Wolfmother Interview : Evolution of the Beast

 

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Evolution of the Beast...

 

In an extract from the June Issue, Wolfmother bass-man Ian Peres opens up on the evolution of one of Australia's hottest live acts, jamming with Angus Young and Slash, and devil-horned fans....


In 2008 rumours began to emerge of cracks in the fabric of multi-award-winning Aussie outfit Wolfmother, hardly surprising given the suffocating external pressure from the media and a legion of insatiable fans, and shortly after their appearance at Splendour in the Grass that year, the rumours were confirmed and the band’s management announced a split, resulting in the departure of original band-members Chris Ross and Myles Heskett. Shortly afterwards, prodigiously talented frontman, lead guitarist and songwriter Andrew Stockdale announced that Wolfmother would continue on under his own direction, and within a few short months the band was reborn with a new, expanded lineup featuring an additional guitarist. Following the release of their second album “Cosmic Egg”, the band has been frantic, touring Europe, the USA and Australia, and supporting AC/DC’s “Black Ice” tour, maintaining their trademark supercharged live performances and boasting a broader, more layered sound. We caught up with bassplayer Ian Peres to find out how things are rolling for Wolfmother Mach II, and how the beast has evolved…

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2009 saw a new beginning for Wolfmother and yourself… can you sum up what the rebirth of Wolfmother has meant to the band, and to Ian Peres?

It was definitely a new beginning…. how would I sum it up? A rebirth, a new opportunity, a chance to see the light of day again from the band’s perspective. And for me? It’s meant my first year as a fulltime professional musician and the chance to take my music to the next level, so it’s been an exciting period for us all.

 

How has the new line-up gelled together?

It’s been a bit of a journey. I think it’s happened pretty quickly, in the relevant scheme of things. We pretty much came together early in 2009, had a brief period getting to know each other, and just went straight on from there. At this stage I think we're fairly well gelled. I think it started out a little bit rough but that’s what happens you assemble a bunch of guys who have never met each other before, so there was some gelling and ironing out to do but I think we knitted together as a group fairly quickly at the start of 2009, and since then we’ve become progressively tighter as a band.

 

 You played a gig together as the newly reborn line-up in Sydney in early 2009 under the alias “White Feather”, how did that work out?

We had about a month to rehearse, so you know, we didn’t spend all THAT much time together before going straight in to the shows. It was fun, but yeah, it involved getting to know each other and bouncing work off each other and building the chemistry so to speak. But I think over time we’ve reached a point where we’re very confident playing as a unit, and how we're sounding as a band.

 

Obviously Andrew is a major creative force within the band, but no doubt the new players including yourself would have contributed to the new album… to what degree is Cosmic Egg a collaborative work?

Well that’s an interesting question, because when we came together Andrew had already written the bulk of the material for Cosmic Egg, including most of the lyrics and chords, but part of the process was developing the songs as a band. So whilst Andrew was obviously a creative force and had his own vision of the sound and structure of the music, as we played together as a band over time each of us would influence the evolution of the songs in our own subtle way, so in a sense we were helping Andrew realise the songs as a group, and I think to that degree we’ve developed our own style as a band.


 
Who would you say your major influences have been?

Personally I love Radiohead and Pink Floyd, I just love that epic soundscapey kind of way they approach their songs, so Id say their style of music has been a major influence on my direction as a keyboardist- what I do in the band is playing the organs, so I like to work the delay pedal and try to incorporate a bit of soundscapey ambience into the overall feel of the songs, so I usually have them at the forefront of my mind when I'm thinking about that sort of thing.

You guys toured with AC/DC this year, how was that experience?

Yeah I was looking forward to it all year actually. It wasn’t until about two minutes before we stepped on-stage for the first of the shows that the enormity of it all sunk in. Id just like to say cheers to the guys for letting us take the ride with them on tour.

What were some of the highlights of the AC/DC tour?

 
I can recall two particular highlights touring with the guys. We had a meeting with the band after a show one night, during which Brian Johnson signed my diary with an actual diary entry. I also have this vivid memory of being onstage and leaning into one of the fans so that it blew the hair out of my face to cool me down, while I was staring out into a sea of 60,000 blinking glowing red devil horns in the darkest of night. I'll take that feeling with me to the grave…

You’re renowned locally for your versatility as a musician, being primarily a bass-player and keyboardist with Wolfmother, but you’re also a talented guitarist. What’s your preferred instrument?

My preferred instrument? That’s an interesting question. I play piano, that’s really my primary instrument. I had lessons on the piano as a kid and practiced classical music and did that whole rapped over the knuckles with a ruler deal (laughs). I feel like that’s the only instrument I really know how to play in-depth because of that kind of grassroots training. But I think with that in mind guitar would probably be my preferred instrument because there’s less of an expectation, so it’s fun to just jam and see what happens and where it rolls.
 
 
Wolfmother has a strong Brisbane flavour, including yourself, Andrew Stockdale and drummer Dave Atkins (formerly of Resin Dogs). Did you guys know each other prior to Wolfmother’s restructuring?  And how did you meet Andrew?

Well I met them both on the same day. Dave and I have a mutual friend that I used to play covers gigs with at the Currumbin Surf Club, who knew Dave through their band Resin Dogs. Dave got together with Andrew in late 2008 and they were doing some stuff and then when Andrew said "I need to find a keyboard player to do this thing," Dave said "oh yeah, I’ve got a mate who talks about this keyboard player he plays with on the Gold Coast, maybe give him a ring?" so I'm guessing Andrew must have gone on a hunch, because neither of them had really heard me at all. But when we met up and jammed together, SOMETHING happened, and its all just unfolded from then on, it’s been a very surreal journey.


The band has developed a name as one of the world’s hottest live acts, how do you get charged up before a gig?

Haha! Well we used to slam a quick shotty of vodka before we hit the stage, that usually gets the juices flowing. Maybe a group hug, haha.  But yeah, we're usually pretty amped up just before we hit the stage

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A group hug, huh?

No I didn’t say that... (laughs) I think the wildest show that I’ve been involved in would've been in Austin, Texas. I mean the Texas crowds go pretty nuts.  We did a show there for two and a half thousand people and that’s the first time I’ve had to put my hands to my ears because the crowd was going absolutely ballistic, they were louder than us! You know, we have amps on our side, so for them to be louder than us is a pretty good effort! And after that there was a lot of interacting with various people and drinking of beer, and I don’t remember much after that, so it had to have been pretty wild… (laughs)

Most memorable moment?

That would have to have been in Sunnyvale, California. We got invited by Neil Young to play at his charity benefit gig that he puts on every year for a place called The Bridge School and that was the first time I’d been surrounded by a bunch of my favourite artists.  We got invited to Neil’s house for dinner and just to be in his house with a bunch of my favourite artists, it was a very overwhelming moment, you know I had that kind of nausea in my stomach just because it was that overwhelming, but it was kind of comforting to look around and see that everyone else was having the same reaction (laughs) because we were all freaking out that we were in Neil Young's house drinking beers. Beautiful house though! And then the festival itself was just good vibes all around and everyone had a great time.

Your set at The Wiltern in LA last year has become somewhat legendary- at one point you were playing keyboards with one hand and bass with the other. You were also joined onstage by Slash… how was that experience?

Yeah that was the last show of the American tour and I didn’t know Slash would be coming on the stage until that day. We were at sound check practicing and Andrew came in and said 'Oh yeah, I think Slash is going to stop by, we're going to play By The Sword" (Slash’s new single, a collaboration with Stockdale). That was an incredibly surreal moment, I had to pick my jaw up off the floor. So we did the show that night and Slash came out onstage, and- I'm not going to lie, I’ve checked it out on You Tube (laughs), because I really had to see it for myself. It was a pretty crazy night.


Did you hang out with Slash in LA?

Not really, we were just kinda in and out of LA. It was the last show of the tour before we went back home, so we were pretty exhausted and Slash was wiped because he’d just played a gig with Aerosmith guitarist Steve Perry right before he joined us. 
 
 
Wolfmother’s music has been compared to a myriad of other bands including Led Zep and Black Sabbath. Would you agree with that sentiment that the band’s material stands alone as a unique entity amongst the current generation of bands, and breathes new life into the 70’s rock genre, making it more accessible to Gen Y-ers?

I think the music appeals to a pretty wide audience- we see people at shows anywhere between 14 and 65.  We've seen a lot of young rockers and a lot of old rockers, and the young people tell us this is cool- they weren’t really aware of this sort of music before and they get in to it, and the old people are like 'this is good, we love what you're doing, you're bringing this music back, its good to get the young-uns into it again' .. so yeah, I guess I would agree with that sentiment.

 
Does the addition of a second guitarist into Wolfmother Mach 2 bring more diversity and depth to the band's sound?

Absotively posolutely. Aidan is a great guitarist for one thing, but to have him just hammering out those chords, it gives the band a much thicker sound, and creates a lot of room for Andrew to really open up doing the melodies and riffs. Also, if you think about the first album, there were a lot of harmonies that you couldn’t really hear before, but now there is a much thicker, broader sound, so yeah, it gives the Wolfmother sound a turbo-charged boost.


How do you find life on the road?

It’s great, it’s really exciting. There's pretty much never a dull moment. The whole experience is a rollercoaster of emotions, but for the most part it’s quite exhilarating, hopping from state to state, city to city, country to country. Gigs, people, beer, women (laughs)… yeah there's never a dull moment

It’s been said that Andrew likes to keep healthy while he’s on the road- is that a philosophy adopted by the whole band?

I’m sure everyone likes to keep healthy don’t they? But you know, sometimes the spirit is willing but the flesh is… drunk! (laughs) It’s quite easy to get caught up in the lifestyle haha…

Favourite destination?

That’s a tricky question, because you see so many great things that are incomparable because they’re so great in their own right. I love new York, it’s an amazing place to visit let alone live in, which I’d love to do someday. Then there’s Amsterdam, which is (laughs) you know, a different kind of beauty. I don’t think you can compare the two, New York and Amsterdam.


Thanks for chatting to APOLLO, Ian, and good luck with the tour, mate!

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