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An Interview with Wrath’s Gary Golwitzer

Sometimes ya just gotta see a band live to fully understand the story. Such is the case with underground thrash vets Wrath. Fate has been steering me towards Wrath over the past year, and researching the band’s history has provided tons of knowledge. Doing a solid for Indy, they stopped by State Street Pub alongside Legion and Viken in support of the energetic Rage. The past and present collided with aplomb and Wrath left no stone unturned scouring their discography, blazing through old school favorites “Children of the Wicked” and “R.I.P.,” in addition to rocking the fuck out of new songs “Conflict,” “Draw Blood,” and “What You Crave.” “Insane Society” and “Test of Faith” also got a spot on the set list.

It took me about 15 seconds to realize that academic knowledge can only get you so far and I was in for an on the ground lesson in thrash. Having been fully brought up to speed by Wrath’s high energy history spanning set, it occurred to me that there was still knowledge to be gained. Wrath frontman Gary Golwitzer was more than cool with providing information on a long-running band that really knows their shit.

Indy Metal Vault: If I remember correctly, “Children of the Wicked” is the first song that was written by Wrath back in 1983. How has Wrath’s songwriting process evolved over the course of the past 26 years?

Gary Gowlitzer: I guess you could say that we’ve just improved through the years in overall quality and structure. I hate the term “matured,” but I guess in a sense that’s what it is. You are correct, “Children of the Wicked” was the first song we wrote. but it was in early 85’… anyway, it led off our demo and then also our first album Fit of Anger. It’s a fairly simple, straight ahead song but we love it and so do the fans. It is still played every night live, it’s one of those that’s expected to be played and we love playing it. As time went along our songs got more technical and had a lot more complex timing and changes mixed in…just a natural progression as you improve in your playing and writing.

IMV: Peripheral to my love for thrash, I have developed an appreciation for graffiti art and have come to enjoy Wrath’s logo for its striking simplicity. What made you guys settle on a graffiti based logo?

GG: The logo kind of evolved through the years. It started off very simple and looked kind of like bones. We never wanted some “fancy,” really hyped up professional drawing of it. Our original guitarist Mike Nyrkkanen was a graphic artist and he kind of kept playing around with it with our ideas thrown in and we kind of settled on the graffiti style for no other reason than it was simple and we thought it looked cool.

IMV: With the reactivation of Combat Records, Wrath managed to score a deal with the label. I’m curious to know who approached who? Was any of the material that appeared on Rage written prior to signing with Combat?

GG: An old friend of mine reached out through Facebook and we started talking and she said she wanted me to meet a friend of hers that wanted to sign us. Of course, your first reaction is,” Sure, ok.” and you really don’t think it will ever amount to anything lol. She gave me his number and I called Thom Hazaert.  I had heard his name in the business but didn’t know a whole lot about him. He was a huge fan from back in the day and said he wanted to sign us to his and his business partners label. He told me about the label and who they had, etc. and after about 20 minutes he tells me his partner is David Ellefson….my ears perked up then, lol…

Originally we were going to be on David’s label EMP, and then right before we started recording Thom informed us David had bought the rights to Combat and was bringing the label back! He said David was also a huge fan and asked how we would feel about being the first release on Combat! One of the most iconic thrash labels ever? Combat? First release? It took us three seconds to say a hearty HELL YES!!!! We were getting set to record anyway at this time, so yes, all the material was already written and ready to go.

IMV: If a fan wants to purchase your older albums, they’re readily available at Wrath’s website and merch table. Were you guys able to acquire rights to these albums?

GG: We do have all the rights to our music with the exception of Insane Society. There’s some damn holdup with Capitol who owned Enigma/Medusa that we were on. For whatever reason, Insane Society rights are held up…but we’re working on it and we will secure them soon.

IMV: How did the inclusion of “When Worlds Collide” on the Leatherface: TCM3 soundtrack and the music videos for “Insane Society” and “Test of Faith” appearing on Headbanger’s Ball help in acquiring new fans?

GG: All helped immensely. It’s unfortunate that MTV no longer has Headbangers Ball, but then again, they don’t do videos PERIOD any longer! We still get quite a response to this day on “When Worlds Collide” from Leatherface fans! That was pretty cool to have on our resume!

IMV: According to the ever trustworthy Metal Archives, Wrath has never officially disbanded. Is this information correct? What all was Wrath up to in the 90s and 2000s?

GG: Honestly, I’m not the one to ask on that lol. I left in early 90 and joined Stygian. We did a few demos and then one full LP Planetary Destruction. I left in 93′. The last version of the band had me, James Harris, Wayne Wells, and Ken Lacey. Wayne and Ken wanted to move to LA and did. James and I did not want to move out there. Wayne became Wayne Static and him and Kenny formed Static-X out there, so I guess it was a bad choice on our part.

Anyway, I quit music for the most part except for occasionally jamming here and there. Just really got busy with life. I’d run into (bassist) Gary (Modica) every once in a while and he’d tell me what they were up to and basically, that was it. Then in 2015, Gary called me and said that they were having problems with their singer. They had a European tour booked and he was not ready and they couldn’t count on him. He asked if I’d consider doing the tour. I agreed to do it and we set up a few shows in Wisconsin and Illinois for me to get back in the swing of things. After the first show back, they all said “You are our singer..PERIOD from now on!” We did a few more and then did Europe. It was kick ass and very successful and we haven’t stopped moving forward since.

IMV: You guys have some pretty stellar shows lined up in your hometown of Chicago, in addition to being rad and coming to Indy. Is the Midwest gonna be able to see more of Wrath in 2019?

GG: Absolutely! We’re hitting it hard and getting everywhere we can. It’s tough to schedule long runs with everyone’s schedules, but we make it work. We are heading out to the East coast in late June early July for a run and we will be back in Indy ASAP! We’re trying to make it the night before we play Full Terror Assault with Vio-Lence and MOD. I believe that’s on Labor Day weekend, we’ll keep you updated! Indy rules, and we love coming there!!!

 

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