Without question, Sacred Reich have delivered a rich discography of Thrash anthems laced with intelligent political and social-themed subject matters that raise awareness and open minds for discussion and debate, not to mention the catalyst for an incalculable amount of gnarly pits over their 34 year career.
This week marks the release of the bands 5th studio album; and things have never been so good for the four-piece.
OD – Firstly, let me just say that the return of Sacred Reich is one of the most welcoming news pieces we had in recent times. Between all the swings and roundabouts, when was the decision made to finally lay down a new album?
PHIL – The first song we wrote for this album was ‘Divide and Conquer‘ and that must have been late 2017, so that’s when the process kind of began and we got together and talked about it. We looked at the kind of opportunities we had because it was still just the four of us.
We had this chance to do something at this point in our career and that’s when the idea of a new album began.
OD – Did you use the 7” split with Iron Reagan as a barometer to gauge the reaction?
PHIL – Not really. That track and the production is just so different to what is on the new album. I would say that was kind of an “ice-breaker” if you know what I mean.
It kind of just broke the ice and it was very amusing for me.
OD – How so?
PHIL – Well, as you know the track is called “Don’t do it Donnie” and as I just explained, we just wanted to put something out there with no fanfare, so the online comments that were emerging before the track was even released, was very entertaining for us. Welcome to 2019! [Laughing]
Then came all the comments about the track and it received such mixed reactions. Some people were disappointed and others were saying: “It’s great to have a punk-influenced, ‘thrashy’ fun track“. It was just very interesting to see the difference in peoples opinions about this one track.
‘Don’t Do It Donnie‘ was never gonna be on the album. You can tell when you hear the difference of the new material.
OD – How did Iron Reagan come into the situation?
PHIL – Well, when I was talking to Tony (Foresta, vocalist with Iron Reagan/Municipal Waste) about Sacred Reich doing a new album, he asked me to save a track for a 7″ split for Iron Reagan, so I always had that in the back of my head and as soon as we wrote it, I just knew it was perfect for that.
All in all, the experience was a lot of fun and we did eight shows with Iron Reagan and it was all just a very cool thing.
OD – This is of course, the first album in 23 years and having listened to it, the ferocious aggression is very much present, along with the groove, melody and lyrics that actually reference issues that are effecting us all globally. Did you find that inspiration came quickly for this album or did you fall into the trap of overthinking it too much at first, as I know you had a kind of revelation from a conversation you had with your friend Mark Pellington?
PHIL – That’s actually very true. Mark said to me one day: “Just do what you want to do and put it out. Don’t over-think things. Do the best that you can and put what you want out.” He was right and things worked out. Well they have so far… [Laughing]
OD – The return of Sacred Reich has been something that was embraced wholeheartedly by fans the world over, bearing in mind how much this business has changed in the last 23 years, did you have any kind of anticipation to getting back into the business and if so, what were your concerns?
PHIL – Well, we had to sit down and do a little self-reflection to figure out what we sound like today. Did we sound like ‘Ignorance‘? Did we sound like “The American Way“? etc…
What does Sacred Reich in this day and age sound like? Well, we sound like ‘Sacred Reich‘ [Laughing]. People have to remember there is a 23 year gap in albums and we could start to go down that rabbit hole of analysing what we sound like and fretting about the prospect of us fitting in to things in the current metal spectrum, or we could just say: “Fuck it!, We’re gonna do this anyway!”
When we made ‘Ignorance‘ (1987) no one knew who we were. We just did what we did and put it out and this is what we did with ‘Awakening‘. We just did our best and all we can do now is hope for the best and move forward.
We want everybody to like it but what are we gonna do? We can’t please everyone. The important thing is, we are happy with the album, and it feels very right to release it at this point in our lives.
OD – Having heard the album, to me it sounds like four guys doing what they love to do and not giving a fuck about the social trends.
PHIL – Exactly! When we talked about making the album and the things we wanted to do and the things we wanted to avoid. For example Dave (McClaine, Drums) didn’t want to use any triggers, no sound replacement and just having the raw sound of drums and the natural sound of guitars.
You have to remember the modern sound of recording is very “in your face” and when you listen to records from the 60’s and 70’s, there are no highs and lows as the vinyl can’t take it, so there’s a particular sound, and that’s what we were looking for on ‘Awakening‘.
OD – Were there any tracks on the album that you had trouble with in regards to capturing the vibe or tricky arrangements etc?
PHIL – It was all pretty smooth. The first song I did was ‘Salvation‘ and when we were done with all the tracks, I just knew that I had to go back and re-work that track again, as my approach had changed since the recording process began.
I really felt like I was pushing and trying very hard and eventually I just stopped and relaxed and just let it happen, I’m not sure if that makes any sense. Other than that, everything went really smoothly and it was an incredible experience.
Something that was very particular to this record was that last song ‘Something to Believe‘ which really changed quite a bit in the studio. I wan’t really happy with the way it was coming together on the demos and at first in the studio. It finally took on its proper character when we really got deep in the studio, so that was great to see and Arthur (Rizk, producer) had a lot to do with that.
Another thing that was a little different for me was that I didn’t have the lyrics for ‘Manifest Reality‘ when we entered the studio. We got to a stage when it was like; ‘Oh shit, we’re recording this track tomorrow, I guess I better get the lyrics together” [Laughing].
It just kind of happened and it came out really cool. Arthur and I would car-pool from time to time and we would have lots of talks about things and one day I remember talking about the prospect of trying not to worry about things and just have confidence with yourself. It’s amazing what you can achieve by using that negative energy for something positive and I guess I used that technique from time to time when we were doing this new album.
OD – With Dave back behind the Sacred Reich kit, and now with new addition Joey on guitars it seems like there’s a genuine ‘feel-good’ vibe coming from the Sacred Reich camp. Would you agree?
PHIL – Absolutely! We did some shows in the States with Iron Reagan and Sworn Enemy and it was just the four of us, Wiley, Dave, Joey and I, and it was our first time spending time together on tour and it was a real revelation for me, as I was used to touring with a different group of people and it was awesome. I’m very much looking forward to touring this new album, that’s for sure.
We obviously have history with Dave, but the Dave we knew 23 years ago, is not really the Dave we know today but it bears a striking resemblance. Then there’s Joey (Radziwill, Guitars) who’s just so happy to be here and is really excited about it all but not overwhelmed if you know what I mean. He’s awesome and just takes everything in his stride.
OD – Did the four of you just clique from the outset when recording?
PHIL – [Laughing] Dave will tell you that he had to stop me from saying: “This is just such a magical experience, we’re so lucky.” I was seriously getting emotional about everything. This album is very personal for me and it was kind of overwhelming to get to where we are right now and also to have this very lucky opportunity to go back out there and do this all over again.
OD – I remember going to Shades Record store in London many years ago to buy my copy of “The American Way” and was just blown away by the lyrics to that track, as it was just the nail on the head for that time.
Here we are today 29 years later and not only have things not improved but things have become increasingly more dangerous. That track has never been more prominent than it is today. When you were writing that album, did you ever think that things could be any worse as they were back then?
PHIL – Of course! [Laughing]. But you have to look at things in a more positive way. Since ‘The American Way” was released some 29 years ago, there has been so many wonderful things that have happened. We have way more access to things nowadays. Sure, things are just as fucked within world politics; but that’s politics for you.
If you step back and look at things, there have been lots of really positive things that have become part of our lives. Yes, Donald Trump is in the White House and his “Kentucky cousin“, Boris Johnson is now residing in Number 10, and right now there is most definitely something in the water, but I think things are gonna be okay.
When I look at my own kids and their generation, considering the knowledge that they possess and information they have access to, I think our future is gonna be in good hands.
We can certainly focus on the numb-nuts currently running things but you know what? There’s always been ‘numb-nuts‘ running things, that’s politics! ‘The American Way” could have been written in the 60’s or the 70’s, it doesn’t really matter because it’s always the same.
OD – I remember seeing an interview with you on a VHS copy of Thrash n’ Burn from the late 80’s early 90’s and it was just so exciting to see this explosion of Thrash happening all over the globe.
When you cast your mind back to that era, do you feel that you were part of something that was really exciting and can you ever see a movement within the heavy music community happening like that ever again?
PHIL – For the first part of that question, Yes, it was an amazing experience to be part of that scene during that time. We were very lucky to be where we were at the time and the high-tide picked us up and gave us that boost.
It was amazing to see Metallica and Slayer come out and get started and kick the doors open. Growing up listening to the likes of Judas Priest, Iron Maiden etc… it was so exciting to hear Metallica and Slayer as well as all the other bands that came out afterwards and were directly influenced.
I always felt like we were part of this very cool movement during a very defining and exciting time, however, we also felt very apart from it because we were from Phoenix, Arizona. It was very much a Bay Area and New York explosion you know? We did feel part of it, but maybe a little off to the side; because of where we were from.
Being able to see Metallica performing in small clubs for “Ride the Lighting” album cycle and Slayer on ‘Reign in Blood‘, it was just incredible to witness, now that I think back. With us living in Phoenix, it used to blow my mind that we had friends from the Bay Area that used to hang out with Metallica. For us, it was so unattainable as they were fucking Gods to us.
Do I think there can be another movement within Heavy music like the Thrash explosion? Absolutely! The fact that it happened one time, shows that it can happen again and we know that history always repeats itself. Just look at right now, there is a bit of a resurgence within Thrash Metal and a lot of the older bands are experiencing some great success because of it.
There is no doubt in my mind there will be a lot of really heavy bands breaking through to the international market as there will be a changing of the guard from the older bands who are no longer together for one reason or another and that’s just the life cycle of art/music/literature etc. That’s the way it evolves and more power to it.
The desire for this music is there as well as legions of very talented people from all over the world.
OD – Of all the album covers that grace your private collection, which is your favourite and why?
PHIL – When I was getting into Metallica and Slayer I was like; “Fuck Led Zeppelin” [Laughing] and I sold all my LP’s in favour of all of the new Thrash stuff that was coming out during that time. But when I think of the covers that really had an impact on me…. Hmmmm, that’s a hard one.
There’s nothing that really jumps out because there’s just so many. The first concert experience I had was Sabbath doing ‘Mob Rules‘ (1981), so that’s kind of important for me. But, then there’s Ozzy’s ‘Diary of a Madman‘, which is just a freaky cover. Ozzy looks so different from ‘Blizzard of Oz‘, to ‘Diary…” the colours, the photo, everything about that cover had me just hypnotised.
Oh, then I remember the first time I saw the ‘Kill em All‘ cover and I was like; “Ohhhhhh!” then ‘Ride the Lightning‘, ‘Master of Puppets‘ came after and I was just hooked! Then there’s ‘Hell Awaits’, fuuuuuuck, this is hard! [Laughing].
OD – Okay, let’s change the question to have you ever bought an album based on the cover art alone?
PHIL – I remember a long time ago going to the local mall, and there was this record store in there that was pretty hip to the metal scene and that’s when I first saw Megadeth’s ‘Killing is my Business and Business is Good‘ (June, 1985)
I was totally sold on it and when the guy in the record store told me; “Hey, that’s the guy from Metallica!” I was already digging in my pockets for the money to pay for it. [Laughing] Of course, when I got home and put that record on, I was just blown away.
I really like the first two Megadeth albums. They are super dark albums, I’m not sure if it was the influence of Gar Samuelson (ex-Megadeth guitarist) or the fact that Dave (Mustaine) was messed up on drugs at the time.
Sacred Reich’s new studio album ‘Awakening‘ will be released on Friday, August 23rd via Metal Blade records. Get your copy here.
Sacred Reich will be returning to Ireland and the UK this coming December. Tickets on sale now via your local Ticketmaster outlets and online stores.
Also, catch then guys at Bloodstock Open Air 2020! Early Bird tickets are on sale NOW!
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