The Shrine: New Lords of Dogtown

Skating empty Los Angeles pools and making heavy rock that's equal parts Black Flag and Thin Lizzy

"There's an attitude here that the skating, surfing and music here will survive against all odds," says Josh Landau of The Shrine Credit: Photo by Eric Hendrikx

In the early 1970s, an insufferable drought left Southern California parched, with its inhabitants anxious to conserve water in any way possible. Many homeowners emptied their pools – giving rise to an unforeseen side effect: radical outlaw surfers turned low-riding cement lovers took to the curves and walls of these empty pools, creating an entirely new style of skateboarding. And so began the legacy of the Dogtown Z-Boys – Tony Alva, Stacy Peralta and Jay Adams – a daredevil group of sidewalk surfers who would come to represent a subculture, a new vernacular and the future of skateboarding.

Forty years later, Dogtown denizen and longhaired hessian Josh Landau is out on the prowl, surmounting fences in the blighted neighborhoods of Los Angeles in search of empty pools to shred with his skateboarding brethren. The oppressive summer heat doesn't vanquish their thirst for some tasty concrete waves and, whether they're skating an abandoned pool in some Bel Air estate or unearthing a new spot in greater Los Angeles, one thing is certain – more skaters, both legendary and newcomer, will congregate. "The search and destroy thrill of climbing through these old houses is the raddest fucking thrill in the world. We might show up to skate some abandoned pool and Tony Alva would be there," says Landau.

When Landau isn't out trespassing, pulling airs and sacrificing skin in the deep end of empty pools, he sings and plays guitar in his band The Shrine – a heavy psych-rock power trio he founded with friends Courtney Murphy and Jeff Murray. The trio has been cranking out records and delivering what they refer to as "psychedelic violence" since 2008, radiating sonic waves that could denote a Black Flag and Thin Lizzy love affair. And their loyalty to Dogtown roots has paid off in an unexpected way, Landua explains, "We've essentially turned our band into a skateboard company, circumventing most of the old ways of a dilapidated record industry."

In the footsteps of their sidewalk surfing forefathers, The Shrine deliberated to retain a Do-It-Yourself slant when it comes to recording, assembling swag, touring and putting on vital live shows. From their hand-painted limited edition army helmets to throwing maniacal record release parties outfit with strippers, drugs and outright debauchery, The Shrine spare no effort to engage their fans in an authentic and unpolluted way. And the approach has shown success. The Shrine have quickly become a sought-after band to tour and play festivals worldwide, heavily supported by their extended skate family – a faction bonded by concrete and consecrated by blood. Skaters come to their shows in droves, buying their records, wearing their merch, even sporting tattoos of their wolf logo.

Shortly after The Shrine's jam-packed summer tour schedule – they just played 45 shows in Europe in 50 days, hit Japan and South America, recently played Ozzfest with Black Sabbath and have a Halloween gig at the Roxy with Riley Hawk's (yeah, Tony's kid) band Petyr among upcoming gigs – and their relentless quest for the ultimate skate sesh, we visited Landau and company at their rehearsal studio in Venice to discuss their Dogtown roots, Landau's epiphany to run the band like a skateboard company, and hear a few sordid tales from their record release party at The Chun in Los Angeles.

You grew up Dogtown. Have you ever skated with any of the original Z-Boys?
Fuck yeah! The first time I met Tony Alva was at a pool in Bel Air, just across from UCLA. My little brother and I found this empty pool and cleaned it out to skate. Well, the word got out about the pool and one day we showed up to skate and Alva was just leaving. He lectured us on not parking in front of the house so we wouldn't get busted. The next time we hit that spot, Alva showed up and skated with us. I skated with Jay Adams too – in Santa Monica. Jay once said, "You don't quit skating because you get old, you get old because you quit skating." Man, he was so right. It's the same in music. Look at guys like Lemmy, who never stopped doing what they love.

Venice seems to maintain a sort of nostalgic longevity, but also stay very relevant. Having grown up there, how would you explain the scene there?
There's an attitude here – whether its Jeff Ho, Jim Muir, Keith Morris or our buddy Chuck Dukowski – that the skating, surfing and music here will survive against all odds, over any commercial conventions. These dudes are in their sixties and still kicking more ass than anyone around. Here in Los Angeles, we're just lucky not to be homeless or starving. You to have to waste your life doing something, so you might as well find a way to be happy and do what the fuck you want. For us, that has always been skating and music.

In essence, you've modeled your band after a skateboard company. How did that come about?
At least half of our ideas come from skateboard companies. My brother and I used to dig through the dumpster at Rip City and salvage broken boards and trashed stickers, because we wanted to collect all the graphics. As The Shrine became more active, I made a conscious decision to steer it more like a skateboard company. We make our own skateboard decks, stickers, shirts and very limited stuff just like my favorite skateboard companies have done.

Ripping off corporate logos for skateboard graphics has always been a classic move by skate brands to show their insubordinate nature. You guys commandeered an iconic Dogtown graphic for your own record, Bless Off, with your wolf logo on it. How did that come about?
We definitely did that. Our friend Chris Kirk came up with the wolf. It has this killer late 70's vibe – and sort of a new wave of British heavy metal attitude, so we just went with it. The second incarnation, which we used for the cover of Bless Off, was a rip-off of the Ric Clayton drawing from a late 80's Dogtown board. We had our buddy take out the original gremlin and put our wolf logo and band name on it. That graphic is one of the most fucking iconic logos ever and I couldn't believe nobody had done a Dogtown rip-off yet. But we actually did get the blessing from Jim Muir, the founder of Dogtown Skateboards – he loved it. Now the poster of our logo rip-off is hanging up in their offices.

You guys just released a video of a live performance from the record release party for Rare Breed. Tell us about that.
It's cool to go to a venue and get padded down by security and pay twelve bucks for a cocktail and sit through that bullshit. But it's a lot more fun to go to a party with your friends, where you totally feel at home and you can totally do whatever the fuck you want. We did our record release at The Chun in Los Angeles. It's more of a private motorcycle residence than a venue – but with stripper poles and a great sound system. The people there were fucking and doing cocaine in every corner of the place. And if that's what they want to do when they're comfortable, that's what its gonna be. We decided a long time ago that we want to share in our community of friends that do creative and fucked up things, and have everybody be apart of the show. There were signs posted on the bathrooms that read, "DON'T HOLD UP THE LINE. DO YOUR DRUGS IN PUBLIC LIKE AN ADULT."

Sounds like a gig you wouldn't want your parents to come to.
[Laughs] Actually, my dad was there! He said it felt like being in Amsterdam. We turned the entire place into a scene from Apocalypse Now – sandbags, camouflage netting, war helmets, fog machines. The difference was that we also had strippers from Cheetahs and Jumbos on stripper poles and a thousand sweaty maniacs moshing and partying all night long. It was total fucking chaos with free booze and few consequences. My buddies Nuge [Don Nguyen] and Figgy [Justin Figueroa] had their band Arctic play before us and they totally killed it. Then we played our set and Nik Turner from Lemmy's band Hawkwind joined us onstage just ripping on the saxophone. It was awesome.

Last fall, you guys played Paris just three days after the terrorist attack at the Eagles of Death Metal show. What was that like?
After the terrorist attack happened, we didn’t know if our show was going to be canceled or postponed. Everything else got canceled – Motörhead, U2 and most everyone else. But they let us go on. And for us, it was about fighting back and doing what we felt was right. It gave the people of Paris an opportunity to come back out and live their life the way they normally would, not in fear. That show was one of the most awesome and special shows I've ever played. It was a scary time, but nothing happened to us. So it's impossible to put yourself in that situation. There were people at our show that had attended the Eagles of Death Metal show, people who had lost friends, watched so many people being murdered, but were happy to be alive. It just felt like the right thing to do and a perfect moment of release.

You guys are wrapping up a heavy schedule of touring Europe, Japan, and North and South America. This all came about from skateboarding?
Yeah man! The skateboarding community is insane. We met the dude that brought us to Japan while skating a backyard pool down the street here in Venice. He was hanging out and shooting photos that day. After we skated, he bought fifty of our CDs for his skate shop in Japan. One month later, he came back needing more and planned a tour over there for us. So we played these classic Southern California skate parties, but somewhere in the countryside of Japan. There’s a whole scene of these kids doing laybacks and surf style skating that comes from right here in Venice. They have such a network of great skating and music over there now, that replays what was going on here in the early skate punk rock scene, but with a relatively modern take on it.

It seems like everywhere we go, we connect with skaters to continue on our journey. Even back on our first European tour, we could roll up to any skatepark, anywhere in Europe, and find someone who would let us crash out at their pad. Now we’re out playing festivals with Black Sabbath, Slayer, Rammstein, and all these amazing bands.

So you guys basically are couch surfing your way to the top?
It's funny because it’s not only a community of people who want to come see us play or buy our shit, but also a community that you can actually stay at their house or they will show you the best bars to go to. You get a real insider look at a place, because of the culture it’s become. And then when you go back, they are coming back to the shows and bringing a few more friends. So it just keeps growing.