I’ll be brief because I know that if some dumpy site I went to had a Saint Vitus interview I wanted to read, the last thing I’d be looking for would be the author’s wax poetry about the importance of the band. I’ll just say this:
In the interview, Dave Chandler, legendary guitarist of the reunited Saint Vitus, theorizes that his music has endured so long perhaps because it’s simple. And maybe he’s right, since Vitus interminably delves to the primordial beginnings of heavy metal. But I think there’s more to it than that. By stepping away sound-wise from the Californian punk/hardcore scene that was all around them, and by being in such stark contrast to their own era, to their followers, they were of none. A band without time. Timeless.
After replacing original drummer Armando Acosta, Saint Vitus now consists of vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, Chandler, bassist Mark Adams and basher Henry Vasquez (Blood of the Sun, Debris Inc.). Thanks to Dave Chandler, Rodney Pawlak and Ilka Pardinas for making this one happen.
Chandler checked in from the road in between Los Angeles and San Francisco, having just played the former the night before. Q&A is after the jump.
How was L.A.?
It was good. Surprising, actually (laughs). There was a lot of people there. It was a good start to this thing because we haven’t been to L.A. in a long time, so it was cool.
Are you surprised at the response you’ve gotten for the reunion?
Yeah. We did the reunion in 2003, so we knew there was interest, but yeah, it’s tripping us out a little bit, because it’s a lot bigger and better than it was before. Tonight is Frisco. We’re looking forward to that because we used to do good in Frisco anyway, so it should be really good. We’re definitely tripping out on it. It’s cool though.
Are there differences between this and 2003? Are there different crowds showing up?
Well, it seems like there’s more younger people now than there was at that time, so that’s cool. The crowds are getting more into it because our new drummer Henry is such a powerful drummer, people are talking again how they can feel it in their chests and stuff like they used to do years ago. It’s changed a little, but I noticed last night there was a lot of kids there, and that’s kind of unusual.
What do you think it is that’s bringing those kids out now?
Most of them, their parents were fans, and they grew up listening to our records because that’s what their parents played. They never got a chance to see this band that mom and dad played all the time, so when they do, they’re like, “Oh, this is that band!” A lot of them come with their parents, which is really cool. We get introduced to these guys who saw us when they were 19 and now they’re bringing their 10-year-old kid to see us. It’s cool.
L.A. and the shows you did on the East Coast; how do they compare to Roadburn?
Of course, Roadburn, there was more people because it’s a bigger thing, but the response has been surprisingly good in America. It’s almost the same as it is in Europe. Europe has obviously got more people [coming out], but that’s normal for us. The people are really into it all of a sudden. It’s cool to us, but we really did good on the East Coast too. The farther east we went, the better we did, but I was glad the shows came out the way that they did, because we’re always worried no one will show up when we do America. They came out good. They gave us a little boost for doing this thing.
How are the relationships between everyone in the band? Henry’s new, but you and Wino and Mark. How are things between you guys working together and personally?
It’s great. Everybody’s getting along like we used to years ago, way back in the ‘80s. Everybody’s having fun. It’s more like everybody’s more likeminded. Me and Wino are more like each other than we were before, so we’re having a blast. It’s totally cool.
Do you think that’s just from getting older, being a little more mature?
Definitely. I know that with me, I’ve gotten older and slightly more mature. I’m still a hag, but you know. But that makes a difference. We’re not living in a van, struggling and not being able to have any food and that kind of thing. We can enjoy what we’re doing rather than lug our own equipment and that kind of thing. We can — it sounds stupid — but we can just play the rock star. We can each enjoy it more. When it’s not any fun, it kind of sucks.
How does it feel playing these songs again? Has your attitude about this material changed over the years?
It’s like riding a bicycle. When we started rehearsing, immediately we were like, “Okay, yeah.” The same feelings come out. If it’s an angry song, you look angry, if it’s a stoner song, we look like we’re loaded. Everything just came back naturally. We rehearsed two days or something, a couple hours each day [before Roadburn]. Because everybody lives in different states, so everyone just practices with the CDs, then we get together and just play. For this thing, we got together one day, went through the songs one time, and a couple ones we had problems with, we went through them a couple times. Everyone plays with the record. You get so far, then you just gotta get together and jam. But we basically don’t do any rehearsals for that stuff (laughs).
What happened with Armando?
He’s got some major health problems, and it’s just restricting his playing. We had set up to do a really, really big show in France with 100,000 people, 80,000 — the Hellfest. We did Roadburn and like three German shows, and we were like, “Man, you gotta get help, dude,” because we can’t have something going on like this for the France thing, because that could open up a lot of doors for other things.” We played between Heaven and Hell and Mötley Crüe, so we couldn’t have stuff screwing up. Hopefully he’ll attend to it. We all hope that he does.
Is the door open for him to come back, pending that?
I don’t think so. He said a lot of stuff that was on the internet that was bad. There’s a big wall between me and him right now and I don’t want to deal with it. Henry’s the better drummer anyway. I’m real comfortable with Henry. He’s kickass the way it should be.
How did you go about bringing him in? How did he get to be the guy?
He was basically the main drummer for Debris Inc., the band I did with Ron Holzner from Trouble. When we did the album, we had a bunch of different people. We didn’t know him at the time. We did one tour with Jimmy Bower on drums, then Henry did all the other tours. He was automatically my first choice, because we were doing some Vitus songs at those shows. And he’s a cool dude, so it was no question. It was like, “Do you want to do it?” The only reason he wouldn’t have been the drummer was if he said he couldn’t do it.
What do you think it is about Saint Vitus’ music that has endured for so long?
I don’t know. Most of the interviews I’m doing now, people ask that question, and it’s kind of puzzling. I don’t understand. I guess because it’s basically simple, and in general, people like simple things. It’s something they can nod their head to 10 years ago, 20 years ago when it was new, and nod their head to it today the same way. That’s the only thing I can think of, because it’s kind of puzzled me (laughs), to be honest with you. I thought people would have forgotten about us.
Can you hear the influence you’ve had in younger bands?
In some of them, yeah. There’s some bands that say they’re influenced by us and I’m like, “Okay, yeah, I don’t get that, but thanks.” But in the stoner rock and doom stuff, I can hear it and it’s flattering as hell. I’m glad people want to keep it up. It’s cool as hell.
You’re going back to Europe next month. Are there plans for more US touring?
That I don’t know exactly. Right now we’re gonna do Europe, and that’s like for people to see us so hopefully we can pop over there for some of the big festivals and stuff. Especially if tonight goes well, we’re gonna want to play in some other cities in America that we haven’t played since the day. We did a little on the East Coast and a little on the West Coast, and there’s all that in between. Hopefully we’ll do something.
Are there any plans to do any writing or a new album?
Well, there’s talk about it, but nothing is concrete yet. We’re just kind of feeling stuff out and seeing how it goes. If people keep reacting to the reunion thing good, then you never know. You can’t keep repeating something, so we’re gonna do this thing [in Europe], then if we can do the festivals, then the only other reunion thing would be the States, because there’s a bunch of states that haven’t seen it. Then after that, it would be either, “Okay, we’re retired again,” or we would have to do the new record, because you can’t just keep on doing reunion after reunion after reunion. That’s just redundant. I wouldn’t want to be one of those bands who has 50 retirement tours.California, Gods, Saint Vitus