Welcome to the second installment in my examination of the career of doom metal pioneer Scott "Wino" Weinrich. As was noted in the first installment, Wino has had an enormous influence across a variety of metal genres, but especially those within the the so-called "stoner rock" community (which can include styles as diverse as doom and sludge metal, post-metal, drone, desert rock, heavy psych, occult rock, etc). I'e deemed this community to be very synchro-mystical before (such as here and here) and Wino played a key role in shaping said style. He would make ample use of mythological, occult and conspiratorial imagery and lyrical content from an early date, which helped give the broader stoner rock community a distinct identity from the generically Satanic forms of extreme metal.
Wino has played with a host of bands during his thirty-plus years playing out and has been recording for nearly as long. As such, I've confined my examination to bands in which Wino was the chief songwriter and visionary behind the group. Such outfits I've deemed to meet these qualifications include: The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, the Hidden Hand, Premonition 13, and Wino's solo work.
|Wino (center) in an early 1990s version of The Obsessed|
"So, yeah, I had decided to give up a lot of the things that had been bringing me down. It was a cleansing operation. My lifestyle in California had peaked: My use of methamphetamine and alcohol had led me to death’s door. I felt that some last vestige of survival somewhere inside me was telling me to get out. So I got the fuck out of California, and went back to my hometown. I was still drinking real hard, but I went home, beat on my parents’ door, and stayed with them until they were miserable. I finally reached the point where I knew that the next stop for me was to end up in jail. I was still a loose cannon.
"I decided that I had to do something. I had this big handful of mushrooms and I fuckin’ ate ’em. There I was, walking around D.C., around the Mall there. Historically, that entire area was laid out by the Freemasons. Before, that place was swamp-land. There’s something special about that area, and that’s why it was picked for our capital. There’s ley lines there, energy lines that cross in certain ways, and the Masons had the knowledge from the Egyptians from where they used the Earth’s energy to be harnessed for different purposes. They knew the importance of that sacred geometry. So, I just kind of wandered around until I felt 'lined up' with everything in one spot. I laid down in that spot and stared into the sky, and the sun became 'father' to me … I was experiencing a lot of dark and light thoughts, experiencing a kind of serpent-like energy, which in a way felt good, but also seemed to have nefarious feelings, too. And then on the other side, there were all these 'cat' feelings, where there was a jaguar spurring me on, which really felt very empowering. I was really feeling this incredible duality between the two, this position between light and darkness, which I took to mean the influence of the snake and the jaguar. I am so into the Mayan and Meso-American myths and stuff, and that was all having its effect on my psyche during this trip. That’s when I started to see these 'step' patterns all around me, and it felt to me as if the clouds and the heavens were putting on a show for me. My hands and my arms felt like they were being pulled into the right positions, as if I was walking in a trance. I really felt like I was aligned with everything: the Earth, the sky.
"Now, right in the middle of this fucking trip, I heard this big ol’ voice in my head say, 'You know what, buddy? You’d better stop fuckin’ drinkin’!' This certainly wasn’t something that I didn’t already know. I wasn’t in any kind of denial prior to this trip, because sure, I knew that I had a serious problem, I knew that from day one. But the bottom line is, the trip became a supreme motivator. The next day I was very burned-out and hung-over. I remembered that I was screaming the name 'Quetzalcoatl' and trying to climb up sunrays. Just lying there, crying and screaming, just another fucking wino on the street to anyone passing by."
The notion that the design of Washington D.C. was influenced by Freemasonry has of course long fascinated unconventional historians.
"... the assumption that the layout of Washington, D. C., is somehow an encoded form of Masonic symbolism. Perhaps the most eloquent defender of this idea is David Ovason, whose book on Washington contains a forward by the head of the Scottish Rite in America, C. Fred Kleinknecht. This theory is denied by many Masons were quick to point out that Pierce L'Enfant – who designed the basic layout of the city – was not a Mason. Yet it could be argued that, by this time (1791), so much Masonic material had been published that to incorporate Masonic elements if one wished would not have been difficult. However, there is no documentation suggest that L'Enfant had any possible motivation for doing so unless, of course, it was at the suggestion of Masons themselves (such as George Washington or any of the other Freemasons active in government at the time). In addition, Ovason insists that the presence of so many zodiacs throughout the city and their suggested placement with respect to each other and to the heavens betrays another level of mystery.
"Ovason's erudition where hermeticism is concerned is impressive, and his argument for an encoded Masonic message and the arrangement of the city makes for compelling and fascinating reading. Of course, there statues to many important Masons in the capital, which is only reasonable once it is realized that many prominent Americans were, indeed, Masons. Do the statues represent their Masonic affiliation, or their contribution to American society as citizens? It depends, of course, on where you stand.
"Ovason does not seem to insist that Masons were directly involved in building the city or creating a Masonic code; but he does suggest that Masonic code is built into the city anyway. The only explanation for this seeming contradiction is that the encoding was somehow unconscious or that one layer of Masons did not know or understand what another layer of Masons was up to."
(The Secret Temple, Peter Levenda, pg. 71)
Whatever mojo the city has, it in conjunction with the magic mushrooms did the trick for Wino. He got his life back in order and bounced back with in new band in 1996: Spirit Caravan, originally called Shine.
Like the bulk of Wino-dominated projects, Spirit Caravan was a power trio filled out with bassist Dave Sherman (later of the great Earthride) and drummer Gary Isom. Spirit Caravan is easily the most mellow of Wino's projects, with the bulk of their compositions falling squarely in the mid-tempo range. Spirit Caravan took the deserty-vibe hinted at by The Obsessed (especially on the Lunar Womb album) and fleshed it out. Wino is still cranking out headbanging riffs soaked in a thick, Black Sabbath-y tone, but here he puts the desert rock and psychedelic flourishes only hinted at with The Obsessed on full display. The album cover of The Last Embrace, a career retrospective released after the group's demise, with its image of a setting sun and red sky over a forest perfectly captures the prevailing vibe of Spirit Caravan.
As the band name suggests, Spirit Caravan is deeply concerned with metaphysical topics lyrically. The title track from the 2000 E.P. Dreamwheel, for instance, reflects on the transient nature of life on Earth ("Perchance does anyone really live on Earth?") and ponders what lies beyond the "fleshless abide". Wino's life-changing magic mushroom trip clearly weighed heavy on the songwriter as well, as entheogens are celebrated throughout the group's discography. "Cosmic Artifact" off the group's 1999 debut, Jug Fulla Sun, is a call to open up the Third Eye while "Black Flower" from the 2001 followup The Eternal Truth seems to celebrate a Mesoamerican entheogen ritual. Meanwhile tracks such as "Fear's Machine" from Sun and "Futility's Reasons" from Truth began to to display more conspiracy theory-centric lyrics that Wino would later employ extensively with The Hidden Hand.
There are far to many esoterica-laden tracks in Spirit Caravan's discography to consider at length, so I shall try to restrict myself to two: "Sea Legs" from Sun and "The Departure (Of Quetzalcoatl)" from Truth. The former is practically a theme song for Wino in which he depicts himself as an initiate of the Mysteries wandering the Earth on a motorcycle in a bid to spread his wisdom. As far as heavy metal biker anthems go, its on par with anything ever done by Black Sabbath, Blue Oyster Cult, or Motorhead and even more far out.
"Sea Legs" can almost be read as a strange cousin of Donovan's "Atlantis". Both songs seem to concern themselves with the destruction of the mythological content and the refuge sought by its former inhabitants. In some highly, highly speculative traditions, the priesthood of Atlantis was said to have been the inspiration for the ancient Mystery religions of the Mediterranean that appeared at a very early time in recorded history.
"From the Atlanteans the world received not only the heritage of arts and crafts, philosophies, and sciences, ethics and religions, but also the heritage of hate, strife, and perversion. The Atlanteans instigated the first war; and it has been said that all subsequent wars were fought in a fruitless effort to justify the first one and right the wrong which it caused. Before Atlantis sank, its spiritually illuminated Initiates, who realized that their land was doomed because it had departed from the Path of Light, withdrew from the ill-fated continent. Carrying with them the sacred and secret doctrine, these Atlanteans established themselves in Egypt, where they became its first 'divine' rulers. Nearly all the great cosmologic myths forming the foundation of the various sacred books of the world are based upon the Atlantean Mystery ritual."
(The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Manly P. Hall, pg. 85)
"Sea Legs", as the title implies, seems to hint at the Atlanteans as being some type of nonhuman creatures. In the ancient astronaut hypothesis of Robert K.G. Temple, fish-like mythological creatures such as the Nommo of the Dogon tribe are suspected of being aquatic extraterrestrial beings whom guided the development of humanity. I suspect this allusion is intentional on Wino's part as the man is a big ancient astronaut buff. He would delve into this topic in much greater depth with his next group, The Hidden Hand.
The line "bolt and hammer gonna do them in" could be a reference to some Nazi occult traditions concerning the Norse god Thor, who was commonly depicted with lightening bolts and a hammer. Nazi and fascist occult traditions of course have their own curious interpretation of the Atlantean myth, but such a topic is far beyond the scope of this article.
Elsewhere, the references to "a well done iguana and a real heavy gnome" seems to be an allusion to mythological traditions of elemental beings. In such traditions there are allegedly four types of elementals: those of the earth, the water, the sky, and fire. The mythological beings commonly known as gnomes were associated with the Earth while salamanders were typically linked with the element of fire. In this case an iguana seems to be used in place of a salamander. In the context of "Sea Legs", these beings are possibly being depicted as spirit guides.
|a well done salamander in the alchemical tradition|
"According to their own legends the Mayas owe their cultural superiority to a mysterious old man who came out of the sea riding on a raft of serpents. Among various tribes this man has different names, but he is best known by the title conferred upon him in the Mexican area. Here he was called Quetzalcoatl. He is said to have come from the east from the land of the many-colored rocks. Quetzalcoatl carried with him the symbol of the cross. His name means the 'feathered snake,' or the 'serpent covered with the plumes of the Quetzal bird.'
"The Feathered Snake taught the people of Central America all of the useful arts and raised them from a primitive state to one of an excellent civilization. He instructed them in agriculture, architecture, medicine, science, language, religion, and statesmanship. Having accomplished the civilization of the Indian tribes, he ruled over them for a time as a benevolent priest-king. Then he returned to the shore of the sea, called to his raft of serpents, and then floated away to the east, with the promise to return at a distant day to rule over his nation."
(The Secret Destiny of America, Manly P. Hall, pg. 86)
After Spirit Caravan dissolved in early 2002 Wino briefly joined Victor Griffin's Place of Skulls before forming a new power trio towards the end of that year. This group became known as The Hidden Hand and featured Bruce Falkinburg on bass and a fair amount of the lead vocals. Dave Hennessy was the group's original drummer and appeared on their first two albums. Shortly after the release of 2004's Mother Teacher Destroyer (the group's second album) Hennessy left and was replaced Evan Tanner. Tanner sat in on 2006's The Resurrection of Whiskey Foote and departed shortly thereafter. Matt Moulis briefly joined the group behind the skins before it broke up in 2007.
|the Hidden Hand, though I'm not sure which drummer this is|
As the group's name indicates, The Hidden Hand was also the most conspiracy-obsessed and politically expletive of Wino's career. It was formed toward the tail end of 2002 and was already rallying against the Iraq War and neo-conservatism in general even before the 2003 invasion. Indeed, much of the group's 2003 debut Divine Propaganda denounces the war and the Bush regime.
|the group's debut, Divine Propaganda|
Divine Propaganda even went so far as to include a reading list on the inside CD jewel case that put Wino's eccentric philosophy on full display. Its partly compelling, partly cringe inducing:
In Wino's defense, Jim Marrs was not as thoroughly discredited in 2003 that he is now and the Icke book apparently came out prior to the reptilians stage. Regardless, Wino's fusion of occult and Mesoamerican trappings with conspiracy theories and political rants would make for a potent combination that would really come into its own with the 2004 follow up album, Mother Teacher Destroyer. In the next installment I shall pick up with that work. Stay tuned.