One of the biggest challenges when it comes to the historical side of metal’s past, especially it’s alleged golden age of the 80s, is that the further you get away from established classics, the more difficult it becomes to obtain cold hard facts. When the decision was made to celebrate the thirtieth anniversary of The American Way, the second full-length from Arizona thrashers Sacred Reich, it was very difficult to find any information outside of what could already be gleaned from the album’s liner notes and Wikipedia page.
The first thing that came to mind when I realized I needed more information about The American Way was to contact individuals that I knew were “there” when The American Way came out in the spring of 1990 to get a better context of how the album was received upon release. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any more information than I already had. After spending a few minutes, I wondered if 80s thrasher kids had gone the way of gunslingers and could be officially classified as a dying breed. But it occurred to me that if I wanted to cold hard facts to our readers in celebration of the thirty years that The American Way has been in existence that going straight to the source was a viable option. Before I knew it, that option had turned itself into opportunity, as Sacred Reich vocalist/bassist Phil Rind was more than happy to give Indy Metal Vault and its readers the low down on everything that we wanted to know about The American Way.
Indy Metal Vault: Hey there, Phil. It’s an honor to have you at The Vault. Researching The American Way, I was able to find out that the music video for “The American Way” was in rotation, the album cracked the Billboard 200, and apparently, there was a European tour in support of the release? Could you help us out with filling in the gaps on the promotional cycle for The American Way?
Phil Rind: We toured the US & Europe. In the US, we took Obituary out on their first tour and Forced Entry as openers. After the first run of tours, Greg left the band. Dave joined us, and we went back to Europe, opening for Sepultura. Then we returned to the US for the New Titans Tour with Sepultura, Napalm Death, and Sick of it All. It was a lot of fun.
IMV: The American Way was the third of four production collaborations with Bill Metoyer. With The American Way, how had the band’s rapport with Bill evolved throughout working with him going into The American Way?
PR: We love Bill. After doing Ignorance and Surf with him, we felt very comfortable with Bill and trusted him. We called him “Valium” because he was very calming. We recorded and mixed Ignorance in twelve days. Same with Surf both on Metal Blade. We had signed with Enigma Records and had a bigger budget for The American Way. We booked a month in the studio. We thought there was no way we would use the entire time. Turns out, we were mixing until the very end.
IMV: Lyrically speaking, The American Way has a variety of topics to choose from. From a creative standpoint, are there any lyrics written for The American Way that stand out the most for you thirty years later?
PR: The songs we wind up playing the most from that record are “The American Way,” “Who’s to Blame,” “Love…Hate” and “Crimes Against Humanity.” Unfortunately, “The American Way” and “Crimes Against Humanity” are still as relevant lyrically. “Who’s to Blame” and “Love…Hate” still hit home as well. I never get tired of those songs. I am glad that the situation in South Africa has changed considerably since writing “State of Emergency.”
IMV: Since Sacred Reich’s reformation in 2006, you guys have been consistent with performing and touring. Based on seeing you guys last year during your tour in support of Awakening, I got the impression that “The American Way” and “Who’s To Blame” have become setlist staples. Are there any other tracks from The American Way that fans have asked you guys to play over the years?
PR: Never fails that someone yells “31 Flavors” at every show. Not going to happen. I think the last time we played that was in 1991.
IMV: With the exception of 1993’s Independent, Sacred Reich has been on the Metal Blade roster for the majority of the band’s career. Have there been any noticeable changes in their operations from your time on the roster in the 80s as opposed to now?
PR: Of course. Lots of fine folks have come and gone. Obviously, Brian Slagel and Mike Faley are still there. We mostly deal with Tracy Vera, who is the President at Metal Blade. We have always had a great relationship with them. That hasn’t changed, and it is why we didn’t talk to anyone else when we decided to make records again.
IMV: In regards to “31 Flavors”, how do you look at that track thirty years later? Was there ever any discussion to continue with that style? Speaking as a lifelong fan of Faith No More and Mike Patton’s other assorted works, I do have to say your journey into that vocal range was quite competent, and the song is actually pretty fun to listen to.
PH: Well…I think the point of that song is good. I think we should have open minds when it comes to music. In retrospect, I’m not sure we would have included that song if we did the record again. Was great to work with a horn section, though. Being a huge fan of Earth, Wind and Fire and Stevie Wonder that was a highlight.
IMV: Before I ask this last question, I do want it to be known that I’m asking from a purely theoretical standpoint as I am not a musician. Still, I did notice there were a few times on The American Way, most notably on “Crimes Against Humanity,” where the music almost veers into death metal territory. At the time of its release, death metal would have just started emerging from the grimiest parts of the underground. When The American Way was being written, did this emerging style inform any of The American Way’s creative process?
PR: I’m not sure I agree with that assessment. I don’t think we ever got anywhere near the extremity of death metal. The closest we got to it was taking Obituary on tour during their Slowly We Rot record. It’s not anything that we listened to or influenced our band.
The American Way was released on May 15th, 1990. Copies can still be found on eBay in a variety of formats, and many of the album’s tracks can be found on YouTube.