Former Ants-men Marco Pirroni and Chris Constantinou – or THE WOLFMEN – are set to play a Vive Le Rock sponsored album launch show (for new album ‘Married To The Eiffel Tower’ – out Aug. 22nd via Howl Recprds) at London’s famous 100 Club on Thursday 14th July, with Silvery in support and DJ sets from Paul-Ronney Angel (Urban Voodoo Machine/Gypsy Hotel) and Hugh Gadgit (Vive Le Rock).
In this classic Vive Le Rock interview, the duo take time out from their current creative frenzy to chat with us. Hugh Gulland enters THE WOLFMEN’s lair…
‘There’s a lot of stuff going on‘, considers Wolfmen bassist and lead vocalist Chris Constantinou, ‘but it’s fun, and it’s a lot better fun than just being in a band… that’d be really boring, it’s great that we’ve got our band, but, we have all these other things that we do as well…’
‘Projects which force you to do things that you’d never ever do off your own back!’ adds Marco Pirroni, a man whose already considerable CV seemingly expands daily what with the Wolfmen’s own output and the multiplicity of pies the pair have their collective fingers in. With their first album, a masterwork of punked-out glam rock entitled ‘Modernity Killed Every Night’ out in August, and a collaboration with Indian singing star Delar Mendhi hot on its heels, Marco and Chris are on one serious creative roll.
VLP: So how did the Wolfmen partnership begin? I gather you were initially working on each other’s solo projects…
M: Yeah, that’s exactly what happened… but I had the better name!
C: We didn’t have one actually! What happened, I had my own project, Jackie Onassid, which was going along, we were sort of trying to find someone who plays like… Marco! ‘Do you know anybody who plays like you?’
M: I don’t know what it is, either they don’t really want me or are just too scared to ask me!
C: I hadn’t been in touch with Marco for a while, I kind of always, just presumed he was so busy he can’t do this sort of thing…
M: I wasn’t busy at all!
C: So I kind of phoned up, ‘do you wanna come in’ and got together, and one of those things that wasn’t Marco coming in and playing obvious stuff… you could see it just needed to get together in a different way, start from scratch, and then we started writing some tracks together and I think one of the first we wrote was Kama Sutra, which is…
M: It was our ‘Metal Urbain’ period, do you remember them?
VLP: Sort of Parisian post-punk…?
M: Yeah, they weren’t post-punk, they were right in there.
C: So that’s where it started. You know, you sort of have periods, ‘this week I want to be Metal Urbain’! Next week, New York Dolls, Velvet Underground…
M: This week we are Roxy Music!
VLP: I was gonna say, listening, it struck me a lot of influences were that area of glam, that doesn’t get so much credit being a punk influence, like Roxy Music…
M: T Rex!
VLP: Berlin period Iggy maybe…
M: Yeah, that stuff was up, and… I don’t know if Chris goes as far as my total obsession with it, I’m psychotically obsessed with it!
C: Marco’s more… even I, with the band I was in, Drill, we supported Slade, and were signed to Chas Chandler who ended up producing us, and I didn’t quite get the whole glam thing as much as Marco, but I love… I saw Roxy on the Old Grey Whistle Test doing Ladytron, it just blew my mind, just amazing… the whole period of that band, T Rex, Jimi Hendrix, that sort of era for me was fantastic, all that stuff mixed together. But Marco was into a sort of different thing, a lot more glam stuff.
VLP: So that’s the sort of stuff, if you’d been sitting around in, say, Louise’s, (punk hangout lesbian club circa 1976) that’s what had fired you over the last…
M: No, before I went there, I think it was ‘76…
VLP: Well up to that period…
M: Oh yeah…
VLP: So it’s working its way through what you’re doing now
M: Yeah, it’s always in my mind!
C: I suppose the Tamla influence came in as well, ‘cause, the second period of getting together, we started listening to a lot of Tamla Motown, Northern Soul, I don’t think that comes out very much, it’s not obvious to anyone, but… just one of those things, you get an idea, ‘I want it to sound like something’ and it comes out completely different. It’s sort of our interpretation of it!
VLP: Judging by the biog, when you first got together, you started on a lot of soundtrack stuff?
M: Yeah, we haven’t had time to concentrate on it because we’ve been so busy, being ‘a band’, that’s the sort of field you really have to be in all the time, you can’t dabble in it, you have to do that and nothing else, so…’
C: It’s weird really, I don’t know if you saw those black and white fetish films from the 1918-20 period?
M: It was for the ICA, we got commissioned to the soundtrack for some silent movies
C: That was really interesting to do, and we’ve got a track in this film Dogging, we’ve got a cameo in it as well, that’s coming out later this year now, so we will get back into it, it’s just a case of time, we’re finishing the album, that’s coming out, and we’ve got the Daler Mendhi project, we’re really busy doing lots of different stuff, but the soundtrack stuff we really want to get into.
VLP: So what are these fetish films?
C: They weren’t really fetish films, they were just black and white, arty films…
M: I don’t think they were arty at the time!
C: No I guess they weren’t, I guess they were pornographic at the time, but they’re now perceived as… they were part of ‘Fashion and Film’, showing in New York and London, and one of them was 15 minutes long…
M: Which if you think about it is really long! A silent movie is silent, there’s no break, it’s all silence, so we had to compose a piece of 15 minutes, I’d never done anything that long!
C: We thought it was going to be easy, we started doing it… it was all just feet! You get this person shifting their feet from left to right…
VLP: It’s a foot fetish film then?
C: It’s a shoe fetish film, 1918-ish! We’ll get copies for you!
VLP: Yeah, I need to see that!
C: Yeah, we want to get back into that but prioritizing what we’re doing
VLP: The thing with Daler Mendhi, was that a bit of a cultural shock?
M: Not really… yeah, there are different scales (in Indian music), but we didn’t know that!
C: We didn’t really think about it in a logical way, it sounded like an interesting project, and ‘well, what are we gonna do with this?’
M: We did get approached, we get sent kind of projects, publishers send projects out every week, ‘our latest girl singer hasn’t got any songs’, that’s fine and everything, but not very interesting!
C: Yeah, we did some other projects, we were thrown some girl singers, one of them was particularly interesting, but couldn’t carry on doing it forever, it ran its course.
M: It would become this sort of toss and turny thing, ‘what possible angle can we do on this, what can we do that someone else wouldn’t do’, it’s not inspiring, I’ve got no problem making commercial music, that’s what I wanna make, but… there’s so many restrictions to aiming for the charts these days, it’s got to be this, it’s got to be exactly this… there’s a lot of pop idol sort of stuff!
C: We just started doing Silver Machine by Hawkwind, thought we’d play it at the gig, it was a massive hit! A massive worldwide hit, you listen to it, and you think, ‘what is this???’
M: That’s the sort of thing wouldn’t even get on BBC6 these days it’s so out-there!
VLP: There’s that video they show on VH1 sometimes with Stacia (Hawkwind’s ‘dancer’)…
C: She’s get her tits out, I went to see them when I was about 13, the only reason we went was Stacia, she’d get her tits out, we were just waiting, she had massive tits! And the strobe was going… and she same out on Silver Machine, so…
M: A lot of people who later became punks would’ve liked it, not necessarily liked Hawkwind, but would have liked that. It was the same time as Virginia Plain, the sort of rock n roll and synthesizer…
C: I also think it’s to do with the actual drumming, if you listen to it, it’s not ‘rock’, it’s laid back, not hard rock, it’s kind of really sloppy, just like the whole punk thing, if you listen to the guy from the Sex Pistols, he doesn’t hit the drums like a rock drummer, he’s got a sort of, dare I say it, I’ll probably get beaten up for saying this, but he’s got a Tamla, R&B feel to his drumming…
M: Having said that, Silver Machine is not a huge influence in my life, it’s probably the first time I’ve ever talked to anyone about it!
C: Are you embarrassed about me bringing that up!!! You’re the one that said we should do it!
M: I thought, what could we do as a cover that they won’t like much!
VLP: So you’re back to live work now then, gigging regularly…
C: I’m pausing on purpose to make Marco squirm! Marco loves playing live!!!
M: That’s not true Chris. I hate it! I held off from it as long as I can!
C: I had to bribe him with drugs, money, Kate Moss, had to introduce him to Kate Moss!
M: I hadn’t played live for 15 years, people would go ‘why not’, why the fuck do you think!!!
C: Since we started to play live, recording has become so much easier, when we started out we weren’t recording as a band, it was me and Marco, and machines, getting session drummers in, it was a very piecemeal sound…
M: I’ve always worked that way, but I think that’s because I liked making model tanks when I was a kid… yeah, Tamiya, they came in a plastic bag…
C: I was into airplanes, not tanks.
M: But we had our art director, we were always talking about the cover art to ‘that panzer, that tank’… it’s a shame to make those Tamiya kits because they’re packed really nicely!
VLP: I got all self conscious about making those in my teens, because, I thought at the time, getting into music, you can’t be into punk and…
C: You’re not gonna get girls, ‘wanna come back to my place and see my tank’! The end for me was when I persuaded my parents to buy me a Spitfire, one of those things you fly on a line, beautiful! Went out, started it up, it went up in the air, went around a few times, nose-dived into the ground, smashed to bits, and that was the end of my Spitfire! So I picked up the bass guitar, after that, a substitute! The only way to get a girlfriend!
VLP: Similar thing with trains really, but they named one after Strummer!
M: I never understood this adulation of The Clash… never understood it!
C: You didn’t turn up with the T-shirt, so you’re alright!
M: I used to like them before they released an album! But I never understood the whole ‘we are the victims, we are men of the people’… wasn’t them so much, it was the people who bought into it all! A Clash fan is sort of one cut up from a Jam fan isn’t it!
C: Yeah, the Daler Mendhi thing, anyway! We’re seven songs in, we’ve got three more songs to do, we fly back to India for two weeks to finish the album and then we’ve been asked to play in Canada, the festivals, do the Daler Mendhi tour of India, but we’ve also got our album coming out in August, and we’ve also got this Tibetan thing going on. (A lot of projects) would never come to the surface if you didn’t have the Wolfmen. The fact is if two guys like me and Marco were just sitting in our studios thinking ‘oh can we get this’, it wouldn’t come in, the fact that we have the Wolfmen, doing stuff, all this stuff comes to us, it’s more interesting, it’s good to have that across the board sort of thing.
M: It does make it a lot more interesting, I don’t know if I could stick to just the band, it’s not that interesting! (laughter)
VLP: You’re meant to be selling it!
M: It’s just not that interesting for ME, you know!
C: I think what it is, is just doing one thing, for instance, if we were to do our album, go on tour, come back, do another one and so on, it’s not enough, at our stage of our career it’s not enough, we need a lot of other stimuli which feeds the Wolfmen! I don’t think Marco’s putting it down…
M: I’m just saying, you need more!
C: And also to survive you need more financially, you can’t make enough money selling records… even if we’re selling…
M: Even top ten…
C: You need to do other things so the money we’d be getting from working on our project with Daler Mendhi will go into another project, feeds what we’re doing, our next album, but the great thing is we have the bedrock which is the Wolfmen, and without that we’d have nothing.
VLP: So everything can spring outwards from it and feed back…
C: And that’s the way we always wanted it!
VLP: Maybe that’s a model of what bands have to be now…
C: I don’t know, I guess you can’t make that much money…
M: It depends on how successful the band are and what they’re doing, if they’re touring all the time they don’t have time to do anything else… there’s huge outgoings, I keep hearing live is where you make money these days, well I don’t see any increase in ticket prices and I’d like to see the figures on that…
C: I think what it is, is that record sales are down…
M: They’re still making money live but they don’t make any MORE money live!
C: Fortunately for us so far, we have been involved in projects we’ve enjoyed doing, I don’t think unless it was for five million we’d be tempted to do some shit project I’d take two days to do…
M: For five million pounds, I don’t mind doing two days!
C: At this stage of the game it’s just… it’s quite good in some ways, a lot of younger bands say to us ‘it’s quite refreshing to see your attitude’!
M: I do feel bad meeting other bands because they seem so… happy! (Laughter)
C: We soon sort that out!
M: What are they happy about? Do they think this is going to get any better? ‘We‘ve won an award…’ wonderful! Do you think that’s the…
C: Miserable bastard!
M: No, but it’s like, winning some award, it doesn’t mean anything does it?
VLP: Your association with Adam… as people coming from the punk underground and becoming this huge phenomenon, did you feel at all conflicted?
M: In no way at all conflicted! What against my punk ideals? No, I didn’t feel in any way, because I didn’t know what punk ideals were! I’d never heard, I didn’t know what they were. Suddenly, a year later, there’s a bunch of rules, I wasn’t there that day when they gave out the rules! But obviously a lot of people were. Punk was actually started by The Sun! It wasn’t started by the Pistols or Malcolm. When The Sun put ‘how to be a punk’, with a picture of a punk, that’s what started it, and suddenly that’s how you would be a punk, and everyone else is reading saying ‘what the fuck is this? Bollocks!’ But the rest of the country, that’s what started punk!
VLP: So as far as time with The Ants is concerned you were doing your thing and going with it?
M: It wasn’t going with it, it was a calculated decision by myself and Adam, when he’d lost the (original) band, and I wasn’t doing anything with my band, it was like ‘we’ve got to get out of this ridiculous ghetto, or die trying!’ Or it’s not worth doing.
VLP: The received wisdom at the time was Malcolm Maclaren took The Ants over…
M: He got the band to get rid of Adam, he wouldn’t have done it himself!
VLP: So before you got together with Adam, you’d started with the Banshees?
M: Yeah, just for one show. We were never supposed to be together for 20 minutes!
VLP: But that was your fist gig?
M: Yeah, first gig I ever did
VLP: So from a very random beginning point…
M: Yeah, it was all like ‘what you doing tomorrow?’ really
C: A bit how it is today! It’s weird though, I ended up playing with Annabelle (Lu Win, ex-Bow Wow Wow, formed from original Ants line-up under Maclaren) as well after playing with you…
VLP: I presume no bad feeling with her about any of it…
C: Oh yeah, she was like totally…
M: She wouldn’t have had any bad feeling towards me and Adam, we didn’t know her, never met her!
C: No, towards Malcolm! I think everyone that’s worked with Malcolm, Adam… I can’t speak for Adam, but…
M: I don’t think Adam, why would Adam have any bad feelings towards Malcolm, he gave him the best break he’s ever…
C: I mean, I don’t know, I think Adam kind of got…
M: I actually met Malcolm with Adam, years later with The Ants, he came into the restaurant, Adam held his hand out, he shook my hand but he blanked Adam, Adam was like, ’what’s with him? I should be pissed off!’ I said ’well don’t you get it? You fucked him right over didn’t you!’
C: ‘Cause you’d made a mega success out of it, but I think with Annabella… I think she was young, and she also had a lot of… she felt like she was very manipulated by him, this barrage, so I think she felt quite bad towards him, the only things I’ve heard about him are pretty bad really…
M: He did do some brilliant things as well!
C: From everyone, apart from Marco! But I don’t know Malcolm personally, so I can’t really say anything about him…
M: Malcolm did some brilliant things, without which I wouldn’t be sitting here! They weren‘t particularly musical things, but that was the interesting thing about him!
VLP: The two of you did Live Aid, what do you remember about that?
M: The traffic light! We couldn’t see, someone said, ‘there’s a traffic light, and when it goes green you start playing!’ So we get on stage, we’re going ‘where the fuck’s this traffic light?’ Couldn’t see it!
C: I think I remember the night before, I think we stayed in a hotel the night before … I remember being there the night before, oh that was it, the biggest memory I’ve got is Marco telling me we were doing this gig, I’ve got my little diary still, it’s falling to bits, I’ve got ‘Benefit gig!’ I said ‘what’s this fucking gig we’re doing?’ And Marco said ‘it’s some charity gig’! So I put benefit gig in. You know how when you’re young, people tell you things like ‘it’s a charity gig’, that means Charity Gig! ‘specially when you’re a bass player! I kind of thought ok, fine, charity gig, turned up thinking nothing, so we did Live Aid, sound checked, I didn’t even think this is anything big or flash, we did the gig, still didn’t think anything, then a few days later realized we’d played one of the biggest gigs ever! It was a real sort of, switch on…
M: We had done big gigs before! We didn’t go from little clubs to Wembley stadium, we’d gone from well, large arenas to Wembley Stadium!
C: So I didn’t feel nervous at all, it wasn’t like nerves or any big deal, it was just another gig sort of thing, except we weren’t getting paid!
VLP: How long did you continue with Adam after that?
C: We did a tour, then it was all over… 85?
M: We kind of did that tour and it was at that point… I’d just been working five or six years nonstop, it was like, let’s take a break, I don’t know what I’m doing any more!
VLP: How was Adam with that? Because obviously there’s been a lot of publicity since about his illness…
M: At that time he was doing fine.
VLP: Are you in touch now?
M: No, haven’t spoken to him in a long time, I think he’s moved into the country, and I think he’s really doing what he has to do, to… you know, he’s been very seriously ill. A lot worse than people realise, and it’s not flu! It’s not like ‘all better now’! I knew nothing about it to be honest, and I’ve said all those stupid things, people said, ‘when’s he going to be alright, how long is this going to last? I’m sure he’ll be over this in a couple of weeks…’ sort of thing.
VLP: Has he been active musically lately?
M: Not at all, I can’t remember the last thing he did. But he doesn’t have to be active musically, he owes it to himself to do what’s right for him.
VLP: So Chris, you were involved with Chas Chandler as a manager, what was the story with him?
C: The story with Chas is, basically, my biggest memory of Chas Chandler, he used to come in… he was, as you know, Slade, Jimi Hendrix, all that stuff, and I don’t know how we ended up working for him, but we did, and Slade loved us, so we ended up supporting Slade forever!
VLP: What sort of period was that?
C: 1976, ‘75, something like that, I think it would have been before they went to the States, so what, ‘75? What were Slade doing then? It was after the film Flame. So Chas produced this band The Drill that I was in, and then he used to turn up, we went into the studio, Slade and Jimi Hendrix and that lot had recorded there, he used to turn up, order two sausage sandwiches, one with brown sauce, one with red, get The Sun, put his feet up on the desk and go ‘get on with it lads!’ And we’d sort of, you know, when you’re first in the studio, you think the producer will tell you what to do! And then he said, ‘look, it may seem like I’m not doing anything‘, but my theory is, as you can imagine from working with Jimi Hendrix – which he wasn’t! And I don’t know about Slade, but, he probably didn’t have to do that much! So he just thought, ‘just get on with it, if something disturbs me with my sandwiches, reading the paper, I’ll know it’s wrong!’
M: Having been a producer, I know if you’re not paying attention, if you’re just reading the paper while the band are playing, you’re not listening to it!
C: What’s really funny, after two or three years, when I joined up with Adam and Marco, I was hanging around in the clubs, and I met him again, he was with this beautiful Swedish girl, he was talking to me, and it was so weird seeing him on a different level to being how it was when you‘re young in a band for years, and it was just weird really. He died I think after that…
VLP: So you got to tour with Slade a bit…
C: Oh, that was amazing, yeah, that was fantastic! It was interesting because they used to have the same set every night! Exactly the same, same lines, say the same things, it was a show!
VLP: So this was before, they hit this real trough in the late 70s…
C: It was before that… they were massive. It was quite a big thing for us really. I remember that guitarist coming out and they used to take the piss out of him! Our guitarist was better than him, and he had one of those Watkins 30 watt amps, used to mike it up, and all of Slade used to get… Dave Hill had them going ‘look at this bloke! He’s better than you!’ and take the piss out of him, it was terrible! They said he had the worst taste ever, they showed us his suitcase, his suitcase was embarrassing when he used to go on tour… he was a lovely bloke! I tell you, all of them were really lovely, the drummer especially, you know, he had a car accident so, and they had to just rehearse numbers a lot for him in order to learn them… they were really good, great guys!
VLP: And I hear Marco now owns Dave Hill’s Superyob guitar?
M: Yeah, I still have that, I’ve given it to, they’ve started a big British rock n roll hall of fame thing at the Millennium Dome, I’ve lent it to them, ‘cause otherwise it’s just sat at home. I was playing, Adam and the Ants were doing six to seven nights, I was so bored I went for a walk one morning, it was hanging in this guitar shop window, and I went in there and I said how much is Superyob, they said ‘you can’t afford it’, I said ‘listen, I can afford it!’ ‘Listen sonny, go away, go away’, I said ‘listen, how much you want?’ They went ‘alright, 500 quid’, I said ‘done, let me have it!’ That was shit actually, they were bastards. I paid for it and sent them over for it, and when they came back, they said ‘oh we know who that was now, we didn’t know who he was!’ I said ‘what difference does that make? What, I was a wanker when I walked in and now I’m not?’
C: That was the other thing with Slade, I remember one of the roadies used to treat us like shit, I remember when I first started playing with Marco, the support band had the same roadie, and so, being in the main band, everything changes… ‘Oh!’ and he was sort of shitting himself. And as soon as we got into, I was the main band, and it’s funny, you always, want to get them back, but you don’t!
M: What’s weird about that, they forget don’t they? It’s like, coming from the club scene in London, this completely snide, fashion-y scene, and people, people in other bands, used to blank me. And two months later, ‘Hello!’ I was thinking, ‘but you blanked me six weeks ago, I don’t understand what’s changed now! What’s different about me, now I’m alright, now I’m your friend, but I was a wanker six weeks ago!’ Guess who’s the wanker now!
VLP: When you look about you now, what do you think has happened to that punk spirit of throwing people together, like with the Banshees, throwing people together to play the 100 club and doing that thing…
M: I’ve no idea if that exists in other bands, in what’s happening on the scene, ‘cause I don’t really think about it. I don’t think the punk spirit really applies anymore! It is now 32 years! It’s like, I can’t possibly have the same attitude to things I had when I was 16, I’d be an idiot! It doesn’t apply, it’s a different world! I’m now 49, and I don’t think like when I was 16! It doesn’t apply any more… it’s like the spirit of ragtime or the spirit of disco! Why doesn’t anyone talk about the spirit of disco, or the spirit of ragtime jazz, or the spirit of waltz!!! You can’t keep living your life like you’re 17!
C: It’s like saying, something that happened yesterday, you can’t do today, you can’t recreate what you did, you know, years ago, and I think that is the spirit of punk!
M: I think it’s like that White Stripes album, they made on 8 track, I kind of know what they’re trying to do, recreate the spirit of garage rock, old sixties records, I think that was a great thing to do and that was a great album and I thought ‘let’s try that’, but thought ‘no, because it doesn’t work’. Those great old garage punk records and sixties records which I love were made by people who only had one take, they didn’t have any more money. The White Stripes can go in and go ‘this doesn’t work, we can scrap the whole album and start again’, when they went to make Louie Louie and the singer comes in wrong, they didn’t think that’s great, no, they didn’t have the money to do it again!
C: Also there’s too much thinking going into, hopefully not in what we’re doing, it’s pretty much as it comes, we’re so old now we can do it instinctively and it’s more fun, it’s just great, it doesn’t matter if you make mistakes, who gives a shit!
M: The problem is, I don’t make mistakes! I can’t play with the frantic energy I had when I was 16 because I didn’t know what was gonna happen next, but I can’t do that anymore!
C: I equate it to saying to Miles Davis, do you think you can make a mistake! Because any note that he plays is wrong! So I guess, it’s the same thing with punk, is anyone gonna know! I think, it sounds like an excuse!
M: So if I play a wrong note, I can make it sound right!
The Wolfmen’s ‘Modernity Killed Every Night’ is out now on Damaged Good Records.