The Second Coming
Australian hardrockers Wolfmother return with a new line-up and their second album. Frontman Andrew Stockdale talks about Cosmic Egg, working with Slash and the evolution of their sound
Restoring the distinctive scowl of Sixties hard rock, Wolfmother nailed international success with their eponymous debut in 2005. Spearheaded by enticers like ‘Woman’ – which won it a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance – and ‘Dimension,’ the debut announced the Australian band’s arrival on the rock scene with stately aplomb. Flattered by various nominations and awards, playing reputed festivals like SXSW, Lollapalooza and Download, being invited by Led Zeppelin as guests when they were being inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – Wolfmother’s blistering soundscape, reflective of influences in the likes of Zeppelin, Uriah Heep, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, found its feet on the world stage.
However, in spite of the immense success, the original trio failed to stick together due to “irreconcilable personal differences” – 2008 was witness to the fallout between frontman Andrew Stockdale and band members Chris Ross and Myles Heskett. This also delayed the release of the band’s much-anticipated second album. Now, Wolfmother resurfaces with a new line-up featuring Stockdale, bassist/keyboardist Ian Peres, guitarist Aidan Nemeth and drummer Dave Atkins. The band’s second album, Cosmic Egg, scheduled for release this October, retains the energy and drive of the Wolfmother we’ve known but this time round Stockdale cranks up the heat, ramming in double the rage suggesting a “heavier” and more “in your face” record. On tour, Stockdale speaks to us from Sweden, about the new line-up, the new album and writing a song for Slash’s upcoming album.
Wolfmother was riding the success wave around the time that Chris Ross and Myles Heskett chose to walk out of the band. What went wrong, according to you?
Halfway through Wolfmother, they started working on their own project and I think they were more interested in that, than in Wolfmother. They kind of wanted to exclude me from that.
Besides that, were there any ego issues as you were the frontman? Or were there just musical differences as Heskett and Ross suggested?
I think it was all of the above [laughs].
You worked up the new line-up quite soon. Also the new guys seem to completely understand your sound. When listening to some of your new tracks like ‘Back Round’ and ‘Cosmic Egg,’ it seems like nothing’s changed. How did things fall in place so quickly?
Well, Dave [Atkins] used to help out with production in 2007, so I knew him from before. I had written these new songs, and then I tried to get those songs together with Chris [Ross] and Myles [Heskett], and it didn’t work out. The funny thing is I hadn’t spoken to Dave for like six months and the day that Chris quit – just when he walked out of the studio and said he didn’t want to be in the band – within ten minutes of that, Dave called me and asked me what I was upto. And I was like, man, you wouldn’t believe it… It was like destiny… he was meant to be in the band. Hey, though one thing that would be of interest to you is that our new bass player Ian [Peres] is an Indian. So now Wolfmother has a connection with India. His mother was Miss Goa. He is also from Goa though he was born and brought up in New Zealand. Also our new guitarist Aidan Nemeth has spent a lot of time in India…
More of a reason for you guys to come down to India then…
Yeah, though the promoters say it’s hard to put a show together in India. Maybe you can help us out with that [laughs]…
I read somewhere that your album title, Cosmic Egg, was inspired by a yoga posture which resembled the fetal pose. Do you seriously practice yoga?
Yeah that’s true. The album title is inspired by that posture, though I don’t practise yoga that seriously, I took up yoga for maybe a month and then I practise it every now and then.
Songs like ‘Woman’ and ‘Dimension’ from your debut album immediately caught the attention of audiences and were most instrumental in making Wolfmother popular. In your opinion, which tracks would best define Cosmic Egg?
I think those would be ‘Cosmic Egg,’ ‘New Moon Rising,’ ‘White Feather’ and ‘Far Away.’
With this album what direction have you taken with your sound? And how does it compare with your debut album?
Within Wolfmother, you can have really delicate songs that travel to fifteen different places and take you to some place completely different. And then you can have these really direct songs that tread the very linear rock route. That’s where I take every element from the first record, to explore the possibilities of where that could go. I guess that’s what I learnt; I learnt few things from the first record on songwriting, so I just used what I learned to evolve.
How would you describe this piece of work?
What you hear on this one is like fire; you hear passion and you hear a band playing for their lives. There is this energy which has been bottled and poured into this record.
Wolfmother has been goaded with positive reviews but there have been some critics who emphasise upon the derivative quality of your music referencing the likes of Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, sometimes in a very negative vein. How do you respond to such critics?
You know, I look at it as we are all part of the same family tree. We are in that genre of music, like we are distant cousins. We are related but we are unique. So I see it as a good thing.
As a lyricist what are your inspirations on this one like? Any songs which are very close to you in the lyrical sense?
The inspiration for a lot of my songs comes from life experiences and what I learn along the way. There are some songs which are special to me in that respect. For instance this line from ‘In the Morning’ – “Just like a stone/Which needs to be thrown/Just to make itself known” – that kind of felt like you don’t know if anything is going to work unless you try, and let that effort speak for itself. In ‘Cosmic Egg,’ there are lines which go “The gift she gave/Was given to be given away.” It’s based on the idea of possessing a gift. Like if you’re an artist, if you’re a beautiful woman or anyone with a special gift, part of having that gift is to share it. And lots of artists are tortured over it. You can try to protect it, you can try to destroy it, you can test it and see if you really do have a gift and you can work with it. It’s about having something special and your relationship with that I think that is a really interesting idea.
You collaborated with Slash recently. What was that like?
I wrote a song with Slash for his upcoming album. There is a really interesting incident I have to tell about my first visit to Slash’s studio. I pulled up in my car in front of the garage, and the garage door started sliding open and that very moment on the radio, it literally went “Knock knock knocking on heaven’s door” and I was like, holy shit! I went in and told him, ‘Man, you wouldn’t believe it. The moment I pulled up in front of your garage and as the doors opened, ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’ came on the radio.’ It was insane!
How was it working with him?
I felt like we were like two characters in the wild wild West, like we’re going to go out and save the village [laughs]. Then he had like his stuff and I had mine, like he was good with knives and I was good with some other weapon and we just went out there and conquered the place, just like two Compadres. The track is called ‘By the Sword.’ It’s the whole idea of living and dying by the sword. My interpretation of it was that you do what you’re going to do regardless of whether it’s going to work out or not. You just do it. You put your heart into it. The whole idea of living by the sword, not in an aggressive way…
So what tours do you have lined up for this year?
The two big tours coming up for later this year would be supporting the Killers and AC/DC. This would bring us back to Europe in October and America as well.
So Asia doesn’t figure on your tour map?
We really want to put India on it. We’d love to come down.