INTERVIEW: AJ Diaferio of WE’RE WOLVES

First gaining notice with a series of covers, South Florida’s We’re Wolves asserted itself as a powerful creative force with the October 2021 release of its full-length debut, “Evil Things.” Based on Dante’s “Inferno,” the record takes the listener on a journey through the nine circles of hell—fertile ground for a horror-loving metal band. Live Metal’s Greg Maki recently caught up with frontman AJ Diaferio to discuss “Evil Things,” the trio of features on the album (including Spencer Charnas of Ice Nine Kills), horror conventions, music videos, the misery of managing the band and more.

(Photos by Roberto Badillo Photography except where noted.)

LIVE METAL: I know you’re a big horror buff, and as a horror buff, I’m sure Halloween is a big time of year for you. But how do you feel about Christmas, now that we’re in the holiday season?

AJ DIAFERIO OF WE’RE WOLVES
(Arthur Lucena/goldrabbitmedia.com)

AJ DIAFERIO: Christmas, I appreciate it. It’s one of those times of the year where if you are a horror buff, there is a plethora of very excellent Christmas-themed horror films to enjoy. Plus, it’s one of those times of year where it’s pretty simple to make up my Christmas list, which is usually based off of whatever NECA figures have dropped recently. Those kinds of small things that we all as horror fans seem to appreciate.

What is your favorite Christmas horror movie?

It’s kind of a toss up between “Silent Night, Deadly Night” and “Better Watch Out.” “Black Christmas,” too. That’s definitely up there, for sure.

I feel like in movies and TV shows, there’s always big things going on on Christmas Eve, like the company party in “Die Hard” and stuff like that. Maybe it’s just that I grew up in a small town, but I’ve never had anything to do on Christmas Eve. But you’re playing a show this year, which to me is really exciting.

We do this annual event every year called Litmas. Normally, it’s after Christmas, but for some reason this year, I think it was a scheduling issue that they only could get Christmas Eve. So I couldn’t think of a better way to wait on old Santa Claus than to be completely fucking exhausted from playing a show. The best present I could ask for.

It’s probably harder than ever for rock bands going out on tour, just with everything going on and where rock music is in pop culture, but do you have plans or aspirations to take your band on tour sometime soon?

We’re in the early stages of planning stuff. There’s some stuff in the works that we’re waiting on confirmation for. We’ve also got a pretty massive show coming up, which I believe it’s getting announced on Monday. It’s one of the ones where when you see it, you’re gonna be like, holy shit. But as far as touring goes, right now we’re putting feelers out there with our management. We’re trying to find the right booking agent, because touring is absolutely something that we’re all interested in doing now, getting away from home after being trapped inside of our houses for what feels like an eternity. But yeah, that’s something I’m definitely hoping to make happen.

Where in Florida are you based?

We used to be based in West Palm Beach, and we represent West Palm Beach because I’m from there. But we’re all scattered around South Florida. My bass player, Drew, lives down in Miami, in Kendall. One of my guitar players just moved to Deerfield, I think. My other guitar player lives in Fort Lauderdale. I myself just moved to Boynton. And my drummer lives in Boca. We all convene together at our practice spot, which is in Boynton.

What is the music scene like down there? Are there a lot of rock and metal bands?

There are a lot of rock bands out here. Our scene is kind of weird. I don’t know how to explain it. This is coming from someone who doesn’t really know other scenes, but I’m sure it’s like this everywhere. It’s very cliquey, very elitist. There’s a lot of people out here kind of full of shit. And it’s one of those things like trying to decipher through who actually likes you, who’s your friend and who you need to watch out for. I guess that comes from being in kind of a hardcore scene, so to say. I’ve found that the metal community has been a lot more open. Our hardcore scene is still a hard nut to crack. They’re very like, “If you’re not hardcore, then fuck off.” So at least they’re up front about that.

So let’s talk about the new album, “Evil things.” It came out in October, and it’s based on Dante’s “Inferno.” Where did that idea come from? Was that something you’d always been interested in?

It’s always something that’s been a part of my life. I grew up sort of on the borderline between Jewish and Catholic. I’ve got a Jewish mom and an Italian dad. So religious ideals have always kind of played a part in the background of my life. When it came time to do this record, I really wanted to do a concept record. I was trying to think of something that I could relate to, and it’s funny because we just talked about the music scene out here. It’s always resonated with me being trapped in hell trying to claw my way out of it. So originally, I wanted to do the seven deadly sins, and a friend of mine mentioned Dante’s “Inferno,” and I was like, “Oh shit. OK.” So I started falling down this rabbit hole of really actually studying Dante’s “Inferno.” And I was like, wow, I can relate. I relate so much to this storyline, this journey—not necessarily Dante’s journey but just the journey itself and being guilty of all these different sins and thinking about if I died and went to hell what my afterlife would be and where I’d end up. And everything that was going on at the time—not every song is about a personal experience. It could be about somebody that pissed me off and I was thinking about them going to hell. It just all clicked together.

I remember I had talked to Spencer from Ice Nine, who has a feature on the album. I spoke to him about “The Silver Scream” when it first came out, and I was talking to him about concept records and stuff like that, and he was telling me, basically, like, “I can’t see myself writing another way after doing this record.” And as you see, they continued on with “The Silver Scream 2.” That kind of stuck with me—having references to go through and finding little ways to paint the visual textures of what hell would look like inside your own head. And it just seemed like such a fun thing. I mentioned it to the guys when we were making the record, and everybody seemed to resonate with it. Plus, it was easy to take song by song and look at who would do a better job of writing what sonically. So I think divvying out like, “You take greed, you take lust, and you take this” kind of gave everybody an opportunity to create their own sonic description of that.

When did the writing and recording take place? Did you start before the pandemic?

Yeah. The story of this album is so crazy. Our producer is Bryan Kuznitz from Fame on Fire, and we were writing this album alongside them writing their first record, “Levels.” We initially started the album, I want to say, the beginning of the year in 2019. We had one song tracked. We had “Sell Your Soul” tracked. That was the first one on the record, which was a song that sounds nothing like anything we ever wrote before. And we were kind of like, “OK, this is kind of an interesting way to kick off the record.” Then there was like a five-month blip in between, because Fame on Fire was working on their album. So it gave us a lot of time to really hash out the idea of what this album would be.

We got back in the studio, I want to say, in September and started working on it, and we literally kept working on it all the way through the pandemic. Actually, the funny thing is, because we had lineup changes—our bass player didn’t work out, our guitar player and drummer ended up forming a different band, and I had to basically replace everybody—we continued writing all the way up until the last month before it came out. You’ve got a song like “Life of a Parasite,” which that song was the last thing we recorded in September to make the deadline of the end of the month.

You’ve recorded and released a bunch of covers over the past couple of years, mostly falling into that early 2000s nu-metal era. Is that where you draw a lot of your influences from?

Yes and no. It’s one of those things like that’s the music that shaped me when I was 12 years old, when you’re just starting to figure out what your taste is. You gravitate toward Papa Roach, you gravitate towards Slipknot, you gravitate toward Disturbed, Atreyu—bands like that. From 12 to high school, everything during that period was the world to you. And then you grow up to become a jaded adult, and nothing is ever as good as those classic songs that shaped you as a child.

So it’s one of those things when we go to cover a song, take it for example, like I said, we work with Bryan from Fame on Fire. They cover everything that’s out now, and if I’m going to cover something, I want to cover something that actually fucking means a lot to me. And that’s not knocking them. They’re doing a great job with what they’re doing. That’s not for me. I could not imagine covering any of the garbage that’s out today on top 40 radio, personally. I wish I could enjoy that, but nothing is ever as good as late ’90s, early 2000s. That piece of time will always resonate in my body.

What are some other influences, maybe outside of that time?

You pick up bands here and there. A lot of the bands nowadays, it’s hard to say their entire album moves you. There’s a collection, there’s a handful. I love Beartooth. I love Ice Nine, obviously. I love what Fame on Fire is doing. But I don’t know. For me, when I’m listening to new bands and stuff like that, I’m just studying and not enjoying as much as I enjoy listening to a Rob Zombie album front to back or Slipknot’s entire discography. But don’t get me wrong, there’s a collection, for sure. I love the new Wage War record. I think that record is the best thing they’ve ever put out. Lately, I’ve been really into Bad Omens. I think Bad Omens is definitely something special—not just a Bring Me the Horizon “Sempiternal” era band. They’ve grown really into something I can’t even describe. They’re fantastic.

I just saw them a few weeks ago on the Ice Nine Kills tour.

Yeah. I saw them at Welcome to Rockville. Seeing them live changes your entire perspective about them. They’re a very mood band and instantly have a way of grabbing. I wrote them off when I first heard them, because I was like this is too much like “Sempiternal” Bring Me the Horizon. And no. They’ve evolved into something so cool. They’re a cool band. I don’t know how else to put that.

Going back to your album, you mentioned you have some some features on there—of course, Bryan from Fame on Fire, which almost doesn’t even seem like a feature because you’ve had such a long working relationship and friendship with him. Was it a natural thing to say, “Hey, do you wanna sing on this song?”

Bryan was a groomsman at my wedding. Bryan has always been my worst and greatest friend. It’s hard to describe. If you know Brian, if anybody’s listening that actually knows Bryan in real life, you completely understand that statement. He is the world’s worst texter, the world’s worst answerer of questions. In fact, I’ve been still trying to get ahold of him for the past couple of days to find out what tuning our next cover is going to be in. He left it on a “I’ll figure it out,” and I said, “Well, could you let me know so I can tell the guys to figure out how to do it.” And nothing. But he answers text messages to get a haircut, because I’m a barber in my daily life and I do his hair. It’s like oh, cool, so you’ll answer that and then you’ll ghost. Now when he comes in to get his haircut, I’m gonna be asking him what fucking key is this in, so my fucking guitar player can learn it, so we can record the thing and have it out next month—if we can have it out next month.

He’s that friend. He’s that close of a friend that I’m irritated right now just talking about how he hasn’t answered my fucking text message. And that is why he’s on so many fucking songs with us, because him and I will find a song that’s awesome. He’ll go, “I want to do this.” I’ll look at him and go, “OK.” And then it happens, and that’s how we do it. I remember the Avenged Sevenfold cover, it was one of those things when I was like, “Hey, what do you think about doing this?” He goes, “If you’re doing that song, I’m on it.” He’s like, “There’s no way you’re covering Avenged Sevenfold and I’m not featuring on it,” ’cause he’s a massive Avenged fan. The Atreyu one, he didn’t listen to Atreyu. I think because this was originally set up for two vocalists, I was like, “Would you want to do this? I think this would be awesome together,” and getting him to learn that song and jump on it. I think that that song slaps just because he’s on it.

One of the other features is Rain Paris, who I was not familiar with at all. I looked her up, and then I was kind of surprised. It doesn’t seem like a natural thing for her to be on one of your songs, but then that song doesn’t sound like anything else you’ve done either. How did that come about?

Rain’s part of that whole circle of Bryan’s close friends and Fame on Fire’s close friends. I think Arthur, her husband, used to be in Fame on Fire—I’m pretty sure, at one point in the early days. So they’ve all been friends since high school and stuff like that. Rain and I have crossed paths tons of times, talked. We always said we would do something together, but we never really had the right thing.

I remember when we were putting the finishing touches on the album, originally two different people sang on that song that were both guys, and I was like this song—I don’t know what it is. I think a ballad with two guys singing is just OK. You start thinking about Extreme “More Than Words,” and I don’t want that. I would much rather have “My Immortal.” I wanted that Evanescence vibe. So I asked her if she was interested, and she was like, “Fuck yeah.” I think she was expecting it to be one of our heavier songs, and I was like, “No, this. I want you for this.” And it just worked out that way, man. She’s such a powerhouse of a fucking vocalist. All around cool girl. Such a weirdo, but I love that. A cool person to be friends with.

As you mentioned earlier, Spencer from Ice Nine Kills is on a song. How did you meet him?

I was in this band back in high school called A Dream of Reality, and A Dream a Reality kind of started gaining momentum. When we were in our early 20s, we started following the Warped Tour. We weren’t quite on the Warped Tour. We were building stages, and I was walking around just selling CDs. I saw this kid one day. He had his shoulder bag, and I was watching him hustle CDs. I was like that kid seems cool. I started talking to him, and I don’t know, we just started talking about horror movies, and then we’d meet up every so often to see who sold more CDs that day. It was one of those things like you don’t really think about it. This was back in like 2008, and he was following the Warped Tour just doing the same thing, selling CDs and stuff like that. Didn’t really think much about it. We traded numbers, and it was just one of those things like we’ve consistently texted each other for years—over a decade.

Ice Nine Kills started getting more popular. I remember they were playing Warped Tour in 2014. My other band, The Romantics, was on that, playing the Ernie Ball Stage. He came out, watched us, and it’s just one of those things. Every time he came to town, we’d meet up, hang out, have dinner. Then coming time to make this album, when we were putting all the finishing touches together, I hit him up and I was like, “Hey, what would you think about doing a song?”

He’s kind of inadvertently mentored me in parts of the creation of this project. Anytime I had a question, I’d hit him up immediately and be like, “What do you think?” And he’d give me his honest opinion, and I’d go, “OK, cool.” Then I’d go fuckin’ write that down. When you respect somebody so much as a writer and you have their phone number, you’re gonna nitpick the fuck out of it. You’re gonna take that opportunity to do that. He said, “Yeah, I’d love to do it.”

He did it for free. He did it just because he felt it was a good match, I guess. I don’t know. He just did it because I’m his buddy. And it was sick. It came together, I sent it back to him, he dug the hell out of it, he liked the chorus part, and it just kind of worked out that way. I was mentioning to Bryan, I was like, “What do you think about hitting up Spencer?” And he was like, “Why haven’t you fucking done that already?” Good point. I’ve been saving it for this song.

If you could do a feature with anybody out there, who would be at the top of your list?

Top of my list that I think would do such a sick job and also translate to me being able to pull it off live—it would be a completely half-assed live version for me—but I think it would be fuckin’ sick to do a song with Corey Taylor. My dream would obviously be to work with Rob Zombie, but you can’t feature Zombie on a track because you cannot do anything that Zombie does. You just can’t. You’d have to be Zombie in order to do Zombie shit. But, you know, mechanically, me and Corey can do a lot of the same stuff. We sound nothing alike, but I could definitely pull off doing that live. That’s one of the things. You want to be able to pull it off live and not just have it be a feature on an album.

Speaking of Zombie, some of your videos are like mini horror movies. Do you have any aspirations to go into making feature films?

I wouldn’t say necessarily feature films. I actually just bought a camera recently, and I’m looking to start making videos over time. It’s gonna take some time. It’s gonna definitely be a weird learning process. But I’m surrounded by videographers and directors and photographers and stuff like that, and it’s like why would I not want to jump into that? I love film. I’m a huge film buff. Pretty much in my spare time, it’s watching movies. So yeah, I would love to get into it. I’ve had a couple of people interested in having me write treatments and direct. It hasn’t happened yet. But over the last 20 years, I’ve taken notes of everything that I’ve seen other people do, and I could probably do it. I don’t know. I look at it as these music videos are practice, and more so than anything, I really like them to focus more on the story and less on the band.

I like that you kind of showed a different side in the “Sell Your Soul” video, the “Wolf of Wall Street” parody. I’m sure a lot of work went into that, but it looks like you’re having a lot of fun. Was it as fun as it looks?

(Arthur Lucena/goldrabbitmedia.com)

No. (laughs) Not fucking at all. To be honest with you, I haven’t filmed—minus the Avenged Sevenfold cover—I haven’t filmed a music video since that, because I put everything—everything physically, mentally, emotionally—into making that comedy. And it was harder than any of the horror movie shit that I’ve done so far in the past, because it was such a big production. And when you’re working on a shoestring budget of basically fucking nothing—have you ever seen that Lil Dicky video, “$ave Dat Money?”

No.

OK, so he basically wanted to show that you can make a big budget, expensive music video for nothing. I watched that, and I went hmm. Being that I’m a barber, I have access to people who own businesses and own expensive cars. I’ve met a handful of people in my time on Earth who know people who build planes or yachts, and it’s like could I pull this off? I hit up my buddy Nick Richman, who’s a brilliant comedic writer and actor, and I was like, “What do you think about this?” We had several meetings about do you want to write the script together? Do you want to direct this? Do you want to be part of this? And I was like, you handle the comedy portions. My buddy Andrew Colton can handle directing the actual music video portion of it. We spent four months writing it. I spent day in day out for two months calling every location, ordering makeup, ordering props, gathering together screenshots of every scene we wanted to emulate. And we filmed this in peak COVID in September of 2020. I arranged somehow for all these locations, all these extras, and then let’s face facts, the video is very me-focused. So I have to orchestrate all this stuff while wearing this glued-on prosthetic on my face and dancing around like I’m the Six Flags guy. I get to have my Jim Carrey in “The Mask” moment while wearing that. (laughs) It was just so much fucking work that I think it mentally broke me for a little while. So no, I had a fuckin’ terrible time. But I had an amazing time watching the first cut.

That’s when it makes it all worth it, right?

I would do it all over again the exact same way. That’s how fucking great it was. It was amazing. It was an amazing three days, and my skin never looked worse wearing that thing in the fucking South Florida September heat.

Well, it’s a good story to tell now, right?

Yeah, everything about it is great. Just the actual production of it—fuck no.

Back around when the album came out, the band played at a horror convention down there in Florida. Are you a convention guy? Do you go to those kinds of things?

It’s funny. Three years ago, my wife and I had our honeymoon at Spooky Empire, and I remembering thinking, “Fuck, I would kill to have We’re Wolves here.” It’s just always been in my mind, and my wonderful publicists, Steph (Maksimow) and Tori (Kratvitz)—mostly Tori on this one—were able to get us on that. What better way to drop the album than to play at Spooky Empire on the next day of the release?

The horror community is just such a good community of people. Everybody’s just so warm and inviting for people that just love watching other people die. No other way to describe it. They’re just the best people on the planet. I pray that we get to do more of that stuff, because you get to pretend to be a kid for a little while. And it’s cool to lose yourself, because life gets too fucking serious. It’s a welcoming vacation away from reality.

Were there any guests there that you were excited to meet or anything like that?

No. I met Ryan Hurst. That guy was alright. It was one of those things like just knowing I was in the same vicinity of that person, it was dope. Robert Englund, I wanted to meet him. $200? Go fuck yourself. I’m not gonna pay $200 to meet Robert Englund. I have an artist pass. If I bump into Robert Englund in one of the hallways, sweet. If I don’t, then it wasn’t meant to be. But just in case, I had my Freddy Vans for him to sign. I was too engulfed in the atmosphere to really take it in. Plus, I’ve gotta babysit four other guys and yell at them to be at places at certain times while also running the merch booth with my wife.

Yeah, so you manage the band, too, right? Which I’m sure is a ton of work. How did you end up doing that?

Nobody else wanted to, and somebody had to. So fuck me. (laughter) Luckily, I do have a manager, as well. His name is Bill, and Bill has been just a really good friend to be able to bounce shit off of and help me. And like I said, having PR agents like Steph and Tori, they make my job a little bit easier. It’s now just a babysitting job more than anything. When business needs to get done, I have actual people to turn to and be like, “What do we think?” And then I go back and I go, “Hey, this is what they told me,” and they go, “Oh, cool,” and I’m like, “Be here at this time. Where are you? Why are you not here yet? You should’ve been here five minutes ago. I don’t care if there’s traffic”—all those text messages.

But yeah, someone had to do it. I don’t know. I guess I have a knack for it. It’s miserable. (laughs) I wish I could sit here and be like, “Oh, the music industry is so much fun, and people are so nice and warm and inviting.” But no, being the manager of a band is like jerking yourself off to punch yourself in the dick. (laughs)

I haven’t had much contact with the actual managers of bands, but when you’re interviewing people on tour, you usually deal with the tour manager. I feel so bad for those guys. They have to wrangle everybody and get them where they’re supposed to be.

Yeah, tour managing is different than what I do. I will have a tour manager when we go on tour, because there’s no fucking way I’m tour managing the band on top of managing. I need someone to be like, “Hey, you go tell them this. I’m gonna go breathe into a bag over here and then make a phone call.” So I need that person. I already have someone lined up that is the most ideal person to be our tour manager for when this happens. But he’s gonna cost some money, and I have to pay him this money. So I will get him this money. I need this man.

If I could tell anybody out there that’s listening, don’t be the manager of your band. Just don’t. But if something needs to get done and you know it won’t get done and you have to go do it, then you’re the manager of your band.

So the album was released through Blood Blast Distribution, which is part of Nuclear Blast. Is there a physical release?

There is a limited quantity of physicals that are only show-available right now. It’s hard. When you’re an independent band, you’re spending all this time to ship out physical CDs. If someone hits you up and they want one, you can get it to them. Realistically, who the hell buys records anymore? I wanted to do vinyl, but vinyl is apparently backed up until April of next year because every fucking person in the universe is going on tour and they want vinyl, because it’s a no-brainer.

And the vinyl sales exploded during the pandemic, because everybody was just sitting at home. That’s what I was doing. I’ve been buying so much vinyl in the past two years.

And I don’t blame you. That’s fucking awesome. It’s a great way to listen to music. It’s retro. It makes you feel good. It’s cool to hold such a giant fucking album. I want it. I want vinyl. I want neon green and black vinyl, but I don’t have that right now, and it sucks! But if we get on tour, we’ll get vinyl.

Well, like I told you in the messages, I was blown away by the album.

You have no idea how awesome it is to be able to just sit here and talk to you about this album—talk to anybody about this album. This album has been sitting on my phone for two years. It’s been in my car, my wife’s car. It’s just been sitting there for so long. Now it’s out, and now I’ve gotta make another one. The fact that you heard it in its entirety when I never thought it would ever see the light of day is fucking awesome, and the fact that like it and you wanted to interview me, this is cool. It’s badass.

Before we go, is there anything else you’d like to say?

Keep your eyes peeled for sometime next week. A very, very, very, very special thing is going to get announced. There’s also a merchandise drop coming that may be the coolest thing we’ve done yet. We’ve got some next features. We’ve got some songs that we’re planning. We’ve got another cover that’s going to come. So 2022, we’re gonna hopefully outdo 2021. Fingers crossed.

LINKS:
Stream “Evil Things”
We’re Wolves merch
www.facebook.com/werewolvesfl
www.twitter.com/werewolves_fl
www.instagram.com/werewolves_fl
www.youtube.com/werewolves

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