Interview: Chris Ross of Wolfmother

posted March 1, 2006

by Corinne

Chris Ross of WolfmotherHow are you?

Jetlagged but fantastic.

I just had the most amazing full length feature film style dream… let me tell you ALL about it...

I dreamt I’d been out at some club, the sun was coming up and I was walking home with this guy and girl. We came to a junction and they headed off in different directions, being the un-perturbed character that I am, I decided to take my own path. I took a corner and things started to look seedy. A guy came running past me and in a calm Californian tone stated, “Watch out -- bad dudes coming.” I was quickly confronted by the aforementioned bad dudes.

When I came through I’d been taken to their underground lair. They’d turned me into some kind of small bird, possibly a sparrow; quite a pretty bird but ever so fragile. The two bad dudes had turned into bats with razor wings. The head honcho of the bad dudes was an upright plasticine dog, quite similar to the dog in the Daft Punk film clip. With a maniacal laugh he called out: “Come on, bird boy. Let’s see you get past my bats.”

A vicious aerial battle ensued but I managed to escape fairly unscathed. I took a corner, became human again and was quickly pulled aside by a lady with a cat’s face. She took me into her humble home and began to feed me. I was drinking quite a lot of her murky water when she said, “Easy with that water, boy. We don’t get a lot of water on the island. I had to get that meself.” When I asked her what she meant she said, “Look, come with me.” We headed out her back door, hopped aboard a miniature train and took a ride through an industrial area, weaving in and out between the factories. The buildings were all towering overhead at un-believable angles.

After a short while we pulled up at a ranch where four old stoner dudes were having a jam on the porch. They were playing the coolest riffs…

This is where I actually woke up. I decided I needed to get their riffs down so I pulled out my computer and tried to remember them as best I could. Now it’s four o’clock, I’m in Leeds, England, and I can’t get back to sleep so I thought I’d do your questionnaire.

Care to introduce yourself?

Yeah, I’m Chris Ross [bass/keyboards] the bird boy who escaped from the bats with razor wings.

The band’s full length debut does not come out until May in the US. Is the tone and sound similar to the EP “Dimensions” where they share some tracks or are they two separate entities?

The EP is a kind of taster for the album so the songs will sound quite similar. Our first EP, the one with the kaleidoscopic triangle on the front, was actually our demo so that one sounds pretty rough and raw, it’s got a vibe.

From biographies and interviews, you seem to give the impression that Wolfmother’s success has been more a coincidence than due to your aggressive marketing of yourselves. How you think your laid back approach has helped the band?

I don’t know if we really have a laid back attitude. I think we’re pretty easy going and open-minded but I think we’re also quite pro-active as well. We don’t really like being told that you have to do things a certain way. I think maybe our approach helped us more than anything. When we first started playing live, people kept telling us that you have to do this and that in a certain way and do the “hard yards” as they say. We didn’t really buy into that and we pretty much said “well we want to do this and we want to do that and we want to do it our way.” Also, I think good manners go a long way! So many people we met when we started out were rude and difficult to deal with. Our folks brought us up good and taught us good manners!

You have some North American and UK tour dates coming up. Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to doing or seeing while here?

Yeah, I’m looking forward to seeing airports, hotel rooms and venues. ‘Cause that’s pretty much all we get to see. Sometimes if we’re lucky we’ll get a whirlwind tour of some place. It would be nice to be able spend a few days somewhere but I’m actually just looking forward to actually going to all these places and putting the proverbial “names to faces.” It’s gonna be exciting.

Will you play your smaller, more intimate shows the same as the festival dates or is there some tweaking involved in songs and performances?

We try to vary the set for almost every show. There’s always a bit of tweaking happening in regards to how we think we’ve been performing songs over the last few shows -- what transitions work best, if we’ve added in any new bits to play around with. I think it keeps it interesting for us, too, when we can swap it around a bit.

You played at South by Southwest last year and generated a great buzz. What was that experience like?

I’d initially known SXSW as an international platform where musicians can meet with record labels, directors, producers, writers and other artists. I was quite surprised that the venues and PA’s all seemed so budget and guerilla style and there is SO many people there trying to get into everything. I guess it’s a kind of proving ground. With all the odds against you if you can come through it and pull off a good show then you must be doing something right. Although it was pretty damn cool to do a show where we had people queuing around the block to get in! Sweet!

Did the buzz and interest that South by Southwest generated for Wolfmother encouraging and exciting or was it intimidating?

I don’t know that we really get intimidated by anything; I’d have to say it was definitely encouraging and exciting. After all it did allow us to meet up with the record labels that we eventually hooked up with in the US and UK.

What can US audiences expect from Wolfmother?

We’re like a psychedelic, sonic, sexual tsunami. You can expect to see three guys getting up on stage, giving it everything they’ve got, pouring their hearts out, indulging themselves and trying to take the audience on a journey. I think we set out from day one to embarrass ourselves and fail gloriously and we’re still trying to fulfill that vision.

Name an underrated band you think deserves more attention.

I can name HEAPS! Here’s but a few…. Die!Die!Die! (from New Zealand) Wolf and Cub (from Aus) Tucker B’s (also from Aus). I also think Primal Scream’s Evil Heat album is a true stroke of modern genius which has been terribly overlooked.

What have you been listening to recently?

Besides all of the aforementioned I’ve also been listening to Soulwax (I think I saw all of their shows at the Big Day Out, beautiful mix-up of synths and big guitars), The Presets (another Modular Records band who were doing some amazing shows at the Big Day Out and we’re currently touring the UK with). While I’ve been doing this questionnaire I’ve being listening to Brant Bjork’s “Jalamanta” and some real early Bee Gees, very psychedelic. I think it even has a song called “Bowzee Bow Wowzee”?!?!

If you could have written any song, what song do you wish you had written and why?

The 2nd side of “Abbey Road” where all the songs blend together. “Echoes” by Pink Floyd. Anything off “Source Tags and Codes” by And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Dead.

“Abbey Road” because all the songs are like little segue ways of genius. So many amazing hooks happening so quickly. So much passion and instrumental genius. I find it interesting that this is what I consider their finest work but apparently they weren’t even really talking at the time?!?

“Echoes” because it’s the epitome of rock journey. Blissed out, extremely spacious moments and beautiful calmly delivered vocals. Trail of Dead because nothing really effects me like that album. It is SO intense it’s amazing. The lyrics are modern day poetry. This is one of the albums that I have to be careful with. When I’m listening to this album on headphones, I always find by the time I get to the end I’ve had the volume at full. I’ve seen this band live twice and their intensity is beautiful.

Anything you’d like to add?

Sure, I could go into more detail about my dream…. Like the bit where the waitress from the Chinese restaurant wanted to castrate me with a blunt kitchen knife or the bit where the bad dudes faces were all melting and disease ridden…. But I think I’ll spare you for now. Gruesome.

Thanks for your time!

No problem.