THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO PETER
by A.J. Wachtel
Understanding the wit
and wisdom of Peter Wolf is a long-term and very complicated project.
Brimming with energy, very charismatic and always the most interesting person in the room onstage
or off—any room, anywhere, anytime. For decades, Wolf has kept re-inventing
himself remaining relevant, and with the recent release of Midnight Souvenirs his legacy continues to reach out to new audiences;
it again proves his importance past and present to the international
music scene. Check out the gospel according to Peter:
Noise: You and filmmaker David Lynch [Eraserhead, The Elephant Man]
were roomates at the Museum School in Boston. Who was more surreal between
the two of you? Where did you two used to hang out back then?
Peter Wolf: David might say that it was me. I think I
would have to agree. Of course we spent a lot of time discussing
music and painting and we would hang out at dive bars—and do things
like in the middle of the night decide to have some drinks; since Boston
closed up early we would drive down to New York City for one drink and
drive right back… guess you can say we were night time crazies!
Souvenirs was named one of Rolling Stone’s
Best Albums of 2010. Has its success reached your expectations? What
about its being feted by the Boston Music Awards too? Do you appreciate
the local award any differently than the national award?
Peter: Artistically yes, but when I finish a project
there is always something that inspires a continuum like with love,
it’s hard to say goodbye. Well, I am a great believer that Boston
has some of the finest musical talent—in comparing to other cities
I think Boston has the finest. Unfortunately when many rock bands were
coming up like the Geils band, there weren’t any major labels or studios
in Boston to help create a real music scene. I appreciate awards except
if I were given one for the worst dressed.
Noise: You recently celebrated Kid Rock’s 40th
birthday. What is he like and what do you two talk about?
Peter: When Kid Rock, Rev Run, and I hit the road,
it’s like Vegas—it all stays behind closed doors!
Noise: Your latest CD, Midnight
Souvenirs, is your seventh
solo album and your first in eight years since Sleepless in 2002. Why did it take so long between projects?
Peter: I’m a slow thinker.
Noise: Your love for country music is evident throughout
this great CD especially in your duets with Merle Haggard [“It’s
Too Late For Me”] and Shelby Lynne [“Tragedy”]. Many moons ago
you told me that the country scene in Boston was never fully appreciated.
Twenty-five years later, what are your thoughts on why country and C&W
never had huge local followings?
Peter: Well, the country music I am speaking of
is what I call traditional or classic country music. Most of the current
country is really just pop. Classic country actually did have a big
following many years ago in Boston. I used to go see Merle Haggard,
Tammy Wynette, Loretta Lynn, George Jones, and Buck Owens and they would
all play Symphony Hall because they had such large followings and great
appreciation back then.
Noise: On Midnight
Souvenirs did you use any local
musicians, which is a normal practice for you?
Peter: Yes, I’ve used some of Boston’s finest
on the CD. [Editor note: credited are guitarist Duke Levine, vocalist
Kris Delmhorst, drummer Marty Richards, and engineers Paul Kolderie,
Dave Westner, and Chris Rival.]
Noise: You once said to me you can judge a city’s
music scene by looking at how strong their folk scene is because, for
one reason, it’s very inexpensive to just go out on the street without
a lot of expensive equipment and just get heard. Is this still a good
way to get a good idea?
Peter: I think so. I find myself prowling the streets
quite a lot.
Noise: After you played at Narrows Center for the
Arts in Fall River, you went across the street and jumped onstage with
Dave Tree’s Blow Your Face Out J. Geils tribute band for “Ain’t
Nothin’ But a Party.” How cool was that? Stories like that make
you a very special artist.
Peter: I enjoy going out clubbing and I enjoy seeing
new bands. It was such a surprise to be walking towards the parking
lot and hear “Aint Nothin’ But a House Party,” so I figured why
not jump in and take it to the bridge, and kick it high.”
Noise: What about D.K.’s Full House Geils tribute
band? They do a great job keeping the legacy alive. Have you checked
Noise: Rosy Rosenblatt tells an interesting story
he says you might remember. In the late ’80s, on a Monday night he
was sitting in the green room with George “Earring” Mayweather between
sets when you, Junior Wells, and Van Morrison came upstairs to visit.
And later, Junior jumped on stage and played but when Van climbed aboard
and played harp through an extra vocal mic, George went nuts and kept
trying to take the mic away from him causing something of a stir in
the club. What do you remember about this incident?
Peter: The story is all mixed up. It was Junior
Wells, Van Morrison, and myself cruisin’ for a night out on the town.
We were having a real Saturday night fish fry.
Noise: Any chance we might ever expect a surprise
show from you at a local club under an assumed name or you just don’t
do stuff like that anymore?
Peter: I still do it all the time under the name
Noise: So the J. Geils Band didn’t get elected
into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame again. This certainly doesn’t
help their credibility much. Is it a big deal to you?
Peter: It’s nice to be honored but we were nominated
three times and I assume one day we might make it but until then, you
just do what you got to do.
Noise: You sang a few songs at the memorial concert
for Billy Ruane with Pat McGrath, Duke Levine, Stephen Fredette, Ed
Reimer, and Norman Hartley. Care to tell the Noise readers an untold story about Billy Ruane
that you still enjoy remembering?
Peter: Like in New York, “there are a million
stories in a naked city” and there are a million memorable stories
Noise: I saw you at the wake for Charlie Mackenzie
who discovered and managed Boston and I found out he used to live with
Tim Collins who once managed Aerosmith. Does this fact tend to make
you believe in pre-destination a little more and do you have a good
story about that apartment you’d care to share?
Peter: Too foggy to remember.
Noise: What’s the next mountain you intend to
climb? What’s in the future for Peter Wolf?
Peter: Gettin’ my green teeth shined.
Noise: Do you ever see you and Seth writing songs
together again in the future?
Never can tell.