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Saint Vitus arrive at Hellfest to close their 2015 European Tour The Return of the Walking Dead. The L.A. band, pioneers of Doom Metal since 1978, stand still and continue to strike us all with their slow, thundering riffs and melting lyrics. Latest news was that singer Wino Weinrich was arrested in Europe on November 2014 for drug possession, so the band announced on April this year that Scott Reagers, former singer of the band, would join them for the upcoming European summer dates. We all wandered about that sudden change so joined guitarist Dave Chandler at Hellfest backstage before the gig. Chandler, heart and brain of the band, was incredibly talkative and nice to us, and explained the current state of the band.

Festivalphoto: Hello Dave, thanks for having us. How are you? How does it feel to be in Hellfest?

DC: Oh, it is great! I love Hellfest, it is one of the most fun festivals we’ve ever made, to be here is always good!

Festivalphoto: You announced that Wino (Weinrich) was arrested in Europe last year, is that the main reason why he didn’t come?

DC: Well, as far as we know, Wino is banned from the European Union for five years, and banned from Norway for ever. We had all the shows scheduled when this happened, so I had to sing in some of them and Henry too. Lot’s of people were like “wow”! Because they’d never seen that before, but I was awful at that (laughs), I didn’t feel comfortable at all. So I called Scott (Reagers) and told him, ‘Look man, the shows are already booked and I can’t do anything about it, what do you think?’ And he just said ‘I’m in’. And really, I couldn’t trust anybody else to do this right now.

Festivalphoto: So does this mean that Scott will remain in the band and you will record new stuff with him?

DC: We will go back home, regroup, and start again to do new material, that’s for sure.

Festivalphoto: it must be a great time for Scott right now. As far as we know, he left the band for the first time back in 1986, and the reason was because he didn’t make enough money.

DC: Yeah, well, that was one reason, but he also had medical problems. He toured with us for Die Healing because he did that record with us, but he left after two weeks because he didn’t feel good. Then Wino came in for some more years.

Festivalphoto: Scott’s voice is absolutely insane, actually.

DC: Yeah it is! It hasn’t changed, I would even say it got better with the years; he is in great shape, it is perfect! We trust him, he is doing a great job.

Festivalphoto: So Wino came in again and he was great too, but they’re both very different. I mean, Scott is impeccable, but Wino is pure guts.

DC: Yeah! There is kind of a dichotomy between both. They are different personalities but they both fit in the band doing their own thing, in the end it’s just the same.

Festivalphoto: After 35 years on stage you must have seen lots of stuff out there. What do you think about the audience? Which changes have you perceived? I guess you still see the same old faces, but things have changed quite a lot as well.

DC: Well, of course we like to see the old faces, we love that, but what really amazes me more than anything else is the new generations who support us. I remember this show when an old fan came to me with his 5 or 6 year old child and said to him: ‘Look, this is the man who made Born to Late’, and the kid showed horns to me and shouted ‘Born to Late!!’ That was a total ‘Woooow’, seeing this little thing doing that was worth everything, just awesome. I even have pictures of that!

Festivalphoto: Wow… that is a reward indeed. What a nice moment! So, I wander about what do you think about the music industry. After so many years on the road you must have perceived its evolution. What do you think of it nowadays?

DC: Music industry still works pretty much as shitty as it used to, though it got a bit better in the metal area because now it is genre and it wasn’t like that a long time ago. The problem now is the kind of guys who rule it today; they are even worse. Time has changed, but the core of it remains still.

Festivalphoto: I believe nowadays most of the bands’ main income arrives from festivals, tours and merch, but not anymore from CD or vinyl selling.

DC: Yeah, we get our money from touring. Our record company deals with cover merch but we don’t get much from that. My drummer and I take care of merch and then split the money among the band, this way we get quite more. We don’t want to play the game, you know?

Festivalphoto: Yeah, if I was you I wouldn’t like either to play the role of a Rock star. Everything has its flipside.

DC: Well, we are ok with that. Some think we are Rock stars but most people know we are not.

Festivalphoto: More than Rock stars I believe you are awesome musicians.

DC: Oh, thanks that was nice. You know, most people treat us like Rock stars, but we deal everyday with real ones we are friends with, and anytime it’s like… Yeah…whatever. You know? The best thing for us is when people enjoy the show, and that’s it, it’s all we care about. When people comes and says ‘I gotta go to work in three hours, but I came to see you and you are bad ass’. Well ‘Thank you, here’s a T-shirt’, that’s it.

Festivalphoto: Guess when they become celebrities, they stand a part from the rest of humanity, like they are set on a different dimension.

DC: Yeah, absolutely, and we don’t like that. We like to be with the people, messing with the crowd, we go to the bar and drink with them. What’s wrong with that? It’s like Lemmy, he always says that too.

Festivalphoto: Yeah, what a man, Lemmy. He is getting old though.

DC: Hey! What do you mean with that? He is not much older than me, are you calling me old? (Lots of laughs)

Festivalphoto: Well, ok let’s say mature then.

DC: You got me there, I like that! That’s a good term.

Festivalphoto: Life treats you well though, you live in NOLA (New Orleans) right now, don’t you?

DC: Yeah it is treating me well, but you know? In New Orleans it is illegal to not be an alcoholic. That doesn’t help at all! (Laughs) I wouldn’t like to live anywhere else a part from Denver. That is a great place indeed. I love to seat on my couch and watch TV, I’m a TV guy, don’t listen to music anymore (Laughs).

Festivalphoto: So how do you manage to rehearse and record if you live a part from the rest of the band? Actually you are all spread around the country.

DC: Yeah, well, our drummer Henry has a studio in his home backyard at Fort Worth, Texas. We go there three or four days before the tour starts and write and rehearse the songs. Mark and Scott live in California, Henry lives in Texas and I’m in New Orleans. We two are the closest ones but still it’s a long way. But it’s fine, we are all right. It’s been a long time on the road, you know we started playing songs even before you were born! Our first gig was in 1979 (laughs).

Festivalphoto: Well, thank you very much for this chat, Dave. Enjoy tonight! We will for sure.

DC: My pleasure, thank you very much.

The gig took place at the Valley Stage. The setlist comprised most of ‘Reagers era’ songs, from the early period with the band till his return from 1994 to 1996. With Henry Vasquez on drums after the exit and death of former drummer Armando Acosta in 2010, the West Coast doomers nailed it from beginning to end.

Dark world started with thick, dense riffs, followed by One mind, Zombie Hunger and War is our Destiny. Vasquez hit the drums with such strength that the audience kept head banging till harm. Then it was time for the anthem White Magic/Black Magic, with Reagers showing an impeccable voice and Chandler’s guitar screaming with the heaviest of distortions. White Stallions, Burial at the Sea and Saint Vitus showed why the band is the undisputed pioneer of American Doom Metal. Their slow pace, the hammering notes on Mark Adam’s bass and the whole attitude of the band took some of the audience back to the early 80’s dark times, when Saint Vitus’ dying tempo made the punks throw bottles onstage till they learned to respect them for being fair to their music.

Determination wins, and the result was a Born to late the audience recited together, it was a damn celebration. Finally, Chandler reached the trench and shook hands with the public, giving cd’s to some of the assistants while balloons rained from the roof. That was a nice gift, the band deserves respect for their career and humility.

Writer: Beatriz Yoldi
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