The only one time that I managed to see Sacred Reich live in Athens was back in 1991, during the promotional tour for the 'American Way' album, and seeing as that specific gig was not performed under the best of circumstances, I always felt that I deserved another opportunity to see the Arizona-based quartet again.
That opportunity was presented to me on the 29th of July 2007, when I was one of the lucky few to see the band performing some of their most classic songs at the London Scala. Hours prior to the show, I met up with the band's frontman Phil Rind who gave me a sound reason as to why this four-date tour is not going to see Sacred Reich re-entering the music scene.
Phil, it is a great pleasure for me personally to see the band live today, seeing as the only time that I attended one of your shows was in Athens back in 1991 during the 'American Way' tour, under the worst possible circumstances...
I remember that show. The organizers somehow managed to lose our guitars but the show went really well.
The show was fantastic and people were waiting for you to come back to Greece, which never happened. I want to begin this interview by making things clear as to whether we should expect a Sacred Reich reunion or simply a number of individual shows.
It's just these few shows - there's no reunion!
It's just a different time in our lives...I never even thought that this (the four scheduled shows) would have happened at all. It's been eight years since we last played together and our lives have changed - we're all very busy, so to do even these shows is kind of inconvenient for our normal lives (laughs), which is the majority of our life. I haven't written any songs in ten years and I don't intend to. For it to be anything more than this would be...wishful thinking.
For a band that's released such a small amount of albums you always managed to be up to date as far as music and lyrics are concerned and I believe that now the time is right once again for a band like Sacred Reich to come out and say a few important things to the world. Don't you feel the same need as twenty years ago to tell the world what's in your mind?
No, I don't feel any need! Previously this stuff just had to come out of my system - it was one of those things that I just had to do, but that doesn't happen anymore. You know what - the same sh*t that I wrote back then still applies today. When we started playing again songs like the 'American Way' and 'Who's To Blame' or 'Surf Nicaragua'...you know this song could easily have been written about the situation in Iraq. The lyrics 'No truth, no justice the American Way' still apply today - twenty years or fifteen years later things are still the same. Nothing has changed. I can write a song about John Bush Jr, but the songs that I wrote back then about Ronald Reagan are still relevant today and...I don't care...like I said, writing music just doesn't occur to me anymore and to me that's a sign that you should not do it anymore.
Well, at least this is far more honest than trying to cash in on your past as some of the older bands tend to do nowadays.
Yeah. We never did anything for that reason in the past so I would hate to start doing it now. Even before when people were hoping that we were going to release another record and we were waiting for some publishing money...you know what? I haven't written any songs, we are not doing anything, and for us to wish that we could make some money off our record...I wouldn't want to do that. It would be really obvious and transparent. Let us keep the integrity of what we did and that's it.
Did you ever feel that you were never given the proper support by the record companies and the industry people who surrounded the band at the time?
It doesn't...none of that sh*t matters! You know what; if we were better, more people would have liked us...I don't know...that's the way it is. You get as big as you're supposed to get and that's it. I don't blame record companies for our lack of popularity - it's not their fault. I don't believe that for a second.
OK, you are quite clear as far as this issue is concerned. Let's change subject and talk about this new project - those four live shows. Who came up with this idea? Re-issues are something that labels do all the time.
Well, the re-issues was our idea! I have a friend that works for Roadrunner Record who told me one day 'have you ever looked on e-bay to see what your records are going for' and I said 'what's e-bay'? (laughs). I saw that an album like 'American Way' can go for as high as $30 or $40, which is a total rip off. That sucks! So, I called the record label and I said 'hey, I would like to do a re-issue of 'Ignorance' and 'Surf Nicaragua' together, because the former was not that long of a record (laughs) - can we do that'? Their answer was 'yes, we've been doing re-releases with three discs and a DVD lately so we can do that'. So, we are the ones that put it all together. It's our copy of the demo, it's all our stuff that we found.
We called Andrea at the Dynamo saying 'hey, can we use that Dynamo footage'...it's all our stuff. We were the ones who've put it all together; from every picture to every liner note to every track...it was all us. We said that if there's any fan out there who's interested in getting it, they should be able to get it at a reasonable price. I don't want to rip the people off. That's why we did it and in the course of getting together all of us and working on it, which was kind of fun, you know to sit around and look at all this stuff, we said to each other 'wouldn't it be fun to play a few shows'? That's pretty much it 'wouldn't be fun to play a few shows'? 'Yeah, you think that anyone would be interested in us making a few shows'? I said 'I don't know - I will make some calls'.
I made a few calls and people were 'yeah, sure'. You know, we all work and have jobs and only a little amount of free time, so...these guys came to us and said 'hey, come and do Wacken and a few more shows' and we said 'cool, we would like to play in places like London and Paris' (laughs).
Don't you find it amazing, though, that a band that has not released an album for so many years has managed to book a slot in a prestigious festival like Wacken Open Air?
Yeah, it's very surprising! I am shocked! You know it's really funny - the day before we left the states we played at Phoenix (band's hometown) and I said 'I am shocked that twenty years after the release of our first record that anyone gives a sh*t anymore'...I am shocked. We will see how many people will show up - I personally don't know what to expect. I have no idea - it could be fifty people and it could be five hundred people...I don't know - we'll see.
When you first started performing those songs live again in the rehearsal room, what was the feeling that you got?
It was good - it felt exactly the same, like we stopped playing last week. On the first rehearsal after all these years, we got eleven songs boom (clips his fingers) like that!
Now that you can listen to these songs with a more critical ear, how do you feel about them? Are they songs that you still feel proud having recorded in that exact way or would you, in hindsight, have changed a few things about them?
Well, we changed only a few things. We changed some arrangements like 'wow, that was too long, what were we thinking?' (laughs). We changed a few parts but generally I though 'hey, that was really good'. When we were playing some of the songs from 'Ignorance' I was like 'wow, fu*k man - this sh*t's fast'...some of the words were kind of stupid...well, you know - we were kids (laughs).
Your songs were considered quite technical for the time. I was listening to 'Ignorance' on my way here and I was amazed by how technical it sounds, especially seeing as it was your debut album.
Too many riffs man - what were we thinking of? (laughs). When we were trying to remember some of the songs we were like 'fu*k man, how did that go' or 'wow, that's a lot of parts'...but it was cool man - it was a lot of fun!
Tonight, are you going to perform songs only from 'Ignorance' and 'Surf Nicaragua' then, or are you also going tom be performing stuff from the 'American Way' album?
Yeah, it will mostly be the first three records - the first three that we did with Craig (Hall/drums). We will play 'Independent' too - I don't know how that happened. I said 'I don't want to play that song' and then somehow we end up having to play it (laughs). The others were saying 'people like that song' and I said 'I don't care, people do not make our set list - we do', but the others said 'we'll play Independent'...It will be good...it will be fun - we turned into a nostalgia band. We are a band that reminds people where they were in a different time in their life - that's who we are now.
Well, personally speaking, I see nothing wrong with that. The music of Sacred Reich reminds me of the period when I was a young kid.
(Laughs) Well, this band reminds us where we were in a certain period of our lives too, so its fine (laughs). It's been fun and that's the important thing here. We said that we wanted to do this thing to have some fun.
What about the remaining Sacred Reich albums? Do you have any plans of re-issuing them too in the future?
You know, contractually it's a big fu*king mess. We were with three different labels and that's a pain in the a*s. I would love to be able to re-release the 'American Way' seeing as I do not want people to pay $40 on e-bay, but it's a problem with the record label. Even with the first two records, Metal Blade does not own the rights in the US, so these releases are only in Europe.
Who were you with in the US, Enigma records?
No, they actually granted the right to Hollywood Records (who?) when we signed with them for the release of 'Independent' and Hollywood won't give them the rights back and haven't released any records in ten years. They haven't released the records in ten years, they are not doing anything with it but they won't give them (to Metal Blade) the rights back. So, it's better for them to have them and do nothing with them and to make no money than for Metal Blade to give them some money.
Metal Blade actually still owns the rights but they granted Hollywood Records those rights and Hollywood does not consider granting them those rights back...let this be a lesson to any guys that are in bands out there to be careful over what the fu*k you sign - it's bullsh*t! That's another reason why I would have nothing to do with this whole thing ever again. I don't want to make another record; I don't want to do anything with it ever again. I like playing shows, but everything around that, having to deal with record labels...it's just nothing that I'm interested on doing ever again.
So, are there not any music related activities in your life at the moment?
No, I just listen to music and turn my kids into it. I just focus on turning my kids towards the right direction (laughs).
I have the lyrics in the 'American Way' to back me up when I say that you like music that has little, if nothing, to do with metal, and that is indeed a very healthy attitude. Can you single out some of the albums that you've heard recently and which you believe that are worth checking out?
My favorite band recently is Muse - I like them a lot! I don't know what else, I also liked the Wolfmother record, I like Amy Winehouse...I liked the Perfect Circle record...I don't really have time to listen to new records - I still enjoy listening to the older stuff, you know?
Phil, it's been an absolute pleasure doing this interview with you - I hope that everything that you get involved with in your future life will be crowned with success.
It's been my pleasure too, man!
Interview © July 2007 John Stefanis
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