Blackwülf

Blackwülf are back with their new studio album and Grande Rock got in touch with guitarist Pete Holmes, so as to find out more about the new album and the band’s future plans, among other things...
Blackwülf band pic

Hi Pete and welcome to Grande Rock. First of all, tell us what happened in the band’s camp during these 3 years between your new album “Sinister Sides” and the previous one “Oblivion Cycle”.
 
P: Thanks for the welcome, glad to talk with you people at Grande Rock! Pardon me if I drift off… still a little jet lagged and hung over from our recent Desertfest London experience recently in Camden! What a party that was… just excellent! Actually, I think it was only a 2 year gap between our new record, “Sinister Sides”, and the previous, “Oblivion Cycle”. Feels like a lifetime though: Blackwulf has become significantly more jaded and angry during this time, which is great for the doom, right? Besides stewing in our own vitriol, we have been busy touring and playing shows here on the West Coast; in addition to our recent London shows, we also had the pleasure of rocking in March at the South by Southwest Ripple Music Showcase and the Stoner Jam in Austin, Texas. That was a great party, with great heavy music from all over the world descending on the Valhalla club in downtown Austin.
 
 
What were the changes on your songwriting and production part on the new album? Did you add any new elements to your music as well?
 
P: The primary shift on the new record has been digging deeper into distilling what we really are as a band; we collectively kind of said “damn the torpedos, let’s do this the way we want to” on this one, and just created songs that felt right for us personally. This process included discarding any kind of “genre specific” pressures (like being a “stoner rock band”), and embracing a more classic and personally authentic approach to the project: we just went into the studio and made a record that we thought we’d enjoy listening to. The results for us and others seem to be very positive so far.
 
 
What does the album title “Sinister Sides” declare?
 
P: I think the album asserts our current dispositions and personalities: rather pissed off with things both politically and with the hypocrisy and selfish greed that surrounds us all in both public and private life. The lyrics that Alex created are personal and very direct, and spare no prisoners. The message sits nicely on top of some fat slabs of classic riff metal; the net result is a heavy metal record that will hopefully satisfy anyone with a brain and rock anyone with a soul. As a band, I’d like the album to manifest Blackwulf at its most honest and essential.
 
 
How did the cooperation with Geof O’Keefe (Bedemon, ex-Pentagram) occur? Did he record all the lead guitars on the album or he participated in some tracks only?
 
P: Geof was introduced to Blackwulf’s music through a friend via the Psycho California music fest some years ago. Out of the blue, we received an email from him, typically Geof and very down to earth, encouraging our music and inquiring about learning more about the band. A fast friendship was struck between Geof and me, and it led to us inviting him up to drop a few guitar solos on the album. Geof appears on the lead solos of three tracks on the recording: “Sinister Sides”, “Dead to the World”, and the Cream cover “Sunshine of Your Love”. While Geof was the drummer and co-founder in Pentagram, he is also an excellent lead guitarist in his own right, and did some great work on the album.
 
 
Do tell us a few things about each track…
 
P: “Gate of Sorrow”: Riff written by our bassist, Scott Peterson. Driven by a heavy bluesy vocal from Alex on this one, great performance from him on this.
 
“Sinister Sides”: Up-tempo blend of classic metal and fuzzy stoner riffs with a doom breakdown featuring a gong and lead guitar solo from Geof O’Keefe.
 
“Waiting on Tomorrow”: Slow stony ballad; acoustic guitar and deep reverb Fender guitars from yours truly. Really old school approach on this… classic rock vibes. Another great vocal performance from Alex here; feels like a vintage Silver Bullet Band track to me.
 
“Dead to the World”: Loping, heavy groove riff with lots of swing. Great Geof O’Keefe solo guitar work here as well, and a huge drum part from our own Dave Pankenier.
 
“Blind to Fate”: Doom intro that evolves into a swinging middle section and then an extended space jam at the end. Seven minute song, always a good sign, right?
 
“The Tempest”: The first song written for the album, a live performance staple for us. Big heavy intro and then a heavy swinging verse and chorus.
 
“Sunshine of Your Love”: Our take on the classic Cream song. Geof O’Keefe nails the melody and channels a great vintage Clapton “Mother tone” with his outstanding vibrato technique and the rolled-off treble control on his vintage Gibson axe.
 
“Battle Line”: Lyrically, a tale of warrior courage and fear before battle, an allegory between historical fiction and modern relationships; epic story-song constructed by Alex. We used a Hammond B-3 organ played by Ron Graham to fatten up the track, lending the song an even more vintage 70s rock vibe.
 
 
Where did the recordings take place and who did the production, the mixing and the mastering?
 
P: As with all of our albums so far, Blackwulf recorded “Sinsiter Sides: in South San Francisco at Trakworx studio with Justin Weis. Justin is a force of nature: has been in the engineer chair for decades, pausing only for the occasional shower and trips to exotic locations, has a great metal ear, and fantastic gear. As on our other recordings, we tracked the basic tracks on the album live to two inch analog tape, just like the masters did back in the day. The classic “live band in a room” approach. We then did dubs in protools, as is our usual method. Production was largely directed by the band with Justin serving as a creative barometer. Justin handled all of the mixing and mastering with the band’s involvement (some would argue interference) as well. A great studio experience creating this album.
 
 
What are your touring plans so far?
 
P: Having just come off of London and Austin festivals, we are keeping things local in the SF Bay Area for a while. The unfortunate reality of touring with this kind of music is that is can be expensive; you’re lucky if you actually break even on some of these trips. Until we can be better compensated for these runs, we will be choosier about when and where we wander in the near term.
 
 
What are your expectations from “Sinister Sides” and what do you wish to achieve with Blackwülf in the near future?
 
P: Our hope is that “Sinister Sides” will be widely listened to and enjoyed by the fans. We feel like we personally enjoy the record and are hopeful that others will as well. If Blackwulf can continue to grow in a self-sustaining way, I’d love to see Blackwulf return to England and Northern Europe for more destruction. We have plenty of more shows and musical surprises in us, and we’d love to share them across the sea.
 
 
Which are those life lessons that you learned since the formation of Blackwülf?
 
P: Hmmm… I’m kind of an old guy, so life lessons are already scarred on my hide. If anything, Blackwulf has reminded me to continue to follow my passion and to trust my instincts about what is true for me in this life. You only get one shot, so go hard or go home, right? The band has also confirmed my solid belief in the general goodness of metal heads and rock fans everywhere; we’re all in this together, and the support we’ve received is one of the most valuable things to Blackwulf.
 
 
How’s the cooperation with Ripple Music in general?
 
P: Nothing short of outstanding. I am a huge believer in what Ripple Music is doing. They are people who keep promises and champion their bands. Ripple is committed to their artists, and have created a great family culture of like-minded bands and heavy heads. Can’t underestimate how supportive they have been for Blackwulf.
 
 
Time for our “weird questions”!!! How did you come up with the name Blackwülf initially?
 
P: Weird questions are the best kind of questions. Here’s a weird answer: I came up with the name Blackwülf (with umlauts over the u) early on when I was searching for something to represent our sound. Wolves are independent, aggressive and loyal, so that seemed to fit. Umlauts are badass… Done. And while I had seen Bakshi’s “Wizards” film several times in the late 70s, the name didn’t come from that movie, nor from the Marvel comic. But we DO love animation and vintage comics, so that worked out ok, right?
 
 
What are those things that you do not like in the music industry nowadays?
 
P: Not to be negative nor without getting too far afield, some of the things that turn me off are: auto tuning, sleazy promoters, DJs instead of bands, sleazy festival organizers, sleazy club bookers, digital aggregator music sites and their ridiculous royalty splits, egomaniac haters in other bands, unfair band pay splits. All the usual stuff that has turned me off to music for the past 30 years, y’ know. Hasn’t changed much.
 
 
Are “social media” a “compulsory part” of music biz these days or bands, artists & labels can do without them as well?
 
P: While nothing is “compulsory” in music, I would have to say that social media is highly recommended. Back in the day, we put up fliers and hung out at the record shop talking bands, that’s the way the scene/community connected. You can still do that today, but these days, social media posting can exponentially mirror that experience (but of course not replace it), touching people all over the planet.
 
 
What do you think about the “downloading & streaming issue” of our time?
 
P: I think it can be a fine way to get an artist’s music out there in larger numbers, albeit at a much, much lower profit to the artist per listen. Think of it as a marketing “loss leader”, right? At least people in New Guinea might know who you are if you don’t happen to live there.
 
 
Which music kind can’t you bear to listen to at all?
 
P: Contemporary Pop music. Its current form is the most politically-correct hypocrisy currently for sale to the most rabid YouTuber. Good lord. Don’t get me started.
 
 
If you found a genie in a bottle and you only had 3 wishes what would they be?
 
P: ONLY 3 wishes? Damn. Forget it, not interested.
 
 
Is there a particular book you can’t recommend enough?
 
P: I am a huge reader, so great question. I generally almost finish a book a week, non-stop. I would have to recommend “From Here to Eternity” by James Jones. Great novel, has it all for me.
 
 
Top 3 Horror movies of all time?
 
P: Gotta be the original Exorcist, Poltergeist, and Blair Witch Project for me.
 
 
Which is the record you wish you had written and why?
 
P: If I had to only pick one, I wish I had written the Beatles’ “Rubber Soul”. Definitely not a metal album, but from a purely compositional standpoint, those songs are untouchable. There’s a reason why Lemmy and Sabbath hold the Fabs in such high regard…
 
 
Best 3 Heavy Metal albums of all time?
 
P: Gotta go with the classics for this one: Sabbath’s “Master of Reality”, Deep Purple’s “Machine Head” and Rainbow’s “Rising”.
 
 
Fill in the phrase… “Heavy Metal wouldn’t have evolved the way it did, if it hadn’t been for…”
 
P: Tony Iommi. End of story.
 
 
Who is the sexiest female Rock Star of all time?
 
P: I’m thinking it’s Corey Parks, but don’t tell her I said this. Blackwülf just missed the opportunity to play with the Shrine due to conflicts, so I’m just a little heartbroken.
 
 
Which do you consider to be the best female & male vocalist in heavy metal history?
 
P: Best female vocalist for me would be Jillian Taylor of Ruby The Hatchet (who could even qualify as an answer to your previous question as well) and best male vocalist of course is Ronnie James Dio.
 
 
If you had the opportunity to invite any famous person, living or dead, over for supper whom would you choose and why?
 
P: Gonna go with Jesus Christ. He’d probably lay off the pork, and would have some cool things to relate. Just hope it wouldn’t be a “Last Supper”. If Jesus was unavailable, I’d ring up J.R.R. Tolkein.
 
 
If you had the chance to travel in time… where would you choose to go? To the past or the future and why?
 
P: Definitely to the past. Vienna in the 17th century would work.
 
 
Were you obliged to give just one album to extraterrestrials that would represent the whole human music, which album would it be and from which band/artist?
 
P: Man that would be awesome to actually be handing a record to an alien; I like the thought of that. I would probably give him a copy of Brahms Symphony No 3 in F Major. That would be the right thing to do. But, depending upon my mood, I may slip him a copy of Judas Priest’s “Sad Wings of Destiny” and send him on his fucking way…
 
 
Imagine that your girlfriend/wife/ is selling your whole album-collection just to buy an expensive ring for herself. How would you react?
 
P: Hey man, one thing I’ve learned in relationships: “Happy Wife, Happy Life”. It would be a damn nice ring though…
 

Thx for talking to Grande Rock, Pete. Wish you and your band the best for the future… Take care dude!
 
P: Thanks, Thanos! Enjoyed talking with you, and sending our best to Grande Rock! Hails and Horns to all from Blackwülf!

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