Wartoad, the world’s most magnificent psych-punk-druid-avant-zonk band in the world are based across the United States and, when the fancy takes them, the rural excellence of England, more specifically, near a stone circle used for Druidic ceremonies overlooked by a monk with a sub-machine gun. Please keep up. Their debut album, What Rough Beasts, is far more than punk. It’s punk-plus. Psychotronic-punk. Druid ‘n’ bass. Robe ‘n’ Roll. Toadcore. We could go on. Here’s Wartoad.
Who are Wartoad?
WARTOAD are a coalition of musical anarchists from New York, London, LA and Texas who make punk rock music for the 21st Century.
The band is known for its “wall of unhinged, yet truly sinuous sound – combining swirling pop melodies with ferocious punk rock stylings” (review in The Lowdown Under)
The true identities of WARTOAD are unknown, though their impressive individual careers have seen them play with everyone from Neil Young to Pearl Jam.
How did 9 (?!) of you meet?
On the periphery of the alt rock music scene… in bars, rehab, the usual.
What prompted you to move into a more punk sound?
Playing songs that are less than two minutes long gives the audience less time to aim.
You’ve got a huge concert lined up – what would be your dream venue?
Pompeii. Obviously. (Pffff. Like, how is this even a question?)
Tell us about how you go about creating your music, from initial idea to completion, especially considering the geography factor?! What equipment do you use?
The writing process is collaborative and shouty. There’s a lot of piss-taking and people yelling “slag!” Also, the ‘geographic factor’ means it’s a bit like herding cats, and the ‘economic factor’ means we usually have to wait until someone else (a commercially viable non-punk band with money, that the band members are doing a session for) has paid for us to get to wherever it is we are recording.
On a typical track, Butch comes up with some simple chords; generally barred, usually power. He plays them for Calvin, who always changes the bridge and the chorus (sigh). Lyrics materialize from somewhere, usually complaining about ‘something’ in ‘society.’ Or celebrating druids. Because, DRUIDS! Then we get into the studio and everyone else does their thing, which in Al Dijon’s case (keyboards) is often transformative; like, with I Get High his mellotron stuff completely changed the vibe of the song.
Butch Dante uses a 1992 Mexican Strat that he bought used for $95 (See photo). Butch has decorated it with stickers, like Chrissie Hynde from the Pretenders, and thinks it’s a work of art. Everyone else thinks it looks a bit shit.
Calvin Voltz uses a lot of different Fender Strats and Teles guitars in the studio, but live he tends towards his signature $90 Badaxx Flying V piece of s*** – which our friend Jimmy Carbonetti (Caveman band member and the proprietor of Carbonetti Guitars) fixed up for us. It’s good for shredding and the feedback is horrible in a sort of good-not-good way.
As well as our regular instruments a lot of the time we’ll use whatever we find lying around the studio… Referee’s whistle, mellotron, lowrey organ, tom-toms, teeny tiny piano, weird-clay-frog-thing-which-makes-a- sort-of-menup-sound… they were all just there and got pulled into the process.
In the studio we use a lot of small, old, weird amps, to give us a huge sound. Live, we use giant amps, turned up loud enough that the distortion allows us to ixnay the pedals.
We use Fender and Rickenbacker basses, with a B15 bass amp.
WARTOAD engineer Stan Mosely has a secret weapon outboard gear box that he brings to every session that makes the sound go from punk to PUNK.
The next album will be recorded ALL ON TAPE. No digital. At all. So there’s that.
Tell us about the inspiration behind your latest (forthcoming) video?
Well, they keep on getting banned, don’t they?! So we’re going to really try hard with the next one (for the new single, Delirium, out in summer 2018). Mind you, it features Nazi Stormtroopers in a showdown with the occult forces of good led by an arch Druid on top of a hill in Sussex, so, who knows?
What’s with the fascination with Druids?
It’s just part of where we come from. Like, a misspent youth spent driving out into the English country in someone’s mum’s car and hanging around stone circles smoking shit hash and listening to punk. Who hasn’t done that?
What would be your ultimate aim in the industry?
Live long and prosper? Don’t know. Having “ultimate aims” sounds a bit serious and maybe corporate and we’re not really into that. Basically, we just wanna have a good time and hopefully people will jump around a bit and maybe buy the records? That would be nice. Also, we’d like to tour the weird parts of the world that no one usually goes to. Like Malawi. And Poland. And the North of England.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your current release?
The album, What Rough Beasts, is cool. Like Kasabian meets Iggy Pop, who ignores them, so they go next door and jam with half of the Stranglers (not Hugh Cornwall, obv). We’re really happy with it, and we hope people give it a chance.
What can we expect from the album?
Many things, all different. It took us a year to record and there’s a lot of stuff going on there. Lots of levels. Lots of messages. The one consistent factor is that Butch shouts a lot on almost all of the tracks. He’s like that shouting man from the Sugar Cubes.