Also we are really stuck with them… almost literally. Cos Subroutine, when they wrote up our first press release they wrote all this stuff about our beards, and man… that’s followed us round. Stuff about our beards.
photo by Dennis Wisse
This is a LONG piece, and it’s fair to say it’s basically a drinking session transcribed. But I do want you to read it through; so let’s split it up into chapters. It’s what seems to make sense, after the dust and the liver ache has settled.
So: this is Incendiary’s interview with the Groningen rock band WOLVON.
Weirdo Pubs (Part the First) Weird British Dress Sense and Rock and Roll TomTom
“You’ve never been in?”
“No. I’ve never been in here in all the years I’ve lived here. I don’t think it’s changed since about 1970.”
We enter a pub, the “we” being WOLVON and me. WOLVON are here, in Leiden, to talk to me about their new LP, their tour, their video ideas, and any other stuff that should pop up in the course of a 4 hours drinking session. And where better to start it in a pub that no-one had been in? Cue Eigenzorg; an establishment near the station that had always looked pretty desperate from the outside. A place for drinking, and little else: a place that comes as close to a Working Mens’ Club atmosphere as any place I’ve been into in NL. There’s an incredibly strong echo in the bar that means most people are whispering. Apart from the lads from WOLVON, (of course), whose voices rattle round the place. We must look like the weirdest bunch to the locals. After a couple of pints to steady matters, we press on.
IN: This is some boozer...
BRAM: It’s actually quite a nice place; it smells like my grandmother’s old house.
RUBEN: That table’s reserved. Maybe it’s gonna fill up.
(The place is massive, with at least 15 empty tables. There is no way this place will fill up. It’s a place you can imagine people buying fake passports in. It’s like something from the film Spirited Away.)
IN: With werewolves.
IKE: Hey! We got a gig in Manchester! At Kraak, with the guys from Politburo.
IN: You sorted it? Cool. When I took Vox Von Braun and Sugarettes to the UK 6 years ago, Nick from Politburo turned up in Liverpool and licked the deejay booth’s glass partition whilst I was deejaying. I think he was tripping.
IKE: That’s great! We’re gonna drop acid too!
RUBEN: Ach, maybe not as we might have to do a gig the day after in Glasgow. With a band we had a gig with at Lepel, (WOLVON’s very own club night. More of Lepel later.).
A brief discussion ensues over where places are in the UK…
IN: So where else have you got gigs in the UK? May and June isn’t it?
IKE: 29th May to 2nd June so far. We’ve got London, Canterbury, Brighton and we just got Manchester booked. Hopefully Glasgow, and we’re trying for Liverpool.
IN: Who you playing with?
IKE: Just us, mostly. Maybe some weird bands. But just us, we’re mostly headlining I think.
RUBEN: We’re playing a squat gig in London with a band who seems to be the total opposite in style to us.
BRAM: But we’re getting a door deal there and this band has got loads of fans. Let’s see what happens.
IN: As long as you’re having a good time and don’t get ripped. Just treat it like a holiday.
IKE: Ah but we’re playing the Hope and Anchor too.
IN: Really that’s really cool! The Soft Boys played there.
IKE: Hey, I wanna ask you something: these British guys in bands; they all have ties and nice hair and look neat. That’s weird. And we got a real strict sound schedule for the London show, and a sort of contract which is really strict, like on and off the stage in 30 minutes, at this particular time.
RUBEN: And you can’t play around the London area for two weeks around the show… weird.
IN: You will find it interesting! It’ll be good for your characters.
BRAM: Hey Richard! Can you be our personal TomTom for the whole tour?
IN: No. But I DO know someone who can do TomTom impersonations. My friend George Chen from the bands Kit & Common Eider King Eider can do a mean impression of Jello Biafra being a TomTom.
BRAM: Wow… Rock and Roll TomTom. It’s a song; “Rock and Roooollll Toooom Tooom”.
IN: You could do a WOLVON TomTom.
RUBEN: Yeah but you won’t get where you want. You won’t get anywhere.
IKE: You’ll just sit there and wait for the thing to say something. It won’t – a WOLVON TomTom won’t say anything. Or will just say, “Sit at these lights for another 5 minutes until we know where we are”.
BRAM: And it’ll have settings that will say, for every turn you make, something like “oh, shit, you should have gone left. Go back!”
RUBEN: “You are now in a dead end. It seemed like a good idea at the time.” (Laughs)
IKE: Ah, this happens all the time with WOLVON actually. I have to drive and Ruben is my navigator, and I’m the worst driver…
RUBEN: Once he drove round and round Amsterdam, he didn’t know how to get out. And he stopped at a green light…
IKE: And sat there….
IN: Is that why WOLVON go on the train?
BRAM: Yeah it is. Then we’ve got our own personal driver.
RUBEN: They tell you where we are, the train drivers. It’s good.
Tyrants in Voorhout, Hating Stages and Too Much Love Too Fast
We get more drinks. Ruben wonders why a “British dude” is drinking vaasjes. So we switch to pints. We get looked at by the proprietors with a mix of incomprehension and mild disdain. We bat on.
IN: As well as the tour, you have a whole load of things happening in April, May and June. Your record (folds, out as of now), and a release party in Groningen, new videos, and a tour, as well as sorting a Lepel gig with Fawn Spots at club Vera. So you are busy!
BRAM: Yeah… (Pauses) It’s been kinda weird for us because last year we played about 50 gigs, at lots of smaller places like SUB (071), whatever, which is great. And then we had such a long break when we started the recording the album, that it was strange for us to start playing again.
RUBEN: Two months.
BRAM: And it was quite intense, the whole recording thing. Yeah. Because normally we’d just get in the van and get to a gig and just fuck it but now we really had to focus and get our sound down.
RUBEN: And when I moaned to a few other bands saying we had to play but we couldn’t rehearse because we hadn’t played in such a long time as we were busy with recording, these other bands would say “how long?” And we’d say two months and they’d say, “stop moaning you…. Twats!” (Laughs) So yeah we’re kind of spoiled with playing every weekend.
BRAM: What’s the Fawn Spots thing?
RUBEN: We’re putting on a show with them at Lepel. At Vera actually.
IKE: They’re a good match for us. They’re super friendly, really good guys.
IN: So, gigs aside, let’s talk about the record, folds. It’s an immense record. It’s a physical thing; you really notice the brute force, the physicality of it. And you are also very poppy, a bit like a Sugar / Sub Pop, Blast First thing.
IKE: We always saw it as a pop noise.
A pop noise
BRAM: We had a hard time getting it down. Like I said we had played a load of shows and we were struggling in how to translate that onto record, and I think (producer) Corno (Zwetsloot) really played a big part in this, trying to maintain an overview, and trying to maintain the intensity.
IKE: Exactly. And there was some magic. Because when we were trying to record only the instruments you don’t hear what’s gonna happen, and when we started to dub them and heard the play back, things just came to life, and we were like, “wow this is magic!”
IN: So he’s the navigator on the LP?
IKE: Oh yeah for sure! He’s our spiritual navigator.
RUBEN: He also gave us plenty of time to try things. It wasn’t like we were on the clock for money or anything. Not that that mattered, because we didn’t have any money (laughs).
IN: The role of producers in Holland… I have to say outside of Corno and Chris van Velde, I don’t really notice any maverick, high profile maestros. Where you’ve got a strong hand on the tiller.
RUBEN: Well, Corno doesn’t believe in the role of producer. We talked about that as well. And he always tried to get out of us whatever we wanted to do. Even if we didn’t know what we wanted for ourselves.
IKE: He was always very rich with coming up with ideas for us.
BRAM: He always had something up his sleeve.
RUBEN: But he’d wait until…
BRAM: He was always patient with us. Like an angel (laughs). But what I know from his previous work, and I’m not referring to his own music, but rather the way he functioned as a producer, I heard some horror stories, that he was harsh and strict…
IKE: Yelling at bands (laughs).
BRAM: I think he really scared the shit out of some (laughs)… But it was great for us because we could really do with a kick up the arse at times. But this was great for us – him being very honest and critical.
IKE: Corno is one of the gang.
IN: Yeah… I also think he’s captured you: and helped crystallise an image of you as a band. That was one of the things I was always interested in, your image, because you weren’t a normal fit in the scene you are in. I think it took some time for some to get used to you almost, knocking some people out of a comfort zone.
IKE: We always knew it was gonna be great!
IKE: Because we were always kinda cocky. Saying - me and Bram at the beginning - saying we were gonna do like At The Drive In on speed or something which of course is a total lie ‘cos we can’t be that good but yeah! When we started we had a buzz going before we started our first gig, and it was just one big bluff for the heck of it.
BRAM: Of course we know some folks on the scene and I don’t know; everybody just got really excited.
RUBEN: We had good press, and we had our own club night so that helped.
BRAM: And we acted really cool about it but of course we were really enjoying it, but yeah, I dunno.
IKE: The first couple of shows we were scared, but the people we were recording with for our first EP really liked it and they were not really into our kind of music; so we felt we were onto something. And our first show got way too many good reviews; the reviews were way too good.
RUBEN: The first review came from Tjeerd van Erve I think? And the review from the live show was mad. Referring to all the 90’s American post hardcore bands.
BRAM: We were blessed with people who wanted to do stuff with us, slightly older guys who remembered all these 90’s bands…
IKE: You were one of the critical ones! You were the critical one! The one who didn’t praise us!
(The band laughs, and slaps thighs/ does high fives)
IN: Yes, erm yes indeed. Because there were certain things I was trying to work out. I was trying to place you, the first time I saw you.
BRAM: Where was it?
IN: OT301 in Amsterdam. Space Siren’s release party.
RUBEN: One of our first shows.
IN: I could see it, I think, but I also thought you had a really sort of incongruous presence on that night. I couldn’t put my finger on it. When I did work it out, your good time rock vibe, when I saw it I thought yeah! It’s also interesting to see this element of enjoyment with you. You really project a lot of enjoyment, you don’t show any embarrassment.
BRAM: HA! Maybe not enough embarrassment… Good point: I think it really works for us. I think when you finally got us was also a turning point for us, we’d done something like five or six shows and then we got to play Queensday night at SUB071, and we started to move on. That was like a trial because it was the first time outside of our own nights where we got to play the way we really love to play now, which is drums on stage and bass and guitar on the dance floor. And then it really clicked for us.
IN: That was the first time you did that??
IKE: We were discussing it and wondering whether venues would go for it, but we really worked on it, and got a stage plan drawn up, and the venues were fine.
BRAM: We really found our spot, a turning point for sure – we have all this energy and we really wanted to get that across to people, and we want always to get this thing going with the audience, get close to them, and get this thing going. And we find if we can just do that, we’re there and then it’s a great show.
RUBEN: WOLVON is my fist band; I’d never played in any other band. And our first shows in Groningen were all floor shows and I think our sixth show was at Roodkapje in Rotterdam, and I had to stand on a stage for the first time.
BRAM: Which was tiny.
IKE: And low.
RUBEN: And I hated it.
BRAM: He was actually really upset!
RUBEN: That show did not work! We also played the main stage at Club Vera as support from Cloud Nothings in a full hall, and I liked the downstage shows so much more. It’s too big a stage.
IN: This talk of reaching out sort of brings me to another point about your record: that it’s so accessible. Whilst it’s a very sensual record with some complex dynamics, and whilst it’s well thought out, at the same time you can just stick it on and have a beer. And relax with it. This is really difficult to pull off.
BRAM: You can get growly to it! But yeah, we tried to get through on different levels, I mean when we definitely try to capture that feeling when we play live on the record, because we love it, it’s the best thing you can do, to play live and have fun and get down with your audience.
IKE: We were talking about this before, saying that we shouldn’t try to get a studio record, because we’re WOLVON. So it’s not possible for us. But we wanted something slightly in between, a record that you could really crank up the volume on.
BRAM: There’s some depth though in there!
Old People, Shit Books and Burning Chickens
We take a piss break. Bram comes back, excited by the fact that he’s seen a really old fag machine in situ and a really old fashioned hoover. Bram is often excited. We bat on some more.
IN: I think a lot of the appeal is also actually to do with your name. As well as the fact it’s a great LP. I actually think that the name WOLVON helps my appreciation of both your LP and your live shows. And maybe why I keep thinking of you as a unit: your name. It’s almost hermetically sealed! You can’t break it down.
IKE: It’s actually magical for us. We were first called Grandfather – which is ok as a name, actually no, it’s shit.
BRAM: It’s a great name but there’s a great band who are also called that.
IKE: It’s not…
BRAM: OK it’s a terrible name, but of course we started out with a different thing than what we became… we had an idea of doing a two-piece, with only falsetto voices, and have lots of merchandise…
RUBEN: I’m so glad I wasn’t part of it…
BRAM: And have lots of merchandise with a Grandfather theme; so we’d have false teeth and a cane. Actually one of the songs on this record is an old Grandfather song known as Cane. But it was quite terrible of course…
IKE: The only thing we saved from this period was the song Shitpuppy I think. Which is totally different from everything we did. It’s the odd one out.
BRAM: It is catchy, I think…
IN: Why, why, why this idea of Grandfather, and why this swing to WOLVON
IKE: We used to call Bram Grandad, “Opa” because sometimes he’s a grumpy old man and he’d always read a paper on his own, being really grumpy.
RUBEN: Sitting somewhere in the café on his own, sitting like this (pulls wizened, hunched up old man pose, which, for Ruben, really takes some doing) and you’d tap him on his shoulder and say “Bram, you want some coffee? And he’d just growl at you…
IN: (Trying to stop the band laughing too much about Bram’s growling) So WOLVON, the name, what brought that on?
IKE: You know the story about this? Well I was writing this novel…
BRAM: Woah, wait, wait; start at the beginning.
IKE: OK we had this sort of pact. I was reading a book by Tao Lin and it was very weird and not very well written but super funny, this hipster American writer. And he wrote his book before he was 23. So… I was also 22 at the time and I was thinking, “wow I can do this” so I started my novel, but I never got more than three pages in.
BRAM: But 9 chapters though! (Laughs)
IKE: Erm no, 17 actually.
IN: Hang about, 17 chapters in three pages? What was it a shopping list?
IKE: There was like two sentences for a chapter. This was the kind of novel I was writing. It was fun! Good times.
BRAM: And on the second page…
IKE: And on the second page I changed all the vowels to “o”, so the Dutch word wolven, for wolves became WOLVON, and I stared at it and I thought wow, that’s pretty cool! And then I read it to Bram and he said “hey man that’s pretty interesting,” and we thought “hey man, we should use that”.
BRAM: (Somewhat sheepishly) Aw man, we were so pleased with ourselves! (Laughs)
IN: From a crap novel…
IKE: From my first unfinished crap novel! Yeah! Not my third! I wanna put it on record ‘cos some other people said it was from my third, but I’ve only ever got round to writing one unfinished novel. Yeah!
IN: We can put this on the record now. The name is addictive; it does get people gurning along to it. I wanna see it on fire!
IKE: Hey! Isn’t there some fire in the video clip?
BRAM and RUBEN: No, no, not like the name on fire… (Bram) Can we even talk about this now? Hey we saw the video clip yesterday which is brilliant to say the least.
IN: Ah you should set the name on fire at some point.
IKE: We could do it at yours, Ruben… There’s a lot of room.
RUBEN: Yeah. At my place. Yeah! We just need some gas! Let’s do it tonight! We can! We just need a can. I’ve got 125 acres.
BRAM: Hold on that’s a nice idea, that’s really good! Show the name and the LP name on fire, film it for about two minutes and stick it up on line! Let’s do it! If you read about a bush fire in Groningen tonight (we didn’t) you know what happened (Laughs)
RUBEN: You seen the price of gas right now?
IKE: Yeah but if you just get one of those little…
RUBEN: We got LPG, yeah LPG.
BRAM: We need to do it as soon as possible!
RUBEN: Yeah but I’d better ask the Gemeente first, we’re gonna make it as big as we can, really huge… we have to write the name in capitals.
IKE: The best part of it would be if we got someone on fire, someone who lit the name! You do it Ruben!
IKE: You have chickens, right?
RUBEN: I have chickens.
IKE: A burning chicken? Running through a hoop?
IN: I’ll sit back here thinking burning chickens…
RUBEN: I’ll have to buy more chickens on Marktplaats… And I’ll have to explain why it got a bit burnt
And what do you know? They did it! Albeit using no burning animals… thankfully…
Ruben Lord of Lepel, Beards, Smelling Bad and Dungeons and Dragons
The lads repair for a fag in the partitioned off meeting room which looks like no-one’s been in since 1970. They come back. By this stage we’re all into this bar in a big way. It’s old, comfortable and unpretentious. We decide to get lots more drinks. And we bat on some more.
IN: This place of yours, is it a farm?
RUBEN: No… The whole sugar factory: the complex has been there since 1912 or 1910 I think. It just got abandoned two or three years ago. It all got demolished except for two or three buildings which are industrial heritage sites, listed buildings. So there’s a vast open space but it’s close to the centre of Groningen.
BRAM: And he lives there…
IN: So a load of space to do what you want. Groningen is pretty cool; it seems to do what it wants doesn’t it?
BRAM: Yeah, fuck any rules.
RUBEN: But this is also the same thing with Lepel, which is in another abandoned building. I think the Gemeente knows about it and I think they’re fine with it.
IKE: We were told that we had to get licenses, and we used to get paranoid at some of our early shows when we saw guys walking round who were a little bit older, and a little bit too well dressed to be normal punters. You saw them next to, say, Ben from Vox Von Braun (for those who don’t know Ben, he looks like a backwoodsman) and you’d think, hmmm…
IN: Mind you anyone who is standing next to Ben…
IKE: Yeah but that’s the Groningen look you know? Grow your own!
IN: I loved Lepel when I went up.
IKE: We love that place! And when you were there you went mental about the lampshade! (a lampshade that looked like a ghost I kid not).
BRAM: You know when you talked about WOLVON having this identity well Lepel really played an immense part in terms of both setting an identity and getting contacts. And the goodwill felt towards these two guys (namely Ike & Ruben) who put on a night with great food and cheap drink and free bands. That really helped us.
RUBEN: One English band who played, they just kept asking if it was ok to pay for beer and we, (starts frowning, in wonderment at the very thought), we said no! No it’s ok, you don’t pay for beer.
IKE: We traded beer for a gig with this Swedish band, too…
IN: Having said that they’d probably have taken it home and flogged it off! Anyway, Lepel, it’s a really interesting spot. It’s got a nice club-like feel that is rarely found in other antikraak places
IKE: We have a club attitude. People treat it as a club; they sometimes just come to hang out. Because everybody’s there.
BRAM: There’s a big trust involved. Cheap beer and food and entry.
RUBEN: There aren’t that many places like it in Groningen; I never go to the bars in town, I just go to Vera, go to work and then just day bars which are not punky. But I sort of think I smell in nice bars.
BRAM: I don’t shower when I’m on tour man…
BRAM: No, I don’t. Also like my magic sock experience. If you want to record a good album, you don’t change your socks, man.
RUBEN: At least for five days.
IKE: Because it’s cold at Corno’s. You can’t take your clothes off.
IN: Well he’s out on that wild farm, (Next to Jaap studios, where most Dutch Underground magic is conjured up), it’s a wild old spot in the Bollenstreek…
BRAM: It turns boys into men.
IKE: His guitars are always ice cold when you play them (laughs)
IN: You can’t imagine the likes of Moss going there can you?
BRAM: Oh my they’d have such a bad time!
IKE: Where do I plug in my hairdryer?
RUBEN: April went there. And they definitely use hairdryers.
IN: Yeah but they’re quite tough.
BRAM: They are very peculiar in that sense!
RUBEN: They played their very first April show with their drummer, Tarek, at Lepel. And before they came out for the gig they went behind this partition and started putting on make-up and combing their hair and getting ready for the show. (Shakes head & smiles)
IKE: And they looked kinda smart and made up before they did that! (Laughs)
IN: And they said something in a national newspaper about all the bands currently having beards! (Laughs)
IKE: It’s true though. (Goes silent) We all have beards.
IN: But your beards are not strap on beards are they? They (as in your beards), are not an affectation are they, not there just to go with your side parting. I mean, I bet Jorn from April said that not only to wind you up in the press, BUT because he’s from Utrecht and Utrecht is full of folksy fakers with beards and them shit tote bags.
BRAM: We tried to shave them off once but next morning we woke up and they were back. We can’t escape them. Also we are really stuck with them… almost literally. Cos Subroutine, when they wrote up our first press release they wrote all this stuff about our beards, and man… that’s followed us round. Stuff about our beards.
RUBEN: A curse.
BRAM: Yeah, a fucking beard curse. We can’t escape them.
IN I think it’s utter jealousy on the part of all the beardless. I’m beardless and I’m jealous. But it IS the name too. And it’s quite funny to associate the name WOLVON with hairy men.
RUBEN: Yeah. One time we played with another band, a complete opposite to us and in their biography for Popronde they mentioned they were clean cut guys and we were like, argh why do you want to say you are clean cut?? I mean if you have hair on your face I can get that; someone maybe wants to write about that, but that you’ve had a shave? And being clean cut is connected to your music? Weird.
IN: The Popronde booklets with the band biogs can be weird.
IKE: We organise Groningen for Popronde, but with us it’s totally different. Popronde can be full of weird things elsewhere.
IN: the weirdest thing I saw at Popronde was the guy walking around with a ladder at Kornbeurs in Delft.
RUBEN: Remember the nerds with the Dungeons and Dragons upstairs at Kornbeurs in Delft?
IKE: Yeah we were looking for the toilet and got lost in the building, which is really big, and we walked in on these guys playing D&D in this deserted room. And they were really scared of us!
RUBEN: These kind of Gothic nerdy fantasy guys. And in a small room, playing Dungeons and Dragons. Weird.
BRAM: But you know the girl who books for Delt Popronde is called Natalie Eenhoorn – Natalie Unicorn! So you can’t diss!
Fame, Fame, Fatal Fame, “VHS shit”, Mags Thatcher, Swans and Geese and Acid
The bar is slowly filling up with some very strange types. There are some very weird liaisons happening around us. People who seem to have no visible reason to be seen with each other are talking furtively, and sometimes eyeing up the hirsute trio as if they are experiencing flashbacks to 1968. We carry on drinking. We carry on.
IN: And at least you and April have something in common; you’ve both been in national papers now. Someone’s switched on a light now on this scene, you in VPRO, April in Volkskrant…
IKE: We’ll be on TopPops (a very strange music show in NL – ed) next!
IN: I think you should be on that.
IKE: We’re going to be the best behaved boys in the world. We’re gonna shave and behave.
shavin, behavin' ... photo by ? Kasper Vogelzang?
IN: Did you ever see the clip of the 13th Floor Elevators when they were on TV? One of the two tines they were allowed on. And the presenter asked Tommy Hall (the jug player) who was the head man in the group and Turn On Tommy says, “we’re all Heads, man.”
(BIG WOLVON laughs)
IN: But now all this spotlight on the “underground” ahem.
IKE: I think all this talk of the Underground is bullshit. I think we’re all – all these bands - mainstream rock. We don’t try to be weird, man.
BRAM: It used to be a bit of a shock to be an underground band making it, but it is not about a genre anymore it’s about the exposure a band is getting, and this idea of whether a band considers itself underground is not relevant to that.
RUBEN: Also it’s more to do with places, with clubs: over the last ten years I think a lot of venues have moved to newly built, sterile buildings like Patronaat, Paard van Troije… And they all lost their feel, their sense of the place. So bands just move on elsewhere to smaller places. It’s just less noticed.
IN: I think the venue thing is important, yeah.
RUBEN: And the venues don’t know OR support their local scene any more. They only put local bands on to get subsidy. They don’t promote them or take interest in them enough. And they push people to the margins. Like Vox von Braun is a normal band, in terms of their music style. Why are they underground?
BRAM: Although the underground’s changed as a definition, if a band like April do the 3fm thing all the commercial thing and the A club tour in Holland, (which they’d do really well I think), they’re probably not gonna get any underground shows anymore. The two worlds still exist in parallel. Even though a band can initially play in both and not actually change as a band…
IN: A strange split.
BRAM: Yeah! If you’ve chosen the path you are not gonna get that back that easily.
IKE: We’re thinking about going abroad. Germany, France.
RUBEN: It’s very, very difficult to get shows in France…
IKE: But we’re definitely thinking about it.
RUBEN: Germany is just as close as Amsterdam in Groningen.
IKE: Take the Ex as an example. It’s so clear why they are still making music and a living, is that they’re not like “this”… they don’t think to stick to Holland at all.
RUBEN: The most open minded band I know.
BRAM: That’s the whole point! Be open minded, you’re not gonna make it in the Netherlands. We are not gonna make any money here and for now that’s fine, we’re having a lot of fun. But at some point you’ve gotta think your work has got to prove itself, and that won’t happen by sitting here. I wouldn’t like to be playing the same venues for two years straight.
IKE: I’m guessing that, if we go to Germany. You can just go on a whole different level, branch out.
RUBEN: And that’s why we’re doing UK and Belgium too. Just learn.
BRAM: Hey, talking of getting on… It’s three weeks to our release party (at time of interview it was, it’s just gone now – Ed) And we’ve been so busy making sure everything is good, we haven’t done anything for the fucking show (laughs). We forgot about sending out promos! Hahahahaha! So no fame yet!
(We repair to the meeting room. This is important because the band decide that at this point to drink more and smoke more and get more raucous.)
IKE: We have come a long way from the VHS. The VHS shit…
IN: Oh balls I’ve run out of tape (Gets out phone)… Tell me about the VHS, what is it?
BRAM: The Voormalig Hotel School. Basically…
RUBEN: BRRWWWBBBRRRRHH! GRRRGH! GRRRGH! ARRRGH!
IN: What are you doing?
RUBEN: I’m testing the recording levels on your phone. I’m watching the little needle go up and down.
IKE: Well… we went to VHS because, when we rehearsed as Grandad - back in the old days - we found that you had to pay at the place we first chose, and we needed longer and less pressure, so we thought it could be a good idea to practise at VHS.
BRAM: But you needed to know someone who lived there so you wouldn’t get chased out, and Ruben lived there. So basically Ruben would sit in on the practise sessions, rolling joints and drinking beer.
RUBEN: Nothing’s changed.
BRAM: We decided that as his girlfriend has a bass, he might as well borrow that and join in…
IN: He is a steady bass player, the rock on which the WOLVON wave crashes.
BRAM: He does his thing. I mean we have played our instruments for quite a while and when we’d get bored and try different things, when we took more risks, Ruben was perfect; because he’d just keep on going. It’s lovely for me as a drummer because at the end of the bar I’m always gonna find this guy.
RUBEN: Now we’ve got this on record I never wanna hear you say I’m not on the beat! Keep this on record…
BRAM: No, no! You are still there!
IN: Plodding away!
RUBEN: OK. Now tell us about the swans on acid story.
IN:?! You mean as a follow up to that geese thing you mentioned?
BRAM: What? What is this?
RUBEN: It doesn’t matter about the fucking geese. Tell me about the swans.
(An aside – OK this may have read a little strangely. At the point we were moving to the other room, for reasons best known to ourselves, we’d started talking about how aggressive geese are. They are. Trust me.
…Anyway; Ruben started telling me about a friend - who also, it transpires, lived at the VHS - who hated geese. One time he got mashed on acid and chopped a goose’s head off. And I’d started to mention a story about swans and acid which I will now relate.
…OK, now you can follow the thread. Now you don’t feel so left out.
…Back to the interview.)
IN: Well a friend of a friend – no, I don’t know them - once woke up in his house, covered in scratches and blood after a night out, in which he vaguely remembered acid was involved. He goes down his stairs to find a dead swan on his kitchen table, and the room covered in blood. Apparently he’d disappeared all night, convinced all the while that he was a fox, and in his new role, attacked a swan and killed it and taken it home.
RUBEN: Did he have blood around his mouth? If he did he was in deep shit.
IN: I don’t know. I’m sure he’d need a tetanus jab. What I do know is that you can’t do that, nab and eat a swan, because they are royal birds, they are all theoretically owned by the Queen.
IKE: Wow. Do the English have a problem in eating animals that aren’t farm animals? Is that why they get freaked out about eating horse? I mean we, the Dutch, eat horse all the time.
IN: I don’t think Brits are freaked about that, just freaked that they discover that it’s horse, when the packaging says the meat’s beef. And I think they inject them with hormones.
RUBEN: And steroids.
IN: Dog meat is in hole in the wall food vending machines…
BRAM: You know it’s gonna be dog. Or cat.
RUBEN: It’s like dog food anyway. Anyway he should have eaten that swan.
IN: They are supposed to taste shit.
RUBEN: (Frowns) But they look lovely. Why don’t they taste lovely?
IKE: I bet the Queen loves things that taste like shit. Hey! Are you sad about Margaret Thatcher?
IN: (Spits out beer). (Long silence). Let’s put it like this: me & Margaret we stopped our relationship in 1991, we’ve not seen a lot of each other since. Basically the whole package didn’t fit… me and her.
RUBEN: I was staying at Koen (Ter Heegde)’s place and then the radio announced that Margaret Thatcher was dead and he told us there was a “Is Maggie Thatcher dead yet?” website…
IN: She was an incredibly divisive politician. Brits can all agree on that even if the country is tearing itself apart on all the other Thatcherite legacy questions. Enough said.
RUBEN: But she did contribute to music, right? (Laughs)
IN: I think that Margaret Thatcher and punk are some ways fellow travellers (starts laughing). You know, punk and Thatcher, anti-establishment, destroy the established order, blah blah! Post punk being more hippy. Anyway… I need at least 4 more pints to make a theory out of this.
IKE: Margaret Thatcher would have been Lemmy’s replacement in Mötörhead, she’d have kicked Lemmy out of the band.
IN: I think there were more chemicals in her hairspray than in all of Lemmy’s body.
IKE: (Suddenly listening in to the radio) Oh wow, Summer of 69! Best song ever!
IN: I think I can imagine WOLVON writing a song like this, or Wind of Change, to draw another faintly Thatcherite analogy (laughs)
BRAM: Are you, Incendiary magazine, comparing us, WOLVON, to the Scorpions?
IN: Oh, absolutely. You’d be factory favourites!
IKE: Driver favourites. On the road, hitting the roof!
Serious answers, swings, throwing up, Lekker Thaise Eten
IN: Actually now I’ve had a few drinks here’s another thing about your record, it’s not trying to impress the listener.
(Total silence. The band looks at me aghast, like I’m a traitor)
BRAM: You mean we let the listener do their own thing?
RUBEN: If we wanna do something to the listener it’s more that we look to overwhelm them I think. I dunno.
IKE: I dunno. It’s definitely true it’s our own thing.
…I would like people to like it… I mean it’s not the biggest thing…
IN: Would you like people to like you live or like the record?
IN: Ah come on that’s a soft answer! Come on Ike!
IKE: OK. I would like people to listen to the record, then like it, and then come along and be overwhelmed by the live show.
BRAM: This is interesting because this is our own thing… I was thinking about this… our songs are not vocally driven and it’s not a big deal live because people can’t understand the vox, because of the reverb and feedback. And Corno wasn’t really into ramping up the vocals… but they are much clearer on the LP than live. Did you hear the lyrics on the LP?
IN: No, didn’t notice them. Noticed them more on the first EP, not on this record. The record is, primarily, to me, two slabs of noise, a physical attack.
BRAM: Well… it would be interesting to see. We played the same songs and you can’t really hear the lyrics live and now, with the record, you can. I think it’s a very different ballgame altogether.
RUBEN: We won’t be playing every song from record to live. There are a few songs that won’t translate to live. Ike and me think a couple of tracks shouldn’t be in the live set because they are a bit more angelic and don’t lend themselves to live sets, I think.
IN: Dunno. It’s difficult to know.
…But I’m interested in this idea of WOLVON and the listener. I find you a strong concept. From the inside out. And now you have this strong image it would be really easy to coast it too, and just play along. You must want to promote the nuances in the WOLVON sound.
BRAM: For sure! There are a lot of nuances. I would like to think that on the record there are some more than people think… OK, ok, live it’s more like live, we wanna promote that we are a tidal wave, coming at you and this is one of our strengths, we think. And then the record is something else, which also has a strong physical side. But now the audience can hear the parts, individually and hear the melodic content. Because there are some really soft bits. But yeah… it’s different moving from being a live act, and changing that into a record. It’s gonna be interesting if people will react to it or just say, “nice album, let’s continue with the live set.”
IN: Maybe that’s the thing.
RUBEN: If people listen to the record they will miss the mess the breaking of things, the things going wrong. Breaking shit.
IN: The physicality of the band…
BRAM: But it’s a great record for the amount of musicians involved, I think: and we tried to make it more interesting without like it trying to sound like there are like, 5 people playing or something. We love dubs, we love synths all that other stuff but also here Corno played a great part, in creating a balance between the basic sound and a lot of interesting bits too, but we didn’t let it go over into a “studio album.”
IKE: My girlfriend said when she heard the first rushes that it was super in your face intense, like we were playing next to her head.
RUBEN: That’s what we wanted to accomplish and talking to Corno he said, well, “we can drink a lot and go in there, and bash it out,” even so, even with trying to work hard on other things, Corno said we were touching the pain barriers!
After this Ruben decides he’s hungry and we go and get a Thai takeaway. For the record they like hot food. Ruben declares this to be the best Thai takeaway he’s had and demands to know more about the Leiden fast food scene. He was impressed by the Surinaamse take outs from previous times they played the SUB (the Moksi if you need to know), including Incendiary’s 10th birthday party.
IN: You lot were spectacularly pissed at our party
IKE: Yeah but you were drunk. You fell through a table and broke it in two, and you went through the roof, motherfucker!
IN: It was MY party!
RUBEN: We were bad the next day. You know, throwing up is a bitch. And a waste.
After this we repair to a bar where there are swings for bar stools, (the bar being Schommelen) and Ike tries to break the record of how high he can wind himself up on a swing. For the record, he gets 15 turns, the record being a mighty 35. Ike starts to look a bit sick. Luckily the bitch and waste of throwing up is avoided, and, not long later, fed and watered to their hearts content, WOLVON trudge back to the northern wastes of Groningen.