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The Reich Stuff

Phil Rind stepped onto the Hollywood Records lot in Los Angeles and bowed to the Mickey Mouse-sculpted hedge guarding the entryway to the Disney-owned label. It was 1993 and Rind's band--four thrash-core rockers from Scottsdale who called themselves Sacred Reich--had just signed the sweetest recording deal of its career.

"I remember saying to myself over and over, 'You must respect the mouse. The mouse pays the fuckin' bills,'" recalls Rind.

Sacred Reich had exploded into the big time like a supernova. In only six years, the former Coronado High School buddies--Rind, Wiley Arnett, Jason Rainey and Greg Hall--had released two successful albums and an EP on well-known indie labels, including Metalblade. They had toured faraway lands with metal icons Sepultura and Motsrhead. At home, they were heavy-metal heroes, jamming regularly with fellow Valley hard rockers Flotsam & Jetsam.

Hollywood Records paired Sacred Reich with Alice in Chains producer Dave Jerden and, at Rind's request, publicized the release of the group's fourth album, Independence, by distributing 1,000 bongs inscribed with the band's name. In short, for a metal band, Sacred Reich was white hot.

Then the shit hit the fan. Greg Hall, Reich's drummer, bailed just before the group embarked on an international tour with Sepultura (he was replaced by Dave Mclain, who now drums for Machine Head). Also, grunge rock, heavy metal's nemesis, suddenly crashed over the charts like a tsunami. Hollywood hired a new president, who preferred the angsty, chaotic Seattle sound to Sacred Reich's mechanized death-metal assault. End result: Reich suddenly got the boot. It had been a fast rise, and an even faster fall.

"We were no longer in their plans," says Rind. "We didn't fit in with the new direction they took, which, if you ask me, was a bunch of punk-rock shit." Rind nixed touring so he could spend time with his wife and their two children, and Sacred Reich reunited with Metalblade as a studio band only. Its last album, Heel, was released last year.

End of story?
"Naw," says a 27-year-old Rind, slouching contentedly in a booth at an English pub in Scottsdale. "Things have changed, but we're gigging again for the first time in a year." Hall recently rejoined the band, and Sacred Reich has started playing regular Thursday-night shows at the Mason Jar. "The Jar" was sort of the Knitting Factory for the late '80s Valley metal scene, and the well-attended Reich shows are like high school reunions for Phoenix headbangers. Mason Jar owner Franco Gagliano calls them "a chance for clubgoers to hear good music again."

Rind says the band has no plans to mount a full-scale comeback effort, however. The recent happenings are just for old (and good) times' sake. "We were never Metallica, but I don't regret that at all," he says, shoving a hand through cropped, wavy hair. "We've traveled all over the world, been to Europe 10 times, played to thousands of people and lived our dream. Now we're still together, still jamming and still having fun."

Yeah, but why the Mason Jar? "Franco has always been there for us. We started at the Jar back when we were doing Megadeth and Exodus covers."

Five discs from Rind's Sacred Reich library are stacked neatly on the table before him, along with a thick bundle of media clips documenting the band's ascension.

"The first time we went to Paris," Rind says, "we turned the corner and saw the Eiffel Tower, and me and Wiley were giggling. We'd be at the Parthenon and I would nudge him and go, 'Dude, you know why we're here? It's because of the band.' And we'd all start laughing. We'd be like, 'When is someone going to figure us out and pull the plug?'"

Rind was raised in Seagate, Brooklyn, in a rough Coney Island neighborhood, and he and his family moved to Scottsdale when he was 12. He enrolled at Coronado High School, where he met Jason Rainey, rhythm guitarist and founding father of Sacred Reich. The band was formed through a brutal process of elimination.

"They kicked their drummer out and got Greg," explains Rind. "Then they kicked their bass player out and got me. Then we kicked the singer out and I starting singing. Then a guitar player quit and Wiley joined the band."

When Rind was a junior, Sacred Reich was barred from performing at Coronado. The principal suggested thrash metal would tarnish the school's image. Rind wrote searing letters of protest to all the local papers, enlisted two thirds of the student body to sign a petition, participated in a two-hour debate on KFYI radio, and spoke in front of the district's school board while his mother, a teacher at Coronado, cheered him on.

"The bottom line is, they didn't let us play," Rind says. "But I learned a lesson. As the old saying goes, 'The price of democracy is eternal vigilance.'"

Sacred Reich recorded its first disc on Metalblade when most of the band members were still in high school, and Rind funneled his indignation into the speed-metal blowout "Administrative Decisions," which appeared on Reich's debut album, Ignorance. The chorus, sung in Rind's deep, raspy growl, goes like this: "Faculty not ready to accept our needs/Schools geared to what parents want to see/Knowledge comes second to doing what you're told/We deny you exist we have an image to uphold."

By the time Sacred Reich was signed, the quartet was already the new toast of the hard-core thrash-metal scene, established when bands like Megadeth, Death Angel, Exodus and Anthrax engineered a renaissance for heavy metal with a faster, harder evolutionary leap. Rind's longtime buddy Jason Newsted (formerly of Flotsam & Jetsam, now bassist for Metallica) helped Reich garner slots on Metalblade's Metal Massacre III compilation and High Times magazine's Hempilation disc.

Reich toured almost incessantly, and it wasn't unusual for three years to pass between albums. "I'd rather make excuses for why a record took so long to make than excuses for why it's such a shitty record," says Rind.

Sacred Reich dabbled with a funk-influenced sound two records back, but on the latest project, Heel, Sacred Reich reconnects with the aggression and drive it exhibited in the beginning. "When you're 17," says Rind, "it's you against the world. That's an easy thing to forget. But we brought that attitude back on the last album."

In the end, Rind says, success is relative.
"We may not be Johnny Charisma and the fuckin' Charismatones, but we're the only rock band that got Disneyland to make bongs!

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Leigh Silverman