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In Extremis

Thirsty, Pummelling Noise: An Interview With Wölfbait
Toby Cook , July 17th, 2013 05:06

Self-described 'kraut violence' crew Wolfbait stormed the Quietus office earlier this year with their self-titled debut album, which hit with all the unstoppable momentum of a wrecking ball. We assigned Toby Cook to find out more about this mysterious gang of demolition artistes

Being a self abusive audiophile is fraught with danger. Not real danger, obviously, more the sort of danger that accompanies the handling of a homicidally overheated microwave cannelloni, but nonetheless you're gambling with your aural sanity every time you venture into that pile of demos and promos on top of which the latest offerings from Scat Injector and Ramlord sit.

Every now and then, however, you'll happen across a release packaged up in a day-glo nightmare, bearing descriptions like 'negative psychedelia' and 'kraut-noise', and sounding something like a hardcore band having a noise rock-induced mental breakdown. Imagine schizoid Texan mentalists Today Is The Day and much-missed, soul-strangling drone merchants Khanate locked in a basement ingesting expired medication, and you're getting close to the gloriously unhinged punishment of Irish crew Wölfbait.

Unfortunately, even in this age of shameless self promotion and Facebook, details of the group proved all too scarce. Indeed, that very day-glo packaged album which found its way to the Quietus - the band's self-titled debut LP, released via the Art For Blind label - was one of a limited run of only 150 cassette tapes. So in the wake of the release of its even more deranged follow up, an expanse of pure narcotic drone titled A Veil Of Phosphorous Rot, we thought we'd track down the group's spokesman Jaakko Häme in order to get some answers…

Hello Wölfbait! Right, before we get ahead of ourselves, can you give us a brief history of how you got started – how/where/when you met, and all that?

Jaakko Häme: We've pretty much known each other since... who knows when? Things started in 2011, and by the end of the year the band had expanded in membership to Wölfbait as we now are. We recorded our tape in April 2012 and after a long wait it came out late last year. We all live in Dublin, except Ghandee who just lives wherever he feels like, really... He's more free than the rest of us.

And I'm guessing the name didn't come from the line in the mostly pretty terrible John Hughes movie Weird Science?

JH: Well the meaning of the word is still the same. The way popular culture shapes our imagination, I'm sure John Hughes has had influence in the naming, even if it has been subconscious. Also, it's a killer film!

You've described your sound as 'kraut violence'. Can you explain what you mean by that?

JH: Repetitive and noisy; if krautrock could be described as mechanical, we would be more... primal? 

Your self-titled album is punishing mix of everything from noise rock and power electronics to Today Is The Day-ish near-hardcore insanity and Khanate-like noise. But for your most recent release, A Veil Of Phosphorous Rot, you've moved into deeply unsettling noise and drone – why the change in direction?

JH: I don't think we really have a direction. When playing live, writing new material and rehearsing, we still sound like band playing music in a room. A Veil Of Phosphorous Rot demonstrates a different way of doing and thinking about music and complements the other. It's one of many things we want to do as a band.

And by the way, what was the thinking behind releasing your self-titled album as a limited run of 150 tapes? It seems a shame to deprive people of something so good!

JH: We never thought about that as being very limited! They're not sold out or anything - so far no one is deprived. It was unknown to us if this kind of stuff would sell – who even knows that stuff.

With yourselves and the likes of Drugzilla and, to a degree, From The Bogs Of Aughiska, there seems to have been a wealth of disturbing, bracing and darkly psychedelic music coming out of Ireland in the last few year. Would you agree? What do you attribute that too?

JH: There are a lot of punk and hardcore bands in Dublin, and most of the band have been involved more on that side of things previously. All of us have an interest in the more experimental and more formally disrupted stuff that is out there. Those influences melt into something disturbing and dark pretty well.

Given the style of music you guys play, do you see yourselves as being aligned with any particular scene, or do you by contrast find yourselves alienated from less, I suppose, 'eclectic' scenes? What are the positives and negatives?

JH: We've played mainly punk shows and art galleries. Maybe personally we are somewhat aligned in different ways to scenes, but as a band there's not that much of a difference. Different crowds have different reactions, so far it's always been good.

Who do you see as your peers?

JH: Lots of local bands, really. A lot of bands that we play and are friends with. On a sonic level, there are bands like Siorai Geimhreadh and Woven Skull who we feel musical comradeship with.

You collaborated with the aerial performance group Paper Dolls for their 'Constellations' production – how did that come about?

JH: We were friends with Emily from Paperdolls, and she saw us play a gig in the late hotspot Lower Deck. She asked us to collaborate, and we found the creative process had a lot of similarities to how we worked. It was a primal, exhilarating experience!

What was your involvement in the project - were you only tasked with the musical accompaniment? How did you go about writing the music for it?

JH: We rehearsed with the performance group, and we wrote the music and performed on the spot. There was a separation of the band and the performance, of course, but the creative process was more interwoven. We all collaborated with each other, as well as the space itself.

What were some of the unique challenges involved in 'Constellations' for you? Are you keen to participate in similar performances again?

JH: To play eleven days in a row when everyone has a cold! The creative process pretty much determined that we could not finish our pieces before the whole performance was in its final form, which happened maybe the evening before the first show. We're still open to trying all sorts of different contexts for our racket.

You're heading out on tour soon - looking forward to it? What can people expect from your live show?

JH: Every show means a different space, different sound, different reactions from the crowd. It always changes how the end result feels, at least for us. Yeah, definitely looking forward to it. Expect thirsty, pummelling noise.

How much more or less do you consider Wölfbait a live band as opposed to an 'album' band?

JH: Both are parts of the whole Wölfbait thing, if we were clearly either we would probably just do that one thing. That's the thing with this band, we do exactly what we feel like doing. Right now we feel like doing some gigs - it's going to be great!

Are you aware that there's another Wolfbait kicking around (although without the umlaut) who describe themselves as like 'Danzig fronting Iron Maiden'? What are the chances of your collaborating with them!?

JH: They're probably a nice bunch of people. Also Danzig and Iron Maiden both rule, so all the power to them. Power metal and power electronics should be an electrifying combination. If their manager rings us, we'll grant them an audience.

What state of mind should one be in to best enjoy the music of Wölfbait?

JH: Whatever their way of enjoying things! Everyone interprets music in their own way, and has their own rituals or non-rituals about it. Also, coffee and beer.