First of all, could you tell us a few words about the formation of Shrinebuilder. Whose idea was it to get this group of well known musicians together?
Scott Kelly (guitar): Well, it was Al’s idea originally. Him, Wino and Chris Hakius who used to drum with Al in Om and Sleep started working on stuff, probably six or seven years ago. Then it was Al’s idea to bring me in on it and, of course, I said yes ’cause it sounded like a good thing to do. I’ve known Al for a really long time, since twelve, and I’ve always known his music. Then Chris quit a few months after that.
What was the reason he quit?
He just didn’t want to do music anymore, just wanted to do his own things, so he quit Om and quit Shrinebuilder at the same time. Then we just kind of thought what if we had Dale ’cause he’d be perfect for this. And he was into it. So, we’ve all known each other. I’ve known Dale since 1985 and Al since about the same time. We appreciated each others music and thought that it would be interesting to see what we can do together as musicians.
Who came up with the name “Shrinebuilder”? Does this anme have any special menaing?
Al did. He told me that this would be the name when he asked me to join and I thought it was great. It makes sense to me. I think music is shrine, music is religion, music is a way of life. It has its own mythology, it has its own theology, it has its own gods.
Do you consider Shrinebuilder a permanent band or just a side project?
Well, it’s kind of a side project. I mean Dale’s band is the Melvins, Al’s band is Om, my band is Neurosis and Wino’s band is the Wino band right now. But it is a permanent band, we’re writing a lot of new material, we’re very much looking forward with this band. Pretty much from the time we made the record we thought like it was something that we really enjoy doing and want to keep doing it, so the plan is to continue with it.
It must be hard for you to find the time to do it appropriately besides with your permanent bands.
Sure, yeah. Life is hard, ha ha! You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get things done. You just try to figure it out. Things are a lot easier with the Internet and stuff like that. You can write ideas, e-mail people and stuff, so it’s not as hard as it used to be. In Neurosis, we’ve lived in different areas for a long time, even all the way back to “Souls At Zero” where we’ve recorded things on cassettes and mailed them to each other, so it’s no different for me. I live in the woods, far away from anyone, so that’s the way all my projects are. It’s pretty normal.
Wino seems to have a lot going on right now…
I know that there’s some talk of the new St. Vitus record. And they’re going on tour three or four days after we get done. We talk about that stuff all the time, we always talk about our other bands and what we’re doing. Wino and I are doing some acoustic stuff together as well. We’re going to do a small American tour in February and we’re going to come here and play acoustically in February.
Does this have something to do with Wino’s acoustic album “Adrift” that’s been brought out this year?
Yeah. And I’ve got a couple of acoustic records as well. We’ll do some stuff together and record stuff together as well.
Does Wino have any plans on reuniting The Obsessed?
Never heard anything about it.
You signed with Neurot Recordings which, I think, was an obvious choice, wasn’t it.
Yeah, I think so. It’s a band decision in the end but I know it’s an honest label, an artist friendly label. We don’t have as much money as all the labels out there, but we do take care of the bands that are there, so I think that everybody was very comfortable with that. I didn’t push it but I was right there…
And Neurot Recordings give all their bands total artistic freedom, right?
Yeah, of course.
Generally speaking, how much artistic freedom do you think underground metal bands get nowadays when they sign with a record label? Especially compared to the old days.
I don’t know what it was like before but I can guess, you know. I think it depends on what you do. I mean if you want to sign to a major label you’re going to have people in your business. Even now any metal band that sign to a major label has got people telling them their opinions and influencing them in different ways. It’s just the way that it is. Especially when you’re in some sort of a long term deal. The only way to have true creative independence is being an independent band. And the Melvins were on a major label for a couple of records. I don’t think that they have compromised. Dale might be able to answer that better but I guess, knowing them, that they just don’t really compromise, so I’m sure that they had a contract that gave them complete artistic control. And that was probably why the major label dropped them after two records, because they just did what they wanted to do and didn’t sell enough to make the major label happy.
Shrinebuilder’s first European tour was supposed to take place in Spring 2010 but it was canceled because of all the mess that the volcanic ash cloud caused. I guess it was as frustrating for you as a band as for us fans that were really looking forward to seeing you live.
Yeah, that was really difficult. Never actually had to cancel a tour before over something like that. I’ve done tours with a broken foot, I’ve toured with broken ribs, we’ve blown up vans, blown up amps… Everything you can possibly imagine that slows things down and we get through… There was nothing we could do, we were absolutely helpless and it was horrible. We sat in New York for four days trying to get through and couldn’t do it. What we ended up doing was going back to Los Angeles where Wino, Dale and Al live and working on new material for three days. We wrote the majority of our next record in those three days, so we were productive. But what can you say? We missed it by six hours. If we get there six hours earlier, we would get through.
But now you are making up for it. So how is the tour going?
It’s going good. It probably would have been better if it’d been in April because the record has just come out and there was more press and stuff. But it’s been good. The shows have been good and the people have been great, as usual. Europe is a great place to tour, there so much artistic history and appreciation here. And we’ve all toured Europe so many times that it’s pretty comfortable for us to do it when we know how things are and how to get around.
What else do you play besides your first album which is only forty minutes long. Any new Shrinebuilder songs or stuff from your regular bands?
We play a couple of new songs, we do a cover song and then we have some kind of improvisational stuff that we do as well. It comes out to about an hour and fifteen or twenty minutes with everything. So it’s a good set, a full set. We’re really trying to get down more new material so that we can not have a cover song but that’s one of the problems with having a band like this. It’s kind of a headlining band just by the nature of it but we didn’t have headlining band material so we had to come up with stuff really quickly on our first American tour. It was shorter that this, we were only doing 55-60 minutes. Then we learned another new song and worked that in the set. We’re all really anxious to get more of this new material down. The next record is actually very strong, it’s going to be really good. The more we play together the more we develop this chemistry that we have. The next record will surpass the first one by a lot.
When will it come out?
I don’t know. We still do not have the recording, so it’s going to be difficult. Hopefully next year. That’s the plan, to get it done and get it out next year. We’ll probably do a few limited edition things before that. We have live stuff, then we have some cover songs recorded and we’ve re-recorded one of the songs of the album. It actually happened when we were in New York waiting to come over on the failed tour. We re-recorded “Science of Anger” in a studio in Brooklyn. And we’ve recorded every show of this tour live. So we’ll have some stuff to get out there and then we can get the record together.
What has the general response of the fans been to your album and your live shows? And do you have younger fans or mainly people who have been following your regular bands?
That’s a good question. I don’t really know, it’s hard for me to tell. I think at this point it’s mainly people who know the other bands. And there are definitely some younger people at the shows, I wonder how the figured out about this band. The reactions to the shows have been really good, people have been very positive, I think that they’re enjoying what we’re doing, particularly the live show. The improvisational nature of some of the material is a little different than most bands are doing right now. It’s something that we really wanted to do because we thought like we’ve been playing music for so long we’re confident enough to just try. Even if we fail fuck it, it’s worth to try. Everything’s so pre-programmed and thought-out now, it’s nice that we just get out there and try to play off of each other, figure out where the audience is going with it and try to develop some sort of a deeper sense of where we are as musicians while we’re in front of people. It still keeps a little bit scary for us but it’s nice.
Ans what is your live sound like? Is it as raw as on the album? Do you use any effects, triggers or samplers when playing live?
No, we don’t use anything like that. Our sound guy has a couple of effects that he uses, the same sound guy as with Neurosis, so if you’ve seen Neurosis you’re familiar with what he does. But it’s raw, it’s just guitars and drums. Wino has some effect pedals and I have a couple of effect pedals but everything’s old.
I think you aren’t really into categories. Do you think people are right when they call you a doom metal supergroup?
I don’t know. I don’t care. I mean whatever works with them is fine with me. If it helps them to categorize it and put something on it, that’s fine. Honestly, for me it’s just a chance to play with Wino, Al and Dale and to do the music that we all do. So if they want to call us doom metal or call us a supergroup I can understand why but whatever, I don’t care.
And how would you describe Shrinebuilder’s music to people who have never heard it before?
I would probably just tell them it’s like a more psychedelic Black Sabbath or something. That’s pretty much what it is. We don’t spend a lifetime breaking things down as much as we do in Neurosis where it takes us one year and a half to work out a single part. In Shrinebuilder, we just have a guitar riff, Dale plays drums to it, Al plays bass, Wino does his thing. It’s pretty simple in that way and it’s intended in that way. It’s a little more immediate, a little more direct in that way. But it’s still very visceral, blade sharp. It still works in that way. And I think the new material, the stuff we are working in now, will be the real test of what we can do.
Speaking of Neurosis, when can we expect a proper European tour and a new album?
A proper European tour? I don’t know. Very, very difficult. We don’t do proper tours anymore, we haven’t since the last time we came here.
Not even in the USA?
No. We haven’t done proper tours since we came with that tour in 1997 with Voivod. That was the last proper tour that we did. After that, we’ve only done small tours, two weeks at the most. We are going to come to Europe in Summertime and we’ll probably play half festivals, half clubs.
What do you think of Josh Graham’s band, A Storm Of Light which is getting more and more popular in the scene?
Yeah and they’re getting better, too. They’re working very hard.
Is there anything else you would mention concerning the future of Shrinebuilder?
We’re playing Roadburn next year and we’re going to do a few European dates around it, try to get this new record together and come back. Maybe we’ll be back this time next year or something, that would be nice. We’ve got to stay together and figure out what to do. I’m just happy to be here.