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In person interview with QBall Wolf - vocalist for XFactor1
June 15, 2012
Outside of Uli's Haus of Rock in Lansing, MI
by Eldon McGraw
Megaforce Records band, XFactor1, a hard rock band based in Columbus, OH recently had a tour stop in Lansing, MI on June 15, 2012 at the club Uli’s Haus of Rock. Lead singer QBall Wolf and I spent about an hour outside Uli’s Haus of Rock talking about the band, the tour life, and their new CD “Famous. Last. Words.” QBall also got personal and spoke about the struggles of his childhood and the death of his sister.
What's it like being a road dog?
Tiring actually. Amazingly tiring actually. You think you would be so rested and sleeping your butts off while you are in a van, but what happens is, you never seem to catch up on sleep. We are a band that's been around awhile, but self supporting for the most part. The air conditioner doesn't work, we need new shocks. Ya gotta really love the music and the people and the interactions with the fans because besides being a professional musician, you are a party animal.
So we are sitting here outside at Uli's Haus of Rock in Lansing, MI. You are sitting here doing this interview and the rest of your band is hauling all the gear in right now. What do you think those guys are thinking to themselves right now?
Well if I didn't tell them ahead of time about this interview, they would probably be thinking I made this up so I wouldn't have to carry anything (laughs). They understand this is part of the deal and I am pretty well informed on the music business.
So one of the rules in rock and roll is to never let the drummer be interviewed right?
If our drummer doesn't have a girlfriend, he's homeless.
I know you guys are from Ohio, but what do you think about the music scene in Michigan where we are holding this interview?
Well Lansing, Battle Creek, and Kalamazoo are cool, but the irony is Detroit Rock City has one of the weakest scenes. It's kind of hard to believe.
What's the struggle to be in a rock band in today's Pop and Hip Hop culture?
It's harder than ever. It really is. It's tough. Obviously the market share is way less than it used to be. CD sales are way down, but on the flip side is that if you are a hard working band and use media and technology, you can make the world smaller in a lot of ways. I sure would love to see a resurgence of rock. I'd love to make it so people wouldn't stay home and play video games and come to a show instead.
Speaking of video games. I noticed you guys are trying to get into licensing of your music. How can licensing your music in television, movies, and video games help you?
It's an incredible opportunity if you hook up with the right people. I've seen it do amazing things for Lamb of God on Guitar Hero and Rock Band. If you can connect with someone who has that promotional push and money, it can change a band's life. Our publicist is talking to ESPN and the NFL Network about using one of our songs. We know that would help us with exposure.
Are you "selling out" by licensing your songs?
Well this band has been around for six years and we have been road dogging all over the United States. Not only our touring, but following tours like Ozfest, when it was around, and moving our CD’s and getting our name out there. The phrase "sell out", I don't even understand that because if someone wants something that I have to offer, they are more and willing to have it as long as know one tries to put us on a tampon commercial or something like that. I just want our music to be heard because it's a business.
You say its a business, but what if one of your guitar players gets wasted tonight before the show and plays like crap and then keeps doing that on the tour. What do you do?
It wouldn't make it past a couple of shows like that before we ditch him. There's a level of expectation. We party. We are a modern day Pantera in many ways, we do party. You might see a beer in our hand during the show, but it will probably be the same one, but after the show we unleash the fury. You never get a second chance to make a first impression in life.
I noticed in your bio you promote bringing back the decadence in rock and roll, but you also talk about making socially conscious videos. Im confused, how does that balance itself out in your opinion?
Well I think everyone should have the right to do anything they want as long as it does not affect someone in a negative way directly. This is rock and roll and I want to see as many peoples asses in the club having a good time, drinking beer, showing the boobs: basically that 80's thing that was the finest part of rock and roll. I loved the destroying hotel rooms and the women in videos. But on the other aspect of that, in our video "Hope for Tomorrow", which is basically saying its ok to be who you are, it doesn't mean you have to infringe on the beliefs and rights of others. When I grew up, my Dad was a bigot and prejudice: that working white class who blamed the government and blacks for everything and that rubbed off on me to an extent. Then you grow up and realize some things and meet good people all over the United States, it was a way for me to say I was wrong about some things.
When was that moment when you realized your Father wasn't right about some of those racial issues?
Years ago actually. You meet people and become friends and even date other races. You get old enough and start thinking for yourself and when you realize that, something inside of you does change and you say “I have some corrections to make.” Thats what that song is about. Realizing you are man enough to say you are wrong.
Have you taken some of that childhood pain into your lyrics?
All of it (laughs). The last CD is set up to tell a chronological story. I try to make my lyrics as real as possible. I want them to make sense and let people know there is passion behind them. If there is no passion, then there's really no song in my opinion. I want people to know it’s from the heart. If you know me well and read those lyrics like some people do, especially from my home town, they know I am healing through my music.
How hard is it to open your soul knowing people may judge it?
My first few years it was tough, then as years go on you gain confidence that people will like it. We are all constantly growing and if you are not, then we are probably dying. Basically, learn to be a man. This is a big part of what the last two records have been about. This is something I learned in my AA meetings when I had to to attend them when I had a DUI. You take an inventory. Sometimes that person you are looking back at in the mirror is the problem and that's not easy to face.
So have you finished the 12 step program?
I'm not in a 12 step program, but I have been in meetings where they were court ordered before (laughs).
What's the biggest thing you learned from those court ordered meetings?
I think honesty. Really being honest with yourself and to be willing to say that I'm part of the problem. You can live in denial. Its very very easy to live in denial and make yourself believe what you want to believe to stay inside your comfort zone. One of the things I like about at the meetings was that the people there were brutally honest. You know, this ones sucking cock for crack, this one stole his grandmas wallet out of her purse and then helped her look for it. Those things take a big person to admit to that. I was impressed with the inner strength of a lot of people.
Did you gain a respect for humanity?
In some ways it made me feel better about myself (laughs), because sometimes we do take refuge in other peoples pain. There’s a lot of people worse off than we are and you think about that kind of stuff. You get in there and think, this man or this woman have really had it bad. I have had some tough spots, but there is always someone out there who is worse.
When did all of this happen to you?
Six or seven years ago. It was well before this band.
Does your band know about this?
Yeah, we're pretty close. We don't know everything about each other. When you are on the road, every little thing is out there when you travel as much as we do.
What have some of the guys in the band said about your past problems?
Well, they are learning from it. I'm older than the rest of the guys, I am 33. The rest of the guys are 24 to 29. Some of these guys came from some of the kind of broken homes like I did. No father figure around. So in a sense, I have been able to instill a sense of self respect for themselves and a little bit of discipline.
So when you are the road, who really smells bad?
Probably the guy with the dreads and the hat on, CLok, because the dreads stink. He's our lead guitarist. He’s a really nice guy and awesome comic effort on the road. He keeps it loose for us and does a helluva good job.
Why is keeping it loose important?
There's no money on this level and everyone's completely broke. The girlfriend and wives are supportive, but at the same time they are bitching, so you gotta find a way to keep it loose.
Is it hard to make it as and up and coming band when you have wives and girlfriends at home?
I have been separated from my wife for three and a half years and there has been more progress with the band in that time. My ability to throw myself into that without worrying about infidelity.
What were some of the things that have frustrated your wife in the past when you were out on the road?
Well, that I am screwing everything that is walking. Not paying enough attention to her. We have two sons and she wants me to be more involved with them. The financial aspect. Everyone thinks you should be working down at the cannery with Dad so you can make money and hand it to her so she can go shopping.
Why is it that rock and roll has such an appeal to you over a nine to five job?
Beyond the actual creation of artistry, it's living life on your own terms, which is my main reason for being here now. My separated wife's Dad is a big wig with Budweiser and I could be working there now pulling in a lot more more money than this, but money only goes so far in buying happiness in my opinion.
I wanna live my life on my own terms.
Why and how did you go from a do it yourself indie band to signing with Megaforce records?
We were on tour with Bobaflex who were some homies of ours from Columbus and they told us that they had some contacts at Megaforce. That started some phone calls and emails with Megaforce and a few weeks later we were signing a contract with them. It has really opened some doors for us and legitimized us. We are on Touchtunes jukeboxes. We are on over 50,000 of those now and our stuff is in stores. It's opened up radio for us. Megaforce is a respected name and hopefully it will be a long relationship with those guys.
If your record label came to you and said that on the next album they wanted to bring in writers to help you become a hit, would you give up creative control to make it bigger?
That is a tough one. I don't think I could honestly answer that one right now. I've written every song that I have ever been involved in, even musically I've written a great deal of them. I've produced all of our records including this new one with our co producer and engineer. I've actually relinquished more to him on the last couple of CD’s and they seem to be turning out better because they are more of a group idea. It would probably depend on who they said the producer was gonna be. If I respected their name, yes. I would like to have some form of creative control to some extent.
Tell me about the members of your band.
CLok is our lead guitarist in the dred’s we talked about earlier. Hes a funny son of a bitch. Always keeping it light, he is a good hearted guy and he works hard. Cody is our bassist and he is a comic cut up too. He's kind of my right hand man in the band. Jesse is our newest guy and he plays guitar. He’s a good guy and we don't know him as well because he has only been in the band for three of four months now. Our drummer's name is Ant. He's one of the best I've seen. He’s actually been trained, so he is really solid. He’s very professional and he’s dead on every night which helps us to sound better.
You are the only original member of this band since it started out in 2006. Is it tough to look back and think about that?
It depends what you mean by tough. Its been a struggle, that’s for sure. I look at it as that I am super strong and they just didn't have the same drive and ambition. There's a lot of guys who think they know what it takes at this level. If you think there is a guy smoking a big cigar and flying in to talk to you when you are on a tour bus, thenyou are living in lala land. When I look back at some of the past band members, and some of them are dead from overdoses, I try to focus on the good times and good things. There’s people that I don’t speak to till this day and I was in that van with them with just a few years ago.
Why is leadership important in your band or any band?
If someone doesn't know where you are going, you are running around in circles. You gotta have a game plan and a business plan really. You gotta stick with it and lead by example and I do. You can't lead without respect from other people.
Who are some of the leaders you have looked up to in life?
I really liked Kennedy, of course that was before my time, but I've read a lot about him. Martin Luther King, Obama, Ghandi, the Dali Lama. People who fearlessly risk everything and didn't want anything. There is something so courageous about that. Willing to die for what you believe in. Saying it and meaning it are two different things. I've looked up to leaders who were powerful and humble. They paved a way for better life for everybody. Imagine what it would be like if we still had segregated schools? It's incredible to think that that was going on forty years ago.
When you play a live show, what is the biggest difference between your live show and your records?
When we play live, we play with a lot of passion and we will improv in a couple of spots to get the crowd into it. We like to meet people and show them that we are very down to earth people.
What's more important, art or commerce?
Well, to us, art. To the people who make decisions to keep us around, its commerce.
How do you balance that?
Well, as you will see tonight. You will see us talk to everyone individually and see if we can make some friends and at least get them to pick up a CD. We do sell our stuff cheap because we want your support and love. We’re letting people know that we need their support. We are not walking out of here with wads of cash. It's about getting enough money to make it to the next place (laughs).
When you are up on stage singing a song you wrote and you see someone you don't know in the audience singing your song back to you, what is that feeling like?
Well, it's incredible. It's what you want. You want everyone to do that. When someone knows your lyrics, that means they spent some time with the record, that means they can probably identify with it. It feels like you have a kindred spirit and its what every musician shoots for. It makes it all worthwhile to tell you the truth.
So who is the biggest horn dog in the band?
Probably me and the drummer (laughs). I never pass up an opportunity to talk to a fine woman. I never lie. I tell them that this is nothing other than mutual gratification and sometimes it works out and sometimes it doesn't.
Everything except women who smoke. I avoid them unless I am too drunk to care. Someday we will be an advanced society and look back and wonder why people ingested carcinogens into their lungs to cause cancer.
Why are you so adamant about smoking? Did you have something in your background that caused this opinion?
Yeah, my sister died from smoking cigarettes. She was only 44. She went from a very robust woman to nothing in five months. After she was diagnosed, it hurt, it hurt a lot. It was one of the toughest things I have ever done: to watch that happen.
When did she die?
About a year and a half ago.
Did you take that experience and put it into the new record?
Yeah, "Hope for Tomorrow" was my sister's favorite song. She loved the video. It’s a song we went and performed acoustically at her bedside for her and it's one of my fondest memories. We taped it and I watch it. It brings me a lot of joy and it's pretty tough too.
If your sister were here today, what would you tell her and talk about?
Well, like many siblings, we had out petty arguments. I would probably make sure she knew there is nothing more important than family and nothing wrong with showing love everyday in life to people you care about. We come from a strange and dysfunctional family, but when she was ill, it brought our family together and I was happy about that. That was my sister's dying wish: that would happen and I think mission accomplished.
Is that something that will inspire you as an artist for the rest of your life?
I believe so. One of the things I taught my kids, and they are younger and they don't understand it, but you only have one life. You only have one shot, and you don't want to have any regrets. I've done things in life that I regret but I don't let those regrets control me or decide my fate. I know when my sister was ill, she wishes there were a lot of things she would have done and that’s what I am going to do. I am going to keep pushing this band and live a life that makes me happy. As long as I am not hurting someone or being deficient as a husband or a father.
But what happens if you live twice and you are reincarnated. What would you like to come back as?
I would like to come back as someone who can make a difference. Politically maybe. I would like to lead by example and not let the people with money and power influence me. It would be a real challenge to make real change in the world. Change the world in a positive way. I would like to bring more equality into this world. I would like to think I would not be for sale for your yes vote. I think guys like Obama are trying to do things and they are accused of Socialism, but I am all about Capitalism, because its a great thing.
Give me your thoughts on the new record.
Well, we had our co producer have more of a hand in it. We streamlined the songs. Lyrically you grow up and become more mature and figure out how to write songs better. You learn that every line in a song doesn't have to rhyme. We’ve learned our niche and strengths and tried to concentrate on those. I think because of that the CD has a very cohesive sound. We want to remain original and diverse at the same time.
So who is getting the biggest royalty check?
No one yet. It’s all going back into the band. One hundred percent is going back into the band. We did get a nice deal with Megaforce. I hope if there is big check someday, the band won't mind if I take a little bit of a bigger cut. I started this band and it has been my baby. I’ve lived, eaten, and breathed everything around this band for six years now.
Thank you for your time.
For more information about XFactor1, please visit their Facebook page http://www.facebook.com/XFactor1official