"Someone said that they were in a Portaloo while we were on stage, and the bass rumbled some excrement out of them.” Getting to know Wargasm, the genre-splicing, Fred Durst-approved duo making major waves in modern metal

Wargasm in 2023
(Image credit: Haris Nukem)

At a party somewhere in London, the clock was creeping towards dawn, but Milkie Way and Sam Matlock weren’t ready to call it a night. So they did what any person in an alcohol-infused state would do – they turned to Fred Durst.

“Everyone was trying to do some holier-than-thou SoundCloud rap thing that no one had ever heard, and no one liked,” remembers Sam, Wargasm’s vibrantly coloured-haired guitarist and vocalist. “We were like, put fucking Limp Bizkit on.”

They did and – boom! – the room suddenly erupted. “It taught us something about how human nature reacts to loud guitars,” he says. It was a pivotal moment for the pair, who met at a gig in 2018. At the time, Sam – the son of original Sex Pistols bassist Glen Matlock – was playing with his punk band, Dead!, who split abruptly later that year. Milkie, Wargasm’s pixie-haired Irish bassist, was in the pit with a camera as part of her Girl In The Pit photography project. It wasn’t long after that Bizkit-inspired epiphany that they started writing their own music, aiming to kickstart that same 3am buzz they felt was missing in the alternative scene. Adopting the name Wargasm, they released their raw and punky first single, Post Modern Rhapsody, in 2019, although since then their sound has expanded like a ravenous shape-shifter, into a frenetic, kaleidoscopic clash of digital hardcore and electronica with the hooks, heaviness and attitude of nu metal.

“A lot of people were taking things way too seriously,” says Sam. “But the things they were saying weren’t worth saying. It was a lot of, ‘Woe is me. I pity myself’ kind of shit. Bringing a tongue-in-cheekness and a rock’n’roll attitude to a microphone was what I felt was needed.” Milkie is blunter. “I hate mediocrity. I think it’s lame.”

That stance might explain why it’s taken so long for them to release their upcoming debut album, Venom. They began writing it two years ago but refused to release it “unless it was as good as Hybrid Theory”. Matching the quality and impact of Linkin Park’s generation-defining debut is a big ask for any band to replicate, but with Venom, Wargasm have delivered a chaotic, genre-splicing adrenaline shot that cements their position as one of the most exciting new players in modern metal. "We know how good it is," says Sam. "We know how heavy it is. We want everyone else to hear it."

Given they exude the kind of swagger and abrasive, no-fucks-given charisma reminiscent of 2000s nu metal, not to mention looking like the Wikipedia definition of modern rock stars, it’s disappointing that the duo have their cameras turned off during today’s Zoom call, although you can understand why. They’re dialling in from separate places. Milkie is in the flat she and Sam share in London, while Sam himself is on holiday on the Isle Of Wight where he’s relaxing and doing “anything but music”. There’s a sense that both are relishing the experience of not having to be “on” for a change, especially given how turbulent their lives have become.

They had only played a handful of gigs before the pandemic kicked in, but their career started to take off as the music industry shut down. 2020’s breakout single, Spit, perfectly captured the restlessness, fear and boredom of lockdown. A steady drip-feed of singles followed, capped by a high-impact appearance at 2021’s Download Pilot.

Since then, they’ve been on the road nonstop, appearing at Bloodstock, Leeds and Reading, and Slam Dunk. They’re about to go on a US tour with Corey Taylor, followed by a European run with Babymetal. Earlier this year, they played their biggest indoor UK show to date at Wembley Arena, as main support to childhood heroes Limp Bizkit, handpicked by Fred Durst himself.

“Fred Durst is a very well spoken, very smart, almost too smart for his own good, gentlemanly man,” says Milkie. “He doesn’t deserve half of the bullshit that he’s gone through in his life. And he’s a fucking genius.” The first night of the tour she drank red wine and tequila shots with Bizkit guitarist Wes Borland. “We talked about grindcore music and [late electronic pioneer] Sophie, and we talked about medieval torture weapons and armour.”

She agrees that Bizkit’s patronage represents a passing of the torch, the old guard endorsing a new wave of artists twisting nu metal into different shapes for a new generation. “Limp Bizkit bring a house party vibe to their live shows, and they bring a lot of energy. And I feel like maybe they saw a bit of that in us.” That Wargasm have had a steep trajectory is putting it mildly, but as the duo point out, theirs is a sound that was made for huge spaces. “The bigger the stage, the bigger the PA. And the bigger the PA, the better,” says Milkie. “I saw a Tweet around the Download Pilot. Someone said that they were in a Portaloo while we were on, and the bass rumbled some excrement out of them.”

“They were mad at you,” argues Sam. “They went for a piss and said they shat themselves when we did a big drop. I don’t think that’s fair. You were already there for two reasons and not for one. Don’t put that on us.”

An early indication that Wargasm weren’t the shy and retiring types came at 2021’s Heavy Music Awards, where they picked up the award for Best UK Breakthrough Band. The win was overshadowed when a wardrobe malfunction during Milkie’s performance with punks Trash Boat revealed her nipples through her chain top, prompting online hosts Twitch to shut down the online event stream (side note: Trash Boat vocalist Tobi Duncan’s nipples were also visible through his top). Following the incident, Milkie tweeted: “I would say I’m sorry for getting the Heavy Awards twitch stream shut down for 3 days because of my nipples but I’m simply not.”

It pointed to Wargasm as a band with something to say. They’ve certainly arrived at a time when UK metal feels more exciting than it has done in years, awash with bands such as Ithaca, Loathe and Nova Twins, who are using their platforms to deepen metal’s social and political relationship. While Sam recently participated in a Metal Hammer round table interview with some of those bands to celebrate the scene, he and Milkie insist they’re approaching things from a different angle.

“We’re not one of those, ‘You saved my life bands’,” says Sam. “We’re just a band writing our silly little songs.” Instead, they both see Wargasm’s role as offering respite from a world that is harsh, unforgiving and depressing right now.

“You can definitely have something to say, but you don’t have to necessarily stand for one thing,” elaborates Milkie when we ask if there’s any sort of manifesto behind their music. “A lot of bands do it really well and it’s good that we have them, but I don’t think it should be an ask for everyone. I’m not going to stand up on a pedestal and talk as eloquently as [Fever 333 vocalist] Jason Aalon Butler. So fucking let him do it.”

“When you deify bands, you make them larger-than-life people, when really they are just people,” adds Sam.

Venom was recorded over six weeks of snatched sessions, squeezed into the band’s frantic schedule. Sam describes the subject matter as: “A lot of emotions. A lot of ‘Fuck you!’ There’s some fictional sexy stories, there’s some real sexy stories. Bands should stop trying to have a mantra. They should just start being bands again.”

That said, there’s no doubt that what Wargasm are doing is resonating with people. And while the duo acknowledge they’re not reinventing the wheel, taking their style from the familiar sounds from the 90s and 00s, their individualistic, innovative take on it sums up everything that’s so exciting about metal’s current generation. This December, the band will embark on their biggest UK tour yet, finishing at the 2,000-capacity Shepherd’s Bush Empire. So how far do they want to take it?

“Headline slots. Big Boy stages,” says Milkie with the air of someone who has no doubt Wargasm will achieve every one of their ambitions.

“I want people to hear this album and understand that they have no idea what this band is capable of,” concludes Sam. “Whatever happens next on the next record will be insane. Whatever happens on the third record will be some Radiohead-level of genre-bending. I want to stand toe-to-toe with the giants, and I think we can do that.”

Venom is out next Friday, October 27, via Republic/Slowplay/Island. This interview was originally published in Metal Hammer #379

Dannii Leivers

Danniii Leivers writes for Classic Rock, Metal Hammer, Prog, The Guardian, NME, Alternative Press, Rock Sound, The Line Of Best Fit and more. She loves the 90s, and is happy where the sea is bluest.