If Shane McLachlan has learned anything from 11 years of singing with his grindcore band Phobia, it's that you can't be grindcore all the time. Sure, you can do things like rip through 48 back-to-back, balls-out, hyperspeed shows in Europe and cancel only one when your vocal cords start belching up green shit (not to mention brown shit and black shit, McLachlan adds). But sometimes you have to get in touch with your softer side.
"Oh, you mean the cuddling part?" asks McLachlan, laughing. "When we're all drinking wine in our Speedos, cuddling after the show? Listening to some Journey, hanging out in our Speedos, drinking wine, cuddling and high-fiving? Because that makes it all worth it."
Obviously, grindcore is serious stuff—when you decide to push past punk and metal because you need something harder/faster/louder, you're making a musical commitment and then some. Just ask McLachlan's vocal cords, which have been on hazardous duty ever since he started Phobia way back in 1990. (Korn, at the time still in their spandex-clad funk stage, used to practice a few doors down.) But after 11 years, you wanna take a break from screaming and cuddle a little.
You start out listening to Crass and Rudimentary Peni, and now you're really into Willie Nelson. "Willie Nelson is a fucking god to me," McLachlan says. And you still write songs with your tried-and-true burn-it-to-the-fucking-ground politics. But sometimes you write about . . . well, relationships. For a grindcore band, that's about as heretical as, say, Tom Jones suddenly busting out with crooners like "Capitalism! Racism! Sexism! The foundations of cock-rocking idealism!" But read some of McLachlan's lyrics, and you'll figure out real fast he's got no problem with committing heresy.
"Ten years ago, I was all caught up in politics, but I was just playing a part," he explains. "I didn't really find myself until the past two years. In order to write, you have to live. And life's brutal, you know? People think if you're going to be in a grindcore band and sing about relationships, that's wimpy! But I took those experiences and made some brutal songs."
So fear not, faithful: their new album, Serenity Through Pain (on metal magnate Necropolis/Deathvomit), is as brutal as ever. Brutaler, even, to borrow a term from McLachlan, who's something of a connoisseur of musical brutality and whose rapid-fire conversational style must mesh nicely with the 2,000 mph music his band happens to play. They practice hard. "I make those fuckers do jumping jacks," McLachlan laughs. They play harder—just ask McLachlan's broken ankle about that. And with songs like "BUSH," "Slave to Religion" and "Social Sheep," McLachlan doesn't seem as if he's getting all that soft on his lyrics. How exactly are such lines as "I am an anarchist/despise me if you will/I am the flag burner/that you want to kill" going over in post-apocalyptic America, we ask?
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
"You mean, 'Have I gotten my ass kicked yet?'" McLachlan laughs. "No! I mean, we're not a patriotic band—we'll probably be the most hated band there is now. But it's not like I hate people. People say, 'Love it or leave it,' but I don't need to leave it. I just wanna change it."
He loves that they get all kinds of kids at their shows, from die-hard grinders and metalers who hopped on after monster label Relapse's Return to Desolationall the way to the dewy little newbies in their freshly bought Slipknot shirts. "All those guys playing new metal were probably doing glam back in the '90s," he says. It's nice to connect to so many people, to know you're destroying your vocal cords for a reason. Maybe that's why he feels so cuddly sometimes.
"That's the way I always wanted my band to be," he says. "That's the way you get a message out. Grindcore is easy to make fun of: grrrrrrrr! People say, 'Who listens to this stuff? Who buys this?' But there's a whole underground scene out there, and it's kicking ass."
Phobia performs with Cattle Decapitation, 16 and Strong Intention at Chain Reaction, 1652 W. Lincoln Ave., Anaheim, (714) 635-6067; www.allages.com. Sat., 7:30 p.m. $8. All ages.