On a Higher Plane With Dave Chandler

"I just get so stoned that it’s funny. Everything is funny..."

I suspect that Dave Chandler, lead guitarist of Saint Vitus, may be slightly off his nut. He answers the phone with a positive “Hey, how you doing? What’s up?” in the voice of someone wholly amused (bemused?) by the follies, twists, and turns of life.

I enquire into the recent European tour with Mos Generator and he responds “It was great. It was really, really great. Mos Generator was a really kick-ass opening band – they were bad-ass. They’re a great band. Y’all would love them…”. So any further tour plans? “No, we’re coming to Australia and then after that there are some things that are questionable but there’s nothing for sure.”

We get into a discussion about the free downloads that Saint Vitus have recently put out; an EP and a 7” split with The Casualties, you seem to be embracing social media to get your tunes out there? Again Dave brims with positivity; “We’re just kind of trying to embrace everything right now. Everything is really cool with Scion (one of the on-line portal services distributing one of the downloads) helping us out and stuff and we’re like ‘Yeah!’ and we just wanna go with the flow and just let everything happen. It’s really good. It’s really fun.”

Originally named Tyrant, the band formed in the late seventies; what was that like? “When we started I was like 21 or something – I was out of school – and when Vitus started it was really really harsh because the only stuff that was happening in LA was punk rock and the hair band scene. This was pre-Guns ‘n’ Roses, pre-Motley Crue; it was like the pseudo-beginnings of hair bands, and so it was really harsh.”

Saint Vitus starting out touring and playing with a lot of punk bands, tell me about that. “The thing about that was, we hooked up with Black Flag – they saw a thing in us that was different because we were obviously not a hair metal band – so they took us on tour and brought us in to the punk rock scene that way, they also started booking us with other bands who would come to town and ask to have us booked. For the first couple of years people hated us so badly; they trashed us and kind of tried to destroy us…so that would make a good show for the other punk rock bands. But after two years or so then they became our audience and we never played to an American metal audience again until sometime in 2000 after the reunion.” Dave finishes most sentences with a chuckle and seems to be constantly on the brink of laughter. It’s highly contagious and I feel myself on the brink of cracking up throughout the whole interview - though that might just be my medication kicking in…

The band is now seen as one of the forerunners of the doom sound and doom as a whole is going through a bit of a resurgence, what’s your view on this? “Yeah, we were doing it when there wasn’t even these sub-genres of metal so there were no names at all. You were either heavy metal or hard rock when we actually started. I think it’s really cool that people are saying that we’re one of the ‘god-fathers’ – that’s the term I like to use – of doom metal (he’s laughing merrily again) and I think it’s really good that doom metal finally came in to its own because it should. It is a legitimate form of metal just like anything else and I think it’s really good. I’m behind it all the way.” His trail of thought seems to taper off a bit so I ask about Born Too Late (1986), which is considered a benchmark in doom. At the time of writing it did you realise it had the hallmarks of a ‘classic’? “I was really pissed off and really in a bad state of mind. The weird thing is it’s my most angry, drug-addled album of all and everybody thinks it’s the greatest one. That’s all that’s based on; pure anger. I was just pissed off the whole time. Each song has a definite ‘thing’ for me. It’s a very personal record.”

So is it hard for you to lay your personal feelings bare as an artist? “Not really. I kinda do a thing where a couple of hours before we go on stage I try to get myself into the mind-set of being ‘The Prick’, ‘The Asshole’, ‘The Dave-Asshole-Son-Of-A-Bitch’ that everyone wants to see and then when we’re done it kind of just goes away…” Again, he’s laughing like a merry wizard, making jokes about people driving him crazy. (“I’m just joking, I’m just joking…”)

So with Lillie F-65 (2012), it’s the first Vitus album for 17 years, plus Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich is back on vocals for the first time in 22 years; is this a permanent line-up? “Yeah. Obviously we’re gonna stick with this until we’re done again…” and everyone is feeling reinvigorated with the first album for so long? “Yeah - and I think that with Wino, he really outstands on Lillie, he’s really, really, really good on it and I was like ‘Damn!’ when I first heard the preliminaries before we recorded it, I was like ‘That son of a bitch is good!’ so I think it was like a good, refreshing thing that we all meshed together again.”

What are you looking forward to about the up-coming Australian tour? “We always look forward to going to a new place and we’re looking forward to bludgeoning the fans – I hope y’all don’t have any DB levels because we’re loud.” Sadly, those fekkers who move next door to live music venues will probably have a whine but I’m sure we’ll be fine. So any plans after the tour? “We have a couple of things in the works but nothing is for sure, so we really don’t know. We’re thinking about writing new songs but we don’t know so…”

Saint Vitus has been going (on and off) for over 30 years, did you ever see that as a possibility when starting out? “No, when we started we figured we’d never make a record. We figured we wouldn’t get out of the back-yard parties so we’re happy as pigs in shit right now!” I ask if touring blows his mind and he admits “All the time. All the time. On the last little European thing we did Scotland and Luxembourg and Wales and I was like “I’m standing here in this place?!’ and I do it all the time because it’s amazing. When we started the band in 1978, like I said, we figured we wouldn’t get out the back-yard and now you’re standing in Wales and you’re gonna do a festival and you’re like ‘What the fuck?!’ so it’s really cool.”

We move into the creative process; what’s a good riff? He answers like a true artist in a truthful way; “I don’t know. I just kinda make up stuff and flog a lot and just stand there and try to do it over and over and see what fits: ‘I don’t like that, I don’t like that…’ and usually with me, something’ll ‘hit’ out of nowhere and I’ll be like ‘Oh…OK..wait a minute…hold on..this can go with what I thought of previously…’ and that’s usually how stuff happens. Or there’ve been a couple of songs where I’ve just woken up and went ‘Wow! This might be interesting…’ – I wrote Dying Inside sitting in a parking lot throwing up on a Black Flag tour…that’s the sort of a weird thing that stands out in your mind…”

Readers may be surprised to hear that off tour, Dave isn’t massively into music, as he says “I mainly watch TV which gets me inspired. I guess the two newest bands that I like are Devil and Red Fang – I really dig them, they’re really, really good bands. But when I get off tour I don’t wanna ‘do’ music – unless I’m gonna write something. I sit there and I watch TV; I watch wrestling, I watch kiddy shows like iCarly; I love all that shit! Me and my wife, we just sit there and giggle at that shit all day long. I smoke pot and that’s it.” Doesn’t TV make you angry? “No, I just get so stoned that it’s funny. Everything is funny.” Spoken like a true stoner.

I wasn’t sure about my next question; the bad blood between Dave and ex-drummer Armando Acosta and whether it was resolved before Acosta's death, but I feel in the interests of good journalism I should ask. The vibe of the conversation takes a massive dive as he answers “I never talked to him again, which is really crappy. So I don’t want to express anymore on that…”. Shit! I think I just bummed Dave out. Moving on, what’s it like having Scott back on vocals? Thankfully we quickly get back to a happier place and Dave enthuses “It’s great. It’s really funny because everything has come back like a full circle.” He explains how initially they were just “feeling each other out”  and trying to suss out the situation. Dave’s wife is giggling in the back ground as Dave tries to muster the most appropriate description of events. He finds his thread and continues “Now it’s come full circle and we’re working together like oil and water or oil and vinegar?! We go on stage and kill everybody and everything is like super, super good.” He explains that now everyone is (kind of) on the same level and that “…now it’s really nice. It’s really nice.”
So have you all mellowed out? “I’m not sure we’ve mellowed out – we’re still all fucking crazy like a mother-fucker! Y’all gonna see that but we’ve all just kind of like gone on to the same level and it’s awesome. Everybody gets along really really good.”

 Saint Vitus will be touring Australian in July, 2013. Go see. Get bludgeoned.