The Wolfmen are Marco Pirroni and Chris Constantinou, formerly of Adam And The Ants, plus friends. Two years after getting back together, they’ve just released their debut album, Modernity Killed Every Night.
musicOMH caught up with them at Raezor Studios in West London to ask how two former Ants became a pair of Wolves, and why a Bollywood connection became just the ticket…
“I was in a band called Jackie Onassid“, says Chris Constantinou, explaining how the two former Ants ended up back together. “It was my first venture out at singing and doing the frontman thing [he also plays bass]. I was always looking for a guitarist who played like Marco – I kept telling people to try and play like Marco.”
“People always call me up and say do you know anyone who plays like you?” adds Marco Pirroni. “They never call me up and ask me if I want to do something with them – they always say do you know anyone who plays like you?”
Constantinou hadn’t been in touch with Pirroni for around 10 years when he called him, but says he thought, “oh go on, I’ll just ask him anyway. So I did and he said yeah, go on then”. He says it soon became obvious that they wanted to do something from scratch, together. “Marco had this idea for the concept of The Wolfmen – a band and a name – and that’s how it started. We had this idea that we were going to do electro punk.”
“We started off with one thing and then we wanted to be something else and then it started to find its place. When we found other musicians and started playing live, that helped to form the later tracks on the album, songs like Better Days, Wak This Bass, Buzz Me Kate, If You Talk Like That, Je T’Aime Madame’.”
The Wolfmen’s first project was a soundtrack for the Bravo series I Predict A Riot in January 2006, followed by scores for previously silent 1900s fetish films that were shown as part of the ICA’s Fashion In Film festival later that year. Shortly after came their debut EP and a single, Karma Sutra, that garnered support from BBC Radio 2 and BBC 6music.
This early success drew attention not only from the BBC but also from a rather unexpected source: Indian musical superstar Daler Mehndi, star of countless Bollywood musicals and a huge celebrity both in the subcontinent and with Asian communities across the globe.
“Achille Forler, Daler’s publisher, contacted SonyBMG with the idea of finding a rock band to collaborate with him,” says Chris, “and they thought of us”. He admits that he wasn’t familiar with Daler Mehndi’s work before but the collaboration proved to be a fruitful one. The single they made together, Wolf Eyes, became a huge hit on BBC Asian Network radio, spending several weeks at Number 1.
“Daler wrote the lyrics and the melody and we wrote the music around his vocal track, which was sent to us from India on a DVD. This is the way we work with all his songs (for the album Thieves And Liars, due out later this year): we take the voice track and jam around it until we have a chord structure that we like. Then we arrange the song in a western rock style and lay on bass, drums and guitars, and finally the western percussion.
“We spend a lot of time fine-tuning the balance of Indian percussion and Western percussion. Then producer/mixer Steve Musters works on editing the track up into a mix which we send to Daler and Achille.” Finally, he explains, Daler comes over to London, re-sings the vocal track and puts his ideas in before they do a final mix.
They didn’t set out intending to work on two albums simultaneously, but doing this alongside their own debut album, Modernity Killed Every Night, doesn’t seem to have been a problem for them. After all, even that doesn’t account for everything they’ve been up to.
Since the success on the BBC Asian Network, they’ve kept busy with a number of projects. Their cover of the Brian Eno song Needle In The Camel’s Eye was released as a single in April and will appear in a new film out later this year called Digging – a love story made by Vertigo Films, the people behind The Football Factory and It’s All Gone Pete Tong. The Wolfmen even have a cameo in one scene. They’ve collaborated with Primal Scream on music for an Alexander McQueen catwalk show, and with Lou Reed on a b-side for their third single Cecile, released in November 2007.
This might make it seem as if they’re a band who take things in their stride, but it’s not always as easy as it sounds. Before The Wolfmen’s debut gig at Islington Academy, also in November 2007, Pirroni hadn’t performed live in 15 years.
“I dragged him out of retirement”, says Constantinou. “Marco hates playing live. We have our own views on that so we compromise.” Pirroni disagrees with this, explaining that he sees playing live as not so much a necessarily evil, “but as something I have to do”.
“I love it”, says Constantinou, “but I wouldn’t do it to the point where it’s to the detriment of the band. You can get to the point where it’s having a negative effect and you’re just wearing yourself out. You’ve got to have a strategy and a reason for doing it; it’s got to be constructive, apart from enjoyment. You can go and play live as much as you like but inside a professional set up, for anyone doing what we’re doing, there has to be a strategy”.
They say they’d like to tour Canada and America, where their popularity is growing and they’re getting a lot of radio play. Also, as a challenge, they’d like to tour India. When they went there to play with Daler, they were surprised by how old-fashioned much of the studio equipment was, and also how difficult logistically a tour would be.
“There are no proper roads,” explains Pirroni. “They don’t have power generators. Touring India would need to be a very organised process for it to work, and there’s all the backhanders – you’d have to consider how that would work. You pay backhanders anywhere, in the UK, the US, anywhere, but not like in India”. Despite this, they seem determined to give it a go.
“We’re talking to Daler about it as an option”, Constantinou says. “We were thinking of going in September and that’s still being discussed but it would be such a difficult place to tour. It comes down to practicalities. It would have to be just him and The Wolfmen – a five piece band with a percussionist. It couldn’t be a 13-piece band”.
And, of course, they need to take time off too, to recharge their batteries and to write new material.
“That’s what we’re doing now”, says Constantinou. “We’re just assimilating. We’re going through everything now that we’ve done in the last three or four years and there’s so much stuff. We’re going through it with a guy who works here, Matthew, and we’re trying to section it out – how many songs are for us, how many songs are for other projects we’re working on, for films, for adverts. There’s a hell of a lot to go through.”
“We have to write some new music as well. We can’t wait – it’s been a while since we’ve been writing just for us. We’ve been a bit sidetracked by the business side of it and the other projects we’ve been doing, including a project with Tibetan music”.
They also hint at a project with “an Irish musician”, about which they don’t want to give any more information yet. But all of this is in the future, and as for plans for a second album, “We’ve barely released the first one yet!” Pirroni points out. With such a varied and exciting output behind them so far, though, is it any surprise that we can’t wait to hear it?