THE SHRINE: WE’RE FACIAL METAL
The Shrine is a young, pool-skating, acid-eating trio of long-haired freaks. They play loud, fast, hard rock that evokes the heaviest music of the 70s and 80s yet sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard before—and with the release of their new album, their new tour, and their rekindled friendship with Tee Pee Records, they just might be a sound that everyone hears in 2012. To get to the source of the Shrine’s true illicit illegality, we met them at the infamous “Sludge Mansion” in Santa Monica, a punk house covered in graffiti and confused-looking roommates (but sadly, no wizard staffs). They play with Broncho and the Zig Zags tonight at the Bootleg. This interview by D.M. Collins and Kyle Souza.
As journalists, it’s hard not to want to pin you guys down to a specific subgenre, or a sub-sub-subgenre. Would it be accurate to say you are in fact metal?
Josh Landau (vocals, guitar): There’s some Robin Trower, and there’s some Rollins.
Court Murphy (bass): Once we went electric, everything changed!
There’s just a touch of falsetto on your new Bless Off demo, something that’s kind of missing from every vocalist in your wide oeuvre except maybe King Tuff’s stuff for Witch. Might you be hitting more high notes in the future?
JL: That’s awesome, it was almost like a joke at first, but then it seemed to sound rad so it stuck. You’re making me think I should do it more, it’s pretty fun. I like it, but I’m not King Diamond or Halford or someone. I’ll leave most of it to those maniacs. I bet it’s crazy to open your mouth and have that kinda shit come out.
I heard that some of you maybe worked for Rock ‘n’ Roll Movers. Is that true?
CM: I still work there. It’s awesome. It’s just a bunch of guys like me, pretty much, come and move your stuff into your new home. People actually really dig it. We’re rated #1 on Yelp! I work with a fellow who was Billy Ray Cyrus’ touring guitar player at one point.
Did he ever drop something and it had an Achy Breaky?
CM: Actually no, he’s a big motherfucker and can lift couches by himself, so he doesn’t have that problem!
You guys are avid skaters. What’s an odd band that you’ve skated with? Do you skate with, I don’t know, Skrillex or something?
JL: I met these dudes Buddy and Rick—Buddy Nichols and Rick Charnowski—these dudes make like Super-8 skate films—they made this awesome movie called Fruit of the Vine that’s a total no-nostalgia Dogtown trip, that’s all current-moment ‘This is what backyard pool skating is,’ like hopping fences, draining people’s pools, cleaning out shit. Me and my little brother—I was 15 and he was 11—we looked around for pools and we ended up running into those guys at different backyard pools, and ended up being friends with them, and years later are still friends with them. Real backyard pools are still more fun, like ones that were made in the 40s, 50s, 60s that are actual swimming pools.
Why is it that old pools are better? Just the danger?
JL: It’s something about the fact that a real swimming pool was not made to be skated in. It’s like re-directing that use in another way. There was a huge boom in the 40s, 50s and 60s where people were building all these swimming pools in their backyards, like a California dream. In the 70s, that whole thing crapped. There was an epic drought, and people didn’t fill their swimming pools because they wanted to water their lawns or they didn’t have the money and the whole pool skating thing really boomed. The fact of hopping into somebody’s house—a construction site or abandoned house, or an empty lot that’s been burned down and nothing’s left but the pool—it’s way way way more fun and exciting, looking at the swimming pool that some probably fat old woman swam in with her obnoxious husband.
They might have had sex in it.
JL: Yeah, they might have had sex in it, they might have thrown their dead kids into it after they killed them, and let them drown, and years later, after they’re in jail, the pool’s empty!
You know, all bands say, ‘We’re going to be loud, we’re going to be aggressive,’ but the word on the street is that you guys play so loud that it’s actually far beyond the level of loudness that almost any band achieves. Most bands can’t get that loud without losing their melody, but somehow for you it works.
CM: I can say it started from the very beginning. As soon as we started playing with Jeff, he was just so fucking loud as a drummer that Josh and I fortunately had really big amps at our disposal from the beginning, so we just kept turning them louder and louder basically until they wouldn’t go any louder.
JL: At the show we just played, opening up for Kyuss, I brought two full full-stacks, like four cabs and two amps and we set them up at the Wiltern—a giant fucking mansion of a place. … I set up the sickest guitar rig I’ve ever set up, it was like two full full-stacks. At soundcheck everyone was like, ‘It sounds amazing out there!’ and the soundcheck guy was like, ‘No, uh-uh, need to turn it down, you gotta turn it down.’ This is the Wiltern! It’s a fucking giant place! I use almost this much shit when we play in somebody’s garage!
How did you meet Chuck Dukowski?
JL: He lives in the same neighborhood as us, and his stepson, Milo, I had known through my old band that I played in—Rabies, just like a skate-punk band. As soon as we got our band going and off the ground it was like … the Black Flag guys were not listening to the Necros and Negative Approach. The Black Flag guys were listening to Mahavishnu Orchestra and Sabbath and King Crimson—heavy shit! I was like, ‘I think Chuck would like what we’re trying to do,’ so as soon as we got Shrine going it was like, ‘It would be awesome play to with Chuck’s band; let’s try and play a show with Chuck.’ Right off the bat he was super-stoked and saw us and was like, ‘I want to help you guys get your music released.’ It was the most epic, surreal thing ever! Because all the shit he did—SST Records, all the shit that he did—is my favorite stuff ever. … The other day we had an awesome party for our friend Harley who was moving away to college over at my house. Chuck and his family came. We were drinking and doing wizard staffs—like drinking a beer, you tape the next beer to the bottom of it. He was hanging out the whole night raging with us. It was a new concept to him, he was super-stoked. The other day when I saw him and his band played this backyard show, we were hanging out talking and he was like, ‘There’s no tape?’ I was like, ‘What’s he talking about? He’s on some tangent!’ And he goes, ‘You can’t drink without tape! How are you going to have a wizard staff?!’
CM: Being on tour with Chuck on the first part of the tour that we did two months ago, he was in the van with us and he was still the same old SST Chuck—one briefcase, telephone numbers, no GPS, just doing it as old-school as you possibly could, but still doing it just as much as ever before.
Jeff Murray (drums): He’s more humble about it than you could ever imagine. He never brings up that he was in Black Flag, or even that he’s a fucking musician. He’s just the most regular dude imaginable.
JL: The Goldenvoice epic three-weekend show at the Santa Monica Civic Center the other weekend that was a big deal, Chuck, a few days after, we were hanging out at his house … we jammed on a new Shrine song that we’re working on, that he gave me lyrics for.
What’s the title?
JL: Chuck’s title was ‘Leave Me Out to Rot.’ I think we’re calling it ‘Dusted and Busted,’ and it’s lyrics that he wrote for the song ‘I Love You,’ and the Flag guys—back in the day, in the 80s—were like, ‘That’s kind of like, a little hippie-ish or something,’ so he’s like, ‘OK, you want something gnarly?’ and he writes ‘I Love You,’ which is the most brutal relationship gone bad, like ‘You screamed, you bled, you lay on the floor, but now I know you’ll leave me no more’ song. He’s like, ‘If you want something gnarly, I’ll give you something gnarly.’ But he tells me these lyrics and I was like, ‘Wow, can we use them?’
I think that anybody’s who’s into metal and into the 70s (or not) sort of loves the Sabbathy, doomy, dirge sound. And a lot of bands do it that way, where they play with the super-slow riffs, and I love it. I feel like you guys have managed to do a sound that’s hearkened back very much to the 70s but that is NOT doom-oriented and is NOT slow.
JM: Playing slow for fucking 48 hours straight is fucking boring as fuck. I guess there’s this whole fucking stoner thing going on or whatever, and that shit is cool as fuck for like five minutes, but when people just want to be at this pace—daaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhh … nahhhhhhhhhhhhhh … nahhhhhhhhh … naaaaahhhhhhhhhh—for two hours straight, that’s boring as hell!
JL: Yeah, we don’t necessarily fit in one spot. Say we play a metal show, and we’re like, maybe the punker-looking band. But that doesn’t really make sense, and then we play a punk show and people are like, ‘Oh yeah, you’re a metal band,’ and that doesn’t really make sense, like, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about!’ And so it’s cool because we’re right in the middle. We may not nail one thing, and you can’t be like, ‘Oh the Shrine, they’re exactly like this’ or something, but at least hopefully we’re striving to hit something else, something new—trying to make something and come up with something that’s our own.
CM: I should interject—in the very beginning of the band when we had our very first demo, like three fucking years ago, people affectionately referred to us as a Black Sabbath rip-off, which was totally stupid, but I think we’ve kind of grown in a very different direction since then.
A lot of bands are realizing that cool old metal is awesome and doing it in their own way—not just cool metal, but also sort of like, SST-era, non-punk, hard weirdness. Do you feel that you’re part of a wave?
JL: I don’t know who’s like us, really. Especially presently, almost more and more, we’re trying to make the music we’re trying to make because no one else is. It’s just what we’d want to hear. I feel like if I saw some band doing what we’re trying to do and nailing it, I’d be like, ‘I’m going to go play acoustic guitar!’ or something. Cuz there’s nobody around playing some sort of cool mix of heavy rock, but it has the energy and intensity of maybe like 80s hardcore punk or early thrash metal or something that’s really gonna grab your heart and stab you. It seems like more and more, everyone wants to be like, ‘Oh, this is the band that’s saving rock ‘n’ roll’ or ‘This is like, the revival! This is the 70s perfect revival! These guys are the last true spirits, the saviors of rock ‘n’ roll!’ At this point, I want to be the DESTROYERS of rock ‘n’ roll! Tear it apart, give it a new asshole, and do our own fucking thing.
So people should go to your show and be like, ‘OK, I’m done. What’s the rave scene like?’
JL: Exactly. They should give up, get into electronic rock, get a cat, and move to like, Albuquerque. Then we’ll destroy the electronic scene.
That sounds awesome.
JL: I don’t mean musically. I just mean physically. We’re going to go to electronic shows and break stuff.
What pedals do you use?
JL: Oh, me and Court both, guitar and bass, we have a Shrine fuzz pedal that our friend Magic made. It’s like a custom-made fuzz pedal. … Magic Spiegel, never forget the name! A legendary nose-ring-wearer, dreadlock-shaver, keep-under-his-bed-rotten-food-can, sleeping on the floor, setlist-storer, magical man! He’s who Heart’s talking about! … He made a really, really gnarly copy of a 70s Big Muff, and I was like, ‘OK, we’re putting the Shrine on this, this is awesome!’ It’s called the Shrine Fuzz! All of our buddies have bought one! It’s got our logo on it, and this epic naked chick goat demon character, and he sells them!
CM: Actually, what it is, it’s a reproduction of a Violet Ram’s Head Big Muff, which if you actually had to track down an original could set you back anywhere from $700-900. But he can build a brand new one for you for $100; he’ll sell it to you.
What power does facial hair give you guys? Is that the only real difference between punk and metal?
CM: Our facial hair brings psychedelia to punk. We’re ‘facial’ metal.
What are your favorite psychedelics?
JM: One time I was with a buddy of mine and he ordered the tree bark from some exotic tree from the Amazon that was supposed to have DMT in it—I don’t even know what it was—and got some food-grade lye, and mixed it together so it was essentially a line of ground-up tree bark about 8 inches long, and we each snorted one through a metal tube. And it was painful as fuck— this is a true story! He immediately just started throwing up into this bag of Taco Bell. I saw a bunch of green, wavy lines and was just thinking about life for a long time.
JL: When we were in Nashville on tour with Chuck, we played on our own at this place called FUBAR with a band, Hans Condor. After the show, I smoked DMT for the first time in the dude from Heavy Cream’s basement. We’re in a basement, and then somehow we’re laying under the stars, every little crack of light and reflection turned into weird alien shit. I smoked it first, and then after I smoked it I was hanging on a chair recuperating. Everyone was like, ‘Oh yeah, it’ll only last for a minute.’ I was freaking out—everything was like a space alien green, flashing, glowing, intense orb. I was in a zone, sitting there. I started freezing, and I was watching this cloud move in the basement. I was moving the cloud around with my eyes. I was trying to make it do whatever I wanted it to do and make it shape-shift, and I was trying to make it move at one point and it wouldn’t move. I was cranking my eyes to make this cloud formation in this basement move, and then the cloud erupted and shattered, and I got deathly freezing cold. I was like, ‘Guys, I’m paralyzed! This is crazy, I’m freezing cold! The cloud shattered!’
CM: Our buddy Ashton, our best buddy—like practically the fourth member of our band—on all of our tours comes with us. We were about to cross into Texas when we were on tour. We know that Ashton has weed and DMT and about an ounce of mushrooms on him. Everyone we talked to before we were going on tour said, ‘Don’t bring anything into Texas! You’ll go to fucking jail for months at least.’ And so we’re about to cross the border at a gas station and we’re like, ‘Alright dude, ditch your shit, we’re not taking any chances.’ He has this huge bag of mushrooms, he’s like, ‘Fuck! What do I do? What should I do? Should I eat them right now?’ He’s so bummed about having to throw out this giant bag of mushrooms—
JM: ‘It’s like throwing away a child!’ That you kind of liked!
CM: I was like, ‘Maybe you could make tea out of it.’ You know, it was a very last-minute suggestion. He gets a giant gallon plastic water bottle, runs into the gas station, and you know how they have the coffee machines with the red lever that pours out the boiling water? He fills this empty gallon water jug with boiling water, and cuz it’s boiling and it’s plastic, the whole bottle gets all wilted and it melts and it’s all fucked-up and it’s lopsided and shit, and he comes back with this lopsided bottle of smoking water. ‘OK! I’m gonna stick the mushrooms in here, shake it up, and everything’s gonna be FINE!’ He just puts all these mushrooms in it and shakes it up, so he has this bottle of brown water that’s full of mushrooms. I’m like, ‘How is that any better than getting caught? The mushrooms are right there!’ And he’s like, ‘Well, what do you want me to do!’ ‘I don’t care what you do, just get the mushrooms out of the car!’
You did your own tour with Howling Rain and Lecherous Gaze. Being in the genre of psychedelic violence, what does that entail?
JL: It’s a religious commitment of the highest being. It means a little combo of the most hard-rocking, acid-tripping, riffing motherfuckers mixed with the insanity of early 80s hardcore punk put together. It’s like a knife in your mouth by a really hot girl! Like, more than a steak knife. Steak knife and a grater in your mouth by a hot naked chick who’s on acid and has been converted by the most evil of religions.
How was it opening for Pentagram? Does Bobby Liebling have teeth?
JL: No. If he has teeth, they’re made out of gold, and they don’t belong to him. He’s from Baltimore, like Jeff, which is like the dirtiest city ever. Listen to Randy Newman: ‘Baltimore.’ It’s the capital of doom! It’s where people go to do evil things. Randy Newman is amazing; he’s so gnarly. That song ‘Baltimore’ is like the most ugly, brutal song ever. It’s like, ‘Look at this whole city I’m talking about. Nobody would want to live there.’ … I spent an hour trying to sneak into Royce Hall to see Randy Newman. I got in for his finale. Me and my buddy Ashton, it was like Mission: Impossible, James Bond, Rush Hour … we were wandering around the rooftop of Royce Hall, sneaking in the hallways and all the retarded closets. We finally ended up at the top of the balcony. We saw him play ‘Short People’ and some other shit. That motherfucker plays by himself, with a piano, forever. Never hires a band, never pays anybody, just doesn’t care one bit, just does his thing.
Which of your songs are inspired by Randy Newman?
JL: The Bless Off album is inspired by Randy Newman and his entire enthusiasm to destroy American society as it stands and reshape it as a redneck, ‘Baltimore,’ ‘Short Person’ society. He sees it that way as being more exciting. Political science! Let’s drop the big one, and see what happens? As long as Randy Newman doesn’t die, who cares?
Is there a question we didn’t ask, that you were really hoping we would?
JL: Oh man, I was thinking about this last night as I was going to sleep and jerking off …
Really? What were you wearing?
JL: A full skin of another human being.
What kind of person?
JL: I can’t tell you, because if I told you, I’d have to wear you.
THE SHRINE WITH BRONCHO AND THE ZIG ZAGS ON THUR., MAY 31, AT THE BOOTLEG BAR, 2220 W. BEVERLY BLVD., ECHO PARK. 9 PM / $8-$10 / 21+. FOLDSILVERLAKE.COM. THE SHRINE’S BLESS OFF DEMO IS OUT NOW ON RESURRECTION RECORDS. VISIT THE SHRINE AT THESHRINEBAND.COM.