This is an interview with Dave Chandler (guitar) from St. Vitus. I did it
in Vienna in February, before their show.
First, could you please tell us about the very early years of St. Vitus and
about the way Wino joined tha band. He was doing The Obsessed in Maryland so
what made him join St. Vitus?
Dave Chandler (guitar): We have been a band since 1979. That’s when we did
our first live show. In 1986, our singer Scott Reagers left. We knew he was
going to leave and a lot of people in the underground knew he was going to leave.
And a lot of people suggested Wino because his band The Obsessed wasn’t
happening anymore. A guy gave us a tape of The Obsessed and we liked what we
heard. Then he came to see our show, I believe in ’86, when we played on the
East Coast. We didn’t know anything about him until we heard the actual tape.
And he wasn’t doing anything so he moved across the country and started
rehearsing with us. We recorded “Born Too Late” only a couple of months after
the name “St. Vitus” comes from the Black Sabbath song “St. Vitus Dance”...
Yeah, that’s where we originally took the name from. We wanted to make sure
that St. Vitus was not satanic in any way ‘cause we didn’t want to deal with the
satanic bullshit that was going on at that time. So we looked up and we found
out that he’s actually the patron saint of musicians, dancers and healers... and
all kinds of good stuff. So we were like “Wow, that’s cool.” So we took the name
from the Black Sabbath song “St. Vitus Dance” and we liked the fact that the
disease was kind of a nervous, twitching thing back in the old days.
Does the album title “Die Healing” have something to do with that, too?
No. Actually, it came about because we knew it was going to be the last
album. If you read it literally, that means that you are dying while you’re
being healed. Then it would mean that we are being healed by coming back – and
we are dying at the same time because it was our last record. But if you
translate it to German, it says “THE healing”. So it’s got a double deal there.
Why the German reference? Were you so popular there?
Yeah, when we came to Europe in ’89, everybody loved us in Germany. That’s
why we singed to a German label. Everywhere we’ve been we had great shows but in
Germany we always feel like we’ve been here before. So we decided to that
because it amuses people, too. Which is always fun.
Besides Black Sabbath, you were also influenced by Black Flag. You had a tour
with them and your first couple of albums came out on their label – but did you
eve tour with Black Sabbath?
No. But we did Hellfest in France last year and we played after Heaven And
Hell finished. That’s the closest we’ve ever came to playing with Sabbath. But
that would be a lot of fun to do. I would like to do an Ozzfest tour someday,
that would be kind of fun. Actually, I don’t think we ever played with any of
our influences because they’re all from the ‘70s: Alice Cooper, Blue Öyster Cult...
But we did play with Blue Cheer and became friends with them. We also played
with some of the punk bands: Black Flag, G.B.H., Agnostic Front...
By the way, do you think there will ever be a Black Sabbath reunion with Ozzy
again? Will they make an album or will they tour together again someday?
I don’t know. It would be cool. It will probably depend on everybody’s
health because they’re not exactly really young. Neither we are, we’re all over
fifty except for our new drummer.
Is it true that Wino left the band because, according to a contract with
Hellhound Records, he had to reunite The Obsessed?
You have to ask him about whether it’s true or not. I know that we had
difficulties at the time. We were not getting along, we were fighting with each
other and things like that. We knew The Obsessed put a record out and we said
that if he wanted to tour with them, that’s fine. We have pretty much figured
that once he started doing that he wouldn’t want to come back because things
were not that good. But I don’t know if he had to or not. He never told us that
he had to do it, we just felt he wanted to do it and we pretty much expected it.
What do you think of your albums that you’ve done without Wino?
I like all of our albums except for C.O.D. I’m not happy with that one, I
don’t like the way it was produced. My favorite albums are “Die Healing” and the
first one. Coincidentally, neither one of them has Wino but it’s not the reason.
I like the first album because that’s actually a live album. We did that live in
the studio and we didn’t do any overdubs of anything. And I think “Die Healing”
is the most professionally sounding album.
So, as you mentioned, you called it a day because of personal differences...
Pretty much, yeah. Mark wanted to quit, I wanted to quit, everybody was
fighting with each other, it was really crazy at that time, nobody was getting
along with anybody. Wino was unhappy, we were unhappy, so it was inevitable he
was going to go do The Obsessed. Which actually worked out kind of a good thing
because it gave him a weird persona for him when we got back together.
In 2003, you played a show in Chicago at the Double Door with the “Born Too
Late” line-up. Why Chicago? Does it have anything to do with Trouble?
No. I mean kind of because at that time I was in a band called Debris Inc.,
with bass player Ron Holzner from Trouble. We had various drummers, our current
drummer Henry Vasquez was one of our drummers. We were always playing Chicago
when we were touring around the country with Debris. When we decided to get the
Vitus thing back together it’s because we had an offer to do the With Full Force
Festival No. 10 so we said OK, Vitus will play if you let Debris also play. And
they said “OK, that’s good.” I wasn’t planning on doing Vitus anymore but I
wanted to do that ‘cause I had done Wacken the previous year with Debris. We did
some Vitus songs and the response was really good so I wanted the guys to see
that. We did Chicago because that’s where Debris was based out of and we needed
to do a warm-up show before the festival.
These is also a video recording of that show which later came out on DVD. Is
it still available?
I think so. You can go to the Debris website and still get it.
Is Debris Inc. still active?
No, I stopped that after a while because it became more hassle than fun and I
didn’t really want to deal with it anymore. St. Vitus wasn’t doing anything but
then we got some interest in Vitus again for Roadburn so then it just kind of
Originally, did you only want to play that particular show or did you already
think of starting St. Vitus again?
No, we just wanted to do that one and I was going to continue with Debris.
And Debris stopped in 2005 so I still did that for a couple of years after that.
Then in 2008 you got together again and the next year you did the Roadburn
Yeah, we got the offer to do Roadburn so we said “OK, let’s go and do that”.
We did a show in New Orleans before that for the same reason we did that warm-up
show. That’s where I live, we have a rehearsal stage and everything set up so
that’s why we did New Orleans. Roadburn opened up the door to do Hellfest which
opened up the door to do this tour so we’re going to see how many more doors
open and see how far we can roll on with this at the end of the line before we
all croak, ha ha!
During that tour, you parted was with your original drummer Armando Acosta.
Why? I read his statement according to which you fired him...
That’s always going to happen when you’re the person who has to say it to
the person. Physically, he has a lot of problems, he really needs to go to a
doctor and be taken care of – and he doesn’t want to. He just couldn’t do the
songs and he told me and Mark that he can’t play the way he used to. We told him
not to worry about it and to play straight not doing any of his fancy stuff. But
he didn’t listen and just could not do it. Basically, I’ve always been the
person in charge of St. Vitus so it’s up to me to make the decisions, good or
bad. We had a band meeting with every single person including our manager Rodney
and we all agreed that we can not let it happen this way. There’s going to be
almost 100.000 people so that’s really important. And I had to be the one to
tell him because that’s my job in St. Vitus. I take all the credit for the bad
decisions and the good decisions ‘cause I make them. Everybody agreed and I was
the one who had to make the phone call. So I’m the one who fired him but
actually, the whole band agreed. We even told him: “If you go to a doctor, get
healthy and play again, good.” But Henry Vasquez is the shot in the arm that we
needed. The kick in the ass that we needed. He’s a lot better than Armando, his
timing is impeccable and he’s the loudest drummer I’ve ever heard in my life.
What about the future of St. Vitus? Do you plan on doing another album?
We’re talking about it. It depends on how this tour goes. If the tour goes
well we’ll probably will. The way this tour is going so far is looking really
good. And if we do it’s going to be the line-up you’ll see tonight. Henry is our
What do you think of the fact that the doom metal scene is very active again?
Yeah, it’s cool that doom metal is back in action, for lack of a better term.
It would be sad if it would just fade away because it’s a legitmate form of
metal. I still think it’s weird that people have to label every different little
tiny thing. Basically, it’s all heavy metal. When we were doing this it was nice
to see some of the kids that came to see our shows and tried to be in bands that
did doom metal. It’s a great feeling and it’s good for us now because all those
kids kept doing it and now that we are back they’re like “You are the people
that made us do it”. So it’s cool.
What do (doom) metal and the underground movement mean to you?
Well, obviously, the underground means everything to us. As for the label
“doom metal”, I think it’s fine. We never heard of it until we came to Europe
and on one of the tours they said we were doom metal. And I thought that made
sense because my songs were about death, destruction and doomy things. My mother
used to call our songs “funeral music”... OK, whatever they want to call it,
that’s fine. I still think it’s a strange thing but I can understand it. Most of
the world seems strange now, ha ha!
How do you view the fact that people often refer to St. Vitus as one of the
most important bands of the genre?
Oh, that’s very very flattering, we love that. But we are always the first
people to say that Black Sabbath started it. Everybody else just followed them.
But when magazines write about the history of doom metal, it is nice that we are
among the top people they talk about. That’s a lot of fun. We bought this theing
called Encyclopedia of heavy metal and there’s a giant picture of me under “doom
metal”. That makes me feel good. When Black Sabbath were doing it that label was
not there. So as for the origins of the name “doom metal”, we are one of the
first ones – if not the first ones.
Any last words to close this interview?
Well, to those who have our records, I want to say thank you all for hanging
with us all these years. That’s great. Hopefully, we’ll get to Hungary someday.
If things keep going the way they’re going we’ll just keep expanding our
territory that we play in. We’d love to come over there, we have friends who
said it was great, we’d love to come to you guys. So keep the faith and
hopefully we’ll be there.