For psychedelic doom metal thrashers Windhand, the pandemic was more than just hitting the pause button—it was a chance for them to step back and reevaluate the music, the lifestyle, and everything in between.
They had already started to get a taste of their forced hiatus due to quarantine until Levitation reached out about a live session. The band got back together for one last gig before they stepped onto a path with no end in sight. It wasn’t just because of Covid that they were taking a break, but also because band-life was causing some serious burnout in the four-piece—and, on top of that, drummer Ryan Wolfe was suffering from insane carpal tunnel and needed surgery ASAP.
“There’s a picture still on our refrigerator that I look at pretty much daily of all of us after we got done [recording the live Levitation Session],” Wolfe says. “It’s really weird to think back on how insane and intense everything was.”
The live Levitation Session ripped extra hard because of all these obstacles with undetermined results ahead of the band. The dark trippy visuals that overlay the emotional performance pulls you into a time when nobody had answers.
Since then, Wolfe got his operation and the band reunited once the quarantine was lifted. They’ve since realized and embraced that their path is Windhand and they have been playing more epic than ever.
Read the entire interview with Windhand’s drummer Ryan Wolfe below:
Elena Childers (EC): Let’s talk about this Levitation session! It was done during the height of the pandemic. Tell me what it was like to get together during a time when it was pretty scary to do so.
Ryan Wolfe (RW): Yeah, well it was actually pretty wild! We hadn’t done anything beforehand. We got the news of the pandemic two days before we were supposed to leave to start doing a bunch of shows. So we didn’t practice, we didn’t do anything—we all just worked. I ended up having insane carpal tunnel [and] I lost feeling in my arms from working. So, I could barely do anything at that time and I was going to have surgery. But we practiced for the filming [of the live Levitation Session] and right after we did the filming I had surgery. Then I didn’t play any drums for 16 months.
EC: Whoa! So that was kind of your last hoorah before everything went down??
RW: Yeah, literally! It was like, “this is a cool way to send us off and see what the hell is coming!” I had no idea what I was going to be like afterward. Unfortunately, everything I was told just did not go as planned and I had the worst-case scenario in the situation. So I lost a lot of feeling and mobility and I had to rehab like crazy. I had a nerve that I had been fighting and dealing with and they had to actually move the nerve—my ulnar nerve, which is actually your funny bone—they had to move it and they had to cut into my muscles and my tendons to place it. It took a very long time to heal.
EC: Wow! Yeah, that’s nothing to mess with. So I bet when you go back and watch these Levitation Sessions it’s maybe nostalgic or perhaps even a little bittersweet.
RW: It’s funny because we actually have a photo from that day. We had a friend in town, she came into town because it was right around our bass player Parker’s birthday. We actually had to take covid tests, because we had been around someone who had gotten sick, so it was like, “oh my god! This is gonna suck if we are sick or test positive, this is really gonna screw everything up.” But it worked out and there’s a picture still on our refrigerator that I look at pretty much daily of all of us after we got done [recording the live Levitation Session]. It’s wild—it’s really weird to think back on how insane and intense everything was.
EC: Absolutely! How are you playing now? Are you all healed up??
RW: I’m good. My elbow is still barely numb, but I’ve gotten most of my feeling back in it. It’s just every once in a while it’s kind of numb. It’s a weird sensation, but for the most part, all of that is gone. The carpal tunnel is gone. So I’m back doing it! Back ruining my life! [LAUGHS] Usually, it’s music/the band that I ruin my life with, but for now, I’m letting construction do it.
EC: [LAUGHS] Yep! That’ll do it. So, tell me more about this session. What is this imagery overlay? The cascading trees and landscape—is that something symbolic or just some cool visuals you guys wanted to add?
RW: So we have a friend of ours, Jordan, he’s actually the one who filmed it. He’s doing a bunch of our videos and he put together a bunch of imagery for us… Levitation actually said they wanted it more psychedelic, ya know, “do it up!” So he added some more. He’s always been a fan and a friend. He knows the vibe that we like. He’s a photographer and videography, so he’s got tons and tons of footage and he just went through and synced up a mood to follow along with the set.
EC: Tell me about the tour you guys just got back from!
RW: That was awesome! That was one of the tours we canceled in 2020 and finally got to make it up… Other than it being like 110 degrees, the shows were amazing! It was really cool, it felt like I could do it again—I could be a rockstar again!
EC: Oh yeah! Tell me about that feeling about finally being able to play live music again after, ya know, the pandemic and having your surgery.
RW: It’s weird because I’m not gonna lie, I was pretty fucking burned out when everything happened. I really took a break from the band… I just really needed it and I got away. There was a moment there where I thought, especially with the surgeries, “what if we don’t do this anymore or what if I can’t do this anymore?” So, there was a long time there where the band was the last thing to occupy my mind or time… I was just trying to figure out what the hell I was doing and if I’m going to be able to wipe my own ass. Like, would I be able to ever hold a glass again? Because there was a point there where I couldn’t pick up a can, like a full can and hold it, my arm just wouldn’t let me do that. So it felt great [to play again]. It’s weird because you watch how people realize that they want to do something else, and [during the pandemic] you saw people not doing what they typically do and getting out of the box and learning something different. And it was like, “ok, are people going to still be wanting to come to shows? How is everybody else feeling?” And [playing again] was great! We did some shows last fall and they were insane. People were buying so much merch and they couldn’t have been any nicer. It was awesome. It was like, “ok! We can do this again!”
EC: That rules. So what’s going on in the future of Windhand?
RW: We’ve got something coming up that we can’t announce yet, but it’s going to be pretty cool! We’re going for a week tour down South in September, and we’re gonna start writing. We wanna get a new album put together—so that’s the main focus.
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