Wolfmother: you can't prepare for a million-selling album

“Well, the good thing is we’re both still here. And we both clearly made the right career choices.”

Andrew Stockdale’s voice chuckles down the phone line from his south Sydney home. We’re reminiscing about the first time we met, in the cooped top floor offices of his Australian record label Modular, high above London’s then-musically active Denmark Street. It’s also the reason we’ve been paired back up to chat, as Wolfmother’s stridently successful debut album is now a decade old, and I was the writer originally assigned by Classic Rock to talk to these young Australians. A 10th anniversary edition of Wolfmother — with its echoes of Cream, Sabbath, Blue Cheer and Led Zeppelin — is out now, and much water has flowed under the bridge in the ensuing decade. But Stockdale remembers the cramped offices well.

“Our record label in Australia were doing very well so they opened up offices in London and New York, so that’s where we did that interview.”

There was a huge buzz about the band back in 2005 when Wolfmother was released. What are you memories of that time?

“A lot of travelling, a lot of touring. Just enjoying the ride I guess. We didn’t spend an enormous amount of touring in Australia if I recall. We just kind of went everywhere at once. I remember signing with Modular and they asked which territory we wanted to concentrate on first and I said ‘All of them’. And then like a week later I got a phone call asking us if we wanted to go to New York for the weekend because they could get us some gigs. We met with like ten record labels, one day we did three or four gigs. I remember Mark [Wilson] from Jet turned up to help us load our gear in and out. I remember people were curious to see us and see what we were all about. But we didn’t want to get stuck in Australia. And we were ready to play…

“I remember being in a splitter van in the UK and we did this feature with a magazine and I remember seeing the photos and it juts all looked so grim. I’m glad that never ran in the end. It was just us, in a van, driving off up the M1.”

Wolfmother onstage in 2005

Wolfmother onstage in 2005 (Image credit: Martin Philbey/Redferns)

Was it all a bit like a baptism of fire. Everything seemed to happen so quickly for the band back then…

“Oh yes, it certainly did. But a lot of work was done in one year. I don’t know how many gigs we played but I’m guessing we must have played like 200 shows. We played everywhere. We recorded the album in LA, we’d done festivals before we’d even out the record out. We played Big Day Out in Australia. It was instantaneously… We never stopped. That was probably a good thing.”

The debut album certainly made a big impact. Heavy Cream and Zeppelin influences weren’t the garage rock fare that had gone before with bands like The Strokes and The Hives, and you seemed to deploy those influences in a different way than other hard rock bands had done at that point.

“Any band, in any creative sphere, is going to derive some kind of inspiration from somewhere or something. Sooner or later you end up developing from that into your own thing. Bob Dylan started out wanting to be Woody Guthrie. And he’s done alright. You’ve got to start somewhere.”

Listening back to the debut now, what are your thoughts?

“I listened to it a month and half ago in LA while I was making the new Wolfmother record. And it’s just fun. It’s high energy and it’s fun. We were just so damn excited and enjoying watching our lives change. And you can hear that, three guys who don’t want to work and want to be in a band.”

Were you prepared for the impact that you made?

“I’m still not prepared for the impact… Today I saw a message on Instagram from a woman saying she was listening to it while giving birth. That’s amazing, and a massive honour. You can’t prepare yourself for that stuff. You;d have to be pretty egocentric if you were prepared for that.”

You were the only member left from the debut when it came to making Cosmic Egg, and both Myles Heskett [drums] and Chris Ross [bass] had left in 2008. Too rapid a rise for them?

“[Long pause]… well, they left. They left the party. I could philosophise for ever as to why they didn’t want to do it. Reasons for and against. At the end of the day who really knows what other people think. I was kind of shellshocked because we’d been on the road for four years to those guys bailing on me. I felt the same, but there was a lot of judgement about me and my character flying around. And I remember some people thinking it was over, but we came back over to the UK and some of the gigs were twice the size, and it was massive. But equally the responsibility for me changed. I’d been one of the gang. Now I was the one in control, guiding things.”

Did that bring you back to earth with quite a bump?

“It’s not the first time that kind of thing had ever happened to me to be honest. I used to be a fashion photographer in Sydney. I was flavour of the month one minute, then it seemed like I’d been ousted the next. Maybe I wasn’t schmoozing enough. But I couldn’t get any work at all. And that’s when I started Wolfmother. Sometimes things come to an end and you either get stuck in the moment, or move forward and use it.”

There’s still been some huge highs along the way for you. Led Zeppelin’s guests when they were inducted into the UK Music Hall of Fame…

“Yeah, that was intense. A huge honour.”

And you toured with AC/DC. A dream come true for any young Australian rock band?

“Absolute legends. I love their records. They’re such a professional outfit.”

So you mentioned you’ve been in LA recording a new album. When might we see that?

“I recorded it with Brendan O’Brien in LA. I wrote all the songs at my studio in Byron Bay. I played everything this time, so it was a pretty isolated environment. And in some ways thats how I’d come up with the riffs and songs for the demos for the first Wolfmother album. I’d kind of forgotten working like that.”

The 10th Anniversary edition of Wolfmother is out now, and us available on vinyl, CD or digitally. The band’s next album is due in early 2016.

How to make a million-selling debut album, by Wolfmother

Jerry Ewing

Writer and broadcaster Jerry Ewing is the Editor of Prog Magazine which he founded for Future Publishing in 2009. He grew up in Sydney and began his writing career in London for Metal Forces magazine in 1989. He has since written for Metal Hammer, Maxim, Vox, Stuff and Bizarre magazines, among others. He created and edited Classic Rock Magazine for Dennis Publishing in 1998 and is the author of a variety of books on both music and sport, including Wonderous Stories; A Journey Through The Landscape Of Progressive Rock.