The story of The Obsessed goes back almost as far as the story of its frontman and sole constant Scott “Wino” Weinrich. Born in Rockville, Maryland, Weinrich formed The Obsessed (initially as Warhorse) while still in high school in the mid to late ’70s. Over the course of the next 40-plus years, The Obsessed would have many stops and starts, with Weinrich getting involved in numerous other musical projects, including two major spells fronting Californian doom metal band Saint Vitus.
Back in 2017 The Obsessed released Sacred (Relapse Records), their first studio album in over 20 years. Now in 2024, with their latest record Gilded Sorrow (Ripple Music) out on February 16, Weinrich is back on the road with the latest iteration of the band, ready to talk about the forthcoming record and the road that got him here.
If you think Tommy The Cat had many a story to tell, then strap in, because the story of Scott “Wino” Weinrich and The Obsessed may make your toes curl, and Weinrich doesn’t shy away from getting into some of the gory details when asked.
I know you’ve been touring in Europe recently. How was it? Any particular highlights?
The tour was fantastic. This last leg, we went north, played Estonia. First time I’ve ever been there. That was an amazing show actually. You can really feel the vibe there of the past. They were intense in a different kind of way. Instead of freaking out, they were moving through more of like a mental intensity, which I attribute to being behind the Iron Curtain for a while.
We played a bunch of really fun shows. Poland. Estonia, we played two shows in Finland, the last couple shows we did with EyeHateGod. We dig those guys really well. We play with them all the time.
So thinking about the forthcoming album Gilded Sorrow, how would you compare The Obsessed in 2023 to previous iterations of the band?
Definitely much more mature. At this stage in the game we pretty much know what we want. We don’t have to all live together in the same house. We all live in different states, and we all just congregate for about a week, maybe two weeks, make our set and rehearse. Then we leave all the vehicles here and we either rent our van or whatever trailer we’re gonna use from here, or we drive to the airport and fly to Europe. The one amazing thing about the lineup right now is nobody’s tied down. Everybody wants to tour and can tour, which is pretty unusual, really.
This is the first time you’ve had two guitarists on an Obsessed record, right?
It is. That’s accurate. There’s been two guitars in the early early days with John Reese, and we had to play three sets in some of these DC clubs, and then that moved to a trio.
Then four or five years ago, my fiancée at the time played guitar in the Obsessed along with Bruce Falkinburg from the Hidden Hand for a very short lived minute. I think we played in total maybe three shows.
But with Jason (Taylor) now everything is really crystallized because he’s a virtuoso guitar player. He also has great songwriting ideas. He’s been in Sierra. They played out quite a bit and that’s how we got to know each other. It’s been really nice having him in the band. I think our sound is totally filled. We can do a lot more. We can do all the harmonies. I’m super happy with the lineup now.
Did having an extra guitar player change the way that you wrote for this album?
It didn’t really change it as much as it just enhanced it, you know. He teaches guitar. So he’s got a really good grip on theory. He could tell me what I’m playing because, you know, I might not know the technical terms, scales and stuff like that. So that’s brand new to me. To have somebody like that in the band is just amazing. Nothing but growth on the horizon.
For this album, were you doing stuff remotely and sharing it or was everything done together in the same room?
We did do some file sharing first. Me and Jason got together and demoed stuff out, we sent it around, so everybody could get a good listen to it. When we got together, we pretty much had a good idea.
I noticed one of the tracks “Yen Sleep,” I’m sure I’ve heard that before.
Yeah, that was the lead track of Incarnate.
Why did you decide that you wanted that to be a part of the new album?
Well, I didn’t think the original recording of that did it justice. Incarnate was really a bunch of outtakes and demos. I tweaked it with the lyrics a little bit, but yeah, I think it came out good. I’m happy that we did that.
Getting into the sound of the record, you were working with Frank Marchand again. What is it about his working methods that appeal to you?
I think the mark of a good engineer or producer engineer is that they can push you to get performance out of you without pissing you off. Me and Frank have known each other a really long time. I knew him long before I started recording with him.
His nickname is The Punisher. He’s also a live soundman. I’ve seen him at a club, (I think we were supporting Clutch), and the PA was down. There’s a big powwow between the house guys and the Clutch engineer, and they couldn’t figure it out. I said, “Frank, they’re having a problem with the PA,” and he kinda just put his head down, walks over there, literally sorted out in 10 minutes. The dude knows what he’s doing.
He’s got an amazing command of the digital realm, and he’s got an orgy of analog shit. He’s got, like, 10 or 12 Les Paul’s and he’s got a shitload of pedals to use, and he’s got, like, snare drums forever. We could use a different snare for every song if we’d wanted that.
For the drum tracks, we went into a big studio in Delaware (he has a stake in another, huge studio, where they do bigger stuff, like orchestras). So we did our drums in there, which is pretty amazing. If you can imagine a gigantic room, completely tuned, built for sound, and then mics in every corner and mics out in the hall. All in all he was just amazing to record with. It’s a great experience every time.
So I want to get back a little bit into some of the history. When the Obsessed started out, you were originally Warhorse, right?
Yeah, that was something we kind of threw together. You’ve probably seen that video (of us) playing at the high school. That band was pretty much put together for that show. The bass player later was a total traitor. They interviewed him for the video because it was his school. Everybody hated us. So I guess he sort of had to take the side of the haters, but that’s okay.
That was really, really early before we had a clue for band cohesion. We later took that lineup minus that bass player and did our first series of gigs, which was in downtown DC and Georgetown, just a little, tiny club called Beneath It All. We had to do three 45-minute sets, so we had to scramble. We played a mixture of originals and covers.
What kind of covers were you doing?
We did a mishmash. We grew up on punk rock, the Stooges, Dictators, Dead Boys, and we were doing everything, blues, Beatles, to Sweet Little 16, some weird shit. The other guitar player turned me on to jazz, like Charlie Parker and hard bop.
And what time frame was this?
Late ’70s I think. ‘79 maybe, getting into ‘80. We had to ax the other guitar player because he was a super cool guy and a great player, but, man, he was just such a beatnik. He would get so spaced out during his solos, he could never come in and out on time. He was always out of tune and had kind of a wanky tone, and we really wanted to grow.
We did a little stint after that with a punk rock lead singer named Vance Bockis. Vance used to play bass in one incarnation of Pentagram. Vance was really cool, but his ego kind of got away with him. He started embezzling from the band; he fucked our drummer’s girlfriend. All that kind of shit ended up, you know, being bad for Vance.
But it was fun while it lasted. He would do some outrageous shit. Like, one time he left a bag full of shit on the bar in a paper bag. We’re all just watching to see what happened. We were pretty much punk rock. I’ve always been into punk rock, and kept that punk rock attitude even in Saint Vitus. We considered ourselves a punk rock band that just played slow.
It’s well-documented that there was some friction between rockers and hardcore kids in and around DC when you were coming up. How do you remember the interaction between those two scenes?
There was definitely hard tension. I remember we played a show in Richmond, Virginia, where we supported the Exploited. The opener was this band called Mission impossible that Dave Grohl was playing drums in. He was really young, still a skinhead.
We actually got a support gig for the Dead Boys’ first reunion. It was really the band minus Jimmy Zero. They did two sets, and we supported in both. I remember there was a hard line, like, an aisle, between our crowd and the punk rock kids.
We did have to prove ourselves, and that happened one night when we were asked to play at a punk rock hangout. The PA blew, and we just finished our set with me screaming into the air. Sab (Grey) from Iron Cross came up to me. He said, “Man, you really showed us your metal on that show.” So that was cool. We kind of had to smash our way into that scene, you know? I got called Eddie Van Halen, but we weren’t scared. We were ready to fight if we had to, and we did.
Do you think what you were doing back then had any influence on Black Flag slowing down their sound?
I think Ian MacKaye first told me about Saint Vitus. They were on SST. I think the SST dudes by branching out and signing a band like Vitus, that kind of helped.
Henry Rollins talks about meeting you in that mini documentary that also features clips from that early Obsessed show we talked about before. What do you remember about your interactions with him?
Henry’s story then is pretty accurate. Nowadays, when he does his spoken word, he’s totally modified the story to where every year I get more and more thuggish, but me and him did meet. What happened was, I got really drunk one night, down at Georgetown. I was down there partying, and I got so drunk that somebody gave me a ride all the way back to Maryland. So I lost my van.
I came back the next night, wandering around Georgetown, trying to find my van. While that was happening, I see this skinhead walking up. I’m on the same side of the street; there’s no way we’re gonna avoid each other. I walked by him (this is before he was in Black Flag) and he had a Black Flag button on. I said, “Aw Black Flag, cool,” because I was into that shit, and he goes, “Oh, cool, Motörhead,” and that was pretty much it.
Skipping forward a bit, I’ve read that you basically gave up music at a certain point. Was that after Church Within, around the mid 90s?
Right. We got signed to Columbia, and a lot of people told me, “Oh, aren’t you worried it’s going to be the death of the band?” It always happens; bands that sign with a major, but at the time, it was really a license to fly. They paid for our recording budget; they were paying us out a monthly salary so that we could live, basically paying our rent, and then they were also renting us out in a really nice rehearsal space.
But one of the problems was, they were so lackadaisical about paying us that the check would always be late. My landlord didn’t even believe that I even had that signed because I could never pay my rent on time. We had to pay a lawyer to send them a letter saying, “Hey, you’re gonna breach that.”
I heard that you ended up having a problem with your foot. How bad did things get?
Okay, so, you know, the whole living-in-Hollywood-trying-to-get-signed thing, we struggled quite a bit, but we were pretty determined. At some point in time Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth and Jim Welch got together. They told the A&R guy for Columbia, Josh Sarubin, about The Obsessed. We showcased for him and actually got signed to Columbia.
But I’d been living hand-to-mouth for so long, you know, just basically struggling, working an odd job trying to pay the rent. So I had developed a pretty good speed habit. After the Columbia debacle—basically, they fell asleep on The Church Within. They didn’t know how to promote it. Nirvana had already happened. We didn’t have a lead singer. We weren’t really a grunge band; we weren’t really a glam band. It’s a hard-rock three piece. They asked us to be more radio-friendly and we refused. That was it. So we didn’t get the second record.
After that, I just kind of ran wild. I remember standing on the sidewalk, and some dude came up to me, the guy who lived next to me where I used to live and goes, “Man I found all your tax papers blowing around in the yard out of the mailbox.” But I didn’t give a fuck.
My habit got worse, and finally, I was pretty much homeless. I got a staph infection on the top of my foot; I think it was just a dirty piece of glass or something. I was sleeping in people’s houses, really fucking filthy places. You know, the whole outlaw speed culture—Meth culture in California is pretty heavy. It spans generations of families. I saw a lot of fucking weird shit, you know, hung out with a lot of fucking weird criminals.
Eventually, I was just like, “Fuck it, I got to do something.” This fucking shit was eating its way to the bone, and I was still on my feet because I was doing too much speed. I had to steal a pair of fucking flip flops to go to the hospital.
I went to one hospital, and then they pushed me in a dark corner with an IV. And I was just kind of left there starving. I remember having to bribe the fucking dude who’s sweeping the floors to get me a sandwich and shit. So I remember, I got pissed off, and I just wheeled me and the IV to the front desk, and I checked out.
I still had the infection, so then I went to LA General. They put me on a gurney, and I got pushed by accident into a room full of dead people on gurneys. It was really weird, man. I remember looking around; one dude had his head smashed in—caved in (by), like, a car accident or baseball bat—gunshot wounds, whatever. Then I see this orderly way down to the corner of the room, and I said, “Yo!” and it startled him. I said, “I think I’m in the wrong room.” He goes, “You’re definitely in the wrong room.” He straightened it out, but man, they would have just left me in this room full of dead people.
So finally I got out. I was homeless, and I had no money, just, like, this total vagabond. I had an interview with this lady. They put me in this weirdo house where the top floor is people out of prison, parolees, like, a halfway house basically, and then the middle floor was for people like me—homeless people that had been in the hospital, no place to go.
It was on 6th and San Pedro. I guess it was, like, ’94. In those days, that was Skid Row in LA. I had food rations, and they had a really good kitchen. I started to regain my health, but once I got healthy, I was like, “I got nothing to read; I’m bored.”
So I just call up my buddy. I said, “Come get me” and he took me out to the high desert. That’s when I decided I’m gonna go back to Maryland. So basically I got on the Greyhound bus in a pair of shorts. I had this Mexican serape, and I had this bag with the dressings from my foot and some Wawa parts and shit. I was down at rock bottom.
My parents were both alive. They had moved into another house in Maryland, and I stayed there just for a little minute and started working and got my shit together. Eventually, I was able to kick alcohol and everything, and then right around the end is when Spirit Caravan formed.
Has that reputation of being the hard-living rocker ever felt like a burden?
When I was growing up, if one of my rock ‘n’ roll heroes got thrown in jail, all it did was kind of boost them. It was what we call “punk rock points.” The fans have always been super cool.
Maybe the drug thing has kept me from climbing a little bit; I’m not really sure. You have to see the drugs for what they’re for, like, if you want to stimulate your mind, so you can finish writing some lyrics or whatever it might be, but I’m not advocating hard drugs for anybody.
A lot of people seem to associate you with a particular sound, but I feel like you have a lot of influences. Can you talk about some of the music that’s inspired you that doesn’t necessarily fit what people might expect?
Well, I really love the traditional guitar players like Johnny Winter, Frank Marino. I like some (Eric) Clapton stuff, but I think he was a little bit overrated, and I really don’t like any of his new stuff. Marino, (Jimi) Hendrix of course. It’s really mind-blowing what he was able to do. Robin Trower, all the traditional stuff, and I really liked John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. I really like Allan Holdsworth. He was in Tempest, and he was in Soft Machine for a minute. I really like a lot of prog, King Crimson, Gentle Giant, stuff like that, and Zappa of course.
Then, you know, guitar players like Ross The Boss from the Dictators. He was in Manowar, but Manowar wasn’t really my thing. It was all a bit pretentious. I got kind of a playing style, it’s sort of an aggregation of Ross The Boss, Zappa, (Black) Sabbath obviously was a huge influence, Budgie, that’s the kind of stuff I grew up on.
I remember there used to be a couple of really cool radio stations which really helped me bite down on some cool shit. That’s the first time I heard Rocky Erickson and shit like that, you know?
So yeah, it runs the gamut, man. Everything, jazz, to Rocky, a little bit of Stray Cats. I didn’t really like rap at all, but I will admit that it’s a legitimate art form at this point. When I watched Straight Outta Compton, I was blown away, you know? Obviously, in all that stuff there’s the hard funk. I really like hard funk, some Sly Stone stuff and some Mother’s Finest. It’s gotta have a little bit of guitar. That’s what’s missing these days, this lead guitar, like the Isley Brothers’ “Fight the Power.” When I’m unhappy, man, I listen to hard funk.
In terms of the gear that you use have you been fairly consistent, or has that evolved over the years?
Something from the middle 7’0s, like 71 to 77, Sunn made an amp called the Model T—Back in the day when I got hooked on them, I realized they were for me. Bass players used them for some reason, even though they were guitar heads, but basically it’s a massive head with four 6550 power tubes. It’s got a cool preamp section, and it has two channels. I learned over the years how to change out the preamp tubes to get more grime. They’re huge now, and nowadays they are going for like 5, 6,000 bucks, but back in the ’90s when I first started using them, I was picking them up for $350.
I had a huge wall back in the day. When we got signed, we got a bunch of loot. I just bought, like, three Model Ts, found them in pawn shops in LA. I had to sell them off for whatever reason, but then I was tracking the Model T thread on Instagram, and it led me to this guy. His company’s called Solar Amplifiers, and I was just amazed at the shit he was doing. He was basically taking a Model T crossing with a Marshal preamp and giving us a little bit more gain, in these beautiful, exotic hardwood cabinets. Every component is top-of-the-line.
So I texted him, and he said, “Man, I just gotta chill, because every time I’m building an amp, I’m listening to your music.” So we connected, like, out of the blue, and now he’s sponsored me. I use Solar heads now. So that’s my signature sound, basically a beefed up Model T.
My life has always been filled with those kinds of nice synchronicities around the music, you know?
Coming back to the new album, what’s next in your plans?
We’re going to be touring as hard as we can, play as many shows as we can. We’re going to release two more singles, “Realize a Dream” and “Stoned Back To The Bomb Age,” which is kind of tongue-in-cheek.
That’s something to do with the George W. Bush administration, right?
Back when Bush was in power, I listened to the radio quite a bit, when I was driving and whatnot. I used to listen to the Pentagon, the Secretary of Defence, for briefings. They got us into war with Afghanistan and all that shit. Saddam Hussein wouldn’t let them build the pipeline, so they went in and destroyed everything.
I feel bad actually, because I love the United States, but man, it’s like we’ve been living under these war cartels. So I was listening to this briefing and Donald Rumsfeld is secretary of defense, right? His underling, Richard Armitage, I heard him say, “Pakistan gets involved in this war; we’re gonna bomb them back to the Stone Age.” So, I thought it’d be really funny. Just reverse the words and stoned back to the bomb age.
The other part of the inspiration was that while we were recording, we were always driving by this field. And some farmer had a piece of equipment there with a sign on it. Basically the sign said, “Expect a circus if you elect a clown.” Fucking loved it, man.
Photos by Jessy Lotti