Metal Skull: Interview with Al Cisneros of Shrinebuilder: The Science Of Anger

On Sunday, Nov. 15, the supergroup Shrinebuilder played their first NYC show ever at Le Poisson Rouge. They are the band of a generation: Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, etc.) and Scott Kelly (Neurosis, Blood And Time) on guitars, Al Cisneros (Om, Sleep) on bass and Dale Crover (Melvins, Altamont) drumming, with all four members contributing vocals. They did a run of five shows in the U.S. covering Los Angeles, Baltimore, Chicago, New York and Austin. More touring is to come, but there was only ever going to be one first time.

And it was a special night, full of riffly reverence and joyous vibes. The songs were heavy beyond heavy and not one person left the venue without realizing the magnitude of what they’d just witnessed. Those players. Together. Wow.

I knew then and there I wanted to talk about it with Cisneros in particular. It had been a number of years since I last interviewed him for Om’s Conference Of The Birds LP, but he was cordial as ever in discussing his bands and what he brings to each playing experience. The interview took place Nov. 19, shortly after Cisneros arrived home from spending a couple extra days in Austin after the tour.

How was it being on stage with Shrinebuilder, as opposed to with Om?

It’s definitely a different band. There’s different elements that converge in both. A different combination. When a song and a riff opens up, be it Om or Shrinebuilder, I go right into it the same way always, as myself. It’s different in the sense that there’s different elements, different melody lines that come in, different instruments of course. Different song structures, but you know, in a way, it’s very similar.

In Shrinebuilder, how far back do you go?

We’ve all known each other a really long time. I’ve known Scott since I was 14 and I’ve known Dale a long, long time. I first met Wino in ’93 when we did a show together in SF. It was Sleep and The Obsessed and Buzzov*en, and I first met him then.

What was the travel situation like for the tour? I noticed all the bands in New York used the same backline. Was it just a matter of fly in, do the show, fly out?

Yeah, pretty much. There wasn’t much time to do anything other than get to the venue, do your sound check. It was scheduled really so over four days we could hit all those places. It worked out good. Everything was pretty well organized.

I saw you in Brooklyn with Om. How do the two touring processes compare? Do you prefer going town to town on the road?

I don’t really have a preference either way. I play so often in Om, we play so many live shows. When you’re on a plane, it’s just like being in a car. It takes about the same time to get to the next club. I don’t really have a preference as to either one. Whatever it takes to get to the stage, whatever it takes to get to the sound check, I’m pretty cool with it.

How did the Joy Division cover come about?

We’d had a bunch of different candidate covers going on for a few months, but with the shows coming up, we had to really just nail one down and that was the one that had the most consensus, so we went for it. Wino and Scott are old Joy Division fans, and I think Wino’s covered a Joy Division song in his acoustic solo work, not sure which one. That’s how we ended up picking that one.