BAD WOLVES – Takin’ A Bite Outta the N.A.T.I.O.N.

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John Boecklin – Photo Credit: Glen Willis

“Unpredictability drives progression! When art can’t be pigeon-holed or pinned down, it elevates the very medium itself. Bad Wolves thrives on that sort of unpredictability, standing confidently at a crossroads between anthemic hard rock infectiousness and thought-provoking technically-charged heavy metal.” This is how Los Angeles based metal band Bad Wolves describe their music.

The rapid success story of Bad Wolves is one worth telling again and again. They shot to rock stardom in 2018 when their cover of The Cranberries song Zombie, featured on their debut album Disobey topped the rock charts earning multi-platinum status. “It was basically a whirlwind,” drummer John Boecklin says of the band’s rapid success. “I seriously had no idea when we started that we would be where we are today. When Zombie came out and started getting the recognition it did, and it helped us get our songs on the radio a lot quicker. I thought that would be the biggest hit of our career but, here we are over two years later. While there was huge cause for celebration with the success of Zombie, there was also a heavy blanket of sadness attached to it. Originally, Cranberries singer Delores O’Riordan was going to sing on the track with Bad Wolves, but she passed away before she made it to the studio. “This isn’t something I generally like to talk about unless someone asks during an interview” Boecklin opens up. “It’s just a sad situation, but I am glad that fans embraced it and bought the single, and they’re enjoying it so the money can go to her kids. It’s been a great way to retain her legacy and keep it going.” Bad Wolves also reached rock charts with their song Remember When which is based on lead singer Tommy Vext’s traumatic life experience. They released sophomore album N.A.T.I.O.N. last month, and many wondered if they would keep the momentum they had gained or if they would fall short. It had only been a little over a year between the release of Disobey in 2018 and N.A.T.I.O.N. in October. Boecklin tells us that despite the short interval of the two albums, they took their time writing and recording “We never stopped working since the release of Disobey, so it felt like everything was bleeding into each other. We used our time off between tours to write N.A.T.I.O.N., and we made it a point not to rush. We didn’t write during our tours other than maybe a riff here and there and some edits on Pro Tools. To be honest, I have never been the kind of musician who sits in the back of the bus and tries to put a whole song together. It’s not conducive to how my creative brain works.”

l to r: John Boecklin, Chris Cain, Tommy Vext, Kyle Konkiel and Doc Coyle

Tommy Vext (vocals), John Boecklin (drums), Chris Cain (guitar), Doc Coyle (guitar) and Kyle Konkiel (bass) were all well versed when it came to the music business and how things work. Vext had been with Snot and temporarily fronted Five Finger Death Punch while frontman Ivan Moody was in rehab. Boecklin started in a band called DevilDriver, which he left to start a new project which would become Bad Wolves. Kyle Konkiel was a guitarist in the female-led metal band In This Moment. Boecklin opens up how they knew what goes into being on the road all the time and the hard work required to be in a band. This can also easily explain why they have managed to put out two incredible albums out in such a short amount of time. Despite the absence of a song like Zombie that drew fans from all walks of life, N.A.T.I.O.N. is a masterpiece in its own right. When we interviewed Vext during NAMM in January, he mentioned that they already had a considerable amount of songs written, and it was more or less a matter of determining which ones would make it to the new album. “Sometimes it’s blatantly obvious which songs would be best suited for a particular record. “When it comes down to a more creative and middle of the road stance or songs that tend to spark controversy, the label may look at it sideways, and it will cause an argument” Boecklin divulges with a laugh. “We have one song called Shanghai that was originally written for our debut album Disobey, but it ended up being a B side track on the import version of N.A.T.I.O.N.

The dynamics of Bad Wolves’ creative process and chemistry changed during the writing and recording of N.A.T.I.O.N. from when they started with Disobey. “Tommy and I had no help with writing, and this time around, it did change a bit when Chris Cain and Doc Coyle made more contributions to this record. But they did help with the last record too. It’s not that Chris just came in and didn’t help; he was so busy at the time. Doc came in late on the first record, and almost everything had already been written. But Doc was ready to make some small contributions and create full sounds to the songs like Better Off This Way. But all in all, everyone had more input this time around, so that’s the main difference. I wrote a few lyrics on Disobey, like Toast To The Ghost. Generally, it’s more of Tommy’s world with lyrics. A lot of times, I’ll bring in my own lyrics, knowing that he’s just going to change them into something more personal for him. But for songs on this record, I wrote lyrics for Better Off This Way and The Crying Game, which were all the personal disdain for both Tommy and me. We could both relate to it.  Tommy and I tag-teamed the song Back In The Day which is about that beautiful time in your life when you discover music, and it’s your escape. It’s kind of like before you do drugs and alcohol. That’s all you know is how to escape. I always bring in lyrics that touch on a more personal level than the political realm like Officer Down” Boecklin discloses.

Touring for long periods and being submerged in certain situations that go hand in hand with the music industry can be an extreme challenge, especially during the holiday season. It can cause strange behaviors and emotionally take its toll, causing many artists to feed into their addictions. For some, the struggle never ends. Musicians like James Hetfield, lead singer of Metallica find themselves in and out of rehab despite having years of sobriety to their credit. Then, there are the ones who use their sobriety to not only creatively influence their music but to inspire their fans and offer a glimpse at how it is possible to live a life of rock n’ roll without drugs or alcohol. More and more artists and bands join forces as they team up for tours to create a more positive and unaltered experience backstage. Bad Wolves lead singer Tommy Vext has achieved over ten years of sobriety and remains committed to his recovery while helping others. “I didn’t tell you, but I haven’t had much of a life these past few years. When you’re a band who is just starting, you have to do things to get to a certain place. You don’t have the authority to decide when you want to tour and when you want to take time off. We are well aware that psychological, temporary damage of doing what we’ve done will eventually pay off. But, we are all here, and we’re doing it. I am probably the most tired of touring out of the group,” Boecklin confesses. “Mentally, playing the show is fine, but the other 23 hours is all cliche stuff. It’s tough to be out there too long, and then when you are home too long, you can’t wait to get back out there. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. There have been moments where we’ve had some internal meltdowns because we’re out there for so long and feel disconnected from anything else. It just feels like we are a machine. But, I am glad we did that work and continue to do it. I don’t regret a single moment of it, and it continues to pay off in big ways.”


Social media has been instrumental in many ways for artists to get their music to the masses in the quickest way possible. Bands like Bad Wolves use it engage with fans to establish a genuine following. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram all have the potential to create authentic interaction but it doesn’t always happen that way. For Boecklin, social media is very interesting subject. “I guess I care about social media to a certain degree. I will go on and look at another band’s page and see they have 200,000 followers, but they only average two or three thousand likes on their photos and maybe 500 comments. How many people who are following them are actually paying attention? Not very many. So while it’s fun and interactive and it allows you to get closer to your distant friends or closer to the people you admire and vice versa, how much of a response are you really getting? These days you can buy likes or pay to promote your posts, and it’s obvious when someone is doing that. It’s not always genuine and doesn’t necessarily indicate you are more successful if you have more social media followers,” Boecklin determines. “What matters is who is listening to your music and going to your shows and who is really paying attention. It’s quality over quantity.”

John Boecklin at the Hollywood Palladium

Bad Wolves will be finishing up their 2019 Fall Tour with Five Finger Death Punch and Three Days Grace on Christmas Eve. Lead singer Tommy Vext has been struggling with an arm injury but has not let it slow him down or affect their shows. After the new year, Bad Wolves head to Europe with Five Finger Death Punch and Megadeth for the MegaDeathPunch tour. Boecklin expressed his excitement for the tour and how proud he is of Five Finger Death Punch for getting to a place in their career where they can play alongside an esteemed band such as Megadeth. “It’s sort of like Megadeth is passing the torch and me being the Megadeth fan I am, it’s going to be awesome to see the setlist and be a part of this tour and to watch it every night.”

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