Dave Chandler Recounts Reforming Saint Vitus, Recording “Lillie: F-65” and Reveals Early Influences
Dave Chandler has had thirty years to jump on band wagons to keep Saint Vitus relevant in the eyes of the ever-changing metal consumer. Being trendy and selling out was never part of the plan, though. He hates it when a band puts out a reunion disc that doesn’t live up to its namesake. “Lillie: F-65,” their first full-length in seventeen years, shows the band’s guitarist and mastermind still being guided by Black Sabbath’s hand of doom.
Not only has Chandler returned to the apocalyptic tri-chords and noisy guitar effects that characterize his cerebral style, he has rekindled a working relationship with vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich. Wino last played on the group’s 1990 effort “V,” and has since become one of the most prolific and traveled vocalists and guitarists in stoner rock and doom metal, playing with groups such as Shrinebuilder, The Hidden Hand, Place of Skulls, Spirit Caravan, Premonition 13, Probot and many others.
At the time of the interview, Wino was in Amsterdam at the Roadburn Festival preparing for a special show with “The Church Within” lineup of The Obsessed. Roadburn was to hold a special CD listening party for “Lillie: F-65.” Said album may prove to be the best seller of the band's career. As seen by many other groups, the absence of Saint Vitus has led to greater interest. Doom metal also seems a hot commodity these days. It is the perfect time for a band like Saint Vitus to reform.
Darren Cowan (Rex-84): It has been seventeen years since the last release (“Die Healing”). Why did it take so long to get another record out?
Dave Chandler: When we stopped in ’95, we weren’t planning on doing it again. When we broke up, nobody gave a shit. That’s just the way it always was back then, so we didn’t have any plans. All of this is a very pleasant surmise because we ended up doing the reunion tour in 2003—we actually did two shows—and that was supposed to be it. Then it was “can you do this?” or “Can you do that?” and then all of a sudden people were asking us to tour. We did a couple of reunion tours and we did “Blessed Night” on the road. We were playing that to have a new song in the set. People were asking if it were from the new album. Well, I guess it could be, so that’s how we decided to write it. We really had no plans to do it.
Cowan: When did you start writing the next song?
Chandler: The first song “Let Them Fall,” I had the first verse. I had been messing around with that for years. It had been running around in my head and playing it at home. Right after the last tour, I started working on it. It took me about eight months to get the song down. Once we got into the studio, it was really quick. It only took about ten days to record it because everybody knew their parts. We can’t really rehearse together, so I sent the guitar riffs to the guys on CD.
Cowan: You can’t rehearse before you go on tour. Do you practice your parts by yourself?
Chandler: What we do is we’ll play against the record at home. Then, we’ll get together for two days, three if we’re lucky, before we go out on the road. We do it that way because Wino and Mark [Adams] live in California. Henry [Vasquez] lives in Texas. I live here in Louisiana, so it’s kind of impossible to have a steady practice schedule.
Cowan: When did you move to Louisiana?
Chandler: About three or four months before Katrina hit. I moved from California. My wife oversaw all the moving because I went to Europe to tour with my band Debris Inc. that I did with Ron Holzner (ex-Place of Skulls, ex-Trouble). We moved over here in May and I think Katrina hit in September or August. My wife had to evacuate by her self. Since then, I’ve arraigned tours around that, so that’s not going to happen again (laughs). I try not to go anywhere during August and September. In case anything happens, I can deal with it.
Cowan: The first couple of records are classic, but the production lacked volume. it seems like “F-65” is much louder. Did you have more money to make a better production?
Chandler: Not really. The main thing is we didn’t have an outside producer on this one. It was us and Tony Reed, who helped us produce it, but he was basically the engineer. We went to a studio that he knew. And then we mixed it at his private studio at his house. That’s the main reason. I’ve always had a problem with the earlier Saint Vitus albums; they are not loud. If you have a multi-disc player, you pop in five CDs, a Saint Vitus album comes up and then you have to turn it way up. And then the next album that comes on, Sabbath or whatever comes on and it’s blaring! The only record that did not do that was “Die Healing.” I made sure on this one…I want this to be loud! I want people to turn this one down!
Cowan: How did you come with the title “Lille: F-65? The F-65 sounds like the name of a fighter jet.
Chandler: (Laughs) That’s the first time I’ve heard that. Somebody told me it sounds like a weird new wave band with a girl singing. I actually had that name and concept way before I even started on the record. Even before I did “Blessed Night,” I wanted to name a record that because it’s confusing. If you look at the art work, that’s basically my concept. It’s the story of that girl strapped to the bed in the asylum. The songs tell her story. If you Wikipedia that and look at the actual technical name, it’s a barbiturate from the 70s and 80s that I used to take all the time.
Cowan: Some of the songs on the album are from a third person point of view. Some of the later tracks switch to a first person point of view, possibly dealing with drug abuse.
Chandler: The concept came about as I was writing it. It’s pretty much a tortured journey through that girl’s addicted mind.
Cowan: So it is a concept album?
Chandler: Yes, it turned into a concept album. That’s why I didn’t really add any other songs to it, even though it’s like thirty-four minutes. If I added something, it’s going to ruin the concept. It goes full circle. She freaks out and in the end, she sits up in bed, all alone, and realizes all she has for the rest of her life is her dependence and withdrawal.
Cowan: “Dependence” and “Withdrawal” are the titles of the last two tracks, which go in order of how they would happen in real life.
Chandler: Yes, that’s the concept. We split up the titles, so that people would understand if you get really dependent on something, you’re gonna go through withdrawals. You’re going to freak out. That’s what those noises are. I used to hear those in my head. At the end, there is this weird, crazy “wrrrrrhhhh,” which are the kind of noises you hear, depending on what you’re hooked on.
Cowan: Let’s talk more about lyrics. “The Bleeding Ground” talks about the government, nature, man and even heaven. You wrote “Government Testing says it’s ok to breath.” What is this song about?
Chandler: It’s about the corruption and downfall of the world now. I say world because our country is not the only one going through all the bullshit. Here in New Orleans we’ve had a couple of big disasters, and the government really didn’t fucking care at all. Katrina is one. The second verse that talks about hot, oily resin on the trees is about the B.P. oil fire that our government didn’t give a flying fuck about for months. We had orange air and there was oil on everything, but they didn’t care. “We’re just gonna let it burn up.” It’s my anger about how governments—not just in the U.S. but everywhere—don’t care about their people anymore. It’s all about, “oh, I’m getting paid.” That’s the way B.P. was—“fuck you, I’m getting paid.” Oh yeah, talk to the shrimpers who can’t work now. I don’t really like to dive into the political end of the pool, but I had to on that one. I live down here. If I’m going to write a new album, I’m going to bitch about this.
Cowan: You definitely convey anger on “Lilly: F-65,” especially on “Let Them Fall.” Did you write this song as a catharsis?
Chandler: In a way. “Let Them Fall” is about the Creator. I could just say God, but whatever. I say the “entity that created everything.” On this song that entity is looking down on the world and saying, “I can’t believe this. I gave these creatures intelligence. They have gotten so smart that now they are fucking stupid! They are pissing me off, so let them fall!” If you watch the video for it, a lot of people don’t understand it, but I’ll tell them that and they’ll say “Oh man.” Everyone in the video gets confused over something stupid and it makes them mad. People say, “God, what the fuck is wrong with you?”
Cowan: Noisy, effects-generated sounds are one characteristic of your guitar playing. Obviously, Black Sabbath played a crucial role in helping you define your sound. What bands and players influenced your noisy (feedback, pedals, etc.) side? Did that start with Hawkwind?
Chandler: Maybe a little. I was not a super Hawkwind fan. The bands that I grew up on, that really influenced me, were the Monkees, the Alice Cooper group, Black Sabbath. The weird, crazy noises started coming in when I first heard Judas Priest’s “Sad Wings of Destiny.” I heard this right around the same time people turned me on to Blue Cheer. I was like “whoa, ok” because I was always trying to find a way to make noises and fuck with people’s heads. I knew about the whammy bar, but I had never done it before. As soon as I got a hold of one of those, I started trying to do that. Blue Cheer and Judas Priest got me into the weird noises. That fit into with what I liked about the Alice Cooper group. If you listen to their first couple albums, there is a lot of noise. I really like controlled noise. “Pretties for You” and “Easy Action” are the two albums before “Love it to Death,” which has “I’m Eighteen” on it. The first two albums are the ones on Frank Zappa’s label. I was born in ’58, so I discovered these after they were released. A little before high school was when I started getting loaded, which is why I started discovering all of these trippy bands.
Cowan: What tours do you have next?
Chandler: We have a bunch of summer festivals coming up. In America, we’re doing Maryland Death Fest and we’re also doing Chaos in Tejas, which is really cool because it’s predominately punk. We haven’t done a big punk thing in a long time, so that’s going to be really fun. Sham 69 is there, Municipal Waste. That’s going to be really cool. Then we go over seas. We’re going to do Sweden, Prague, the Tuska Festival, Hell Fest and stuff like that. We’re also doing a punk one over there called Devil Side. That’s got Suicidal Tendencies, D.R.I., The Adolescents and Against Me. Then we have a couple months off. In the fall/winter we’re going to do a full US tour, followed by a full European tour. We’re pretty much busy for the rest of the year. After that, we’re not sure. We’re just taking it day by day. We want to see how people like the record.
Cowan: I think people will like it. It sounds like Saint Vitus.
Chandler: That’s what we were striving for because I hate it when a band puts out a reunion disc and it doesn’t sound like them. I hate that! I wanted to make it sound modern enough, production wise, where the kids dig it, but I don’t want to lose the old sound because I want the old fans to dig it, too. I think we hit that. We’re all really happy with it. I think the guys really performed well on it. I really dig how everyone played on the album.
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