Whether releasing albums under the Wolfmother name or his own, it’s clear that everything Andrew Stockdale writes, records, and plays is the result of his own vision. Photo by Debi Del Grande
What guitars of Brendan’s did you use?
He had a cool SG with a whammy, more like a Bigsby. I thought it was damn good, so I used it. And I played a Rickenbacker, too. Those were the only guitars I used on the record. He’s got a lot of vintage gear, stuff from the ’50s and ’60s. Lots of analog gear.
What kind of amps did you use?
I’m pretty sure I used a Marshall 50 watt.
You’ve been known to play a Gibson EDS-1275 doubleneck onstage. Have you ever found a reason to record with that guitar?
[Laughs.] No, no. I don’t know what you’d use that for in the studio, unless you wanted to switch right away to the 12-string, which could be handy. Gibson gave me that guitar. I didn’t even know they were going to give it to me. I just turned up to a gig, I think it was in Nottingham in the U.K., and there were 16 guitars at soundcheck. That was one of them. But you know, maybe I should write something for that, to use it in the studio. That’s it—I’m going to do it before the end of the week.
In the press release for Victorious you said you played a “weird-looking ’90s metal guitar.” What was that?
Ah, that was on my demo. That’s an Ibanez. I forgot what it was called. But I didn’t use that on the record. I just used Brendan’s stuff. He had a Big Muff distortion—I used that.
When you write, do you practice riffs and sing at the same time to make sure you can do both easily? Knowing that you’ll have to do both onstage…
No, I just play the guitar. I walk in and just press “record” and start playing. Then I listen back to it, lay down some drums, then do bass, and then I sing over it after that. Sometimes I might be at home playing something and I start singing at the same time. Sure, I try it both ways. There’s no set way of doing things.
What do you do to get live-energy performances in the studio?
I like to have everything set up as soon as I walk in, and then I just pick up the guitar and start playing straight away. Sitting around waiting can kill your mood. I find the first thing I do is usually the most exciting. You want to be excited to be in there, and then you just go for it and something happens. Something magical happens.
Your solos are nice little bursts of melody. Who are your influences as a soloist?
Jimmy Page, Keith Richards, George Harrison. I like Robby Krieger from the Doors. I like guitarists who don't necessarily just shred. I’m into people who try to bring some kind of melodic structure to the solo, so it’s almost like a hook.
Do you ever feel like you want to go “outside” it a little bit? Take the solo somewhere else harmonically or structurally from the song?
Yeah. I think there’s one song I do that on: “Remove Your Mask” [from the Zoolander 2 soundtrack]. On the outro, that’s definitely a different chord progression where I was really trying to emulate, in some ways, the guy from Mountain, Leslie West. I really like his stuff—how he does a little move and then he leaves it and comes back later. I really like that style.
Do you play around with different pedals and go into the unknown just to see what will happen?
The last gig I did I just took a Vox AC30 with me. I didn’t even take a pedal, and I really enjoyed it. I love playing all the Wolfmother songs without any pedals. I turn the amp up to 10 so I have this natural distortion, and then I play with the volume knobs on the guitar turned up, and then I just switch between the two pickups. It’s simple. When you do that, your playing really improves. You can rely on the pedals to the point where you get boxed in a corner. Take yourself out of that and it makes things exciting.
On the album, how many guitars would you usually layer for rhythm tracks?
Probably two. That’s as far as we went. We didn’t get too crazy.
Halfway through the title track, it switches to a riff and a rhythm that’s not unlike Black Sabbath's “Paranoid.” Intentional? Really? You think? No, it’s different. That’s way different timing from “Paranoid.” [Picks up a guitar and starts playing the riff.] It’s a bit more upbeat. [Plays the main “Paranoid” riff.] Okay, okay, maybe once the verse starts on “Paranoid,” I can see that. But how many songs could you say have similar chords like that? It’s consistent with an E blues song.
I listened to the demo of “The Love That You Give,” which is on YouTube. It’s very similar to the studio version.
Yeah, that’s right.
The riff is very simple but dramatic. How many iterations do you go through before ending up with the perfect riff like that?
That one was straight off the bat, as soon as I walked into the studio. I think it was, like, New Year’s Day or the day after Christmas. I went into the studio, and there it was. That was interesting. That’s one of those days where you just get lucky.
Do you have a methodology for coming up with riffs? My main thing is just to dig deep from my gut. Play it from my soul. Get out of my head and play it like I mean it.
“Pretty Peggy” is an acoustic-based song. What guitar did you use on that one? Oh, that was a 1960s Gibson. I can’t remember what it’s called, but it looks like a Martin.
Do you have a different approach to playing acoustic than you do electric?
I guess acoustic is more rhythmically driven—for me, anyway. When you play acoustic, the rhythm is more pronounced. Also when you’re on an acoustic, fingerpicking goes a long way in making it a little more interesting for the listener.
Riffs galore power Andrew Stockdale’s performance of “Joker & the Thief” with Wolfmother on Chicago’s live-in-the-studio JBTV. Just past the 3-minute mark, he stomps on an overdrive box and plays a stagger-stepped solo that also draws upon his faded brown Gibson SG’s whammy bar and some ’60s psychedelic-era tone.
Do you ever fingerpick on an electric?
Sometimes. On “Vagabond” [from 2005’s Wolfmother] there’s some fingerpicking. Whatever the song needs.
You get a great fuzz tone all over the record, but it’s particularly massive on “Gypsy Caravan.” What’s the secret for that sound?
It’s all in the way I play it. A lot of my riffs are power chords. For that one, I thought I would just do it in a single-string style. Then I guess maybe the last note kind of captures the tail end of the beat. It’s like goosing it a little bit. When you do stuff like that, it seems to give it more of a groove. I think people love a good groove.
That’s my thinking to a lot of this stuff. Get in there and make it matter, make it groove. I see people try to riff, and it’s far too exact. It’s like a big ritual. That doesn’t really make people feel anything unless you’re very good at that and you’re a very technical metal guy.