My Music DNA: Vanderwolf Discusses Music Inspirations As He Releases Debut EP – Extinction!

New York City musician Vanderwolf has released his debut EP, Extinction! via Proper Music.

The lead track “When The Fire Grows Cold” is a piano-led cinematic nightmare-lullaby co-sung by legendary musician-activist Robert Wyatt, while the second track, “Extinction!”, is a 7-minute Balkan-brass psychedelic fantasy featuring the late Soft Machine/Gong guitarist Daevid Allen and Terry Edwards (famed for his work with PJ Harvey, Lydia Lunch and Tindersticks) on saxophone.

Vanderwolf has released his debut single featuring guest vocals from Robert Wyatt. Photo: Chiara Miattelli

Amongst Vanderwolf’s work, the band Last Man Standing made the biggest impact. Emerging from the infamous Soho drinking den, The Colony Room and fuelled by alcohol, the YBA movement and the notorious Lost Vagueness parties in South London, the band were soon playing the full array of UK festivals with their incendiary live show. Their sole album, ‘’False Starts and Broken Promises’’, earned favourable comparisons to Bowie, Alex Harvey, Tom Waits, Steely Dan and Lou Reed.

As well as being a musician with a long and storied history, Max Vanderwolf has a hugely successful career as a music programmer and concert producer, working for some of the world’s most celebrated clubs and concert venues including New York’s legendary Knitting Factory and London’s internationally renowned Royal Festival Hall, where for nine years he produced the Meltdown Festival. It was whilst working on Meltdown that Vanderwolf forged his friendship with Robert Wyatt.

The recent lockdown saw a new period of studio activity for Vanderwolf, writing, recordings and remixing some older tracks overseen by Sam Sallon and David Watson. The result has produced a wealth of new tracks, many of which will be seeing the light of day in Vanderwolf’s new album, due this summer.

Here Vanderwolf discusses his Music DNA with Andy Howells.

What was the first single you bought that made a real impact on you?

The first single bought was (The Beatles) Let it Be / You Know My Name (Look Up the Number) – we mostly listened to the B-side.

The first download?

Does anyone remember their first download!?

Downloads are so insignificant as a form of artistic expression that I really don’t recall. However, I do recall that my first CD — (another stupefying attempt by the record labels to extract money from our pocket) was ”The Cheerful Insanity of Giles, Giles & Fripp” which I was absolutely delighted to find re-issued as a CD.

What was the first album you owned?

My brother and I owned many albums that were given to us: The Beatles, The Monkees, Simon & Garfunkel, Alan Sherman, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Soupy Sales. But this first album I bought with my own money was Elton John’s ”Honky Chateau”.

What’s your constant go to track?

The idea of having a constant anything in music goes against my grain. For me, the whole purpose of music is to have a sonic adventure. But, for the purposes of this interview, why not Watermelon in Easter Hay by Frank Zappa. It seems like a beautiful song to die to.

What’s your constant go to album?

Again – I’m not into constant anything – but ”Rockbottom” by Robert Wyatt is never far out of reach.  

Who’s your latest music discovery?

Quite a bit: A band from Leeds called, Horsey are excellent, Cannibale from France are incredible, Cate Le Bon’s most recent album, the 1968 album by Gilberto Gil ‘Tropicålia Ou Panis Et Circensis, and the Ukrainian band Dakha Brakha was absolutely the best gig I’ve seen in ages.

What’s your own track that best defines you as an artist?

“When The Fire Grows Cold” might be a good candidate for that. It’s a piano-led nightmare/lullaby that is delicate, yet thematically brutal. Robert Wyatt provides a stunning guest vocal in the verses and I sing the choruses which are vaguely Jethro Tull meets Nick Cave — if you can imagine. 

Lots of influences at play here. There are trilling tremolo guitars, a ”peasant choir” and some undefined abstract noise that bookends the song. It throws a lot at the listener with a set of lyrics about how we humans are doomed to repeat the mistakes of our fathers. And the video is a peach! Find it on YouTube.

Can you tell us about your new album?

The new album, 12 Little Killers, is a collection of twelve songs — each one detailing an element of human fallibility. These bare confessionals, raw provocative rockers and plaintive gospel anthems were written and recorded in London. As the album progresses it takes the listener into more expansive and perhaps psychedelic territory as the subject matter turns more toward issues of transcendence and how one gets over their own s****.

Vanderwolf releases his debut album in July 2022
  • Vanderwolf’s debut ‘Extinction’ EP is out now (featuring guest vocals from Robert Wyatt) – he releases his debut album ’12 Little Killers’ on 20 July 2022 via Proper Music. 
  • Further info on Vanderwolf via his official website.

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