Powerful handshake, body littered with timeworn tattoos and with a veritable sweep of gently whitening hair, there is no mistaking the legendary guitarist/vocalist Robert Scott Weinrich aka Wino. Slumped so deep into a sofa, he seems almost past the point of no return, yet he rouses enough of himself to reflect on his recent achievements, a mere scratch on the surface of his long association with what many would pigeon-hole as doom or stoner rock. The reality, as his latest slice of acoustic nostalgia is testament to, is something that is, on the face of it, impossible to define in such simple terms. So little time, so many questions.
Are you enjoying your day so far?
Last day of the tour, it’s been really fun. I’ve been on the road a long time before this tour so looking forward to a couple of days off.
Of course… supporting your solo album Adrift in October?
Yeah, we did almost a two-month tour. Had about 10 days off back in L.A.
Adrift has just been released here. How much of yourself do you feel is in there?
Well it’s a pretty personal record so I’d have to say a lot. The songs are my way of letting off steam a little bit. Also there a couple of songs on there that were written way back when I was, like, 16.
I love it but its acoustic bare-boned nature took me a little by surprise…
It’s the first time I’ve done anything like that and it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. It turned out to be a real challenge. All kinds of things like the different gauge picks you use for more string attack when you’re recording it – you use a heavier pick, you hear more of that “kkk-kkk”. All these things. At the same time the engineer we used, who’s a friend of mine, is also a little bit of a strange guy. He wanted to do a lot of proselytising when we were recording, which was really annoying. I want him to give me my space but… y’know. We agreed to disagree about a lot of things [laughs]. So it was a little bit of a trial but, at the end, I was happy with things.
Did you enjoy the different recording processes required as opposed to an album recorded with St. Vitus or Shrinebuilder?
It was very different. Now, I think I’ve learned from it, so it was cool. So, not only am I proud of the record but it was also a good learning experience.
Do you think you’ll have another crack at recording in that way?
I’m definitely going to do another one and I think now I won’t be quite so apprehensive. I’m definitely going to prepare a bit more lyrically, ‘cos the arrangements and the lyrics were a little bit of a hold-up. Most always, there are a few little lines that don’t get finished until you’re standing in front of a mic. A lot of the songs, we never played them live before we recorded. The optimal thing to do is to write a song, take it out on the road and play it live before you record. Sometimes you just don’t have that luxury.
It was great to hear ‘Iron Horse/Born to Lose’ again and the way you’ve managed to reveal the lyrical content makes it that much more powerful. What was the thinking behind covering that song particularly?
I’ve always done that song because I’ve always loved that song. That version, anyway. The “On Parole” version of that song is pretty fucking old; Larry Wallis was playing guitar. After that, they did the first Motörhead album where they do that song, but I don’t like that version. It’s a real bluesy version. So that earlier version always grabbed me when I heard it, and I bought that record having never heard Motörhead ever. I bought it ‘cos of the picture on the front. It just looks so badass, I thought it can’t be bad. So, it’s an easy song to play and I like the theme – motorbikes and the lifestyle – it’s the ultimate fucking bike song.
Have you had a chance to hear what Lemmy thinks of it yet?
I haven’t spoken to Lemmy about it yet, but I would like to play it for him at some point.
Why did you choose this particular album title?
That’s kind of how I feel. I was having some domestic issues; I’m kind of estranged from my children, so it matched how I was feeling.
So, the UK’s been waiting with baited breath for Shrinebuilder. What was it like being upstaged by a volcano?
It was pretty fucked actually. We kept trying and trying to get in [to Europe]. Al Cisneros’ [bassist/vocals] original idea is that we come in over Africa we could have made it in, but then we might have never made it out so, after the first couple of shows we knew we couldn’t make it in – the first four shows was like a third of the whole tour budget. We really wanted to play so that was really cold. Something good did come out of it though because, as we can get together so rarely, we used the extra time to go into rehearsal where we fleshed out our next record. We’ve now got way more than enough material, so we’re in good shape. I think we’re going to do a couple of other releases first. We’re going to release a live album first before we go in and record which might not be until next November.
How did Shrinebuilder actually come together to record an album in the first place?
Well, the idea had been around for a little while, and then me and Al decided to slip the idea to Chris [Hiatkus] on drums. Then when Chris left Om he said it wouldn’t quite be right for him, so that left just me and and Al. About that time Al had asked me about bringing in Scott Kelly (guitar/vocals) and I thought that was a great idea. Then we needed a drummer and basically all of us agreed that if we could have our dream drummer it would be Dale [Crover] and when he said “yes”, we were pretty blown away. I think we’d been together about 6-7 months. The interesting thing is we never actually played together until the night before we went in the studio. It was either me and Dale, or me and Dale and Al, or Al and Dale, and then, finally, me and Al and Scott. The first time we all got together was midnight on a Thursday night and the next day we went in the studio. Three days later, we’d recorded the record, so it was pretty rad.
Three days is a pretty short time. It seems incredible that the individual styles of writing managed to fit together so rapidly and so perfectly.
A lot of cool stuff happened, a lot of serendipitous stuff. I was struggling with the lyrics for this riff that I’d bought to the table and Scott happened to call me at that exact moment and said “Hey man, I got some lyrics that might help you finish that song” so it was pretty amazing. Then Al had a piece that he’d tapped out that fit just perfectly. So everything on that first record is written by all of us – everyone has written a little piece of each song.
So a lot of it was written over the phone?
A lot of computer files sent to each other. It actually forced me to get little bit more computer-literate. But it’s getting easier and easier now.
Immediately the supergroup label was slapped on you. Did that add pressure?
You know everybody needs words to describe stuff. That’s how stoner rock came about and that’s how heavy metal came about. I don’t focus on this kind of stuff because it’s not what I need to be focussing on. It’s nice to be accepted though.
It’s possibly because you’ve got four big fanbases that are all interested in this one project.
I think it’s interesting that you point that out because there was a bit of a firestorm – there was thing where the stonerrock.com guys didn’t like the sound of Scott’s voice and then the Neurosis people who didn’t like my voice. That’s pretty interesting actually. (Laughs) The stoners were hating on Scott and vice versa. It was pretty funny. I never been in a band before with that style of vocals, and I’m not just saying this ‘cos he’s in my band, but he’s one of the few screamers where I actually like it. Maybe it’s the timbre of his voice.
How often are you getting to practice as a band?
We really don’t get a lot of time. We rehearsed two days before this tour. Probably two sets a day. We probably practiced the songs three or four times each, if that. But we’re pretty good at it. The one thing in our favour is that everybody’s been around the block, it’s easier to do things; nobody’s got ego problems. There’s no real problems, like you’d get with a new band. We respect each other. Not that there’s competition between us. When I was little kid I asked myself “How can bands as good as The Beatles possibly have broken up?” It just seemed unfathomable. When you’re young what you don’t realise is that people come into play here. You could be the best player in the world but if you act like an asshole you’re gonna have problems, right?
So you say the second album is now all but written?
The ideas are finished.
Do you have, say, song titles yet?
Let’s see – I’m not sure if I should do this – ah, I can give you a couple. One song is called ‘In The Wake Of Zeus’, we talk about the volcano, and another is called ‘The Concept Of Now’.