Pausing from the paving of misery, the bay area warriors come to talk shop.
Words by Jake Sanders (@themetalscholar):
With so much lust for blood, the arena of blackened death metal is filled with the corpses of those who've tried the bold tricks that California's WOLF KING has up their sleeves. Their second offering, The Path of Wrath, is fifty three minutes of proof that no one has the same energy and ambition that they do. Riddled with catchy melodies, and featuring some new diversions that break up the monotony, the group's mindset is clearly on progression and advancement, never about formula and stagnation.
Recently, the group was kind enough to take time out of their hectic victory lap to chat with Heaviest of Art. They were resolute, succinct, and just as much about play as they are business:
Greetings, Tim, Jake, Connor, and Brian! Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with me. You've been on our minds over at Heaviest of Art, so this is a real treat. Let's jump in here! It has sort of been my tradition for the past year to ask, but it matters because people are still being affected by it. The Covid-19 pandemic has killed countless venues and put endless amounts of touring musicians, such as yourselves, out of work. But I must ask: how has it affected the four of you, personally?
COVID-19’s arrival hit the brakes on our momentum as a band (as it did for everyone), and pushed back the release date of the album. We were touring consistently before the pandemic hit, and we’re desperate to get back to our old rocking ways. Life just won’t be the same until we can all rock together again, but we’re staying patient.
In 2019 you joined up with Rivers of Nihil, Entheos, and Conjurer on a nationwide tour across the U.S. I think for many people — myself included — that was a game changer for setting the bar at a metal show. How did you all enjoy that tour? Did you learn anything from it?
That tour, aside from being a great time alongside top notch bands and people, taught us a lot about how to put on a great show every night. The folks in Rivers of Nihil, Entheos, and Conjurer are all extremely talented musicians. Getting to watch them every night inspired us and helped us better understand our potential as a band with Wolf King.
Throughout the pandemic, people are discovering new ways to stay entertained while the moderate lockdowns have shuttered most live scenes and the entertainment industry as a whole. Being gamers yourselves, you're fortunate to have another outlet to keep yourselves occupied outside of staying busy writing new albums. What games have kept you sane? What should more people be playing right now?
Some of the games we’ve been playing: Valheim, Smite, Heroes of the Storm, Blasphemous, and Dungeon of the Endless (it’s older and less known, but it’ll get you hooked). We all like games from various genres, but we all definitely love games with a mythological or mystical feel.
Being a group with two vocalists often raises an eyebrow or two, but you've managed to cultivate an equal duality to how people appreciate both of you. There's almost this vocal persona between Tim and Jake that I like to refer to as the "Goblin/Golem" identity that makes studio recordings fun, and live performances awe-inspiring. How did you arrive at that idea, and now that clean vocals have been incorporated into the mix, can we expect to see even more vocal diversity moving forward?
We (Tim and Jake) have always worked together on all the vocal parts since the beginning. The dynamics between the low and high pitch vocals have become an essential part of the Wolf King sound, and we like the intensity that it brings. As far as incorporating different vocal styles, we’ll always be exploring new things while staying true to our sound as a band.
In your first LP, Loyal to the Soil, it was phrased that the reason there were two parts for the title track, and two parts for Mortals, is because they are two differing perspectives regarding the same subject. What are those warring ideals?
The difference between the two songs is a matter of perspective. When one person takes an action, someone else is affected by it. The two songs are showing us two sides of the same story.
Being a 420-friendly group is becoming more common with each passing year, but the legalization and normalizing of marijuana has made its accessibility nearly coast to coast in dispensaries across the U.S. Your group has not only held this position for some time; you've recorded videos while partaking, as Connor has phrased it, "it's part of your group's equation," and you've even printed merch that has imagery based on it. Can the music scene benefit from federal legalization, and how does weed help you?
Our position on weed isn’t too complicated. It’s just a ritual that helps bond us together as a band and as friends. It isn’t anything serious, we just like to smoke weed before rocking, and we encourage anyone to join us in the holy sacrament if they want to.
It has become more clear than ever the amount of royalties being paid to artists/labels through streaming services are frankly, a joke. Despite their best intentions — those payments of "a third of a penny per stream" (Sanchez, D. (2020) What Streaming Services Pay, LibGuides) seem to be trending downward again, which honestly feels like the streaming norm. Have streaming sales actually come through for Wolf King during the past year?
All the money we make as a band comes through record sales and merch sales now, especially now that we print all our own merch. If you want to support Wolf King, purchase our albums or merch from Bandcamp or Bigcartel. Streaming is cool too, but we appreciate everyone who’s shown us love by purchasing CDs, vinyls, and merch.
On the other hand, the implementation of Bandcamp Friday over the past year seems to have been a blessing no one saw coming. Not only opening a monthly floodgate of income, BC has proven that it is possible for organizations to operate altruistically and still maintain a profitable site for streaming, and merchandising. How has Bandcamp helped your group, and should the monthly tradition continue?
Bandcamp is a great service and we’ve always been fans of their approach. The Bandcamp Friday events allow us to choose to donate proceeds from our albums to causes we support, and we think it’s a cool idea to keep going.
Your mix/master this time around was handcrafted by Jack Shirley, the legend who has his name attached to Young Mountain's Lost Tree, Bosse-de-Nage's All Fours, and the inimitable Sunbather by Deafheaven. How was the experience, and what kind of magic does Jack possess?
Having Jack master our record was an honor. We appreciate that he came and checked us out live right before working on the album, so he could get a feel for how we sound in person. That was perfect, because we wanted to go for a raw and unedited feel on this new album. We think he picked up on our style right away and executed it well.
Though other publications have sought to find the sketchiness in both your name and lyrics, that sort of surface-layer scanning does nothing to spotlight the amount of activism your group has committed to behind the scenes. Being vocal about your political ideals in a positive manner, as well as taking action in the form of peaceful protesting for racial equality, is it safe to say that Wolf King is worth more than words on progressive action?
Wolf King lyrics usually deal with exploring themes of mortality and the afterlife, never anything political really. Someone, somewhere, will always misunderstand what you’re doing and have something negative to say. It’s not something we worry about too much. We’re just a metal band who wants to bring as many people as possible together to have a great time.
As per tradition, I always ask my guests these last two questions! First off; what have you been listening to lately? What artists have kept you all sane in quarantine, and what artists do you feel deserve far more recognition?
All of us threw in some answers, so here’s a quick list of our latest favorites: Frozen Soul, Goatsnake, Vastum, Undeath, Ulver, Crypt Sermon, Gatecreeper, Ulthar, Abiotic, and The Lion’s Daughter (the new single is so sick!)
And lastly, so much of your music tackles an internalized war, the strange divide somewhere between "conquer and inspire," and "surrender to the nihility of it all." Which brings me to my final question: Does great suffering breed great art? Or is suffering strictly that — adversity for the sake of — with no rhyme nor reason?
Everyone suffers, but not everyone tries to create art from it. Everyone processes their pain differently. We just want to express ours in a way that can create something positive, both for ourselves and for others.
Once again guys, on behalf of Heaviest of Art; thank you for taking the time to chat with us today. Your new album is a monster, it's going to be awesome to see the reception, and we can't wait to see you when the tours return! Take care, and stay safe!
Thanks for the opportunity!