Those who still think rock is dead haven’t yet heard Los Angeles based heavy metal band Bad Wolves. Unarguably 2018 was a monumental year for rock and metal both in concert sales and in music downloads surpassing every other genre. Bad Wolves emerged from out of nowhere with their first album titled Disobey which includes a cover of the Cranberries song Zombie. What was initially intended to be recorded as a duet with the song’s writer and original vocalist Dolores O’ Riordan alongside Bad Wolves lead vocalist Tommy Vext ended up being a tragic moment when she unexpectedly passed away the night before the recording was set to take place. Debuting at #1 on Billboard’s Emerging Artists and Mainstream Rock Songs Airplay Charts, it has not only been the perfect tribute to O’ Riordan’s untimely death, but it also sparked an unimaginable level of recognition to Bad Wolves uniting their fans with fans of the Cranberries who broke out in the 1990s.
Originally, Tommy Vext (lead vocals), John Boecklin (drums), Chris Cain (guitar), Doc Coyle (guitar) and Kyle Konkiel (bass) from Bad Wolves had contemplated shelving the song and never releasing it. Their next move was just the starting glimpse of the integrity and respect they had for O’ Riordan, and they decided to approach her family for permission to release the track. With the promise to donate every dollar that the single would make, Bad Wolves donated upwards of $250,000.00 to her children, and Zombie has since gone double platinum and earned them an iHeart Music Award nomination. Subsequently, Bad Wolves has recently been gaining more notoriety with their songs Can You Hear Me Now which features female vocalist Diamante and Remember When.
We were able to sit down for an exclusive interview with Bad Wolves lead vocalist Tommy Vext in the Harman Pro Booth during the NAMM Show in Anaheim to discuss their recent success, touring, sobriety and how their 2nd album is coming along.
After a successful and long tour with Breaking Benjamin and Five Finger Death Punch Vext is counting down the days until Bad Wolves is back on the road to open for Nickelback in Australia then heading home to the U.S. to accompany Papa Roach and Asking Alexandria. With a schedule like that, when the hell do these guys find the time to write new music? We’re workaholics,” Vext says about the band’s writing process. “We never stop writing and even when we are on tour we write rather than taking time off. We all write separately and then put all of the songs in a pot, and that’s how we can write so quickly. Right now we have 21 songs written, so there is no shortage of material. Just need to choose which songs to include and fine tune them. Having this team of guys who are also songwriters and had previously been leaders in their bands, we all know the drill. We work well together, and that makes all the difference in our creative chemistry.”
With promises to be a heavier record, there is no doubt that the new music will hit every bit as raw and emotional as Disobey was. Vext’s personal life has been instrumental in his inspiration to express himself through music and most notably his lyrics. It’s no secret that Vext has overcome some trauma in his life including nearly being killed by his twin brother and the tragic event inspired the song Remember When. Vext was thoughtful of his family’s feelings, so he asked his Mom what she thought of the idea of releasing the song. His Mom said that if it helps one family, then it was worth it. From the flood of positive feedback, Bad Wolves has received, the song seems to be an anthem for anyone going through family trauma. Vext has always been transparent in his openness about suffering from PTSD and recovery from addiction to drugs and alcohol which has led him to become a sober coach and the recipient of the Service Award during the Rock To Recovery 3 benefit concert held in Los Angeles September 2018. Vext has a humbleness about him and doesn’t think of himself as being above anyone else regardless of the success he has achieved in his career. “I can see the growth in myself. Not just personally but as a songwriter. I like being able to put pen to paper and tell my story in hopes that it can let people know they aren’t alone and they aren’t the only ones going through something. Everyone has issues, and the trials that are significant to them and some might not have as extreme of a story, but everyone’s issues are relative to their own life. It’s OK not to be OK, and the one thing I truly love about the metal community is that it’s not about pretending to be OK” Vext opens up. “I think that having a platform like music helps people to talk about things. What if Trent Reznor didn’t want to talk about his issues when he recorded the Downward Spiral album or if Marilyn Manson didn’t want to talk about his life when he did the Antichrist album? Metal is about freedom and finding strength in that and no bullshit or sugar coating things like in other genres. The music is timeless because it talks about the real human experience and every generation can relate and find empowerment” Vext reveals.
When we asked Vext about recording Zombie and having to do it without Dolores O’ Riordan, Vext expressed how the loss of a dear friend and Bad Wolves’ imminent accomplishment they achieved with the release of the song. “Having lost Dolores and seeing the photographs that recently came up on social media during the anniversary became a time of contemplation, and it was a quiet day. I am grateful to our management and to Dolores and her children for permitting us to put the song out there. And in a bittersweet way, it was important to do something good with something tragic, and we had the support of the radio stations and people like Jose Manga who was the first one to play Zombie on the radio. Then came Howard Stern and it just went viral from there” Vext confesses. “It genuinely came to down to the community coming together and standing behind us. In a lot of ways, it was an opportunity for Dolores to remind everyone that rock n’ roll is still here and that 24 years later the song is still relevant and it always will be. She was an incredible songwriter, and I truly hope we did right by her and that she would be proud of what we did with it.”
Vext is excited about what lies ahead for Bad Wolves and is truly grateful that he is still here to be able to do music and tour and make more records. “I have an appreciation for the life I didn’t have eight or nine years ago. I was legally pronounced dead, so it’s like having a new lease on life and learning that you can fix your broken thoughts and retrain your brain to think differently. It is so important to ask for help if you need it. Be it therapy or writing music, every day is exciting, and there is so much to look forward to in life” Vext says. Music had also given Vext the chance to fulfill one of his Mom’s dreams of going to Europe when he purchased a plane ticket for her. Regrettably, he will not be able to join her but knowing he granted her wish is incredibly fulfilling for him. Fans will be delighted in knowing that Vext and the band have no intention of slowing down. And with the upcoming tours, iHeart Radio Awards nomination, new music, and Vext’s up close and personal social media presence, if one band deserves all of the goodness that is coming to them, it is Bad Wolves.
Immediately following our interview, Vext sat down with the folks at Harman Pro in front of NAMM attendees for a short Q & A which covered a majority of the discussion during our interview, but we were able to discover additional input about Vext’s advice for new artists and details about the gear that Bad Wolves uses on tour.
Vext conveyed sound advice for new musicians starting in the music industry saying “I am from the era of burning CD’s and making tapes and giving them out at shows or on the street which we can’t do anymore, or we don’t do anymore. There are platforms like Instagram and Facebook where we can post about new music. If you’re a musician, you are automatically an entrepreneur now, so it’s critical to find ways to make yourself stand out. You need to be able to brand yourself and keep up with social media all while focusing on your art and then getting out to people. There is such a flood of artists nowadays, and people can do it all on their own now, so the demand is much more challenging. Record labels aren’t as quick to give out record deals. If anything, they are just giving distribution deals, but you need to be the complete package. You are required to show that people will pay for your music and that they will show up to see you perform and that the band isn’t going to break up six months after signing the record deal. It’s all about setting expectations and following through.”
Bad Wolves use Harman Pro’s line of JBL speakers during their set on tour. The time and details that go into the manufacturing of these products consist of 100 or more hours of testing on each unit creating a state of the art, clear and modern sound. Vext prides himself on the level of quality that the gear provides. Coming from playing small clubs to being an artist that performs in front of 27,000 people can be terrifying, but the relationship and trust in the equipment equate a sense of comfortability. The band members can rely on the consistency to support their sound no matter where they play and to Vext that is just as important as the music itself.
The very next day, NAMM attendees were witness to an acoustic set by Bad Wolves to showcase their music and the Harman International Industries audio products. Accompanied by Chris Cain (guitar) and Kyle Konkiel (bass), Vext took the small booth stage to perform Remember When, Can You Hear Me Now (sans Diamante’s vocals), Truth Or Dare and ending with a bittersweet sing along to Zombie. As the song began, more people showed up, and Vext stated that everyone had to sing along even if they were recording on their phones or if they were walking up. Everyone was singing, and it was clear that Dolores O’ Riordan would be filled with pride if she would have been alive to see it. It was an emotional point and a true testament to how music brings people closer together.
Bad Wolves is an anomaly in today’s music market. In the day of free live-streaming of music, they have still managed to exceed possibilities making them a force to be reckoned with through the juxtaposition of sheer honesty in their music and the desire to change the world through music. The future of Bad Wolves deems promising and to see their journey and success is a breath of fresh air for metal fans everywhere.
Check out Bad Wolves upcoming tour dates here: