A History Of Wolf Eyes’ Most Crazed Gigs, By Wolf Eyes

US noise kingpins Wolf Eyes recently released their new album, No Answer: Lower Floors. Ahead of their shows at Incubate, the group's John Olson - under the guise of INZANE JOHNNY - recounts a history of some of their wildest gigs, from accidental mace-related head injuries to Italian construction sites

INZANE JOHNNY’S CRAZED WOLF GIGS OF PAST: The cobwebs are strong and the memory spiders sterile, so dates and times are most likely way off. But here are some of the most nuclear of the Wolf gigs I’ve been a part of since my tenure in the trio.

Summer 1999/8, Bowling Green, Ohio, College Bar

This was booked as a Spykes/Wolf Eyes gig. We drove down in Nate’s party van with roach and full crew and, unbeknownst to us, Mike Connelly [of Hair Police, former Wolf Eyes member] was there with I Live In LA band. No one showed up, so it was just the "three" bands and the free bar, so the night was pure band-on-band chaos supreme. After getting blown out and trying to figure out "Alright, Olson starts, then Dillo [Aaron Dilloway], then Nate [Young], then just Wolf Eyes", the cheap beer took over the thinking functions, and it was Wolf trio from start to finish, for about two hours straight. Photos exist somewhere. Connelly’s band destroyed the place, and afterward we stole metal parking signs from the parking light for future percussion. Barely made it home. Wild RNR free all night.

Summer 2001, The Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota

Was a huge church in the heavy Freedom From / early De Stijl / end of Muckraker era, that held a handful of festivals, and early on – before the crusties took it over to play gypitsy train-hopping folk at every jam – we had a guaranteed wild time every time the boys rolled through. This was near the height of the ‘search and destroy’ violence years, and after a stage diver took out Dillo’s electro-table he dove into the crowd and a greasy brawl started. We got back on stage and the crowd turned on us big time – not pretty. You are hearing the results on side two of the Wolf Eyes & John Wiese 7" from later on. The place was nuts, owned by a Suzanne? But a strong lesson learned live, to hold our ground via cheap electronics and loud beats.

Winter 2001, Elbow Room, Ypsilanti, Michigan

We totally forgot we had a gig that night, and got a roll call at 9pm. Fill on in the lathe cutting exploration years: we had to do a tour shortly after this gig, so being the geniuses we are, we decided to skip the EQ and just cut records live on the grip of fresh acto 10" blank lathes we had. I did the beats, Nate did the cutting and Dillo played them, Jackie RNR Smegma style. We had so much fun we played for HOURS, and got told to stop. The 10" turned out real nice, with Wolf Stamp and such. One of the rare non-violent gigs at the Elbow Room, where after Bulb New Year the entire crew got banned for life. Not complaining there, as now it’s the AM REP APPRECIATION SOCIETY clubhouse. 

Summer 2003, Huge Club, Minneapolis, Minnesota

More MPLS horror. After a long, intense, work-tour-study with Sonic Youth through the desert and out west in a heat-lock, non-air conditioned van, we were at our first ‘coming home gig’ with Hair Police and the Youth. Big gig. Early in the tour, on the non-stop drive from Ypsilanti to Seattle, I found a mace, and spent the rest of the tour trying to figure out a way to ‘play’ the arcane weapon, only to come up with a style that involved just twisting it above my head at the start of the set to come out heavy.

All fine and dandy, until we meet the Hair Police boyz and the brews train gets derailed wild, and a too-loose Inzane Johnny rolls out the 20B>C weapon at the start of the Wolf Eyes set, clubs my head and nearly bleeds to death. I make it through the jam, barely. Clint takes me to an ER, I skip the line by him telling the nurses we were "messing around in the garage", and get my nugget stapled back together just in time for the after-party. Spent the rest of the tour feeling like an aggro-alligator (aggrogator?) was chewing on my scalp. Twig [Harper] from Nautical Almanac later took said staples for a Wolf release. Wicked summer party foul.

Winter 2004? Marshall Street Den of Decadence, Ann Arbor

Lots of wicked times at that house, even more wild gigs. Anything could happen, and most often did. This was a Connelly visit-Zombie gig, and the power went off for the block. Total darkness. Cold. Gig still went on: Mike played in a tub, we danced to the Marcel M silent record on a portable, and the Wolves played ‘Mystic Acoustic’ with saliva, violence, broken glass, wrestling and battery-powered noise. Ruled. Went all night. Results on the Night Of The Electricity Haters CD. Total dark lunacy.

Summer 2006, Italy

Near the end of a nut-grinding six week European tour, all done by foot and sweat. Our equipment was gone or broken, Nate just had a mic and mixer, boys were just spent. We roll to a smallish town in Italy via our man Enrico, and are told the gig is ‘city centre’. Okay: we meet in the middle of the city square, in a pit way down from where people are looking, and there are blue alien creatures everywhere – beyond weird. It turns out we are to play in the construction pit for the city people at dusk, with the images being projected on huge screens, to jam along to this wacko-artist idea that this local loon had from finding ancient bones on a site that the city was going to use for a parking lot. We grab as much metal und klang as we can find, and jam for two hours straight, with people yelling at us fishbowl-style in Italian all during the set. When I ask Enrico what they are saying, he says "You don’t want to know…" After the gig we meet Tax from Negazione and Connelly gets pushed into that famous fountain from Suspiria. No shit. 

Fall 2006, Record Cafe, São Paulo, Brazil

We were lucky enough to get a jam down in this completely INZANE city, and had a blast. First gig we did, we played our set, got finished, no clapping, nothing: silence. We rolled backstage, and Eduardo and Gui told us "They don’t like what you just did, you gotta do the set again." So we mount up and let the bricks fly, nuclear style, again, and this time it works.

Amazing city – crazy tags everywhere, and the famous ‘Metal Mall’. We had a beyond a blast. On our last day at the crew’s hang out record store/bar, Connelly spotted a Fender Twin in the corner, and we all said at once, "we can totally bust a set…" Within an hour we were plugged into the small PA, and let it rip circa 3am, and it was front coach on the crazy train. When it was finished, Damo Suzuki – who just showed up magically – was handing us brews. If you ever get a chance to go down there, you’ve gotta, its full on. Shortly after, we had a tour planned – just small towns from Brazil to Chile, with Lightning Bolt – but it fell through: damn! The dude wanting to set it up said "Yes, it will be fine, I’ll just get a bunch of guns…" Funky boy!

Summer 2007, NYC college gig

Don’t know what prompted this era, but this was the ‘comedy’ era that went on way too long, and its origin was a super intense heckling session from master heckler Andy Roach during a Toronto gig. It just kinda went on and on from there, and climaxed at this gig we shared with the Magik Markers. Rolling through the Holland Tunnel, Nate realised he’d left 90% of his EQ back home, so we had to make do. No prob for the bozo boys, and the set turned into 90% crew inzane jokes and live ball busting, and 10% free-jamming. The crowd kinda enjoyed the 10%. Homeboy Justin LA has a video of it somewhere. The night ended with us getting yelled at by ALL the management of the college, and us leaving all our empty beer cans in front of the Markers’ room to transfer the heat from us to them. Didn’t work. They should have given us an honorary PhD in total mental retardation on the spot, but the powers that be that night actually had to work to contain the bozo boyz. Weird gig.

Fall 2009, Oakland, California

Big warehouse gig with some crew members. We roll to the gig after listening to our main man Rubber O Mic’s early proto-oi! ALLIED demos all day, and JB gave us a demo of the NA Read To Fight 2LP that was coming out shortly. Our blood was fueled by ancient local hardcore fire, so attack was the MO of the day. This was our heavy-partied Coachella trip (was fine, but everyone thought we "won a contest" or were PRODIGY), but this gig was special, ’cause there was a huge spider web in the corner that we set up in the in centre of, all entangled, and let it rip, full inzane style. Was strange, needless to say, and I think there was a smoke machine too…. Even more intense under the influence of the medical weed-treats that Derek G homeboy had in tow at the time. Psych gig supreme.

Late Fall 2009, Port Angeles, Washington

Huh??? There?? YEP.

Huge $$ gig, got us there to fund a whole trek out there, to play this strange town with Rubber O Cement, a country band that took a ton of LSD, a comedy guy, a fem folkie (who drove up the gig a month early from a calendar misread), belly dancers, and finally a pop-punk band. We had to roll through the town like four times en route to other gigs around that time, so we would see Port Angeles over-flyered for the upcoming ‘mega’ gig, and we were truly confused as to what was to come. And what did come was three paying customers, who left after the first band, and a beyond empty VFW hall by the time we jammed. Closest to the mythical Thin Ensemble gig at the Otherwise Gallery in Lansing, where 0 people came.

Homeboy Stan was with us to see the whole thing play out, and it was beyond strange/surreal. The promoter was beyond shook, and I still have his "no detail too small, no dream too big" business card in my empty CDR bucket of magic. I think this dream was a bit too big… Let me know if any other gigs go down in that town, besides the filming for the Twilight series. Team Jacob, yo.

Summer 2010, Secret Project Robot, Brooklyn

I forget why we were on tour in Ape Chip’s overheating van in the middle of August, but man, that is not the time to tour. This was in this already non-vented place with Black Dice and Growing, so it was all speaker cabs and boiling fever inzanity. This was the era where we had Young lyrics sprayed on a huge bedsheet via Indigesti or Underage Italy, classic hardcore style, so add that to ‘the jumped in a inzane pool of sweat’ and straight up FEVER of the room, and it made for the most wet and wild Wolf set yet. Ridiculous. It must have been 200 degrees in the room, you couldn’t even grab your knobs for a spin or "power sweep". No belly aching here, just summer inzane fun noise attack el massive that night.

After scraping our wasted nuts off the Brooklyn concrete at 3am, we drove into the wilderness of Jersey and got a flat, and with the weight of Ape Tech’s robots we couldn’t lift the van to change the spare, and had to wait two hours to get a tow mug to scrape up 20 feet to more stable ground. LONG DAY! With a drive to the Skylab looming ahead of us, where we showed up late for the first time, and had to jam for 20 minutes before the cops came. At least we had the Steely Dan ‘Second Arrangement’ boot and ‘LA WOMAN’ to guide the drive in quiet burning inzanity on the noise path… 

Summer 2011, Rooftop, NYC

This was a [Young and Olson’s side project] Stare Case jam with Twig and Carly, but it’s family enough to warrant a Wolf jam. This was "Live Action Role Playing Gig" at a fancy downtown NYC rooftop on September 10th, a full moon bright night, so the vibe was already boiling. What else to make it tense? I dunno, how about a reading of Hogg by Samuel Delany, read by Ray Radke? Whoa… In between long bass/reeds/electronics/Carly light machine movements, there were selections from a book that puts the AW DAMN in RAW. It was wicked tense and strange. After the gig, I took the 30-plus flights of steps down to decompress, and we got the F out of the city, to not be there Sept 11th tenth anniversary action. Weird gig for sure, the author was gonna show – that would have been the icing on the Hogg cake for a boiling night. Whew.

There are tons (like the two day Paris Wolf Crew Fest that happened last week), but my charred inzane brain, basking out the wild days of lore, is clogging up my trek down memory lane. So I’ll stop there… ENDLESS POWER CYCLE!!

Inzane Johnny, Michigan, Spring 2013

Wolf Eyes play at Incubate Festival, Tilburg, next week, alongside other Wolf Eyes side projects Stare Case, Henry & Hazel Slaughter, Regression and Crazy Jim. Show hijinks may or may not match the above. For more information, click here to visit the Incubate website.

Wolf Eyes’ No Answer: Lower Floors is out now on De Stijl. Read the Quietus review of the album here.

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