Latest release: Lillie: F-65 (Season of Mist)
Band site: www.saintvitusband.com/
Well in excess of three decades since they first formed, reactivated doom metal pioneers Saint Vitus will make their maiden trek to Australia this month. The American outfit will also be joined by the suitably punishing Monarch. Guitarist Dave Chandler spoke to Loud about the tour, living up to their considerable legacy and his favourite riffs.
Q: It’s been a handful of years since you reconvened the majority of the “classic” Saint Vitus line-up (also including vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich and bassist Mark Adams). What is the vibe like in the band these days – is it centred more on just purely enjoying the experience?
A: Yeah, it’s really cool; it’s like everybody is having fun again. The main reason that Saint Vitus stopped is that there was no fun anymore, it was ridiculous. Everybody is having a good time; the vibe is really good. You’re going to get (times) when you’re living on a bus with someone for a month, there will be a little, ‘hey man, what the fuck you doing in my seat?’ and bullshit like that. But it’s all just piddly crap, you know? We’re all having a lot of fun, it’s really cool.
Q: Good to hear. You released Lillie: F-65 last year, which was the first Wino-fronted album in more than two decades. Did you feel the weight of expectation about living up to the band’s legacy? Or did you just want to savour the experience?
A: Well, we wanted to have fun, but we also wanted to live up to our past heritage. We also wanted to live up to everybody’s expectations. We thought it might be difficult, but it seemed to flow really well, and kind of happened (by) itself. Like, ‘here you go; you’re back on the merry-go-round’. Everything has been received well; all of us are like, ‘wow, this is cool, it really wasn’t as difficult as we thought’.
Q: As a fan, have you encountered many cases whereby a band has taken a break, returned with new material or started touring again and it just hasn’t been up to the same standard?
A: That was definitely on my mind when I was writing the record and on all of our minds when we were recording. Because we all agree that it’s really crappy when there’s a band that has set a certain standard and they’re gone for a long time. Then they come back, make a new record and it sounds nothing like what they did before. That’s horrible. It just makes the old fans say that it sucks, and makes the new fans wonder why. We didn’t want to do that. Luckily, we accomplished that with Lillie. We struck out to not be that way. There’s been a lot of bands that have done that. I can’t really think of anyone off-hand because I don’t really listen to music, but there you go.
Q: So you don’t pay much attention to the metal scene as it stands today then?
A: No, I’m not like a…. Everyone asks me that same question, and I’m like, ‘no, I really don’t’. I like some new bands; Devil, Red Fang. But I don’t really follow the music scene much at all. When I’m off the road, I just sit and watch TV, smoke a lot of pot, hang out with my wife and go to work. Then when we’re ready to go back on the road, I concentrate on what we’re doing. I really don’t follow a lot. Once in a while I stumble upon a band I really like. I’m just not exposed to it. There’s probably a whole shitload of bands that I would think were totally great, I’ve just never heard them, because I don’t like listen to satellite radio. I don’t listen to my own CDs, my old ones that I used to when I was a kid. It’s very rare that I slap on the headphones and listen to music. I’m a video person.
Q: Do you feel that helps keep your music fresh when writing new material?
A: Maybe a little bit, because I’m not over-exposed to what’s happening at the time. So when I go to do something, it’s just what I’m used to.
Q: How does it sit with you being considered pioneers and perhaps touring with bands which see you as such a cornerstone of this style of music?
A: That’s very flattering, obviously. It is kinda tricky, because when we stopped in ’95 we figured nobody gave a shit. At that time, nobody did. After all these years, now we’re seeing young bands that are citing us as influences and they’re getting on shows with us, because they’re like, ‘we want to play with Vitus’. That’s really cool, and that makes us feel really good that we actually inspired someone or whatever you want to call it. That sounds egotistical, but you know what I mean. It feels good.
Q: There have been some truly monstrous riffs throughout the band’s career. What have been some of your personal favourites?
A: (Pauses, then laughs) That’s a hard one. ‘Born Too Late’ of course, and ‘Dying Inside’. And I really like ‘Clear Windowpane’. (The 1986 album) Born Too Late has probably the best selection of songs. But I like a lot of songs off (1995’s) Die Healing; I like ‘Dark World’, ‘One Mind’, ‘In the Asylum’. It used to be, before Lillie came out, if somebody said, ‘play me a Saint Vitus song, I’ve never heard of you’, I would play ‘In the Asylum’. Now, I would play them something off Lillie; probably ‘The Bleeding Ground’ or ‘Let Them Fall’.
Q: What qualities do you think constitute a truly great riff?
A: It’s kind of indefinable in a way. When I write songs I like to play around with a bunch of different stuff, and I’ll feel something. Then I’ll be like, ‘okay, that’s cool’, or ‘oh, no, don’t ever do that again, that’s stupid’. For me, it’s a feeling. I don’t try to set out, ‘I have to make this type of song’. It’s all just feeling I go by.
Q: How has the touring for the latest album been going? Are the fans receptive to the new material?
A: The people are really reacting well to the new songs. When we get there, they know the words; they know exactly what song it is if we say the name or when the beat starts. We’re like ‘okay, obviously these people have been listening to the record’. They’re reacting to that as much, or even more than some of the old songs.
Q: More than three decades into your career, is it prospects such as visiting places like Australia for the first time that helps keep it fresh and exciting?
A: Yeah, we always really love playing a new place. That’s always exciting, because you’ve never been there, but it’s always neat to meet new people, see new cultures and see how they live. Like this last tour in the UK, we usually do basically England, but we got to do Scotland and Wales. You would think that since it’s on the same little island that it would be the same, but it’s not and it was really cool. It’s always really neat to play somewhere different. (For the Australian tour) we’re gonna try and get a pretty good set. We usually don’t do anything from (1992’s) C.O.D. or Die Healing, but we pretty much do something from every other record. We’ve got a pretty good set that’s gonna make a good statement, and it’s going to be very loud. As loud as ya’ll will let us be (laughs).
Q: (Laughs) Good news. Shifting topics now, what are your views on where the music industry is headed? Or do you not really concern yourself with that?
A: I do sense that since we’ve been back out on the road, I have noticed overall in America and Europe, especially in America, that they’re way more open… The industry and the fans are way more open to different things than when we played (before). When Vitus was playing back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, if you weren’t what was popular at the time, no one paid attention. Now, it’s the fans are more like, ‘I’m going to go see this band, even if people say they suck, because I want to see if they do or not’. The industry doesn’t seem to be pushing people in the way of like, ‘this is your favourite band’, and you’ve never heard of them. That’s how it was in the ‘80s, especially in the ‘80s in America. I think it’s improved overall, just because of that. It gives people a little more choice now than it did 20, 30 years ago.
Q: What are your thoughts on illegal downloading?
A: Well, obviously if people are doing it illegally I think that sucks, and I think it’s bullshit. ‘Cause we’ve caught a lot of bootleggers… I myself and a couple of other people I know, we look at stuff, and we’ve caught a lot of people bootlegging our stuff, and immediately we stop it. If people want to, say someone’s recorded a show and they want to sell it, all they have to do is contact us. We’ll be glad to let them do it, as long as they make a deal with us. We don’t want anyone bootlegging because we think that’s bullshit, and the illegal downloading is total crap. I don’t think people should do it, because it’s so cheap to do it legally; it’s like, a dollar a song, 50 cents or something? So fuck off of the illegal bullshit, asshole.
Q: (Laughs) Any famous last words?
A: Well, I just really want to thank everybody for sticking behind Vitus for I don’t know how many years. A lot of people we come across were not even born… And they’re like, ‘my parents made us listen to you, and you’re great’. So I’d like to really thank everyone for keeping our name alive. Be prepared for it to be loud and for us to be in-your-face. Come down and have a good time; Vitus is a giant party. Bring a lot of weed too (laughs).
Brendan is Loud’s contributing editor and also writes for themusic.com.au
You can catch Saint Vitus alongside Monarch on the following dates-
18/7: HiFi Bar, Brisbane QLD (+ Agonhymn)
19/7: HiFi Bar, Sydney NSW (+ Looking Glass)
20/7: HiFi Bar, Melbourne VIC (+ Clagg)
21/7: Rosemount Taven, Perth WA (+ Drowning Horse)