With the soundtrack to a fake movie about the secret world of world-class Rock-Paper-Scissors competitions, Richmond trio Hewolf takes their goofy, theatrical cock-rock to the next level.
“Rock, Paper, Scissors, Shoot!” Get ready to rumble, and get ready to listen to Hewolf’s latest album, Iron Survivor 2: The Motion Picture Soundtrack. This movie-less soundtrack needs no visuals to take you on an adventure through the wild world of underground, high-stakes Rock-Paper-Scissors Competitions. Through the eyes of lonely child Danny Laredo, we get to learn about love, lust, and what it really takes to win it all.
Iron Survivor 2 came out on October 30th, and has generated a buzz among Hewolf fans. The album features six tracks that walk listeners through the most poignant moments of the movie (which again, to be clear, doesn’t actually exist). Listen as Danny gains the confidence to compete, take on his most vicious opponents, and then vanquish them all.
“[Bassist] Paul [Burnette] was the mastermind of piecing all of that together. Erik and I just kind of came with the ideas and Paul just started putting them all together,” said Johnny Throckmorton, Hewolf’s guitarist. “It’s like a Rubik’s Cube. Erik and I are all the colors, and Paul fits us into solid colors on each side.”
“Every time you listen to it from start to finish it can be a different movie in your head,” said drummer Erik Josephson. “The whole thing was laid in order for different characters, themes, and what’s going on in the movie. It’s a different movie every time you listen to it.”
Though the plot puts young Danny in perilous and serious positions, the guys in Hewolf don’t let that get in their heads when writing out his story. Their comedic take on “cock-rock” and the theatrics of metal bring light to the soundtrack, and help entrench us in the fast paced world that Danny strives every day to bury his stake in.
“We’re serious about our instruments, but everything that follows after that is sarcasm,” said Throckmorton. “The three of us are dads so we’re responsible, we’re punctual, we make sure that we get the job done, but we’re also total goofballs.”
In that endeavor to find the lighter aspect of their music writing, the guys have created a slew of easter-egg moments throughout the entire album. If you listen closely enough you’ll be able to hear impressions of Judas Priest’s Rob Halford, and the lovely sounds of the drunken pub song “Oh Danny Boy.”
“Johnny is the Easter Bunny when it comes to the Easter Eggs,” said Josephson. “In the last song, Johnny does these karate calls.”
“Some of the samples I found were from little pieces on YouTube,” said Burnette. “One of them was from an arm wrestling tournament in Louisiana, and you just hear people yelling random stuff. One guy just yells, ‘go the fuck home!’ right in the beginning.”
Encapsulating all of this in the album is one thing, but as it is a movie soundtrack for a movie that never came out, the door is wide open for the creative pursuit of visual and stage representations.
“Part of the hope for the soundtrack is that it would spark for someone, and maybe someone would want to make this movie happen,” said Burnette.
“We love playing live, and it’d be fantastic to have the big show with lights, smoke, and pyrotechnics, all the big stuff,” said Throckmorton. “Erik could do a Tommy Lee, we’d put him in a cage and just have him spin around while he’s playing.”
“We’d have a spinning octagon with people playing rock-paper-scissors inside,” replied Josephson.
“We do find some movie company to take this on, and we’ve got three executive producers right here ready to pitch in,” said Burnette.
Even though all of these ideas are just dreams at this point, the band has realized a lot of their ideas in the realm of pure music. Iron Survivor 2 was the second release the band put out during the insane year of 2020. Back in September, Hewolf had already released the Into The Darkness… EP. And now, while everyone is looking forward to playing all of this new music live someday, the biggest thing on their radar now is digging in and writing more music.
“Throughout this process, as much as we want it to go out and play, even if everybody is wearing masks and distancing, we just said we’ll do the smart thing and focus on the music,” said Throckmorton. “We have another six or seven songs we’re working on — we just don’t stop. Now is the time for not only us, but a lot of bands, to kind of push it and start writing stuff.”
Working together on these projects has come naturally to the guys of Hewolf after years of friendship and plenty of experience creating music with other bands. Before the clandestine formation of Hewolf, each of the members were in other bands that toured widely. Burnette was in Darkest Hour and Iron Reagan, Throckmorton was in Alabama Thunder Pussy, Josephson was in HRM, and both Burnette and Josephson were in Crackhead.
“Johnny and I were in our first band together when we were in high school, and then we were in another band together around 2000,” said Burnette. “Erik and I were in two bands together. We were in a band in like ’93, and another band in the mid ‘90s after that. We’ve all been in bands together and known each other for decades, just had never all played together.”
Now that they’ve joined together for Hewolf, there is no separating them. Each member comes from a similar background and is living in similar circumstances, so their friendship has only gotten stronger over the years.
“Any time I get opportunities to work with someone else, I always want to bring Paul and Erik into it somehow,” said Throckmorton. “We try to write things about real life, what’s going on. As far-fetched as a rock-paper-scissors tournament is, it could still happen. It’s not a song about dragons and sorcerers.”
“We’re singing about real shit, man,” Josephson chimed in.
“I don’t even miss singing in other bands because it feels so good to be here,” said Throckmorton. “If they said, ‘hey, put your guitar down, you’re going to play the kazoo now. We’re bringing in another guitar player.’ Just as long as I’m here playing with these guys, I’m happy. I’ll play a mean kazoo.”
Growing up in the punk and metal communities brought the guys a great deal of experience they don’t take for granted. Looking back, some of those experiences landed them in places they never thought they’d be, and are glad never to be in again, no matter how fun they were.
“Darkest Hour got thrown in jail in Oklahoma,” said Burnette. “They hit us with like five different things and threw us all in jail. The band had money to get three of us out and we had to leave the rest of the guys in there until the next day so we could wait for western union the next day at the local Wendy’s. So we got $5,000 wired to us at the Wendy’s, and we still made it to the show in Texas.”
And this wasn’t the only run in with the law; sometimes they even got in trouble in other countries.
“Our guitar player was having issues, so he [relieved himself in] a bag. He went down to the lower level of the double-decker bus and just was like, ‘What am I gonna do with this?’ Someone suggested to throw it out,” said Burnette. “So he pops open the door of the bus and he’s swinging it, he counts down ‘1…2…’ and as soon as he says ‘3’ there are these Belgian cops coming up alongside the bus going to an accident up ahead, and I swear this bag of hot shit was about three inches from this cop’s nose as he drove by at like 30 mph.”
While all these crazy experiences make for amazing stories and an exciting life, band life wasn’t always this way. Between the many nights of shows, the stops in fun places, and the run-ins with the law, there was plenty of downtime that wasn’t much to write home about. And to the Hewolf guys, that’s okay.
“I wouldn’t change it, but it was definitely hard,” said Throckmorton. “There’s no way I could do it now. We would definitely need the rockstar treatment, have a big bus. Show starts early, ends early — because we’re all dads, and we’re falling asleep by 9 o’clock.”
“With past band experience you can take all that time and boil it all down and it’ll sound like the craziest shit that’s ever happened to somebody. And it really is,” added Burnette. “But before you boil it down, you have this massive amount of downtime — time that’s boring, or wasted, time.”
Something more fulfilling in this season of their lives has cropped up, and that’s fatherhood. The guys of Hewolf have all, at different points in their lives, become dads, and that commonality has helped them build a better routine in their creative life. However, dad life comes with its own ups and downs — ones that may just be as crazy as their former lives.
“Erik is helping take care of his daughter’s cat who had AIDS,” said Burnette.
“Yeah, that was also this week’s gift to me. ‘Dad, I got a cat!’ Okay, great! ‘…and the cat has feline AIDS’,” said Josephson. “I’m looking forward to vet bills on that, that’ll be great.”
Fans of Hewolf’s music might find it surprising that the members’ families aren’t always into what they have going on. However, if you’re a parent, you might not find it surprising at all. The dads of Hewolf have experienced some lackluster responses from their kids, but they know they’re loved regardless.
“My daughter comes to some shows to support her dad, but it’s not her cup of tea,” said Josephson. “A couple years ago we had a sticker, and her whole car had all the Richmond band stickers on it. So I asked if I could put our sticker on, and she said, ‘No, ugh, you’re my dad.’ But she comes to shows — that is our thing to do.”
“My kid is 14, so the last thing he wants to do is anything to do with what his dad is doing. Whenever he’s ready to hang out, I’m all over it,” said Burnette. “You gotta jump on those moments, because when you’re 14, you want to be with your friends.”
Becoming dads and renewing their commitment to music has given the members of Hewolf new motivation in their work. Now, it’s not about simply being rockstars and having fun; it’s also about their families and using their influence and platform to help others.
One of those outreach platforms the members of Hewolf has been a part of over the years is Punks For Presents, a Richmond based punk non-profit organization that puts on charity shows every year featuring a variety of tribute bands. Through the shows, Punks For Presents raises money to fund donations of presents to children in hospitals and difficult situations during the holidays. In past years, the members of Hewolf have performed at these shows under the pseudonym Elvzig.
“That definitely sums it up — we’re a dad rock band, and you gotta do it for the kids,” said Throckmorton. “If we can help these organizations, or be the theme song to somebody’s really shitty day, that makes us happy. Someone walking down the street who just had a really shitty day and they throw on some Hewolf, then it’s mission accomplished. We are a light in the darkness, and I think it’s pretty awesome.”
Next time you’re feeling down, just imagine yourself winning the ultimate title at a rock-paper-scissors competition. And remember what this message from Hewolf: “Rock always wins.”
Photos via Hewolf/Facebook; Iron Survivor 2 artwork courtesy Hewolf