The Wolfmen: Marco Pirroni & Chris Constantinou
by Guy Sangster Adams
To put an exact start point on The Wolfmen, whose new AA-side single Cecilie and Wak This Bass has just been released, is slightly to miss the point of why and how they came together. But I only realise this having suggested 2004, to which vocalist and bass player Chris Constantinou, replies questioningly “I think it was 2006, wasn’t it?” and guitarist Marco Pirroni says with a smile, “I can’t remember, I mean I don’t know where I was last week, it was all very organic as they say, it just sort of happened with no real plans to do anything you know.”
From the outset, which for the non-organically minded the press release splits the difference with 2005, it was very important to Pirroni and Constantinou that The Wolfmen would be an umbrella name for their work on a wide range of projects over and above the traditional concept of a band. A range that, as Pirroni says, “makes it interesting, I mean I’ve spent my entire life in bands; in the twilight of my years going back into a band… I never really wanted The Wolfmen to be a band with drums and amps and vans and flight cases and things like that” though he then adds “but this is what we are turning into.” To which Constantinou reposts “Well we’ve turned into it, but we’ve missed the van, we haven’t done the van!” and Pirroni retorts, “Hopefully we’ll go straight to bus! I don’t really want to do the van!” An exchange which leaves them both laughing.
The laughter is symptomatic not only of the great iconoclastic rapport between the two men but also of the wonderful atmosphere that pervades the South London studio in which The Wolfmen have taken up residence to not only record the follow up to last year’s debut album, Modernity Killed Every Night, but also produce new albums by Sinead O’Connor (Pirroni has worked with O’Connor on her four previous albums) and Daler Mehndi [?], and where I go to meet them. Pirroni and Constantinou are clearly thoroughly enjoying the present, which although informed by their pasts they are clearly not shackled by them, the ‘then’ is viewed with as much enjoyment as the ‘now’, which consequently denudes The Wolfmen of retrogression and makes the project the latest step in an exiting journey.
For Pirroni this began at the age of 17 when he played guitar in the impromptu and infamous first incarnation of Siouxsie & the Banshees, which also included Sid Vicious on drums, for their 20 minute set improvised around The Lord’s Prayer at the 100 Club Punk Festival in London on 20th September 1976. He went on to play with The Models, Rema Rema, and Cowboys International before in 1980 he joined Adam Ant in the new line up of Adam and the Ants and began a phenomenally successful and highly influential song writing partnership, with the albums Kings of the Wild Frontier and Prince Charming reaching number one and two respectively and a string of Top Ten singles including Ant Music, Dog Eat Dog, Prince Charming, and Stand and Deliver which won Ivor Novello awards for Pirroni and Ant. When the Ants disbanded in 1982 Constantinou, who had worked closely with Diz Watson and been in the band Drill, joined as the bass player in a new line up with Pirroni and Ant performing under the name Adam Ant. The albums Friend or Foe, Strip, and Vive Le Rock followed along with another nine Top 20 singles, including the number one Goody Two Shoes.
“It feels very normal,” Pirroni replies to my question as to how it feels when one’s in the midst of such success, “because it’s all very gradual, it’s not like one day you’re in a club and the next day you’re playing huge venues; the venues start getting bigger, then there’s more people in your crew, you find yourself in business class, then you find yourself in first class, it’s almost like you don’t notice it. It only struck me once in Japan, I was in a hotel room looking out of the window at the Tokyo skyline and I thought how did I get here?! Eighteen months ago I was sitting at home with an acoustic guitar and now I’m here. There are moments when you think is this really happening or am I just imagining this, is this a sort of daydream I’m having.”
That it is now approaching three decades since Pirroni first teamed up with Ant also disconcerts him, “I can’t grasp that concept of 30 years,” he says, “it seems like, I know it’s a long time, but it seems like 8 years ago, but as we get older, I keep thinking, God, I’m going to be dead in another 30 years.” To which Constantinou chips in, “You might be dead before that!” and to Pirroni’s response of “Thanks that’s really cheered me up!” laughingly ripostes “30 years, that’s a bit ambitious! You’re a rock star you’re supposed to be dead!”
With the passing of time the influence of the Adam Ant/Adam & The Ants back catalogue is increasing rather than diminishing with Carl Barât and Tim Burgess covering Antmusic for C4’s Transmission last year, and Stand & Deliver featuring on the soundtrack of the current series of Gossip Girl, the list of acts taking inspiration also includes Suede, Elastica, Nine Inch Nails, Robbie Williams, Sugar Ray. “You listen to a lot of young bands, 18 to 20 years olds, now you can hear the influences,” says Constantinou, “they’ve probably taken it from the generation after us; it’s great.” Pirroni concurs saying “I am such a product of my influences, in my mind everything is shoehorned in like a great big jigsaw puzzle, to be someone else’s influence is really nice; I always wanted to be someone’s influence.”
The influenced also become collaborators, as Constantinou explains, “we met up with Courtney Taylor-Taylor from the Dandy Warhols recently, and he’s going to be mixing some tracks on this album, and he was saying Marco was his guitar hero.” Indeed, it was Pirroni’s idiosyncratic guitar sound that triggered the reunion between Pirroni and Constantinou, their paths having diverged in the mid-90s, and the formation of The Wolfmen. “We weren’t in touch for a while,” explains Constantinou, “and then I was with Jackie Onassid and trying to get the guitar sound that Marco does, and I ended up trying to do it myself very badly, and then I thought in the end I’d just phone him” which as Pirroni explains is “the strange thing that happens to me, a lot of people phone up and say do you know anyone that plays like you; for some reason they’re too shy to say do you want to do it, and so I end up saying, what about him, he could do me!”
The Wolfmen’s first projects were all soundtracks. They created the music for the series I Predict A Riot, presented by Loaded founder James Brown and screened by Bravo in January 2006, and in May 2006 their soundtracks accompanied two films in the inaugural Fashion in Film Festival (FFF). As Pirroni explains, “Marketa [Uhlirova the director of FFF] phoned us up and said do you want to do some music for a silent film; so we did a kind of rock soundtrack to two films.” Screened as part of the Shoes, Eroticism, and Fetish programme of the festival the films were The Gay Shoe Clerk (Edwin S. Porter, 1903) and Amor Pedestre (Love on Foot, Marcel Fabre 1914). Both very much enjoyed the process, Constantinou describes the films as “amazing” and says “that it would be good to get that [the soundtracks] out at some point” and Pirroni says, “We wanted to do more but they haven’t asked us!” I suggest that waiting to be asked is slightly daft as he is now on the board of FFF, but he demurs with a smile “I think it would be a bit embarrassing to be there at these board meetings with all these academics and go to them, oh we’ll do that, and we’ll do that as well!”
In many ways Pirroni presaged his involvement in FFF with the sequence of CDS he released in 2003 and 2004 on his Only Lovers Left Alive label which explored both his own influences and fashion’s relationship to rock. The three albums Sex: Too Fast to Live Too Young to Die, Granny Takes A Trip: Conversation’s Dead Man (compiled by Nigel and Louis Waymouth) and Biba: Champagne and Novacaine featured the music played in each shop.
The links to fashion have continued with The Wolfmen’s 2007 collaboration with Primal Scream on a cover version of Screaming Jay Hawkins being used for an Alexander McQueen catwalk show, and the shoot for the video for the new single Cecilie playing an infamous part in the last series of Living TV’s Britain’s Next Top Model, when tantrums and stand-offs ensued as not all the proto-models relished director Paul Hills’ rock bordello concept; the footage of which is all now on You Tube!
An elegant erudition imbues the new single as a whole, as Pirroni and Constantinou, with infinite panache and a broad lupine smile that equally attests they have lost none of their bite, play fast and loose with all they have accrued in the past 30 plus years, cutting a glitter dusted swath across the tracks and their track record, like the tail of a comet across a perfect midnight blue sky. Cecilie broods like a femme fatale in killer heels caught in a tornado guitar spiral, Wak this Bass is a feedback triggered Jack in the Box grabber of glamour punk. Be seduced; lycanthropy is nothing to be scared of!
Watch a filmed interview with Marco Pirroni and Chris Constantinou and the video for Cecilie on the P-TCP Broadcast Player
Fashion in Film Festival
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