(originally published in Arthur No. 9, March 2004)
HEAVY RIFFING: Legendary doom metal/stoner rock lifer SCOTT “WINO” WEINRICH lays some typically heavy thoughts about politics, music, hallucinogens and life on Joshua Sindell. Photo by Brian Liu
For a musician whose music has earned him such respect from his peers, the elusive, grim-faced figure known as Scott “Wino” Weinrich has always existed in a zone far apart from even the darkest cult spectrum of rock’s unsung heroes.
Wino grew up around the Washington D.C. area, and became well-known among the hardcore-punk-loving kids in the early ’80s as “that amazing guitarist” for Warhorse, a local metal band, later to be known as the Obsessed. Wino stood out in any crowd, not only from his formidable rep as a musician, but because he was an imposing, long-haired, denim ’n’ leather-wearing dude who, appearances aside, expressed solidarity with the burgeoning D.C. punk scene, led by such bands as Minor Threat and Bad Brains. In return, Obsessed shows were routinely filled with short-haired fans who wouldn’t have been caught dead at an Iron Maiden or Judas Priest concert. Black Flag’s Henry Rollins, Fugazi’s Ian MacKaye and Nirvana’s Dave Grohl were diehard Obsessed fans, reverently viewing Wino out of a sense of awe and fear in equal measures. “Wino plays guitar with that up-all-night-drinking-Clorox sound,” Rollins once said admiringly.
In 1985, Wino accepted an invitation to sing for Californian stoner-rock forefathers Saint Vitus. They were his sole focus of musical attention for the rest of the decade as the band released several albums and EPs on SST Records, home to so many of the ’80s’ best bands. Joe Carducci, author of Rock and the Pop Narcotic, and Vitus’s SST producer, explained the appeal thus: “What I hear in Wino is a natural who’s not like other musicians. He always has a trailing shimmer on all of his playing, and when he is just doing downstrokes to mark the rhythm, he’s shaping that as well—dragging the rhythm from the guitar.”