Photo Credit: Susie Costantino
Interview by : Pam and Mark Schaff
MGM: Congratulations on the new album ‘Sacred’. We think the die hard fans are gonna love it. We also think you’re going to get a lot of new fans as well.
Wino: Great, thanks so much! I hope so, you like it?
MGM: We love it! Every time we listen to it we have a new favorite song.
Wino: Really! That’s cool, so great! That’s nice to hear.
MGM: So why was it time to get The Obsessed backup and running? I know when we spoke with Dave Sherman last summer at the Maryland Doomfest, he said that Brian was a big part of the decision.
Wino : Yeah, basically Brian was like, kinda the deciding factor. I mean I have done some reunions over the years and stuff. But the chemistry had really never felt right. You know, after ‘Sacred’, we’ve since parted ways with Dave, for different reasons, but I would say Brian was the difference here. Because me and him hadn’t seen each other in thirty years. He used to be our friend, and used to be around and would help our drummer sometimes back in the early days. So when we resurrected Spirit Caravan with Eddie Gulli, he was the drummer, then Brian turned up again. And in that interim of thirty years, he had become quite a proficient drummer. So when it became obvious that Spirit Caravan wasn’t gonna last, me and Brian had a little jam, and that’s sort of when everything was born.
MGM: Cool, so we have to thank Brian then. Next time we see Brian we have to say thank you!!! “Thank You, Brian”
Wino : Yeah, he deserves it.
MGM: That’s awesome because there’s a lot of The Obsessed fans been waiting a long time for this.
Wino : Yeah, I’m really glad we could do this. I know that I never really thought, or dreamed a year or two ago, that we would be doing what we doing right now. But you know, everything happens for a reason, and the timing seems to be right. I mean, in the past, with different endeavors, The Obsessed being signed to Columbia or whatever back in the day. It never really seemed like the timing was 100% right. Those are strange years, but I’m proud of this record, and we had to dig pretty deep to put it all together. And we definitely felt a little heat, but I think it came out pretty good. And I’m super happy with it.
MGM: That’s awesome! When we saw you guys perform last year at the Maryland Doomfest, we have just blown away, since then we’re really looking forward to the new album after we heard you guys play new song ‘Be The Night’ for the first time. We just loved it, and couldn’t wait to hear more new tunes. How would you compare ‘Sacred’ to other The Obsessed albums previously put out?
Wino : Well I know that we set the bar for ourselves pretty high with ‘The Church Within’, that’s for sure. And I know that our current bass player Reid Raley, you know back in the day, we had talked about getting The Obsessed back together, said that “It’s gonna be a tall order to make it as good or better”. But I think that it’s sort of about diversity, I think, you know when I woke up one morning and realized that ‘Stranger Things’ didn’t have to just be an acoustic tune. I was writing that song and kinda had it earmarked for an acoustic trip. And I woke up one morning and just realized, hey I don’t have to put stuff in this box. The Obsessed has always been about diversity. So that’s when I was like, let’s take this song and make it an electric song. And that gave us some cool ideas to do with Craig. I must say, our engineer Craig Marchand, his nickname is “The Punisher”, he was running our sound at Maryland Doomfest. But he, and his associate Rob Queen, both made some really good suggestions in the studio. You know an idea here and there. It was kinda cool, we really had a nice team. And his command of the digital realm is pretty amazing considering how fat and warm it sounds. I mean, it sounds like an analog record, but it’s all digital. But he had quite an array of analog stuff to play with too. I mean it was crazy in there. He had about ten guitars in there. I took this one picture, I was just laying on the couch surrounded by guitars. Pretty amazing.
And he had old drums to choose from too. So by deciding, and making a good decision to go with him, we decided we got the best of both worlds. We got the digital realm, his ability, and we also got his vast arsenal of cool vintage stuff to use. You know I just think that we had to dig pretty deep, there are a couple really old songs on there. I thought for sure to put the song ‘Sodden Jackal’. I never felt that song was recorded right, cause it was the first single from the eighties. I thought it was produced pretty poorly, there were some stories involved there, but you know, basically the bottom line is it was produced really bad. I wanted to do that song justice, so that was the first thing we set out to do. Make sure that song got re-recorded right. ‘Cold Blood’ is a really old riff that I had. It actually goes all the way back to when I was 17 or 18 years old, I had that riff. And it just never seemed right. I just remember one day in rehearsal, we were starting to like to slow the time a bit. We took the record deal knowing that it was a kick ass label, and we got offered a really good deal, and we still had a little bit of writing left to do. So there was definitely a little bit of pressure. So when I busted out ‘Cold Blood’, then everybody liked the riff, they all just looked and were like wow, that’s kinda cool this old song. Let’s do this old song and make it, it’s timeless. So that was pretty cool, and then the song ‘Sacred’ itself has been kicking around for a minute, you know I’ve had that, me and Reid Raley actually, and Greg Rogers, started to work on a version of that for the Maryland Deathfest back in 2013. For one reason or another, we had put a little too much on our plate.
I mean that songs been around, but never quite finished or arranged, so we did some diggin’. But you know we added the two covers, and I must say that I’ve always been looking for covers to do, and I had never even heard ‘It’s only Money’ until about a year ago. And we were driving either on the Spirit Caravan tour or maybe it was on the last, “Hey Brain”, was it on The Obsessed tour we heard ‘It’s only Money’? “Yeah, we were driving on the last tour and we heard it in a playlist”. That song came on and I was like, this is fucking killer, I had never heard the song before. That was right up our alley. ‘Crossroader’, that’s a song that I’ve always loved. Been one of my all time favorite songs forever and ever. I really play slide guitar because of that song still. It’s a culmination of a lot of different stuff, different influences, and a lot of time. But yeah, I’m glad people are digging it.
MGM: You guys are getting ready to hit the road to support ‘Sacred’. What can fans expect? Any surprises? What are songs from the new album you looking forward to playing live?
Wino : We’re playing quite a few songs from the new album actually. I think we’re playing six songs I think. We’re playing ‘ Be The Night’, ‘Sacred’, ‘Razor Wire’, Sodden Jackal’, the only songs that we’re not, I don’t think we’re quite ready to bust out ‘On So Long’ yet. But we’re close, pretty close. I mean we’re going to be playing a lot of new stuff and quite a bit of old stuff. I think our set is about and hour and fifteen minutes.
MGM: You’ll have a nice mix of old and new material. Sounds Great!
Wino : So if people want it, they’re gonna get it, that’s for sure! We’re back to the three-piece, the little experiment with the second guitar didn’t work. But we feel that the chemistry is right now, so we’re ready to unload. We’re getting all our gear ready, we’re psyched!
MGM: Speaking of that, I’m a gearhead and know you love your Sunn Model T amps, are you breaking out the Model T’s for the tour?
Wino : Well you know what, I actually do have an old model T, but I have to get the time to pick it up. So that’s a few logistics to go. What I’m gonna try to have when we hit the road, it’s a 72 Model T without the mid switch. I usually load those up with some sort of modern 12AX7’s, because it gives it a little bit more sustain. Then I use a really high-quality Lehley switcher box which allows me to bridge a couple amps together. I’ve recently been using Paul Reed Smith Archon, 100-watt head. It uses a 6L6 tubes, which wasn’t really my tube ever, but I found a way that, in combination with the pickups I’m using now, and the tone capacitors in my Les Pauls, I’m able to get a pretty nice Model T kind of sound. So with any luck, I’ll be running an OT Model T, 70’s Model T, into two Tyrant cabinets. I’ll have that bridged up with my other Archon. It’s all about getting the cabinets. We have a few logistic issues we have to work out, but you know we’ll see what happens. If nothing else, I’ll at least be using the Model T and two tyrant cabinets but my goal is to have four cabinets.
MGM: That’s gonna be nice and loud!
Wino : You know loud is good, if it’s right. If it’s just plain loud, you know there’s phase issues when you run that much stuff. You have to pay attention to that kind of stuff. You can have two cabinets stacked up on each other, and they can both be out of phase with each other. Which is always something you gotta look out for, but yeah, I’m a gearhead to the bone too.
MGM: That’s cool! Since you guys signed to Relapse it seems like the thing has taken off at like lightning speed. It looks like your having a good relationship with this record company. Is it just a one off deal or do you have a multi-album deal with Relapse?
Wino : Well the deal that we took, that they offered, is that they’re also going to be releasing the first Obsessed record. They’re also going to be releasing the self-titled record. We’ve put that together, that’s going to come next. We’ve put that together with a really killer package, where we found a really old set from the eighties, from the Bayou down here in Maryland. We put some demos on there that never saw the light of day before. I found a shitload of old pictures, so we put together a really nice package. So the first Obsessed record will be coming out. Then we’ll see what happens, I mean we’re totally happy so far. And if they want to another record, I’m sure that we will.
MGM: Great! That’s awesome! You’ve been doing this for a long time. And you’ve been a part of some iconic and amazing bands over the years, like Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, Probot, Heavy Kingdom, The Hidden Hand, do you plan on continuing to do non-Obsessed projects in addition to The Obsessed?
Wino : I’m 100% focused on this right now. This has always been my baby. It just feels so good. I mean right now, at this point in time, I just want to dive 100% into this. We have a lot of places to reach, and we want to tour really hard for this record. We want to tour the US completely. We want to tour the UK completely. We’re working really hard to getting back into Europe. So then after that, hopefully, it would be another record. We actually have a couple songs, a couple new songs, there just possibilities. I’ll play a little acoustic guitar here and there. Just when the electric band has down time and stuff. But I plan on putting all my energy into The Obsessed.
MGM: You’ve performed with a lot of musicians over the years, and if you had to pick a musician or project you’ve been involved in, what would your favorite be?
Wino : My favorite project out of all?
MGM: Yeah, like the favorite musician you’ve played with? Or a project you’ve ben involved with. I mean you’ve played with Lemmy!
Wino : I think, my favorite project is what I’m doing right now. I feel so good with this environment, and we have this great comradery and everything, you know. I just feel like, I’ve been honored, and definitely proud to be a part of other bands. Stood up onstage next to Lemmy, which was amazing, and Grohl which was amazing, and other people, Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Dale from Melvins, Al from Sleep, It’s all been really beautiful, but this is where I feel the best. Right here.
MGM: Cool! I know you’ve been around, and probably seen a lot of shit. I’m sure some really crazy stuff. What do you think is the craziest thing you’ve ever done on the road? If you can tell!
Wino : Craziest thing I’ve ever done on the road! (Laughs)
MGM: Or you’ve seen? (Laughs)
Wino : Oh I don’t know, I’d have to think about that one. Before I get myself in trouble. (laughs) You know I can tell you a story that comes to mind. So I was in Saint Vitus, it was in the eighties, we were playing at this place called, let me think about this now, it was in San Francisco in the height of skinhead days. We were hated, we were completely hated. There was a massive skinhead scene in the San Francisco area, I’m trying to think of the name of this place, it wasn’t called the Slaughterhouse, it was called the, um, the Stockyard I think it was. Because at one point in California history it had been a livestock, an underground livestock holding area. This was outside San Francisco like right on the outskirts. And we were playing with a couple bands. So there was this heavy duty skinhead gang that had been banned from this club. I’m gonna have to say this is like in ’85, wait for a second, let me think about this, I joined Vitus in umm, yeah yeah, maybe closer to ’87.
So this club that we’re playing at, Stockyard Club, had banned the skinhead gang people and they keep them from coming in the club and causing trouble. So they were outside the club, breaking bottles on the side of the wall, screaming shit, you know. And fucking, all of a sudden, I was coming down from the dressing room upstairs, and I was coming down to go into the venue. I had to pass by the front door. They had a couple hired security people, big security people that were running the door. You know, one guy sitting there taking the money, and another, pretty good size girl. They weren’t cops, they were security people, so they had billy clubs. Alright, so all of a sudden, you hear this big ruckus, and these skinheads rushed the door, I mean with blood in their eyes, they rushed the door. And at first these rent a cops were completely stunned, and it looked like they were going to get overrun. But then I remember that chick just broke out her billy club and started busting up bald heads. Yeah, I’m glad I can remember that it was crazy!
MGM: You have such a unique singing voice. And you have a signature guitar sound and style, and you’ve influenced many musicians and bands over the years. What were some of your biggest influences?
Wino : Um, well I’ve always loved Sabbath obviously. I’m a big Hendrix fan, I love the Beatles too. I must say I’ve always been particularly fond of Zappa, and some of his stuff. Some of my all time favorite solo’s are his guitar solos. I think, I also had a really lot of respect for Zappa, and Jello Biafra and Dee Snider when they stood up against the PMRC, that was pretty amazing. That was actually one of the pivotal moments for it, I realized that the political side of things, you know the real life side of things, was important. I used to have people in the day tell me, hey you know, your music would be ten times more powerful if you combined political elements into your lyrics. And that didn’t really happen until around the Hidden Hand. But you know I’d have to say, that really a lot of the traditional stuff. Like I said, I like Hendrix, I really love the Beatles, especially Lennon’s stuff. I’ve always been drawn to like the darker stuff. I really love melancholy stuff like Joy Division, early Sisters Of Mercy. I like passionate stuff, but I really like stuff that has a lot of low end to it.
MGM: Is there any newer bands that you really like?
Wino : Yeah, there’s a couple band I like. I like Clutch a lot. I think Clutch is great. They’re great people too. You know there’s some European bands that a really good. I really like Tool. I really like this young band called Elder, Elder is bad ass. Whenever I get asked this question, I’m really hard pressed because there is a lot I just can’t think of. That handful is pretty there. I really like Karma To Burn a lot, there a great rock and roll band. We’re going to be playing with them on our tour. And they’re playing in town on Saturday night too. Let me think about this now, it’s escaping me now, hopefully, that’s enough.
MGM: Definitely! Do you enjoy being on the road for long stretches? I know it can be a pain being on the road, but some people are just road dogs. Do you consider yourself just a road dog?
Wino : Well you know playing live is a different animal than being in the studio. And it definitely takes a lot of commitment. I mean, this is going to be really long, it’s gonna be seven weeks. It requires a lot of commitment, but yeah, I think that some people are more adept at it than others, but it’s really how you take care of yourself. If you take care of yourself and do your business and the prep work you need to do. Like if you advance your shows, and you keep people in the loop, and your in touch with the venues. What we’ve been doing lately, we’ve been sort of taking the reigns in our hands a little bit, and our booking agent, he puts out stuff. Like the advertisement, you see in the newspapers and stuff like that. It’s like an electronic ad that everybody uses for the tour. But then we’ve also been printing up our own posters, and like we hired this really amazing lady to draw a tour poster this time. Her names Christina Hunt, she’s from Denver, and she’s been doing some posters for this Electric Funeral Festival. But anyways, she did a really nice poster for us. We’ve been taking it upon ourselves to send out some posters on our own in advance to the clubs. Just try to make sure to get things rolling. Having a chance to talk to you, and do interviews like this is always helpful. And we’ll see what happens.
MGM: I just want to say thank you, it’s been an honor speaking with you, been huge fans for many years!
Wino : Thank you very much, I appreciate that it means a lot really.
MGM: I don’t want to take up too much of your time, just want to say thanks again, and good luck on the tour. And hopefully, we’ll see you somewhere down the road.
Wino : Alright, thank you!