A chat with Andrew Stockdale, Andrew Stockdale interview, Wolfmother, Cosmic Egg
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Andrew Stockdale of Wolfmother talks like a man ready to touch a match to the fuse of a really big bottle rocket.

“I want to reignite the flame of what Wolfmother was, and keep it going and take it further,” the frizzy-haired singer enthused.

A new and improved version of the explosive Aussie power rock import returns to American shores and stores this fall. The throwback act has wrapped up a short U.S. stint supporting The Killers, and will launch a headlining world tour at the end of October before going out again next year opening for the true mother of all Aussie power rock, AC/DC.

On the departure of the band's original bassist and drummer: "It’s a bit exhausting to talk about. I’m trying to say something positive and make music. It’s hard to explain what happened, and doing so is kind of like reliving the experience."

“Yeah, it’s pretty massive,” said singer and guitarist Stockdale happily, anxious to jump back into the rigors of the road. “The music gets you going,” he said. “Wherever you are, you just get into it.”

That tour schedule is a pretty good representation of a band with one foot planted firmly in the past, and one planted in the present.

As far as “new and improved“ goes, while the band personnel has entirely changed with the exception of Stockdale, the sound of the new album Cosmic Egg, out October 13, remains much the same, so improvement depends on whether you liked them before.

Last month, on the day of the first show opening for The Killers, Stockdale spoke by phone from Maryland, charmingly pronounced “Merry-land” in his native Aussie.

“Yeah, the first night,” he said. “We’ve done a couple of shows and they’ve gone really well.”

“We” now means Stockdale and three new members -- bassist and keyboard player Ian Peres (a man who might actually have unrulier hair than Stockdale), guitarist Aidan Nemeth and drummer Dave Atkins.

Way back in the mid-2000s Stockdale and a couple of his Sydney mates got together and banged out some sick Neolithic metal riffs, a la Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin, with some psychedelic swirls, Robert Plant-like vocals and wacky lyrics about unicorns tossed in. That sound took them a long way, but not without plenty of critics writing them off as simply aping better bands.

In 2006 the band released its self-titled major label debut in the U.S., which combined a couple of Eps that had been making noise in their home country and the U.K. for months.

After a rocket ride that started in small U.S. clubs and led to giant festivals, selling more than a million albums and earning a Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance in 2007, founding members Chris Ross and Myles Heskett left the band.

Stockdale wasn’t in much of a mood to talk about the breakup, but allowed that the pressures of success may have had something to do with it.

“Yeah, who knows? It was all a bit difficult to keep up with,” he said. “It’s a bit exhausting to talk about. I’m trying to say something positive and make music. It’s hard to explain what happened, and doing so is kind of like reliving the experience.”

WolfmotherAs for the new lineup, Stockdale said he enjoys a different kind of freedom in working with his current bandmates.

“We’ve got a whole thing going,” he said. “We get on stage and we’re able to improvise and everyone comes up with good ideas.”

To hear Stockdale tell it, the new group kind of fell together by chance after he ran into Atkins at a Brisbane coffee shop.

“He basically said if you need a drummer, give me a call,” he said. “It happened kind of randomly. I had been working on ideas, and meeting him was kind of the beginning of the sound of this record.”

Cosmic Egg (the name came to Stockdale during a yoga class) doesn’t stray far from the original lineup’s sound. The knock on Wolfmother was always that they sounded too much like their influences, and while the new album won’t disabuse anyone of that notion, it does throw a couple of different elements into the mix, such as more slow, introspective songs.

Stockdale doesn’t shy away from the throwback tag, mentioning in interviews that he wrote most of the new album in hotel rooms and in the studio, “the way Led Zeppelin did.”

“Certain things inspire you, but then it becomes your own thing,” he said. “I think the new record is a bit heavier at times and a bit lighter at the same time. There’s a real energy in it, a lot of expression.”

When they were ready to go into the studio, Wolfmother tapped Alan Moulder, a British producer not unacquainted with heaviness, having worked with My Bloody Valentine, Nine Inch Nails, The Smashing Pumpkins and The Jesus and Mary Chain.

“Alan was a pleasure to work with,” Stockdale said. “He brought out a lot in us, and a lot of nice surprises came through.”

For example, Stockdale didn’t have high hopes for what turned out to be the first single “New Moon Rising,” a song he had dashed off the week before. But it gained a fiery life in the studio.

“That was a real surprise, I didn’t expect that,” he said.

With that, he had to get ready for the night’s show. Gearing up for a long tour, playing songs from a new record with a new band that fans feared might not be heard from again, Wolfmother is a band ready to blast off. Again.

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