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Andrew Stockdale — as wild-haired and blissed out as the hard-rocking Wolfmother frontman might be — is quite a pickle of an interview subject. I have a million questions for him about the band’s brilliantly volcanic new record, Cosmic Egg, but I can’t get to them, because we can’t stop laughing. And it doesn’t help matters much that I decided to eschew my originally planned out discussion of 70s-style lasers in favor of asking, “So Andrew, what did you learn today?”

To which he replies, “Maybe think before you talk. [laughs] I’m talking a lot and just want to be aware of what I’m saying.” More laughter. I check my recorder. We’re still laughing. I ask him if he’s seen anything crazy since arriving in New York the night before. “Not really,” he says, laughing. “I’ve just been driving from skyscraper to skyscraper…from one 23rd floor to the other!” More laughing. Oh dear.

So the story goes, the three-year gestation period of Cosmic Egg weathered heat early on in August 2008 when band members Chris Ross and Myles Heskett left over “irreconcilable differences.” After taking some personal time at home in Australia to deal with the matter, the madness of life on the road and international stardom (thanks to a very loud, Grammy-winning “Woman”), Stockdale put together a new four-piece version of Wolfmother based on “random meetings” and friendships. Stockdale met new drummer Dave Atkins, whom he had known for some time at a café, and Ian Peres, a friend of Atkins, was brought on for bass and keys. Guitarist Aidan Nemeth would round out the foursome, who made their debut undercover as White Feather in February 2009.

Stockdale originally set out to self-produce Cosmic Egg, but found he couldn’t stop obsessing over little details. These little details, such as properly installing microphones around the drum kit, stretched into a two-month organ grinder of frustration, with only five songs resulting. Cue the services of famed producer Alan Moulder.

“I think the moment I decided I needed a producer was when I spent all this time mic’ing up all the drums, and we went in there and did all these takes; for ‘Back Round’ we did 15 takes, the drums and then the bass, and then it was like, ‘That snare sounds like shit! Those cymbals are fucked!’ I spent three days doing that!”

The Cosmic Egg sessions with Moulder in Los Angeles lasted a quick two months, and although the band, contrary to assumption, didn’t take the cliché trip out to Joshua Tree, or get psychedelic and dehydrated on the desert dunes and act out their favorite Mr. Mojo Risin fantasy, Stockdale found plenty of inspiration by people watching, as was the case with the throat-shredding opus “California Queen.”

“I do find L.A. to be an interesting place. It’s almost like New York; when you think of America, there’s some places that just immediately come to mind, and so I was just thinking about that. Everyone with the dreams that people are chasing, and the [big] highways. It’s a dramatic place! [laughs].”

cosmiceggWhat’s continued to be admirable about the “Wolfmother thing” is how genuine and authentic Stockdale’s orchestration and unabashed embrace of arena-ready metal and hard rock has been. It taps into the innate sexual energy that The Doors, Led Zeppelin and hair bands mastered and capitalized on in the 70s and 80s. Is it cock rock? Why not? Whatever it is, or is slagged off as, Wolfmother is fully leaded, muscular, arousing, blistering entertainment. We can’t all be twee and deliberate and ironic with tight pants. Some of us really do just want to rock, or rawk, as it were.

Much has been written about Stockdale’s fearsomely potent pipes, garnering comparisons (and derisions) to Ozzy Osbourne. Though I don’t bring this overdone (albeit not left-field) observation up to him, we do discuss his vocal prowess, which he chalks up to being “a loud person. I play guitar loud and I sing loud.” He is, however, more keen to discuss the origins of his hard-charging technique, and approach to work in general.

“I used to [play] flamenco guitar when I was a teenager, and the flamenco guitarists [around me] would be say, ‘Can I try your guitar? Yours sounds louder.’ Maybe I’ve got something that I just go for it; something inside that just makes me go. I got the Most Improved Award when I played soccer [in school]. I would just throw myself into things. The thing is to watch out for procrastination. So if I set out to make something really bad, I don’t procrastinate. I just tell myself, ‘Do something really crap! Just try it, and go with it naturally without high expectations.’ I was never a superstar or great with anything. With singing, I just go for it, and I can go a lot further than I thought I could.”

Stockdale’s ferocious, multi-hued axe work (a Hendrix comparison would not be offbase here, and he will soon debut a signature line of Gibson guitars) evokes many shades of influence as the epic, riff-heavy Cosmic Egg mercurially switches between power metal (“Queen,” and lead single “New Moon Rising”), torrential, chunky, howling hard rock (“Sundial,” “Pilgrim”), punchy Doors-esque lizard blues (“Cosmic Egg”) and monster ballads (the Zeppelin-ish “In the Morning,” and “Far Away”).

“Sundial” is traced back to watching Rage Against the Machine perform at Big Day Out with a friend in 2008. Stockdale remembers wanting to entertain his friend and “make him excited about working with me. Like, ‘Hey man, it’s fun doing the Wolfmother thing!’ And then that riff came out.”

“Far Away,” a Bic-ready ballad that incited feather-waving models to writhe in ecstacy as if at a Motley Crue concert in their heyday at the Cosmic Egg preview party/laser show at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex in early August, was inspired by an evening Stockdale would rather forget in 2007 when he became the unwitting participant in a bar fight that was splashed across the papers the next morning.

“I bumped into a friend I hadn’t seen since I was 18. We had some beers at this bar [in Brisbane] and people were giving me drinks, saying, ‘You get free drinks for life!’ It just got way out of hand in no time. I ended up almost getting stabbed by someone, just a total nightmare. I got kicked out of that place and it was in the paper. People were saying all this stuff, and I thought, ‘Whoa, now people are going to think this about me, misinterpreted and misrepresented. What’s going to happen to me?’ I started playing this song the next day. Just sat there, trying to find something within myself to explain that that’s not me. So weird to have that around, and for it not to be you. I wrote that song to try and find myself and prove myself, and that’s what came out.”

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As for the name of the record, Stockdale doesn’t point to a specific circumstance or drug-induced inspiration beyond a yoga pose for the genesis of Cosmic Egg.

“One of the great things in life is that if you analyze it, it’s just absurd. Like that line, ‘that person bites of their nose to spite their face!’ And you just have to think, we commonly use all these sayings that don’t really mean anything. When I write down the words to songs that I love, I think, ‘Whoa! That’s the words?! That is weird!’ [laughs] So it’s just a matter of, if you like it or not, and as soon as I mentioned Cosmic Egg, people were just, ‘Yeah! I like that!’”

Having just wrapped a tour with The Killers, and about to embark on a headlining tour of North America before a highly anticipated pairing with fellow Aussies AC/DC in February, I ask Stockdale what the ultimate Wolfmother gig circa 2009 would look like. To illustrate, he mentions the recent video shoot for “Back Round” that found him and his guitar painted silver and drummer Atkins clad in a skeleton outfit behind a sparkling, gold drum kit.

“Something a bit absurd….scary but absurd. Slightly ridiculous, but powerful. Just some kind of situation that’s very visual as well. You can say at this pyramid and at this place, or at this thing and at this location, but I’m moving away from pyramids. [laughs] What am I moving towards? Something with very modern, monolithic structures, boxes, and things that are just very contemporary looking.”

He also can’t wait to reintroduce the world to the new Wolfmother, having warned (albeit calmly as his way) us to “prepare for the onslaught” of the four piece and its monstrous Cosmic Egg at the laser show last month.

“This band has a certain point to make, and there’s an energy to it,” Stockdale muses.  ”[We’ve] got fire, and passion – whatever happened to that?!”

http://www.wolfmother.com

–Carrie Alison, Photos by Danny Clinch