The Undead Unplugged tour kicks off in Southampton on Wednesday May 21 and runs through to Nottingham at the end of the month.
RUSHONROCK editor Simon Rushworth caught up with the Murderdolls frontman to find out more…
RUSHONROCK: How long have you been considering playing your acoustic shows in the UK?
Wednesday 13: I guess the idea’s been there for years and years. People know I did my country project Bourbon Crow and I toured with that in the States in 2009. I enjoyed the ‘stripped down’ feel – it was something very different and a change for me. It gave me a lot of confidence and it showed how that kind of set can work. I finally got the idea in my head for this tour at the end of last year. I wanted to record an acoustic album and take it out on tour. Hopefully it will be cool. I’ve just got so used to playing full electric shows and doing what I do on stage with an amp and the drums behind me. I always have people to fall back on and although I’m bringing a couple of the guys on the road with me this time it’s very much about putting myself in the spotlight. I don’t really have a blueprint for the acoustic show. Not all of my favourite bands have done something like this so it’s a bit of a leap into the unknown. I don’t have a lot to draw on. It’s a challenge.
RUSHONROCK: Your full electric shows are all about volume and energy – how do you think Wednesday 13 fans will react to a stripped down set?
W13: I really don’t have any expectations as far as the crowds are concerned. I just don’t know what they’re going to think! I still don’t even know what I think! The only thing I do know is that I’m really close to my fans thanks to social networks and I know they’ll be honest with me. When I conceived the plan to do this acoustic record I went to them first but they know better than most that I like to keep people guessing. I’m always changing and evolving and doing things differently so in that respect these shows won’t come as a surprise. I’ve been in this business for 20 years now and I still want to change the way I do things. It was a challenge to record the album – the first few days I just wanted to cut my head off and I was so annoyed with it. But I like what we came out with. And it won’t just be about the music. There’ll be an opportunity for fans to ask a few questions and I’ll be telling some stories. It’ll be very much an up close and personal show.
RUSHONROCK: Do you feel exposed without the fallback of the full electric set?
W13: That’s exactly it. I feel very exposed. I’m bringing Roman Surman and Jack Tankersley (guitarists from Wednesday’s solo band) along for the ride but it’s still going to be a very intimate show. A lot of my fans just can’t imagine what some of the acoustic interpretations of their favourite songs sound like and I’m under pressure to perform them well. But perhaps people don’t realise that I write most of my songs on the acoustic guitar and then build them up from there. A good song should sound great on an acoustic guitar as well as with a full band behind it.
RUSHONROCK: Is this tour an opportunity to win new fans?
W13: I’m not really thinking about it that way but I suppose a few people who don’t really know my music might want to come along and chuck a beer at me! What I hope is that in this setting people will begin to understand some of the deeper meanings behind some of the songs and realise that we’re not just doing this for laughs. There’s always a comedic side to Wednesday 13 but a lot of the songs I’ve chosen for this tour reflect a darker side. I will be playing a few songs that I don’t normally play with the full band and some songs that I’ve never played live in my life!
RUSHONROCK: Will the setlist change from night to night?
W13: I hope there’ll be an opportunity to change things. It’s not going to be a jukebox up there with the band taking requests all night but I can try and play a couple of bars and this and that if time allows. I’m not putting a whole lot of thought into the way the sets are structured and that’s another reason why I’ve been looking forward to this tour. Normally, with all the kit and everything else, a full electric set has to run like clockwork and there’s no margin for error – I don’t even have to think about which song I’m singing because everything has been so meticulously planned down to the last detail. This tour will require a lot of thinking! I don’t have any rules or any set plan – that’s why it’s going to be so exciting.
RUSHONROCK: Are there songs in your back catalogue that naturally lend themselves to acoustic interpretations?
W13: I think so. A lot of the songs that I’ve chosen to put on the acoustic record sound great played that way. They take on a different feel and there are different emotions coming through. There are a few songs that I’ve always liked but the acoustic version is even more painful. But on the night it will be up to the people watching and listening how they feel. I’ve got so many songs to chose from – there are so many I’d like to cover acoustically.
RUSHONROCK: Is there a reason why you’re bringing these shows to the UK first?
W13: It’s the first place that really patted me on the back. So it feels like the right place to play these shows but on the other hand it’s nerve-wracking because these are some of the people who know me best. In the early 90s it was Kerrang! That understood me straight away – they gave us a 5K review for the Frankenstein Drag Queens From Planet 13 album and when Murderdolls came out they loved us. The UK was the first place that made me feel like everything I’d worked towards for my whole life was worthwhile. I wasn’t going to test this out in the States where I might get a bottle thrown at my head. The UK is my home away from home – I wouldn’t say it’s my comfort zone but the fans over there have always understood what I’m doing or what I’m trying to do.
RUSHONROCK: Some time ago you took control of your own business affairs and now many bands are following suit – is it the way forward?
W13: I’ve been working towards the position I’m in now for years. Now I look at the whole Kickstarter and Pledge Music thing and too many bands are jumping on that bandwagon prematurely without understanding the work that it entails. If you go down that route then you suddenly become everything – musician, promoter, distributer, publicist. The list goes on. I still don’t have it sussed 100% and I’ve been doing this for years. When I did my Skeletons album in 2008 I was signed to a couple of labels but I decided to do that album on my own. I had the most success in my career too date in terms of getting paid for the music that I made. I realised I could do it on my own. It doesn’t really surprise me that more artists are going down that road but the problem is that the music business changes every couple of months now rather than every couple of years or every couple of decades. People have to find ways to survive – this is my life and it’s my job. I’m either touring or making new music 12 months of the year and before I decided to go it alone I found I was surrounded by people who didn’t really care. Labels put out product that they don’t really give a shit about but now I run the label so I can give back more to my fans. This year alone I have four releases lined up. I have the freedom to do what I want to do but you can’t always find my music in stores!
RUSHONROCK: What’s the biggest challenge you face now?
W13: I’ve been really fortunate in my career so far and I guess the biggest challenge I face is to stay on top of my game. My fans expect a certain quality from my work and I never take what I do for granted. I care about my music and if you care about what you do that’s a pressure in itself. I want to make every new album better than the last or every tour better than the previous run of shows. People say to me ‘you’re always putting out new music’ with the implication that the quantity is somehow diluting the quality. That’s not the case at all. I’m just a very creative person and I’d never put out a new record for the sake of it – it has to meet my own high standards. When I’m touring for nine months of the year it’s important that I have new songs to play – that’s fun for me. But the biggest challenge I face right now is to keep doing something new and fresh.