Saturday, August 1, 2020
A Ripple Conversation With Of Wolves
When I was a kid, growing up in a house with Cat Stevens, Neil Diamond, and Simon and Garfunkel, the first time I ever heard Kiss's "Detroit Rock City," it was a moment of musical epiphany. It was just so vicious, aggressive and mean. It changed the way I listened to music. I've had a few minor epiphanies since then when you come across a band that just brings something new and revolutionary to your ears.
What have been your musical epiphany moments?
Steve: In high school maybe about 15. I was at a buddies house whose older brother was a Danzig freak. And he had a killer record collection. One day after hanging out at the tracks and smoking a ton of weed we went back and dared the thought of him catching us and beating us bloody to listen to some shit we had never heard before. We choose the Misfits. I'm not sure what exact record it was now... We didn't know at the time but one side was 45 and the other was 33 so anyway, we had it on the wrong side and the first time we heard them it was slowed down and it blew our minds! I was the heaviest thing I had ever heard. Not much later we found out what we had done but it stuck with me. So much so that I always wanted to cover it with that concept in mind. And on our new album, we finally have!
Ivan: My musical epiphany as a kid was definitely Guns N Roses, as I got a bit older I really connected with The Beatles, Blues and Jazz.
Talk to us about the songwriting process for you. What comes first, the idea? A riff? The lyrics? How does it all fall into place?
Steve: We have always let the songs kind of write themselves. Sometimes it starts out as a random stoned jam or jams that come out of riffs. From there, we tend to jam on them a lot and for quite a while. We record everything we can so we don't miss or forget anything. Although it always seems like the best jams are always only meant for us, as some technical difficulty always seems to pop up and that particular jam is gone! Without the recording, the riff or timing would never be the same or we’d lose some nuances, etc. Then from there, we let it stew and slowly I start to hear sounds that sooner or later turn into words. Sometimes it starts happening almost right away. A word or yell here or there and over time it builds up into the finished song. We have played songs live where I was just yelling parts or random shit just to get a feel for it live. It all helps to hash out. I write best stoned out of my fucking mind to the point that I am completely socially inept, but you give me a beat and I'll find a killer riff and if you give me a killer song ill write some solid interesting lyrics. The concept and everything all just seem to fall into place. Rushing the process makes it feel forced and much harder to write anything I am proud of.
Who has influenced you the most?
Steve: I have quite a few but I'll stick to the most relevant. Metallica saved me from what I hated about 80s glam and hair metal that seemed to be everywhere at the time. I just couldn't get enough of the mix of punk and metal. The speed and anger. Those guitar tones! That snarl! I was obsessed and it definitely brought me into all things metal and punk. I think I heard Slayer shortly after and that was it. From there on I have tried to find and listen to everything we could find. Of course, back then that was much harder than it is now.
Where do you look for continuing inspiration? New ideas, new motivation?
Ivan: Life, in general, is a constant source of inspiration, I've been going through a process of alcohol recovery and that in itself is a humbling experience as well as a challenging form of inspiration.
Steve: I agree with Ivan. Life, without any doubt. Pain, suffering, love and loss. Not to mention the things that piss us off! Music is a great way to vent off all that anger and frustration. It's a huge therapeutic release to scream my balls off about what I'm pissed about and I always feel much better afterward. I honestly think that there is no better therapy or release. And now the way the world and our country is? With this self-centered conman buffoon in charge! It seems I have endless ideas and need for that release.
We're all a product of our environment. Tell us about the band's hometown and how that reflects in the music?
Steve: We love our city and feel very lucky to be part of it. Chicago is such a hardworking, busy place filled with greatness everywhere. Literally, all your senses are constantly inspired. Food, art, coffee, beer/alcohol, overall innovation... People don't talk about it much but it's a very passionate place. I noticed it even more since I moved. (I am about an hour away from the city now and miss it every day.) Our practice spot is in Pilsen. Every neighborhood has so much to offer and far more talent than I have ever seen anywhere else, and for some reason, it seems now more than ever! And it seems to be growing constantly!
Where'd the band name come from?
Steve: I love this question. When we first started we practiced in my garage (until the Chicago cold came and made it impossible!). We had been throwing random names in the air for weeks and one day we were taking a break when my German Shepherd Kaya walked up to our original bassist Pat and all the sudden he yells From Wolves! Jon laughed and I instantly replied Of Wolves sounds better. That was it! So, in a way we are called German Shepherd or dog or Kaya (RIP) At the same time, I have always loved all animals, especially wolves. For the balance of their beauty and fierceness. So as soon as he said it I loved it. But also because of the pack mentality and how they work together as a pack to survive. And of course the Edward R. Murrow quote "A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves." fits us more every day as the world around us pushes us further and further into a need for more therapeutic release based on the insane reality that is these evil hoarding fucks hellbent on money and power that they are destroying everything in their path.
You have one chance, what movie are you going to write the soundtrack for?
Ivan: John Wick
Steve: Cool question! So this is not a movie but it might as well have been! While wrapping up the final mix for the title track to our new album Balance the engineer Pete Grossman (Bricktop Recording) said he totally pictured it being perfect for the final battle scene in Games of Thrones. Of course, this was a ways before it was done and already released. I picture something like that every time I hear it now. We are also looking for someone to do a short film for our Misfits cover of Die Die My Darling. I think it would be awesome to have a short black and white silent slasher as the video for the song. I'd love to get into movie sound and music. Anyone anytime hit me up!
You now write for a music publication (The Ripple Effect?). You're going to write a 1,000-word essay on one song. Which would it be and why?
Ivan: Bumpin by Wes Montgomery. It's a piece of musical mastery that anyone who considers themselves a musician should know.
Come on, share with us a couple of your great, Spinal Tap, rock and roll moments?
Ivan: I was playing with my old band at SXSW, there was no stage and the place was crowded. My pedal board was right in front of the crowd who I'm sure by accident stepped on it and unplugged it without my knowledge. I must have played a whole song without power before anyone noticed.
Steve: I have quite a few but I think one of the most memorable stage moments was shortly after My accident in which I basically died and bled out… During the process we only canceled one gig (it's only gig we canceled in the 12 years as a band ever) After the hell that I went through to get back on my feet and moving again etc we had a gig coming up and I still had the 67 staples in me (I shattered my spleen) from groin to chest. The guys and my family wanted me to cancel and I was like fuck NO! The show must go on! Right before the show (I think it was Cobra Lounge) I asked the band should I do it with my shirt off?! That would be metal as fuck! And they were both like HELL NO! Man its too fucking gruesome! (They still say to this day they wish they had let me) Anyway I played the guitar kinda sideways on my hip and couldn't scream anywhere near how I usually would. After being bed ridden for so long I wasn't very strong. But as we went on I got more into it and I think a mix of the meds and the booze and adrenaline kicked in. So I let loose a little and tore the bottom two staples. So You could see a bit of blood coming through my shirt and dropping down a bit. When the song ended I told the crowd that if anyone is filming “if it looks like this is getting worse don’t stop. You might get lucky and this thing will just pop open and spill my guts all over the stage and it could be the most metal thing ever!”
Of course that didn’t Happen!
Steve: Playing live is always a very intense and visceral experience for us and hopefully for our fans as well. As a three-piece, we learned early on the best thing we could do is give it all we got every time we play and I mean that quite literally. We used to joke that if you are not almost passing out then you ain't doing it right! So in that regard a lot of sweat, spit and hair flying while we push our boundaries. I fully expect some time hopefully long in the future to die of a stroke or a heart attack on stage and I think that's a good way to go.
What makes a great song?
Ivan: What makes a great song for me is if it takes you to a different place in your mind. It doesn't matter if it's super technical or a two riff song if it moves you, it's automatically a great song.
Steve: As long as it's honest, it's good to me. I need to feel it. Whatever “it” is. I want to be right there with you. I feel like music is transforming in that way, that it can take you places and make you feel the emotions put into it by its creators and in that way being almost a universal language.
Tell us about the first song you ever wrote?
Oh man! You got me on this one! Hahahahaha okay, fuck it. I'm sure I wrote “songs” before this, but my memory sucks. The only one I remember in my mind as a first song was maybe 6th grade? So I was like 10-11 I think? Back then I found Duran Duran. Wait, a little context… My mom couldn't afford school band anymore (I played Sax there for a minute) and bought me a guitar because I was always playing air guitar to whatever record I got my hands on. Anyway, a buddy who used to be in the band told me he played keyboard! I was like “No way” and that was it. We are gonna start a band and let's write a song. So there we are in his house in the living room I think. I used to use dance music with the bass turned all the way up and everything else all the way down for beats haha Hahahaha! So I started playing these two chords on this shitty casio keyboard and I heard this beat in my head and the words. It's a red alert. The war is coming. It's a red alert. Run from your homes. Its red alert, the war is coming and you…. Something like that. It was completely terrible and quite embarrassing now thinking about it. I think his sister and his mom and dad had to be almost dying trying not to make us cry and never play music again.
What piece of your music are particularly proud of?
Steve: I don’t really let anything get released until I am completely proud of it as I have let shit go that has ruined songs and whole albums for me in the past. But the last hidden track on the last album is very special to me and you can hear our namesake Kaya (RIP) barking in the background as I recorded locusts in my front yard. I also love the bottles that me and my daughter broke in our driveway for Legal Lies. But something about the song Balance on the new album. I Don't know what it is but I think it’s my favorite so far so of course I’m proud of it that Then there’s the song ‘Killing Spree’ in which we had Larry from the Bhopal Stiffs & Pegboy (who I have been a huge fan of since I was a kid and those guys were huge influences on me) come into the studio with us and sing on the track with me. It was one of the best days ever and we totally put Larry on the spot and he killed it. It was so awesome to see him work and just own the track completely out of nowhere. He had not even heard the track before that day! It was one of the best days, we were so excited that we were like little kids and ended up trashed before the session was over.
Who today writes great songs? Who just kicks your ass? Why?
Well, I know for sure that Ivan & I both love everything David Eugene Edwards does (16 Horsepower & Wovenhand) I really have been loving listening to all my Isis albums while in quarantine or whatever you want to call this… and of course Sumac! Also been digging All The Witches and Brown Bird. Primitive Man is the heaviest shit ever in my opinion. I also recently came across a band called Wailin Storms that just had a new album come out. And honestly there is so much killer music coming out of Chicago right now. I mean so many of our friends kick my ass and we are honestly big fans of Making Ghosts & Snow Burial. I know Ivan would yell REZN right about here and the same with Lume, High Priest, Huntsmen, Varaha as well. I mean this is one hell of a rabbit hole because I could just write a paragraph of killer bands that everyone should hear all right there with us kicking our ass and always raising the bar. So I'm gonna do just that! Seriously, do yourself a favor if you are reading this and check out this whole list. Like Rats, Immortal Bird, Minsk, Canyon of the Skull, Pale Horseman, Black Road, Disrotted, Mexican Werewolf, Neckbeard Deathcamp, Rosaries, Jungle Rot, Racetraitor, Salvation, Plague of Carcosa, Tides Cult, Cryptic Oath, Cokegoat, Barren Heir, Zaius, Air Raid, Armored Assault, Whut?, Bloodletter, Purge & Rebuild, Bear Mace, The Atlas Moth, Indian, Warforged, Ledge, Elbow Deep, Never We See, Bloodiest, WIthout Waves, Boatman’s Toll, Sweet Cobra the list of incredible and talented bands and music is unlimited and grows every day!
Vinyl, CD, or digital? What's your format of choice?
Ivan: Digital, it's a matter of convenience at this point.
Steve: Let's face it, it is amazing to have everything you could ever want to hear in your pocket. But I LOVE vinyl and some will think I’m goofy but… Digital is synthetic. Its zeros and ones (it really is so strange to think about how we figured out all this shit, ain’t it?) I mean magnetic tape, grooves. Anyway, vinyl is a literal vibration recreating what was recorded. Maybe that's why I feel like I hear it differently, maybe it's the needle that seems to pick up more nuance. Maybe it's the natural genuineness of actual original vibrations? Maybe it's just me. Probably.
Ivan: Not for me thanks, been there done that.
Steve: Yup. I'm proud of my best friend and extremely happy for him so I’ll give you an answer to this one. Up until the pandemic I worked for Three Floyds in Munster Indiana. They closed the pub and taste rooms due to health concerns for us and our customers. And I must say. I give them so much respect and a big cyber hug for being such badasses and always being on the right side of shit. I'm proud to have been part of the team and I'm glad they are still doing what they do best! And when it comes to beer and killer food I was spoiled as fuck! They just might be the best brewery in the whole damned universe! They have educated me beyond my wildest dreams of what a beer could be, the flavor, punch and attitude that is possible and what they have and continue to achieve is beyond mind-blowing on a daily basis. And now they are also distilling spirits! The combination of flavors and punch… well, Ill; pit it this way. I had brought a couple of bottles on our last family get together type short vacation and I have never seen them all so drunk. People were literally crawling. It was amazing. So I have been surviving on my art and video work. Bands take note I am for hire! (see the two videos for this album)
We, at the Ripple Effect, are constantly looking for new music. What's your hometown, and when we get there, what's the best record store to lose ourselves in?
Ivan: Shuga Records is my go-to. Their Metal section is fucking huge! and it's the only place I've been able to find some Tom Waits.
Steve: any other ideas? Figure shot outs are good
What's next for the band?
Steve: I just recently completed a new video for our song Mens Rea (Izaguf) coming out real soon so keep an eye out! We are excited about that and benign how long ago it was written the timing is pretty crazy. Then July 4th our new album comes out on Trepanation Recordings! The album is live now and what is left of the first 50 of each is a special limited edition that comes with some cool one-off goodies. Get it here http://ofwolves.bandcamp.com and from there the skys the limit? Or the pandemic is hahaha we shall see?
We are doing a live stream concert on July 20th! Keep an eye on our page for more details soon!
Any final comments or thoughts you'd like to share with our readers, the waveriders?
We didn’t talk much about this whole pandemic and everything the world as a whole has been going through but I wanted to say that of course most of us will be okay but in the meantime be good human beings and do the right thing. None of us have ever lived through something like this and even worse at a time when much of our world is led by such terrible scum. And on the flip side of that, some of us if not many of us are stuck at home out of work and out of touch with society, our lives, loved ones, friends, bands etc… but just think. You might not have this much time to yourself ever again. Maybe if you get to retire before you die. So use it. So something with it. Do something for you or for a love done, create, write, learn. Run for office! Start helping the needy, open a kitchen, make a book drop. Find your passion! Whether we know it or not we are all healing right now. And many of us are probably in shock and/or denial. Don’t fear or worry. Use this time to make a better life for yourself. We have time to figure shit out. Who we are. What we want. Fuck the rules. Fuck the boundaries. Don't take no for an answer. All we have is this life and it goes way too fast and could literally be over for any of us at any time.