Interview: Wino

It wouldn't be what The Obsessed's music always is, it's urgent and a little bit aggressive because the music always reflects the times, and man, we’re in some fucking weird times!

Wino has had a long and storied journey through music with a number of seminal bands such as The Obsessed and Saint Vitus and remains an icon to anyone with even a passing interest in heavy music over his forty year musical career. With The Obsessed having recently released Incarnate, an out of print for years collection of rare tracks, Gavin Brown had a chat with Wino about that many other things including the new Obsessed album, his latest solo album Forever Gone, recent gigs, his vast musical career including a very memorable gig in Holland and seeing Black Sabbath live in concert early in their career and the effect it had in him and his earliest concert memories.

E&D: The Obsessed recently released Incarnate, a special edition, rarities collection. Did you want to bring this out just now as it has been out of print for so long?   

Wino: You know, the guys at Blues Funeral Recordings are old friends of mine, they thought it would be a great thing to bring it back out around the 40th anniversary, so yeah, I thought it was a good idea.

E&D: What has the reaction to the album been like so far?

Wino: So far so good. I mean, you know, I just had released Forever Gone, my solo record and I’ve been been busy with that too but I think people have been pretty interested in it. I’ve not really dwelled on the time thing. It’s a pretty good achievement and I’m proud of it.

E&D: You had a last minute gig towards the end of last year. Can you tell us about that and did it feel good to play live again?

Wino: Well, it was very short notice and it was up in the air, whether we were going to do it or not because New York had been locked down again, but the gig went ahead, it was cold as fuck! It’s a little bit hard to move your fingers at 4 degrees you know! I was glad to do it and it was in Woodstock, New York and it had a lot of significance for me. It was the first gig I’d done since September, I played on my birthday, September 29th in Maryland. That was also a gig in front of people but there was no stage manager or curfew that night! By the time I hit the stage, it was kind of a fiasco! I played an hour this time and it was pretty great. The venue was very nice, hadn’t played there before and it was pretty cool and good to do it.

E&D: Have you got any more gigs coming up at all?

Wino: I don’t actually, and last night, I was listening to the radio. I heard that New York state has said mandatory vaccines for everybody that’s in New York state and I just moved to New York State so it’s a little bit up in the air at the moment.

E&D: With The Obsessed, you did a recent livestream gig supporting Crowbar. How was that experience and would you do anything like that again?

Wino: Well, that’s the first time I’ve ever done anything like that and it’s a new and weird kind of  pressure. I mean, you might think that you have more freedom because, it’s a livestream or whatever, but the reality is because we were supporting Crowbar, they required us to promote our asses off on social media. It was a little bit dumb considering the way they ended up splitting up the money. I mean, can we prove we’ve promoted that? We had to make it under $500. They capped at a thousand and the tickets were like nine dollars and I know we do better than that, but whatever, it was something to do and I think everybody’s learning because you know what, after that nobody wants to support bands anymore because. Why? You know, so it was the learnings for everybody right now.

E&D: Going back to The Obsessed, have you get any plans for a new record at all?

Wino: Well, we’ve got material for a new record, and it’s going to be called Designed To Divide, and we would like to record as soon as we can, but, you know let’s see if it gives us a chance. It would be a record that would probably be a little bit on the protest music side. It wouldn’t be what The Obsessed’s music always is, it’s urgent and a little bit aggressive because the music always reflects the times, and man, we’re in some fucking weird times!

E&D: This year is the 40th anniversary of The Obsessed. How does it feel to reach such a milestone and still being active and having your music loved?

Wino: Personally I think it’s the longevity, of course, I’m proud of. We’re looking forward to the new record. I always thought humanity is fucking terrible, man, and if you were to follow my music, this is exactly the thing I hate and that’s why we have titled it Designed To Divide and it’s been the course of action for quite a while so that’s what I wanted to call it. It’s pretty cool and it’s a combination of fast and slow, there’s a lot of downtuned stuff and there’s a lot of fast stuff and I hope we get the chance to record it. We don’t have any money in the bank to go to the recording studio but there’s a lot of people that would help us and I would want to do a proper record, so if there’s any labels out there, let us know!

 

E&D: You released your latest solo album Forever Gone in June. What’s the reaction been like so far?

Wino: It was phenomenal. It was actually one of the best receptions I’ve ever had. I was super proud of that record. When Todd from Ripple Music called me up when I was working on it, it was right when the pandemic hit and he said we’re not going to stop, we’re going to get it out. It was a selfless and beautiful thing to do and it turned out to be one of my best records in terms of being received. We broke through some genre walls and hopefully busted some algorithms!

E&D: You cover the Joy Division song ‘Isolation’ on the record, was it fun purring your own spin on that song?

Wino: I’ve always loved that song and I think they’re one of the heaviest bands that ever was. I didn’t start playing that song because of quarantine or anything like that. I’ve always played song acoustically. I love that song and the band, I think it’s deep. The Joy Division story is very sad but at the same time, I think it’s powerful

E&D: Have you get any plans for a follow-up solo album at the moment?

Wino: No, not really. I mean, I really want to do the next Obsessed record. We’ve got the concept, we’ve got the title and we’ve got the songs and that’s next. People say, you’re stretching, I can’t tell what band you’re in, you’ve played in so many bands but the reality is, I only do two things, I play acoustic guitar with myself and then we do The Obsessed and that’s it.

E&D: Do you look back at your vast musical history with pride?

Wino: Absolutely, it’s been a long and colorful career. I mean I’m not proud of the things that have happened that have kept me from reaching audiences obviously, but yeah, I’m happy as one can get. I do know one thing, you don’t have to be unhappy to write a heavy song but it sucks to be made unhappy by oppressive, elitist pigs! They can come and get me, but guess what, I’ve got something for them!

E&D: As well as The Obsessed and your solo work, you’ve been in Saint Vitus, Shrinebuilder, The Hidden Hand, Spirit Caravan and more bands, what have been some of your best memories within your long career?

Wino: Oh man. You know, Saint Vitus took me around the world, We played really, really cool big shows and played some really, really cool small shows. All I can say is the fans have always been there for me and I always will give a hundred percent no matter what I’m doing. The Vitus stuff was cool. It’s unfortunate the way it ended. You know, man, people show their true colors, sooner or later, but the bottom line is, I’m happy to be where I’m at right now, unfortunately. Let us see if they will let us come over soon. Here’s the thing, we talked last night, me and Brian, our drummer. I’ve known him for thirty years. He’s definitely my hero. His lifelong dream was to play in The Obsessed, and now he is, and we’ve been through the ups and downs but I’m really happy. I want us to come over but right now, you’re going to have to be vaccinated to be able to fly.This country’s really fucked up right now. It’s kind of dark and there’s always stuff going on behind the scenes, but I’m making a decision right now. Am I gonna let somebody inject me with something that I don’t know what it is? Usually, if I put something into my body, I want to get high! but, if I get a chance to come over to Europe once more and play for you guys and that means getting an injection, I’ll probably do it because the music is that important.

 

E&D: Your music has taken you all over the world to play live shows, like you mentioned both big and small but what have been some of the most memorable ones for you?

Wino: With The Obsessed, in the 90s, we toured with Prong and this particular show is still the biggest we’ve ever done. We played at the Dynamo Festival in Holland to 70,000 people when we played, at that time of day. Sick Of It All played either the day we played or the day after and I went out to see them and if you can imagine all those people slamming and those people got crushed so hard against the barrier, it was like watching fish slamming around! I’ll tell you something funny about that festival, on our day, The Obsessed played about 4pm and Zakk Wylde and Kyuss and others were also playing later. Kyuss rolls up, I know those dudes and The Obsessed played with them all the time but old bass player, Scott Reeder defected to Kyuss, it was kinda strange. Anyways, Kyuss takes the stage. First song, within a minute, Josh breaks a string so he goes to pick up a spare guitar but there are no spare guitars! He turns round and just jumps into the drums! Garcia’s still got a live mic but he decided to just slam that mic down on the stage and I don’t think I’ll ever hear a sound like that again for the rest of my life! That mic popped when it slammed down on the stage! It was unbelievable man, it was chaos! Danzig headlined the whole thing, Type O played too and Pete Steele was a great dude but Danzig he’s a cock, I mean he’s an asshole, always has been. There was this whole dressing room complex, it was vast and he wasn’t using any of it but before he played, he made the festival organizers go back and clear everybody out of the dressing rooms and then he aisle to go on, past his time because he wanted it to be dark or some shit like that. When it was time for him to get off stage, they fucking pulled the plug! I was happy as shit because I’d already snuck back in an open window and was doing lines in someone’s dressing room! There you go, that was memorable! It was good to see someone like that, get theirs!

E&D: How did it how did it feel to be embraced by not just like metal fans, but punk, hardcore fans and bands?

Wino: I mean, it’s all about passion right? That what it’s all about and if you get up onstage like we did in those days and we had long hair, some of the punks hated us but bands like Iron Cross and SOA liked us. I remember Wendell Blow, he was the bass player in Iron Cross at the time and he would come down and see us play in those days so we played punk shows. We used to play three sets!  I’ve never seen any of those motherfuckers play three forty five minute sets! That’s what we had to do. We used to mix it up and play covers, punk covers and we played ‘Sweet Little Sixteen’ by Chuck Berry. We took a lot of heat but we stood our ground and you’ve got to fight for what you believe in, right?

E&D: Definitely

Wino: And so we did, sonically, physically, kinetically! I want to keep doing this, it’s what I do and I’m really glad to get the chance to do some more.

E&D: You’ve stated that seeing Black Sabbath live had a massive effect on you. Do you have vivid memories of that show and what can you remember about it and the effect it had on you?

Wino: I think Master Of Reality was already out so it was on that tour. I think I was thirteen and I’m sixty now! Man, I can remember what Ozzy was wearing! It was a turning point in my life. I loved Sabbath already and they were supported by Edgar Winter with Rick Derringer. It was a really amazing time. My first show was actually the James Gang, Joe Walsh had just left and they just done a record called Straight Shooter, Domenic Troiano, the guitarist went on to do Miami Vice with Jan Hammer. Anyways, I liked a couple of songs on that record a lot. My first show was James Gang and the second was the Sabbath show we were talking about. My third concert was Alice Cooper, the original band on the Killer tour. My fourth concert was Blue Oyster Cult on the Secret Treaties tour and they were being supported by one of my all time favourite bands, the Scottish band Nazareth on the Razamanazz tour and my mind was blown! I was in the crowd and somebody walked by me and he had this jacket with a handwritten ZZ Top logo on it, and I was like what the fucks that! A long time ago but it seems like yesterday and I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I’ve been lucky to have been able to see all that in my youth and it’s why I am the way I am!

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