Phobia have long reigned as a patriarch of the American grind scene with over 20 years of proliferation that began with 7″ releases at Relapse Records when the now indie-Goliath was still in its infancy and functioning out of a basement. This was before the term “grind” or “grindcore” was commonplace among extreme music aficionados..The band’s forthcoming, November 23rd release on Relapse Records, Unrelenting, is 17 tracks of grind goodness blasting in at 22 minutes. No samples, no filler, no bullshit. Unrelenting has trimmed off all of the fat for a concentrated mix of speed-metal influenced grind and punk that will surely please long-time fans and attract a new generation of grind enthusiasts. Read our full review of Unrelenting here.
With less than two weeks before Unrelenting hits the streets, Blow The Scene Editor, Joshua T. Cohen caught up with Phobia‘s founding member and current vocalist, Shane “the pain” Maclachlan. Check out what Shane had to say about Phobia‘s recording process, current tour plans, take on the grind scene, and much more in this exclusive interview!
Don’t forget to enter our Exclusive Phobia Contest courtesy of Relapse Records at the end of the Phobia Interview to win your free copy of Unrelenting!
Joshua BTS: Greetings! Thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for Blow The Scene readers around the world. Let’s get started by having you introduce yourself and declaring your musical weapon of choice with the legendary grind outfit, Phobia.
My name is Shane “the pain” Mclachlan and I’m into screaming, grinding, kicking asses and doing vokills!
Joshua BTS: Your latest recorded effort, Unrelenting hits streets November 23rd via Relapse Records. Can you tell us about the recording process of this record? Are these tracks you have been holding onto for some time or were they developed with this E.P. specifically in mind?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: The recording process is always the same with us, well, has been for the past 7 years. Whoever writes the song – records that song. That means they do the guitars, bass, and whatever else I want done on it. If they have some ideas that can make the song better, then we work it out! Or whatever is right for the song, you know?
I’ll start by writing a grip of songs. If we are in the same state or have time, I’ll have a few sessions with the drummer and show him what I got and we go from there. We get into the studio and we knock ours out first and get all the familiar stuff tracked! So I’ll lay my guitars down, then the bass down, then if I need extra guitar works (Kerry King evil dive bombs or anything I can’t do worth of shit) I’ll have a buddy, or whoever is doing guest guitar, help out with that! Then, if somebody else in the band has a song they can track their stuff, or work it out, or we work it out together. Then we write another bunch on the spot! I like the pressure in the studio, I think it’s exciting because you never know what is going to come out from it. I take everything I do serious, trust me, and I just let the feeling and the vibe of what is going on the past months, day, or year, come out. You know? Music finds it’s way out if you really believe in and trust what you’re doing!
Unrelenting was a fun release to do. We did it in San Antonio where I was living at the time. We had a great studio and guy to engineer for us. It was a comfortable setting and the songs just really came out. We had Dorian Rainwater there to help me write and perfect the songs I wrote, and help make the E.P. awesome! Like I said before, I came in with about 6 songs I had written, and then wrote a few more while in there. Steve had a couple, and Dorian had a couple, so there were a few I had a hold on, but the rest came out while we were there!
Joshua BTS: Any major differences in the writing and recording approach as opposed to your last full-length, 22 Random Acts of Violence released on Willowtip/Deep Six Records in 2008?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan:Yeah, there is a big difference in some ways! I have been working with Danny Walker for some time now, recorded some sick releases with him. We have always toured with Bryan Fajardo [drums] so that’s more of a live setting, but it was great to get back to work and record with Bryan. Things flow really easy with him as they did with Danny, both great drummers and my buddies for life! The writing was different, Danny and I planned out more, mapped out what we wanted to do..Unrelenting is a little more brutal of a release, it was more aggressive, and way more brutal I think. The approach was just that, because that’s how I was feeling, different time in my life, you know?
Joshua BTS: We’ve been bumping Unrelenting throughout the Blow The Scene offices for past couple of weeks and it seems apparent that this E.P. is a very focused and poignant work. You dropped the heavy use of sampled openers and any musical fat was obviously trimmed off during the writing process. Unrelenting is a very apt title for this collection of to-the-point grind and power-violence tracks. Once the intro T.R.O.G. resolves into opening track “Rehashed,” there is no time to come up for air through the closer “If You Used to be Punk, You Never Were.” Was it your intention to deliver a release that showcases the speed, technicality, and sheer brutality of the band without relent?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: Yeah I guess that is a good way to explain it with out the technicality part I suppose. I wanted this release to really showcase the band and what’s in our blood, you know? Show passion, integrity and let fans know we still want to do this and have something to say as a band! Unrelenting is exactly what we have been doing for the past 21 years – keep the audio anarchism machine going and never back down to who we are as a band, keep our music on the streets where punk grind should be!
Joshua BTS: Phobia’s lyrical content often focuses on a mix of personal, political, and even humorous blurbs at times. Can you touch on the lyrical themes of Unrelenting? Any topics or thematic approaches that saw you test new waters or leave your comfort zone on Unrelenting?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: Um, I think that everything that was written about pretty much keeps to the Phobia formula for the most part. But then again, I would say new topics in the same genre of a lyrical content and vibe! You have to live life to write with Phobia. I always wanted to write about what I wanted to, but we also have an agenda which is like you explained in the beginning of the question! “if you used to be punk…” is a good one, I always wrote about my passion when it came to punk rock like the previous song on “Cruel,” – “loud proud and punk as fuck.” On this song, I touched on it once again, punk rock is a lifestyle, not something to imitate at one point in your life..I wrote that song as an anthem to all real punks and those who claim to be!
Joshua BTS: Phobia released 7″ recordings with Relapse Records while the label was still in its infant stages and working out of a basement, now over 15 years ago. After all these years, what were the circumstances around Phobia reconnecting with now indie-giant?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: Umm… we always just do what we feel is right. We like to work with different labels and friends and Relapse are friends of ours and we wanted to cover new ground with our music. Willow Tip was good for 2 records, and we had a good run with that, and we still work with Deep Six. I just felt it was time to work with Relapse. We’re not looking to try and get our band big over-night like most bands starting out with no fucking street credit. They think bigger labels are going to make them who they aren’t. We don’t need that shit. We’re not a name dropping band with who the fucking members are..We are Phobia, dig it or not. We have a huge amount of street credit and we are happy where we are! But also, want to bring some sincerity to the grind scene, which I think is really lacking in the scene today! We have had a good run of material that came out this year, and Relapse would be good for this release and get it to where it needs to be. That’s the good thing about Relapse, they work their asses off by putting in a 100 percent and work as hard as they can to do that!!
Joshua BTS: With 20+ years of musical history as a leader in the American grind core and punk scenes, you’ve touched on countless political issues ranging from the many ills of materialism to police abuses of power. How do politics play into your daily life?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: Well…I guess not as much as they did when you are younger, you know?
When you get older there is more at stake, but that depends on what is in your life. I got my daughter, so there is something right there. She is 4. She hasn’t chosen to be an anarchist, punk rocker, metal head…she is a little girl. So what am I going to do? Go fight the police? Throw rocks through McDonalds windows and protest? Been there, done that. I don’t mean like I grew out of it, I’m way down for it, it’s just a different life now, somebody depends on you and when it’s family, its way important! I do this band, I express and protest through my songs. We play anarchist fests we still support, good strong ideals. You just have to be a realist about shit when your older, do it in a different manner! I’m still the same little punk rock anarchist I was, I’m still an asshole, mean, just fatter and a bit wiser now (hahahahah).
Joshua BTS: Are there any particular causes or grassroots organizations that really have your attention and support right now?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: I support good southern bluegrass, (hahhah!!!) I still support the anarchist collectives throughout Southern California from my home town, and will play wherever we can, when we can, for any good cause. If we can help to make a change or difference in some place, we are down!!!
Joshua BTS: What do your tour plans look like as 2010 draws to a close and we head into the 2011 touring season?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: Well..nada as of yet There are some options and we do have some cool shows coming up though, doing ANARCHO PUNK FEST 3 dates in southern California, which is going to be great with Resist and Exist. It’s been a while since we have teamed up with them, old friends!!!
Joshua BTS:With such a prolific outpouring of material over the last 20 years, your perspective on the American grind scene is surely profound. What’s your take on the current bands in the grind world? Any non-grind bands that really have your attention right now?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: I have said in past interviews that the scene is no way as brutal as it used to be, before computers, before kids could talk shit and act as cowards over the net and steal music. I liked it when you had to go to the show and buy that shirt, that record, you had to support the scene, you know?…These days the scene lacks originality and integrity. Anybody can be in a grind band these days, it’s all cleaned up and an accepted now . I’m just old and bitter maybe, hahaha!!! But being in the grind scene since the late 80’s, I have seen a lot of change, some for the better, but a lot for the worse!! Yeah I still listen to a lot of older music, it takes a lot for a new band to catch my ears you know? I’m very opened minded person don’t get me wrong, but still have to like something to get into it. And that doesn’t mean I think it’s shit, just not what I want!!…There are loads of non grind bands I like, too many to mention!! hahaha
Joshua BTS:Singers have a unique set of concerns when it comes to preserving your instrument as it resides in the vocal chords, which like any part of the body can become damaged and paralyzed. With over 20 years of delivering some of the most brutal grind vocals on the planet, do you have any special regimens or habits to keep your vocal chords from developing nodes or scarring that retires other singers in a fraction of time you have been active?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: Umm….I think it depends on the person for the most part, you know? What works for me, may not work for somebody else. Your vocal chords become accustom to how you sing, you know? So I drink some beer and water on stage, I only say this because when I stopped drinking I had loads of problems with my voice, it hurt, it didn’t work well…and I felt it the next day. Now you can say “you are just drunk”, but no, because a lot of times I wouldn’t be. I just know what works for me! To not get nodes you have to NOT sing from your throat. It does get hard not to because you get fatigued on stage and the natural reaction is to start singing from the throat. And make sure you have a good monitor mix, you need to hear yourself. Your natural reaction is to yell until you can hear yourself, this is not good for your throat! I like my voice to sound stressed a bit like the Black Flag vocalists used to have to, so I keep my voice a bit lower in the monitor
so I can still hear and have control, but I’ll push a little harder!!! I drink water that’s important. The next day if you’re sore, drink warm tea, and water throughout the day!
Joshua BTS:Here’s one for the gear heads. Any new amps or toys you guys implemented on Unrelenting to help showcase your brutal grind presence?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: We have been using [Mesa]Boogie for the most part. Nada better. That’s for recording that is – we use Jackson guitars.. so pretty much the same, nada new. We work with Scott Hull and try to make each release it’s own! We keep our production pretty dry and natural!
Joshua BTS: Do you feel the current lineup of Phobia is one that will remain consistent for the foreseeable future or should fans expect some jostling of positions as Unrelenting hits streets later this month?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: With this band you never know!! Hahaha!!! We have a lot of busy people in this band, but we work with great people, and no matter who is up there, they’re all part of the phobia family, and always have been! When you get to be an older band, things like this happen, its just a natural direction a band takes at time, and lots do it!!…I feel stable for the most part!
Joshua BTS:With Phobia heading off for tour with Eye Hate God later this month, do you guys have any odd habits on the road? We’ve heard of band members shatting out of van windows to others who smack each other with Gatoraide bottles full of piss. How does Phobia rank in the odd-tour-habits category?
Shane “the pain” Mclachlan: Man were fucked up…we hit some towns and they kick us out, Hahahah!!! Hahah!! Some have signs that say “no phobia wanted.” We can get crazy at times, but when you’re on the road you can loose your mind at times, hahah!!!! Were not as bad as when we were younger, we like to have a good time AT ALL COST!!!!
Interview by Joshua T. Cohen
More Info: The Official Phobia Website
WIN A FREE COPY OF PHOBIA‘s UNRELENTING at BLOW THE SCENE!
Our friends at Relapse Records are offering two free copies of Unrelenting!
Here’s what you have to do to win a free copy of Unrelenting!
Answer this Phobia Trivia Question:
2.Can you name all of the drummers who have played with Phobia??? If so, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Whoever answers the most correct or nails them all first (by Nov 22nd) will get a free copy of Unrelenting from Relapse Records!!