A lot can change in 23 years, especially in the hyper-pace of modern music trends. So in internet time it has officially been an eternity since the world last had any new Sacred Reich material. That all changed on April 19th, 2019, when the Arizona thrash legends released their contribution to a split with Iron Reagan — their first material since 1996's Heal LP. And while that in and of itself was incredible news, what excited fans even more was that the new recordings featured the return of drummer Dave McClain (ex-Machine Head) back into the fold.
Now, Sacred Reich are about to drop their new studio album Awakening — their fourth overall and first LP in 23 years. The band announced their new eight-track effort — due on August 23rd via Metal Blade and produced by taste-maker Arthur Rizk — with the premiere of its ripping title-track. (Watch that video below.)
Formed in 1985, Sacred Reich's only remaining member since inception is bassist-vocalist Phil Rind. Hailing from the Phoenix, Arizona area, the band grew up looking toward Flotsam & Jetsam for advice and guidance, and eventually recorded a demo that lead to placement on the revered Metal Massacre VIII compilation. That song, "Ignorance," would end up on the band's debut LP of the same name, which was released in 1987 on Metal Blade and eventually became a milestone in the thrash movement.
Despite a series of influential releases and aggressive touring, which positioned them as one of the most important thrash bands of the Eighties and Nineties, Sacred Reich eventually called in quits in 2000. But the fans would not let Sacred Reich die, and Phil Rind resurrected the band in 2006 as a live act. Then in 2018, inspiration struck and Rind decided it was once again time to work on new material.
Revolver recently sat down with Rind for a wide-ranging discussion: from the rebirth of Sacred Reich and return of McClain to the early influence of Jason Newsted, practicing Buddhism in the age of Trump and much much more. Read the results of that conversation below.
HOW DO YOU EVEN APPROACH A NEW ALBUM AFTER 23 YEARS AWAY FROM THE STUDIO?
I was thinking the same thing ... What do we sound like now? Who are we now? We're not the same people that we were back then. I have a friend who is a director, his name is Mark Pellington and we're having this conversation and his answer was, "You sound like whatever you do." Just do what you do. His example was that he was driving to a movie premiere and it was the most important thing in the world to him. But he was driving past restaurants full of people, people doing the laundry ... because the majority of people just don't care. Just do your thing, put it out. It was very liberating hearing that. I think in general, if you just don't overthink things and let things come naturally and let things happen, don't force it, it'll be the way it's supposed to be.
HOW DID YOU ARRIVE AT WORKING WITH ARTHUR RIZK?
There were people we were talking about looking into – producers, mixers, you know ... How are we going to approach it? We were listening to everybody's stuff and the thing I liked about Arthur – when I read some interviews with him – was he didn't seem to have a set way that he does things. Some people are just kind of like, This is what I do, this is how I do it. We want to sound like us, just the best us we can be.
When I spoke to him, I said I was looking for a Mob Rules, Heaven & Hell kind of thing and he responded "Martin Birch is one of my favorite producers." I was like, Yeah, I think he's the guy. He just seemed cool and younger and I was afraid it could sound too pretty or something, you know? I just wanted to make sure it still had a kind of edge. Arthur's just fucking killer and we dig him and it worked out fantastic.
LET'S TALK ABOUT THE END OF THE BAND AROUND 2000 ...
It just felt like things were winding down. You know, we had done Heal and it just felt like the interest was waning quite a bit. Dave left and joined Machine Head and we had this guy Chuck [FitzGerald] playing drums. I was having some personal issues in my life with my family and stuff, and if you had your finger to the wind, it just felt like, "We had a good run, 10 years, made some cool records and that was it." It wasn't anything really more than that.
AT THE TIME DID YOU FEEL LIKE THAT DECISION WAS FINAL? OR DID YOU HAVE LINGERING RESERVATIONS ABOUT REFORMING AGAIN IN THE FUTURE?
Oh yeah, absolutely. I gave away all my gear. I put my bass in the closet and didn't play for 10 years. Yeah, that was that, and that was really fucking cool. And now what's the rest of your life going to look like? That next part was scary ... Well not scary but not knowing, being like 30 and having dropped out of high school to play music and trying to figure out what the rest of your life's gonna look like ... for me it was a big struggle. I just went from one thing to another and I know I'm capable of doing whatever it is. I went through like a really big bout of depression for like five years because I just felt aimless and my wife would always say, "You need to do music. That's what you love." And she was right. I was never really happy doing anything else, but I never got any real satisfaction out of doing any of those things. And I think pretending that it was okay to some conflicts in my brain.
WHO WERE YOUR LOCAL HEROES WHEN YOU WERE COMING UP?
Well, our big brother band was Flotsam and Jetsam. So Jason Newsted was in the band at the time and he was the captain of that ship. He was the bass player and I was a bass player. I'd wake up in the morning and go to school and find like a stack of flyers on my driver's seat in my car – he had come by in the middle of the night and dropped off a bunch of flyers. I would lend them my cabinets. Jason wrote our first bio. Jason gave us his mailing list, which at the time was a huge deal.
He made a mailing list of all these fans ... all over the world and all over Europe and just gave it to us so we can send out our demos. He would do interviews and he would just dictate the answers into a cassette and put our demo on the other side and send it to people. So he was a humongous supporter of our band. Huge. Told Metal Blade all the time ... Sacred Reich. So he was a big champion. We played a bunch of shows with them. So they were like the band that we looked up to.
ONE OF THE THINGS ABOUT YOU GUYS IS THERE WAS ALWAYS A STRONG POLITICAL BENT WITH WHAT YOU WERE DOING. HAVE YOU BECOME MORE, OR LESS, POLITICAL AS YOU'VE GOTTEN OLDER?
I don't know if mellow is the right word, maybe it's just more of a sense of ... There's a line in one of the songs in "Manifest Reality" and it says, "When I was young, I had to change the world. Now I know I can only change myself." I think when you're younger and very idealistic, you want to change everything and you're going to do it. And I think now that I'm a little older, I know I can barely control myself, let alone tell anybody else what to do. Being a parent will do that to you as well. I just know that the best thing I can do is be the person who I want to be and be an example. Change yourself. That's a real victory. I tell my kids all the time, "When you feel angry, do you like the way it feels? No. Then why do you to it?" They're like, "Well, so and so is ..." I answer, "Is it up to everybody else to tell you how you feel?"
THAT'S AN INCREDIBLE MINDSET. SO THE IRON REAGAN SPLIT, HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
So 10 or 15 years ago, Municipal Waste were in Phoenix and I took my kids. My kids were in their teens at the time and I thought it would be a fun show for them. So I took my son, Zach and Shane and I went up and introduced myself to him, and that's when I met [singer Tony Foresta]. After that we played on this cruise with them, in Mexico City with them ... so we've known each other. When I told Tony we were making a record, he's like, "Make sure you save a single for a split with Iron Reagan."
"Don't Do It Donnie" kinda came in my sleep – the lyrics just came real fast and I thought that would be perfect. It's like a little punk rock song. We recorded like five minutes, you know, just, it's just more about attitude. That song is less angry lyrically, more like imploring [Donald Trump] not to fuck everything up beyond recognition – you know, "Don't do it man." My feelings about him are conflicted. From a pure standpoint, I feel bad for him. I have a lot of compassion because I know he's probably suffering a great deal. I mean, have you ever worked at a job where you really were in over your head and had no idea what you were doing? It's a terrible feeling. That's his life every day.
But he also possesses an ego that won't let him admit that to himself. So he must have an incredible amount of inner turmoil and it's really problematic. We're in a very awkward time right now and everything that's going on with the investigation and how certain people characterize the findings. I made it my business to read all 400 pages [of Robert Mueller's report on the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election] and I know what [U.S. Attorney General William] Barr said is not the truth. Hopefully we get to the truth, pay attention enough to realize what the truth is and not be swayed. It's right there, just read it for yourself if you really care.
I have some friends that are Trump supporters who are like, "You hate him." I don't hate anybody, I certainly don't hate him, but I think he's a kind of awful human being. He's an example of how your life becomes when you're a narcissist and all that matters is your ego, your pocketbook and [what] you can get out of everything. This is the example of what life looks like when you're only motivation is selfish things. That's the opposite of how we should all actually strive to be. The Dalai Lama always says that the best way to cherish yourself is to cherish others. And that's the thing, also in "Manifest" — the idea is if you do things for yourself, you're limited to one thing, and if you do things for others, there is no limit to what you can do for other people.
LET'S ALSO TALK ABOUT YOUR DRUMMER COMING BACK INTO THE FOLD FROM MACHINE HEAD. HOW DID THAT COME ABOUT?
It was very simple. Greg [Hall] wasn't in the band anymore, I sent Dave a message, give me a call. We talked and he just said, I want to do it. I want to do the record, I want to do the tour, I want to do all of it. And I just smiled, because you know when everything went down with Greg, you know, everyone was like, what are we going to do? I didn't know what we were going to do, but it can't go on the way it is right now. It has to change.
Dave left for a better opportunity and I was upset at the time, but after we talked about it, it made sense to me. He was just getting started and we were on a downward arc. He just wanted to fucking play. And it worked out great for him for 23 years. He got to do amazing, incredible things.
So once he agreed to play again, Machine Head were getting ready to put out a record. So I asked him what does that look like? He told me about a year to a year and a half. I said, "You know, like we can wait – it's been 22 years already. What's another year? I want the right guy and you're the guy." And then as things went along, I think he just realized that he wasn't happy where he was. So one day he told me he was thinking about leaving. And I was like, that's a big deal and that shows a lot of confidence in us.
IN TALKING TO YOU, THERE IS A VERY POSITIVE, ALMOST ZEN AIR ABOUT YOU. YOU SEEM TO BE A VERY THOUGHTFUL PERSON. WHERE OR TO WHOM DO YOU ATTRIBUTE A LOT OF THAT PERSONALITY TRAIT?
Twenty years of Buddhist practice. Before that I was a raging ego, selfish piece of shit, crappy human. It's definitely attributed to my teachers and the last 20 years that I've spent with them. That's been the greatest thing in my whole life. I'm not trying to push it on anybody, everybody's got to find their own thing, but that's what works for me. It really works and it has made my entire life, my family, everything just ... I think just a lot of it is just understanding your own mind and the kind of troubles that we make for ourselves.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE THAT'S CHANGED THE WAY YOU PLAY? YOU'RE PLAYING PISSED OFF MUSIC AND THE THEMES ARE PISSED OFF ...
Maybe in the past it was pissed off. The new record isn't pissed off. It's aggressive and it's heavy but there's all kinds of wrathful deities and they have a power and an energy behind them. They say after you die, it can come as like an angel or it can come as a wrathful thing, cutting you with a sword away from grasping onto the ignorance. How do you want it man? So it's up to you. I don't have a problem with playing aggressive and heavy music. I'm not angry in any sort of way at all. I don't think you have to be angry.