Michael J. Wolf of Wolf-Face at Lucky You Tattoo in St. Petersburg, Florida in November 2021.
On many nights in St. Pete, a teenage werewolf washes yellow Fruit of the Looms freshly soaked in both his sweat and the perspiration of strangers. The underwear is stretched out—especially around the mons pubis—often smells like beer, and is always stained with the grime of dingy nightclubs and music venues. No one really know what goes through his mind as he washes the loincloth, but there are probably visions of Metallica's Lars Ulrich getting buried in dildos, a certain Chicago indie-rock songwriter getting a stake driven through his heart, and of course Lisa "Boof" Marconi.
That werewolf, of course, is none other than Michael J. Wolf, leader of Wolf-Face, a now legendary local punk band whose sound recalls Misfits, Dillinger Four, Dead Mechanical and even the late Jay Reatard.
Tampa Bay met Wolf-Face 10 years ago when the band first wandered out of its practice den to play songs like "Give Me a Keg of Beer," "Be a Man!" and "I'm a Son of a Bitch," all featuring lyrics that set the record straight after producers of the classic 1985 film, "Teen Wolf," stole Michael J.'s life story and turned it into a movie.
"I wasn't sure what to expect when we played our first show. It was a risk because my music and lyrics are sometimes hard for people to relate to simply because humans can't fully understand what I've gone through," Michael J. told Creative Loafing Tampa Bay. At the first gig, he worried that the poetry would go over peoples' heads, but as he remembered it, folks enjoyed it.
"A lot of people laughed which I didn't understand, but I guess that's just a natural reaction when presented with something beyond someone's cognitive abilities," Wolf added. "Regardless, we were offered more and more shows thereafter and we just continued to ride the wave until we are where we are now."
Those gigs took Wolf-Face to since-shuttered 600 Block staples like Local 662 and Fubar. It landed the punk band slots at local festivals like Antiwarpt and Burgatory, Texas' South by Southwest, Warped Tour and even Tampa Bay's own 97X Next Big Thing when it played right before Twenty One Pilots in 2012—one of the band's most memorable sets.
"I kept turning around and seeing those two dudes standing near the back of the stage watching our set and clearly wondering how to follow such a crushing act," Wolf recalled. "Then they played their goofy little set and the one who plays piano put on a ski mask. Dude thought he was wild shit. I was disgusted as I can't stand it when a band has to rely on a gimmick. I thought they blew and the world obviously agrees because who has ever heard of those guys now?"
Wolf-Face even played food critic for CL and landed on Vice for its affiliation with the buttwater party trick. And when the founder of Liquid Death water saw Wolf-Face play Gainesville's legendary punk-rock bacchanal The Fest, he emailed to ask if they could work together. Michael J. sent over a demo for a Liquid Death jingle, which he said led the owner to fork over several thousand dollars so the band could properly record the song and make a music video.
"Don't tell him this, but the final recorded song and music video probably cost us about $50 to make," Wolf told CL. Liquid Death, however, could not use the video to promote the product because the clip finds Michael J. murdering Ulrich (tame in comparison to a 2017 video for "Death to Wolf Poseurs" where the drummer is pummeled with 1,000 penises).
"He said they couldn't put it out since it was essentially a commercial using Lars' image without his permission. I guess I could have changed the video and left Lars out of it, but fuck that, this is my life and art we're talking about," Wolf said. "But I will say this, I only started seeing huge bands promoting Liquid Death and started seeing Liquid Death in Publix after our music video came out. That can't be a coincidence."
But it's no surprise that Wolf-Face—including guitarist Rain-Wolf, drummer Wolf-Fart and bassist The Good Wolf—has made it to a decade of bandom with its Beavers jerseys intact.
Another St. Pete legend, Daddy Kool Records co-founder Manny Kool, will host the band at his record shop on Friday for a free, outdoor all-ages anniversary concert complete with a food truck and early curfew (11 p.m.). Kool always loved how tight, loud and fast the band sounded; the songs remind him of punk and hardcore from the iconic independent Gainesville record label No Idea. Kool believes the band's relationship to the moon has also helped propel a long career that includes two LPs, splits, a 2011 EP and a new 8-bit Nintendo video game which is on its second run after the first batch of cartridges sold-out.
Some may suggest that it's been the fans that have kept Wolf-Face howling all these years, and Michael J. doesn't necessarily disagree.
"The love and support the band has received has been humbling. I think people finally understand what I've been through and how it's not easy being the best at pretty much everything," he said before conceding that playing music has provided him a kind of catharsis after the trauma of "Teen Wolf Too." He added that there's one song that always puts the pain in perspective and truly grounds him.
"It reminds me to be true to myself and simply enjoy the ride that is life. It reminds me to pull my loved ones close and appreciate that they love me for me. It's the song that reminds me that war is never the answer," he said. "That song is the Wolf-Face opus, 'Pubes On My Face.'"
And while a lot has changed for Michael J. Wolf in the last decade, a few very special things have remained the same.
"People sometimes say, 'Michael J., you've been around for so long. How can you still claim to be a teenage werewolf?' What they don't understand is that werewolf years are like dog years but in reverse," he said. "And that means my pubes are still the luscious golden brown that you've always enjoyed."
Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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