I speculate that Scott “Wino” Weinrich never thought he’d find himself with an album of his reviewed in Americana Highways. I also doubt he’d have thought Americana Highways would be doing an interview with him as well. But here we are. That’s exactly what happened with his Ripple Music release, Forever Gone, which released June 26th. You see, I saw Weinrich with his band, The Obsessed last year. I listen to a lot of music genres and have an affinity for heavy music in particular. The Obsessed is a power trio, in line with the original Gov’t Mule, though heavier. At that show I was fortunate to get an opportunity to photograph as well as speak with Weinrich following their set. We talked about blues and folk, guitars, songwriters and his previous acoustic albums. It was then that he told me that this new record was coming out. I’ve been eagerly anticipating it ever since. Just a few days after the release of Forever Gone, I was able to dial up Wino at his place in the Catskills and chat about the new record and more. Be sure to check out this incredible new collection of songs, and visit Wino’s page at Ripple Music for more information: https://www.ripple-music.com/bands/wino/
Check out the review of the album here: https://americanahighways.org/2020/06/24/review-scott-wino-weinrich-strips-away-the-doom-and-bridges-genres-on-forever-gone/
Americana Highways: Hey Wino hows it going?
Wino: Hey man, what’s going on?
AH: This is Dave Nowels w/Americana Highways. I just did the review for your new Ripple Music record, Forever Gone on our page, which must have been a bit of a surprise.
Wino: Yeah! I saw that, great review. Glad you like the record.
AH: Thank you. It’s really a great record, and I’m happy we can show you some love over on the Americana side of the music world.
Wino: That’s way cool.
AH: So, how have you been, and how have you been staying busy during all this chaos that has been 2020?
Wino: Well, you know, I’ve been writing a lot of music. I think a lot of tour musicians have been grounded and doing a lot of wood shedding. So, I’ve been doing that, and I’ve been doing a lot of art. I’m getting ready to launch an art site, and I’m going to sell some of my art stuff, and well, just taking care of the pad, you know? That’s about it I guess.
AH: Art? Paintings and such? That’s great. I somehow wasn’t aware that you did art too.
Wino: Yeah man. I’ve been doing it for quite a while. Usually I just don’t have a real venue for it. Occasionally I’ll bring some on the road with me and sell a painting or two, something like that.
AH: How cool! I bet that works out pretty well.
Wino: Yeah, there’s seems to be a little bit of a demand for it among the fan base. I’ve been trying to do it for a long time, but I think I’ve finally got enough stuff out that I can actually put out there. Had to get enough content first! (laughs).
AH: I hear you! Can’t wait to check it out. So, tell me a little bit about what lead to Forever Gone and the more acoustic approach rather than another full on band album from The Obsessed?
Wino: Well, we’re working on Obsessed stuff too. We do a lot of touring. Our new bass player Bryan White, once we got him, he was local, so we can now work a little faster. While we were working on the last full-length, I had decided I wanted to do another acoustic record, to follow-up Adrift quite a while ago actually. I did some solo stuff with my friend, and partner, German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs. That stuff was all import releases and not readily available in the US. I realized I had a couple of my best, what I thought were my strongest acoustic tunes on some of those records and it seemed like they were hard to get and maybe even out of print. So, I decided to record a whole new record, and include a couple of those tunes and make it a strong American release. Because, you know, I do a lot of shows acoustic when I’m not playing electric, or for some reason or another we’re not touring. Well, before the shutdown. So it’s just something I supplement my time with. It’s just something I’m really in too man.
AH: So a couple of those songs you mentioned from the collaboration with Conny that are on this new record include “Dead Yesterday” and “Dark Ravine” right?
Wino: Yeah, “Dead Yesterday” and “Dark Ravine,” and actually the title song, “Forever Gone” was on the Conny Ochs release too. These are all songs that I wrote, and I conferred with Conny and Andreas (Kohl) and let them know what I was going to do. I wanted these songs to see the light of day here, you know, in my country.
AH: When you’re writing for an acoustic album, is your songwriting process any different than it is for an electric album?
Wino: It’s weird, and sometimes it is. But actually, on the last Obsessed record, on Sacred, the song “Stranger Things”, that song actually started out as an acoustic song, then I realized it might be cooler, (pauses) I’ve realized I don’t have to limit myself. So while I was thinking of stuff for Sacred, I applied a more electric approach to that song and it worked. But you know, I usually go into it thinking, yeah this is going to be an acoustic song for sure. There is a little different structure in applying it for just one man. The way I usually write is, I’ll have a couple of concepts kicking around, and then I’ll find a riff or a cool progression that matches with the concepts. Or I’ll put the concepts to different chord progressions I have and fill in the lyrics from there. Sometimes it’s all at once, you know, like divine inspiration, and sometimes it can take forever fine-tuning the lyrics.
AH: Do you find yourself more often writing the music or the lyrics to center around the riff or do you find that you have the lyrics first?
Wino: Concept. It’s almost always the concept first. I usually have something that’s hitting me, something I’m seeing or something I’m feeling that’s really hitting me. Once I get the concept and once I get the actual title in my head, the title of the concept, then usually I have or can tailor a riff to it related to that. Yeah, usually an idea just pops in my head you know. Something I’ve seen or something somebodies said to me. A lot of things can trigger a song. It can be multi-topic too. When I’m writing a song, I won’t necessarily limit myself to one topic. There might be a bunch of influences coming in. You never know.
AH: Do you find that acoustic serves the more personal material better?
Wino: I think it serves the more personal material better for sure. Because it’s a more personal trip. When you’re standing out there with just your acoustic guitar it’s definitely different. It’s more challenging. When I’m playing with The Obsessed, I’ve got my huge stack behind me, but I’ve also got my boys and we’ve got a tightness, a circle of energy. With one man, it’s a bit different, more challenging, but I like it.
AH: Forever Gone has such a warm, rich sound, that really reminded me of all those great 70’s guitar based albums. Can you tell me a bit about studio process? What went into the mixing and mastering, and how involved were you in the process?
Wino: I was definitely there every step of the way. That sound you described was definitely what I wanted and what I was going for. The easy thing is to play the acoustic guitar. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to use a PA or an amplifier. You could just stand up there, get everybody to be quiet, turn off the air handlers you know? I think all’s fair in the studio. On this record we did use a few acoustic amplifiers I own. I used an old 60’s Silvertone, a very small two band, and we like to use things like they are. We use the best of both worlds, particularly in the studio.
AH: What guitar did you use?
Wino: On this recording I used a Gibson J-35, which is a remake of an older guitar, a predecessor, the Gibson workhorse which was the J-25. So I used my J-35, which is named ‘Jaylene’, and I used a Guild D-50 and I used one of Frank’s guitars, he had a J-45 Gibson. Predominantly Gibson, but also my Guild D-50 and my Kay Jumbo.
Wino: Frank’s the engineer. Frank Marchand. He’s the guy I record all my stuff with. He did Sacred and he also did Forever Gone. He’s a great guy.
AH: We talked briefly about the personal nature of these songs. The ones that really jumped out for me were “Songs at the Bottom of the Bottle” and “Taken”. Which of the songs were the most personal for you?
Wino: Well, I definitely have something to say about “Taken.” “Taken” was actually a cool thing where the drummer for The Obsessed, Brian Costantino also played drums on a couple of songs on this record. Periodically, he’ll give me lyrics he writes. Like, you know, something he’s thinking, and he’s given me some lyrics, but these lyrics he gave me for “Taken” are a true story. It’s a song for his mother that he never knew. He gave me these lyrics, and was like if you don’t do anything with them it’s cool and if you do, that’s cool too. But I never really said anything, but when I looked at those lyrics that became the song“Taken,” I realized I had come up with this riff, and all of a sudden I realized, that’s it. Basically I put the whole song together, and basically gave it to him for his birthday (Laughs) using his lyrics. He wrote the lyrics and I wrote the music and basically surprised him when I showed him the whole tune. We were both blown away, and I think it was the thing to do. I think it’s the heaviest song on the record; I think it’s the darkest song, but it’s a real story you know?
AH: Definitely. One of my favorite tracks. What’s behind “Crystal Madonna” which is another tune I really dug.
Wino: “Crystal Madonna” was about me spending some time in southern California. Living, but kind of struggling out there trying to make it in the music situation, you know? “Crystal Madonna” was about this little figurine a friend of mine had in this big cabinet. I loved this concept of “Crystal Madonna” alluding to the homeless situation and mental illness. So the song is kind of a story I made up about this homeless guy who got out of prison and has now become homeless for this reason or another. He becomes enchanted by this little figurine he finds in a thrift store. It’s sort of a dark story that doesn’t really end positively you know? But do they all have to end positively? That’s not real life.
AH: Absolutey. I know it probably wasn’t your intention to put this record out as an Americana album per se, but I know when we spoke during your last tour stop in OKC, you do have some background appreciating some of the genre’s songwriters. Who would you list as influences?
Wino: Well, I was always really into Neil Young, and Crosby Stills and Nash from my younger days on. But I really kind of felt out of place keeping up with it as it became the Americana thing you know? I was really just focusing on the electric thing. But, I got turned on to Townes Van Zandt a while back by a friend of mine in Austin. But, while I didn’t necessarily like everything, there were a couple of songs that really hit me. Of course, one year in Europe, Conny Ochs gave me Townes Van Zandt’s album, “In Pain.” That to me was the CD that got me going with everything Townes Van Zandt. Like I said, I don’t really like everything he does, but he was an amazing songwriter. Some of his tunes are some of the heaviest ones ever you know? “A Song For” is one I want to record electric some day. It’s one of the heaviest songs ever. Lyrically, I like the way he would write. In one of his documentaries, towards the end somebody interviewed him and referred to him as avaunt-garde, and I think he really was. He was a genius, absolutely. I’ve also been influenced more lately in Americana by, Tyler Childers. Man, that song “Hard Times” and “Nose to the Grindstone,” those are my two go-to songs. I mean, he’s a country dude that seems really cool! I’m still digging into a lot of this Americana stuff. The younger players you know? Man, I’ll tell you right now, one of my all-time favorite songs; I mean all-time favorite songs is a Grateful Dead song. It’s one that’s been a huge influence on me, and that song is “Wharf Rat” from the live Skull and Roses album. They never did a studio recording which I found interesting, but I really love that live version of “Wharf Rat.” It tells such an incredible story, and I didn’t find out until years later about the Wharf Rat society which is the sober group of Grateful Dead fans which is pretty amazing in and of itself.
AH: Exactly. Which brings me back to “Songs at the Bottom of the Bottle.” As someone in recovery myself, that song really piqued my interest. A very profound title.
Wino: That song was inspired by me speaking with Mark Adams, the original bass player for Saint Vitus. He was someone that liked to really pour down man, and one night after a show we were driving, and me and him were talking and getting fucked up. He said, ‘you know, my father said, ‘the song is at the bottom of the bottle’. I was like, wow! (laughs). I mean, at the time it seemed profound, but not a productive kind of profound (laughs). But anyways, that stuck with me and I used it for the title and it became what it is. He comes from a family where all the males but one has died from alcoholism. But he’s still alive, you know what I mean? So, I can identify. It’s a powerful tune. The objective is to stimulate feelings, you know? Passion or whatever it might be.
AH: We talked about Americana influences already, so who are your primary guitar influences? Acoustic or electric. What kind of sound are you trying to channel?
Wino: Man, my biggest American influences.. (Pauses) I love a lot of players. I’m really into Johnny Winter for sure. I read his autobiography where he talks about about how he made his choice to play either rock or blues at some point in time. Right around then on that live album he was using the flanger the whole time. He discovered that flanger and talked about it in that book. He was blown away by it. (Laughs), I mean it certainly wasn’t all blues (laughs). Johnny Winter, Frank Marino, Frank Zappa as far as American electric guys go. Ross “The Boss” Friedman. I know he got a little bit cheesy in that dress up like vikings band (Manowar), (laughs). He was also in the Dictators too. I really always liked his kind of style. Hendrix of course. Neil Young as far as the acoustic thing goes. As far as the acoustic thing goes, there’s a lot of good players. Americana and folk, I’m just scratching the surface. John McLaughlin and a few British cats too.
AH: When you play acoustic do you play with a pick, or finger pick?
Wino: I don’t finger pick when I play live, but I am working up to it. It’s a great style. I will break out some finger picks every now and then. For banjo or something like that, you just have to use finger picks or you’ll tear your fingers up. I’ve found I do a little better with just my bare fingers than actual finger picks. But yeah, it’s a whole new thing and a whole new style for me and I really appreciate it. I also played some bottleneck you know? I like playing slide and I’ve always played slide when playing electric. I’m definitely working on all that stuff.
AH: Do you see a silver lining? Do you think you’ll get to take these songs out on the road?
Wino: I fucking hope so! (laughs). This orchestrated pandemic and all. It’s really big ugly taking a step forward. All the one world government and all those people ‘big ugly.’ One big ugly conglomeration. They’re really trying to make their move. I’ve always said I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner. There’s going to be a currency reset and all that, but I don’t think until next year. But hopefully, I’ll get out to see you soon. I really hope so.
AH: I hope so too! Thank you so much for taking some time to talk with me Wino.
Wino: Sounds great brother, thank you very much!