The trio known as Wolfmother is one of the most exciting and unique rock groups to emerge from Australia in recent years. Their music, while entirely fresh and original, recalls such pioneering '70s-era bands as Black Sabbath, Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. Wolfmother's spectacular live shows and retro sound have already won them a devoted following in their native Australia. U.S. audiences now have chance to enjoy this incredible band with the release of a new EP, Dimensions, on January 31, 2006, followed by the group's debut full-length Wolfmother in May and a U.S. tour in support of the two releases.
Wolfmother's bassist Chris Ross recently spoke with Ticketmaster about the band's history, the new EP and full-length album, and one of the group's favorite pastimes—pinball.
Ticketmaster: There's a nice jam-band quality to the music on your full-length album. Why did you choose to keep a looser, live feel to the recorded songs? Chris Ross: That's a key element for us. I think that's how we did the EP, and that's pretty much what we wanted to do (with the album). Then (producer) Dave Sardy heard it as well, and he realized these guys are a jamming kind of band and he wanted to keep that vibe in there. So we were always about making is as live sounding as possible and as big as possible.
TM: Do you enjoy performing live more than recording in the studio? CR: We really like both, which is cool. We love playing live. That was the thing with the EP as well. People would come and see the show and go, "Oh my God, it sounds so much bigger live." So for the album we had to make it sound as big as we sound live, which we didn't manage to do with the EP. We're quite comfortable working in the studio and playing on the stage. So we're both. We'll do anything.
TM: Tell me how the band got together. Were you all friends before the band formed? CR: No, we weren't. We met through friends of friends. We should have called our band "Friends of Friends." I met Myles our drummer, who lived with a guy who collected synthesizers...who my girlfriend introduced me to. Myles and I were playing together for a little while. Then we moved into a house together, and we had a jam room. We used to have a lot of parties and Andrew came to a party, because he was a friend of a friend that came to a party, and that was about it. Then we had like three or four years of just hanging out and jamming and trying to avoid doing work. And drinking lots of coffee and just jamming. And then eventually we decided to do a show. Actually, Andrew and Myles decided to do a show. I was never really interested in playing a live show, which is very bizarre now that I think about it, because once we actually did it, I loved it. I loved being put on the spot. You got to do it right here and now or that's it—no one's going to like it. I really enjoyed playing music with them and I didn't realize how exciting it would be to put it in front of an audience. So once we kind of did that I was fully addicted and we all started working on doing more shows.
TM: The album art for Wolfmother was done by Frank Frazetta (a respected science fiction and fantasy illustrator). What made you choose his artwork for your album cover? CR: I remember in high school I had a friend who loved his stuff. I was never really a big fan, but I had always been exposed to it. Then we were in the studio, talking about what we were going to do for the artwork and Sardy said, "Have you seen Frank Frazetta's stuff?" And I said, "Oh, I remember that. I had this friend in high school who really liked him." We couldn't really visualize any pieces. So Myles and I went to a bookshop and I pulled out a book. As soon as I started flipping through it, I was like, "My God, this is perfect." And I showed it to Myles, and he was like, "Oh my God, this is perfect." And then we showed it to Andrew and it was the same reaction. And everyone who knew us and the music...was like, "Yeah, that's perfect." So that's kind of how it happened.
TM: Some of your influences include rock bands such as Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath and AC/DC. You've also cited influences that may not be as apparent: Boards of Canada (experimental electronica), Bob Marley (reggae) and Jon Spencer (indie rock). How do you feel those bands have influenced your own music? CR: That's something that a lot of people don't realize...we do have a lot of contemporary influences as well. People kind of make the obvious associations...Andrew listens to a lot of folk, Devendra Banhart and things like that. A lot of lyrical, melodic, inspirational stuff. And I listen to a lot of electronic (music)...I like really solid bass lines with a kind of groove that you can dance to as well. And Myles listens to a lot of Boards of Canada and Warp Records stuff and abstract hip-hop...I can see how different elements bring something. We all bring something different. You know, Myles has a very organic style on the drums. It's not something very straight up. There are just little tinges of something different, but I think that it all comes together. It all adds up. It's not very apparent at first, but I think once you realize that, it kind of makes sense.
TM: You've won tremendous praise from fans and the press. Many have proclaimed Wolfmother Australia's best new rock band. What do you make of the band's success? CR: It's just great. It was nearly two years ago that we had our first show. It was just the three of us in a room playing this music, going, "Wow, I really love this." All three of us really loved it and we were kind of thinking, "Is anyone else going to like it?" But we liked it so much we didn't really care...No one else was really doing anything like that, especially not in Sydney. So we really didn't know how it was going to do down. And we were on the bill with some glam metal band, which was really cool, because they really loved us. Everyone said that the three of us were like rabbits in the headlights. We were so used to playing these songs. A song would finish and we'd go, "Yeah, I think we should change that song to a G." But instead we had this whole audience going, "Yeah!" And we were like, "Far out!" It's positive. It's cool. It just encourages us to keep doing what we're doing, which we would probably do anyway, but I guess with more intensity.
TM: I hear the band loves to play pinball. How did your pinball obsession begin? CR: Oh, this is good question. You directed this at the right person, because I love pinball. I remember as a kid going on family holidays down the coast and I remember my brother used to like pinball. I liked my brother and I wanted to be like him, so I wanted to play pinball. I remember he used to listen to The Who and the song "Pinball Wizard" and stuff. I kind of was idolizing my brother and all The Who music. So that's where it really came from for me. And I love it. I just feel an affinity with the machine.