Jordan Cook, Reignwolf founder, arrived in Seattle from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan in 2011. Seattle embraced him, and neither one is looking back. Cook, with his mystical guitar ability, plus band mates drummer, Joseph Braley and bassist, David Rapaport (AKA Stitch), make up the blues-inspired Reignwolf, whose shows are like musical saunas. They’re riveting, astounding rock ‘n roll. And, for now, they’re also our only way to hear many of Reignwolf’s songs, although exceptional “In the Dark” was released earlier this month. When I talked to Cook on the phone, he struck me as a genuinely grateful musician. He seems to prefer the temporariness of live music over recording, connecting musically with every single audience member at a show. He’s got an attractive enthusiasm, and next year looks great for Reignwolf, with opening dates for Black Sabbath set.
Reignwolf returns to Seattle’s Neptune Theatre on Saturday, December 28th.
Reignwolf @ the Neptune, November 2012 – photo by Dagmar
I came across a great photo of you and a kangaroo in Australia, just hanging out.
Jordan Cook: That was a surprise for me too. That was a mission that had to happen, and it did. Although I’ve heard they’re pretty tough – after the fact.
Was it well behaved?
JC: Yeah, thank god. I heard don’t go by water with them, because they’ll just drown you. They’re very aggressive like that. I’m glad I didn’t hear that before. The Australia thing was pretty special. I’d always heard about people going there to travel, and take it in, and relax and party and all that. There’s actually quite a good vibe there for playing music too. I was very taken aback by it. I look forward to going back there. It seems like we got a fan base started there. That’s exciting.
Cook with Kangaroo – photo from Reignwolf’s Facebook
You first came to Seattle in 2011?
JC: I think it was late in 2011. I think that was at the start of when Soundgarden got back together. I was actually just going there as a trip to visit Ben (Shepherd – Soundgarden bassist) and see their small club show. I showed up to surprise him and then I ended up staying. It wasn’t like a plan, “I’m going to move here.”
Do you still consider it your home base?
JC: I haven’t been there for a minute but I still have my room there. I’m actually beyond excited to be coming back during the holidays. This couldn’t have worked out better because I’ll be able to spend a little bit more time, where it’s been so go-go. Seattle is definitely home. It’s the best thing that helped to grow this Reignwolf thing.
What are some of your impressions of the Neptune?
JC: I think it’s amazing. When I walked in there for the first time I was like, yep, we have to play here. It has the right feeling. I feel like the last show we played there was really special, and Adam Zacks has been really good to me. He’s a local hero. He asked us to play, and it’s time. It’s been a while since we’ve been back, and we have some new stuff to bring.
Have you ever seen people fainting at your shows? The shows are really intense.
JC: You know, I think that happened at one of the festivals, but we don’t know if it was from the show, or what it was from. I’ll tell you what though, my favorite is Austin, Texas, when we played Austin City Limits. Joseph’s dad was in front of the speakers. When he left, his eyes were so bloodshot. His whole eye was just blood, and the doctor couldn’t explain it. I don’t even think because it was loud. I thought that was a pretty surreal event. But I don’t pay attention to those things. I look out at the audience, but I swear thinking turns off when you’re playing music.
Were the other kids jealous of you in school?
JC: I always have played music and I wasn’t really interested in a lot more. I think it was always strange when everybody would be going to play sports, and of course I would try and do that. I just didn’t connect to it. When I’m playing in bars as a kid, [the other] kids don’t know how to react. My teachers would come to my shows and we couldn’t talk about what we did last night. It was a weird understanding. To say they were jealous of me, I don’t know if I can say that, but I stuck out as an oddball, and I think I still do. It’s one of those things – it [music] controls my life. It makes it also very hard, and very good at the same time.
Will you ever release a recording of your cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain?”
JC: I thought about that. It was really funny, there was a Fleetwood Mac tribute album, and that song wasn’t on there. The guy actually reached out to me as the album was coming out. He had just heard “The Chain” and [said] “I’m just so sad we didn’t meet you before.” There’s some killers on it, but nobody played that song, which in a way I really like because it’s still special. I have played in recording situations but at this point I don’t think I’ll release it. I don’t want to say never, because it’s one of those special things I like to play time and time again. I’ve put it away for a little while. It just came out again during the Australian tour. Somebody yelled it out and I was like, it does make sense here because nobody’s seen the show before and it is just one of those special pieces that I love to play. My dad bought me the mandolin I play on that song. That was the first song that I played, and I didn’t really realize what I was playing.
Are your earliest memories are of music (Cook began playing guitar just as a toddler)?
JC: My dad always played music. Blues was a very big influence because it was the first music I ever heard. It was what my family listened to, so I gravitated towards it. From there you start opening doors to other types of music. Most of my favorite bands start out with the blues, then find themselves after that. Everybody played an instrument in my family. My sister played bass guitar, my mom played organ around the house – she would never go out and play for people, and that was the same with my dad. There were drums around the house; there was everything around the house. But again, nobody played it out live, and I think that’s why I had, at such a young age, a craving to play on stage. My dad would take me to these bars. There was a matinee jam session in Saskatoon, where I grew up, and I was able to get in, and get on stage and jam with people. It made for really interesting times. The bar would get crazier because they knew this kid would play. Bands coming through would call me up, and go, “Are you gonna play with us?” And it always made me want to be better. When people are behind you, that’s what you do, you step up.
I read that a 13th-century Romanian novel is behind “In the Dark.”
JC: I wrote that with a friend, Pete Bjornson, and it was in a small town in Saskatoon. We’d just been kicking songs around, and it was just freezing cold. We’re talking about all sorts of ridiculous things, and that song appeared. It’s one of the special ones when we play it live. Every version is different. That song has been around for a while, and it’s probably had thirty recordings along the way – it’s always been around. Finally when were in New Orleans, I said to the band, “it would be fun if we could recorded “In the Dark.” We’d heard Ani DiFranco’s husband was a really great engineer. I kind of cold called him. They’d just a had a kid, and he was taking some time off. I think he checked out the KEXP Session and called me right back. We had Halloween night off in New Orleans, and next thing we know we’re setting up gear in his living room – it wasn’t actually a studio. His kid was crawling around and we’re jamming. We pressed record and that’s what happened. We basically did it in a day. I decided that was a natural way to release that song. The feedback has been really good. I’m excited about it. For some reason it’s only amped “Are You Satisfied?,” which was the one I really got behind first. It starts with just me, and the band kicks into the later half, and it’s just naturally how this band has started. I was around Seattle with my kick drum, and that’s all I had for quite some time. And then Joseph and Stitch appeared at gigs, and the next thing you know they were playing in the band.
You’ve turned up at several locations and just started playing. Which have gone the best and the worst?
The Thrash and Bash?
JC: Those always go over [well] because it’s such a shock. It is even for me, because I’m usually playing to people who don’t care about live music. When I stood in front of Wrigley Field was the weirdest. I was trying to get the generator going to get my amps fired up. The staff was pointing at me. People were walking around there were in shock, like what the heck is going on? Even the cops came. They basically chased us out of there. Those sideshows, to me, are just as important as a gig is. They keep everything in check. When you play in front of people who aren’t ready for it, and it’s a bit of a shock, it’s a true test to you as a musician. You almost do things you would never do. It makes me better when I do those things. Another standout was on this trip to Australia, at that record store, which was Bon Scott’s son’s shop. I’ve actually known the guys from AC/DC for some time. I never met Bon Scott, but when I walked in, I recognized this guy. I didn’t know it was his son’s store. He looked exactly his dad. I start setting up my gear, and then he tells me. It kind of made it more exciting, and then there was a bar in the back of the store. When does that happen? It was like the place to hang. Australia was such a relaxed place. It kind of blew my mind.
What does a Reignwolf New Year’s look like?
JC: If I have my way, I think I would like to celebrate in Seattle. For me, it’s kind of about this show on the 28th.
What it is about a wolf that appeals to you?
JC: It’s the way I feel. It’s an intensity. When I play, that’s the feeling I get.
~interview by Dagmar