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DATE OF INTERVIEW: 2nd October 2018
METAL DISCOVERY: We talked about ‘Zombie’ earlier… that was Tommy’s choice to cover that song, I understand?
JOHN: Correct. Yeah, that was something he’d put together and, when he joined the band, he had that version, and it was great, so we were like, “Hell yeah!”
(John Boecklin on Metallica's perennial marmite album)
"I’m such a Metallica fanatic…I still think ‘St. Anger’ is a great record."
John Boecklin, backstage at Rock City, Nottingham, 2nd October 2018
Photograph copyright © 2018 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
Interview & Photography by Mark Holmes
Thanks to Chris Dean for offering the interview and Jenni Vodden for arranging
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MD: When Dolores asked if she could sing on the track, how did that make you feel, as I guess that’s the ultimate acceptance and commendation?
JOHN: Yeah, how that came to be was that someone at our label, Allen Kovac, had worked with her in the 90s, when she was successful, for fifteen years, and still had a relationship. So he reached out to her and sent her the track. She liked it. Now, from our point of view, we never met. We hear that she’s gonna be involved and were like, “Wow”, but it’s all hearsay at this point. We really didn’t even know that she was gonna be in the studio the next day, so it was all a big surprise to us that she passed away. We’d heard that she had confirmed as doing it, but it’s one of those, “I’ll believe it when I see it”. That’s about the extent of where we were compared to what she was doing. We never had a personal phone conversation with her about it. And then she’d told Dan at the label, “Yeah, I’m doing it tomorrow”, and that’s the voicemail she left.
MD: Knowing how much she liked your version must’ve been a very reassuring but surreal thing…
JOHN: Yeah, but, once again, it was like, “Yeah, sure, I’ll believe it when I hear her voice on it.” You know, it was all so surreal.
MD: It’s a phenomenal cover, so I think it’s served as a very fitting tribute to her memory and musical legacy. Did you have that realisation, that the song carried so much more emotional weight when you put it out there, and was going to touch people, maybe cathartically, in a profound way?
JOHN: I did not, no. I thought it was a great cover, and that was it. I know that certain people were very into the song at the label; like, this is a really, really good cover. I was like, “Yeah, it’s good”; I just didn’t think it would be something that would connect to the world.
MD: Knowing your music emotionally connected to so many people, that’s got to be pretty awesome.
JOHN: Yeah, and it’s amazing to play live.
MD: And the video is off the scale, as well… in terms of awesomeness. So poignant and touching.
JOHN: Yeah, it really was done just right.
MD: Yeah, exactly.
JOHN: Talk about being nervous, like, “Alright, we’re gonna do a tribute and her figure, so to speak, is gonna be in the video.” And, “My god, I hope this looks right and I hope it’s done right, and it feels right, and it’s not cheesy.” It’s a heavy thing to do.
MD: It made me shed a tear, the video, I have to say.
JOHN: Yeah, Wayne Isham, when we heard he was doing it… I don’t know if you’re familiar with him, but he did all the Metallica videos in the 90s, and the big boy stuff. So we called in the big boy, to make sure this was done right!
MD: Have you found that casual music fans, who’ve checked you out because of ‘Zombie’, have delved into some of your other music and become fans… of maybe Bad Wolves and metal?
JOHN: Yeah, absolutely. I think we wouldn’t have had the immediate sales success and draw that we did, and we went on a headliner that was very successful… I don’t think any of that would’ve translated very well at all if it wasn’t for ‘Zombie’. So I believe that, yeah. All of them? No, but definitely some.
MD: With the widespread recognition that ‘Zombie’ has brought, has that engendered any added pressure in trying to sustain the global interest in Bad Wolves?
JOHN: No. How can you? I mean, the record was done when that song was released and there’s nothing else to give at this moment. And the second record, we’re gonna continue doing what we did on this first record. We’re gonna write great rock songs; great heavy metal songs; some really heavy metal songs… and we’re gonna try and get a little more experimental when it comes to our rock songs, to try and give it…
MD: …more unpredictability!
JOHN: Yeah, exactly! And just try to be a good fucking band. But I respond to pressure well, and I think it’s fun. But do I ever think we’ll have a song as big as ‘Zombie’ again? No.
MD: You’ve had a crowdfunding campaign on the go, to fund a Bad Wolves movie - ‘Breaking the Band’. You fell short of the target, but still raised a very respectable $15,000. A very nice tidy sum! So will the project still be happening?
JOHN: Yeah, we’re putting it together… we’re filming out here. You know, with Indiegogo… those things, you have to be very attentive to them when you launch them. We came up with the idea to do it, but we also launched it when we were goddam tired! Like, we had been on the road for five months straight, and we maybe didn’t do the due diligence online of promoting it, because you really need to be interactive online. We were just pretty tired, but we’re still very happy with the results. We’ve got our film guy here and we’re still gonna do it. We’ve got enough money where we can put it together and release something, so we’re happy with that.
MD: It’s been promised that the film will show, “a fascinating glimpse into the music industry, exposing all the sides some will never really admit or want to show.” That sounds like it might be a bit of an exposé on the music industry, so is that one of the angles?
JOHN: It’s also the angle just to give someone a little insight on where we are at with a band that’s got a platinum single in four different countries, and then there’s a reality to that side that’s different. And, also, there’s a success story here that a lot of people don’t end up filming in the beginning, so we’re trying to get a lot of this on tape.
MD: Have you been filming for quite a while, then, since it kicked off with ‘Zombie’?
JOHN: Yes. Well, we started getting Randy out on tour with us midway through the summer, so we’ve just been documenting as much as we can.
MD: Excellent. And somebody’s gonna have the job of editing together days and days, and weeks upon weeks, of footage!
JOHN: Yeah!
MD: What are some of your favourite music documentaries? Do you watch many?
JOHN: I’m such a Metallica fanatic…
MD: ‘Some Kind of Monster’?
JOHN: No, more ‘A Year and a Half…’
MD: Oh, Iove that, yeah. There was two parts, wasn’t there, the studio and then out on the road.
JOHN: Still, three times a year, maybe… they’re fun to watch. I did enjoy ‘Some Kind of Monster’ a lot, too.
MD: Quite painful to watch, though.
JOHN: I don’t find it painful. I thought it was a great watch.
MD: It’s very honest.
JOHN: Yeah, hats off to them, in my opinion. I still think ‘St. Anger’ is a great record. If it was just mixed a little better, but I think the songs are there.
MD: What I enjoyed more than the album was the DVD that came with it, of them jamming out the entire album.
JOHN: Yeah! [Laughs]
MD: Watching ‘Some Kind of Monster’ made ‘St. Anger’ make a lot more sense, I thought.
JOHN: Any insight I can get into their lives then I’m super excited about it. I really liked ‘Foo Fighters: Back and Forth’; I thought that was a really well done documentary.
MD: What about ‘The Story of Anvil’?
JOHN: I saw that and that was just depressing, to me.
MD: The first half was like a real life Spinal Tap and then you’re kind of rooting for them in the second half.
JOHN: Yeah. Sometimes, there’s just a little bit too much reality. I remember that period in my life where you’re married, and I was married, and you’re a musician, and there’s ups and downs in everything, from success to income. When you’re a struggling musician on that road for a bit, you see your wife is looking at you, and… you know. I guess they won in the end because they never gave up, but there’s a lot of people who just hang on for dear life to the wrong cliff. I just never wanted to do that, which is why I kind of chose to leave DevilDriver… because it just wasn’t for me, anymore.
MD: Obviously the right move, now that you’ve got Bad Wolves!
JOHN: Yeah, but it doesn’t always work out like that!
MD: A bit of serendipity or kismet, or whatever you want to call it. One of my very favourite music documentaries is, I don’t know if you’ve seen ‘Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet’?
MD: Do you know who Jason Becker is?
MD: Ah, he played with Marty Friedman in Cacophony in the late 80s, an instrumental thing.
JOHN: Marty Friedman?
MD: Yeah, Marty Friedman.
JOHN: That was before he was in Megadeth?
MD: Yeah, Marty went off to join Megadeth and Jason became David Lee Roth's guitarist, did one album, then got diagnosed with ALS at the age of 20, and has locked-in syndrome, so he’s completely paralyzed apart from being able to move his eyes. I think he was given 3 to 5 years to live, but he’s still living now, in his late-40s. And he still composes music with his eyes.
JOHN: Wow.
MD: And there’s a documentary film, ‘Jason Becker: Not Dead Yet’. For me, that trumps every other music documentary as it’s just so massively inspirational.
JOHN: I will check that out.
MD: Finally, your band bio talks about the “path to hard rock and metal supremacy.” So, what are the next steps for Bad Wolves towards that goal?
JOHN: Writing. We had about three weeks off and I spent about eleven days of that writing material, which is coming along great. I’ve never been part of a machine like this, where already they’re, “Okay, we want your album done, in the can, by March.” But, yet, we’re touring all the way until the end of December and we have another tour, that we haven’t announced yet, in March. So, it’s like, this is like a real thing where we’re like, “Let’s keep this momentum going.” So, that’s the pressure, and finding the right time, comfortably, to do the second LP by the time to continue the cycles; one into the other.
MD: Are we talking headline shows in March?
JOHN: I can’t say what we’re doing but, you know, it’s really amazing, on our first LP, to be able to go America, Canada, and pretty much all the main territories…
MD: Within six months!
JOHN: Yeah, it’s pretty crazy!
MD: Yeah, exactly! Thanks so much for your time.
JOHN: Thank you!