Tommy Vext – Bad Wolves ‘Having ‘The Conversation’ About His Aussie Connection’

“I first came here in 2008 on Soundwave, singing in a band called Divine Heresy,” recalled Bad Wolves‘ frontman Tommy VextWe were on the Metal Stage, and it was Autumn to Ashes, Divine Heresy, Shadows Fall, As I Lay DyingBleeding Through, Carpathian and Killswitch Engage.”

That’s how far back Vext’s history with Australia goes, even though LA metal band Bad Wolves only formed properly in 2017. While they hit dizzying success with their rendition of The Cranberries’ emotional, time-capturing ‘Zombie’, there’s far more to the music on debut record Disobey than a single cover hit.

I sat down with Vext at Qudos Bank Arena, ahead of their Sydney show with Nickelback. We got talking about his enduring Aussie connection, the time he put a golf cart under the Metal Stage (and a table over the crowd) at Soundwave Festival, and his dream collaboration involving an Aussie artist with a dog called Pantera.

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I was chatting to Mike (Kroeger, Nickelback bassist) weeks back and he actually thought you guys were an Aussie band!

“Oh really? We didn’t even have a history with them, we’re fans. When we found out, we were like, ‘Are you serious?’. We were in Europe and playing in Glasgow or something, and all day all we did before we got onstage was listen to Nickelback hits. We were super excited. Then we played just outside of Vancouver with Three Days Grace and Chad (Kroeger, Nickelback vocalist) came in the dressing room. We were like, ‘Oh my god, he’s here!’.”

I know your guitarist Chris (Cain) is a massive fan, especially growing up with Nickelback in Iowa with his redneck upbringing. So I know he kind of lost his shit. 

“Yeah! I grew up in New York, but when ‘How You Remind Me’ came out, Linkin Park had just dropped their first single – it was a time. Rock was blowing up, and that was the era when Korn and Limp Bizkit were on top of the world. There was a vibe of the rock bands, and then the boy bands and pop stuff. You picked a side. Now it’s a little weird, I don’t know what’s going on.” 

Yeah people seem to be a lot more collaborative and open. But having been a musician for over 20 years now, what’s your history with Australia been? 

“I first came here in 2008 on Soundwave, singing in a band called Divine Heresy. It was Dino from Fear Factory, Tim from Morbid Angel and Joe from Nile, and we had this record called Bleed the Fifth on Roadrunner out here. We were on the Metal Stage, and it was Autumn to Ashes, Divine Heresy, Shadows Fall, As I Lay Dying, Bleeding Through, Carpathian and Killswitch Engage. We would all try to do the craziest thing on stage. I would wake up early, go to the venue and steal tables from the catering company Kraft. I’d take a golf cart and put it under the stage – in the middle of our show, I’d climb down, get the table, put it on top of the crowd and jump off the speaker onto it and crowd-surf around the whole thing.”

Sounds very Greg from The Dillinger Escape Plan. 

“Yes! We came from the same place. I’ve seen Dillinger playing in clubs the size of this room, and then I flew to New York to see their last three shows. I saw the one with Mike Patten, it was incredible. Amazing band.

“So I didn’t come back to Australia for a while. Then last year I dated an Australian woman, and so spent some time in Brisbane, Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast. I’m infatuated with the country, everyone’s really nice. I feel like I’m American and everything here’s nicer and cleaner. People are in a better mood, there aren’t guns. I’m not anti-guns, but I’m anti-crazy people with guns.” 

Tim McIlrath from Rise Against said the exact same thing to me a couple of years back. He was like, ‘I’m sitting in my hotel room in Australia and I’m about to play a show, and I just think, this country operates so well without guns, yet it’s anarchy without them back home’. 

“It’s a little crazy. I watched the Midnight Oil documentary about the Nuclear Disarmament Party (NDP) and just what that band did, and how politically involved they were… There’s a lot of rich history in music and culture here that’s affected the rest of the world… I’m a Crowded House fan! Not gonna tell anybody but you know (laughs). 

“My favourite female vocalist is Sia Furla, I’ve been listening to her ever since Healing Is Difficult (2002) came out. Sia if you read this, call my agent. We’re actively trying to get her to do a heavy metal song with us, because she’s a huge Pantera fan. My friend used to be her dog walker, and her dog was called Pantera… I like weird collaborations. We want to have Busta Rhymes or Lil Wayne do a song with us. 

It’s really funny that with Nickelback, they’re not seen as a heavy band. But their latest album is the heaviest and least mainstream they’ve ever done. Mike was saying to me that if he could do a Slayer covers album, he would.

“Yeah I saw that! The funny thing is that Slayer hangs out with Nickelback backstage. They go to shows. Everybody’s friends, and it’s music. We all love each other.”

You look at their cover of Metallica’s ‘Sad But True’, they performed with Dimebag Darrell recently… They have metal roots going way back but people have just refused to see it. It was something Mike mentioned because he was being true to himself. 

“Yeah! I met Kenny G at a Lamb of God concert – the flute guy. You never know who’s going to like metal. It is what it is.”

Absolutely. Now something that’s exciting is Bad Wolves have started tracking new music. Tell me about your mindset going into the new material and the ideas you’ve been flipping around. 

“When John and I first started working together, we were the primary writers, so we wrote the whole first album. John was managing one of my other bands and I hadn’t heard his material; he’d been working on this stuff for quite a while. I got some of the songs and actually asked for a B-side because I was going to license it for a BMW commercial. It was ‘Learn To Live’, and that was it, we were in a band together. In that process, we had to find our sound and figure out how to work together.

“Now that’s all done and everyone’s in the band, everyone broke off into their little groups over the break, and wrote and recorded separately. Then we put them together and picked. You do like a board and piece it together. That’s how we decide what’s going to make it or hit the cutting room floor. There are a lot of demos… We got a lot of work done, and a lot more to do. After I start doing vocals, some of the songs are obviously at a next level. So I go back, and then with ones that are missing something, we re-investigate those and bring them up to the level.

“We’ve got a great opportunity to make a great sophomore record that’s going to blow the doors off the place. All killer, no filler.”

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Check out our review of Bad Wolves and Nickelback at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney.

Interview by Genevieve Gao

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