How Reignwolf Became a One-Man Blues-Rock Army
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WHO: Jordan Cook, a.k.a. Reignwolf, is occasionally compared to Jack White, as much for his agitated distorto-blues guitar licks and anguished vocals as for his reductive approach to instrumentalists. But Cook takes things a step further than White did in the White Stripes, often appearing on club and festival stages — and, during a recent opening stint for Black Sabbath, in front of arena crowds — as a one-man band. Which leaves him plenty of ground to cover, both musically and physically: A Reignwolf song might present Cook singing while seated behind a drum kit, guitar in lap, fretting hopped-up boogie riffs with his left hand and pounding out a frenzied beat with his three other limbs. Or he might stand center stage, singing and playing while one foot keeps time on a lone kick drum. But by song’s end, chances are he’ll be ripping wild, fuzzed-out solos while perched high atop a stack of overdriven amps or while writhing around on the floor in a tangle of guitar chords — or even, in the case of an infamous 2012 Sasquatch! Festival appearance, while straddling the shoulders of a thick-necked and unsuspecting security guard.
HEAD START: Growing up in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, in a musical household — his dad listened to Howlin’ Wolf, his mom to Ray Charles — the now 30-year-old Cook got started in music early. Very early. He says he first began fooling around with a guitar at age two. “My dad always had a bunch of instruments around, and that was the one that made the most racket,” he recalls. By six he was playing in bands, and at 15 his blues-rock trio traveled to Switzerland to perform at the Montreux Jazz Fest. There, Cook, just a high-school freshman, found himself jamming onstage with the likes of Van Morrison, Edgar Winter and one of his personal idols, B.B. King. As for what he and the blues legend played together? “Whatever B.B. wanted,” Cook says with a laugh. “I think it was ‘Rock Me Baby.'”
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NORTH TO NORTHWEST: Following a failed album (Seven Deadly Sins, released under his own name) and the dissolution of his band, Cook found himself in a Memphis recording studio working on music with in-demand session drummer Matt Chamberlain a few years back. Needing a bassist, Chamberlain phoned a friend, Soundgarden’s Ben Shepherd, who came down the next day. The three hit it off and eventually embarked on a Canadian tour together. Roughly two years ago, Shepherd convinced Cook to move to Seattle, and that’s where the Reignwolf persona was born. “I didn’t have a band at the time, but I started booking random shows around town using whatever gear I could pull together, and a guitar and a kick drum were the most available instruments,” Cook says. “Then at one of the clubs they asked me, ‘So, what’s the name of the act?’ I just said, ‘Uhh…Reignwolf.’ And it stuck.”
CONFUSERS OF OZ: Cook calls his one-man band approach “as raw and barebones as you can get,” and says it’s exciting to know that “onstage, it can just fall apart at any minute.” These days, though, his gigs are usually split between solo performances and songs played with his current band, bassist David “Stitch” Rapaport and drummer Joseph Braley. The two musicians have also joined Cook in the studio for what will be Reignwolf’s full-length debut, scheduled for release this fall (so far, the act’s recorded output comprises just three standalone singles). Which begs the question: Who, or what, exactly, is Reignwolf? People are never quite sure, Cook admits. “When we were on the Sabbath tour,” he recalls, “Ozzy walked into our dressing room one day and he said, [in British accent] ‘Fuck, I’ve been watching the videos. Is it a band or is it a man?’ And we were all screaming out, ‘It’s both! It’s both!” Cook laughs. “But really, just the thought of Ozzy watching videos of us at all is enough to blow my mind.”
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