It's been twenty-three years since we heard any new material from Sacred Reich but with the news that former Machine Head drummer Dave McClain was back in the band, the release of their new album, Awakening was confirmed for August 23, 2019. With tour dates also announced, we had a chat to frontman Phil Rind about the past, the present and the future for the US thrash metal heavyweights.
Thanks for your time Phil, it's been 23 years since your last record. Why was now the right time to put out new Sacred Reich music ? Phil: "The sort answer is because we had the songs. Since we started playing together again back in 2007, the number one question was always 'are you going to put out new stuff' and the answer was always no as we didn't have any songs. Then, probably around the end of 2017, they started popping back up again. The first song we wrote was "Divide and Conquer" and we were getting started."
How much of it was down to timing as well with Dave having his career in Machine Head during that period ? Phil: "Well, we'd already done a new record deal with Metal Blade so we knew we were doing a new record and started demoing the songs. Obviously we had to wait for Dave to be done with his committments before we could go and record the record but I'm pretty sure we knew we were going to make a record but, intially, when we split with Greg, we didn't know who our drummer was going to be. The first call was to Dave so that rectified itself pretty quickly."
You've also got a twenty-two year old guitarist in Joey Radziwill joining the band. What has he brought to the party ? Phil: "Well, Joey is, first of all, just a monster guitar player, that's always a humungous blessing. He's just got a great attitude and it's all fresh and new to him. He's been a big Sacred Reich fan for a long time so it's a bit of a thrill for him and he's got a great head on his shoulders and takes everything in his stride. The fact that he is 22 you might think it is a wierd thing him being with a bunch of older guys but he's used to jamming with his Dad who is our age and his friends so he's used to be around us old coots! He also likes the same music and the music from the era that we're from so musically it works and it's just been a nice shot in the arm for us."
Check out Joey and the rest of Sacred Reich shredding in their video for "Manifest Reality":
For you personally, what do you get from working alongside someone like that ? Phil: "Joey's just always smilling and happy and in a great mood and ready to jam. He's like eat, sleep, play guitar, eat, sleep, play guitar! That's all he wants to do so you have a guy like that in your band and it's full speed ahead."
As you've mentioned you're putting this record out through Metal Blade, was that the obvious home for this album ? Phil: "We didn't really talk to anybody else. Metal Blade have always supported our band since we began so it just made sense for us. We have a great relationship with them."
Did that relationship continue throughout the time you weren't recording ? Phil: "Well, I would see Brian out and about and Tracy Vera and we had a great relationship so, when it came time for us to record a new album, they were the first call and really the only call."
You're heading back out on the road shortly. What are you expecting from the dates given how healthy and safety is a big deal these days and thrash shows back then were fairly chaotic ? Phil: "I think the shows will be a blast. From our perspective I think there will be less stagediving and all that kind of stuff these days [laughs] but I think the people are still into it. You know, when we first started playing again it made me laugh because when you're in your twenties and you fall down in the pit you pop back up but, when you're in your forties not so much. I think the older folk just stand and watch and enjoy it while the young kids just really go for it."
Here’s the video for the title track of the new Sacred Reich album:
Going back to the nineties and the early days, what are your memories from that era ? Phil: "Oh, it was a great time. There were so many bands coming up and there was a great scene and it was just really cool to be a part of it. You can feel it what was going on. Heavy music coming up and Metallica kicking in every door and it was a lot of fun. We were very fortunate to be at the right place at the right time. I often think of bands who came a little too early or a little too late and missed a lot of it. A lot of it has to do with timing. What if Metallica had come five years before or five years later, everything would be different so we were really lucky to be part of something that was a great time."
What are your favourite memories ? Phil: "Oh, everything. I remember just being in the studio making Ignorance and we were just so excited to be in a real studio making our record and even our first tour for Ignorance was just four shows in the United States and Canada and just being out in van. Going to Europe for the first time and playing with Motorhead, Destruction, Coroner and Candlemass, everything was a first and a big adventure you know? We went from playing in clubs to playing at Dynamo Festival for 25,000 people it was amazing. Going to new places and doing new things."
And here's footage of the band at their thrash metal best at Dynamo Festival in 1989:
I remember interviewing you on the Sepultura tour you did in Europe in '91... Phil: "Yeah? That's awesome. That tour was killer then we went and toured the States with them, Napalm Death and Sick Of It All. That was a really great time man!"
Taking your history into consideration, how important was it to capture some of the classic Sacred Reich sound in the new record ? Phil: "I think when we play it sounds like us we can't help it. I think definitely we wanted to have some fast and heavy songs for the people that got us here. It's a fine line of doing something intentional and letting it come naturally instead of forcing it. Luckily for us it all came naturally which was pretty cool. I think the record has a lot of different kind of stuff on it. Fast stuff, mid-paced stuff and a few curveballs so I think it has something for everybody."
Do you think the fact that you've not pressured yourselves into writing a record has helped shape how it sounded ? Phil: "Maybe? Maybe it's just pure luck. I think a lot of it is being lucky and timing. We started writing then the songs just kept coming. We may have had twenty-three years but, from when we started writing, that was only in 2017 to when we recorded the record. When we spoke to Dave and asked his agenda he told us they're doing another record and then the tour could be for a year, year and a half. When he told us that we said 'hey, it's been 22 years, whats another year and a half to wait?' so I guess there was no rush and it just came as it came."
A lot has changed in the music industry in twenty-three years. What are you expecting from the industry ? Phil: "Nothing [laughs]! Life is a lot easier if you go into it with no expectations and take it as it comes. We know people don't buy records like they used but there is a lot of other outlets for people to hear stuff like people being able to walk around with stuff on their phones wherever they go. Everything has changed but you would expect everything to change in twenty-three years so it's not very surprising. You just deal with it as it comes. There is obviously some amazing changes but there is something stuff that you think 'oh, that used to be so different' but there is no point in dwelling on it."
You talk about people not buying records as much but, from memory, fans of bands like Sacred Reich and the whole underground metal scene collected everything they could get their hands on ... Phil: "Yeah, there are definitely people out there who collect everything they can but maybe because there are more people in general, it's a smaller percentage that do that. Maybe that was the only way things could be done in the past and it was all anybody knew."
Here's some photos from when we checked out the band in Mesa, AZ earlier this year:
With you guys putting out a new record and Testament, Exodus and Death Angel touring together next year are there any bands from that era that you would like to hear new music from ? Phil: "You know I think mostly everybody is still doing stuff which is amazing. I think it is amazing that a lot of the bands that are still around and doing stuff. Every day I see news about bands who haven't put out a record in twenty or so years putting out a record. Exhorder is putting out a new record, Acid Reign, Exhumer are putting out records which is great."
Would you say that metal is in a good place at the moment then ? Phil: "Yeah, I think so. I think metal is always in a good place whether it is above ground, underground, bubbling away, whatever it is. Everything just works in cycles. It's going to be interesting as time goes to by to see who are the bands who will step up and take the reins of the older bands when they start to go. I'm not pushing anybody out of the door - just look at the Rolling Stones, they're still going in their seventies and, if you're Judas Priest and you want to keep going, why stop ? Why should Metallica stop ?"
On that note to finish, what about Sacred Reich? New album and tour this year, what about 2020 ? Phil: "We'll be touring into 2020 and then make another record. We're in it for the long haul. I can't wait. The funny thing is that, even though the record isn't out yet, in my head I'm already onto the next one. I'm really excited to see where this goes."
Sacred Reich's new album, Awakening is out through Metal Blade on August 23, 2019 and the band have just been confirmed to appear at Bloodstock Open Air Festival in August 2020.
11/08 - Copenhagen - Pumpehuset
11/10 - Berlin - SO36
11/12 - Warsaw - Proxima
11/13 - Kraków - Kwadrat
11/14 - Praha - Futurum
11/15 - Budapest - Dürer Kert
11/16 - Ljubljana - Orto Bar
11/17 - Graz - Explosiv
11/20 - Lyon - Ninkasi Kao
11/21 - Barcelona - Sala Razzmatazz 2
11/22 - Madrid - Sala Mon Live
11/23 - Bilbao - Santana 27
11/24 - Limoges - CC John Lennon
11/26 - Savigny-le-Temple - L’Empreinte
11/27 - London - Underworld
11/29 - Newcastle - University
11/30 - Glasgow - Classic Grand
12/01 - Belfast - Limelight 2
12/03 - Dublin - Voodoo Lounge
12/04 - Wolverhampton - KK’s Steel Mill
12/06 - Leiden Gebr. - De Nobel
12/07 - Helmond - Cacaofabriek
12/08 - Essen - Turock
12/10 - Aschaffenburg - Colos Saal
12/11 - Nürnberg - Hirsch
12/12 - Jena - F-Haus
12/13 - Karlsruhe - Substage
12/14 - München - Backstage Halle