INTERVIEW WITH SAM BEAN BY KEVIN STEWART-PANKO
Set your stopwatches boys and girls because Australia’s Werewolves are breaking all accomplishment records with the same land speed quickness as a suicidal Fun-E car pilot tearing up the Bonneville Speedway Salt Flats powered by a combination of nitrous oxide and Usain Bolt’s fast-twitch muscle fibers. It’s not that the band (drummer Dave Haley, guitarist Matt Wilcock, and bassist/vocalist Sam Bean—with umpteen years of combined experience playing in the likes of Akercocke, The Senseless, The Berzerker, The Antichrist Imperium, Ruins, King, Abramelin, and more) was able to…ah, let’s just let them tell the tale: “Matt and Dave had a coffee on a Monday last year and decided to do a band. All their other bands have these long production schedules and are detailed, technical, and serious ventures. They wanted to do something nimble and idiotic…blackened caveman death metal without any pretension whatsoever. Like Marduk and Mortician smooshed together, then bashed over the head with phone books until they were blithering idiots. Sam put his hand up on the Wednesday for bass and vocals. By Friday, we had a band. By the following Monday, Matt had written the entire record. Dave recorded all his drums the weekend after. Two weeks later, Sam recorded bass and vocals. It was mixed and mastered the week after that and we received the cover art around about the same time. A few weeks later, Prosthetic offered us a three album deal, and in the spirit of the band—doing things really quickly without thinking—we accepted. So, the band went from inception to first album and signing within two months.”
Spontaneity and acting before thinking are what drives the back-to-basics grinding blackened death of their fast as a shark debut album, The Dead Are Screaming. This is music written without posturing, very little calculation, and even less forethought. It socks the listener in the breadbasket as quickly as it emerged from the minds of its creators. And remember, this was all carried out and executed months before stay at home orders and isolation shut downs. One would assume that a few weeks stuck at home has likely had the band already fulfill the terms of their next Prosthetic contract. What we know for sure is that in keeping with Werewolves’ gettin’ shit done philosophy, we sent Bean a bunch of questions via email and got responses back as quickly as the internet could carry them.
What have you been doing over the past month or two, and what are you supposed to be doing?
What am I doing? Furiously masturbating until I chafe. And working heaps, my job has accelerated if anything. Matt’s an embalmer, so let’s just say that he’s particularly secure at the moment. Dave is crossing off all the tours and bookings that normally fill his calendar, both for his bands and booking agency, and occasionally screeching and head-butting the wall. What am I supposed to be doing? Going on holidays and preparing to play live shows to support the release of The Dead Are Screaming.
“THE MOTTO WITH WEREWOLVES IS ‘THE QUICKER AND DUMBER, THE BETTER.’ SPREAD YOUR CHEEKS AND SQUEEZE IT STRAIGHT OUT.”
Having come together as Werewolves is one thing, as is your previous work together, but was there something about doing the band when you did as opposed to any time previous? Had there been stabs made at doing the band that eventually became Werewolves in the past?
Nothing like Werewolves was attempted by us in the past, in any form. And, god yeah, we definitely did things differently. Everything we normally do in our other bands is super deliberate and takes painstaking craftsmanship to shape our artisanal small batch music. The motto with Werewolves is “the quicker and dumber, the better.” Spread your cheeks and squeeze it straight out. I’m copping flak from the guys for spending more than a month writing lyrics for album two.
The majority of The Dead Are Screaming was reportedly written in a weekend. How much of this material was conjured up fresh, from scratch with Werewolves in mind, and how much was stuff you had sitting around that you cherry-picked from?
All of it was fresh and from scratch, down to the last riff. Matt literally sat down in his room, got into the coffee, and banged it out. The whole idea was to see how fast we could go and get an album done. We weren’t trying to emote passionate intricate masterpieces. Our other bands take years to do albums, and we wanted the cheap thrill of creation—quick and dirty.
“THE WHOLE IDEA WAS TO SEE HOW FAST WE COULD GO AND GET AN ALBUM DONE.”
Were you and Dave surprised at how fast the album was written? Did Matt’s quickness force you to step up your own writing and contributions?
I was surprised. I was told on Friday that I was in the band, and then Matt went and hit us with nine songs on Monday. I thought it’d take a week at best, not a weekend. Then, Dave went and recorded his drums by the following weekend, and I was like, “Jesus Christ, I need to get some lyrics and bass happening!” So yeah, the pressure was on right from the start.
Was there a point when the band was something you weren’t taking entirely seriously? At what point in the writing/recording/post-production process did you think to yourselves, “We are onto something!”?
Every point of the way, we are not taking the band entirely seriously, even now. That’s how the magic happens. It’s the secret sauce. My personal belief is that rushing through everything and laughing every step of the way forces the songwriting to come from the brain stem, the lizard brain, bypassing higher emotions and motor functions so that something truly caveman and demented can burst forth. When we got the mixes back from Joe Haley, we were shocked. It sounded much, much better than when we were writing. We realized we had bottled a bit of lightning. Sometimes you lose a vibe when you work material over too hard. This had vibe in spades. Look, I say “vibe,” but what I really mean is retarded, obnoxious, puerile, mindless hate.
“RUSHING THROUGH EVERYTHING AND LAUGHING EVERY STEP OF THE WAY FORCES THE SONGWRITING TO COME FROM THE BRAIN STEM, THE LIZARD BRAIN”
Your bio says that the hardest part of the entire thing was finding a band name. Why was that? Why Werewolves? And what other possible names didn’t survive the chopping block?
It was hard because we’re morons. Dave can’t read, he just hits things with sticks until they bang. Matt communicates by typewriter using his fists. We settled on Werewolves because the music is bestial, muscular, and hairy. Some of the other names? Knuckledragger. I really liked that one. Genderneutral Heterodeath, you know, for capturing the Twitter crowd. Oathknuckle Beastcannon. Morkerkukken, which is Swedish for “black cock.” I wanted to call the album Eht Htao Fo Eht Kcalb Kcoc. Foreheads Fatal to the Flesh. Strafe Space. There’s plenty of others. They didn’t represent the band properly—they were too clever.
Was it ever a consideration to let the material sit for a while and breathe, then come back to it?
Nope. It was all about spontaneity. It never crossed our minds to let the material baste. This whole thing is mindless. It never crossed our minds. We have no minds to cross.
Was the speed with which the album was fully completed due to an off-the-cuff philosophy, skill with recording technology, experience in the studio, a challenge to keep the Werewolves train rolling as quickly as possible, or a combination of all of the above?
All of the above. I think this will be my 10th studio album in total, and I’m the inexperienced one! We’re all songwriting masters who know our instruments backwards. Matt and Dave are studio kings who can get more done in a week than most bands can in a year.
Did how quickly this all come together even surprise you guys?
Yes. Look, we knew we were capable of it, but bands are random things, and when you make something truly horrible, the karma of the universe lines up against you. Roadblocks happen everywhere and musicians are mental. I think the speed of everything caught the universe by surprise so it didn’t have time to kill off family members, steal studio equipment, or give one of us temporary schizophrenia. It made a late rally with the bushfires, then Coronavirus, but it was too late!
“IT’S A THREE ALBUM DEAL—ONE HAS BEEN RELEASED, THE SECOND ONE IS NEARLY RECORDED, AND THE THIRD HAS BEEN WRITTEN.”
Was there much convincing that needed to be done to Prosthetic? Was there trepidation on either side that this is a side-project with limited history that could fade away?
Just sexual favors. There’s no trepidation on our side. We can fulfill our contract pretty easily. It’s a three album deal—one has been released, the second one is nearly recorded, and the third has been written. I understand how some labels have side-project jitters, but we all have two decades of experience in the music industry. Our experience is on-record so they know exactly who they’re dealing with. They know exactly what to expect with us, that we’re not going to disappear, and that they’ll never, ever, ever have to beg us for material.
Have you encountered any amount of jealousy at how quickly you were able to wrangle a deal with Prosthetic and get an album out?
There should be. Others should be jealous. We’re amazing. I’d be jealous of me.
Did signing to Prosthetic add any pressure to the process in terms of expectation or deadlines? Or did the natural pace of how this happened have you ahead of anything the label threw at you in terms of business?
We’re all seasoned. Again, I’m the hobbyist of the group, and this is my fourth record contract. We’ve crushed the deadlines, can read a contract, and know how to sign our names. Except Dave, he just did a big “X.” If there was any pressure, it was to get shows happening, but Coronavirus has fucked that up. So now, we get bonus rehearsal time.
You’ve described Werewolves’ music with language that gives the impression that it’s going to be death metal on par with knuckle-dragging and sloped foreheads. And while The Dead Are Screaming may not be as technical as your other endeavors, it doesn’t come across as caveman-ish as touted.
Maybe it’s the freakish level of intelligence of our other works, but Werewolves feels rather caveman to us.
Is there a different mental, emotional, creative feeling, or connection that you have with the Werewolves material because it is comparatively simpler than your main gigs?
It’s funny, when I listen to the stuff I’ve worked on over for years, all I hear is the stuff I got wrong or could have done better. Not with Werewolves though. It feels like we hit a slam dunk just by idly throwing the ball behind our heads from the other end of the court. The pros and cons? The instant gratification is an obvious one, we’re totally about that. I think young guys in bands have this idea that it’s supposed to be hard, that making albums is a challenge, that it’s supposed to define you. It’s a mark of our maturity that we are perfectly satisfied just to wank something out and then wipe our hands of it. Cons? Mmmm…none. None at all.
“WE ARE PERFECTLY SATISFIED JUST TO WANK SOMETHING OUT AND THEN WIPE OUR HANDS OF IT.”
How long has the album been in the can and finished? Is there anything you wished had been done differently?
I think the album was written, mixed, mastered, with all artwork done last August. There is absolutely nothing we’d change. Personally, it may have been easier to get my parts done if I wasn’t house sitting, dog sitting, suffering vertigo complete with random spews, setting up an Airbnb property, and doing overtime at work, but I’m sure that added to the air of holy shit-ness.
Have you had time to ponder what Werewolves might look like going forward?
Hairier, faster, more horrible, with even worse lyrics. We are manifesting this glorious reality on a day-to-day basis. I am a beautiful human being.