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The Obsessed: Psycho Las Vegas Preview

28 July 2019

Photo: Tim Bugbee

As many musicians have told the Big Takeover in our series of interviews leading up to Psycho Las Vegas 2019, next month’s event is more than just a heavy-rock music festival — it’s also a family reunion. Bands who are buddies, have toured together or share a mutual admiration will bond backstage while giddy fans mill about the merch stands, card tables and pools at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino.

Seated at the head of the family-reunion table will be Scott “Wino” Weinrich, the 57-year-old godfather of doom metal who is also one of the most beloved musicians in the underground. He is tied to a litany of bands — Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, the Hidden Hand and Shrinebuilder among them — and yet his most influential group, the Obsessed, has never played the festival. That will change come August 17, when the Maryland trio (originally named Warhorse) play “America’s rock ‘n’ roll bacchanal.”

While another Psycho participant, Arthur Brown, is the oldest musician playing Psycho this year, Wino is still a vital force. He churned out a new Obsessed record (Sacred) in 2017, a collaboration with Conny Ochs (Freedom Conspiracy) in 2015, and two solo albums (Punctuated Equilibrium with Clutch’s Jean-Paul Gaster and others, and Adrift) in 2009 and 2011, respectively.

But Obsessed fans need not worry: As Wino told the Big Takeover in a phone conversation last week, he will be laser-focused on songs from the 40-year-old band. Well, probably …

[Check out our YouTube playlist for all the bands playing Saturday at Psycho, including the Obsessed.]

Hey Scott, what are you up to?

WINO: We’re in England. It’s going really good. We’re doing a small jaunt, culminating in a festival on Sunday. Then we come back over the pond and do five shows before Vegas. We had a long tour planned for Europe, but because of visa [issues], we’ve only done the U.K.

Is my research correct that the Obsessed hasn’t played Psycho before?

WINO: The Obsessed has not. I played with Saint Vitus [in 2014, before the festival moved to Vegas] and did a spot with Bedemon [in 2015].

Why did the Obsessed’s appearance take so long?

WINO: Well, I don’t really know, actually. [Psycho creator Evan Hagen] wanted the Obsessed to play a few years ago, but I don’t know the inner works.

What makes Psycho distinct?

WINO: To be honest, I’ve only played Psycho in California [Psycho de Mayo]. I haven’t played Vegas. … It’s become the festival of the States, mainly because Psycho California was so successful. [The Observatory in Santa Ana] is a beautiful venue, and it’s a shame [it’s no longer there]. But I’ve never been to Mandalay.

Psycho is more geared towards harder underground music — it’s the cream of the crop of the genre and even the predecessors to the bands of the genre. I’m lucky I get to play Psycho. I’m very honored that people have the respect they have for us. I love the younger bands and always try to make time to see them play and encourage the younger players. That is my reward.

What do you have in store for your set?

WINO: We’ve actually had a couple of interesting turns of events. Our bassist Reid Raley decided to leave for different reasons pretty abruptly, but we were able to get this guy Brian White, who’s an amazing bass player. It allowed us to really hone our songs and stuff. Before, it was more of a rumble kind of noise thing going on. Now it’s more technical, and the same songs have new flavor. It’s almost like a new band. We’re really digging it. We can actually hear what’s going on.

What’s Brian’s background?

WINO: He is in Dog Panic Disco and Polkadot Cadavar. He’s done a lot with moshy bands.

Will you mostly be playing songs from the recently reissued Concrete Cancer demo or some bonus tracks from the self-titled reissue? Maybe some Spirit Caravan songs as well?

WINO: That’s a good suggestion you had. I like to make the set diverse. I doubt we’ll be playing the same set over there as we’ve been playing over here. We have a brand-new song we’re debuting up here. It won’t be a surprise if we’re playing it by the time we get there. We’re lucky that Brian has been able to learn quite a few songs in a short period of time. It’s been fresh for me.

What’s the new song called?

WINO: “Daughter of an Echo.” Sometimes I have multi-themes, like different themes that blend together. It’s about King Solomon enslaving demons to build his castle but also applying that to … how should I say it … more of a modern trip. It might sound a little convoluted, but when people hear the song, they will recognize something, because there’s a twist to it. We use as a teaser interlude from [2017’s Sacred], if that gives you a little clue.

You’ve been playing a lot lately from [1994’]s Church Within.

WINO: We had been doing that with Reid because we couldn’t really rehearse that much. We’re really gonna be playing a lot more songs off Sacred. This’ll be the first time we’ll be able to support that record right. The creative juices are flowing, though. Maybe we’ll have another new song soon.

Are you planning any guest appearances with other bands? Fellow Marylanders Clutch, perhaps?

WINO: Do you know something I don’t know? [Laughs.] I love playing with that band. Occasionally they ask me to do that. If they ask me, more than likely I’ll do it. Those dudes have nothing but our highest admiration. They are the definition of a pure, good, solid rock band. Their lineup hasn’t changed. If I get a call, I’d say yes.

Are you only going to be at Psycho on Saturday?

WINO: Yeah, unfortunately we’ll probably be rolling in sometime on the day of. The next day we fly to play San Fran. We had to build a little tour around it because we wanted to make it worth our while to go to the West Coast.

Which bands are you most looking forward to seeing play?

WINO: I can’t wait to see [Mark] Lanegan, Clutch and the Original Misfits — that’s gonna be great.

Are you aware there’s another band called Warhorse playing at the festival?

WINO: Yeah, Spirit Caravan used to play with them in the ‘90s and early 2000s. It’s a good name!

[Check back tomorrow for an interview with Warhorse.]

Tell me something that happened to you in Vegas that was supposed to stay in Vegas.

WINO: I’ve never really done any evil deeds in Vegas that I wouldn’t do elsewhere. Vegas is pretty fucking bleak if you’re not in the casinos. Marijuana’s legal there now. I’m a cannabis fan, both for mental and recreational [reasons]. It might tone things down. It’s radically different than when Saint Vitus played Vegas 10 years ago.

Gambling can be human misery. Some years ago, the Hidden Hand played there. At the time, I had a wife and some new babies. [She] would let me tour for three weeks at the most. We were on tour with Mastodon and the Burning Brides, and we had to leave the tour and drive back from California to the East Coast.

I was in Vegas at 8 in the morning and could see these people coming out of the casinos and the abject misery on the face of someone who had lost a lot of money. We were rolling by really slow, this aggro dude came out, angry and red-faced and wearing chartreuse green shoes. I said, “Life rules … not!” And he flipped out. That was rubbing salt in the wound. He was obviously completely bent.

What can fans and newcomers expect from your performance(s) at the festival?

WINO: We do what we do. We’re coming there to slay. This has been a long struggle. It’s what we love. We’re completely committed, and now’s the time. Right now, I’m really excited to pull out all the stops.

For previous installments of the Big Takeover’s Psycho Las Vegas preview series, check out our interviews with:

• Colin H. Van Eeckhout, vocalist for Belgian post-metal purveyors Amenra
• Jason Shi and Scott Key, singer/guitarist and drummer, respectively, for melodic hard-rock masters ASG
• Jay Bentley, founding bassist for politically progressive punk pros Bad Religion
• Stephen McBean, singer/guitarist of long-running psychedelic-rock project Black Mountain
• Jean-Paul Gaster, drummer for “the quintessential American rock band,” Clutch
• Jeff Walker, vocalist/bassist for extreme-metal behemoths Carcass
• Greg Meleney, vocalist/guitarist for Portland psych-rock mainstays Danava
• George Clarke, vocalist for shoegaze/black-metal powerhouses Deafheaven
• DJ Painkiller, an L.A.-based metalhead who will be spinning between sets
• Darkest Prince, lead guitarist for black-metal punks Devil Master
• Victor Vicart of Scottish progressive-metal quintet Dvne
• Laura Dolan, vocalist for Cincinnati rock ’n’ roll purists Electric Citizen
• Todd Fink, frontman for electro-pop punks the Faint
• Zack Simmons, drummer for blackened death-metal demigods Goatwhore
• Emil Amos, drummer for experimental post-rock band Grails
• Julien Chanut, guitarist for French sludge-doom band Hangman’s Chair
• Tony Campos, guitarist and founder of thrash revivalists Hell Fire
• Nashville cosmic-riff connoisseurs Howling Giant
• Gabriel Franco, vocalist/guitarist for gothy post-punks Idle Hands
• Joshy, drummer for crusty death/doom-metal outfit Ilsa
• Johanna Sadonis, vocalist for “heavy magic rock” band Lucifer
• Invincible crooner and former Screaming Trees frontman Mark Lanegan
• Stuart Braithwaite, founding guitarist/vocalist for beloved post-rock legends Mogwai
• Kelly Finnigan, frontman for Bay Area psychedelic-soul quartet Monophonics
• Thomas Eriksen, centrifugal force behind true Norwegian black-metallers Mork
• Teddi Tarnoff, frontwoman of “Vegas-based dirty rock ’n’ roll band” Mother Mercury
• All-female Motörhead tribute band Motorbabe
• Mikael Åkerfeldt, frontman for Swedish progressive-metal kings Opeth
• Ben Bloom, frontman/guitarist for funk-soul octet Polyrhythmics
• Ethan Lee McCarthy, frontman for blackened-doom trio Primitive Man
• Tobias Grave, frontman for shimmering post-rock trio Soft Kill
• Experimental rock, alternative hip-hop and dance music guru Tobacco
• Derrick Vella, guitarist of death-metal arsonists Tomb Mold
• Niklas Källgren, guitarist for Swedish fuzz fanatics Truckfighters
• Los Angeles Satanic doo-wop duo Twin Temple
• Kevin Starrs, frontman of British fuzz royalty Uncle Acid and the deadbeats
• Sean Killian, vocalist for cult-favorite Bay Area thrash band Vio-lence
• Bruce Lamont, frontman for experimental heavy-jazz project Yakuza and Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zeppelin 2
• Aaron Rieseberg, bassist for Oregon doom-metal dealers Yob

Also, don’t miss our special feature in which Deafheaven’s Clarke and Mogwai’s Braithwaite discuss their mutual affection for each other’s bands, whether Deafheaven should play their Mogwai cover at Psycho Las Vegas — and the possibility of a collaboration between the two projects.