"So I drink it – and the next thing I know it was eight days later": Bluesman Philip Sayce on industry sharks, his werewolf obsession, and the dangers of drinking at LA parties

Philip Sayce sitting on a table beneath some trees holding an acoustic guitar
(Image credit: Matt Barnes)

Even after eight solo albums, umpteen sideman gigs (including a bunch of albums with Melissa Etheridge) and untold air miles, Philip Sayce has never sounded happier to be packing for the road (“I wish you could see the living room right now, because I have shit everywhere”). 

Partly, says the Welsh-born, Toronto-raised, LA-based bluesman, this is because international touring still feels like a blissful release post-pandemic. But mostly it’s down to the prospect of a set-list bolstered by his raging new blues-rock album The Wolves Are Coming.


How would you describe the musical vibe of The Wolves Are Coming?

A lot of times I’ll call it ‘earth music’ – y’know, music that comes from the soil. It’s definitely an album to get you pumped up to go out on a Friday night. Y’know, get things cooking, get the engines started. This was my first self-release. I didn’t even know if I was gonna have the opportunity to release it. We recorded it during the pandemic, and it was like: “Are we done?” Being on a major label [Warners] was a great experience, but it ran its course. Ultimately I’m not an artist that needs to be micro-managed. 

Who or what are the ‘wolves’ of the album title? 

It maybe comes from seeing what was going on around me during the pandemic – a lot of self-destructive behaviour. But it’s also a tip of the hat to the music industry and some of the trauma I’ve experienced. This is shark-infested waters. They’ll eat you up and not think twice about it. That’s why there’s a song called Backstabber on there. Y’know, I didn’t necessarily sign up for that when I had a poster of Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan on my bedroom wall.

What’s your psychedelic recent single Oh! That Bitches Brew about? 

I’d gone to a real wild LA party. A friend of mine was like: “Check out this drink.” So I drink it – and about fifteen minutes later I was on board the space shuttle and I was gone. The next thing I know it was eight days later. I was fucked up. And I don’t drink or use drugs. So it came as a surprise, and it was a gnarly, nasty experience. I don’t know what wasin it. I don’t think it was anything highly illegal, because I wouldn’t be involved in anything like that. It was probably a THC-based something or other. But honestly, I don’t know what it was. 

What did you want your guitar to sound like on this record?

Sometimes I wanted it to sound like a huge, angry lion, or sometimes a spaceship lifting off. There’s a song called Intuition, and at the end, that’s the first guitar solo I’d played after being locked up for a year. I played it live, and it was so ragged, like I was trying to rip open everything I’d been caged in by. I wanted it to sound like an erupting volcano – or maybe a giant wolf busting out of its cage. 

You’re off on tour. What can’t you live without when you’re on the road? 

Certainly my toothbrush. I always make sure I bring some audiobooks. Ever since I was a kid I’ve been obsessed with werewolves, because I got totally fucked up by [1981 film] An American Werewolf In London. So on the plane I’ll probably be listening to weird supernatural stories. 

The Wolves Are Coming is out now via Atomic Gemini/Forty Below Records.

Henry Yates

Henry Yates has been a freelance journalist since 2002 and written about music for titles including The Guardian, The Telegraph, NME, Classic Rock, Guitarist, Total Guitar and Metal Hammer. He is the author of Walter Trout's official biography, Rescued From Reality, a music pundit on Times Radio and BBC TV, and an interviewer who has spoken to Brian May, Jimmy Page, Ozzy Osbourne, Ronnie Wood, Dave Grohl, Marilyn Manson, Kiefer Sutherland and many more.