Interview by Mark Lacey
DEWOLFF’S PABLO VAN DE POEL TALKS ABOUT LOVE, DEATH, SURPLUS BODY PARTS, MONKEY CAGES, AND THEIR FORTHCOMING SHOW AT THE LEGENDARY 100 CLUB IN LONDON.
Whilst a household name in their home country of the Netherlands, DeWolff are an undiscovered secret in the UK, despite a fifteen year career, and an enviable back catalogue of psychedelic southern rock. Their latest album ‘Love, Death, and In Between’ was released on 3rd February, and the band return to London on 2nd March for only their second ever UK show in 5 years.
MGM: Your new album ‘Love, death, and in between’ was released on 3rd February. Interesting title, but what does it signify?
PVDP: Well, all the songs on the record are either about love, or death, which I find a very interesting subject to write about. But in my mind the most interesting subject is the mix between the two. There’s this one song on the record that’s a sixteen-minute medley, but there’s one story that runs through the whole thing. It starts out like it’s a high school love thing. I was inspired by ‘Twin Peaks’ that I was watching at the time. And then it morphs into this psychedelic dream themed part where the protagonist can only be with the love of his life if he’s asleep, and then he wants to stay asleep forever. So, then he has to die in order to be with this person. And then she turns out to be like, the goddess of space and time, and love and death. She’s like Kali, the Hindu goddess of love and death, that turns out to be this woman. And then I got very inspired for other songs as well, and it’s a theme that runs through the whole album.
There’s another song called Will o’ the Wisp and it’s about this natural phenomenon that happens in swamps where methane gas gets released and sometimes there’s a spark and there’s this flame that comes out of the swamp. Back in the day, when all the world was dark at night, people travelling at night would see the light and they would think that it was a house or someplace they could stay. So, they walk over there and then they would drown in a swamp. I had this idea that maybe if that light symbolises a woman or a man that you’re in love with, and you try to walk towards that, you get swallowed into the swamp because of that thing. I thought that was a very pretty and poetic thing, like the crossover between love and death.
MGM: Tell me about the fascination with death. You said that death is sometimes more fascinating for you than love. Where does that come from?
PVDP: I have this weird relationship with death, I’m extremely afraid of it. I’m extremely afraid of flying and stuff like that because I’m always scared to die. I’m super afraid of death because I always have this feeling that I should do more, and make more music before the end of my life. It’s something that I think about sometimes. There’s also this song about someone close to me that has very heavy depressions and it’s about the danger of suicide or the prospect of suicide. In that way, it’s a subject that’s close to me, and death is like the end of everything. So, it’s very fascinating.
MGM: How did you go about writing and recording for this album. When you recorded the ‘Tascam Tapes’ it was in the back of your tour bus on a four track, not even with real drums. How did this one compare? We know you love analogue.
We do yeah. During lockdown we made an album called ‘Wolffpack’ and a lot of it was recorded in separation. Me and my brother would get together in our studio and record the basic tracks, and then I’d play bass guitar and add some more stuff. Then we would send it to Robin, he would add his parts at home and then he would send it back. Everything was very arranged. Every little thing was thought about, and it was a lot of fun, but I was missing the chaos. The chaos of playing live in the first place …… that was a thing towards the end of quarantine. That was something I was really missing and longing for, just that chaos that can only take place in a live situation, with an audience in front of you. As a reaction to the recording of ‘Wolffpack’, we figured, wouldn’t it be cool to record an album the opposite way almost and record everything live.
It also came a little bit from a project that we were doing with a befriended band of ours, the Dawn Brothers. Just for fun we got together a couple of times, and wrote some classic soul style songs inspired by Sam Cook or Otis Redding …. stuff like that, and trying to make it sound as legitimate as possible. So, we recorded it on very few tracks, analogue and live together in one room. At one point we had ten musicians playing live. We had three horn players and the two bands playing live. And that was so much fun. It was so different from a layered process of recording because the moment you start playing together with ten people, it’s very clear what your role is, and you can really lie into the music, and you can really enjoy what’s going on around you.
When we did those sessions, we realised this is what we should do on our next DeWolff record … not the layered thing we did last time, but record everything live. So, if there’s a tambourine in a song, we have to bring an extra person who plays the tambourine. And there was no room to do this in our own studio because I didn’t want to engineer this album. I just wanted to be busy with making music. We wanted to go to an outside studio, but we wanted to do everything analogue. That really narrowed down the possibilities, and then I thought about a studio I had been following on Instagram for a long time; Kerwax in Brittany, France. They had a friend who recorded there and he said it was amazing. We just all hopped into a van with eleven musicians in total, drove over there and did the whole record live. Everything you hear was recorded in one take.
PVDP: Our albums are a reaction to the previous album …. like with this one, from the quarantine style recording, our reaction to that is the live stuff. And the quarantine recording was also a reaction to Tascam Tapes, which was a weird album … it doesn’t give you an idea of what DeWolff is. If you would come and see us live, Tascam Tapes is truly not that. So, we wanted to make a rock and roll album again.
MGM: In the past you’ve talked about the influences of bands like Cream, but with this album there’s a real 50s / 60s vibe … very soulful, and a hint of gospel … a bit like the Blues Brothers film.
PVDP: I saw it recently for the first time. I don’t know if I liked it, but I liked the James Brown part …. that was very good. ‘Night Train’ was inspired by a trip I made to Memphis where I saw Al Green perform in his church. Apparently, he sometimes does sermons there on Sundays, and we were there on a Sunday, so we went and he was there. There was this amazing band playing really loud. It was like a rock and roll concert, but in the church, and it was all gospel music. That made such a big impression on me; something I will not forget for the rest of my life, but it was also something that I really wanted to incorporate in what we do.
MGM: Your album includes a great song called ‘Mr Garbage Man’. Who is Mr Garbage Man?
PVDP: I thought it was a funny concept to think about. Like, if I cannot hold you, I don’t need my arms. And if I cannot look at you like the person that I love, I do not need my eyes. So, then I thought it would be funny to have a garbage man come and just dispose of all the body parts that you don’t need. So that’s what that song is about. I thought that to be a funny concept, and the musical vibe was based on Peter Green era Fleetwood Mac, or this Ray Charles song. I had this whole list of body parts, so it had three different choruses. It started with arms, and then legs, and then penis and butthole, like stupid stuff. In the end, when we actually recorded, I thought maybe I should just keep the good ones and get rid of the nasty ones.
PVDP: Yeah, definitely. And also, what was a direct inspiration for that song was this record by Buddy Miles and Santana. They made a live record together, and they play Changes. “Well, my mind is going through them changes” …. the Hendrix / Band of Gypsys song, but actually I think it’s by ‘Electric Flag’ that Buddy Miles was part of. He plays it two times as fast live with percussion and horns, and Buddy Miles sings it incredibly. And Santana is playing on it. It’s a very energetic record. When we heard it, we were like, oh man, we got to write a song like this. Just one good riff. We have this signature thing that we do sometimes. It’s called ‘apen kooi’, which translates to ‘monkey cage’. Back when we were in elementary school, you would have these gymnastic classes, but sometimes when the teacher didn’t feel like teaching, they’d say ‘monkey cage’, and you could just run around the building and just do whatever you want. So, Robin and I, sometimes we say ‘monkey cage’ and we just play whatever we want on top of each other …. he’s playing solos, I’m playing solos at the same time. So, in ‘Message for my baby’ … if you have a balance knob on your amplifier, you can choose if you want to listen to a Hammond solo or a guitar solo.
PVDP: It was incredible. It was insane. Toto happened because we had the same booking agents in Germany. That was really cool. But Black Crowes was really special for us because that tour was announced three years ago. And for three years we had, in one way or another, tried to get on that tour. We tried to get in contact with the management, with the band himself. Nothing worked out, really. And then Luther Dickinson, who used to play guitar in Black Crowes from 2008-11, and who’s a friend of ours, he visited the studio once, half a year ago, and I played him one of the songs from this new record. He was like, ‘dude, that’s amazing. I want to hear more’. I played him half the record and he said ‘you got to send this stuff to me and I will make sure it gets into the hands of Rich and Chris Robinson’. I will see them next week because we’re playing a festival together’. And then a week later, I got a message from him. He texted me. ‘It worked’. My God, it was in the middle of the night. And I texted him back, ‘what worked?’ And he didn’t answer. And then the next morning, I got the call from our manager saying, ‘they heard your music, they’ve been playing it on the bus and they want you to go on tour with them’.
MGM: Wow, that must have been a real moment.
PVDP: It was, and it was very short notice, like two months before the tour started, so we had to arrange a bus, because there were huge distances we had to drive. But above all, we were just over the moon, because these are our heroes. We’ve been listening to their music since forever. Our dad used to play their records.
MGM: You’ve only played one date in the UK so far, so it’s great news for fans that you’ll be coming over for a one-off date at the iconic 100 Club in London on 2nd March.
PVDP: We haven’t been in the UK that much at all. We never really thought about playing there before we started working with our label Mascot. They got our records into the hands of some UK reviewers, and a lot of people wrote some really awesome things about our records. I think that’s when the idea started popping up into her heads … maybe we should go over there. After COVID … once it’s possible, we really have to do that because I think the UK is in desperate need of some of DeWolff.
MGM: DeWolff have been playing some very big places recently, and the 100 Club is very intimate. How do you feel about being up close and personal with the audience like that? You’re also used to bringing big productions on tour, so this will be quite different.
PVDP: Well, it’s funny because for almost 15 years, the major part of what we’ve done live is just the three of us. When we play abroad, we bring two crew guys, like a sound engineer and a roadie, so we can travel with the five of us, and we can put on an insane show just with that. I think that’s been our strength. A lot of bands from the Netherlands, once they become bigger and they play 1000-2000 capacity shows, they don’t go abroad anymore because they have to bring twenty guys that do production and they have to bring all this other gear. I think one of our strengths is that we’re a rock n roll band. We can play basically anywhere as long as there’s a microphone and two speakers that my vocals can come out of. We’re not dependent on anything but electricity.
MGM: Great, as we still have electricity in London.
PVDP: Yeah, that’s what I thought. That’s the reason why we’re coming.
MGM: Your album was released on 3rd February. You’re renowned for being prolific so, I’m guessing there’s other stuff in the pipeline already?
PVDP: Well, we also have a teaser for a documentary that somebody made about the recording of this album. I just saw it a couple of days ago for the first time, and it’s really fucking funny. It’s going to come out on the 15th February on YouTube and probably on our Facebook and Instagram. I’m very much looking forward to that because it’s been half a year since we recorded it and just looking back on how we recorded it and all the stuff that happened while we were recording it, it was so much fun. And it’s going to be a cool addition to the record.
MGM: One of the other things that really sets DeWolff apart is the interesting physical formats you have been putting out. You recently released seven live shows on a memory stick boxset; and ‘Six pack’ with your first six albums on tape. You also released Wolffpack as a special fan only double vinyl with some extra tracks. I can’t wait to see what you have planned next.
PVDP: I think that our modus operandi with DeWolff is we do whatever we want. That goes for music. We don’t try to be like a classic rock band or a retro rock. All the stuff we come up with, that we like, we put it out. We don’t think, is this DeWolff enough or is this blah, blah, blah enough? We just record and release everything that we like. And also with the physical products, we don’t try to think too much about how much profit we can make or how little profit we can make, we just want to make beautiful stuff. I think that’s the most important thing. We make less money than people who cut corners and stuff like that, but they also have less satisfaction.
MGM: I imagine you’ve already started thinking about your next project, so what other plans do you have for later in 2023?
PVDP: I moved to a new home in September and I’ve just been renovating full time so I haven’t really thought about any new music yet. But we’re back to Utrecht to do another one of those ‘Double Cream’ sessions with DeWolff and the Dawn Brothers. I have nothing written yet, but back when we did the other sessions, we also didn’t write anything beforehand. We just have one day of writing and hopefully we’ll write like two or three songs, and then the next day all the musicians will come over and we’ll get together and record it to tape.
For us we’re going to tour a lot and I think once we start touring, that whole craving for new material will start again and then we’ll have a clear idea of what we’re going to do. We’ll record probably later this year and put something out next year.
For more information:
DeWolff will play a one-off UK show at the legendary 100 Club, London on 2nd March 2023. For information and tickets: