“I like to either entertain or annoy the audience”: interview with Bain Wolfkind

The kind of musician you don’t meet every day. A true mystery man, Bain Wolfkind remains an unusual phenomenon even for the open-minded underground scene. Permanent sunglasses, a deep powerful voice and a carefully sustained image of a drunken rock’n’roll sleazebag drawing his inspiration straight out of the underworld. He won’t tell you much about himself, but the mystique only adds to the coarse charm.

Bain Wolfkind is the former drummer and backing vocalist of the iconic Austrian band Der Blutharsch. For the last few years, he has mostly performed as a self-named solo project in the USA, Europe, and his native Australia, including as support for Death in June at several Australian shows. In the summer of 2015, he suddenly made his first visit to Ukraine, giving two shows in Kyiv and Odessa accompanied by local bands.

Since no one is better qualified to talk about his own music than the artist himself,  Bain Wolfkind has sat down with us to answer a few questions for his Ukrainian fans.

Photo by Ang Roberts

Photo by Ang Roberts

BW: It’s hard to say what pushed me towards making music; maybe hanging out in my early years in the punk and undreground rock scenes had something to do with it. Crime Fiction like Raymond Chandler, Jim Thompson & James Elroy, Film Noir, Crime Cinema and film soundtracks definitely influenced and continue to influence my creative output, as do performers like Jim Morrison and Alan Vega.

I had been experimenting with music since the late 80’s under the name Korrective Services, initially making music with drum machines, metal percussion, field recordings from construction sites, tape loops and cut-ups drawn from various sources, modified guitars and rhythmic noise producing machines I made out of sheet metal and old electric motors.

I then got an old sampler and synths and moved into a more sequenced form of music, eventually forming the band Novo Homo in the mid 90s. Around this time I also did some recording with John Murphy under the project name Blood and Iron.

In 1999, Der Blutharsch toured Australia with Death In June. It was during that tour that John Murphy, the post-industrial legend (who unfortunately left us earlier in 2015 at the age of 56), introduced Bain Wolfkind and Albin Julius to each other. As fate would have it, Bain was set to relocate to Austria later that year, and Albin enlisted him as a live drummer for Der Blutharsch’s prospective shows. In 2000 Bain Wolfkind joined the lineup as a permanent member, and would remain one for the next 12 years.

His first solo work under the Bain Wolfkind name – a four-track EP titled Love Letters” – was recorded in Sydney and released on Julius’ own label Hau Ruck! in 2004. Later came two longplays, Music For Lovers & Gangsters & The Swamp Angel”, and several EP’s. His last one – You’re Surely Gonna Die” – was the first to be released on King Dude’s label Not Just Religious Music.

Bain Wolfkind’s music can be described best as the soundtrack for smoky bars and cellar clubs, perceived best when accompanied by a glass of whiskey and a long road story. It conveys, interestingly for a non-American musician, a deep dark side of Americana with an astonishing blend of genres: blues, alt-country, southern rock, folk noir, electronic and everything in-between. These songs are populated with all kinds of unsavory characters: criminals, pimps, hookers, drunkards and lynch mobs. First-person confessions, death row stories and simple accounts of extremely bad luck told with great sympathy.

The thematics of his songs translate seamlessly to his stage image. It’s certain that a portion of the Ukrainian public took Wolfkind’s stage manner too close to heart when he appeared on stage in his black uniform and sunglasses, swilling endless beers, swinging the microphone and running a comb through his hair in-between verses. An almost polar opposite to the disciplined demeanor we’re used to observing on the post-industrial/neofolk stage, where strict men in black with unsmiling faces perform highly serious songs about politics, philosophy, and their own weaknesses. Bain Wolfkind’s demons are much more cheerful and approachable, and it is rare for an artist to consider himself and his work with such a healthy dose of irony.

BW: The stage is an arena to live out your outlaw, cowboy, diva, fascist dictator and/or rock’n’roll hedonist fantasies (realities for some rare individuals), and the job of the performer is to be a vehicle for the spectator to project their fantasies onto. I like to either entertain or annoy the audience depending on the crowd, or do both, but there is also a little possession that happens up there.

Some of my lyrics are purely autobiographical, some are embellished versions of reality and others are pure fiction written to entertain and amuse myself – and hopefully the listener.

Those hedonist fantasies have been already explored in BW’s previous project Novo Homo. Two recordings – In Some Brutal Way He Was An Artist and Private Hell” – were released on Hau Ruck! in the early 2000’s, representing an overt satire packaged in a rough martial industrial guise.

BW: Novo Homo was a tongue in cheek take on martial, electro pop music which dealt with themes of hypermasculinity, sadomasochism and cryptofascism. We performed mainly at Sydney gay clubs but were unpopular with the serious electronic scene which didn’t appreciate the irony. There are a bunch of unreleased recordings which I may cannibalize for another project one day, but the band itself won’t be resurrected.

As for other side-projects, I have been recording some more old school industrial tracks under the title MENSCH, which will be released on Old Captain in early 2017. Recent interesting collaborations, off the top of my head are Bordelle Militare, SEXISDEATH, Annihilvs Power Electronix, Theologian & David E. Williams.

Bain Wolfkind is probably one of the better known Australian performers within this musical niche – though due to his secretive nature, many of his fans are still unaware of his origins. We tend to think of musical Australia as the homeland of the legendary industrial band SPK and the country where Douglas P. finally anchored, but surely there must be more to the current Australian scene?

BW: To be honest, I don’t really follow too much of what is happening in Australia in relation to acts/labels, styles apart from what my friends are doing. From that perspective I can recommend occasional Bain Wolfkind guitarist, Albert Wolski’s band, Exek; also Skull & Dagger, Vacuum, RepairsMilitary Position and Armour Group.

Ukraine 2015Bain Wolfkind’s Ukrainian appearance was his first visit to Europe in 3 years. It would certainly seem that he enjoyed his time in Ukraine, becoming somewhat of a fan of the country. We took an opportunity to ask his opinion on the current state of affairs. Officially, Australia has been supporting our country during the months of war, but it looks like its people mostly know the situation from the very unpleasant side associated with the crash of flight MH17 in the occupied part of the eastern Ukraine, which took the lives of many Australian citizens.

BW: I’m proud to be Australian but I wouldn’t say I am some great Australian patriot. Many escapees from the Soviet bloc and war refugees settled in Australia; my godfather, for example was a refugee from Warsaw, so from a young age I have been aware of the evils of communism and what was happening in Poland and other USSR-occupied countries behind the Iron Curtain.

The general population here would probably not have known much about Ukraine previously, but after the downing of MH17 everyone knows where Ukraine is and how it ties into the global landscape.  There is a definite desire to hold Russia accountable for the 38 Australian civilians murdered on that flight. The Australian government has been providing non-lethal aide to the Ukrainian army and making their support known in other ways. Of course, Ukraine is a beautiful country notwithstanding the recent political landscape. I really enjoyed my time there – swimming drunk and stoned in the Black Sea was a highlight.

Finally, we close out our interview with a blitz list of questions about some of Bain’s personal interests.

Favourite records: I have a fairly large collection of vinyl, CDs and cassettes but don’t get all purist about the different formats. I actually listen to most music when I’m driving. If I had to list 3 records I still own and love it would be The Stooges“Fun House”Scraping Foetus of the Wheel’s “Hole” and Chrome’s Third From The Sun”.

Favorite books: I can highly recommend Iceberg Slim’s “Pimp”, anything by Jim Thompson, Raymond Chandler and James Elroy, Herbert Asbury’s books about New York crime and street gangs “All Around the Town” and “Gangs of New York”, as well as David Simon’s books on Baltimore Crime and drug addiction, “Homicide” and “The Corner”.

Travel: I love to travel, mainly to South East Asia, to visit sacred temples and for further religious study into Buddhism and Hinduism.

Future plans: I’ve been making some friends in the New York stand-up comedy scene and would love try it myself in the future but presently I’m finishing a new album under the title Hand of Death”.

Bain Wolfkind has also announced a collaboration with Saint Petersburg band Death Come, which we eagerly await.

 Keep calm and feel those Death House Blues.