Latest release: Disobey (Eleven Seven)Website: www.facebook.com/badwolvesofficial
Consisting of vocalist Tommy Vext (ex-Divine Heresy), drummer John Boecklin (ex-DevilDriver), guitarist Doc Coyle (Vagus Nerve, ex-God Forbid), guitarist Chris Cain (Bury Your Dead) and bassist Kyle Konkiel (ex-In This Moment), Bad Wolves burst onto the scene this year via the unexpected crossover success of their striking cover of The Cranberries’ Zombie.
The cover was released in honour of The Cranberries’ late singer Dolores O’Riordan, who was scheduled to record guest vocals on the song the day she died. Zombie has gone viral globally, garnering the attention of mainstream media throughout the world while racking up millions of streams and video views across various platforms. Meanwhile, the band – whose punchy sound infuses elements of djent, metalcore and hard rock, bolstered by soaring melodies and grooves wider than the Grand Canyon – has unleashed their debut full-length Disobey.
Loud chatted with Coyle (while on tour supporting Five Finger Death Punch and Shinedown) about the unexpected success of Zombie, the album, his podcast (The Ex-Man) and more.
Q: Did you anticipate that Bad Wolves would be playing some of its first shows as a support act in arenas?
A: Well, given that Zoltán (Báthory, Five Finger Death Punch guitarist) was our manager, there was talk even from the beginning that we were going to be following them around considering that we both had records coming out basically at the same time. So I guess on some level there was a degree of expectation. But I think in many ways, you still think some things might happen, but you don’t really believe it until it’s actually announced. And now that we’re actually doing it, trust me, we know how lucky we are that this is basically, we’re the one in a million band that gets the chance to launch their career with this kind of huge platform.
Q: Bad Wolves have enjoyed a hit single right out of the gate and are on this high-profile tour. Perhaps there are other bands out there who have been together for a longer period and feel they are more deserving of those types of opportunities. Do you predict, or already detect any backlash or feelings of resentment from other musicians?
A: I think we’re all going to get the snide comment here and there, or somebody leaving a comment on Facebook or a message board or some kind of feedback. But I’d say the majority of it is positive, and nine times out of ten if someone feels that way, they’re not going to tell us to our face (laughs). They’re going to say it among themselves and to their friends. The truth is, it comes with the territory. And a lot of those bands, they might even be justified. They’ve been working for years and years looking for an opportunity. I totally understand that in many ways; a lot of what’s happened is just lightning kind of striking.
There’s definitely no fairness to it. I think that’s how a lot of these things go sometimes; it’s just a certain thing happens at the one time and it leads to another thing, and something kind of develops a natural momentum. And then you combine that with the fact that we have a great team, and I feel we’ve made some great music. So for the most part it’s been supportive. Bands like Sevendust, Jesse Leach from Killswitch Engage, the guys from Papa Roach, so many people have come out (in support). The guys in Shinedown have been really supportive. I think for the most part people are happy there’s another metal band that’s actually breaking through in a big way.
Q: I’ve heard the likes of Chris Jericho and Jamey Jasta discuss the trickle-down effect of a band being successful, and how if more acts are reaping the rewards it benefits the scene overall.
A: Yeah, I wrote a lot about this because I used to write for VH1, I was the modern metal columnist for a year there. And a lot of my stuff was writing about the culture of metal. I think there’s a really divided culture between the underground and what is ‘real metal’, or the underground and the mainstream world. Where back in the day I felt like there was a direct correlation between… Every band kind of wanted to be big, and was at least going on that trajectory. Which is why you an extreme band like Slayer (who) could have gold records and play arenas.
Whereas now I feel like almost any band, it doesn’t matter what they sound like, once they get to a certain level of success the underground kind of has to turn their back on them. I think it really speaks to that there’s something wrong there, that there needs to be some kind of way to bridge that gap of why we have to shit on those of us who are the most successful, when ultimately we should be bridging that gap. That’s why I’m glad some of these festivals have everyone on it. It’ll be a Power Trip and a Hatebreed, and then it’ll be Breaking Benjamin or someone like that. I just don’t really get that mentality of hating on bands that are doing well; I want all the bands to do well.
Q: An obvious talking point is the ‘Zombie’ cover. I’m sure you were collectively proud of your version, but could you have fathomed what was going to happen next?
A: I don’t think anyone could. This is the biggest single in the history of our record label, and they’ve had many massive bands. That it’s crossed over to Top 40, the fact that they’re playing it in baseball and hockey stadiums. It’s become a cultural thing that’s a little bit bigger than even we are, so I think you can’t really anticipate something like that, even if we knew we had something special.
I think some of the media coverage surrounding Dolores O’Riordan’s passing obviously had a lot to do with the attention that the song got. I think that’s difficult to deny. But ultimately it’s a classic, timeless song and that really speaks to the work that she did and The Cranberries did in writing it. But I do think there’s something about this version that has connected in a different kind of way to the original. Not that the original didn’t; of course that’s the standard and we wouldn’t be there without it. But it hits a little harder, Tommy’s vocals, the baritone kind of thing connects in a different kind of way. And I think the music video also had a big impact; just the kind of visual and making it a tribute. Also I think the fact that we’re giving the proceeds to her family; I think people want to support the song to support the family as well.
Q: Had O’Riordan given any indication regarding what her contribution to the Bad Wolves version was going to consist of? Backing vocals? Singing one of the verses? Something else entirely?
A: No, we were going to let her do her thing, and then kind of figure it out (laughs) after the fact. But the truth is, a lot of us in the band were really not involved in the setting up of everything. We were told it was going to happen, but to be truthful I took it with a grain of salt. I was like, ‘oh yeah, sure, the lady from The Cranberries is going to sing on our cover. I’ll believe it when I see it’. So when the news came forth about her passing it was really news to all of us that all this stuff was even happening behind the scenes.
Q: Did you contribute much in the way of writing to the debut album?
A: When I joined the band, they had pretty much a whole record done musically. But around that time was when we were shooting the music video and then shopping the record around. So when we were working out the deal with Eleven Seven, we had about six months before there would be an album coming out. So the band kept writing music. I started contributing a little bit to some of the last few songs written, but in a way where I didn’t want to kind of stomp on their process. I think what they were doing was brilliant already. There’s a little bit of Doc Coyle in there, but I guess I don’t want to take too much credit for stuff that wasn’t my doing. There’s so many talented people in this band, and it’s pretty evident when you hear the final product.
Q: Bad Wolves seemingly represents an opportunity for several seasoned metal musicians to embrace their second shot at major player status. And it seems that you’re collectively willing to do the hard graft necessary to try and make it happen. Do you feel that’s accurate?
A: I think it’s hard enough to have any success doing heavy music out there. So the fact that we even each have a legacy outside of this says something to begin with. But the truth is this band has a platform and a reach that none of our previous bands ever had. So it’s actually much bigger. So I think when you look at the opportunity in that framing, we have to be on top of our shit. You get a little older, you just take it more seriously and you understand, ‘hey, this might not last. This can go wrong, this person could quit’, you just never know what’s going to happen.
So all you have in your control is the work you put in, and how seriously you take it. The truth is we want to be great. We want to be a great band, and that involves putting on a great show, writing music for the next record and really developing the band and connecting with the audience. Doing the social media, doing the meet-and-greets, going out and signing autographs and going to the radio stations and playing acoustic. Whatever we have to do, because when you have this kind of momentum, you only get that one shot to establish yourselves. You don’t get a re-do, so we have to do it right this time. As you get a little older you don’t have as much time to waste, you know?
Q: Indeed. Are we likely to see Bad Wolves in Australia in the near future?
A: The record and the single has done really well there, so we will be there, it’s just a matter of when. The truth is we front-loaded our schedule with a lot of US touring, ’cause it’s all really huge stuff. Especially Europe and Australia’s our main priority I think for the end of this year or the beginning of next year. I’m pretty much on the outside looking in when it comes to a lot of the decision-making (laughs), but we’re pretty much booked through September/October. But I can almost guarantee we’ll be coming there as soon as we possibly can, because where it’s hitting and there’s a fan-base then obviously we have to get there.
Q: Good to hear. Shifting topics to your podcast, The Ex-Man, which has featured guests such as Robb Flynn and Roy Mayorga. Tell us about the growth and development of the show.
A: Well, the funny thing about it is I’ve never been that concerned with getting ‘famous people’ on the podcast. It’s more about having conversations with people that I have a connection to, and I’ve been affected by their story. But when I get a bigger guest it grows the audience, especially if that person promotes it. Like I had Tosin Abasi from Animals as Leaders on the show not that long ago, and that show helped me out a lot.
So yeah, I think the main thing for me is to try and do things different. If I’m going to have a conversation with Robb Flynn, I want to have a conversation that no one else is having. Or I want to talk to people who maybe other people aren’t necessarily speaking to. I wanted to take steps to not make the show just kind of a prototypical, musician interviews a musician and shoot the shit. I wanted to have a level of depth to that person’s life… I definitely want it to have a sense of weight to it.
In the future I’ll be looking at getting some guests outside of the box of just this metal musician or that metal musician. I want to talk to more people in the industry; that’s really important to me. And I want to talk to more people in media and get their take. Because I’m just fascinated with not only the background, but also getting their take on where the music industry is going. I definitely want there to be a commentary to the show and a sense of depth to it. And to obviously keep growing the audience; the better the show does, the more I can do it.
Q: It’s all about creating branding these days, and the podcast definitely seems to have helped establish the ‘Doc Coyle brand’.
A: I hope so. Obviously it feels a little weird for me to talk about that, myself being a brand. But I do understand. I think in the years after God Forbid, I realised I had to really look out for myself. I also really enjoy doing solo pursuits, so whether that’s the writing or the podcast, it’s amazing to have the outlet where I don’t have to jump through a bunch of hoops or get a lot of approvals to do something. It can be a very fluid, creative outlet where I have an idea, I can put it down, put it out and get immediate feedback on it. And ultimately people decide whether I get to keep doing it. Because if I write an article and no one reads it, then that will tell me. If I put out a podcast and no one cares about it, then that will tell me as well. Being in a band, it can be tough because you don’t necessarily have control over a lot. You can feel like a cog in a wheel.
Q: Who are some bucket list guests that you haven’t been able to secure yet?
A: I’d love to get Bill Ward from Black Sabbath. I think I have a list here (laughs). I want to get Clint Lowery from Sevendust, that’s a big one. Peter Dolving from The Haunted is another one I really want. Jeff Loomis from Nevermore – I definitely want to get him. Dave Lombardo, Greg (Puciato) from Dillinger Escape Plan now that they’re done. I have a lot of people. Sean Martin, who used to be in Hatebreed – he keeps dodging me (laughs).
Q: Any famous last words?
A: (Laughs) Pick up Disobey. Follow me on Twitter and Instagram @DocCoyle. Listen to my podcast, The Ex-Man, and check out my website, doccoyle.net. And I’ll be around – I’m not going anywhere anytime soon hopefully.