Aussie power trio Wolfmother was hailed as the Last Great Rock Band after its self-titled 2005 debut scaled to great heights, drawing comparisons to the mighty Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Blue Cheer at a time when guitar rock was on the wane.
Formed in 2000 by Andrew Stockdale with friends Chris Ross and Myles Heskett, the threesome charged out of Sydney, Australia, in a broken-down van and toured relentlessly –- for the first four years they played 300 dates a year — stunning audiences with their riff-heavy bombast, singer Stockdale’s electric hair and spazzy stage presence, and big anthemic songs such as “Woman” and “Joker and the Thief.”
Their debut achieved quintuple platinum and they scooped up every available Aussie award, as well as taking home a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. High-profile fans such as Lars Ulrich, Alice Cooper, Thom Yorke, and Lenny Kravitz raved about them, while Slash convinced Stockdale to record a song (“By the Sword”) with him for his 2010 album Slash. Mike Patton ranted about how much he hated the band — which is sort of an honor in itself.
But living in rock’s great Valhalla didn’t guarantee a rosy future for Wolfmother. In fact, great success often comes with its own set of troubles.
Sure, there were attempts at group therapy, then the claims of irreconcilable differences, the drawn-up confidentiality agreements, new members and then not one, but two lineup defections: one in 2008, another in 2013. But the most worrying of all for the future of these rock revivalists was when major domo Stockdale went on hiatus in 2013. He released Moving Ahead, which was supposed to be the band’s third album, under his own name. That’s when things began to look really bleak.
It made me think that the simple things were the real victories, and to remind myself to celebrate the small victories
Fortunately for all the Wolfies, that hiatus-cum-solo career lasted all of 10 weeks. Stockdale changed his mind, canceled all his solo gigs and rebooked them as Wolfmother shows — even though he was the only original member.
To prove how serious he was about resurrecting the band, he self-funded, self-recorded, self-promoted and self-released New Crown as a Wolfmother album on Bandcamp. Reviewers enthused that it was Stockdale’s strongest material in years, his voice drawing comparisons to Robert Plant and Ozzy Osborne, with songs that were described as “noisy punk,” sounding as if they’d been “penned by Jack White and the Sex Pistols.” In 2014, Rolling Stone claimed Wolfmother was officially back in action.
Thankfully, the reboot took.
In January 2015, work began at Stockdale’s studio in New South Wales. Produced by Brendan O’Brien (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Incubus, AC/DC, Pearl Jam), the musician wrote and demoed everything himself, playing all the instruments, as he did for the band’s debut album 10 years before, albeit this time with ringers — superstar skin-beaters Josh Freese and Joey Waronker shared drumming duties.
Named Victorious, it wasn’t a macho, chest-beating pronouncement. Instead it’s an unexpectedly sensitive gesture to an ailing friend. “I wrote it for a friend who had an illness, and it didn’t look good,” Stockdale reveals. “Things picked up and she got better, and it made me think that the simple things, like being healed from something, were the real victories and to remind myself to celebrate the small victories. The big ones take care of themselves.”
When asked whether or not he felt personally victorious in his career path by managing to keep some version of Wolfmother intact, Stockdale says, “Well, I wouldn’t want to get too carried away with it,” Stockdale says with a laugh. “But it’s good to still be playing and to be making music. I don’t take it for granted. I think it’s an honor and a privilege to be able to live off my creativity, so yeah.”
I came over here to make this record; I didn’t bring a band. I didn’t bring a guitar. I didn’t bring anything. I just walked into a studio
This album was easier for Stockdale, something he attributes to an ayurvedic diet.
“It’s funny, I’ve just started getting into this diet, which is an Indian thing, and they have three different types of people. They say artists or creative people have this ether and they need to feel grounded. So it’s said it’s good to eat lots of vegetables that are grown in the ground, like potatoes and sweet potato. So I’m eating those things so that I can better keep myself connected in some ways. Am I more creative since I started eating this way? Don’t laugh, but I am.”
He was also less self-conscious about recording. “I came over here to make this record; I didn’t bring a band. I didn’t bring a guitar. I didn’t bring anything. I just walked into a studio. Just had a go at it. Of course I have still have fear. I have a bit of hesitation, but what do they say — ‘Without fear there’s no courage.’
It’s just a test, so of course the fear is always there but maybe that’s what drives you in some ways to overcome those fears. You just have to work through it. I know I did. After I did this record, I felt like a better person for writing it.”