Alpha Wolf: “We’ve always wanted to do this, and now we’re finally at the stage where we can”

Alpha Wolf. Credit: Press/Supplied
(Image credit: Press/Supplied)

No bands spur tours more off-the-rails than those in Australian metalcore. The 2000s were defined by sprawling, months-long road tours with back-to-back shows in 20-plus towns, a good deal of which would read like gibberish to the everyday city slicker. In the 2010s, there evolved somewhat of an unspoken contest between the bands, to see who could reel in the most insane supports. This led to a trend where, thanks to self-funded runs and the power of the internet, up-and-coming acts could make a name for themselves by headlining over (much more popular) international bands, using those names on the poster as the tour’s primary selling points.

Thanks in no short part to the COVID-19 pandemic, those batshit mental tours came to a fiery death at the turn of the new decade. Border restrictions made it impossible to fly in those big-ticket foreigners. Varying state guidelines made it impossible to organise those serpentine itineraries. And of course, the general decimation of the live music industry made it impossible to fund – let alone embark on – tours in general. But with the world slowly easing back into normalcy, one band – Tasmania-native, Melbourne-based moshlords Alpha Wolf – have set their sights on an ambitious return to the glory days of unapologetically wild metalcore tours.

Next month, they’re heading out on a nine-date stint dubbed The Metalcore Snitches Tour, hitting stages in Perth, Melbourne, Adelaide, Hobart, Canberra, Sydney, Newcastle, Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast. In tow, they’ll have US heavyweights Fit For A King and Great American Ghost, as well as the Japanese trailblazers in Paledusk. And while fans can expect an onslaught of scorchers from the band’s 2020 album, A Quiet Place To Die, they can also expect Alpha Wolf to bust out some brutal new tunes, previewing a new record for release later this year.

Ahead of the tour’s sure-to-be explosive start, Australian Guitar sat down with lead axeman Scott Simpson to get the lowdown on how Alpha Wolf are making 2022 their bitch.

How does it feel to be headlining the biggest metalcore tour that Australia’s seen this decade?
This is the tour we’ve wanted to do since 2020. We’ve had, like, four or five iterations of this it ready to be announced, but obviously because of COVID, we had to keep pushing it back and back. And then a few months ago, we were just like, “F*** it, we’re just going to announce it – who knows if it’s gonna happen, but these are the dates, we’re announcing them.” Fingers crossed [laughs]. We just really wanted to do a tour like the ones we grew up going to – the Parkway Drives, the f***ing Amity Afflictions, they always brought out those big international packages. We’ve always wanted to do that, and now we’re finally the stage where we can do that. Hopefully this is just the first of many big tours to come.

I feel like a tour of this caliber would’ve taken so much effort to pull off.
Yeah, shoutout to Ash [Hull] at Destroy All Lines – he’s our booking agent, and the poor feller has gone through so many reiterations of this and put together so many new dates. It was a mammoth effort to get something like this in motion, and it’s all thanks to him, really. We just put forward the bands we want to play with, and then he figures out all the hard stuff [laughs].

We know you’ll be playing new music on the run. What can we look forward to? Is it a one-off track, or is there a new album on the way?
It’s not album three, but it’s not a standalone track either. I don’t want to give too much away, because it’s really cool – it’s something we’ve been working on for a little bit now. I’ll leave it at that.

So going from A Quiet Place To Die into this elusive new chapter of Alpha Wolf, how did you want to really kick things up to the next level?
It’s kind of difficult to put into words how it happened, moreso just because A Quiet Place To Die was based on our experiences touring, playing the earlier songs live and experiencing the world on the back of [2017’s Mono], realising what worked and what didn’t work, and then putting what worked on steroids. But we couldn’t do that again after we put A Quiet Place To Die out, because we released that album from our bedrooms in lockdown. We didn’t get to play those songs live for nearly 12 months after they came out, and at that stage we’d already started writing the new stuff.

I’d say it’s like the best parts of [A Quiet Place To Die], but better. We’re trying to step into some new territory, while still keeping what it is we do best. We never want to release the same album twice, that’s for sure. We’re always going to be a heavy band, so it’s definitely going to be heavy.

Are you still running with your two ESP LTDs?
Yes! They’re modded with Fishman pickups and EverTune bridges, and the baritone scale length as well. That triple combo – the baritone scale, Fishmans and EverTunes – we can’t play without it. That’s kind of like the Alpha Wolf sound.

You’ve said in the past that the EverTune bridges are as important as the guitars themselves. Why is that?
I still back that claim. We play in very low tunings, like drop G, drop F – we have a song that goes down to double drop B sharp – so with the EverTune bridge, the way it handles keeping in tune is a total game-changer for us. We go out onstage and we don’t have to check our tuning once in the entire set. They just hold, because that’s what they’re made to do. We also sweat a crazy amount when we play, and that always makes the guitar go out of tune so quickly, especially when it’s tuned that low. Yeah, I’d say the EverTune is even more important than the guitars I play. I wouldn’t play without one anymore, to be honest. 

As far as the rig goes, you play with a mix of the Kemper effects and analogue pedals, don’t you?
Yeah, so aside from the whammy, all of the pedals are just there for a bit of fun, really. We just we like to make a little bit of noise here and there – I usually swap out most of those pedals every tour, just so I can play around with different ones that make a lot of noise and do really stupid shit. The Kemper is there for all of our main tones, who we have to thank Lance Prenc [of Prenc Audio], our sound engineer, for. We use the album tones – it’s literally just a copy of the tones we play on the albums.

So as far as those pedals go, what are your favourites at the moment?
The one I’ve kept docked for a hot minute is... I can’t actually remember the brand name. It’s this dirt-cheap, $30 delay pedal that I’ve maxxed out every setting on, so I can just turn the delay knob and have it make these really stupid noises. There’s usually a chorus and a flanger [on the pedalboard] too, with all the settings at full blast on those as well. I also have a Behringer multi-effect units, which is horrible – it sounds disgusting – but when you turn everything on together, it sounds great. 

Anything that makes a cool noise is sick. I actually broke my DigiTech Whammy on the last tour we did – it just stopped working all of a sudden, so I took it off my ‘board, and now we have a EHX Pitch Fork+. That thing is really, really cool – we use it in the same way we used the Whammy, but it just sounds way dirtier and way grosser, which is exactly what we wanted. So we’ve got a few songs in the works that rely on that pedal heavily in different ways. I think that’s going to be the one pedal that stays on the ‘board, and then everything else we’ll just swap out all the time.

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Ellie Robinson
Editor-at-Large, Australian Guitar Magazine

Ellie Robinson is an Australian writer, editor and dog enthusiast with a keen ear for pop-rock and a keen tongue for actual Pop Rocks. Her bylines include music rag staples like NME, BLUNT, Mixdown and, of course, Australian Guitar (where she also serves as Editor-at-Large), but also less expected fare like TV Soap and Snowboarding Australia. Her go-to guitar is a Fender Player Tele, which, controversially, she only picked up after she'd joined the team at Australian Guitar. Before then, Ellie was a keyboardist – thankfully, the AG crew helped her see the light…

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