The Shrine consists of (left to right) drummer Jeff Murphy, guitarist/vocalist Josh Landau, and bassist Courtland Murphy.
Is it hard to sing against some of the busier guitar parts, like in “Rare Breed” or “Acid Drop?”
It’s kind of hard for me to play the verse of “Rare Breed” and sing it. The rhythms between the vocal lines and the guitar lines are different. I usually come up with the guitar riff first and then figure out how to sing to it. I can usually figure it out, but there have been moments where I’ve been like, “Aw fuck, I wish I had someone else playing this part.”
Do you ever alter recorded parts to make them easier to play onstage?
Yeah, I’ve tried that. Then I decided I was just going to push myself. I look at the stuff my favorite musicians played, like what Hendrix played and sang, and I’m like, “Man, I’ve got no excuse. Figure it out.”
Sometimes keeping things simpler makes for a better live show.
I used to use a lot more guitar pedals and effects, and, for the same reason, I’ve cut it down to just what I feel is necessary for me—a wah, a fuzz pedal, and a delay. I don’t want to see somebody standing up there and looking at his feet the whole time.
Did you record Rare Breed with vintage gear?
The new album was recorded using a 2" 16-track tape deck. I don’t think there’s any album I like that wasn’t recorded on tape. I don’t really accept a lot of new technology because my favorite music has already been made. I don’t feel like there’s more of it ahead than there is behind us. If those dudes could do it with this, this, and this … I should be able to do it. I should just work on the song, work on my playing, work on my singing, work on tweaking what I’ve already got—my Marshalls and just a few pedals—instead of focusing on tap dancing.
“Pull the Trigger” is your solo feature. Is that a big delay behind you or did you double-track?
It’s just a copy of the track. You just copy it and move it over.
That track has elements of blues-rock fused with other influences.
It’s something that came about from us playing live and trying to do something a little different than our studio recordings. I made up a lot of that stuff off the cuff, jamming over the years, and I put all the exercises and workouts that I do into one performance. It’s stuff I’ve played a million times. And I put them together in an order that I’ve never done. There’s a John Coltrane “A Love Supreme” rip-off in there, too.
Tell us about the Shrine Fuzz.
A friend who used to tour with us a lot when we first got going got way, way, way into making pedals. He was like, “Dude, I want to make you a fuzz pedal. I got this really cool old Big Muff, ram’s head-style fuzz—what do you want me to put on it?” We were like, “Easy, put ‘the Shrine’ on it.” Our buddy only made 50 of them and we sold them all, and that’s that. People still ask about buying them all the time, because our friend doesn’t make them anymore.
Did you A/B it against other fuzz pedals or did you know right away?
I knew right away. There’s a pretty wide range there. If you turn the tone knob up it becomes unbearably trebly, fizzling—sort of a stun gun. And if you turn it all the way to the bass side you get a creamy, Fuzz Face, sort of speaker sagging cool sound.
You played a Les Paul-shaped guitar with a bolt-on neck at your St. Vitus show in Brooklyn. Tell us about that one.
It’s a Univox, one of those lawsuit ones from the ’70s. I traded a Squier for it, like a $150 guitar. The back of the Univox was sanded, and it was super light, but played great. Everybody that played it was like, “Man, if you ever want to sell that guitar.” I played it so much, and it started to have a few problems with some dead notes and stuff. Recently a friend of our producer, Dave Jerden, worked at Gibson and went, “Man, I love your new album. Let me introduce you to Gibson.” I talked to the artist relations person and she was like, “Can you come in this week?” Walked in and it was mind-blowing. Walked out with a reissue of a ’50s-style Black Beauty with a Bigsby.
Is that your new main guitar?
That’s what I’ve been playing for the last six months. I played it on our last European tour every night. It’s the first time I’ve ever played with a Bigsby, and I save the Bigsby for the end of the set because it goes fuckin’ nuts.
What about amps?
A 1971 Marshall 100-watt Super Lead that I bring everywhere with us here in America. When we go somewhere like Europe, I try to get the same sort of thing. Sometimes I’ll use a JCM800, but always a Marshall. Even when we went to Japan, every venue’s got a Marshall. But when I come home, I always plug into mine and I feel great.
Front-and-center in Nürnberg, Germany, Josh Landau burns through “On the Grind,” from Shrine’s Bless Off. With his reissue 1957 Les Paul Custom Black Beauty, he kick-starts the song’s signature riff playing solo and stomping on his vintage Jen wah pedal. At 1:45 he tags the riff again, this time sans wah, and at 3:50 he takes the song out with another solo that climaxes in a feedback-laced pentatonic burst.
I got a weird thing on the way, too. Our buddy here in Venice fixes and builds amps, and has a little company called Apache amps. He called me, and goes, “I’ve been fixing Lemmy’s amps and he just wanted me to replace his amps with new shit so they last.” This is six months ago, before Lemmy died, and he pulled out this transformer and it’s totally good. He said, “Do you want me to build you an amp with it?” I just put the down payment on it. He’s building me an amp with the transformer from Lemmy’s 1974 Super Bass.
One last question: I understand that an old rock poster your dad owns inspired the band’s name?
The poster said, “The Who, Peter Green, Fleetwood Mac, the Crazy World of Arthur Brown, the Shrine.” By the way it was displayed on the poster it just seemed like it was another band, although the show was actually at the Shrine Auditorium [in Los Angeles]. I just turned, maybe, 18 when we picked the name, and at that point I had gone from listening to hardcore punk to the Mahavishnu Orchestra, Hendrix, Thin Lizzy, and the MC5. So I totally expanded into other areas of rock ’n’ roll. Band of Gypsys is probably my favorite guitar album ever.
Actually, just the other day a friend of mine called me and said, “Do you want to be an extra in this B-movie horror film? Arthur Brown’s gonna be in it.” So I brought the poster and he signed it. It was so random and he was super cool.