to enhance people’s lives, to try to enhance people’s lives or enrich people’s spirits and my own by continuing to carry the torch of this Rock and Roll trip.
I know for a fact that you’ve had a pretty big impact on myself as far as musically and personally through your music, so I really appreciate what all you’ve done.
Thank you, sir. I appreciate you for saying that.
I want to talk about the history of The Obsessed for a little bit if that’s alright. You initially formed in 1980 but before releasing your debut the band actually split up and then you went to join Saint Vitus. what can you tell us about that time?
I can tell you exactly what happened, what happened was is that we were sitting around Maryland, you know, as a 3 piece, and we had a little bit of dough so we decided to go into the studio and record a full-length record and we figured that if we did it on our own dime and had it in the can, it would be much easier and probably more advantageous to us, to license it to somebody. So we did that. Our manager at the time, a friend of ours, went to California to shop said record. So he ended up talking to Brian Slagel from Metal Blade Records, okay? Now at the time, the deal that they offered was, you do one song on their Metal Massacre compilation, they had a whole series of Metal Massacres, one through… you know? Trouble was on one of them with my favorite Trouble song [“The Last Judgement” – BtR], blah, blah, blah, okay, so you got one song on the Metal Massacre Series and you got a full length, that was the deal. Well, our song “Concrete Cancer” came out on Metal Massacre VI, but right at that very moment, Thrash hit. I mean, on that compilation there’s the debut of Nasty Savage, there’s Possessed, Dark Angel. You know, Slayer was on Metal Blade and they were climbing to the top and so it’s like, basically, Brian put our track on there but he said he thought our track was dated, he thought our music was dated, so we never got the full length. So basically I held on to it and later on when Saint Vitus got picked up by German label Hellhound, they asked me if I wanted to release that record on Hellhound, which I did. Now, interesting you brought it up because Relapse is just getting ready to rerelease the same record. It came out of print and then Joe Lally, from Fugazi, when he started his label Tolotta and was putting out Spirit Caravan stuff, he put out a version of it with a different cover and then also had a live set on there from a recreation center that we did a while back.
So, fast forward to now, Henry [Vasquez] from Saint Vitus started a label in Texas called Hankenstein Records. He wanted to put it out so we let him press some but right at the minute he presses, we got the deal with Relapse and they said, “hey, we want to release the self-titled as part of your deal with Sacred.” So Henry, generously enough, we bought the ones that he had already pressed, which was a small amount. And then I put together this fucking super, killer package that’s coming out on Relapse. What it is, it’s the first, Obsessed’s Self-titled record, remastered. I just signed off on the mastering yesterday [March 16th, 2017] and with it comes a bunch of old demos, I think we called it The Cross Demo, which is pretty cool with early versions of songs. And then also this live set that we just dug up from when we played a whole lot of shows in Washington DC at The Bayou, right in our heyday. I remember it was sort of like the “prime time” and then we managed to dig up all of these old photos, set lists from the gig and things like that. So basically, Relapse is putting out a really, really, nice package of the self-titled with all this bonus stuff. I’m pretty excited about everything that is happening with Relapse because they’re really doing it right, they’re treating us really good and it’s happening good, man.
That’s fantastic news! Thank you so much for sharing that. I am definitely looking forward to that.
As a matter of fact, I think that nobody has asked me about that so this is really the first I’ve talked about it. So like I said, I actually okayed the mastered version of the studio stuff yesterday and then they’re mastering all of the other stuff separately, so we’re piecing it together.
I know that when you first announced the reunion of The Obsessed and that the album was coming out, initially it was just going to be the one album on Relapse if I recall. Just the one album deal. So did this reissue just build upon that?
It was actually a two album deal, we just really didn’t talk about it. I mean, we wanted to get Sacred done, in the can, mastered and released; and then this is going to be kind of a follow-up thing. But the packaging of the self-titled with all this other stuff is really elaborate so it’s taking a little while but it’s going to be really cool, man.
I’m sure the re-release will be super rad. Are there any plans for the other two Obsessed albums after that?
Well, I mean we’ll see, you know. Lunar Womb, that’s with Scott Reeder and Greg Rogers, and then The Church Within was actually rereleased by this cat a couple of years ago who bought it from Sony, man. He paid a lot, I think he paid like 50 grand! Did you see what he did? It’s a pretty nice record, it’s a vinyl gatefold but you know the amount of money he had to spend to get the rights, I think he gave me two CDs and two or three of the vinyl records and I’m not even sure if I have one. I think I gave my copies to a friend actually, but it was a really nice package, you know, I re-wrote the liner notes and everything like that. We’ll have to see, I mean, I’m sure down the line Relapse might want to rerelease The Church Within but the fact that Sony has it, it’s a little tricky.
Yeah, I know Sony tends to hoard their stuff. I know Clutch was with them for Elephant Riders [under Sony’s Columbia sub-label] and that is one of their big issues with their re-releases they’re doing.
Yeah, I’m a big Clutch fan too, obviously.
Clutch is my favorite band, personally, and whenever you did your solo album and had Jean-Paul Gaster on drums that was like a dream come true for me.
Oh, yeah! That was a lot of fun, man, really a lot of fun. It really is a shame about Jon Blank [bassist on Punctuated Equilibrium], he was a great kid, a great player, it was just a shame about his death. But you know, because of Jon Blank’s death and Jean-Paul’s enthusiasm is really why I started playing acoustic guitar. The “Wino” band with Jon Blank was going to support Clutch on a whole United States tour. We came back from Europe, actually Roadburn was Jon Blank’s last show before he died, so when we came back we had a week then the “Wino” band, with Jon and Jean-Paul, were going to support Clutch on a pretty big tour, like a two month tour. But when Jon died, I was completely devastated. We had all the press from Punctuated Equilibrium and everything. And Jean-Paul said to me, “Man, let’s keep the ball rolling, let’s not let the enthusiasm die down” he goes, “why don’t you just get on the bus with us and play acoustic guitar to support us every night? You’ll play first before the support act, pay a certain amount of money for the bus fees and then just play acoustic.” So, that was pretty daunting there and actually before I recorded Adrift, so basically, thanks to Jean-Paul for kinda giving me that little nudge and that little helping hand and that is why I started playing acoustic guitar. Eventually those songs that I started working on, that’s what eventually became Adrift. So, hats off to JO, man! He’s a man among men, I’ll tell you.
That is phenomenal to hear! You did have, what was it, four acoustic albums over the past few years, including the Townes Van Zandt cover album. So this new album with The Obsessed is, I’d guess you’d say, “return” to your electric, heavy and doom attitude. Was this the plan all along or was it just something that felt right?
Well, to be honest with you, it really never felt right. People have always wanted me to do The Obsessed reunion and have always asked and that stuff but it really never felt right. Basically, Spirit Caravan was doing some touring recently. The last drummer we had had was Ed Gulli, who was the last Obsessed drummer. Now, Ed Gulli’s friend, his tech from back in the day, was Brian Constantino. I hadn’t seen Brian play in thirty years. In this interim, in this thirty years of not seeing each other, Brain became a drummer. When we were younger, he didn’t play drums but in this time he became a kick ass drummer! And so one day, when we were coming off tour with Spirit Caravan it became obvious to us that Eddy wasn’t really into the live thing and probably wasn’t going to move forward. Brian, at some point, sat down behind the kit and me and Brain had a short little play. Then, I was pretty blown away because I could tell right away that something special was happening. So later on when the end of the ride came up for Spirit Caravan, I told Brian we had to jam. Brain was never really in Spirit Caravan but he was always on the set. We put Spirit Caravan to bed, Dave Sherman rolled his [speaker] cabinets and stuff over and we reformed The Obsessed and it was me, Brian and Sherman.
Alright, so, we got offered the deal with Relapse and because of the fact that the chemistry with Brain was just so amazing that I felt completely re-energized, completely inspired so I had to write a handful of songs. I mean, I had some old riffs, some new riffs, and some future riffs but all of a sudden we got offered this deal with Relapse and it was like a dream come true. We only had only six or seven songs ready, but we took the deal and totally knuckled down and made Sacred. I mean, I had to dig pretty deep, there’s some seriously old stuff on there and some stuff that never would’ve seen the light of day. We re-recorded “Sodden Jackal” and all that, but the bottom line is that after the studio and some live shows we realized that for one reason or another it wasn’t going to work out with Dave Sherman. So then, for a brief period, I tried a little experiment with the original bass player from The Hidden Hand, Bruce Falkinburg, and Sara Seraphim on second guitar for a minute. We did four or five shows, they were cool, pretty strong, but when the touring picture came up and the commitment level came up, everyone showed their true colors. So then Bruce had to be replaced, we replaced him with [Reid] Raley and then Sara left too. Now, we’re back to a three-piece with me, Brian and Reid. But I think the record came out fantastic and that’s the story. This is the final and the chemistry between me, Brian and Reid is unbelievable. I guess what people say, that everything happens for a reason is pretty true. it was kind of a painful weeding out process, I must admit, but in that interim, we managed to find this, which is really beautiful.
It definitely does sound, from how you’re describing it that a lot of things just fell into place or out-of-place and that this is where you should be right now with music, right now at least.
You know, that’s how I feel. I feel truly energized and its inspired me. [The process] wasn’t quite that easy, there was a serious relationship that fell apart and everything, but you know the bottom line, man, is that it is what it is and we move forward from here.
I want to jump back, just a little bit, into your history. Whenever you were talking about being on the Metal Massacre VI comp and that Brian Slagel says your sound was dated and they didn’t want to release the self-titled album, that was right before you joined Saint Vitus and then Born Too Late dropped. the lyrics to the title song basically describe that circumstance.
That’s true! And I will tell you right now, I didn’t write very much [for Saint Vitus], Dave Chandler writes almost all of the Saint Vitus stuff. He wrote the lyrics for “Born Too Late”, but, you know what? I never sang anything in Saint Vitus that I didn’t feel that I could identify with. So that’s why I wasn’t on Children of Doom and that’s why I wasn’t on the other Saint Vitus records, because I could not identify with those tunes. But! Yeah, I mean, “Born Too Late” that’s the fucking rally cry of the generations! And I was totally into that.
I can certainly respect the thought process behind not being on albums you couldn’t identify with. That was very cool hearing from you about the situation.
Yeah! I wrote very few songs for Saint Vitus. Obviously, I wrote a couple of songs. On Mournful Cries, I wrote “Bitter Truth” and played guitar on it, I played guitar with David on “Dragon Time”, which he wrote, and then I wrote “Looking Glass” and played guitar. That was a really cool line-up actually, when we first went to Europe, the very first time, I would sing half the set solo and then I would pick up my guitar and we would do those songs, you know, [the three I wrote] in the middle of our set as a two-guitar thing and then I’d put my guitar back down and sing the rest. And let me tell you what, that was fucking some heavy shit right there. There was always a kind of weirdness, professional-joke, kind of thing, where it took David up to the last tour we did for him to realize that I was on his team. Kinda sad but it’s true, you know?
One of those things.
Okay, so since we talked about the Saint Vitus lyrics, I want to talk about a few your lyrics for The Obsessed, especially for the new album. I’ve listened to Sacred and I have to say that it’s phenomenal. I was just floored by the groove, the heaviness, everything just seemed perfect. That this was THE The Obsessed album that needed to come out. I think my favorite song was “On So Long” [at this point Wino made a “Mmm” sound in agreement] and your lyric “I was born with my heart on my sleeve/And I’m sworn to what I believe,” like that was just, it’s one of those lines that sounds like an obvious statement, but hearing it from you and knowing your history, it’s just powerful. So, would you say this basically describes who you are?
It does describe who I am as a person and I’m often… first of all, thank you, I appreciate that. [“On So Long”] is a very, very personal song. I refer to that song as my epitaph. But I would say that your statement is wholly accurate and that is exactly what it is. I mean, it’s a personal record, you know? It is just a real passion, I believe, and a real past. The reality of it is, when it comes down to it, it really is just the power of the song. And part of what gives the songs their life is the passion. So for me to not open myself up completely to the music would be doing the music and my spirit an injustice. And some of these songs are hard, I will tell you that they are about my daughter and my sons. When I was recording [“On So Long”] there was quite a bit of rough versions where I couldn’t even sing, I was getting so choked up. And I gotta tell you, I have a hard time. When I listen to that song if I’m listening to the whole record, when that song comes up about my children, I’ll probably just be sitting there crying. Because it’s a passionate thing, man, it’s all about passion. I mean, fuck, my life is an open book anyway, but you know what I mean. I appreciate [what you said], I think that’s very accurate, actually.
Wow, thank you for saying that! From what you were saying and how very personal and how emotional this ride has been that the word “sacred” as an album title seems to be the perfect match. It describes the music, the lyrics, the emotional connection with you and then what the audience that will hear from the album.
Yeah, that’s absolutely right, man.
So, obviously, you’ve been in music for a long time. Would you say that you’re the same man from the first self-titled album in 1980? Are you still the same, at your heart?
I think I’m still the same at my heart, I mean, I will say that I have been accused of being a cold, black-hearted, evil person up until these last years. Listen, you know, people like to talk and one thing I’ll tell you about is that they love to see you fail. Jealousy manifests itself in a lot of weird ways, there is a lot of people who want to see me fall but the bottom line is I would say that I am still the same person. My personal relationships have been turbulent for sure, but I attribute it to the passion of the industry. I’m definitely not perfect.
None of us are.
Right? I’ve been accused of a lot of ugly shit, some of it is accurate but most of it is not. The bottom line is, I think that I am the same person. I’m the same person because all I want to do, really, is play my guitar and live my life and hopefully enrich other people’s lives as well, you know?
From my perspective, you definitely have enriched my life and personally, I know a few other people who have been touched by your music and your message, so I think that you have definitely succeeded in that respect.
Thank you so much.
To highlight a few more details regarding Sacred, the album does come out April 7th and shortly after that, you will be starting a two-month tour with Karma To Burn. Are you looking forward to that?
I’m totally looking forward to that! We’ve been itching, we’re chomping at the bit, literally. Another cool thing about the tour is we’ll be picking up Fatso Jetson with Mario Lalli. He comes from the old-school way back when. I met him when him and Scott Reeder were in Across The River, which was pre-Kyuss and all that stuff. So Mario’s band will be with us for a minute and then when we get to the westcoast, we will actually be supporting Weedeater. So it’ll be Weedeater, The Obsessed, Karma To Burn, Primitive Man and Lo Pan for the dates on the West Coast, which I think will be fucking great. And as we move into Texas it’ll move to The Obsessed, Karma To Burn and Lo Pan.
And that’s what I’m looking forward to! I’m in Dallas, so I’m definitely going to be at your date here.
Dude! Have you been down to Henry’s store yet? His Saint Vitus record store, Born Late?
Oh, yeah! I’ve been there.
Okay, cool! So you know then. Henry, he’s a piece of work but he’s a great guy, he’s got it going on there, man.
They actually just rearranged a lot of their stuff, so I gotta go check it out soon. See how their new setup is, but it is definitely an excellent store.
Yeah, when you go down there, tell him I said hey, alright?
Alright! I will do that! So, in regards to all of your live shows coming up, are you planning on mainly focusing on the new material or will some deep cuts pop up in the set lists?
Surprisingly enough, we’re playing an hour and fifteen minutes and we’ll play six or seven new songs. So, the new record will be quite well represented and we’re digging deep on the old stuff too. I mean, it’s the live animal and the recorded animal and they’re two different things, you know? But we’re in hard rehearsals right now so I think it’s gonna be cool, man. I think it’s going to be pretty fun!
Excellent! Well, all of my interviews, I finish with asking, “what is your favorite Manowar album?” So I have to ask you.
[stifled laughter] Well, you know what? I don’t really even know all of the names of their records, but I’ll tell you one thing right now. Ross the Boss fucking rules! [audible laughter]
Yes, he does! I love that man.
Dude, I’m a Dictators fan to the bone! I’ve actually had some correspondence with Ross the Boss, he knows a little bit about my music and stuff. I saw The Dictators pretty recently in LA on their last couple shows.
That is awesome!
Man, I wish I could’ve seen them in the day. They didn’t have Andy Shernoff, they didn’t have Scott “Top Ten” Kempner, I wish I could see the original lineup but I never did. It’s sad.
Just one of those things, I guess Well, I think that about wraps everything up. Are there any last-minute things that you want to add, anything we didn’t cover already?
First of all, I really enjoyed the interview, it was kick ass! So thank you and be sure to introduce yourself when we come down through Texas. And all I can say is, thank you to all who believe.
Sacred comes out April 7th so be sure to pick it up and catch The Obsessed live on their tour, kicking off April 12th