It was the year 1990. Orange County, California was about to become the site of a scathing revolution aimed at the destruction of mainstream society’s mindset. It was a lethal cocktail of hardcore ideals and the abrasive, crusty hostility of grindcore pioneers. Branding themselves with the name Phobia, the founding members quickly began their quest for mass devastation through a vision of sincere underground ethics and sheer power. For over twenty years now, the noisy grind assassins have kept their blood-drenched banner of DIY attitude flying high. Forbidden Magazine recently caught up with vocalist Shane “The Pain” McLachlan. What follows are his thoughts on the band’s roots, the craziness of life on the road, M-16’s, Porta-Potties and tons more!
First off, you guys just did a run of dates with the masters of sludge, Eyehategod. How did that go?
That was an awesome tour and so stoked we got to do it. It was a privilege and all the shows were great and they are awesome dudes, being a fan for so long, it was great!
The new EP is a fine piece of work! Could you describe the creative/recording process this time around?
Well…its sort of like all the other times, I’ll write songs and get stuff prepared, maybe jam with the drummer. Then, when we hit the studio, we will knock out the ideas or songs that have somewhat of a structure, then write everything else while in the studio, a little pressure is always good. It’s my favorite way to write. I think grindcore comes out better not so calculated. I’d rather write with more soulful emotions! I’ll then write lyrics to the songs unless I already have them, because everyday is a new day, so like my songs to be current so I will wait on that and try and capture the moment on how I’m feeling, but some lyrics are already written! Things come out pretty good and with integrity!
Phobia has surely gained the attention of new fans on the dates with Eyehategod. As they might not be too familiar with the band, could you give a brief history?
We start out of orange county California in 1990, we were just young kids with something to say and wanted to make some noise, my influences are derived from more old English hardcore and political punk as well as a lot of Swedish punk! We always had some sort of a political agenda and really emulated our influences when it came to faster bands such as old Napalm Death, Repulsion, and Final Conflict, but I think young bands do that until they find them selves. We put out our first demo titled What Went Wrong and our noise career started there…and we have been going strong ever since!
Some bands have changed their sound over the years, a big example being Neurosis. However, Phobia has stuck to a path, so to speak. And it has worked quite well, I must say! How do you feel the band has evolved over the last two decades?
Yeah, we never strayed to far from how we begun in our sound, we have experienced a bit but all bands want to do that. Being a band for twenty-one years, things will change and they won’t always agree with certain people, but that’s how life goes. We rock for us and our fans, and people who respect the band will give us the chance and understand that we may do some stuff different at times, but its never so far out, you know? I think we have mostly evolved from really finding our selves as a band, we really have grown up as individuals and in the way we run the band I guess! (Laughs) I mean I think our song writing has got better, but then again, I think you write for the time and that’s sincere enough to love it, and that’s all you can do. But I would have to say us as individuals have evolved and are better at what we do!
How does a band like Phobia manage to relate or connect with the crowd at more metal-oriented shows? In what ways do you get your message through to those in the crowd that aren’t very tuned in with world events, so to speak?
Well, I think it’s the integrity and the power that you convey, people can sense something that is real, plus we have been around for twenty-one years. I mean, we’re not a new band, so we sort of win in that respect. There are loads of people that don’t like grindcore but like Phobia, you know? I hear it all the time. But people hate us also! (Laughs) I think we’re the band you love to hate!! But I think people will listen, when your passionate about something, and people see that, they will listen and take things into consideration for sure. I think it’s just one of those things, young kids are influential and want something new. When we play, they want to know what we are about, so they buy the cd, and check it out!!
How has life on the road treated the band throughout that time?
I think it has gotten better in a lot of ways, I think that shows were better back in the days with out internet, you know? But we still hit the road, kids come out and have a good time. We always eat good, grind good and keep moving, it’s in our blood and it’s what we do. I think even a bad tour is good for you, you learn what not to do and make it better next time, touring is a learning experience. I would love to just tour basements forever. Good times!
What effects, if any, have the band’s many line-up changes had on the Phobia sound and creative process?
I think it has been great, I think that’s what really keeps the ball rolling, you always need new insights and influences but keep to the Phobia sound. That’s my favorite thing to do is write with different people and we still do it that way! I have so many friends that are so awesome and great musicians. I always want to experience writing and have them help me with Phobia stuff.
Could you describe Phobia’s experiences, in general, on the record label front?
I think we have more of a punk attitude then the bigger labels! (Laughs) I think that’s where the problems happen if there are any. I understand a label has to work one way, but we work another way. But that’s the business, there are record companies, then there are bands. Everybody’s trying to get head and save and gain! When you work with smaller labels it’s a lot easier, the communication is more relaxed, but we enjoy doing both therefore our experiences are always up and down. (Laughs)
What is life like outside of music for the members of Phobia? Jobs? Hobbies? Obsessions?
Yeah, we all have jobs for the most part, but jobs that are very flexible to the band for the most part but not always, so things can be rough. We all have hobbies, this band being the first one of course. I travel back and forth from Austin, where I live, to California to spend time with my daughter and help my brother with our merch company. CC does vegan cooking classes in San Antonio. Calum is a landscaper in Manhattan NYC and Bryan is a trades man in Dallas, Texas. Those are our jobs! And we all obsess over tofu scramble!
When it comes to musical influences, who tops the list for the band?
Probably old Napalm Death and Discharge.
On that note, what would you consider as the highlights of the band’s career?
There are so many really, its hard to say. I would say just touring through out the world. I mean hanging with fans, new fans, bands that you love, that’s the whole highlight!
What aspects of everyday life, outside of music, get the band’s gears turning?
I would say the stress and the hardships of trying to be in a band and also trying to pay bills and just living and existing in this world. I think that fuels us to do what we do, and we feel privileged to be able to even have this option to go out on the road and play. I think the bond we have as a band, we are family, you know? And we love each other like that and want to spend time together and share this again!
Phobia certainly has its fair share of bizarre touring stories, such as the infamous Real TV incident. Any other gems of the road you’d like to share?
Just a lot of shitting in pants and peeing. Some jail, some violence! (Laughs) When Phobia hits the road, who the fuck knows what is going to happen! I remember I got thrown in jail in Slovenia because after a fest, the promoter and I took this van and we were drunk. I don’t really remember much, but woke up blocking an apartment building entrance and can remember people knocking on the window. I just kept flipping them off, lying down not seeing who they were, until some M-16’s started knocking. They took us downtown and deported me back to Germany and the band! We have much more, I could be here all fucking day! (Laughs)
Phobia’s sound involves a more punk-oriented approach to song structure compared to the band’s more metal-inspired grind peers. What, besides that difference, do you feel sets the band apart from the rest?
I think we are still punks! (Laughs) I think we are still involved in a movement, you know? We still believe in a punk scene and we still have that edge and the fan base that actually still gives us influence and we listen to the same bands we grew up on. I think we stand our ground of who we always were. I mean, we work with some metal heads and people with other influences at times, but they are familiar with the Phobia sound. I pretty much make the decision of what gets tracked and I like to keep Phobia..being Phobia!
How do you feel about the evolution and changes within the grind genre over the years, as well as the newer surge in bands that could be called your peers?
Well, I would have to say I really enjoyed the integrity and how personal the scene used to be, before the internet and all that. I mean, yeah it makes it easier, but we used to write letters, tape trade, set up shows and actually promote by making fliers and hand them out at shows. This is the way DIY was, this was how it should be, you know? The scene lacks originality, passion. All these bands coming out now, most don’t have a hardcore background. It’s what is the “cool” thing to do. Well, when we were doing it, it wasn’t the cool thing to do and it was very much a smaller network because those that were doing it, were into it. I think a lot of the stuff that comes out today is crap. Like, do these kids know why they growl? Do they know where it came from? No. A big labels signs them, puts them on the road, they do there thing, then its done. Fuck that. They saturate the market with their crap and it sucks!!! These days, people watch their band on Youtube, buy their shirts online, don’t go to shows, and talk shit about people on the internet. Fuck that! Back in the day, you had something to say, you went to the show, fought it, then it was done. The scene today sucks! But as for the bands that you can call our peers, I think those are the people who know what’s up, and believe in the traditional way of doing things. I think that kicks ass and is what is what keeps DIY alive and keeps roots of the sound there!
What places in the world have greeted Phobia with the warmest welcome? How about the worst?
(Laughs) Damn, that hard to say. I would say Mexico and Japan were really awesome, but at that time they didn’t get loads of bands coming through, you know? The worst, shit, that could be Los Angeles! (Laughs)
If Phobia took the form of a cyborg soldier sent from the future to eradicate human ignorance and prejudice, what would be its weapon of choice?
A shit-sucker…the stuff that sucks crap out of the Porta -Potty.
What does the future hold for Phobia? Tours? Recordings?
We are working on some tours for next year, nothing concrete as of yet, and we are starting to write a new record and keep the machine rolling. We have a split with Jesus Cross coming out and we have a four-way split with PLF, Suffering Minds and Audio Kollapse!
It’s been a pleasure! Forbidden Magazine thanks you for your time!! Any last words for the groupies, fan boys and paparazzi?
Thank you for all your support, to all our fans and also to the people who hate us. In grind we crust! Cheers and beers!!