October 25, 2019 Interview – John Boecklin of Bad Wolves
Relatively new to the heavy music scene, Bad Wolves has experienced a mass of success in a relatively short span of time. A project launched by former DevilDriver Drummer John Boecklin along with ex-Divine Heresy and ex-Westfield Massacre Vocalist Tommy Vext, later on ex-God Forbid Guitarist Doc Coyle, ex-Bury Your Dead Guitarist Chris Cain, along with ex-In This Moment Bassist Kyle Konkiel would join the fold. Quickly rising to fame in 2018 thanks to their razor sharp cover of The Cranberries’ “Zombie,” Bad Wolves would soon prove they were much more than a one hit wonder, putting out subsequent big singles such as “Hear Me Now” and “Remember When.”
Now, just a short year later, they return with their second album N.A.T.I.O.N. on Friday, October 25th. A quick follow-up to 2018’s Disobey, Bad Wolves are a fascinating success story, but the next chapter is yet to be written. Enjoying the ride, John Boecklin recently took the time to chat about Bad Wolves’ rise, the work behind their new album, plans for the future, plus a lot more.
Cryptic Rock – In a few short years Bad Wolves has taken off in a big way. Touring consistently over the last two years, how did Bad Wolves come to be?
John Boecklin – I started the band by myself in probably 2014. I play guitar, so I started writing riffs. I think Chris Cain was the first to join the band; the band wasn’t even remotely what it is now – we were experimenting with different genres of music. The band really didn’t come into context of what it is now until I decided I wanted to do heavy music again. Tommy Vext was kind of a pusher towards that, and when he joined the real shape of the band came to be.
Now, it’s kind of like enjoying the fruits of your labor. I never expected anything this size in terms of how the band has taken off. I was expecting it to be a much slower burn of success with getting bigger tours and such, but with the help of our management and label everything really moved quickly; we were put in front of a lot of eyes very quickly.
Cryptic Rock – It great to see how it has all taken shape. You departed from DevilDriver around 2014 when the idea of Bad Wolves was born. So, Tommy Vext inspired you to get back into heavy music?
John Boecklin – He was a part of it – it was not like he was calling me up saying you have to do heavy music again. I had a Heavy Metal song laying around, like I do many, and I said to him, “Hey, if your band wants to use this, by all means, go for it!” He was in a band called Westfield Massacre, he sang on the song I gave him, and when I got it back it was kind of too good to let go. It made me think about what I was doing, the songs I was writing, and maybe having him involved. That is what I mean by influencing me: he did it not do it on purpose.
Cryptic Rock – Very cool. It’s been a crazy past two years for Bad Wolves, and now you are back with your new album N.A.T.I.O.N. on Friday, October 25th. A great follow-up to last year’s Disobey, what was the writing and recording process like?
John Boecklin – Very similar to the first record – basically Tommy and I produced it. The difference on this one mainly was Doc and Chris had a bit more of a contribution. As I say, Chris was the first member of the band, but he was working and touring so much as a tech for Pop artists, so he wasn’t really around to contribute so much. Now that the band is kind of his job, he contributes more. Doc joined the band pretty late in the game, and Kyle Konkiel joined last. The record was essentially done when he joined, although he did contribute to things.
This time it was a much more open table and a bit more of a contribution. We used pretty much all the same players recording and engineering wise. Joseph McQueen is a vocal producer, but you could call him a producer for this record as well as Disobey.
Cryptic Rock – Much like Disobey, N.A.T.I.O.N. is a good mix of melody, heaviness, and emotion. Seeing everyone comes from established bands, would you say all those experiences melted together for this new album?
John Boecklin – Not really. It’s not like a melting pot of five guys who used to be in Heavy Metal bands. Our success story is quite unique. When you get that massive off a cover, you’ve got a lot of things in question there – Can this band continue on artistically? Will anyone care about their original material? Are they just a one hit wonder and will they be forgotten? We were kind of aware of all that and chose what works on our first record and what didn’t. We decided to do away with some of the stylistically Djenty feels used on the first record, although there is still some of that on this record. The first record is much more of a Heavy Metal Djent record, this new record is much more of a Heavy Metal Rock record.
Cryptic Rock – You can hear that for sure. In the past couple of years Bad Wolves has done a lot of tours with a diverse mix of bands – heavier bands, lighter bands, and somewhere in between bands. What do you find the reaction is from the crowds?
John Boecklin – I would say depending on the market, it varies quite a bit. Based on what we are collectively used to in our past, I would say a Bad Wolves show is not an extremely violent show as we were used – whether it be Divine Hearse, DevilDriver or God Forbid. We have much more of a Rock crowd. With Tommy, we get them fired up, do a wall of death or something; we bring that Heavy Metal aspect to the show, which I don’t think many of the Rock fans are used to. We try and get it pumped up as possible.
The reaction is great, merchandise sales are great. It’s interesting when you’re used to thinking the physical reaction of the crowd is only based on if the show is good or not. A lot of times we will play a show where a lot of people are watching us for the first time and there is not much movement, but then your merch sales are great. You walk away feeling like you’re not sure if you connected there, but a good judge for the night is merchandise sales. It’s cool to watch a crowd take you in and see that they went out and bought a shirt.
Cryptic Rock – That is a positive thing, especially since over the last decade or so record sales are diminishing terribly.
John Boecklin – Yes, they are. Most labels, if they haven’t already, are making their shift to spotlighting streaming. That should be their focus, because physical sales are on their way out for sure. We were definitely lucky to have quite a decent physical sales number on our first record, which is great, and I think that had a lot to do with “Zombie.” Even then, when you sit down at these label meetings, their main focus is going to be streaming.
Cryptic Rock – That seems to be the way things are going. As mentioned, you have toured a lot, but now you are set to take part in a massive arena tour with Five Finger Death Punch, Three Days Grace, and Fire From The Gods. A great lineup, how excited are you for this run of shows closing out 2019?
John Boecklin – I’m rather excited to play new material and excited we have a lighting package this time. We are going to put on a bit more of a show, because things are going a bit better for the band so we can invest a little more money into it.
To be honest, it feels like we’ve toured with Three Days Grace and Five Finger Death Punch so much – it doesn’t even feel like anything new as a tour. I feel like it’s going to be an exciting show for us. I feel like we’ve seen these guys enough, but The States will get a great show out of the four bands and the biggest production wise show they’ve seen from Bad Wolves yet. That is pretty exciting.
Cryptic Rock – It should be a great tour. We spoke about how Disobey did very well. A little over a year later you are returning with N.A.T.I.O.N.. What inspired you to put out new music so quickly?
John Boecklin – I don’t think inspired is the right word. It was more like the old saying that goes ‘strike while the iron’s hot.’ We felt collectively – the label, management, and band – taking our time, going away for a year, we might get confused or spend too much time in our heads; we were literally touring and took no time off. We went for it because we feel we need to stay out there: it’s an important time while the band is growing so quickly, we want to have more product for people to latch onto. That’s it! Basically not being lazy, and making sure if we’re in demand, let’s keep more stuff out there for people to grab.
Cryptic Rock – That is a smart plan. Fans will not be disappointed, there is no let down with this new record. Last question. If you are a fan of Horror and Sci-Fi films, do you have any favorites?
John Boecklin – I have a lot of standard answers for that. I think The Shining (1980) is one of the best Horror movies. I thought Event Horizon (1997) was pretty scary. Those are the two that come right off the top of my head. How did I do?
Cryptic Rock – Two quality selections. What are your thoughts on the forthcoming The Shining sequel Doctor Sleep?
John Boecklin – I saw the trailer and I wasn’t sold on it. There is a lot of the same imagery from The Shining. I haven’t read the Stephen King book, let alone, I don’t know if it’s any good as a read, but I will go see it for sure.
I just always get weary, like when they made Dumb and Dumberer: When Harry Met Lloyd (2003), it was like, why did you do that? I thoroughly enjoyed the It (2017) remake. I enjoyed the first one better than the second, but the second was really good too.