Albums such as 2013's – Mind Traveler and their latest album – Oblivion Cycle – have won praise within the Doom/Stoner Metal community with fans and critics alike. I was asked to interview Blackwülf and Pete has kindly agreed to the excellent and in-depth interview below. So let's get started.
Hi Pete. How are things with you today? Thanks for doing this interview.
Hi Steve, thanks for having me today, glad to be here with Outlaws of the Sun.
For people not in the know, Can you tell people how the band got together and where it is today.
Blackwülf formed in 2012, essentially out of pure boredom. I wasn't playing in any bands at the time after a long string of various bands and previous projects, and got antsy for something to do. I began writing a bunch of the tunes in my basement that eventually became parts of our first LP, "Mind Traveler". Alex and Dave were in a band together at that time and I pitched the band to them as a side project, as we were longtime friends...drummer Dave and I have been playing together in bands off and on since the late '80s.
Anyway, we gave it a go, and Blackwülf was up and rolling. We were having a good time at rehearsals, drinking and carrying on and all, the tunes were sounding good, and Alex brought Scott in on bass. We never looked back from then on out. I can distinctly remember us consciously deciding that we were going to create music entirely for our own satisfaction, stuff that was 100% honest and true for us, to primarily record on vinyl, and to simply just try and make good records. That was it. Fast forward to today, and we are now currently promoting and touring our second LP "Oblivion Cycle" on Ripple Music.
How would you describe your music?
I would describe our music as bluesy, riff-based classic heavy metal. Like a big greasy plate of meat and potatoes smothered in a thick fatty gravy, we are essentially an unapologetic guilty pleasure.
We got involved with Borderland through Wayne Ruddell of Fuzz Evil, who is putting the festival together. I really look forward to meeting him there; his band is cool and he is putting a tremendous amount of creativity and energy into the present stoner rock scene. We're signed to Ripple Music, one of the events sponsors, so the fit for us there at the Fuzz Fiesta was natural.
What can people expect from your set at Borderland Fuzz Fiesta?
People can expect a Blackwülf set to be heavy, loud, and aggressive as hell, but always fun. That is the bottom line...most people want to come out, leave their troubles behind, and just rock the fuck out and have a good time. We are here to assist with that. That's what we do.
Will you be performing any warm-up gigs before the festival?
No gig for us is really ever considered a "warm up"; the people and the music always deserve more than that. No phoning it in. We are generally shooting with live ammo all the time, even at rehearsals. We'll be in Los Angeles at the Silverlake Lounge on Friday February 26 on the way over to Tucson with the outstanding Lords of Beacon House and a great band that I can't wait to check out from San Diego, Red Wizard.
You've just released your excellent new album – Oblivion Cycle – last month. It's getting a great reception. Are you pleased with the responses it's had so far. Fantastic record.
Thank you very much, glad you dig the album. We have been very pleased with the response that "Oblivion Cycle" has received so far. We are always stoked when someone tells us that they picked it up and are really into it; it's gratifying for us to be able to connect like that, to find kindred metal spirits along the way and take them to another place with the music. We recently got an encouraging email from Geof O'Keefe from Pentagram and Bedemon letting us know that he dug it...just so rad to hear from a guy like that we respect so much. It's been encouraging that most of the reviews have been very positive as well, with most writers and bloggers "getting" the album. We had fun making it, and are glad people like it.
Can you tell people what can they expect from the album.
An English critic recently said that we had written "the soundtrack to the Apocalypse". I think that's a fair description of some of what's happening on "Oblivion Cycle". And while the album is filled with sceptical lyrical rants against social corruption such as the hypocritical aspects of organized religion, failed political leaders, environmental disharmony, etc, "Oblivion Cycle" is ultimately a fantasy. It's like an old science fiction film: pulpy and imperfect, filled with dying planets, a few buxom space alien chicks, a bunch of laser battles and some awkward dialog. Hopefully at the end of it, you take a break for a beer and some chips and then flip the album over and give it a spin it again.
Did you do anything differently recording Oblivion Cycle compared to your last record – Mind Traveler.
The primary difference between our first album, "Mind Traveler" and "Oblivion Cycle" is that we bright significantly more intention to "Oblivion Cycle", approaching it more holistically as an album versus a collection of songs. We were really just finding ourselves on "Mind Traveler"; it came out good, but he wanted to stretch a little more this next time out. Both records were recorded in South San Francisco at Trakworx with Justin Weiss, who is brilliant for us to work with; he's worked on some Orchid stuff, a lot of SF area heavy metal. The process was basics live tracked onto 2" analog tape, old school style, and then overdubs done in Pro Tools. I do think more junk food and beer was consumed in the making of "Oblivion Cycle" though. Always a good sign.
We connected with Ripple the old fashioned way: we sent em our record. Their office is in our backyard here in the East Bay, and so we invited them out to a show or two. From right off, we connected with Todd and Pope and their crew. Besides a deep love for heavy music, Todd and I share a passion for fantasy art and comics. The fit was perfect for us, and more than anything else, they were fans of the band right off, believed in us, and supported what we were doing. I am really just stoked to have those guys as friends as well as our current label. Ripple really walks the walk, does what they say they're going to do, and are super passionate about the music. Really solid dudes
How hard is it being a band in today's world? What are the most difficult aspects in being in a band?
Things haven't changed that much for us about being in a band these days; we have been down these roads before, and have really always done it simply for the music. Certainly not for the money...! And that can be a challenge. While the Internet has dismantled the bloated old major labels in rock and made it easier for bands to get their music out there, everyone seems to be a lot tighter about paying artists these days.
People generally tend to expect music to be free. It can be a bummer dealing with some promoters who expect you to play for nothing. Shit: it costs bands money just to show up. It's not really that big a deal until you really encounter the hypocrisy of it all when they walk away with pile of dough for themselves and the bands get nothing. It's not really about the cash either; it's just the bummer of the ripoff and the lack of respect for the players and the music itself. Same as it's always been.
Oh well. Not everyone is like that of course, and the challenge then becomes in finding the people that are righteous and fair to work with, where everyone comes away feeling like the crowd did: stoked and happy with a great night of live music.
What inspired you to become a musician? Any particular album, band or life-changing event that told you – Yeah, that's what I want to do....
I think the original MCA album of the Who's "Live at Leeds" and the midnight movie "The Kids are Alright" really helped to push me into being in a band. I started out playing in the late 1970s when punk rock was just hitting...that whole DIY ethic was out there: the Ramones were saying "grab a guitar, anyone can do it!" and simultaneously Pete Townshend was smashing guitars to bits. As you can imagine, a zitty bored teenager in Phoenix like me at that time was an easy target...
What is the song-writing dynamic in the band? Is it a group collective or down to one individual?
Our writing process is pretty simple. I come up with the riffs and Alex writes the lyrics. Dave will find a drum part and Scott throws down the bass line. Dave and Scott are a killer rhythm section that are double threats because they are song guys, team players who always play for the best of the song itself. They listen. Alex creates the vocal melodies and we all arrange as a group. It's usually really painless as those guys are just good dudes with good ears.
OK… if you had the chance to put on a festival, which bands would you put on. It can be any bands from any era of music.
Support would be Heaven and Hell era Black Sabbath, Dio era Rainbow, early era King Crimson, Deep Purple (mark 3), Fastway, and Thin Lizzy. JS Bach would do a harpsichord interlude with Randy Rhodes. Django Rheinhardt would host an acoustic stage with JJ Cale and Muddy Waters. Albert King would jam with Robin Trower. Richard Pryor would be the MC. Day 2 would be more of a punk thing with The Sex Pistols, Bad Brains, The Clash, The Jam, The Ramones, Black Flag, X, Motörhead, and The Stooges. Free beer and no cover charge for ladies in tube/tank tops and cut offs, all weekend long!
Before you go, do you have anything to say to your fans?
Thanks for your support! We are especially looking forward to seeing all of our Tucson people come out for our set on Saturday February 27 at the Borderlands Fuzz Fiesta because both Dave and I are actually from Tucson originally. We spent a ton of time down there in the Old Pueblo, hold it near and dear, and want to get some good rocking time in while we are there with y'all this time through! \m/!
Words by Steve Howe and Pete Holmes
Thanks to Wayne Rudell for arranging this interview and for Pete Holmes for taking the time out to talking to me.
Borderland Fuzz Festival Links
Early Bird Two Day Pass: BFFEarlybird.brownpapertickets.com
Dead Meadow Single Day: BFFDeadmeadow.brownpapertickets.com
Elder Single Day: BFFElder.brownpapertickets.com