Strawberry Spotlight is a weekly feature on Strawberry Tongue Radio. Hosted by Lady Audio, she chats with the bands you hear, right here, on Strawberry Tongue. In this edition, Lady Audio chats with post-punk, garage rock, experimental-weirdo legends, The Wolfhounds.
This is a transcription of that interview which airs December 14, 2016, 1:00 EST, only on Strawberry Tongue Radio. You can also catch the re-broadcast of this show on Saturday and Sunday at 1:00pm EST. Be sure to tune in!
Lady Audio: Hey everyone and welcome to Strawberry Spotlight. My name is Lady Audio and I will be your host. Today’s guest is David Callahan of The Wolfhounds. Thank you for joining me today David, how are you?
David: I’m fine, thank you.
Lady Audio: My first question is what attracted you to the realm of music?
David: Uh, it’s kind of… I don’t know I was very young it was instinctive really you see, you hear a few sounds that really excite you but I know if they grabbed hold of your hormones or something but before you know it you kind of habitually kind of obsessively listening to certain records and songs. And I guess me it was natural to want to learn how to play guitar and and I was very bookish and read a lot so it was natural for me to start writing extremely bad lyrics which would take several years to hone into something it – almost mediocre. (laughs)
Lady Audio: I can definitely relate it when it comes to the lyrics. I remember the songs I wrote when I was about 12 years old and whew I shudder to think!
David: That’s about when I started. I aspire to be as good as a 15 year old now.
Lady Audio: Yeah. So how long have The Wolfhounds been together, and how did you all get started?
David: Well it’s it depends if you count gaps because we initially formed in 1984 – last century (laughs) and then broke up in 1990. Then we kind of got together again in the mid-kind of about 2005, but not so seriously. But it started becoming a serious venture again in about 2009/10 or something like that. We started giggling and properly start recording again probably starting releasing.
Lady Audio: So back in the eighties, how did you meet and stuff like that?
David: Me and the first couple of guys that I started making music with – met in school we were in the same class are all the adjacent classes at school we were all the same age. And then we were the only ones that looked a bit weird and started going to gigs and you know sat around each other’s houses you know listening to records, really.
Lady Audio: That’s cool.
David: In ’84 – when you’re with your gang, you’ve got your own language – you kind of exclude everyone else. It was kind of a natural kind of a development – and if you have a creative bent – to start playing music together. We had kind of lucky – well, lucky for us – an incident where when we were about 16. Our guitarist lived beneath this woman who didn’t really get on with her son and he beat her up one day and walked out. To get revenge on him she brought down a bass guitar, a couple of guitars, and a couple of amplifiers, and gave them to Paul, are then guitarist, so we basically half a bands equipment given to us for nothing.
Lady Audio: Oh, wow – that’s a great story!
Lady Audio: So how did you guys come up with the name for the band?
David: You know what? I’m not really sure. (laughs) It was just one day we thought – we were called The Changelings before that and we went through a teenage thing of listening to The Doors and they had a song called The Changeling, so we were kinda playing – sixties garage with cover versions of like The Doors, and Love, and The Seeds, and the 13th Floor Elevators and the Standells. We started writing our own stuff and then one day we barely had any cover versions – it was nearly all of our own stuff – so we decided to stay and change our name and that just came up many other names and seemed at the time the least stupid.
Lady Audio: Yeah. I think it’s a good name! So, could you name all the members, and what they play?
David: Oh, the current members are me, David Callahan – I sing and play guitar and program samples and do the majority of the lyric writing. My co-writer on most of the songs is Andy Golding – who plays bass guitar and plays his own self built instruments, which tend to be cobbled together from bits of others. He’s got one that’s called The Strango, which is a cross between a banjo and guitar – it’s got four strings. But, he also plays an Indian banjo which is called a bulbul tarang. We like to mess around the weird things sometimes. Just on ordinary bass guitar is his little brother Richard Goulding, and on drums is Pete Wilkins. We have numerous musical guests as well.
Lady Audio: Yeah, I was going to ask who was the backup singer on Stupid Poor?
David: Stupid Poor is a woman called Catherine Whitaker, who sings in a band over here called Evans The Death. Their quite – on this side of the Atlantic – they’re quite well-known kind of an indie pop band but the kind of weird in their own way as well. They’re really good, I would recommend them!
Lady Audio: Yeah, l’ll have to take a listen. So how would you describe the kind of music that The Wolfhounds create?
David: Okay, I guess it’s kind of – I was thinking about this – I was talking about this with someone yesterday. You could say amalgam of indie, and sixties garage, and experimental stuff, and Post Punk. It’s all kind of mixed together kind of thing. We go onto the stage now and – we kind of like we are out there on the moon. We are kind of out there on our own – circling around and not very many people have much in common with us it seems. It might just be a virtue of his age or maybe that just got weirder and weirder over time or something. More angry and bitter, I don’t know. (laughs)
Lady Audio: Maybe a bit more cynical?
David: Yeah, I prefer to call it skeptical than cynical. (laughs)
Lady Audio: Okay. I really like the song Everyday Monsters. Can you talk a bit about it and what it’s about?
David: It’s kind of – about, umm, one of those things where, in my mind, I travel back to when I when I was a kid, and being alienated from a lot of the people, in your social life. It’s kind of a bit like that. Also when I was a teenager – I don’t know if I am allowed to talk about this on your radio show – we can always edit it in the end – but, a lot of kids were getting into drugs and we caning it a lot. I was a bit of a lightweight that way but, I also used to kind of hallucinate sober and stuff, so, I used to have visions a little bit. So it’s a bit about that – it’s about naturally being on another plane, and also being alienated from all the kind of party people, if you see what I mean.
Lady Audio: Yeah. Another song I really like is The Comedians. What’s the story behind that song?
David: That’s quite a hard one to explain. It’s very culturally specific. It’s basically, when I was a kid, there was a comedy show called The Comedians – it literally was the name of the show – and most of the comedians, if not all of them on there – were extremely racist and sexist. It was kind of the way jokes like that control the way people thought in society. It’s kind of about not seeing the logic of that kind of stuff and trying to kick against it when everyone else has a prevailing kind of sense of prejudice and how you can be a kid and realize these jokes just aren’t funny.
[Play The Comedians]
David: …and it’s kinda sorta surreal because you just don’t even understand why they’re funny. So it’s kind of how to break out of a culture that is racist and sexist and so forth.
Lady Audio: And one more song that I really like Across the River of Death. What’s that one about?
David: Oh, you’re picking all the simple ones! (laughs) It’s hard to explain, without sounding really pretentious, but I had this idea of trying to cram all of human society and history in to one song, and just saying you’re all going to die in the end so we should all strive to be better. That’s kind of the whole thing of it but it’s very influenced by – there was a Belgian songwriter – Jacques Brel.
[Play Across the River of Death]
David: He’s got quite a lot of songs, with the whole list of people and professions – there’s one called Next – about a line of soldiers queuing up to be tested for syphilis and he’s describing all of the different kinds of backgrounds the soldiers come from, and he shouts next in between each soldier. So it was kind of an idea – what you call a list song – where all of humanity is queued up behind it. We can all do better. We’re all going to die is what it’s saying.
Lady Audio: What’s your favorite song off of the new album?
David: My favorite song – it varies – the thing I’m really pleased about this LP is – I don’t think there’s anything weak on it. I like something about every song, but I think my favorite sequence of songs – is on side 3 – being a proper vinyl LP, which is Lucky Heather. Opposite Land, and Fire in the Home, because it’s quite experimental stuff and it’s has weird changes of mood and so forth. So, currently that’s my favorite few songs.
Lady Audio: Opposite Land – what’s the instrument that’s being played on that song?
David: It’s just a semi-acoustic guitar – unplugged and played as if it were an acoustic guitar – the reason it sounds so thin and banjo-like is it’s recorded on the iPhone as well. So you can imagine it saved on the studio costs. (laughs)
Lady Audio: Yeah, I was wondering about that that I thought maybe it was one of those instruments you were mentioning earlier.
David: Oh no. I kind of record of it is just him a demo and I emailed it to the guitarist just so he could work out some kind of arrangement, and Andy just said, :I don’t – even though it’s got some bum notes and off-key in places,” he couldn’t make the atmosphere any better. So, we decided to go with that version of the LP. It seemed amongst all the noise, and electronics, and distortion – it kind of made for this – very kind of – melancholy little break in between it all, you know? It seemed like the right kind of mood to have somewhere on the LP. you know.
Lady Audio: The cover for the album looks like it has a story what’s going on in the photograph?
David: (laughs) Yeah it’s – a lot of people thought it was set up – it’s not. The photo is quite famous over here. It was taken on New Year’s Eve – the previous New Year’s Eve – about 10 months ago, by a photographer by the name of Joel Goodman. He went out and photographed the kind of drunken New Year’s shenanigans that goes on in a lot of cities around Britain, and happen to catch this incident. That, well being kind of violent and disturbing it’s also very absurd and comical as well, and it seemed to be – I decided I wanted something like this. There’s were kind of a bunch of 19th century artists, like Hogarth, who used to draw the kind of iniquitous the goings-on in society and they were kind of comic but also kind of tragic, and I wanted something kind of similar. This photograph just seemed to sum up the whole thing, and it’s as much humorous as it is dark so that’s why we chose it really.
Lady Audio: Yep, at first it really looks scary.
David: Yeah, yeah. It’s drunken people fighting and causing Havoc. Yeah (laughs)
Lady Audio: So, where can people go to listen to and buy your music?
David: Okay well we – to buy a music – we have a bandcamp so you can go on there for a start. There you can listen to at least most of the things that are still available, as well as live tapes and demos and so forth. There’s links there to our record label where you can order the recent LPs and singles that have come out. I think most of them are still available – the singles almost nearly sold out – but there’s still some CDs and LPS left. So, bandcamp – that’s the place to go really.
Lady Audio: Okay – and now for a scenario. It’s late in the afternoon, the shadows are long, the air is silent,and you are standing by a pond. On the other side of the pond is a white barrel. What do you imagine to be in the barrel?
David: One of those poor people that hides inside of a barrel and throws themselves over the Niagara Falls (laughs)
Lady Audio: Oh my goodness – gracious…
David: It’s like a psychological exercise! (laughs)
Lady Audio: Okay, so maybe it isn’t a pond. Maybe it’s like right at the top of Niagara Falls.
David: Well maybe that guy has floated down the river and ended up in this pond there is he’s no longer in Canada – he’s in Kansas. (laughs)
Lady Audio: Alright cool and last but not least what is your favorite flower?
David: My favorite flower is a Sturt’s Desert Pea, which is a red Australian flower found in the desert there.
Lady Audio: What is it called again?
David: It’s called Sturt’s, which is the name of the botanist that discovered it. It’s called a Sturt’s Desert Pea. I used to see it as a stamp collection – I used to see when I was a kid. I always remembered the flower and then I went to Australia about 3 years ago and I walked off the plane and I spotted the flower right by the path in the airport. These are silly things that stick in your mind from when you’re a kid and you’re able to absorb information and much more detail – so remembering the name of the flower – I remember exactly what it looked like – and forty odd years later there it was in the desert.
Lady Audio: Wow, that’s really cool story. I’m going to have to look up that flower now – Sturt’s. So, thank you so much for joining me today David. I really appreciate it!
David: It’s no problem.
Strawberry Tongue would like to thank David Callahan of The Wolfhounds for spending time to chat with Lady Audio. Visit The Wolfhounds at the links below: