A Solo Album Worth Waiting For
by Todd K Smith
Much has been said and credited to Baltimore-native Scott “Wino” Weinrich. Some say he’s the Dylan of doom amassing a large volume of dark riffage over his 30-year career. He founded The Obsessed in the late 70’s, then there was the SoCal / hardcore elements that changed the face of doom with his next band Saint Vitus, who’s crowning achievement Born Too Late (1986) still echoes of sinister brilliance. The breakup put Wino in a slump musically and he abandoned his music career until forming the retro stoner band Spirit Caravan in the late nineties.
A chance to work with ex-Pentagram guitarist Victor Griffin had Wino joining Places of Skulls after the turn of the century. His most recent outing, the politically, psychedelic trio The Hidden Hand, featured famed recording engineer Bruce Falkinburg (Clutch, Sixty Watt Shaman) but the project burned out by the second disc. Now he returns with something he can put his own name on, a solo record titled Punctuated Equilibrium, the first of hopefully many to come. Aside from Tony Iommi, Wino stands as the most influential vocalist/guitarist of the doom metal genre.
On the eve of the Punctuated Equilibrium release we tried to contact Wino in New York City (during a blizzard), which never panned out. However, we were able to hook up a week later and talk to the man about his most personal and diverse song collection yet.
The Cutting Edge: One of the more distinct elements of Punctuated Equilibrium is the drum sound. Did it meet your expectations?
Wino: I think the key to a good record is the drum sound. Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch did the drumming and Jon Blank of Rezin plays most of the bass parts. I play some bass all the guitars and vocals. Jean-Paul had some time off from Clutch so we jammed here in Baltimore at his studio. We wanted to capture this old school sound like the one I remember when I saw Black Sabbath back in 1972. It was one of my first concerts so it’s stuck in my head.
TCE: How impressionable were those first concert years on the music you listen to and play today?
Wino: Oh, man they were the foundation. I remember seeing James Gang with Bad Company on the Straight Shooter tour. Then there was Nazareth and BOC (Blue Oyster Cult). They all were huge for me.
TCE: Is that where you first heard music you would try to emulate years later?
Wino: Yeah, I think so. I like the older sound, the custom tube stuff. A beefy SG, Les Pauls 74, 76 - some of which I’ve collected. There’s also the older Strats like from the 50’s. I used different guitars and gear recording this record. On the song “Release Me” I played slide using this real cool old Gretch hanging on the studio wall. It had a high action and fat strings perfect for slide. I have a new guitar that’s walnut with a maple neck. The walnut is hard and the maple is soft so it creates some tuning issues but it’s gorgeous with a great, thick sound.
TCE: Many herald you as the father of doom, or at least the torchbearer, keeping it alive over the years. How does that mantle rest on your shoulders?
Wino: I don’t consider my music to be solely doom metal, especially on this record. There’s psychedelic, jazz, blues, extended jams and rock. I have a lot of different influences that go way back like we were talking about before. Growing up, it was the Monkees, The Beatles, and Hendrix. I got hooked on a radio station that played Zappa, Budgie and Rocky Eriksson and later, from hanging out with other guys, I got into Iggy and the Stooges, and even jazz guys like Charlie Parker (The Bird) and Coltrane.
TCE: In doing a solo album were you able to stretch outside the boundaries of genre’s you’re known for?
Wino: I don’t know if that was it as much as it gave me the opportunity to finish ideas I’d had for years. Some of these songs go back to the seventies like “The Woman In The Orange Pants.” I wrote that with John Reese, he was the second guitarist for the Obsessed. It’s a funny story about my mom catching us smoking pot. You’ll have to read about it in the liner notes. Other songs like “Release Me” came from the eighties.
TCE: How did working with Jean Paul Gaster and Jon Blank aid in the song writing process.
Wino: They both contributed a lot. In some cases they helped flush out an idea that was just sitting there stagnant. “Wild Blue Yonder” was this long 18-minute jam we shorted to just over 6-minutes. I was experimenting with this wah wah trying to reproduce that sixties-type sound. Jean Paul and Jon totally ran with it. I love the groove of the bass and the space when it’s stretches out. It gave them both lots of room to embrace the song and nail the mood. It’s got lots of fuzz on it too which is my thing.
TCE: Do you obsess with the gear you record with?
Wino: Yeah, I guess you could say that. I like to experiment to get different sounds and effects. I’ll swap out the tubes on a pre amp to change things around. I use a Chicago Iron Parachute wah wah and super distortion pickups, Orange crate amps and speakers mix things up.
TCE: Lyrically, the record bounces around and covers a range of topics.
Wino: Some were partially written years ago. When I decided to focus on a solo record I pulled all these old songs out and revisited the lyrics, some I changed, others I just added to. The lyrics are part of the song dynamic - some are stories, others are philosophical or biographical. “Gods, Frauds, Neo-Cons And Demagogue” is a continuation from the Hidden Hand. It’s my frustration with political and religious corruption - the greed, the fear and the irresponsibility that has twisted our ideology. It’s all there in that song.
TCE: One can hear the frustration listing to it, yet you end the record with “Silver Lining.”
Wino: There’s got to be hope, man. “Smilin’ Road“ is another song that gives me peace. It’s about my road travels, just sitting there somewhere watching the sunset and getting ready for the next gig. There’s a kind of peace that comes from that.
TCE: You’ve played with or recorded with several legendary musicians including Nirvana’s Dave Grohl, Sabbath’s Geezer Butler and Bill Ward, to Motorhead’s Lemmy, and Judas Priest vocalist Rob Halford (to name but a few).
Wino: Yeah, I’ve been fortunate. The Probot thing was actually more of a “mail it in” kind of project. Dave’s people called me, asked if I wanted to do it, and then sent me a tape. I did my bit and sent it back. It wasn’t until final mixing I actually talked to him on the phone. People contact me because I’ve been at it so long. I never really went away. I like to play apocalyptic, heavy-ass blues music full of massive low-end grumble, gloomy lyrics, and killer guitar playing. People call it doom metal but to me, it’s just slowed down rock and roll.
A couple years ago I was about to hang it up…but, John Paul and me had always admired each other’s playing and we decided it would be good to do a record. We put a power trio together with Jon and now that it’s finished, I think it’s one of the best things I’ve ever done. The bass sounds amazing, the production sounds amazing, and the drums sound great. I think it’s fantastic.”
Details on Punctured Equilibrium include a 2xLP +10" version with the incredible David D' Andrea cover art. The record also comes with extensive liner notes from Wino himself that explicitly describe the origin and concept of each track.
Says Wino in the liner notes, “This is the culmination of a very old dream, one that has come true in many different ways. One of the main things I have learned is how I understand 'success.' To me, it's not all riches and glory so much as the impact on others lives. My main philosophy that guides me is that I was given a gift, a Musical gift which I use to bring happiness to others. It is also important not to overlook your own needs, but putting yourself in the other person's shoes is to me most important! Punctuated Equilibrium is how my personality has been described, as told in the lyrics."
LP version Side A - 'Release Me', 'Punctuated Equilibrium', 'The Woman In The Orange Pants', 'Smilin Road', 'Eyes Of The Flesh'.
LP version Side B - 'Wild Blue Yonder', 'Secret Realm Devotion', 'Water Crane', 'Gods, Frauds, Neo-Cons and Demagogues', 'Silver Lining'.
Bonus 10" Side A - 'Chest Fever', 'Der Gift (The Poison)'.
Bonus 10" Side B - 'On The (Sacrificial) Lamb, 'The Comet And The Moon'
Website: Southern Lord Records