Bad Wolves is an American heavy metal group formed in 2017. They are best known for their 2018 cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie”. The band consists of vocalist, Tommy Vext, drummer John Boecklin, lead guitarist Doc Coyle, rhythm guitarist Chris Cain, and bassist Kyle Konkiel, and is managed by Zoltan Bathory of Five Finger Death Punch. They recently hit the UK supporting Three Days Grace. I was quite literally blown away by the high quality and energy of their Manchester show that I immediately decided to pursue an interview with the band. Singer Tommy Vext was happy enough to facilitate my request.
Tommy Vext: It’s going amazing. I had a couple of health hiccups in the beginning of the tour, but I’m feeling a lot better and now that the shows have been running smoothly and it seems like the shows just keep getting better and better.
ANTIHERO: I caught your show in Manchester. I was quite surprised that for a support band you generated such a fantastic response.
Tommy Vext: Oh yeah. We have fun up there. We try our best to give the audience a really great live show and we work to connect with them and there are some people who know us already. So, it’s like we have a small sense of fan base here and I think the Three Days Grace fans are really embracing us. So, it’s been a really great experience for us.
ANTIHERO: It was probably one of the best responses I’ve seen for a support band in quite some time. You really got the crowd going.
Tommy Vext: Oh thanks. That’s good to hear. It means we’re doing our job.
ANTIHERO: Was it surprising that the fans were familiar with all the album tracks and not just obviously the one song that everybody knows?
Tommy Vext: I mean we can never really tell. This is our first time being over here, so we’ve been playing in the States pretty regularly so it’s different when you’re repeating the same markets as opposed to you don’t know when you go to another country and another market how people are gonna respond so, playing the other songs and having people responding to the original material and singing along is very encouraging. For us, it tells us that we’re doing something right.
ANTIHERO: Has it motivated the band to come back and play some shows again in the UK and Europe when you’re headlining?
Tommy Vext: Yeah. Absolutely. I don’t know if we’re going to headline, but I know that we are currently working to get on the festivals for next summers. We’re going to try to get on all that stuff. I don’t know how booked up things are yet, but that’s our intention is to come back as early as the summertime festival season hits here.
ANTIHERO: I’m sure you’ve done many interviews and a lot of them that just seem to focus on the one song. I wondered if it’d be possible just to step outside that and talk about the Cranberries? Were they a band that you were personally familiar with? Or was it an idea that maybe one of the other guys in the band came up with? To cover that song?
Tommy Vext: No, I was the one who brought the song to the band to cover. I’ve listened to The Cranberries since I was a kid. And so, I was actually writing lyrics and working on material in a coffee shop in LA when I heard “Zombie” on the radio and I came to the studio and I was like “guys we gotta do this song.” Yeah, then it kind of just…
Tommy Vext: Turned into what it turned into. Yeah. We threw a record label through Dan Waite who’s a family friend of the O’Riordans and our label owner, he actually managed The Cranberries, Alan Kovac, so he managed them for over a decade so when they had heard the song, they just kind of called up and said, “Hey what do you think about this?” We wanted it to get a stamp of approval, then Dolores had loved it so much that she wanted to sing on it. So, unfortunately, that never happened. But it’s been kind of this emotional roller coaster of really championing the song and playing it and pushing it to radio and donating the proceeds to her children and it’s been this really beautiful healing process through a tragic situation.
ANTIHERO: Just coming back to the album. The album offers quite a variety of songs and musical styles. I just wondered if that’s the case of the band, Bad Wolves, actually trying to find your own identity or is it the case of the individual band members just coming from a variety of different musical influences?
Tommy Vext: Well, I think it’s the latter. I don’t know if we ever were searching for a definitive sound. I think we kind of all pull from so many different genres of music that that’s what makes us sound like us, we don’t really say no to anything. So if somebody, everyone has ideas and we all come up with different ideas and we experiment and we see what works and then when it works we go with it and when it doesn’t work we don’t do it.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. Music has obviously formed quite a significant part of your career. I actually noticed an acting role on your CD and I just wondered if that was a one-off or if it’s indeed, maybe acting would be something that you’re keen to pursue further in the future.
Tommy Vext: Have I done acting? I don’t even know. I’ve been in a couple music videos but nothing serious.
ANTIHERO: There was, I noticed there was a 2006 thing, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star?
Tommy Vext: Oh yeah, that was my friend Peter’s film, yeah. No, I never really, I don’t know. I’m pretty busy touring and doing music. I’ve never really been, I’ve lived in LA for twelve years and never pursued acting. I never really done it, but it could be cool to be a bad guy. I love Marvel films so I’d wanna be a henchman and get killed. That’d be cool.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. We discussed already, your live performance. Live, your music’s delivered in quite a brutal and powerful way, I just wondered if that’s representative of how you are as an individual or do you come off stage and go back to quiet sort of introverted, maybe sort of almost reclusive sort of a guy?
Tommy Vext: I mean I’m not introverted or reclusive, I’m pretty outgoing. But, the energy on stage and the intensity, that’s for the stage and then I’m pretty boring. I spend most of my time on FaceTime with my girlfriend who lives in Australia. Then I go to the gym then I talk to my family. I’m pretty boring.
ANTIHERO: You’ve toured, outside of Bad Wolves, you’ve obviously been in other bands. You’ve toured with many musical heavyweights. So I just wondered what these experiences have taught you and if there’s any other particular musician that has maybe taken you aside and given you a few lessons that have improved you and have actually helped you along the way?
Tommy Vext: Yeah, I think that I’ve been an opening artist for a long time and I think every time we posit a different headliner, we learn more from those bands. You learn what to do, you learn what not to do, I think that personally, I think doing so many support tours should have a huge hand in helping me understand the business aspects of the music industry and how to get across to the audience and how to get listened to by your record label and how to find where you are gonna be supported in your art. And also, what measures it takes to get your music heard and he’s one of my best friends so I’ve friends like that, I’m very close with Jacoby from Papa Roach, somebody who used to play in Five Finger Death Punch and Randy from Lamb of God. And these are all guys that I kind of go to. Disturbed, I’m kind of like the little brother. These are all guys I go to when I’m like “I don’t know what to do.” The music community is actually very small and very brotherly.
ANTIHERO: You mentioned that the music industry has changed quite significantly since you first started. The declining role of, the record labels, the rise of social media, etc. Have you had to adapt in order to survive, do you actually have a defined career strategy? Or do you just take things as they come?
Tommy Vext: I just don’t rely on the music business to pay my bills. I own another company and I do work as a drug and alcohol counselor, a one on one drug and alcohol counselor for either celebrities or people who are traveling and can’t see their regular professional. That is a job that I’m very passionate about and I’m very good at. It’s very fulfilling. It’s also monetarily is what enables me to be in a band and tour and not have to worry about money. But, yeah it’s like if you’re in the music business because you’re trying to make money, you’re in the wrong business. It’s over. There are very few bands, for us, we have this situation where we had “Zombie” go Diamond and it goes all over the world and we made it a collective conscious decision before we even wrote the song to donate it to her children.
We are not in this thing for money. We’re here and we’re making music because, to be honest with you, the younger generation, I feel like there’s a lot of garbage. I feel like hip hop is taking a shit. I feel like a lot of the punk industry is kinda taking a shit. And there hasn’t been a metal band in a long time to come out that actually has something to say. So, I feel like that’s what’s most important. You know, exercising our versatility. Not being afraid to be really heavy, not being afraid to be really melodic, and as human beings, we are very complex creatures and we have very very complicated relationships and a very very vast array of emotions and one band should be able to touch on all those emotions. It’s something that a lot of people are afraid to do, but we’re not. Our heroes are bands like Faith No More, and System of a Down, and Tool, and bands like Metallica that don’t give a fuck about what anybody thinks. They just wanna make great music. That’s important to us.
ANTIHERO: Just a couple then to finish. What was your first introduction, your first musical memory? Was it maybe a song on the radio or a sibling’s record collection, maybe a concert?
Tommy Vext: My first musical memory? I think me and my brother saw, we heard this interview with Boy George when Come a Chameleon came out and we were like five or six years old and every time the song would come on in the mall we’d be like, “oh my God!”. But that was probably like my first time a song hit me and I was a baby. I was like, “oh I know this song!” And then from there it just kind of like, The Goonies soundtrack and most like eighties movies soundtracks and then I got my dad was a huge Beatles fan, and then I got into the Beatles and then got into Aerosmith and got into Ozzy and then gangster rap came out and then I got into metal, my cousin was huge into Metallica and Pantera and Megadeth, it all just spiraled from there.
ANTIHERO: The band’s career at present seems to be on an upward curve, how do you maintain that momentum? You seem to be constantly touring. Have you planned the next step?
Tommy Vext: Yeah. We’re constantly touring. I don’t think about maintaining momentum. I’m not somebody that, I’m not concerned with the future as much as I’m, you know what I mean? To me, I have been in music so long, I just gave up on success. Like I don’t do anything because I’m like “I wanna be successful and I want validation.” So, for me as a singer, it’s like you can’t turn a pickle into a cucumber again. So, no matter what my job is I’m always gonna make music and work on music ’cause I’m obsessed with music. So, basically the label management sends us our itinerary and I just do my schedule according to it.
It’s been a long year. We’ve been on tour since March so we’ve had like one week off, two weeks off every three months or so and we’re gonna go to the end of the year and then we’re gonna make another record. We’re immediately going back into the studio. We already recorded seven songs out on the road.
ANTIHERO: Just a final one then, outside of music, if you could yourself could sit down and interview somebody. Maybe somebody that’s inspired you, a personal hero, who would that person be? I assume that you have met a lot of musicians already.
Tommy Vext: I don’t know. I don’t know. Maybe, who would be interesting to talk to? I’ve talked to a lot of people. I’m trying to rack my brain of who I haven’t had the chance to talk to. I don’t know. Maybe The Rock. I think he’d be an interesting guy. Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
ANTIHERO: Yeah. Okay. That’s great. Thank you very much. Hopefully, we’ll get to see your band back in the UK again. You mentioned festivals, that would be great if that came off next summer.
Tommy Vext: Yeah. We’re working on it now. So fingers crossed.
ANTIHERO: That’s great, Tommy. Thank you very much for chatting to me.
Tommy Vext: Alright. Thank you. I appreciate it. Thanks for coming out to the show we’ll see you next time for sure.
ANTIHERO: Brilliant. Thank you again. Cheers.