GODS OF MOUNT OLYMPUS - Brian Wahlstrom INTERVIEW
Brian Wahlstrom Steve Morris Matt Riddle Paul Rucker
By now you're probably wondering just how the hell did a group of seasoned punk rock veterans known as the GODS OF MOUNT OLYMPUS get together and start. With members stemming from Street Dogs to Unwritten Law and rooting all the way to Lagwagon and broadway operas, the dynamics of this band have nothing short of unique in sound.
Piano/vocalist Brian Wahlstrom (Scorpios) started the idea for creating this piano eccentric band back when he toured with Joey Cape (Lagwagon) and his Bad Loud project while messing around with some Billy Joel covers during sound check. Combining fast punk beats and piano riffs was Brian's vision so recruiting a drummer was the next step. Enters Paul Rucker (Street Dogs) who were able to recruit Steve Morris (Unwritten Law) to play guitar and Matt Riddle (No Use For A Name) to play bass.
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GODS OF MOUNT OLYMPUS debut self-titled EP via Bird Attack Records is one of the most epic sounding punk rock albums I've ever heard. I don't know if it's Wahlstrom's extensive theatre background and his chops on broadway opera shining through in the writing or that the blend of the west coast punk rock just fucking works. Self-described as "Billy Joel on speed" about sums up GODS OF MOUNT OLYMPUS with driving punk rock beats, deep lyrics and that piano as the staple of every tune.
I recently had a chance to talk with Brian about how the band got its name, their first show, and the future of GODS OF MOUNT OLYMPUS.
TPPD: Rather than fuck this up, I’ll just let you explain how the band came about. From my understanding though, it was you, Paul and Joey and then Steve and Matt joined up later on?
BRIAN: Ha, kind of. Joey was never in the band, although he and I worked on some of the material together. I met Paul through Joey, as hired guns on Joey Cape's Bad Loud tour. We both had an affinity for Billy Joel and piano rock, so we started working on demos. After a few iterations, I asked Steve to jam with us; he lived across the street from me, and we’d known each other from touring together way back when. Finally we recorded the EP, and not long after that Matt Riddle thankfully joined the band.
TPPD: Your guys first show how was that?
BRIAN: We played as a 3 piece many times, and even with a cellist for the first few gigs. But it’s always fun. We have a good time.
TPPD: You guys are from all up and down the Cali Coast. Any venue that you claim stake as your “hometown spot” to do show? Any over the years shut down that you miss?
BRIAN: Not really, however we’ve played the Soda Bar in San Diego an absurd amount of times. Casbah remains my favorite place to see shows in SD.
TPPD: How was the EP written? Was that all you? Or a bit of a re-writing process once you all got together?
BRIAN: Yeah, our process is a bit different now (we’re working on a full length). But this EP was mostly material from my One Week Record, and a few songs Paul and I had been working on for a long time. Now it’s pretty democratic; I’ll write a thing on piano and then get out of everyone’s way so they can make it way better.
TPPD: Did the years of the broadway and opera world come out in the writing? I’m not saying you’re busting out Don Giovanni (maybe the Rancid tune).
BRIAN: I think it does, but I can’t necessarily point to anything specific. Funny you mention Giovanni, it has always been one of my favorite shows; have been lucky to play the role a few times. He sure was a bastard, eh?
TPPD: Leporello’s part always sounded pretty punk rock to me haha.
Notte e giorno faticar,
Per chi nulla sa gradir,
Piova e vento sopportar,
Mangiar male e mal dormir.
Voglio far il gentiluomo
E non voglio più servir.
BRIAN: He’s the best.
TPPD: You guys have a crazy, epic sound that’s self described as “Billy Joel on meth", which is pretty accurate. Other than Mr. Long Island, is there any other bands/artists that attribute to writing? (My buddy said you guys sound like if Dream Theatre tried to write Bad Religion tunes.)
BRIAN: Oh man, that’s great. I fucking wish Dream Theater would do that. But, yeah, the Billy Joel on meth thing only came about because it was difficult explaining the sound to non-punk fans, it became the canned response to people at the piano bar gigs. I just texted Paul what his favorites are… he replied: “Iron Maiden, Descendents and Billy Joel.” That pretty much sums it up.
TPPD: I read that the band name came from a theme park while on tour. True?
TPPD: In GOMO the piano sticks out like an angelic sore thumb. What bands other than Billy Joel did you look at and go “Ya, that’s kind of what I’m going for.”
When I started my band, I wanted synth to be a staple so bands like Reggie and the Full Effect and Motion City Soundtrack stuck out for me.
BRIAN: We were kind of on a mission to do something that we hadn’t heard before. Not saying there aren’t bands that do the same thing, but weren’t aware of any at the time. Paul and I both came from punk bands, and when we realized it was possible to fuse the faster tempos with piano, we just had fun with it.
TPPD: GODS OF MOUNT OLYMPUS comes from so many different huge punk rock bands. Will there be any guest spots on the full length.
BRIAN: I hope so. I guess it always depends on who is around when we’re tracking.
TPPD: I’ve heard plans of tour for the EP. Full U.S.? Any ETA on when that might be?
BRIAN: We have a show in Vegas on May 27th with Authority Zero, and then San Diego June 1st at Pour House. We’re working on a west coast tour in late June/July, and east coast in Fall. But, if you know any bands that need openers, we are a cheap date and don’t steal shit.
TPPD: I’m a dad, (a 5 year old), and you guys have families. Do you encourage your kids to play music? Do they come to shows? Are they fans of any of the band’(s) you guys have been in?
BRIAN: I personally don’t have kids but Steve and Matt do. They haven't come to any shows, but maybe they will if we play somewhere in San Diego besides the Soda Bar. Did I mention we play at Soda bar a lot? I texted Matt to answer this question and he said: “No, stay in school and listen to your parents.”
TPPD: And lastly, any guilty pleasure artists/movies/etc. that you’re big on when no one’s around? I crush hard on Demi Lovato and My Little Pony (seriously, the storyline sometimes.)
BRIAN: I love dumb popcorn flicks. Joey Cape and I have a recurring argument that “Speed” is a movie worth watching. Same with “Top Gun”. So many lines. Can’t beat it. Also, my wife has threatened me with divorce over the fact that I watch “Ballers” every week, the minute it is available.
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