is pleased to present “The Gibson Classic Interview,” where we open our archives and share with you interviews we’ve done over the years with some of the world’s biggest artists. This week, we revisit Ellen Mallernee’s 2007 interview with Wolfmother frontman Andrew Stockdale.

Since materializing out of Australia as one of the most buzzed about rock bands, Wolfmother have ensnared the imagination and nostalgia of a cross-generation of fans. During near nightly sets of walloping hard rock, Wolfmother guitarist and leader Andrew Stockdale tornadoes across stage, a blur of arms, legs, and teased ’fro. Juiced with frenetic energy, the guitarist perpetually brandishes one of two cherished guitars, his ES-335 Dot Reissue or his Bigsby-equipped SG.

Approximating the live spirit of the hard rock heyday, Wolfmother’s eponymous debut is chock full of shrieking hellraisers like “Woman” and “Apple Tree” and daytripping rave-ups like “White Unicorn” and “Where Eagles Have Been.” Yowled lyrics teem with unicorns, witches, gnomes, and gypsies, while belligerent riffs give way to psychedelic freak-outs.  

Since last year’s release of Wolfmother on Modular/Interscope, life for the trio has been as turbulent off-stage as on. Stockdale, drummer Myles Heskett, and bassist Chris Ross have played to capacity crowds, copped snarling poses in fashion spreads, and delivered an acceptance speech for Best Hard Rock Performance at the Grammys.

“We did that first show in Sydney, and people just loved it instantly,” Stockdale says, his voice breaking with wonder. “All of a sudden music just seemed to magnetize people towards us in a way that nothing else had before.”

Wolfmother is so often compared to Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. How do you react to the comparisons?

Now we’re public property, and everyone’s got their opinion. People detest us because of the so-called hype. But how the hell did we become a hyped band? I’m just a dude who was borrowing someone’s guitar in a squat in a studio that I was six months behind in rent, and now all of a sudden I’m the despised establishment, the hyped band.

You’ve traded in that borrowed guitar for a new ES-335. Is it your new favorite?

Yeah, I play it for dimension. I always open with the 335. It has a really full tone that adds a little variety to the set when changing between the SG. The SG we’ve used on pretty much everything else—always either the SG or the 335. My hands are just gravitated toward them. To me, Gibsons have a classic guitar feel.

How did you learn to play guitar?

My brother used to play guitar, and his bedroom was next to mine in the house. He was eight years older than me so he was playing lots of Cat Stevens and Beatles. There are six people in our family, and everyone can play an instrument, so I used to pick up the guitar and see what I could do with it, and eventually I just started learning songs.

The Doors and the Beatles were probably my favorites growing up. “Norwegian Wood” was the first song I learned when I was in grade seven.

When did you get your first SG?

In the studio with [Dave] Sardy. He was really into this white SG he had sitting around the studio so we used it a lot on the album, and from there I just sort of introduced it into the live set.

Was Wolfmother your first band?

I was in very unprofessional, mock-around, lay-about sort of bands before Wolfmother. I’ve been playing with people since I was probably in grade eight, just hanging out with people and playing guitar.

The first band I started was when I was in uni (at Melbourne’s RMIT University). We entered this battle of the bands and came in last. I couldn’t believe it. The guys who won—there’s no way they were students. They were balding, 40-year-old men jumping around the stage, and for some reason the judges thought they were amazing.

How did you first meet Chris and Myles?

I met Chris around 2000 at a party at his house, and he had a few instruments lying around. I dropped by the next day and we had a jam, like a French disco jam. After that, I just came over every now and again to have coffees and bum around, and I was very keen to start a band, but I didn’t want to put pressure on anyone to do that.

Myles was a friend of Chris’, and we started jamming, and one time I built up the courage to say, “Hey, uh, let’s have a rehearsal. How about tomorrow we learn some songs and we do a rehearsal?”

And they’re like, “Three o’clock on Wednesday? Yeah, okay, catch ya then.”

So then I turn up at 3 o’clock on Wednesday. No one’s there.

Myles turns up four hours late. The other guy—who’s not even in the band anymore—is like looking at Internet porn for three hours, and Chris is looking for beers in the fridge or something. We tried to get rehearsals going every now and again, but nothing ever happened.

When did the band finally get around to writing songs?

I thought, I just need to write some songs on the computer. I had a little plastic, cheap microphone that they give you with the computer, and I did the demo with that and recorded eight or so songs.

Then I met this guy, Simon Day, that I used to see around at openings, and he was like, “I’m starting a band. Do you want to play?” He was in this band called RatCat, which was enormous in Australia. They were huge. They were, like, bigger than Nirvana in the ’90s.

I went in and jammed with these guys, and within three hours we had a song. And I was like, “Holy shit! I’ve been hanging out with these guys for five years, and we can’t even play one song together,” and I was like, “That’s how you do it! This is how you arrange it.”

You finally played your first show as Wolfmother in early 2004. How did that come about?

I’d given my little acoustic demo to a friend, and he was like, “Hey, would you like a support spot to play with my band at the Hopetoun Hotel?” And the Hopetoun is like the bomb.

For the first show, I told Chris and Myles, “We’ll meet at the studio at five to take the gear over.”

And they were like, “Yeah, yeah.” But no one turns up.

I drag bass, amp, speaker boxes, drum kit. I take my tee shirt off and am running around packing stuff into this van. I set the whole set-up on the stage.

Finally, Chris and Myles turn up without a bead of sweat on their foreheads, like, “Actually, you set my gear up incorrectly. I’d like to have the cymbals five centimeters more to the left so that I don’t strain a certain muscle in my wrist when I move it.” [Laughs.]

We did the show, and people just loved it instantly. There were five other bands that night, and all the other bands were buying us beers and wanting to chat with us. It seemed like all of a sudden music just seemed to magnetize people towards us in a way that nothing else had before. By the second show, we’re offered record deals, management deals, the whole thing just goes through the roof. People start sending us free clothes, free shoes. We’re invited to guest DJ at this nightclub.

Yeah, you guys really blew up overnight. What was that like?

It’s been kind of good and bad, good and bad. So many amazing things have happened to us. I had a daughter last year in January, and I kind of intellectualized that I had a daughter, but because of the schedule it didn’t really kick in that I was a father until a couple months ago. Like you go home and you change the nappies, and you do everything you can to try to help, but it takes you awhile to realize. You know, just because most of the time I’m not there.

I had a lot of difficulties with cynical, jaded people. This kind of miracle thing had happened to the band, where we’d achieved success, and there was no one to share it with. I got into rock ’n’ roll because I love music, and I found myself becoming a hirer and a firer. But we got rid of those guys, and the crew now is fantastic. People are having dinner together, people love the live show, things are cruising.

Do people treat you differently now that Wolfmother have gotten big?

A lot of people, like my family or friends, feel like they have to justify it. I’d be working my ass off doing shows every night, traveling every day, really feeling that all this momentum was happening, and then I’d come home and meet up with friends, and they’d say, “The people that I’ve been hanging out with, they hate you guys. They say you’re just a Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath rip-off band.”

But it’s got nothing to do with our music or who we are as people. The truth is there’s so much positivity from the music straight to the audience. There’s a lot of love happening there.

When’s the next Wolfmother album due out?

Do you want to hear something? [Holds phone up to his laptop, which emits 30 seconds of new Wolfmother material.] All the stuff I just kind of did by myself. That’s me playing drums, and guitars, and bass.

Every day I get asked three times a day when the next record is coming out. What’s the deal? I’ve got a lot already.

We had two months off over Christmas, and I had all these ideas, and I just opened the phone book and went into this little recording studio in Brisbane, and it was so hot. It was this little shack next to car yards, and I went in there and started just putting ideas out there. It’s been a year and a half since we did that album, and I just had to do something. And you can see the result is superb! [Laughs.]

The other thing I wanted to find out is: What can you do in a crappy little studio in the middle of nowhere? People put so many walls up against their own creativity. Rock ’n’ roll is not rocket science. It’s pretty easy. The resources are always there.

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