Interview || The one with Tommy from Wolf Down

© Fields Have Eyes photography
U: You had some pretty busy months touring Europe and Asia, playing with Backtrack, Boysetsfire and Stick To Your Guns among others. How did those tours go? What are your fondest memories?
Tommy: We had a hell of a good year, the best we had as a band by far! For the first time we got to experience touring for a longer time and on a more professional level, which was very interesting -with all the ups and downs that come with it. Most of all, these experiences have been very educating; we learned so much from the great bands we toured with but also about ourselves and our band when we played places like Asia and Turkey for example where, naturally, the touring conditions are the polar opposite from what we mostly did around Europe this year. Stepping on a wooden stage in Medan, Indonesia in an old gym hall in front of 700 kids and trying to pull off a great set with 50 watt no-name combo amps has been both challenging but also highly satisfying to me. Then again, playing very close to our home town on that Stick To Your Guns, Stray From the Path, Counterparts tour, having most of our parents and friends there and seeing a huge venue explode when we played was next level. I could go on and on, this year has been mental!

U: Your latest album, “Incite & Conspire” has been released for quite some time now. How’s the reception been so far?
T. : Yeah, it’s been out since the beginning of this year but with how active we were with it, it feels a lot longer, I feel you there. The reception has been great, it opened up a lot of doors for us and we are very proud of what we accomplished with it, especially with how radical the lyrics and the whole presentation are. Who would have thought that some of the line-ups we did this year would be possible for such an opinionated band like ours. I’m not saying that we are the first of our kind to do this, I’m just acknowledging the fact that it sadly isn’t the standard and hardcore and punk is still in their apathetic party phase. So as this is the ground on which we set our foot with this record we are happy with what we were able to achieve in terms of outreach and reaction.

U: While we’re on the subject, you have also released a split 7” with BSF this summer under the motto “Love knows no gender/Refugees welcome”. Can you tell us more about this initiative?
T.: Great that you ask, I’m more than happy to talk about it! The idea for this split came from our label manager (aka. our beloved friend and probably one of the funniest people to ever walk the face of this earth) Oise, who runs our label End Hits Records which BoySetsFire are also a part of. It is a benefit project where all the profits (and I mean ALL the profits) go to “Schwulenberatung Berlin” and their initiative to help LGBTQ refugees upon their arrival in Germany by creating a queer refugee shelter. LGBTQ rights have always been an issue we love to support and raise awareness for, so doing it with our good friends and great musicians in BSF made it even better.

U: This time, your lyrics are angrier quite rightly, if you ask me. What really stood out though are the last couple of lines from ‘The Fortress’: “The walls are in our minds/We are the seeds of a new world to come”. That’s the very essence of the message Wolf  Down carries, right?
T.: You got it! Yes, metaphorically speaking, the ideas we present in our lyrics can be seen as seeds that may thrive in the heads of hopefully as many people as possible. And by pouring water on them in form of real activism, they can lead to real change. We are the next generation, the future belongs to us, we determine where this world is heading if we want it bad enough and are ready to fight for it.

As a band I want us to be remembered as a group of people who used their platform and outreach to advocate for a better, more caring and understanding society, even if that means we can’t be friends with the “cool kids”.

U: You’ve always been very open with your beliefs and opinions. Has that ever gotten you in trouble?
T.: Yes we were and we will aways be; that is what this band is about, whether you like it or not. For a real answer to your question you have to define “trouble”. Is it trouble for our singer to get punched in the face backstage right after our set for criticizing patriotism? Is it trouble if the police in a foreign country cancels and prohibits your show? Is it trouble when bands rip you on stage on a big festival you canceled because other bands on the festival are openly right wing? Is it trouble to get peppersprayed during the first song of your set so that the whole room had to be cleared? Maybe it is. But it also means that you are hitting a nerve, it means that people hear the truth you are speaking, it’s just a matter of what they do with it. So with everyone trying to stop us, there’s also a huge number of people supporting what we do and getting encouraged to get active themselves to make  a positive impact.

U: Goethe believed that “none are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe that they are free”, a quote that remains relevant after 200 years, and which can be interpreted in many interesting ways. What is your interpretation regarding the current situation of the world? What Is freedom for you? And finally, is there still hope that humanity will change its ways?
T.: Wow, dropping some deep quotes on me here! (laughs) Yeah, I think he was right in saying that the illusion of safety and freedom that comes with the apathy towards global ethical and moral issues is very dangerous and somehow regressive. I believe in the good in people, sadly the history of this world has shown that if the wrong people are given the slightest amount of power, things can turn to shit really fast. To answer your question properly, we’d have to get philosophical in analyzing and evaluating humanity. Are we fundamentally good and just need to weed out the bad crops or are we a bunch of narcissistic sociopaths who at the end of the day define happiness through our own self centered gain of wealth and property? But that would go way too far to do this in a written interview, I could talk for hours about that. To state the obvious: if I did not believe that change is possible, I would not be doing what I do.

U: If you could cast each member of the band as a villain, who would each member be?
T.: Uh, tricky, I don’t want any of the other guys to get upset with me because this could get very personal so I’d rather skip this question, even if it is a good one and would make for a very insightful and entertaining answers. I do love all of them though, so next time I’m gonna tell you about their superpowers instead of focusing on their negative traits.

© Fields Have Eyes photography
U: What’s the weirdest thing a fan has ever done?
T.: Not to make him feel uncomfortable about his choice, it takes a huge amount of dedication, but getting a real life portrait of our old singer tattooed is definitely up there. Other than that (or even that) I must say we have great open minded intelligent fans with their hearts in the right place and we appreciate every single one of them.

U: One album you can listen to without skipping a song.
T.: Every Tegan and Sara record, Floral Green by Title Fight, Long Dark Blue by Swain and so so many others. I like albums more than I like single songs because each album tells a story from beginning to end, and it tells you a lot about the band and their recording and writing process if every song is a banger or you get the feeling that some of the songs are just fillers. One of my main problems with pop music these days.

U: If you woke up one day in the opposite gender’s body, what would be your first reaction?
T.: My first thought would be “wow, this can be educating”, because no matter how much you hear or read about the struggles women face every day in our society and also on a personal level, it will never remotely compare to the experience itself. I try to be as empathetic as possible but at the end of the day, I’m still privileged through the chromosomes in my DNA so I will never know what it really feels like. Suddenly being a woman would not mean to fully understand everything since at that point I would have already missed years and years of upbringing, socialization and discrimination. It would take time to realize what is really going on.

U: Best tour prank you’ve ever pulled?
T.: Again, one of these things that maybe someone who was on the receiving end of the prank might not want to get out there haha. When we were younger and weren’t touring as much, the number of pranks was way higher, so much so that at some occasions things got out of hand a little. We try to dial back on pranking each other since we are touring so much and as fun as it is, it also creates stress, especially when it comes to people fucking with your sleep. When you go back and take a look at our earlier tour videos you’ll find a couple of pretty good pranks though. Nowadays our approach is more to get each other to do stupid stuff voluntarily, often linked to some kind of little incentive. On one of these occasions I ended up playing "Smoke On The Water" only dressed with my guitar in some backstage in Indonesia for example, or getting into the passenger seat of some strangers car in a traffic jam somewhere. The worst one for me was licking a sock that no one in the bus claimed to be theirs, but which has been shoved around the van floor for the last couple of weeks. It gave me the worst kind of bad stomach and ultimately made me puke on stage [during] the next show, followed by a long night in the bathroom. I think doing it like this everyone gets to laugh and no one will be upset in the end.

U: What is your biggest guilty pleasure in music?
T.: Well to me personally the biggest guilty pleasure would have to be Underoath, since their stance on religion, especially in their early days, was always something that held me back from full on supporting them. But I love their musical output so much, the way they record, the way they progress from one record to the next, their riffs, the structures of their songs, very inspiring from a musician standpoint.

© Fields Have Eyes photography

U: Morning bird or night owl?
T.: Straight up night owl.

U: Favorite word?
T.: Pizza (same, mate –ed.)

U: Favorite curse word?
T.: The F-Bomb.

U: Past or future?
T: Both are super interesting. I believe you can’t create a better future without knowing about and learning from the past.

U: What do you want your legacy to be?
T.: As a band I want us to be remembered as a group of people who used their platform and outreach to advocate for a better, more caring and understanding society, even if that means we can’t be friends with the “cool kids”. On a personal level, with all the flaws each and every one of us possesses, with all the mistakes I made and will make, I want people to say “At least he tried”. (That could go straight up on my gravestone haha)

U: If you died right now, what song would you want to play at your funeral?
T.: Ah continuing with the morbidity while we’re at it, right? (laughs) There’s quite a few that could ultimately make that list but since I’m not there yet, I’ll sit this one out and wait for what’s still to come.

U: Final words?
T.: Thank you so much, this has been great! Just a few last words for everyone reading this. We are aware of the fact that some of our ideas are controversial and might raise a lot of questions with some people. But we love to talk. We are not the kind of band that hides in the backstage before or after our sets, you can easily spot us strolling around the venue, chilling by the merch or checking out supporting bands. I want to encourage everyone to confront us with all the questions they might have because at the end of the day it is the exchange of different views and ideas that breeds progress. And lastly, if you believe in something very strongly, get active. The same way we can form a band, set up a show or write a zine on a diy level in the hardcore scene, the same way we can organize for protest, create and print posters and brochures or be creative in different ways to raise awareness for issues dear to our heart.

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