Interview: The Shrine Frontman Josh Landau Talks 'Primitive Blast' Album, Gear and New Material
The Shrine are a trio based out of Venice, California, who play a no-frills, organic style of music they describe as "psychedelic violence rock and roll."
Characterized by massive riffs, pristine solos, a heavy rhythm section and expressive vocals, their music finds instant appreciation among fans of classic rock. It's not surprising that the band has enjoyed an ever-increasing local following in the LA area.
Their new album, Primitive Blast, is an excellent representation of their unique "Black Sabbath meets Black Flag" sound and is more than worth a listen.
A few days ago, I chatted with guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau about the album, his intriguing gear setup, new material and a lot more. Read the conversation below, and check out the band's Facebook page for more info.
GUITAR WORLD: You must be stoked that Primitive Blast is out. I know you've had it in demo form for a long time now, the Bless Off demo.
Yeah, we are! This is the first time somebody has put out anything by The Shrine that wasn't me just self-releasing it. It's been fucking awesome. We've been playing a ton, and Tee Pee Records has been ruling so far, helping us get the album out there and spread it to people, doing their job.
It was just a demo, and we tried to re-record it when we found out that Tee Pee wanted to release it. We tried to go into a fancy recording studio and record it again, and we ended up not being happy with it. We were freaking out, because we went to this really nice studio and did a few little things to the demo. But in the end it was like, fuck it, Tee Pee liked the original demo itself and so do all of our friends, so we just gave them that.
So you didn't use the re-recording and just cleaned up the demo?
Yeah, we just re-mixed and remastered it.
It definitely sounds better than the original, so I'd say you guys did a good job on the remastering.
Thanks, I appreciate that. I'm stoked on how it came out. It was just recorded in my garage while we were practicing, sometimes when we were learning some of the songs.
These songs aren't new to you, obviously, because you've had the demo for a while. But now that the album is truly out, a lot of people are hearing it for the first time. What's the response been like? Better than you expected?
Yeah, it actually is. All of our friends have been pretty stoked on the demo, but the response was as limited as the number of people we could reach just passing out the copies of the demo we made by burning CDs and making cassette tapes. But now we're getting a bunch of reviews and having people emailing us and buying it from all over the world, even from Germany and Sweden.
The album sounds cleaner, but it maintains that raw feeling of the demo. Was it important for you to maintain some qualities of the demo?
Yeah, it definitely was. We felt it, and our friends felt it was hard to capture what we do live, how we play and the power of it. Everybody felt like the recording never lived up to it or whatever, and so we were kind of worried about re-recording it and making it too clean, or too "studio-recorded." So all of the album was pretty much recorded live. I mean, I did overdubs and stuff, but it was pretty much live.
You play the whole album in your shows, but which songs so you like playing most?
It's a hard thing to pick, but I guess it usually depends on the show and who we feel like we're playing to. If we feel like we're playing to our friends who've seen us many other times, we'll play some newer stuff. We always play songs like "Deep River," "Whistlings Of Death" and "Drinking Man." There's a kind of Sabbath-y dynamic in "Drinking Man," so we always play that one live. Also the title song, "Primitive Blast." So yeah, we've got a ton of songs and a ton of new songs too.
I've been following your posts on Facebook. You guys have been playing a lot of shows at the Bootleg Bar in LA. What is it that you like most about that place which makes you play there regularly?
I mean, there's nothing too particular about the place. We just sort of end up there because of most of the bands that we're playing with. Our friends who play in some killer bands happen to get booked there. The place has good sound, but we're not in love with it or anything [laughs].
You play a number of shows in the LA area, and you keep at it regularly. Do you think you've built up a following in those places or are you still pretty much underground?
LA is interesting, because there are so many pockets of different scenes of music. When we play on the West side where we're from, near Venice, it's a totally different crowd. It's almost like, people on the West side don't leave the West side, and it's the same thing with people on the East side. But our record-release show that we did for Primitive Blast was fucking awesome. It was probably the raddest show we've ever played in LA. It was totally packed, line around the block. We played with our friends in Bad Antics and Fubar, so all the factors conspired together to make it a total rager. It was really fucking sick. One of the biggest and best shows we've ever played!
Speaking of playing shows, you have a pretty sick European tour coming up with Fu Manchu. What are your feelings about that?
We're psyched out of our minds. We cannot believe it. We're like, counting the minutes and we cannot wait to go to Europe!
Coming back to the album, I think the sound is very organic. How did you set that up in terms of gear?
Well, I've got two things but I don't really use it live because it is kind of unreliable. But Chuck Duckowski, the bass player from Black Flag, who's our good buddy, gave me Greg Ginn's guitar amp. It's a PVPA from the '70s. It's a four-channel vocal amp for PA, and it has just the gnarliest guitar sound. It's my favorite thing in the world. Chuck says he used the amp on all of the early Black Flag recordings, which is my favorite stuff ever. I used that on the whole album on one side, and on the other side I've got a Marshall amp that I use live. It's a weird mix. It's two totally different sounds, but I like how it came out together.
I feel that your music is not the kind where you play a million notes a minute. It's more about the power of the riff. So, do you think the guitar tone is the most important thing for the overall sound of the band?
Oh, yeah, man. I tried to get the sound to exactly what I wanted to hear. I hope when somebody else hears the music, they get this really gnarly, raunchy kind of sound out of it. But yeah, definitely not shredder music. We're trying to write awesome songs which you can go smashing skulls to. We're not trying to appease any guitar players or students with a bunch of notes, you know.
You mentioned you already have a bunch of new songs because the songs on this album are pretty old for you. How's that coming along? Do you plan to record that or demo it sometime soon?
Yeah, we've been demoing them in the garage, and we've got some plans to do 7-inch releases. Our old stuff was like a retarded take on Sabbath vs. Black Flag, but now it's almost like a kind of heavy early Iron Maiden Paul Di'Anno-era influence coming into it. I'm starting to work and record more guitar harmonies and stuff. A bit of Thin Lizzy-style is also popping into this stuff.
How did this change in musical style come about? Was it natural or conscious?
Well, if at all, it's conscious at any level, it's only because I've been watching a ton of early Iron Maiden videos and just getting super-stoked on how sick that is. But it's definitely not because we're thinking it's going to work out or be successful or anything. If that was the case, we'd be playing something totally different. We'd be playing some garage rock, which is really popular right now.
Andrew Bansal is a Los Angeles-based writer who has been running his own website, Metal Assault, since early 2010, and has been prolific in covering the hard rock and heavy metal scene by posting interviews, reviews and pictures on his website -- with the help of a small group of people. Besides being hugely passionate about heavy metal, he is an avid follower of jazz music and recently started a blog called Jazz Explorer to pursue that interest.