CRY WOLF INTERVIEW:
July 2, 2012
Websites: www.crywolftheband.com – www.facebook.com/CryWolfTheBand.USA
Van Halen thought about it and Badlands threatened it, but few testosterone driven bands have actually replaced the voice of the group with a female vocalist. Los Angeles’ Cry Wolf, best known for their single “Pretender”, have done just that — recruiting relatively unknown Susie Major to front the band after the departure of Tim Hall. The chemistry within the new line-up has impressed so much that Cry Wolf is already working on a brand new studio album, the follow-up to their return effort ‘Twenty Ten’. The members of Cry Wolf sat down with Sleaze Roxx to talk about the risks associated with adding a female vocalist, the upcoming CD, and life in a hard rock band.
Sleaze Roxx: You recently played a live show with your new singer Susie Major. How did that go?
Steve McKnight: It was amazing, she was really well received — she reached out and grabbed them. One thing she did was check in with the audience a couple of times during our show by asking, ‘are you guys missing anything’, and each time the audience response got louder and louder. She said, ‘I don’t think there’s anything missing up here’, and they loved it. We also have new songs that we’re trying out for our audience. We’ve had a rush of creativity, so we have a whole bag of new ideas and we are road testing them.
Phil Deckard: What I think is special about Susie is, coming into this environment, there is a lot of testosterone in this band. Between the three of us — especially Steve and Chris — there is a lot of manliness. As a female singer Susie came in and grabbed the position by the balls. She does it in a way that is really unique because she is feminine but not prissy, yet tough but not butch. It’s a fine line to straddle but she does it very, very well. Her voice is amazing.
Sleaze Roxx: Why did you decide to recruit a female vocalist?
Steve McKnight: It was a matter of timing — it just came to us. It was one of those things where we said, ‘hey, why don’t we go ahead and mess with ourselves and mess with people’s pre-conception of what ‘this’ should be.’Some could say our audience really decides who we are, but within the band we decided let’s mess with this a bit and see what it would sound like. If you go back and listen to ‘Crunch’, back in that day there was a fine line between male and female singers as far as the range. Those high notes that a lot of guys were hitting back then — at some point I had to check the picture on the front of the CD just to make sure it was a guy.
Phil Deckard: I was always the one who got, ‘you guys got a chick in your band?’ And I was, ‘no that’s me! See look, Adam’s apple and bulge’ (laughs).
Steve McKnight: So we said, ‘let’s mess with this and let’s challenge the notion of what they think this should be.’ Our shit meter internally is, does it suck or not? It has to be great, if it’s not great we don’t want to do it — and it clicked right away.
Sleaze Roxx: We’re you worried you were taking a risk by replacing Tim Hall with a female singer? That’s something that hasn’t been done very often.
Steve McKnight: Not very often, and we didn’t really think of it, initially, as a replacement. The idea of replacing a voice like that — we thought, that is a challenge in itself regardless of gender. Susie fell in our laps, she can belt obviously, and after one rehearsal we starting feeling those tinges of something special. Our voices blended really well plus she has a nice rack. So that worked really well (laughs).
Phil Deckard: When we parted ways with Tim Hall, Chris, Steve and I were figuring out what our next move was going to be. We had other options, maybe continue as a three piece with Steve singing, because Steve has an amazing voice. I’ve known Susie personally for 25 years and she has been a great friend of mine. She was working with a band before this happened. Chris and Steve both said, ‘why don’t you invite her down’, just to jam to see what it would sound like with another singer. She came to rehearsal and completely blew me away. It was the first time I thought maybe this would work with a female singer. I don’t really think of her as a female singer, just a great singer who happens to be female.
Chris Moore: One thing that happened when she came down and we started working with her — we haven’t even jammed or played with anyone else — is that it fell together so perfectly that we were like, ‘why mess with it?’ I got hit up with so many emails and messages from people who wanted to audition for us, but we didn’t need it — it just happened and it worked out. The show at the Brixton a few weeks ago, was almost like a live audition and it was like, ‘I hope this works because it seems like we are on the right track’. My profile picture on FaceBook is me standing up behind my drums and the look on my face says it all. I stood there for a minute and took it all in. I took my in-ear monitors out and sat there listening to the crowd, thinking this is the first time we have heard it like this. It all came together, one of those perfect moments.
Sleaze Roxx: What became of original singer Tim Hall?
Steve McKnight: He’s in a great rockabilly band called Fast Otto — he’s had that for a few years. He picked up the guitar again, he was actually a guitar player, and went down this road of doing more of the rockabilly stuff. He has had the Fast Otto band for some time — a three piece, kind of Stray Cats-esque. He wanted to pursue that and wasn’t into what we were doing and you could tell. It became real obvious he had to go his own route.
Phil Deckard: Steve, Chris and I were going one way and Tim was going another. We wish him luck and great success at what he is doing. It was headed that direction for a while and when this happened we were excited because we were writing new material. The thing with Susie was we played two new songs at the Brixton show and they got the loudest response of the night. So we were, ‘Wow, we are onto something cool’.
Sleaze Roxx: Does that mean you are working on a new album right now?
Steve McKnight: Yeah we are. We have the advantage of doing this because of all this creativity. In this day in age when everybody has their home ProTools recording set up, everyone works remotely in their own studio then exchange files over the internet. We got back to all four of us sitting in a room and energy popping out song after song. Literally in one sitting there were 6 or 7 ideas. I would take them and start to make them tangible and mock up drums. Then I sent the files to everyone so they could start ideas with lyrics and melodies. It’s all of us sitting in a room and working together, there was such energy there and it flowed. So we have a whole batch tunes now which will result in the next recording.
Sleaze Roxx: Are the songs you’re working on now sounding like your earlier material or would you say it’s more like ‘Twenty Ten’?
Steve McKnight: It’s kind of evolved, but there are elements of all of that. There is a heaviness to it but also powerful melodies and real emotional power.
Chris Moore: We’ve had a few significant emotional events within the band over the last couple of years, so drawing on that in the song writing process is really healthy because we are getting it out. Those experiences are translating into lyrics and melodies that are from a deep place. In rehearsal I’ll point at my forearm with my drum stick and go, ‘I’ve got goose bumps, look!’ Fuck yeah, that is what music should do.
Steve McKnight: Or when some people in the audience go on our FaceBook after and go, ‘that song really made me cry’ or ‘really got me’. I love when somebody says, ‘hey, that really got me’, they internalize and relate to it — so it’s powerful stuff. I would say it’s more leaning on the heavier side, but not at the sacrifice of strong melody or the four-part harmonies that we do.
Phil Deckard: One of things that is great about this band, the way that it is right now, is as far as the song writing goes the four of us have the type of relationship with each other that if anybody has an idea about anything — a lyrical or melody idea, drum part, bass part — it’s completely open. Everybody has a hand in throwing the ideas out. A lot of bands it’s not really like that — the singer might be this is my part and how I’m singing it or the bass player might be this is how I’m playing it and that’s it. There’s a very open attitude about the way that we are approaching things now. Personally I find that very refreshing and unusual.
Sleaze Roxx: Susie, have you ever performed with a hard rock band like Cry Wolf before?
Susie Major: I’ve performed since I was 17 in hard rock bands with commercial edges to it, but this is that dream band that I’ve wished to be a part of. So, no, not like this — not on this level. It’s funny, we’ll be at rehearsal and I’ll miss my cue to start singing because I’ll be watching and listening to these guys in awe. I can’t begin to gush enough over the musicianship in this band. I enjoy just watching them on their instruments — they are amazing.
Sleaze Roxx: What are some of your favorite Cry Wolf songs to perform?
Susie Major: That is like asking what your favorite song ever is. I of course love “Pretender”, cause I’ll always love it. The new stuff that we are doing is constantly one-upping the last thing we did. Right now “How Will We Be Saved” is probably my favorite and that is a new song.
Sleaze Roxx: Coming from the 80s LA rock scene, what are some of your favorite memories of that?
Susie Major: I was born in the ’80s what are you talking about? (laughs)
Steve McKnight: She’s fresh out of the womb — she popped out at The Whiskey (laughs).
Phil Deckard: I kinda came through right before Cry Wolf, I was in a band called VVSI and then I went off to college and Cry Wolf rolled through after that. I was always hearing stuff about the LA bands — Odin and all those bands, those were the days.
Steve McKnight: What I remember is 3,000 bands all vying for 20 or 30 spots in about three city blocks. I remember thousands of people out there ’til three in the morning. We got to the point of selling out places like The Roxy and The Whiskey, so we had the after parties. Literally the Roto-Rooter guy couldn’t go within 110 feet of the intersection because it was so backed up. We had 7, 8, 9 trash bags full of bottles, used condoms three blocks away with some guy naked on the front lawn of some neighbor. We used to drop acid and throw our furniture into the pool. We tried to set up a patio on the bottom of the pool so we could play cards at the bottom of the deep end. We tried to bolt the furniture to the bottom of the pool so we could act like we were playing cards under water. We would get these girls to go topless and jump off the roof together all holding hands — we called it naked roof diving. I had a job and brought my boss over to one of our parties and said, ‘do you want to meet some girls?’ He spent the whole time on the other side of the pool in the bushes he was so scared. ‘They aren’t going to bite you unless you ask them to — I’ll tell them not to sharpen their teeth tonight’.
Susie Major: Do you see why I love these guys? Just hanging out with them is like being 10 years old again — all goofballs. I love being a kid!
Phil Deckard: I remember being in the dressing room at the Troubadour after a show and Stephen Pearcy walked in. It was ’84 or ’85 when Ratt was huge, and the crowd was pounding on the door because they knew he was there. He had two security guys holding the door and people were screaming trying to get in and he’s asking us for weed. He was ignoring the entire crowd outside and he’s just standing there trying to score. We were drenched in sweat, we had just walked off stage — it was hilarious.
Sleaze Roxx: Speaking of Ratt, you were recording a second album with Juan Croucier. How close was that to being completed?
Steve McKnight: Wow, we had a transition period I think. There were some songs that made it forward and we were working with him — he was living in South Bay and we talked about tracking with him. We circled around that for a while, but it just didn’t pan out. At that time there was the record label, it dropped, and they had problems themselves with the affiliation with IRS and ultimately MCA at the time so there was a lot of transition. When we played with The Tubes last time at the Brixton he was there. Talking to him recently he was talking about his recording studio and wanted a more modern amp and was asking me for some recommendations. We still stay in touch.
Phil Deckard: I spoke to Juan a couple of weeks ago and he’s doing great. He’s one of the nicest guys you could meet and he’s actually doing a stint with Ratt again. So we are excited for him for that.
Sleaze Roxx: Cry Wolf seemed to be more famous in Japan than in America. Why do you think that was?
Steve McKnight: We got a review in Kerrang I think, who gave us 5 stars on our demo and it just took off. When we went over there, there wasn’t a shortage of guys with big poofy hair (laughs) — we all had that. It just happened there, it was just wild — we had to have assumed names in the hotel, there was security on the floor, there were people camped out for days in the lobby that they had to ask to leave. We would take cabs and they would go down alleyways — all the things you hear that happened to some bands. We went to the Hard Rock in Tokyo and there is Kix and Winger, people were mobbing us and they’re going, ‘who the hell are these people?’ We said, ‘don’t worry guys, you are selling a lot more records in the US’. We went to meet Kip Winger, it was at night, and he took his sunglasses off as if to say, ‘OMG more rock stars’. He put out his hand and it was one of those cases where you shake his hand and say, ‘nice to meet you’ and he goes, ‘yes it is nice to meet me isn’t it?’ (laughs). We just happened to click over there. Phil got pulled into the audience and almost had his clothes ripped off.
Phil Deckard: I was trying. I was wearing Velcro and things to try and make it easier for people.
Steve McKnight: The Velcro just stuck to his pubes in the end.
Susie Major: In the end of what? (laughs)
Phil Deckard: I couldn’t walk for a week! We went over there twice. The second time we were over there for a month. There were bands doing circuits, we were all going to play the same venues in a row — us, Black Sabbath and Winger. When we met the guys in Winger — keeping in mind Steve’s story about Kip — the other three guys in the band are really nice guys, very humble and down to earth. They were surprised that was the second time we had been there because that was their first.
Steve McKnight: I think with what is going on now, with the tunes and how we have evolved in this new area, I think there will be a lot of appeal which is why we are still doing this. Not only for ourselves but because there is interest out there in hearing what we have to say. I think it would go over well. We’ve been talking with a Japanese promoter over there, one of the guys we got started with in the business way back when, and he’s gone on to do some good things and we’ve been staying in touch because once they have recovered from the recent tragedy he would like to bring us over for two weeks. So we have been talking with him — so there is some interest out there.
Sleaze Roxx: Where do you think Cry Wolf fits in with today’s music scene?
Phil Deckard: Just one notch, just below, almost touching, but just below Justin Beiber (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: And just above Winger?
Phil Deckard: Just above Winger. We don’t use auto tuners, we play our own instruments, and we don’t use computers.
Susie Major: I think we are very relevant because there is an age demographic that still really enjoys solid, melodic hard rock — but not so hard that you can’t understand what is being said. We put so much of our lives’ experiences into our songs and our stories and people in their 30s and 40s have had these same events happen to them as well. You can’t write about it if you haven’t lived it. Everyone can relate to this type of music — the positive messages and sometimes painful life experiences because we are all going through these things like everybody else. People need an outlet for their generation’s stories and to have a voice they can relate to. That, and this band is a LOT of fun to watch live!!
Steve McKnight: If you look around and look at what’s going on and what we are told is being popular — whatever is being marketed out there — there is an age group that isn’t really represented. There is a reason why the Motley Crue’s and Ratt’s of the world still have an audience and can still do casinos, circuits and festivals and still make money doing that because there is an audience out there ready for it. I think we come from there and have evolved. I think there is a place for it.
Parents in their early 40s are working, taking care of kids and would love nothing more than to get on stage and do what we are doing but we’re actually doing it. We represent a bit of that too. There is an age group not well represented and I think that is where we fit. We have something to say and from the feedback we have been getting, people want to listen.
Phil Deckard: I still periodically get my clothes ripped off, it just takes a little longer because of arthritis. We still get underwear thrown on stage, it’s just a little bigger these days (laughs).
Steve McKnight: Do you think these old diapers make my butt look fat? (laughs)
Susie Major: That ‘depends’ (laughs).
Sleaze Roxx: It will be interesting to hear the new record.
Steve McKnight: We are working on it and it’s coming along. We’re not sure how we want to get the stuff out — in EP style or put a bigger package together. Whatever the packaging, it’s going to be a powerful force, and the process is a journey that we’re all happy to be on together as a team and even more grateful to have the opportunity to share our music with fans. We have surprises in store for our live shows too. Everything has gone up to a new level. It’s a very exciting time for us.