A lot can change in 20 years.
Just ask the band Phobia.
The act, an unholy alliance of
crust punk and grindcore, started in 1990 at Orange County, Calif. Now only
singer Shane McLachlan is the remaining original member. Through innumerable
lineup changes and record label affiliations, the entity has endured. Even
their rampageous blend of speed metal and safety-pin-in-the-nose sneer is
McLachlan described himself as
an brash teenager influenced by seminal metal
and punk bands like Napalm Death and Discharge. He admitted that early on he
was mostly emulating his idols. He wanted his band to sound just like them.
"That's what I needed –
the adrenaline of it," he said during a recent phone interview.
Not everyone in their part of
the world was ready for that. McLachlan said Phobia was definitely in the
minority at first. Death metal, and especially grindcore, were not in vogue
"It was kind of a shocker for
some people, the speed we were playing at," McLachlan said. "And we were pretty
He remembers playing backyard
shows and people throwing trash at them.
"I just gave them the middle
finger and told them to fuck off," McLachlan said. "Here I am now."
It probably didn't help that
Phobia originated in Orange County, Calif., one of the most affluent areas in
the country. But McLachlan says the OC often depicted in TV shows and movies is
"the farthest thing from how I grew up. That's like saying all people from
Indiana are hicks or part of the Klan. The OC has this stigma that it's all
rich, but we have gangs and violence. There's drug problems and social
dysfunction. It doesn't matter if you live in a rich neighborhood; you can
still be an addict."
McLachlan had his share of
problems. The uber-tattooed frontman is a recovering alcoholic who has been
incarcerated numerous times. Now 39 years old and a father, he's a long way
from his rabble-rousing youth. His lyrics have always had a political and
social bent, but McLachlan is less concerned about finding fault with authority
now than he is leaving a better world for his children.
"In order to challenge your own
thoughts, you have to live life," McLachlan said.
Not that Phobia has abandoned
its principles. McLachlan still gives voice to anarchistic values.
"It doesn't mean going around
blowing up buildings," he said. "It's about self-preservation and living for
yourself. That's pretty much how we are."
Besides, in today's media age
it's tough to speak out about much of anything without being branded something
"There's so many social problems
in this world today," McLachlan said. "It's out of control. Sometimes it's
better just to keep your mouth shut. But people like me have big mouths. I've
always gotta be talking shit about something that's going to piss somebody
Ultimately though, McLachlan
doesn't want to be so opinionated that he's turning off potential fans or
preaching to the converted.
"Protest is important, but to me
it's not always the most important thing," he said. "We are musicians, we like
to have fun. Music is entertainment. For us it's mainly about meeting people,
playing music and having a good time."
Times have changed in other
ways. While young bands today have to carve out a niche in a much more crowded
workplace, McLachlan doesn't think most of them have the integrity that he and
his peers had.
"We went up against much bigger
odds," he said. "Back in those days you'd get your ass kicked for being a punk.
Nowadays you can go to the mall and become a punk. Being punk rock is socially
acceptable now, but back in my day it wasn't."
Phobia is still going strong.
The band recently issued a live album and a couple split releases with
Extinction Mankind and Gadget. An EP is in the works. They're still recording
and touring, but McLachlan has no concerns about the music scene he helped
foment after he decides to retire.
"There's always new bands doing
new things," he said. "There are kids starting out now who are brilliant at
what they do. Scenes die out and come back; happens all the time. That's the
way it's always going to be."