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  • Tiana Speter

INTERVIEW: Lochie Keogh (ALPHA WOLF)

 

It's very safe to say in 2024 that no one is doing heavy music quite like the Aussies, both fans and bands alike. Seeing the recent outpouring of support for bands touring at home, featuring on festival lineups or just dropping banger after banger has been a resounding reminder that not only is heavy music alive and well in Australia: it's a legitimate drawcard that has legs well beyond our shores. And while we boast many illustrious live acts down under, it's undeniably the Year of the Wolf, with Alpha Wolf utterly knocking it out of the proverbial park with their third full-length album Half Living Things, which officially dropped late last week.


As any fan of Alpha Wolf can attest to, the five-piece are already an insatiably well-oiled machine when it comes to crafting tracks that slap, with an endearing in-your-face dexterity that can't help but hit your pulse and an urge to ramp that volume knob higher. But Alpha Wolf certainly aren't a mere meathead metal(core) affair, with the group showcasing time and time again their flourishing nuanced craftsmanship that can balance grooves, melodics and bone-shattering breakdowns without breaking a sweat.


On Half Living Things, Alpha Wolf pull off nothing short of a masterpiece, with 12 tracks that stupefy alongside an abundance of well-timed light and shade. And whether flexing a feature from Ice-T, anime references or riffs that'll slice solidly frozen loaves of bread, Alpha Wolf also weave their charm throughout; a fact that has carried over into the frenzied response to their upcoming Australian national tour this August, with the tour selling out multiple dates, adding new shows and upgrading venues trying to keep up with the punters' resounding obsession for the group.


Ahead of the release of Half Living Things, The Soundcheck's Tiana Speter grabbed a moment with vocalist Lochie Keogh to dive a little deeper into the new LP, unpack the group's near future and traipse down some Alpha Wolf touring memory lanes before they embark on a relentless touring schedule in 2024.



TIANA SPETER: Lochie! It’s great to chat again! Half Living Things is officially out now, but when did work begin in earnest for the new album?

  • LOCHIE KEOGH: Awesome to chat again Tiana! Technically there's one song on the album that I think Scottie [Simpson] had written before A Quiet Place To Die had even finished being recorded. It was just obnoxiously heavy and I don't think you can physically play it live, he's done something to the guitar on the computer to make it so low and so heavy. It was cool, but I think he just couldn't be bothered figuring out how to make that work live at the time, so we just sort of put it on the shelf. So technically this album started maybe halfway through writing the last one.


TIANA: Alpha Wolf are undeniably a “heavy band”, but Half Living Things ramps things up and then some. In terms of the structure of the album, a lot of the singles live on the first half of the album, was it intentional to carbo-load the singles in the first half and then just ramp up in the second half?

  • LOCHIE: It's definitely intentional and definitely a painstaking process within a band. I tend to take a step back and let everybody else handle it because I'm a gremlin with that sort of thing. Once I've listened to an album once, I will just listen to it on shuffle forever. Unless it's intrinsic to the listening of the album, like it's conceptual or they're telling a story or something like that, I'll probably try to get into it like that; but my brain isn't wired that way, I just shuffle it. But definitely with the order of the album, we try to get our most different songs off as singles, the singles are an advertisement essentially. It's telling your old fans that you're back, but also “we have added this to our repertoire. We've done this”. We're trying to be more exciting so we don't sound like the last thing maybe casual listeners or non-fans heard. We want them to be like, “This sounds different to the last snippet I heard. I'll check it out!”. I think we intend on that, but then at the same time, we're not seriously crazy innovators. I think people should expect the rest of the album to be our bread and butter type of heaviness.




TIANA: You’ve already had a huge 12 months, and kicked off the year with a second edition of CVLTFEST as well. What’s the response been like to the new material in a live setting?

  • LOCHIE: Awesome, honestly! That's when you can stare at the numbers and comments all day and someone will tell you the song's streaming really well. You've got this many streams or whatever, and after a while it's just numbers. Every band tries to keep a 24 hour mark of what their songs do. How do the stats go in this whole 24 hour window? And it's all the same to me now, I dunno what's impressive anymore and what's a bit behind - but also I'm trying not to pay too much attention to that this time around so I can wait for the show just to see the reaction. We were playing Bring Back The Noise before it was released for a while, and that's always fun but awkward because the crowd doesn't know it. And then the first show we played with that song having been out…immediately people caught onto it. The big stupid lines we have in it, they were just onto it immediately. I think even at a few of the shows in America we were playing, we had a couple of repeat attendees. I saw this one girl at a few different shows, and I swear to god by the third show, she was singing the words to a song that wasn't even out yet. And I used to do that! I used to be that nerd who would study a band's live video of a new song they've been playing just so I could somehow know the words at the show. It’s really cool to see that eagerness towards receiving the music and hearing it.


TIANA: Imminently, even more people will get to hear these new songs live here in Australia with your monster Half Living Things tour. How are you feeling about the truly insane response you’ve had so far to this tour?

  • LOCHIE: I don't know when we originally booked that tour, because it's been booked for ages. Obviously we were terrified. There were gigantic rooms and I would constantly rather just play it safe, do the undercard and sell it out, have a really good time and no awkward shows. And then tickets went on sale. Lo and behold, Melbourne sold out in 10 hours or something like that. So then that initial fear disappeared. I was just like, “Holy crap!!”. But then random paranoid doubt set in and I genuinely thought, “Is someone out there fucking with us? Has someone just gone and made some bot online to just scalp all of the tickets before anybody else could get them?”. Then I started freaking out about that, and then we announced all the new shows and we're running around like headless chooks trying to upgrade the venues or add extra shows. So now I'm back to that first initial nervous spot of, “Can we sell these extra shows out now?”. But I’ve got to tell myself it's already a win.


TIANA: Another huge win for both Alpha Wolf and fans was the inclusion, of course, of none other than Ice-T on Sucks 2 Suck. Obviously Ice-T is no stranger to heavy music and hip hop, but I overhead Mitch [Fogarty] give you credit as being the brainchild behind this feature, can you talk me through how this all went down?

  • LOCHIE: I'll happily claim that one! It was definitely brought together by our manager Jackie, she's like our American handler basically, and she knows everyone. We originally had someone else penciled for the part and they fell through. They were definitely not similar vibes of artists, but they would've done a similar thing. We didn't want anybody to actually “rap, rap” or “scream, scream”. I just wanted someone with this inexplicable presence to just come in. And as long as they were on it, I didn't care what they did. They could do anything. They just needed to be “on it”. That's all that matters. So, we got an email saying the other guest had fallen through, and literally on the spot we were just like, “Who else could do this?”. And then boom, right away I was like, “Ice-T, obviously. Think about this”. Then I just pitched some ideas of what he could do or what he might do. And they're just like, “...all right, all right, how do we do that?”. And I'm like, “I bet Jackie knows someone”. We did the maths, she knows old hardcore bands that would've done shows with Body Count and that sort of thing. And it turns out she had his manager's number in her back pocket ready to go!


TIANA: And not only a feature, but you’re standing in the same room as him too!

  • LOCHIE: I think when we dropped the first promo, so many people assumed it was AI or something like that! When we got the song done, we sent it to Polaris for a review sort of thing, and they were like, “Cool Ice-T snippet. Where did you guys get that from?”. And we’re like, “Bro - the man himself!!”




TIANA: Absolute crazy scenes, I feel like 2024 can barely contain how much Alpha Wolf have going on. At this stage of the year with the release fast-approaching, have you been able to actually sit and experience and enjoy the journey to this point yet? 

  • LOCHIE: We’re really bad at that. We’re gluttons for punishment, because we sort of blast through all of the time. We’re supposed to be enjoying our hype and attention and stuff like that, but instead we’re fricking working through it! But that’s sort of how we do it! We want to take the time to stop and everything like that, but then we just get bored. We're better together, we're better on the road, and we just need that feeling of hitting the next thing constantly.  We want to be ready for anything that comes our way. So the easiest way to do that is to just never slow down and, with no specific goals, just to really smash what we have ahead of us. I feel like if we have too specific a goal, we'll let ourselves down eventually. So our goal is to just kick ass every single year and do as much as we can. It’s all very exciting, but it's also strange. It's getting a bit different at home and everything like that. The band's a bit more financially stable and we don't have to sacrifice so much to actually go out on tour, and we can pay bills with the money we're earning from it. Having said that - it's really like absolutely still earning below minimum wage. But it’s a “proof it can be done” sort of thing because the only thing you ever hear is horror stories about how much everybody's trying to screw you over and how you can't make it and how you never get any money and stuff like that. And all of that stuff is 110% true. It's been super freaking difficult, but there's almost a light at the end of the tunnel happening right now. I don't want to be rich from this sort of thing. I just want to be able to pay my bills and have a bed and stuff like that. If I can do that through fricking music, that's the coolest thing in the world.


TIANA: That feels like the most authentic way to be, and inevitably you guys as a band do have this knack for surviving and thriving as a result. Touching briefly on something you mentioned earlier, you said you were a “nerd” who would learn the lyrics to songs before you went and saw bands live. What band or bands did you nerd out about back in the day?

  • LOCHIE: There’s one specific one I think of all the time, and that is The Plot In You. For the longest time they would tour all these songs that weren't on any of the albums, and I would scour YouTube constantly to learn the lyrics. And then this singer put up a studio update sort of thing, and at the end of it he played a 45 second snippet of one of their songs. I got some YouTube to MP3 downloader, ripped it, snipped off the part of him talking and just put it into my iPod, and I would listen to the snippet over and over again. I remember I had memorised the name of this song and then they announced their album with the track listing - and the song wasn't on the fricking album! I was like, “What the hell? Where's that song you've been playing??”. I don't know it anymore because I don't have time or the energy for that sort of thing, but The Plot In You, they were a big one. 


TIANA: Fast forward from then until when you joined a band who would have songs that Landon from The Plot In You has picked as some of his favourite Aussie releases…nice full circle moment. Take me back to your first official show with Alpha Wolf, what was the vibe like at Lochie’s first Alpha Wolf outing?

  • LOCHIE: Terrifying! It was at The Workers Club in Melbourne and I totally forgot who opened it and who played it because I was a nervous wreck. Obviously everything went fine. It was very exciting and very just like, “Oh shit, this on” sort of thing. The band was very unsure about everything at the time, not only was it my “debut”, it was also the band’s return from not doing anything for a long-ass time. So they were nervous as hell about it, they didn't know how it would go. Mostly, it went perfectly. But I remember we had a single out, Black Mamba, and our smoke machine malfunctioned just as that song started - and it did not turn off, it just blew out smoke for the entire song. I couldn't see my hands in front of my face, I kid you not, it was just smoke. And then it was in my eyes, so I was crying and all the videos that we got tagged in or whatever, you literally could not see a member on stage. It was just like this cloud of smoke and all the techies were panicking, trying to get it unplugged and stuff like that. And I just suffered through playing the one song I had. That sort of sucked, but we’ve come a long way from that!


TIANA: What other standout live Alpha Wolf memories spring to mind looking back over the years?

  • LOCHIE: We don't have a lot of crazy other extra things like that happening, although we did have another crazy malfunction happen at one of our biggest shows in America. Our laptop died. And to anybody that knows modern metal music knows that that's pretty fricking important to the musicians performing. So it was actually pretty funny going from that first session to this show when we rightfully should have freaked the fuck out. We didn't know what the hell was happening, how it would sound, how we were going to do anything. No click in the ear, just Mitch counting, just playing music live basically - which shouldn't be so terrifying. But we did that and smashed it and everything sort of went fine. But looking back, we were like, “If this happened to us back then, we would've crumbled, canceled the show, just wouldn't have played it”. So that was a pretty cool thing to see how we handle different situations now. Other than that, I’m sure many people know this one, but we were in Kentucky playing with Lamb of God and we tried to incite a wall of death. There was an entire crowd of maybe like 1,100 people at this point, it wasn't like an empty room. The room parted and it all felt so on, it was about to actually finally wake up. And then when the drop hit - not a soul ran into the middle. Not one single person. I shit you not, that was probably the most remarkable time I can imagine on stage because I've never seen that happen to a band, let alone be the band it happened to. It was insane.


TIANA: If nothing else, it’s memorable?! And no doubt the performance was stellar so no genuine losses there. Well Lochie, thanks for your time today and here’s to more memorable moments armed with Half Living Things!

  • LOCHIE: Thank you so much, great to see you, and we can’t wait!


 

ALPHA WOLF

Brand new album Half Living Things

Out now via Greyscale Records and SharpTone Records. For more info, head here.




 

BY TIANA SPETER


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