By Andrew Bansal
Los Angeles doom legends Saint Vitus are currently on their 35th anniversary tour across the US West Coast, and are spreading their heavy worship with the live performance of their 1986 album ‘Born Too Late’ in its entirety along with other classics as well as tunes off of the latest Season Of Mist release ‘Lillie: F-65’. They converted the Echoplex in their hometown into a temple of doom with a righteous 80-minute set last Tuesday May 13th, and prior to the show I sat down with singer Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich for a candid chat about a variety of topics such as this tour, playing ‘Born Too Late’, plans for the immediate future, new music, the Black Sabbath comeback, and other projects Wino is currently involved in. Enjoy the conversation below.
You guys are currently on this 35th anniversary tour in the States. First of all, was this a planned thing or did it just come up all of a sudden?
I think it came up when a lot of people told us, “Hey, this is your 35th anniversary! Do you want to play it like that?” 35 years is a pretty long time! But it doesn’t matter, we’re here.
It fits because you’re doing the ‘Born Too Late’ album in its entirety, so it’s almost like a tour for fans who were born too late to catch the original tour for that album.
Oh yeah, a lot of the younger folks will really identify with that, as do we, and to fill our set we’re playing a bunch of other stuff too. We’re playing five songs before we start Born Too Late. So it’s a full set. We like to make sure people get their money’s worth, you know.
For you, singing these songs now, how is that going?
I’m still loving it! We got some new stuff in there too. I love singing songs from Born Too Late, and I love singing all of the old stuff. It’s the music before I joined the band that I loved, you know. The interesting thing is, we worship Sabbath, and I saw Sabbath when I was 12, on the Paranoid tour. I’m 53 now, but right now we’re at the age that Sabbath was when we were little, you know what I mean? So it’s really cool to be able to do it. We were split up for a while, and a lot of people told me that they never thought they would see this. We never thought it would happen either, but I’m glad it did. A lot of it has to do with this guy over here [drummer Henry Vasquez] because Armando Acosta passed away and that was sad, but we resurrected the band with Henry’s energy and I think we’ve taken it to another level. I mean, Armando rest in peace of course, but I’m glad we can keep it going.
Playing this album must mean more to you also, because it was your first album with the band, so you’re kind of reliving that feeling almost.
Oh yeah dude, I remember those days like yesterday. Michael Lardie from Great White was the engineer, which was pretty interesting and he was great. He was totally cool, with Joe Carducci the SST guy producing. He knew what we wanted, and I added my two cents to the production a little bit too. I think it sounds pretty great!
A couple of years ago when you put out the ‘Lillie: F-65’ album, Dave Chandler was doing a round of phone interviews and I talked to him about how your vocals have progressed. He said they’ve aged like fine wine.
Well, I’m flattered (laughs). But I think everybody in the band is playing at the top of their game. We like to rehearse, we like to play, everybody can tour, and it’s cool. I’m having a lot of fun and that’s what it’s all about. When you stop having fun, it’s time to stop doing it. So it’s cool to be here. Technically I still have an apartment here in LA but I’m kind of a gypsy. But it’s unbelievable to sell 120 pre-sale tickets for this show. To us that’s really something, you know. If there’s a couple hundred people in here for the show, to us that’s great because we’ve struggled, we know we’re an underground band and we don’t play radio music. We’re down to just play the music we want to play. So, now to have a little bit more of an audience, a little more success if you can say, it’s great.
Right, so is this Born Too Late thing only meant for this particular run or are you going to extend this 35th anniversary tour to other parts?
This is a short little run but we’re going to be touring pretty consistently. This is the Born Too Late tour so we’re playing the whole record, but even usually we play a lot of it. There’s only like two songs that we don’t play, so on any given night we almost play the whole record anyway. May be some day the fans will want to bring back more of a crowd for us. We’ll see!
The last album you put out was two years ago. Has anybody in the band been writing new music at all?
Oh yeah, we’re writing new stuff. I can’t tell you when it’s going to be ready but the riffs are flying around and Dave’s got a good amount of it down already. I think it’s going to be pretty cool! We’re doing all of Europe at the end of this year with Orange Goblin, and then we go into the studio after we get back from that tour. What we usually do is, we get one or two new songs down and take them with us on the road to test them, give people a taste of the new record and get the feel for it.
So you like to test them out live first before recording it.
That’s the best way to do it! We don’t really do stuff in the studio if we’ve never tested at least some of it live. I mean, sometimes that happens too, but it’s nicer to be able to do songs that we’ve played already, specially for my vocals. We get an idea of what works and what doesn’t.
Exactly. But, playing Born Too Late this year, do you think that’s going to have any impact on the next album and bring back that feeling in the writing?
To be honest with you, that’s an old record and we know that people want to hear that record and those songs. To me, songs like ‘War Starter’ are classics. But I still love stuff like ‘Mystic Lady’ and ‘White Magic/Black Magic’. We do that sometimes. But we also try to play as much of the new record as we can. I love a lot of the Scott Reager era stuff, and I dig ‘Burial At Sea’ a lot, but man, that’s a fucking hard one to sing.
Is that the hardest Vitus song for you to sing live?
Well, the thing about ‘Burial At Sea’ is, before I joined the band, they tuned to standard tuning. So when I came in to audition, I already knew that I needed it to be tuned down a half step for my voice and I figured that from what I did in The Obsessed. So I brought a tuner with me and my goal was to get them to tune a half step down. The first couple of times it was standard tuning, and it was hard for me. I was struggling. But then I convinced them to tune down, and everything fell into place. But when Reager came on to sing the song, that half step fucked him because he was used to singing it in standard tuning! So it’s a tricky tune, but I love it live.
You mentioned earlier about the Sabbath worship which is pretty obvious from the band’s name, music and everything. They made a comeback last year with a new album and tour. What’s your opinion on that?
I listened to the new record last night, and didn’t like it at all. I think it’s really contrived and I don’t think it sounds very original. I don’t really get it. I don’t know what it is, but usually, most musicians I know write music consistently and it’s kind of weird to me that they didn’t do a record for so long. To me it sounds kind of generic, I’m sorry, but that’s my opinion. I mean, it’s really well-produced but the songs just don’t sound all that original to me.
I agree, I didn’t think that album was anything special and I wasn’t on the same page with all the media outlets sucking up to it. But that’s just how it goes with bands like that.
Well yeah, it’s the Rick Rubin thing and they pushed it. It was already there, you know. That’s how it works. I mean, it’s amazing that they’ve gotten to that point because they were an underground band at one point, like we are.
But in terms of the vocals, what did you think of Ozzy’s voice on that record?
They sound amazing on the album. They’re really up-front and they’re really in key, but hey, who knows, because they probably used every tool in the fucking toolbox to make them sound like that, and that’s cool in the studio. But I’ve seen him live a bunch of times, and I love his voice. But I’ve also stood side-stage and seen the ghost singer who plays the keyboard for them. He sings along with them on everything, and they just bring him in and out to play the keyboard. That’s cool too, because hey, touring catches up with you.
Have you seen Sabbath live recently though?
No, but I saw the Heaven And Hell lineup and I was blown away. Ronnie James Dio was amazing, and I saw him just may be six months before he died. He sounded just as good as ever. I know the guitar player for his solo band, Doug Aldrich, and he told me that Ronnie James Dio ate nothing but meat and that’s why he got stomach cancer. It’s obviously very sad, but wow. Even Tony Iommi too, I read in an interview with him and apparently he doesn’t know anything about alternative treatments to his cancer. He’s just accepting what the doctors tell him. With modern medicine, if you live another five years they consider that a success, you know. There’s so many ways you can treat cancer now, but of course the pharmaceutical companies don’t want you to know that. They want you to buy chemo. It’s become a business, and it’s kind of a shame. It’s sad that Tony is just accepting their decisions. May be we should write him a letter. I sure hope there’s somebody out there talking to him about this stuff.
Exactly, man. So I have just one more question for you. Aside from Vitus, you’ve had a lot of other musical endeavors as well. What’s the update on your other projects right now?
Well, I’m really into playing acoustic again. My German friend and singer/songwriter Conny Ochs did the ‘Heavy Kingdom’ record and we’re going to do another acoustic record. Right now that’s it, man. Everybody tells me to pick a band and that I get into so many bands, but hey, Cisneros is insane so Shrinebuilder is not going to happen, Premonition 13 was all groovy until people got weird, so that’s over. So now I play acoustic guitar and I sing in Saint Vitus! I mean, I’ll probably do another electric guitar record at some point. Spirit Caravan is the main thing I’m playing electric guitar in, so we’ll probably do some more with that. We just did a two-month tour, with Henry on drums, which was great and he saved my ass on that one. Now he’s a full-time member in that too. I’m not really into lazy work ethics and back-stabbing motherfuckers, so we had to make a change.
Remaining tour dates:
5/20 Salt Lake City, UT @ In The Venue
5/21 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theatre
5/23 Austin, TX @ Red 7 Outside
5/24 Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s Downstairs
5/25 Dallas, TX @ Three Links