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WOLFCRUSHER: EUROPE.....OR ANDREW LLOYD WEBBER BECKONS - INTERVIEW BY ANDY BARNES

For a band conceived in the mind of Dan Mucs just a couple of years ago, playing their first gig in December 2010, Wolfcrusher have quickly whipped up a metallic storm. By July 2011, multi-faceted debut album “Virgin Tapestry” had been written, recorded and released, subsequent attention leading to an appearance at last year’s Bloodstock Festival.  After numerous reports of awe inspiring live performances, I eventually caught the band at Moho in Manchester just before Christmas, witnessing one of the gigs of the year and can concur, the sheer power and intensity of Wolfcrusher, an absolute joy for the extreme music fan to behold.

Based on such explosive beginnings, Mudkiss arranged to meet with lead guitarist Dan and vocalist Gary Harkin over a beer for a chat, probing their plans to keep up the impetus over the coming months.  

ANDY: You had a great year in 2011, Bloodstock appearance, metal magazines sitting up and taking notice of Wolfcrusher, how’s 2012 started for you?

GARY: We’ve done our first tour this year if you can call it that……three date tour……it’s the first time we’ve played three gigs in a row anyway……so that was an eye opener, which was good, getting us a taster of that.

ANDY: How did the gigs go, were they well attended?

DAN: Well in Hull it was a bit  odd……the bands weren’t matched up too well and attendance because of that during the support acts were flaky….but it was fun, it was a good experience and the promoter really liked us so probably we’ll be back hopefully for a better crowd and with better support acts…..after that we went to Birmingham, that turned out really well and also Stoke on Trent was really good as well so those two were brilliant with brilliant, brilliant support acts.

ANDY: There’s a great metal band from Stoke, Sworn to Oath, did they play with you there?

DAN: No, it wasn’t no….but speaking of which we are going out with Sworn to Oath on a mini tour in May so that will happen……I don’t know if we’re going to Stoke yet, it’s Bradford and Selby which is confirmed and there’ll be more dates.

ANDY: Did you play in my home town Oldham, I’m sure I saw a poster mentioning that?

DAN: We played Whittles in February with Incidium…… their second to last gig, sadly the guys are breaking up now…..there last ever gig is on the 19th of April at Grand Central, people should go down and check them up, brilliant band, shame they are splitting up       

ANDY : Did the speed at which things happened last year take you by surprise?  You released the debut album Virgin Tapestry and within a couple of months you were playing at Bloodstock.

GARY: There was a lot of pushing going on in the band mainly from Dan there and a lot from Danny in the first year so the record did come out really quickly, everything was pushed really fast and the promotion was taken really seriously from the get go as well…..it did take me by surprise but it’s not a complete shock.

ANDY: So basically you were working hard at it.

GARY: We did work hard, it wasn’t all flukes it was like we working hard at it, putting money into it and putting a lot of effort into it as well……..but it was pleasant  to see it come to fruition, pleasant to see things coming out of the effort you know for a change.

ANDY : Are you looking to keep the impetus going by working and hoping to release new material?

GARY: Yeah we’re working hard at the moment….we’ve got a batch of five songs we’re working on……six?

DAN: A batch of five songs yeah……. I mean written which are out there, so demoed……in pre-production eight or nine songs we’ve got a few in there……planning to put out a song or two pretty soon, pretty soon….we have a rough idea as well which songs are going in there just to keep interest going so we’re there and not just sitting on our album that came out last year….we recorded it in January, February……finished recording in February, March or so…… it’s coming to a year since we’ve done anything…..of course the album officially came out in July…… hopefully by that time we should have something else out as well…..of course working on new material constantly, constantly…….but don’t want to do a full album or like even just a full EP at this point, that would take quite a bit of time off the band as well just to focus on that, get everything done……we still want to tour the material because it looks like it didn’t reach that many people yet so still new people are picking up on it….that tour showed as well, it’s like so many people found us that way and were , “this is amazing guys, we’ve never heard of you”……..great.

ANDY: Who takes on the song writing aspect of Wolfcrusher, is it individuals or the band as a whole?

GARY:  From the beginnings of the band it was all Dan’s little project so the songs were Dan’s…..he had finished the songs really and there was a few tweaks that went on a little bit before the recording, but it was all Dan’s……..and now the newer songs there’s more of a band input….still primarily Dan but he’s just thrown a lot of ideas straight in the mix he already had.

DAN: It’s like how I write, you know how I come up with ideas…..I like to come up with arrangements that just go into songs, I like to deliver a full idea to the band but of course it’s open for discussions and we’re chopping and threading different bits together…..Rooney’s doing a lot of writing now as well….he’s coming up with even just like half of the song and I put the other half for the full song…..it’s getting there and Gary’s started to come up with some riffs as well so it’s going to be more of a joint effort so probably that will affect the sound as well hopefully in a positive             

ANDY: You both play in other bands along with Wolfcrusher so when you write, do you sit down with an idea and write purely with a band in mind, “today I’m going to a write a Wolfcrusher song,” or do you start with an idea and then think, this sounds like a Wolfcrusher song or no, it sounds more like a Ten Foot Wizard song for example?

DAN: Well, Ten Foot Wizard is Gary……… so Ten Foot Wizard writing…..I just do minimal stuff, mostly like leads or little ideas, little colourings on there, Gary pretty much comes up with everything else.

GARY: It depends on the mood at the time, I don’t know about you Dan but I’ll pick up a guitar and it depends what mood I’m in……It’ll either come out a load of angry noise or maybe there’ll be a lot of melody in there and after I write the riff, or the  idea or the song I’ll just go, that can’t be a Wolfcrusher song, there’s not enough aggression in there or whatever so  I’ll put it towards the Ten Foot Wizard pile…… and it just sort of gets sorted out that way but there’s not a whole lot of thought about it at the start, I’m going to write a song for this band, it just depends on the mood, what you want to play at the time and that’s how it works out.

DAN: Wolfcrusher writing for me, it’s pretty natural because the whole idea back, back, back in the day when I came up with the initial songs was to do something that is me….so nobody says anything that you can’t do this you can’t do that so for me Wolfcrusher is just be myself….just sit down and write what comes out naturally and of course it depends on the mood as well usually, if I’m angry you know you get good metal songs out of that…..if you’re ok, you go into the mellow bit as well maybe….so yeah definitely.     

ANDY: Talking about the aggression side, one of the main aspects of the band live is your intense vocal performance Gary, who are your influences vocally?

GARY: As a vocalist…..fairly obvious ones I would say……James Hetfield from Metallica, Devin Townsend, Strapping Young Lad and the other one would be Phil Enselmo (Pantera) who’s always been a massive influence for me as a front man, singer, the whole lot…..those three guys I’d say are the main ones.

ANDY: And do you prepare for a performances of that visceral nature, or is just a case of the music takes you to that point?

GARY: It’s a lot to do with the music……I’d say I’m fairly mellow before going on stage, I’m not usually in that frame of mind……I’m not usually ready to smash everything around me…….usually pretty chilled out, it takes the music to bring it out….definitely….definitely.

ANDY: So the Wolfcrusher vocalist persona is confined to performing on stage?

GARY: Yeah, the on stage thing is a product of the music really, that’s what it is…..if the music inspires me to act that way that’s the way it comes out……I would find it very hard to produce that without the music you know……apart from feeling foolish it would be hard to get into the mind frame as well (Laughing)

ANDY: I have heard it mentioned some bands, usually from across the Atlantic perhaps,  who do squats and star jumps to get themselves into the mood and psyched up before a performance.

GARY: We do none of that…….this is usually our preparation (lifting his glass) beer. (Laughter)

DAN: Me personally…….yeah, do some beer drinking……..we started to doing some stretching, I mean when you get into head banging, doing that especially three consecutive nights  it is physical exercise…..you have to warm up for it and stretch out and do all that stuff.

GARY: That’s the physical preparation…..but I’m talking more about the getting yourself mentally into the mainframe of being a completely different animal on stage and performing like that.

DAN: Oh Yeah, it was more to the squats and all of that. 

GARY:   There is a little bit of that……I think on the tour there was a learning curve there, we realised that we couldn’t just go bananas on stage and have no repercussions, we had to stretch a little bit to avoid being crippled after the show (Laughing)

ANDY: Yeah, not overly cool if you hobble off stage with a pulled hamstring or something (Also laughing)

GARY: Exactly.

ANDY: One of the main reasons I feel your debut album “Virgin Tapestry” is such a great album it crosses all kinds of rock / metal genres.  Is that due to various influences throughout the band or mainly a desire not to sound like just another metal band and sound different ?

DAN: Definitely……something that is not set to certain boundaries it’s like, “oh you shouldn’t be doing that specific vocals”…..that’s why Gary’s really, really good for that music, he can really emphasize certain parts….when it’s more mellow he can sing really well, he can growl, scream do all kinds of different stuff, whichyou know  many people in reviews were going like “Oh you should make up your mind what you’re doing” but it keeps us interested as well…..and I mean vocals and lyrics wise that was totally Gary so that’s nothing to do with me…… that’s his whole vision on what the music should be and how it should be linked together.

ANDY: I find that a crazy criticism, one comment thrown regularly at a lot of metal, is it can sound the same or at least very familiar. For me, “Virgin Tapestry” is a great album because of the variety of styles within it, that’s not detrimental, that’s a positive aspect.

GARY: We can’t be one hundred per cent sure now…. but the people who would have levelled those criticisms at us I would guess, they’re the type of people who’d just listen to Black Metal or just Death Metal and that’s the way they think….. but they’re not the people that we made this music for, we made it for ourselves…….and from the start something I was really interested in about Wolfcrusher, was marrying loads of different influences in together.  You know me and Dan and the rest of us have a wide range in tastes and you know instead of just going, well we love Gojira  we’re going to re-create that …. we try and bring to together Gojira with Kaiuss…..and Deicide or whatever  it might be….it’s interesting to try and marry the different styles and see if we can actually pull it off….plus yeah, it makes things interesting for ourselves too.

DAN: And I think it keeps everything fresh, we don’t get just like…..oh…what…. we’re in a Death Metal band so we go down and put on our, you know, Death Metal faces and Death Metal mood…..it’s not just different songs but different parts in one song….different feels….you kind of get that……and as Gary said we all have different influences and a wide variety of influences as well, so we just need that variety and it looks as though many other people need that too.

ANDY: I think so, I hear a lot of music and think, yeah, that’s good, very well played, but I’ve heard it all before.

GARY: I love  Slayer…..but I couldn’t play Slayer music every night on the tour non-stop it would drive me nuts….I personally wouldn’t want to do that, variety is a necessity for me….that’s why we both play in a band called Ten Foot Wizard, we play like Blues rock as well because we love variety and doing something different….keeps it interesting……..who knows next year we might be doing Andrew Lloyd Webber show tunes (Laughter)

ANDY: Are you looking to do more gigs as Ten Foot Wizard in 2012, you only managed a couple last year didn’t you?   

GARY: We only done two last year……one in January and one in December…… that was kind of unavoidable I suppose….other things were going on……Ten Foot Wizard were a fledgling band  as well so when other bands were taking off and things were happening, Ten Foot Wizard got relegated and pushed to the side and I was happy enough to do that…….but now Ten Foot Wizard has become more of an entity really, more of a real band….we’ve already done, I don’t know, nearly ten gigs this year…..maybe a little bit less than that……we’ve done a lot more than two anyway…….maybe…..I don’t know.

DAN : We’re at three or four……not ten anyway. (Laughing)

GARY : Three or four……in my mind we’ve done more(Also laughing) maybe that’s because we’ve only done two last year (More laughter) We played a gig just a few days ago in Sheffield……..It was called South Sea…..the guys who run the pub, it’s just a new venture for them, they’ve started it recently and they also put on a festival called BomFest and the guy just called me today and asked us to play the festival in Barnsley in July……so yeah, things are already going well….we’ve got an album coming out within about six or seven weeks or something hopefully as well…….so yeah, things are definitely going to be happening for Ten Foot Wizard a little bit more this year.  

ANDY : You’ve already touched on future happenings for Wolfcrusher over the next couple of months, but what about later in the year, are you hoping for festival appearances again?

DAN : Yeah, we’re hoping, we’re hoping, it’s in the works….there’s some stuff in the works for Autumn as well which is not totally confirmed yet….it’s going to be announced pretty soon hopefully….so we’ve got other stuff in the works, more tours, more gigs, probably a few songs coming out, then we have “Skeletonizer” coming out on the Rock Band network  as well.

GARY : We’ve got plans as well for making a music video very soon with Tommy Connor.

DAN : Yeah, Tommy Connor…..one of the songs from Virgin Tapestry……so we won’t be bored, we’ll be out there definitely.

GARY : I think we’ve got a few festival applications as well sent in, it’s just waiting to hear feedback….nothing’s confirmed at the moment…..hopefully fingers crossed because playing Summer festivals is really good fun.

DAN : We’re looking to spread our wings into Europe as well, we’ll see how that builds…….that’s a bit more complicated of course because of the distance, because you know people might not know us that much.

GARY : I’d really enjoy seeing how we were received in Europe……I feel there’d be a warmer reception maybe in Europe for our type of music…..I don’t know…… I’ve been told that by so many people.

ANDY : I’m sure you’re right, metal generally is more accepted in countries such as Germany, France, Italy and of course Scandinavia. It’s still so underground in the U.K.

GARY : Although metal has become more predominant, more prevalent in the U.K as of late, the bands that are big tend to be the more mainstream bands…….so our sound I wouldn’t say isn’t terribly mainstream for metal even…..but in Europe I think they’re really into that type of sound that we’ve got……there’s definitely a strong, Swedish metal sound in there…..it’s probably accidental but it’s in there anyway.

DAN : It happened….. yeah (Laughing)

GARY : An, At The Gates kind of sound……that’s in there a little bit alright….. so I think we’d go down alright in the Scandinavian countries….the Germans love that type of sound as well.

As much as I hope Europe embraces the brilliance of Wolfcrusher, a much wider U.K audience should appreciate one of our most intensely powerful metal bands, before, like many before, they slip slowly from our grasp.  

www.reverbnation.com/wolfcrusher
www.myspace.com/tenfootwizard

Interview by Andy Barnes
Live photos by Phil King