It's nearly 1 a.m. Across the bar, the members of Michigan noise-rock trio Wolf Eyes cavort like drunken monkeys with their entourage of New York scenesters and old Midwest pals. The whole thing is just absurd. But I'm enduring it because I followed Wolf Eyes to this establishment, Daddy's, a hipster bar in Brooklyn, on the promise from members Aaron Dilloway and Nathan Young that I'd get some interview time for a piece I am writing (which never came to fruition). Little do I know that they'll put me off for over three hours (and counting). Bored out of my skull, I've been sitting here at the opposite end of the bar knocking back tumbler after tumbler of Jameson's. "Farrar, get your ass over here," Dilloway yells, just as I'm about to order another.
Muttering to myself, I hoist my tipsy ass up off the stool, stroll on over to the booth, and plop down directly opposite Dilloway and Young -- two gangly, long-haired dudes, the former an incredibly talented guitarist and all-around great musician and the latter possessing one of them ungodly, beastlike wails.
"John, get your ass over here," Sue Pieschalski (a close friend of the group who's sitting next to me) hollers at the third and newest member of Wolf Eyes, John Olson, attempting to lure him away from another table where he's talking to friends. He ignores her. I really don't think Olson cares to participate in this interview. He has yet to acknowledge my presence. I press "play" on my recorder and lay it on a table covered in beer puddles, but a hand quickly snatches it.
"So, we are sitting here with Nathan from Wolf Eyes. Nathan, how are you doing?" Some anonymous young goon -- an old friend of the band -- begins waving my recorder around and asking mock interview questions.
"Olson, get over here," Pieschalski again screams and again is ignored.
"Get Morgan over here," Dilloway tells Pieschalski.
"Morgan? He ain't even in the band," she quizzically replies.
"Aaron Dilloway, member of Wolf Eyes, what's up?" The young goon proceeds with his mock interview, as more of Wolf Eyes' entourage congregates around the booth, crawling all over one another and producing a cacophony of intoxicated chatter that leads me to believe these folks, when they were kids, all listened incessantly to License to Ill. Their speech and mannerisms are very white-ironic and faux-hip hop.
"Olson, c'mon man. Get over here," the young goon shouts.
"What?" Olson snaps back.
"He's gonna interview you," the young goon retorts as the drummer for Black Dice pulls a chair up to the table.
The young goon then stuffs half my recorder into his mouth and begins growling and yelping like a dog.
"So, go ahead and ask a question. Yer the pro," some other mouthy wiseacre demands of me.
"You guys are doing just fine," I reply, provoking a succession of drunken snarls from the entourage.
"Ask a damn question!"
"What the fuck?"
"Ask a fucking question!"
Olson saunters over and takes a seat next to the dude from Black Dice.
"So, why don't your records sound anything like your live shows?" I finally pipe up, launching the crowd into a frenzy that generates no real answer.
Ignoring all my questions, Olson chants repeatedly, "Black Dice are my soul brothers," then he exits the interview along with most of the entourage, which then, in the middle of the bar, begins practicing wrestling moves: body slams, full nelsons, camel clutches, etc.
Twenty minutes later, Dilloway follows Olson's lead, leapfrogging over the back of the booth, which leaves just Young and me sitting there eye to eye. We tussle for an additional 20 minutes until he terminates our conversation, shouting in my face, "I build barns for a living. What do you want from me?" He pounds the table with his fist. Bottles tumble to the floor. A sly smirk flashes across his face before he dramatically climbs across the table and storms into the bathroom. More bottles crash to the floor. I'm the last one left in the booth.
San Francisco, Summer 2005
My supervisor called in sick today, which is a total stroke of luck because I need the company's time and phone to call up Olson (who nowadays seems to be Wolf Eyes' primary spokesman) and ask him a few questions for this article that's now three years in the making.
As I set up the recorder and fish Olson's digits out of my bag, I think back to our first volatile interview and ponder the ways in which our lives have changed over the past three years. Wolf Eyes, which started out releasing nothing but handcrafted, limited-edition cassettes and CD-Rs, put out, last year, its first record on Sub Pop, Burned Mind. But, despite making an album for such a high-profile label, Wolf Eyes hasn't abandoned its underground-noise roots, continuing to self-release (at a feverish pace) tapes and discs packaged with post-hardcore, Xerox-produced collage art. In fact, to date, the Wolf Eyes discography stands at roughly 200 releases. And there now exist hundreds, maybe thousands of bands around the planet that are all profoundly influenced by this act and its unique approach to music production and distribution. Arthur columnist Byron Coley has even anointed the group the leader of a movement of droning noise-rock acts that he refers to as the "New Weirdness." And I have yet to mention Wolf Eyes' opening slot on Sonic Youth's nationwide tour last year.
As for me, I left New York and that city's 24-hour party (and its 24-hour drug connections), and I rarely tap that dusty bottle of Jameson's in my kitchen cabinet. I sit at home most nights -- eyes glued to the computer screen -- struggling to turn freelance writing into my bread 'n' butter. Now, I hesitate to call any of this stuff maturation, but within both Olson and I now exist faint but definite streaks of (gulp) professionalism. Our respective teenage obsessions -- musicmaking and rock criticism -- are transforming into our time-demanding adult careers.
But I can only hope that my work possesses an ounce of the integrity and originality that Olson's does. You see, in my humble opinion, Wolf Eyes is the first group since the giants of the '60s (John Coltrane, the Beatles, the Beach Boys, etc.) to actually become more innovative and challenging musically as it receives more press and sells more records. In an age when just about every single indie group makes increasingly generic music as it settles into its wallet-lining niche, Wolf Eyes gives hope to the democratic belief that fearless creativity and popularity can coexist.
Burned Mind is a much more radical musical statement than the novel electronic rock I witnessed the band perform on its very first minitour outside of Michigan back in '98. That Wolf Eyes basically made noisy, disco-fried ZZ Top jams buried underneath layers of fuzz and reverb. Burned Mind, on the other hand, is epic -- a sonic crystallization of the "vibrational essences" found in noise, punk, hardcore, electronic music, industrial, dub, psychedelia, hip hop, heavy metal, and free jazz. It's a sound that unfolds like some mammoth, electrically charged scrapheap beast sleeping, breathing, slowly awakening, roaring to life, and finally demolishing every damn thing obstructing its path.
But Burned Mind is not free-noise (because any half-ass can shit out formless noise). It's methodically crafted, intuitively executed, extreme pop music, maybe the most extreme pop music ever. And that's exactly what you with your art and I with my writing dream of creating: work that is so totally new and unknown but loved intensely by so many.
As all these thoughts swirl about my noggin, Olson answers his phone. After exchanging brief pleasantries, we get to business.
"So how is 'phase four' of Wolf Eyes going?" I ask, referring to the recent addition to the group of guitarist and screaming-electronics operator Mike Connelly. (He also whips up noise in the insanely manic group Hair Police.)
"It's going great. We were stuck when Aaron left, and we wanted to go with Connelly," Olson responds. "So he quit his job, and we went on the road a week later with hardly any time to rehearse. But when we got back from the Europe tour, we practiced every day. Our game is tight."
Most folks believe that Connelly replaced Dilloway, who temporarily relocated to Nepal this year. However, according to Dilloway, he simply pulled a Brian Wilson.
"I am still in Wolf Eyes," Dilloway recently assured me via e-mail. "I am just no longer touring with them. I will continue to work on records with them. At the time I left for Nepal, we were getting many offers to go play shows here and there. I didn't want my leaving to screw the other guys out of going to Europe. So, I said if something killer comes up, then do it! Keep this shit going. And Mike was the perfect guy to step in to take my place."
Of course, this little 411 on Dilloway's status in the group is for die-hard fans only. However, the entire episode -- the group's need to maintain this entity known as Wolf Eyes -- hints at a sense of professionalism that has slowly developed within the band, a unique discipline that these dudes didn't possess during our last interview.
The remainder of my conversation with Olson reflects this. We talk (drama-free) about the group's recent gigs at these international experimental music festivals, the so-called "New Weirdness," and the band's upcoming record for Sub Pop. All the while, I keep thinking to myself, "Wolf Eyes fucking did it, man. They're earning their keep and making meaningful art without selling their goddamn souls. Killer."