"They're Gonna Need A Bigger Bus" - An Interview With Wino of THE OBSESSED
Scott Weinrich, perhaps better known as the legendary Wino, is a mysterious and magical man. He's the sort of guy who managed to become a legend in his own lifetime but remains humble and down to earth, an attitude that frequently finds its way into his band The Obsessed's first offering in 23 years, Sacred, due out April 7th on Relapse.
Throughout my interview with him, I was struck by how, despite a lifetime of rock and roll madness, his grip on reality was firmer than my own. His clear passion and drive for creating music came through like hammer blows with every word. Wino has lived a thousand lives and has no problem telling you about all of them. Sitting with this great man in Relapse Record's hyper Brooklyn office was a pleasure as I was transported back in time and learned the stories of how his music came to be.
How the hell are you?
I've been doing really well! We just finished shooting our video, the record seems to be doing pretty well, we've been doing quite a bit of press.
It's fascinating because you're such a doom metal godfather, do you feel responsible for the scene?
I'm humbled and honored to be looked upon as an influential figure but I don't really dwell on the ego thing that much because I just want the music to talk.
You've been doing this for over forty years, why do you stick with it and why this genre?
My core philosophy has always been that I have been given a gift and I believe it is my duty to enrich other peoples lives and my own. Over the years if people tell me that my music got me through their day or saved their lives that's deeply meaningful to me. At this point in time, at my young age of fifty six I've always had to get up and leave. So I never learned how to do a trade. I've done a lot of work but I stay committed to music. I can't expect that commitment from everybody, which is why there has been such a revolving door. I'll tell you right now I totally understand if someone has a job or a family but it's about commitment. I've resigned myself to the fact that it's what I do and what I need to do. You can bet your ass though that your best offer is always going to be on your kids birthday!
For example – this just happened. My son who is a sophomore in high school just had his rock and roll singing debut but of course the way the days came down it was the day we were supposed to shoot the video! Luckily things worked out though otherwise I would have had to miss the shoot. It's all about commitment really.
How does your son rebel?
My son rebels by not rebelling. His mother, my ex, is supportive of his endeavors. I'm really happy to say that none of my kids do drugs. Obviously, I've used them over the years but I feel [my kids] are better off without them. I guess they rebel by listening to their mom! It's so different these days for kids. They have so much more information at their fingertips and it's so much faster. When I was growing up you had to wait for your friends older brother to get out of jail so you could listen to his record collection! I hope that my kids don't have to rebel!
I find it fascinating to talk to people like you where I just can't imagine what it would be like to be their child…
Totally! Some guy found my son on Facebook and was like “Son of Wino! Tell him to play Indianapolis” I asked him “Are you okay with that?” and he said “Yeah it's fine” So he gets it. My middle son is 11 and he never saw me play live until a little after Christmas. He said to his mom, who I'm friends with again, her boyfriend is super cool, “Do people really like dad's music?” He's already seeing me as a weird underground dude! It's funny. Someone like you knows me through their music but he just sees me as dad. He's on his way to the Olympics though, he's a platform diver and is like sixth in the nation. All my kids have incredible gifts. He's gone a lot with his diving. He's going to the UK soon and he's already been to Cuba for the PanAm Games. I obviously don't live with my kids so I don't have a day to day input but it's a cool relationship, I was just a stay at home dad for 7-8 years at one point!
I'll tell you a funny story though, years ago my wife at the time said “How about you get out of the back of truck…” See, I had a good union job at the time, “and think about being a stay at home dad?” and I was like “Well, I don't know! Can I still tour?” and she said “Yeah you can go for two weeks or so” and I said, "I can try and make that work, I'll give it a shot.” While I was trying that one of the neighbors kids came up to me and said “Mr Weinrich, are you a rock star?” and I didn't know what to say so I said “I guess it depends how you define rock star!” I don't have a new Corvette yknow? I don't like to dwell on that too much.
There's a lot to unpack there… When the last Obsessed record came out you had no kids. How has having children impacted your music?
If I didn't have kids I wouldn't have a care in the world. I think having children has grounded me. Even though I've still, since they've been around, carried on some I think they do help keep me calm. When I was separated for them for three or four years it was heart wrenching. It was so depressing that I went back to my old ways. When I was with the kids as a stay at home dad I was pretty much sober, but after the separation I had to lean back on the stuff that wasn't good for me. The opportunities arose though with Saint Vitus on the move and various other projects. We got to do that Shrinebuilder record too!
After the Norwegian incident I decided it was time to make a change. I think right now the lifestyle changes that I made are crucial to the whole thing. Bryan for example was one of the original crew of The Obsessed. When we put Spirit Caravan together and I don't know if this was Eddie's way of making this happen but he suggested we have Bryan play. I didn't even know in all those years he played drums! We had been separated for a long time. When we started jamming I realized I really wanted to do this again and that's when I realized the songs were timeless. When we decided to change into The Obsessed that was our decision. We recorded the record with a different lineup but obviously that didn't totally work out. We played a few shows and that worked out for a minute but it came down to commitment. I understand completely though. Touring is not everyone's thing. So there were a few lineups including the one that did Maryland Deathfest and all that. So now I think we've finally achieved what I think is the perfect incarnation. Things really happen for a reason. The transitions might have been painful but things worked out for the future!
What does the future look like?
We tour our asses off. Our set is seventy five minutes now, so if you want to hear Obsessed music… My ban from Europe is a small setback but we are almost three years in and once we do all we want to do for the US and Australia we will be in the clear!
So you said everything happens for a reason, do you have a sense of spirituality?
I've always been searching, I've always been trying to find meaning. I'm not a fan of organized religion, but I do believe that we create our own destiny and that we are all spiritually connected. We are incarnated on this prison planet here to experience it. Maybe it's to learn morality. I can't stand any kind of abuse of animals. I know I've been accused of being hard on chicks but you know what man, I'm not that either. A lot of people want to see you fall for whatever reason, be it jealousy, perverse fascination with it, but the bus is gonna have to be a whole lot bigger.
What do you mean?
When they try to throw me under the bus it's not going to work until it gets bigger!
But you know man, it's about passion. You know this as a music aficionado and musician when you hear that special song it takes you somewhere. When I was little and you could put a dime into the jukebox there was a pizza place I would go to with my parents. If I could pick a dime up off the floor or cajole my old man into giving me a dime the first thing I would do would be to go put on Funk #49 by James Gang. That guitar though! That's some pure passion! Whenever I hear that song now it takes me back. To me that's like a spiritual experience! Music is kind of like a universal language. I'm lucky that almost anywhere I go there is a chance I will get approached by someone who will say, “I love your stuff” I feel blessed!
It's surreal to think about that kind of thing… especially given the kind of music you play…
For sure! It's happened in bumfuck Florida and that's incredibly surreal! But I walk this path. I always felt that I was destined to walk this path and I know I create my own destiny. I could burn every bridge I made right now but I'm not going to do that. I've had a lot of friends that have passed, many due to drugs and I get it and I understand the need to get out of this world but like I said man I have a clear head now.
In the past why did you feel the need to get out of this world?
I mean the Earthly pressures get to be too much. Back when I was a teenager and started smoking pot the other kids called us junkies. These days pot is legal and my kids have no desire to smoke pot! Back when we smoked pot that was dirty! If you smoked pot you were a bad fucking person. It hasn't been the easiest stroll through life but I've enjoyed it. I do what I have to do.
In terms of having to do what you have to do, what is it specifically about stoner metal that appeals?
I will give a shoutout to Frank Kozik not only for his artwork but also his Man's Ruin label. I kind of think that that label pretty much lead to this whole thing blowing up. He signed bands like Queens Of The Stone Age and Acid King and kick started it. I personally feel that it brought melody back and it brought back my favorite instrument the electric guitar. It was okay to sing again. When these things first came out it was weird! At this point it's an established art form. I like funky stuff. I like weird things too. When Ministry came out that was great because things became more metal again! I'm not a fan of traditional metal, but I like anything that's heavy. The visceral power of the low end is really important. The emphasis again was on guitars and melodies. That's mostly what it was, more guitar solos too. Being a fan of Sabbath and a guitar guy the emphasis was great. It's kind of reestablished that with proper singing too.
How has the resurgence of stoner rock impacted your own life?
I wouldn't be able to do this right now. I never really changed but it's still good for me. I don't like to toot my own horn but we plowed through. You have to hang in there man. But you need to be nice. If you kick people in the head on the way up you will be kicked twice as hard on the way down. My philosophy has always been to treat people the way you want to be treated. It's like – as you travel the world you play these clubs and people are shellshocked by arrogant musicians. If you say please and thank you then they bend over backwards for you! I don't want to pigeonhole any genre but I see it firsthand.
I think there's a certain cult of the rock star that is slowly getting eroded by people like you…
Absolutely. I would love to play to bigger audiences but if it means selling out or changing my sound I'm not interested. Being able to have a venue like this to talk is amazing and I'm happy with just that.
What's fascinating is the first time I saw you live was at Hellfest and you were playing to like 20,000 people. Meanwhile I have heard stories about you playing to like 15 people in Nashville. How do you reconcile that?
Those 15 people are salt of the earth people. It's even better when there are 20,000 salt of the earth people but you have to give 100%. I'm never going to say fuck this. Those people paid and came out for you!
What do you love so much about music?
I love the passion and I love the end product. Some people save every take but I throw all that shit away. Some people like to document it but I just want the end product that's my trip. When I get that that's the drug. We put it in and the culmination of all that work into that one diamond is truly special.