Music has literally taken Jordan Cook a long way from his home in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada. Literally a one-man band, he traveled to Seattle where everything fell into place, adopting the moniker Reignwolf eventually putting together a band. After playing around a little Reignwolf found them on tour with Black Sabbath and since have drawn large crowds wherever they go. After all this time together Reignwolf released their first album, Hear Me Out to rave reviews. Cook recently took a break from yet another tour to talk about making the band, Ozzy and more.
Hear Me Out came out in the beginning of March. Is it really Reignwolf’s first album?
Reignwolf has been around for a while. What took so long to release a first album?
I’ll tell you what: we tour crazy hard. For three and a half years we were basically touring like left/right and weren’t stopping. I remember we got a call to go out with The Pixies. That led to doing a pretty massive tour with Black Sabbath. Originally it was only 11 or 12 dates and after we did the Hollywood Bowl, they ended up taking us to Europe. All these things were happening. We were kind of recording in the background, but there was something so upside down and backwards about making a record while playing all these massive shows. I know on the business end it might not make sense, but for us, but it was so exciting. Look, we’re a brand new band and we’ll take a record when it feels right. And it turned out, we toured at the end of last year and crowds were showing up, singing along with the music, and I was like we could probably up this if we release this thing. So far it’s been incredible. It’s only been out for a few weeks and I’ve noticed everywhere we’re playing it’s a little bit more wild. Again, people singing back the lyrics. These were songs we weren’t even on the edge about, because they’re so new to us. We decided we weren’t going to record this time around like the things we played. We just wanted to do something fresh and new and give the fans something new. And we did it. It feels really good because it’s fresh and kind of keeps us really excited, I’d say – upside down and backwards again to release a record at this point – and something about doing it your own way. It just feels good.
Was this album a band effort or you as a solo artist?
You know, I would absolutely say it was a band effort. I did a lot of traveling to let – to work with a few fiends; like other musicians and stuff like that. There’s a couple English guys I like working with – they’re both producers. Every time we get in a room it seems like something really special always happens. We get like “Over & Over” and “Wanna Don’t Wanna”. Those tunes started out in my friend’s garage. It’s just ridiculous. And the rest of it was me kind of coming up with a bunch of songs and taking them to the band and they just made it better.
Had these songs been “road tested” yet or were a lot of them pretty new?
You know, I was going to say that’s the cool thing. I think we only played two of them live and every other one was brand new. That was kind of the exciting part. A few of these were like, “How are we going to do these live?” That’s what making a record actually is – figuring it out and it’s super cool to have that. It’s still standing on the edge after a few years of playing. It feels cool.
What was it like being in the studio? Being a solo artist and then full band have been on the road for so long, was it hard to be within the restrictions of being in a studio?
I would say at first there was no doubt that we were going through kind of a live thing and when you realized the studio is a completely different animal. If you embrace those and try things you never would before it becomes this other thing. I would say I really, really enjoyed it and started embracing the difference. You don’t do the same things live and it almost created a different energy within our band. I actually really enjoy the studio. There is no doubt we were a live band having that moment to try things and just experiment was really great. It brought us as a band really closer. Stacey-James Kardash, the bass player in the band; he recorded our original when we were going out on a few singles. He recorded all of those in his basement. So the fact that now he’s in the band and that all kind of happened – him recording out tunes. It was really cool.
You co-produced the album. It seems like you had a lot of big names mixing that. Their roster of whom they worked with is a virtual who’s who in modern music. How did you handle having so many people mixing the album?
(laughs) I would say we had like a week and a half to two weeks. I’ll tell you what we did. We basically started setting dates. Basically we were at that point where this music won’t come out if all we do is talk about it. Let’s just set up some dates with a deadline at the end of it. As an artist that freaks you the hell out. And the phone calls I made: I met Mike D of the Beastie Boys who I met through a mutual friend and I was like, “You don’t have to tell me who mixed “Sabotage”; I want to work with that person. And that’s like many years ago. It ended up being Mario C and the Beastie Boys talk about him in their songs and stuff like that. It’s so cool. I kind of cold called him. I got his phone number and I called and said, “Look, I got your number” blah, blah blah, and he ended up mixing some of “Over & Over” and then Chad Blake who is obviously incredible he’s worked with everybody. It’s just ridiculous. It turned out Chad Blake already knew our band and followed us on social media and stuff. And I was like, unbelievable, you know? He was up for trying to mix it and instantly was amazing. And then there was also Vance Powell. He actually had a Chris Stapleton that Chris had won some Grammys and so he couldn’t make it back in time. We talked about working together in the past and he basically said, “I have three days if you want to use them”. We ended up using them, you know? (laughs) It’s just kind of cool when it kind of falls into place. And think that’s the think about this whole record – it just kind of came together. It was actually going to be together. You can always set these dates and blah, blah, blah, but all these mixings came together so quick when the recording end took us quite a bit longer. And in the end I think it has a certain energy to it because of the way it planned it self. (both laugh)
You’ve traveled quite a ways being from Saskatchewan. You were a more traditional rock band when you began from what I’ve read. How did you develop the sound that everyone knows as Reignwolf?
I moved to Seattle in the start of 2012. I had friends in Soundgarden. They were just starting to play shows again and he introduced us to Joseph Braley, who’s our drummer. And at their show that I went to in Seattle he said, “Here’s your new drummer. (laughs) And I was like, “Okay”. He was kind of kidding and he was kind of serious. I ended getting a show while being there. About a week later I called and said do you want to come play, and he’s like, “Yeah, sure. Let’s do I”. He’s been in the band ever since. And ever since that it was like a natural progression within a couple of weeks of being in Seattle. The community there is so great. All the bands that I met while being there I have to say were behind – it was like a team almost. Everybody was behind each other, where a lot of cities that you go there’s the ego thing of like, “We’re going to be bigger than you” or some kind of vibe like that. And I really felt like Seattle had this thing where there was a community where everybody was helping everybody and it helped us a lot because within a few weeks we were selling out shows. And the next thing, Pearl Jam introduced us to their booking agent and to this day he’s still our booking agent. It’s just one of those things where it just kind of played out. Again, I wasn’t even planning on moving to Seattle, I was just planning on going and visiting the dudes from Soundgarden because they were a huge influence. It’s just one of those things where things just happen at the right time.
Was it easy to put together? Reignwolf had been a solo project originally. You were a one-man band originally.
There was a time where I really didn’t have a band and even when I asked Joseph to play with me, the first show I only had him up there for two songs because we didn’t have a time to rehearse. So it was basically, “Let’s get up there and jam”. (laughs) And it worked out pretty awesome. But yeah, I kind of used to I’d go play wherever when I first came to Seattle and I took a kit drum and guitar and basically played the most random gigs. Then people started showing up.
Your music has a very original indie sound to it. What was it like going on tour with Black Sabbath and Ozzy who had been there, done that had many stories written about tour or not about him and the band? And then you’re going from club gigs basically to playing these huge arenas. What that culture shock? What did you learn being on the tour?
You know what’s amazing? This again is like one of those weird things that happened. The day we got those shows I never wore a Black Sabbath shirt in my life and I happened to be wearing a Black Sabbath shirt when I got the phone call. I was actually recording at Ani DiFranco’s house in New Orleans and I thought somebody was screwing with me when I got the call. I thought they saw me on social media something like that and it was. “No, Black Sabbath actually wants you to tour with them”. I’m like, “What?” you know? We ended up getting the tour and it wasn’t until after that I really, really realized what we’ve done. It was like we were living in it just playing and we were going between club shows and then play to 20-30,000 people a night. You know, in the moment I didn’t even realize what we were doing – it just happened. I think the biggest thing about that was to see those guys do it still to this day and Ozzy was honest, like off the ground, getting the crowd going – the whole bit. The guy’s in his 70s and unreal. I’ve got to say, he also came in our room the first day of the tour and was like, “Guys, if you need anything on the tour just come find me. Don’t deal with anyone else”. It was so cool. The kind of really took us in and just recently I ran into him and Sharon in Los Angeles and it was so great because that was like one of the best times in my life.
With the new album out now, Hear Me Out how have you seen your writing evolve from early singles the single “Are You Satisfied?” to “Black and Red”?
“Are You Satisfied?” was kind of us just busting loose. I had the song before we went in and never really played it as a band before. I think we played it once or twice maybe. We kind of went in and jammed it and that’s the way it was. “Black and Red” I’m going to guess there were probably I’m going to guess four versions of it – and they were all very, very different stylistically when we recorded them. And it just seemed like that one kind of fell into place after we listened to it after we heard it walking away from it and then came back to it there was a certain energy. I would say that right now I kind of write songs – it’s hard to say how it seems. It’s definitely getting better. I kind of find even when I take stuff to the band now we don’t talk about it; we kind of play through it until it is something. To me it’s just exciting. All of the guys I play with are so creative too so there’s that thing where I can go write something or they can go write something, bring it into the circle and we all find our parts within it. “Black and Red” I co-wrote with a guy named Matt Hales, who is one of my favorite writers. He has a band called Aqualung that is an English band that was really incredible. That one again just kind of fell out by us getting together hanging not thinking and just doing.
As far as musical instruments go you’ve been playing an instrument of some sort almost as long as you’ve been able to walk. As a songwriter you dabble with the music – coming up with a guitar riff for example. When you write songs is it hard to come up with the lyrics for the music you write?
Usually every song or chord change or whatever has an attitude to it, or certain energy to it. That’s kind of how I kind of write the lyrics. Sometimes I get the lyrics before the song, but it seems like the thing that inspires the lyric is kind of emotional side when you change chords and stuff like that. Here’s another thing: when I write songs I don’t just necessarily play guitar. Because I’ve been fortunate to be around instruments my entire life, it’s kind of like nothing will hold me back from playing the drums or piano or bass or any of those things because luckily they’ve away been in my house. I’ve had all these instruments as a kid. It’s kind of one of those things – whatever you’re hearing you can figure out because there’s going to be some musical instrument around. (both laugh)
Hear Me Out has been getting rave reviews by everybody. I want you to sit back and tell me, Jordan, how would you honestly review the album?
I would say it’s a moody record that kind of takes you places and really to build a record that to me was – there were other songs we wrote for this record are some of the best work I have ever done. It just happened to not fit with this piece of music. There are things on there you can hear that I pushed myself to open the box – something like “Ritual”. Both the bass player [Stacey-James Kardash } wrote that song. It’s really a different thing for me to kind of sing like that. I was playing a baritone guitar, which is different and tuned different. I would say it’s a high-energy record, but there’s those moments where it kind of like it goes another spot. Building a record, that’s what I’ve always wanted; having something that takes you to different places other tan this one thing. Yeah, I’m actually quite proud of this record – and it’s not the way I planned it. I think that’s why it’s good. (laughs) I always feel like when we don’t plan anything, it never goes the way we plan and that’s the beauty of it. It tells you.
– Dave Weinthal