It’s all been a bit of a whirlwind for Bad Wolves of late; formed of members from various different musical projects, the band began in late 2016 and are preparing to release their debut album Disobey on May 11th. Their cover of the Cranberries’ Zombie has reached incredible levels since it’s release, something that nobody quite predicted. With the Cranberries’ Dolores O’Riordan set to reprise her vocals on their cover on the day she died, prompting the band to donate all the proceeds from the track to her children, it’s been a tumultuous ride for the band, to say the least.
BM: Bad Wolves formed last year with members of other bands, is that right?
Tommy: Yes, well technically John and I started working together in late 2016, and then Learn To Live is our first video and single that we released approximately a year ago.
BM: So how did this all come about?
Tommy: Well basically, the long and short of it is that John started working on the record about two and a half/three years ago. Then he started recording and he plays all instruments, so he recorded several songs. And at the time he was acting as my manager for a different project- and I asked him to send me some of the B sides he wasn’t going to use for his record. So it was Learn To Live, so he sent over the instrumentals and I was like ‘are you sure you don’t want these songs?’ And he was all ‘oh no it doesn’t really fit the vibe that I’m going for.’ Then I recorded it and sent it to him and we clicked. We went into the studio the following week and recorded five more songs. Doc soon came after- he’s been one of my best friends for over 15 years and he and John have been friends for around 12 years. Chris has been one of John’s friends for a very long time, and I’ve known Kyle since 2006/2007 when I first moved to Los Angeles, so it all just came together.
BM: Awesome! So is this going to be everyone’s main focus now going forward?
Tommy: Yeah, basically John is not in Devildriver anymore, and Doc isn’t doing God Forbid. He has another project called Vegus Nerve which is more of a progressive rock band- I would say that’s the style of their music. And that’s it. We’re going to be touring all of this year, we’re already planning the next record cycle.
BM: So I saw an interview you did where you said you got to explore influences in this project that you haven’t explored previously- what kind of influences are in there?
Tommy: I think that the influences that I was able to bring to the table vocally stem from Muse to Busta Rhymes, Usher and Justin Timberlake. So it was very interesting coming and approaching a record after all of us were predominantly in traditional metal bands. I think after seeing the Faith No More reunion tour, John really got on fire to do something different. Ultimately the record became us all reaching into other directions, into musical tastes that we weren’t able to explore in previous bands, that was the group conscious moving forward.
BM: So you have a lot more freedom. So with your cover of the Cranberries’ Zombie, how did you come to choose that track to cover?
Tommy: Well basically while I was in the process of writing the demos, it was late 2016. It was around the same time the presidential election was going on, and the country was really polarised. It was just a crazy time. So I was in a coffee shop and I do the same thing everyday – I was living in Venice and this one particular day I was writing and Zombie came on. I was a huge fan of the Cranberries when I was a kid, but I never really knew the meaning of the song. So I went into a Google hole and a YouTube hole and was looking up interviews and I came to find out the song was originally written as a tribute to the two boys who were killed in the Warrington bombings. Then you know the 1916 reference obviously to Easter Rising, and I realised the same issues that Dolores was covering in that song, are still relevant today- if not worse. There’s definitely a lot of social commentary on our new record, so I brought it to John and the band and said ‘we gotta do this song, we’re gonna cover the Cranberries’, so they were all wondering what song. I told them Zombie; we all listened to it and everyone was like ‘man this is heavy’. After that, we went to the studio and worked with a Swedish producer, recorded it, and that was that.BM: It’s such an incredible song though and you’ve done it justice, the cover is amazing. Dolores was supposed to feature on your track; how did it come about that she was supposed to reprise her vocals?
Tommy: Well, actually on the Five Finger Death Punch tour last year, they played Wembley, which was the last show. Ivan had asked me to sing at that show, and Dan that runs Eleven Seven in the UK was there and we had this amazing conversation. Turns out that Dan is a family friend of Dolores’ for many, many years. I just got the courage to ask him to send her the song to see if she would approve of it- and he said he would. It’s always a jarring thing to take on someone’s piece of work: especially as the Cranberries were a massive band, and Zombie was probably their biggest song, the record sold over 40 million copies. I was seeking parental approval almost. Anyway so I went back to the states for the holidays, and a few days later Dan contacted me and said ‘Dolores loves it, she wants to sing on it’. The band almost didn’t believe it. I remember when I told my guitar player, he thought I was joking with him, they all thought it was a joke. Then unfortunately it never got to come to fruition…
BM: How did you receive the news that she had passed on, on the same day that she was supposed to record for you guys?
Tommy: The night before, I had spoken to Dan because she had left him a voice message. They were meant to meet at the studio in the morning, so I had gotten the voice message and I went to bed thinking one of my childhood dreams was about to come true and I was going to collaborate with someone who’s work had touched me and who’s words and melodies meant so much to me as a child and a teenager. So when I woke up in the morning, I got a call from Zoltan from Five Finger who’s our manager, and he asked if I’d seen the news. I had no idea, and when I saw I was just in complete disbelief. So it’s taken us all some time to process, I think we’re still processing what happened. Nobody was expecting it… Somebody asked me how you can be so devastated by the loss of someone you didn’t personally know. But the thing is we don’t mourn artists because we knew them, we mourn them because they helped us know ourselves. This whole thing of turning the situation into a tribute to honour her memory and to honour the song. And the fact the song is doing as well as it is, is a testament to the masterful songwriter that Dolores was, and the way the Cranberries were able to connect to their audience through their songwriting and their music.
BM: It is an incredible tribute to her, did you expect the song to do this well?
Tommy: I mean no. I don’t know if we had any expectations of what would happen, the situation just happened and we kept taking the next indicated action. I felt like when Dolores approved of the song, that was the validation that I wanted, and I had no more expectations after that. But it just kind of seemed to… It’s just doing what its doing. We’re just watching it happen, getting ready for tour and doing last minute international press.
BM: With the video, was the plan always to have the gold lady as a homage back to the original, or did that idea come after Dolores died?
Tommy: Oh no that came after… We weren’t supposed to lead with the cover as a single. So that kind of re-organised things. So we had a meeting and decided that we would release it, under the condition that the proceeds would go to her children, then after that everything kind of just switched gears into pushing the song and getting it out there. Then we got Wayne Isham on board and he’s a legendary music video director; he’s worked with Metallica, Michael Jackson, Madonna… He and our creative director and Eleven Seven came up with this concept and it was just amazing. It was very powerful. We were filming the live performances for several hours, and then when Ava (who was playing Dolores in the video) came out, she was all painted in gold and the silence on the set was kind of deafening. There was a lot of weight, it felt like Dolores was with us. It was pretty intense to make.
BM: The rest of your album, what kind of themes in terms of lyrics did you get to explore?
Tommy: There’s a lot of social and political commentary on the record, its not ambiguous… but it just isn’t telling people what to think. The songs bring up issues such as police brutality, racism, the polarisation of the United States and how people’s political belief systems have become like a religion where people have started to hate each other. It’s kind of just an illustration of what it’s been like to be in America this past couple of years. Just watching the change in the political climate and so… we hope people dig it and we want to be thought provoking, but not force any of our opinions. Even the guys in the band have different views and conflicting political beliefs- but we all love and respect one another. We kind of feel like its important to state things, but also leave it open to interpretation so people can form their own opinions and conclusions without hating each other.
Disobey is out May 11th via Eleven Seven Music, you can per-order that here!