Interview with Lead Singer of The Woggles, Playing Live in Washington DC Tonight

The Woggles are one of Athens, Georgia's great rock bands, and they're one of the most fun bands you'll ever see. They have another album coming out later this year, and their last album, 2007's Rock and Roll Backlash is one of my favorite records of the last several years. You can see them tonight in Washington, DC at the Black Cat. I asked their lead singer, The Professor Mighty Manfred, to answer a few questions, and he graciously agreed.

1. Where does the band's name come from? What does The Woggles mean?

The name was taken from the Sticks McGhee & His Drinking Buddies' song the "Wiggle Waggle Woo" where they sing about woggling. The idea was to have a fun sounding nonsensical name. Little did we know that in Australia some stoners had thought of the same idea, but went with Wiggles and decided to become a kids band.

2. You're from Georgia, and you've been in the Athens and Atlanta music scenes for 20 years. It seems like popular music has changed a great deal since then, while The Woggles sound very similar to the way they sounded two decades ago. What has changed about music in Georgia, and what has changed for the band since you first got together?

We've seen trends come and go, but there's always been a loyal audience for our brand of rock and roll, which draws from and is rooted in 50s/60s soul and R&B, as well as garage rock bands of that era (including British Invasion groups) on up to today. Initially in Athens we were pegged as a Cramps influenced band, and though we enjoy the Cramps that notion spoke of how little our contemporaries understood the Cramps, much less ourselves.

To us, great rock and roll is timeless. A great song is timeless. We certainly don't hold ourselves slave to any earlier period of time, but if certain sounds we like originated in an earlier era that doesn't make them any less valid. We wind up interpreting them through our own experience and Woggle-fying them.

Right now in Atlanta there are a good number of bands who share a common thread with our loves of pop music including the Black Lips, Subsonics, Tiger Tiger and their related groups. What has changed since our initial days of forming is that there are any bands who share a similar perspective to what we do in Atlanta or Athens.

3. What music did you listen to when you grew up? Who are your greatest influences? Are there other bands that you love -- past or present -- that didn't directly influence you?

As a child I first started listening to music on the radio and remember having an epiphany one day when I realized that the songs I really liked never seemed to fair very well on Casey Kasem's Top 40. Around that time I discovered the left end of the dial and began to tune in noncommercial stations like WRAS, WRFG and WREK. My first "Holy Shit" moment of "I just heard the sound of GOD" was listening to WRAS during the program Flashback, the host Laura (I think that's her name) played Bo Diddley's "I'm A Man." Compared to the new wave and even punk rock I'd heard up to that point, Bo was just beyond primeval. It's like the other stuff I'd heard, which I still enjoyed, was just kids fair or lite, compared to THE MAN singing about being A MAN. I called up the next week and requested it, but she played the Yardbirds version, which is good, but Bo is just the voice of all things experienced.

Later, in college and working at WRAS, I spun the Lyres first album and cued up "Help You Ann." that was another "Holy Shit" moment. That time it was "GOOD GAWD, THIS IS A MONSTER!!" and took from the recording a vindication of the sounds I was loving weren't pinned to any particular year and the emotive expressions that created such passions within me couldn't be constrained.

For me I don't really think in terms of any particular artists, generally, but instead particular songs I enjoy at any given moment. I'd say the top ten on the radio in my head right now is:
  1. King Khan & the Shrines, "Outta Harms Way"
  2. The Revellions, "It's Up To You"
  3. The Mohawks, "The Champ"
  4. Los Buenos, "Groovy Woovy"
  5. The Branded, "You Got The Hurt"
  6. Gore Gore Girls, "All Grown Up"
  7. The Woolly Bandits, "Gonna Make It Right"
  8. Dee Dee Warwick, "Don't Call Me Anymore"
  9. Bobby Peterson Quintet, "Mama Get The Hammer"
  10. Johnny Thunders, "I'm Alive" (just recently done by Tom Jones and his version is pretty cool)
Of things I enjoy but don't consider an influence per se, yeah I like certain Julie London and Rosemary Clooney stuff and also jazz things, Bob Dorough, etc.
4. Is there a rock and roll backlash? Is it harder for a rock and roll band to make it -- to get signed, to find radio space, to get into stores -- than it used to be? Why do you think that is?

Inevitably there's a backlash to any movement or wave, an equal and opposite reaction as they say. Maybe not so completely as physics would have it, but whatever is tops or cool one day is derided later and that's the nature of vim and vigor. So, fine. However, we know what we like and choose to do that come hell or high water and try to engage others to join us in our celebration. "Rock and Roll Backlash" was titled at a moment when we figured the pendulum would be swinging away from the most recent rock resurgence (Hives, Strokes, etc) and to make a statement that we keep on just keepin' on.

As far as what we do getting signed, or getting radio space, or getting in stores, those things have always existed for us, but that's been at a very small level. But now that the music industry has fallen apart, the numbers that we sold/sell, which compared to major artists of yesteryear was insignificant, seem now to merit attention.

5. Do you have any new albums in the works?

We've got a compilation of instrumental tunes we have done over the years coming out sometime this year on Wicked Cool Records. It's titled "Tempo Tantrum" and covers previously released as well as unreleased songs. We'll be recording material for a new studio album this fall. Most likely we'll record in Atlanta, but we haven't settled on a studio yet.