Sacred Reich Founder Jason Rainey Dead at 53

Founding member of Sacred Reich Jason Rainey onstage in the early days of the band with one of his favorite guitars.
Founding member of Sacred Reich Jason Rainey onstage in the early days of the band with one of his favorite guitars. Stephanie Cabral
Jason Rainey, a founding member of Sacred Reich, died on March 16, 2020, of an apparent heart attack.

Sacred Reich is arguably the best thrash metal band in Arizona history, and their bassist Phil Rind says they would not have existed without the rhythm guitarist.

“He was really motivated," recalls Rind. "When I joined, it was he and I who did everything together. It felt like we were a gang, almost. Us against the world."

The classic Sacred Reich lineup featured Rainey, Rind, guitarist Wiley Arnett, and drummer Greg Hal. They were a sight and sound to behold. The band signed to Metal Blade Records in 1986 and began releasing what would become a strong catalog of albums and EPs.

Rainey appeared on every Sacred Reich recording except the latest, Awakening. According to Rind, Rainey's health would not allow him to participate in that recording and any subsequent tours.

In the early days of the band, Rainey and Rind were still getting to know their respective instruments. Gloria Cavalera, who was Sacred Reich’s first manager and a surrogate mother to Rainey, remembers his distinctive guitar tone.

“He had the best guitar sound that I ever heard ... It was fantastic. Grungy and heavy,” says Cavalera.

Rainey lived with Cavalera and her family for three years during the band's early days. The two had met while Cavalera was running the legendary north Phoenix metal club Bootlegger in the early '80s. A then-teenage Rainey was a regular there. One day he spoke up and said, “I have a band.”

“He was so young," says Cavalera. "I would always card him and ask if he was old enough to be in the bar at Bootlegger. He had some family things going on in those days, so I would just feed him ... Bootlegger was just getting started, and we didn’t have the money to pay touring bands, so we got them in there to play. They were great."

Rainey also ran sound for many years at venues around Phoenix, including at The Mason Jar. Many bands were probably a bit intimidated to have “Jason from Sacred” running their sound, but Rainey was easy to work with and happy to lend a hand. (Full disclosure: Hillbilly Devilspeak, my band in those days, loved having Rainey do sound.)

Although he often sported a “tough guy” look in publicity pictures for Sacred Reich, he also had a gentle side. Kim Larowe of 13th Floor Entertainment has been booking Sacred Reich shows in Phoenix for years and remembers Rainey to be a kind and professional musician.

“They are like family," says Larowe. "Before I was promoting them, I was a fan. Seeing Sacred (Reich) back in the day was exciting. I’m glad he was a part of what they became."

To his former bandmates, Rainey will always be “Papa Bear.” He is survived by his wife, Renee Novak, and countless friends and fans. At this time, no services are scheduled due to concerns over the coronavirus.
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Tom Reardon has written for Phoenix New Times since 2013. He's been in several notable bands over the last 25 years including Hillbilly Devilspeak, North Side Kings, and the Father Figures.
Contact: Tom Reardon