A while back I started a thread on which rock icons would make good action figures/dolls. Certain musicians seem to represent their particular style of music with such unique style and personality, they could easily translate into cartoons or toys. I currently have figures of Ozzy, Iggy and Lemmy at my desk at work. While writing my doom trilogy pieces and listening to just about nothing but doom all summer, I realized a big proportion of my favorites involved Wino. The quintessential underdog rock ‘n’ roll lifer, Scott “Wino” Weinrich is the perfect embodiment of the long-suffering doom metal genre, maybe not born to lose, but certainly born too late to attain the kind of status attained by the aforementioned rockers. Many of his bands (The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, Place Of Skulls, Shrinebuilder, Premonition 13) often seemed on the verge of breaking through to crossover popularity, only to have fate pound them back to Earth and into their places as critically respected but merely cult favorites. Nevertheless, Wino’s passion and intensity never falters, and he pours every ounce of his energy into these bands with complete commitment.
Playing in bands since 1976, and putting out over 20 albums, he rarely stops, with the exception of a few years following the 1996 breakup of The Obsessed. He took it fairly hard and had his requisite lost weekend of drug addiction. But unlike Bobby Liebling of Pentagram, no one had to scrape him out of his parents’ basement to get him back into the game. The other candidate for doom icon, Liebling is more recognizable to the general public thanks to not being born too late, but just being a fuckup, documented painfully by the film Last Days Here (2012). Liebling is the kind of underdog who you root for because he’s a great frontman, but also squirm at his pathetic helplessness and lack of self control. Wino didn’t need to be rescued by anyone to my knowledge, got sober, shook himself off, formed Spirit Caravan in the late 90s and hasn’t stopped since. Wino is a wicked guitar player who can talk your ear off about the gear he uses, the choppers he builds and rides, and leftist political theory. He’s the kind of cool dude that, depending on your age, you’d love to have as an older brother or an uncle. Somebody please get on the task of making a Wino doll, thank you.
Winography: A Lucky 13
Given how many bands reunite, this wasn’t exactly a surprise, but was exciting nevertheless. Vitus is mainly guitarist/songwriter Dave Chandler’s band which existed for eight years and put out three albums before Wino first joined in 1986. But Wino was certainly a positive influence, with Born Too Late (SST, 1986) being the best thing they’d done up to that point. Wino made two other albums with them and left by 1990. He reunited with them 18 years later, toured with them off and on for a few years and finally made this album. By far the best sounding Saint Vitus album, the songs are not quite consistent enough to surpass their fourth album, or arguably even Die Healing (Hellhound, 1995) with original vocalist Scott Reagers. But at least half the album, including “The Bleeding Ground” and “Blessed Night” is tremendous, and it features some of Wino’s best recorded vocals. Many fans would rate it over the much higher profile reunion album, Black Sabbath’s chart-topping 13 (Vertigo, 2013), and is a great introduction to Wino’s wonderful world of doom. | Buy
In recent years Wino has been recording some acoustic music to explore his new-found love for Americana and solo artists like Townes Van Zandt. I’m not really a fan of acoustic Wino. Instead, Wino’s first solo album is a band effort with Jean Paul Gaster (Clutch) and bassist Jon Blank (Rezin), that’s a nice summary of his past accomplishments and strengths, including “Release Me,” “Punctuated Equilibrium,” “Secret Realm Devotion” and “Silver Lining.” | Buy
Wino formed this band with recording engineer Bruce Falkinburg (bass and vocals) in 2002. It became one of his most unique projects in that he introduced more psychedelic influences into the stoner-doom hybrid, and achieved some of the most amazing sounds this side of Electric Wizard and Warhorse (not Wino’s first band), and thus one of Wino’s most contemporary sounding projects. Wino’s lyrics focus more on politics, history and spirituality, and even includes a reading list in the liner notes. Key tracks, “The Last Tree,” “For All The Wrong Reasons.” It’s an excellent start, but things would truly come together on their next album.
The band made the trip to Vielkang Studio in Berlin, Germany probably to avoid suffering from another shitty production job from the SST crew. This thick, dark slab of doom is easily the best sounding of their SST albums, a big improvement over Mournful Cries (SST, 1988). One of the most underrated Saint Vitus albums, it did help that Southern Lord reissued it in 2004. Check out “I Bleed Black,” “Ice Monkey” and “Angry Man.” | Buy
The Obsessed came out of Wino’s first band, Warhorse, which he formed in 1976. By the time they released The Sodden Jackal EP (Invictus, 1983), they had absorbed some of the nearby D.C. punk scene such as Bad Brains, whose influence can be heard on “Indestroy.” Their first album was slated to come out on Metal Blade in 1985. I don’t think it’s any mystery that the the reason the label left it in the can rather than release it is they probably thought the recording quality was too amateur, a problem shared by fellow doomsters Pentagram, Pagan Altar and to an extent Witchfinder General. Probably because no one had the funds or expertise to record sounds worthy of the early Black Sabbath albums. Nevertheless, there’s some great music here, including “Tombstone Highway,” “Freedom” and “River Of Soul.” When Hellhound finally issued the album, it inspired Wino to reform the band and give it another go. Incredibly, this album is once again out of print and hard to get, and is in dire need of a reissue and remaster.
This supergroup first started when Al Cisneros and Chris Haikus of Om and Sleep approached Wino in 2003 to play together. Neurosis frontman Scott Kelly joined a few years later, and Chris left. They all though of their favorite drummer and agreed on Melvins’ Dale Crover. The band wrote songs long distance, emailing each other tracks, and when they finally got together in 2009, they banged out the album in just three days. It’s a really great album, though it’s easy to recognize who wrote which songs. Wino’s “The Architect” is definitely one of the standouts. I caught the band’s tour and it was pretty amazing. In 2011 he said the songs were written for a second album, but these four busy guys, despite having gone to Netherlands to play Roadburn, have not been able to get together since to make it happen. | Buy
Wino had been jamming with his friend Jim “Sparky” Karow for 20 years, and finally made it official with an album. A rare situation for Wino playing in a dual guitar band, the result is some interesting interplay that you don’t normally get to hear on a Wino album. “A Hechicera De La Jeringa” takes the opportunity to doom the fuck out with one of Wino’s best songs. “Modern Man” and “Hard To Say,” mix other elements like southern rock, which makes it sound like a bit of a continuation from The Hidden Hand’s last album, The Resurrection Of Whiskey Foote (Southern Lord, 2007). As with the future of Saint Vitus and Shrinebuilder, Wino hasn’t ruled out doing another one. | Buy
Wino goes even further back with Victor Griffin, having been housemates with him in the early 80s. Griffin was one of the founding members of Pentagram, who had left the band after 1996, sobered up, became Christian and moved to Knoxville, TN. He formed Place Of Skulls (a biblical reference to Golgotha) in 2000, with former Pentagram bassist Lee Abney and Tim Tomaselli (drums). After releasing Nailed (Southern Lord, 2001), Wino joined in time to record their second album and officially make Place Of Skulls a “supergroup.” As with Saint Vitus, the addition of Wino elevated an already good band to another level, which in some ways is the most traditional-sounding doom project Wino’s touched since Vitus. Griffin brings a more swinging, bluesy feel in comparison to the more plodding Vitus, with plenty of melody. Highlights include “Long Lost Grave” and “The Watchers.” This got mediocre reviews at the time, and in retrospect deserves better. Having concurrently formed The Hidden Hand, Wino was unable to continue traveling to Knoxville for rehearsals, and left the band. They put out two more albums and ramped up Griffi’s Christian lyrical content with The Black Is Never Far (Exile On Mainstream, 2006) and As A Dog Returns (Giddy Up!, 2010). Griffin came back in 2013 with In-Graved which includes Guy Pinhas (The Obsessed, Acid King, Goatsnake) and Jeff “Oly” Olson (Trouble).
This was the first project after Wino’s drug-hazed retirement. Coaxed back into action by Dave Shermann (Wretched) and Gary Isom (Unorthodox), they were initially called Shine and released the “Lost Sun Dance” 7″ single in 1998. They soon renamed themselves after “Spirit Caravan,” a song by The Obsessed and signed to Joe Lally’s (Fugazi) Tolotta Records. Focusing lyrics on politics and spirituality, their sound contributes a unique take to the fuzzy stoner rock sound that was spreading like wildfire, inspired by Kyuss and Sleep. Wino’s playing is at his most swinging and groovy, with his most satisfyingly fat, blown out low-end tones yet. Jug Fulla Sun is a stoner rock classic that ranks up there with Kyuss, Sleep, Unida, Monster Magnet, Electric Wizard, Acrimony, Goatsnake and Queens of the Stone Age. Every song is a winner, with “Cosmic Artifact,” “Dead Love/Jug Fulla Sun,” “Fang” and “Lost Sun Dance” edging out the others. Dreamwheel EP (MeteorCity, 1999) followed that year, and then the slightly disappointing Elusive Truth (Tolotta, 2001). By then Wino was having problems with Shermann, who was spending time since 2000 on Earthride, and the band broke up. Both albums were reissued on The Last Embrace by MeteorCity in 2003. | Buy
Saint Vitus were an oddity on the SST label, populated mainly by post-punk and hardcore indie bands Black Flag, Meat Puppets, Minutemen, Husker Du, Bad Brains and by 1987 Sonic Youth and Dinosaur Jr.. Despite having toured for years with Black Flag and others, they were never fully accepted by that audience. At the time I even saw them as one of the lesser bands then. While their cult status still may not measure up to the other bands on the roster in many peoples’ eyes, they have grown to godlike stature for the (slowly, of course) growing doom audience. While the sound is a slight improvement over previous Vitus albums and the first (still unreleased) album by The Obsessed, producer Joe Carducci still couldn’t quite nail it. With the flat sound and Wino sounding like he’s in a cave a quarter mile away, it may seem appropriately matched to their plodding misery. But it could have been so much better. Nevertheless, it is their best batch of songs, cementing its reputation as a classic. The opening title track has become a doom anthem, one of Wino’s most signature songs. Nearly as timeless are “Clear Windowpane” which changes up with some faster tempos, and more poignant, personal Wino lyrics on “Dying Inside.” | Buy
Wino is still gutted to this day about The Obsessed’s failure to make it. He believes it came down to their failure not to release the more up-tempo, rockin’ “Streamlined” as a single. I don’t think it would have made much difference, but there were some pretty wild expectations in the early to mid-90s. It wasn’t just Nirvana and Pearl Jam who sold millions. So did Metallica, Alice In Chains, Faith No More, No Doubt, Green Day, Smashing Pumpkins, Stone Temple Pilots, Red Hot Chili Peppers and Offspring, not to mention lesser talents like Bush and Creed. Many bands thought they were just as good or better, therefore they had a shot. 1994, however, saw metal sales at a low ebb. Beyond Pantera and Corrosion Of Conformity, there were very few high profile releases. Prong was in the midst of a four album run with Epic/Sony that didn’t really do much for them. The death metal scene was relatively healthy but still underground, although Sony reissued Swedish death metallers Entombed’s 1993 album Wolverine Blues. That partnership ended just as quickly as The Obsessed’s. Mainstream success is a fickle bitch, but I if they had stuck with a medium sized metal-friendly label and stayed together, they could have gradually built up a bigger audience. Frustration and regret aside, The Church Within is a classic, one of the all-time great doom metal albums, and certainly the best of any metal genre in 1994. “Blind Lightning” is one of Wino’s hardest songs ever, otherwise it’s hard to single out songs from such an impressive bunch. “Skybone” culminates Wino’s classic influences in a nice concise package as well as any of them. The rhythm section Guy Pinhas and Greg Rogers went on to form the highly regarded Goatsnake. One perk Wino did enjoy from his brief tenure with Columbia was that he participated on a track on that label’s Nativity In Black that same year. A tribute to Black Sabbath, Wino collaborated with Rob Halford, Geezer Butler and Bill Ward as Bullring Brummies, covering “The Wizard.” How cool is that? In April 2013, the last The Obsessed lineup reunited and performed at Roadburn Festival in Tillburg, Holland, Hellfest in France and Maryland Deathfest XI in Baltimore. Of all of Wino’s bands, The Obsessed is the most quintessential Wino, and I would be the most excited about the prospect of a new album. Fingers crossed. The Church Within will be available again with bonus tracks on November 25 on Real Gone Records. | Buy
Named after Adam Smith’s “invisible hand of the market,” The Hidden Hand’s second album finds Wino in one of his peaks of his four decade career. Brimming with political rage and experimentation, Mother Teacher Destroyer is a monster, a masterful hybrid of psychedelic stoner doom. Wino’s guitar perfectly reflects the ebb and flow of moods between fury, augmented by the heaviest, thorniest tones he’s ever done, and hippie optimism (“Wash our weapons in the sea”) with some of his trippiest psychedelic flourishes. The immediate “The Crossing,” liquid “Half Mast,” crushing “Desensitized,” and one of Wino’s greatest songs, “Sons Of Kings,” that deftly balances protest and fantasy. The band’s last album, The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote (Southern Lord, 2007) took an even more ambitious concept approach, but wasn’t as consistently great, but a satisfying conclusion to that trilogy. Depending on which Wino bands one favors, it could easily have squeezed into this list, just as Spirit Caravan’s Elusive Truth (Tolotta, 2001) and Saint Vitus’ Mournful Cries (SST, 1988) could have, thanks to Wino’s consistent greatness.
This was a great time for Wino, with the confidence of a solid three album run with Saint Vitus, and renewed interest in his original band The Obsessed with Hellhound finally putting out their 1985 recorded debut in 1990. Saint Vitus wasn’t fully or even half his band, and the time seemed right to give it a go with his own project The Obsessed again, this time with a new lineup of drummer Greg Rogers and bassist Scott Reeder. 1991 was a banner year for a lot of bands, and Wino was no exception, with his singing, guitar playing, lyrics and overall sound with some heavy lifting from Reeder (who would later go on to join Kyuss on their last two albums) better than ever. His experiences with proto-metal, doom, punk, psych rock all come together with his most consistent and definitive statement. Many of Wino’s most enduring classics are found here, including the stately “Hiding Mask,” the shredding “No Blame” the serpentine “Endless Circles” and pummeling “Kachina.” And “Jaded.” And “No Mas.” And the epic title track. And freakin’ all of them! This album didn’t sell like many others that year, and while it did lead to Wino’s first major record deal, it didn’t lead to any crossover success. However in the eyes of many, it sealed Wino’s status as a legendary icon. | Buy
A decade after Wino’s first brush with mainstream fame participating in the Bullring Brummies with Rob Halford and Black Sabbath’s rhythm section, he got another 15 minutes by taking part on “The Emerald Law” on Dave Grohl’s Probot album in 2004. He also appeared in the video for “Shake Your Blood” alongside Dave, Lemmy, and 66 Suicide Girls. It got decent airplay on Headbangers Ball at the time. People have often called Wino the Lemmy of doom, and there’s something to that connection. A Motörhead influence can be heard on many Wino songs, such as Spirit Caravan’s “Fang.” He covered “Iron Horse/Born To Loose” on a demo with Lost Breed in 1989, and again on Adrift (2009). Again, someone needs to make that Wino doll. It’s time.
The day after I published this, KnuckleBonz announced its production of their own Lemmy doll to come out this Fall, as well as Ronny James Dio. Except they call theirs statues, cuz they’re fancy like that. There’s several companies making rock icon figures, many that are limited edition. Most of Knucklebonz’s Rock Iconz series are priced at $115 or higher, which is a lot, but what I like about them is that they’ve done statues of slightly less mainstream musicians like Zakk Wylde, Dimebag Darrell, George Lynch and Keith Emerson.
Maybe! Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know your interest and perhaps our dreams will become reality!