We are very excited to offer Blow The Scene readers an in-depth interview with Sweden’s groundbreaking practitioners of d-beat-infused crust punk- the mighty Wolfbrigade. Having formed in 1995 under the original name of “Wolfpack” before updating years later, Wolfbrigade helped usher in a new generation and interpretation of punk music in Europe and the US.
By combining elements of punk, d-beat, death metal, and hardcore, Wolfbrigade has climbed the ranks and is widely recognized as one of the most important bands in the corpus of extreme music. The band’s influence stretches across many niches and it’s not uncommon to see leading death metal, crust, and punk bands site Wolfbrigade as a primary influence.
For those of you just tuning into this exciting niche genre- The term “crust punk” is a branch of punk rock that fuses fundamental punk structures and energy with the more technical elements of metal, including poly-rhythmic drumming and song sequencing. This is generally accomplished without abandoning many of the core rudiments and intensity of the parent genre. Few bands pull this off as well Sweden’s Wolfbrigade, who execute with precision and intensity that still has a strong sense of urgency both in sound and lyrics. This approach influenced such bands as Tragedy and From Ashes Rise among scores of others in the US and Europe during the 90s and the impact is still widely felt today.
With over a dozen releases on various labels throughout the world, Wolfbrigade recently announced signing to Southern Lord Recordings who is slated to release their next three LPs beginning with the release of Damned in the coming months.
We recently caught up with Wolfbrigade drummer Dadde, who was kind enough to sit for a massive, in-depth interview discussing the band’s history and brings us all the way up to speed on the band’s forthcoming album. Dadde discusses recording techniques, lyrical influences, tour experiences, daily life in Sweden, 2012 plans for Wolfbrigade and a lot more. Strap in and hold on tight for the definitive Wolfbrigade interview as we count down to the release of Damned.
Joshua BTS: Greetings. Thank you for taking time with Blow The Scene readers from around the world today. Let’s begin by having you introduce yourselves and declare your weapons of choice with Sweden’s d-beat and crust punk mainstays, Wolfbrigade.
Dadde: Well, we are 5 punk metal heads that have been parts of the metal and punk scene for more than half our lives. The band was formed in 1995 as Wolfpack, by Jocke, Erik, Marcus, Frank and Jonsson. Over the years we have made a few records, played a few gigs and changed a few members as well as the name. The first couple of albums A New Dawn Fades and Lycanthro Punk are what people consider classics today among the genre, but was just a lucky coincidence… Jonsson got sacked in 1998, enter Micke and the album Allday Hell.
Change of name at the turn of the century to Wolfbrigade, and the album Progression / Regression. Frank quits the band in 2002 and Dadde join the ranks. The album In Darkness You Feel No Regrets is made, as well as the mini LP A D-beat Odyssey before the band goes into hiatus in 2004, and transform into the Poison Idea influenced band Today’s Overdose for a few years with Johan on bass instead of Marcus who just wasn’t interested in music anymore. In 2006 the band secretly starts planning our return as Wolfbrigade with Johan on bass. The album Prey to the World is released in 2007 and a year after that Comalive is unleashed. In 2012 the new album Damned will be out, after a year in the making.
So to make things clear, we are: Jocke and Erik – Guitars, Micke- Vocals, Dadde- drums and Johan on Bass.
Joshua BTS: You recently signed a 3 album deal with Southern Lord Recordings. What brought about the decision to go with this particular label? I would imagine a band of your stature would have no shortage of labels looking to add you to the roster.
Dadde: Well, we have been a fan of the label for a long time and knew that Greg was into crustpunk and hardcore. Since we were looking for a label that we thought would make our records more accessible, while it still was important for us that they had an understanding for our goals and keeping it independent and somewhat DIY – there you have it. Southern Lord is perfect. Greg has been nothing but great to work with so far and it feels good that he wants to work with us and our old European label La Familia Releases on this record.
Joshua BTS: You recently wrapped up recording sessions for your Southern Lord debut, Damned, at renowned Gothenburg-based Studio Fredman by Frederik Nordstrom (At The Gates, Amon Amarth, Opeth). Can you give us the rundown on the recording experience and build up to the actual sessions? How long have you been compiling new material?
Dadde: Well, we started working on new songs in the end of last year. Jocke started gearing up some studio equipment, with the thought of starting a small home recording studio in his basement. We named it the “Wolf’s Den” and we tried to meet up there once a week or more to go over ideas and record them. From earlier experiences we know that something that might sound good (or bad) in the practice place doesn’t need to sound good when it’s recorded, so we decided to make this album like one long pre-production. So once we were happy with how the songs sounded recorded, we went to our real practice space to learn to play them together as a band, and made some tweaking to the arrangements. We worked hard to make the riffs and the guitar-work stand out, as well as working a lot to make interesting vocal arrangements.
We have a formula, how a WB song is written – but it needs to be refined with every new record. I like Comalive, but if I listen to it today, it has some parts I skip and it’s feels a bit too long. We wanted this record to feel different, yet familiar. And instead of playing live we decided it was better to just concentrate on writing this album and then record it with Fredrik at Fredman. And then start playing live again with a new record in our hands. It feels like a good decision. Now after much arguments of arrangements, songs, riffs, etc we have a record we are DAMN proud of. And it was so much fun working with Fredrik again, and Henrik Udd is such a professional as well. Fredrik insisted that we should record live and it was a good idea, it brought a whole new energy level to the recording. He mocked us every time he thought it sounded too metal. “Is that really punk? You’re not a punk band!”
Joshua BTS: Did you test out any new recording techniques or tinker with any new equipment for Damned? Any pieces of equipment that you feel are pivotal in capturing the band’s overall sound – mics, cabs, gits, drums, etc?
Dadde: Well, most of it was Fredrik’s magic fingers with the help of Henrik Udd. We brought our own guitar heads and drums and instruments, but other than that- it was just the Fredman crew creating the sound to our vision of a heavy, energetic and pissed of dirty metal punk album with the Wolfbrigade signature. I think the fact that we recorded “live” makes a big difference.
Joshua BTS: Who did the artwork for Damned?
Dadde: It’s a friend of mine who I used to work with, this tattoo artist called Fabbe, of legendary Circle Tattoo. He also does allot of digital paintings and we wanted something nasty looking with a clean militant steel look without getting too much of a 90’s airbursh feeling. I think it worked. The rest of the layout was put together by Aaron at Southern Lord together with our layout freak Johan.
Joshua BTS: As noted in our last Wolfbrigade feature, “In 2008, the band saw a major setback weeks before they were to embark on a massive US tour which was to be accompanied by the release of the band’s latest work Comalive. With the collapse of their record label Profane Existence Records, Wolfbrigade not only lost all financing for the tour, but also had to push the release of Comalive to the back burner. Tour was canceled and the fate of Comalive remained uncertain.” Can you tell us how you were able to overcome such a major setback?
Dadde: Well, it’s not the first time we’ve had to cancel a US tour due to a setback (Micke got a cyst on his vocal cords 2 weeks before the one we planned in 2004), but to tell you the truth it was rough. There was so much planing before that and the future looked bright. And it was perfect timing, we actually COULD do it, everything worked with our jobs etc. To be honest it kind of took the air out of us so I don’t ever know if we will be able to plan a full US tour again, but if we do, we better make it happen and worth all the hard work. We were lucky to find another label in North America to release Comalive and we had a great gig at 2010’s MARYLAND DEATHFEST, but after the Euro tours of 2008-2009 and MDF we felt it was time to take some time off and actually just concentrate on writing a new record, that can make it fun to play again. And so we did.
Joshua BTS: Wolfbrigade have been going strong since your inception in Sweden in 1995. With a dozen releases on various labels over the past 15 years, you have made an immeasurable impact on modern d-beat, punk, hardcore, and even death metal bands. You have not only brought the crusty d-beat sound to thousands upon thousands of new fans throughout the globe, but have helped define the genre by influencing such bands as Tragedy, Victims, Rise and Fall, Trap Them and countless others. When you originally formed the band could you foresee such a far reaching impact on punk music as a whole?
Dadde: There has never been any intentions to change anything, Since we liked both punk and death metal we just took what we like and tried to do something original. Erik, Jocke and old drummer Frank were in a death metal band, Obscure Infinity (as well as several punkbands before that as well) before and during the first couple of months of Wolfpack, so the metal influences came pretty natural, but the idea was to form a heavy punk band so the main influence was of course Swedish hardcore, like Anti Cimex etc, but also more melodic swedish punk such as Asta kask, Strebers and Puke, and then we added parts of american hardcore and crossover such as DRI, Circle Jerks, Poison Idea and death metal like Entombed, Napalm Death, early At the Gates and a healthy dose of Motorhead. Over the years we have brought in other influences, none of us are narrow-minded when it comes to music.
Joshua BTS: Your last release under the name “Wolfpack” came in 1999 with the Allday Hell L.P. Can you describe the circumstances that influenced the name change and how do you feel your fans reacted to the new name and subsequent releases?
Dadde: During that period there was a wave in the Swedish media concerning the right-wing prison brotherhood “Wolfpack.” We didn’t feel we wanted to be connected with them in anyway so we changed the name. We were also having a period when we wanted to evolve musically and lyrically. We were struggling with that up to our hiatus in 2004, but when we got started again in 2007, we had a completely different focus and knew what we wanted to do again. I think the fans have noticed that as well, since the two last records have been more appreciated than the others we did after Allday Hell ( apart from In Darkness You Feel No Regrets which has become a modern classic in many eyes). I think it’s more obvious today that Wolfpack and Wolfbrigade is the same band, there was some confusion around that for a few years.
Joshua BTS: 15+ Years is a solid run for any band of any genre. What do feel are some of the factors that have allowed Wolfbrigade to outlive many of your contemporaries? Do you still feel a sense of urgency when writing new material?
Dadde: Yes we do. Playing live is fun, but we really enjoy hanging out in the “Wolf’s Den” writing songs, arguing, and the whole process of being in a studio and hear how the songs are evolving. I don’t think we have ever been so focused as when writing Damned. Don’t know why we have had such a long run, maybe because Erik, Jocke and Micke has known eachother since they were kids and we have the same kind of humour. We appreciate each other as friends more than musicians in the end I think.
Joshua BTS: You have an interesting perspective on the punk scene, residing in Sweden and having toured many countries throughout the globe since the mid-90s. Can you tell us how the Swedish Punk and Hardcore Scene compare its American counterparts? Do your crowds react differently to your live presence depending on region of the world?
Dadde: It’s quite different from place to place. The American kids are always up to rocking out, lots of stage-dives and mosh pits and circle pits. Europe in general is good to, Germany especially. Sweden is kind of stiff sometimes, but I think it has to do with the fact that we have so many good bands, and allot of people play in bands themselves. It’s more like they nod their head and keep the beat with their foot, and occasionally sing along… But it’s very easy to be in Wolfbrigade today. It’s very rare that we play in front of an crowd that doesn’t know our songs and so on. It was a different story in the beginning. We have done tours when the average number of people in the audience was 8-10 people. But I think that was mainly because we worked with metal promoters that didn’t know what to do with us and booked the wrong kind of venues, instead of doing things in a more punk way. It’s a luxurious situation we have now, today we can play both DIY punk gigs and draw big crowds, and play big metal fests as well. We have reached a level where we are quite happy. We could be bigger than we are today, but that would demand more touring and we can’t really do that today due to Micke’s problems with his vocal cords and job obligations back home here in Sweden. So we are very happy with what we have going today. We can choose what we want to do and have a lot of fun when we are out playing.
Joshua BTS: Crust punk and d-beat have become synonymous with political commentary in the lyrics- I would assume you undoubtedly hold some strong political beliefs. Are there any current situations or grassroots movements that currently have your attention? Anything that you feel more people should be paying attention to?
Dadde: When it comes to lyrics, It’s an outlet for a lot of emotions. Be it frustration in personal issues or the world, politics in general. Or just trying to put words on a feeling. Many people say we draw a pretty bleak picture of life, but I like to think we just try to write a soundtrack to go with emotions. Musically, our agenda is to deliver as honest music as we can under the banner of Wolfbrigade, and we try to refine our sound with every new song we make, and keep the legacy that we have created alive. Try to top ourselves every time. And that goes with the lyrics as well. A lot of the times it’s more like poetry but there are always some kind of message as well, mainly about the fucked up world we live in. I feel I don’t want to write too obvious lyrics myself, but if there are subjects I am upset about in this world, then it’s poverty, war, politics, and the lack of equality. What we do to our earth, it’s people and animals living here, for money is disgusting. Other subjects we touch on Damned is alienation, struggle for a more decent life, the future, our inner demons etc.
Joshua BTS: Recently in Aceh, Indonesia, The Deputy Mayor has been ordering police to brutally arrest and detain anyone who fits the stereotypical “punk” description (http://goo.gl/cwdRO). A reminder that being punk it not such a luxury in all parts of the world. What is your take on the 65 detainees that were held and “re-educated”? What do you see as the role of the worldwide punk community in global politics in general?
Dadde: That whole situation is so fucked up. I read about it and it got me so frustrated. I had a hard time being a young punk, but I never got arrested. I got kicked out of my house for a short while, but nothing compared to this. At the same time a friend of mine who play in the hardcore band HÅRDA TIDER was touring Indonesia and at one of their gigs, the Cops showed up and demanded bribes to let the gig continue. Not sure if Allah would allow that kind of behaviour more than funny haircuts and noisy music and people trying to be free.
Dadde: Well, we all live pretty different lives. Micke work with taking care of mentally challenged old people, Jocke work with disabled people, Johan works at a kindergarden co-operative, Erik works with setting up security bars, I (Dadde) co-run and am a tattoo apprentice at Carnival Tattoo. Our hobby is our band, other music, punk, gigs, our families, working out, party etc. I think we live pretty normal lives for punks that have grown older, and a bit more comfy. Life is not a riot 24/7 anymore, but we are aware of what we are and are not trying to fool ourselves or anyone else and we do care about things.
Joshua BTS: Wolfbrigade is an integral part of the world-wide punk community. Any new bands that you find exciting and have you interest right now?
Dadde: Of the top of my head, INFERNÖH is a great hardcore band sounding a lot like Anti Cimex mixed with Totalitär. Great band from Fy Fan and Skitkids people. THE BABOON SHOW, is a great political punkrock band, one of Sweden’s best kept secrets. Other good bands that perhaps haven’t been getting so much attention outside of Sweden is BEAST!, BOMBUS, SWARM, ABJEKT…
Joshua BTS: How is 2012 shaping up for Wolfbrigade? Any tour plans in the works?
Dadde: Yeah, it’s gonna be quite busy, with gigs all over Europe and some gigs in America. Hopefully this year on next year will see us visit more American cities, Japan and South America. But we will see.
Joshua BTS: Thank you for taking time with Blow The Scene today as we look forward to keeping up with your future endeavors. Final thoughts?
Dadde: Thank you! Keep up the good work! And hope to see you all when Damned has arrived. Cheers -WOLFBRIGADE
For more info visit Wolfbrigade on Facebook.
Wolfbrigade – “Barren Dreams” From the album Comalive 2009. Shots from the Comalive European Tour.
[youtube width=”420″ height=”315″]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXDs08bEDAM[/youtube]