I don’t think, this band needs too long introduction. One of the first doom metal bands ever is here on our pages!!! Maybe not everyone knows, but they are now in 2008 after a short comeback in 2003 back again in to the Underground scene with their best and classic line up (all the founders + Wino)!!! Our question were answered by Armando Acosta, drumer.
Armando, for how long have you been involved into metal and how did you get involved into it? At which point did you find interest in music and metal in particular?
Well, I was into Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Cream, Jimi Hendrix, West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band, Jefferson Airplane, Steppenwolf, Doors, The Seeds, Iron Butterfly, Spirit, Mothers of Invention, Frank Zappa. Then got into Emerson, Lake, & Palmer, Yes, Gentle Giant, Pink Floyd, Blackmores Rainbow, Captain Beyond, Cactus, Camel, Blue Oyster Cult, Grand Funk Railroad, Rush. Also Led Zeppelin, Dio, Mercyful Fate, Prong, Queensryche. It gives you some idea of what my influence are. There were metal sounds coming from every one. You can hear classical timing in the music. I like weird timing, even I don't show it in my drumming. I jammed with Don Dokken, Jeff Tappin. Bobby Blotzer, Juan Crouciea and Mick Brown. I was a roadie for Dokken and seeing how the audience was reacting to my friends band I wanted to be in my own band.
At which point did you decide to become musician and how did your choice fall on drums? Was it the first instrument that you’ve decided to play?
First of all I was about 6 or 7 when father played classical record of Revels Bolero and on the cover of the record had a painting of a snare drum, black and red and a pare of red drum sticks on top. From that point I played air drums, Until A.M. radio started Playing rock music. Back then they played all kinds of music, from Temptations to Jimi Hendrix same station. I played bass in jr. high with my friend Bob Berry. But I like watching the drummer he looked like he was having more fun. My first year at high, I bot my first 5 peace drum set a Victoria, 6 months later I bot another 5 peace a Pearl before they were big, to have a double bass set. Thanks to Ginger Baker.
What were your influences to become drummer? Do you play perhaps other instruments as well?
Ginger Baker, Ron Bushy, Don Brewer, Carl Palmer, Ian Peace, Neal Peart. I no longer play bass.
Were you self taught or…?
I'm self taught, I started with air drums. When rock music hit A.M. radio I tryed to figure out what drums they were hitting and when I got my first drum set it didn't take long
Saint Vitus were formed under the name Tyrant (US) with Scott Reagers (vocals), Dave Chandler (guitar), Mark Adams (bass), and you (drums), how all of you hooked up togeher?
I met Dave and Mark through a muscions contact service at a record store. I filled out a card saying what my influence was and I put down Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Deep Purple I don't remember. There singer at the time Dezzo (that's what Dave and Mark called him) saw my card and called me up. We had two singers Dezzo, Howard then Scotty.
Was it easy to find members that were sharing the same musical interest?
At the time everybody was in Sabbath, Zeppelin, Scorpions (early Scorps, before the commercial days) back then it wasn't hard back then it wasn't hard to find a player.
Was it the first band for all of you or…? Can you tell us more about your previous experiences?
For me in high school me and my two brothers, Juan guitar and George bass. We practice in the garage. We'd played battle of the bands that were at custom car shows. At that time it was me ( drums ), Rudie ( rhythm ), Juan ( lead ), George ( bass ) and Darrel ( vocals ). The closes we got was 4th place at the L.A. Sports Arena.
What about your early rehearsals and songcomposing? Who was responsible for the lyrics and for the music?
Dave did most of the music and lyrics and Mark and me filled in what thought would song good.
Did you start writing originals right from the start or were you jamming on covers?
When we started the band we agreed to do originals only.
Tyrant recorded a 13 tracks rehearsal tape back then (in 1978), can you tell us more about it? Do you still remember how was this material recorded which was probably your first experience?
SST first ask us to record a 45 record, after there legal problems a year later they ask us if we would do LP by then we'd had changed the to Saint Vitus. We did it in 10 hrs. It was recorded live.
At which point and why did you change your name to St. Vitus? Did it mean, that you paid attention to Black Sabbath or…?
We just played Gazzarys and we were coming out the club and I saw a business card on the wall out side, was a band card for Tyrant. Not ours, and at the time there was zine call Bam that had bands in it and I saw about 50 other and in California with same name. Dave came up with the name, he said it was a Sabbath song.
One of the first doom metal bands Saint Vitus were thee premiere American doom metal act of the ’80s, along with Trouble, Pentagram and the Obsessed, you were pioneers of true-Doom Metal, do you agree with that?
All I can say is we wanted to Sabbath as if Ozzy were still in the band, and what would sound like if they were still together. At that time it wasn't call Doom.
Were you familiar with the aforementioned bands back then?
At that time we didn't of any smiler bands until we'd started to tour
Do you agree with that you were a card-carrying disciple of Black Sabbath’s dreary doom metal commandments, specializing in amazingly slow, ponderous power chords and a highly unfashionable biker image and you were one of the first to fuse the behemoth riffage and bleak atmosphere of Black Sabbath with the desperate aggression of punk rock ala Black Flag?
Black Flag took us on our first two tours. They called us road virgins. We took the punk style of dressing and made our own. We learned a lot on those first two tours.
Despite the fact, that you were friends with a lot of southern california hardcore bands, you didn’t take that music as your main influence and also the original St. Vitus-sound had a slight hardcore feel, it was much more based on 70s style doom rock played by bands such as Black Sabbath or Pentagram extreme slow drumming, simple, but highly effective power chords and weird solos from guitarist Dave Chandler seemed to be the best way to musically support your dark and gloomy lyrics, how do you see it?
Dave blamed weman for being devious and not onest, that where most his dark lyric come from.
What do you recall from the L.A. scene of the early ’80s when bands started popping up, such as W.A.S.P., Slayer, Mötley Crüe, Dokken, Ratt, Dark Angel, Abattoir, Metallica, Armored Saint try to make name for theirselves?
Most of those bands were after the girls. When we'd played the girls ran out. Most bands admitted that too.
How did you feel seeing that great metal explosion in L. A. and what were your views on that highly talented, influential scene? Did you build up friendship with one of the aforementioned acts? Were you getting familiar with the other acts that have started at the same time as you?
I myself felt thay were better muscions, we knew a lot of the bands in L.A..
Did you gig a lot as Tyrant?
At least 1 year maybe two
Do you agree with that in L. A. existed two different scenes back then? There were the glam/melodic/hair bands and the faster, more extreme speed/thrash acts…
I wasn't into thrash it reminded me of punk. The only time I saw any shows is when I roadied for Dokken.
What happened with the band during those six years what passed between your first demo (’83) and Tyrant’s rehearsal tape (’79)? Were you working continuously on newer tunes or…?
All we did was play party's and waited SST to get there legal stuff done. We didn't really write any new music until SST ask if we were ready to record a new LP.
Under the name of St. Vitus you recorded a demo in 1983, do you still remember how was it recorded? Did it open some doors for the band?
Like I said before we never recorded a demo. Each LP was done for release. And we wrote songs for the LP. excepted for the EP's. They were extras. There was some intress but they never paned out.
Can you tell us details on this tape?
All I can tell you is SST kept the tapes, most of the details would be Dave or Mark, I was simple drums sounded loud it's OK for me.
How much promotion did you make for this demo? Did you spread it around to attract label interests?
SST never tolled us if they promoted our stuff or not, at least I wasn't tolled.
How did you get in touch with SST Records (owned by Black Flag guitarist Greg Ginn) back then? Weren’t bigger label interests in the band those times?
A band called Overkill, not the English band. We played with them at Alpine Village, they liked our sound and tolled the guys in Black Flag. They came to our show at Mi Casitas. And they ask us if we wanted to make a 45 record. SST was a poor mans label.
Did the Black Flag guys like your music?
I believe they did. If you notice, the longer we were on SST the slower Black Flag got
You entered the studio in fall of 1984 to record your first material, were you prepared to cut the record? Did you have a decent budget to record the material?
We were ready for the studio, but not familiar with the ins and outs of the studio. I don't know about the budget, Flag ask if we wanted to do LP insted of the 45 we said sure.
What about the recording sessions?
The first LP was done in 10 hrs, the second LP was in two or three days.
This album starts with the „fastest” song, and loses speed gradually to end with the slowest, is that correct?
It seems I can't verify it, my tape is missing, records are put away were I can't get to them and I never got a CD.
The sound is very basic, low guitars, bass, drums, and vocals without any fancy production or anything of the kind, but to contrast that, the solos are almost always faster than the song, and full of effects and noises, what gives more texture to the tracks, how do you see it?
We wanted the low end and heaver sound and Dave liked Playing that way
Since there’s only five of them, there’s no filler, do you agree with that? Did you use all of the tunes that you have written for the record?
Our low end made it imposable to put any more songs on vinyl, so we put what we had left on the EP.
Would you say, that Saint Vitus made a louder sonic doom boom than any other band to that point?
We were something different back then. No one else was doing it, that we knew
Dave Chandler’s guitar sounds as if it’s being played through a broken amplifier which fell off the back of a pickup truck one too many times, and the bass is just a plodding distorted rumble, what can be said of every Vitus album, what do you think about it? Do you agree with that you never changed much, and you always could be relied upon to create the most utterly minimalist and creepy Sabbath inspired doom?
Dave's amp did look like it fell off a truck. We wanted a Low end sound. Every record that came out Dave would play it on his stereo and if it blew his speakers out he was happy.
Saint Vitus do possess a modicum of musical skill, though, and Dave Chandler is very fond of his wah wah pedal, which he uses to great effect during just about every song to create some noisy and offensive guitar solos, is that correct?
Dave liked his WA WA pedal, he also learned a secret from Don Token to get a greater rang from his pedal
What were the shows to support the record?
First two Laps we toured with Black Flag to support the release.
It was followed by the 7” single „War is our destiny”, what about it? Why was it released on this format, since it appeared on „Hallow’s victim” as well?
I did not know there was a 7" of War Is Our Destiny
„Hallow’s Victim” resembles the debut of the band: nearly identical production values, a similar grainy and warm guitar tone, the same incomparable vocals of the mighty and woefully underrated Scott Reagers, and a similar propensity for interspersing their gloom with energetic up-tempo numbers that would sadly never work as well with Wino in the band, do you agree with that?
Hallow's Victim was recorded in the same studio, same crew. Wino could not do most of the Reggers stuff
„Walking dead” is superior to alot of other Doom bands, and better than most of the stuff on your second full-length album „Hallow’s Victim”, how do you see it?
We tryed to get heaver as we went along. Except C.O.D. we'd tryed to go commercial
The title track is around 11 minutes long, and is a superb example of metal’s slow gloomy side, the guitar alternates between arpeggio-style riffing and power chords, skillfully altering the dynamics of the song as it progresses, is that correct?
Now your getting to technical for me. I only was concern was timing and how I interpet the music.
Why did Scott Reagers decide to leave the band? Did you part ways with him on a friendly term at the end?
At the time it was not on good terms. The tour was going bad Plus we left him at a rest stop a couple of hours out side Richmond. We were in Richmond when Mark as were was Scotty, Dave said quit joking, we;d had left him when he got out to call our next show. Dave ask me to tell him if any one got out of the van. I fell asleep. Oops! Scotty got a ride from some body, we found him at the Richmond bus staton. Needless to say we got to our show late, we were tolled there was a lot of people there. Which led to him him leaving soon after
What did he do after his departure from the band? Did you remain in touch with him?
We finish the tour as a three piece. I'll still say we shooed have staid a three piece but Dave wanted Sabbath image. We were still friends with Scotty.
After Scott left the band your new vocalist became living legend Scott „Wino” Weinrich”, how did he get in the picture exactly and was he your first choice being the singer of the band?
Through a fan. We spent the night at his house after a show. He had a tape of The Obsessed, thay had a fan base back east. he play the tape for us. And tolled us, he'd be a good singer for us. Later we played D.C. and maybe 1 person showed up" Wino", he gave us $20 to get to the next show. I think that what happen. Haze.
Were all of you familiar with The Obsessed? Would you say, that The Obsessed is/was an underrated band?
Yes. Yes. We were looking a singer to replace Scotty. He may have sounded a little like Ozzy I don't remember.
Did the fans immediately accept Wino as the replacement of Scott?
As far I know he was accepted. I'm sure there those who prefered Scott.
Do you think that Wino had a wider range of vocals what allowed you to explore new musical horizons?
To tell you the truth you need to talk to Dave. He knows what inspirers hes his music
You entered the Total Access Studios in Redondo Beach to record „Born too late”, how did the recording sessions go with this album?
That was many moons ago. I know they were live recordings. And lots of green haze.
Would you say, that the recording sessions went well because Wino was an experienced singer?
It went well becuse It felt good to do. That how I feel
If I’m correct, the vocals took already laid down by Scott, but had to be recorded over by Wino, why and how did that happen?
As far as I know Wino was the only one to record the tracks.
Does it mean that the whole material was ready when Wino joined the band and he hadn’t a big hand into the songwriting process?
Dave wrote the songs, we prcatis as a band, then we recorded. Like I said it was many, many moons ago. I was not the go to guy for interveiws.
„Born Too Late” is undeniably a defining effort in the spirit of the early, now considered classic doom metal sound, perfected its slow, dirty swagger with the help of better production and the unmistakable Scott „Wino” Weinrich on vocals, do you agree with that?
Of course better production makes for better sound. And Wino was a fan first, so he had his idea of what he should sound like.
Songs like „Dying Inside”, „H.A.A.G.” and the title track groove deep and rock hard, while the rest of metaldom was desperately trying to break speed records, St. Vitus, with its overdriven, half-tempo fuzz rock, were still bewitched by the dark, nebulous sounds of the ’70s, is that correct?
We liked Black Sabbeth. We thought we could play like them slower.
Do you agree with that „Born Too Late” marks other changes in the Saint Vitus sound, Wino’s deeper and somewhat more professional voice ushered in a tightening up of the bands trademark psychedelia drenched approach to doom?
We just had fun playing what we like.
This sharper, brighter sound cost the band in terms of the raw personality you’d been so swathed in earlier, but Wino’s song writing abilities brought a higher batting average of quality material, is that correct?
Wino wrote 2 songs, Dave wrote the rest,oops! Mark wrote one
Is this album just overall exudes all that is great about Doom Metal? Do you think, that „Born too Late” was never a commercial breakthrough, but its influence can still be heard today?
I know it's consdered a classic, and is my favoret
What about the „Thirsty and miserable” Ep? Why did the title track and „The end of the end” make up on the EP, since they were on „Born too late” as well? Who came up with the Black Flag cover?
Dave and Mark liked Black Flag. And maenly we had an extra song or two. we don't do demos. Dave’s idea was to put the song on the stuff, his idea was to do the cover.
In 1988 you entered the Music Grinder Studios in Hollywood to record your next album „Mournful cries”, why did your choice fall on this studio? How do you recall about the recording sessions?
SST said go to another studio. Or it may be our record of haveing the cops coming out and saying we're to loud stop playing at 3 A.M..That includes Berlin.
Do you think, that „Mournful Cries” is still a solid album by Saint Vitus?
Do you agree with that „Mournful Cries” follows perfectly in the steps of „Born Too Late”: under-produced, simple, and most of all, disturbingly slow and this is however doesn’t have as good of songwriting as „Born Too Late”, but outside of that, it never falters or would you say, that „Mournful Cries” is big on Saint Vitus sluggardly tempos and remains another doom metal landmark?
Yes. Wino wrote two of the songs. Yes.
Having spent the early part of your career out of step with the thrash metal movement, Saint Vitus continued to cower in the light of underground fashion, death metal and its ensuing domination was brewing up like a cauldron full of pus, but Saint Vitus simply threw their monk hoods over their heads and forged ahead oblivious, how do you see this?
We didn't care what every else was doing. We played what we like'd Yes. I like all the music we made. To me all the albums are good. If somebody didn't like our music, so what. We played to our selfs.
You’d survive that movement, and live long enough to sneer at black metals fashion surge as well „Mournful Cries” itself, it actually represented a slight improvement over the bands prior album „Born Too Late”, as its songs stick to the robs better and more often, do you agree with that?
March of 1988 you toured Europe extensively, later putting in a rare UK showing with Agnostic Front, what do you recall about it? Can you tell us more about it?
We had 14 shows, it drop off to 7 shows. I'm sure we remeber our german roadie driving on the wrong side of the road, two drunk bobes, a motorbike cop escoreded to one our shows and putting a Vitus stiker on his bike
Was it your first tour in Europe? What kind of experiences did you gain during the tour? How was the European crowd compared to the US one?
Better. We were treated better by venues. We didn't starve in Europe. Sure. We didn't care what the out side world was doing. We were happy with our sound.
Wino would also aid Lost Breed for demo recordings during this frame time, can you tell us more about it?
To tell you the truth, I don't know anything about that.