“I Was Almost Killed And Had A White Light Experience”: 13 Questions With Bad Wolves’ Tommy Vext
Although Bad Wolves are best known for their cover of The Cranberries’ Zombie, the heavy metal supergroup are determined to make it on their own terms. Just as bold as their music is the life of frontman Tommy Vext. Not only did he fill in for Ivan Moody when the Five Finger Death Punch frontman was in rehab, but he also testified against his twin brother who once tried to kill him. It’s little surprise, then, that the answers to these 13 simple, innocuous question, weren’t actually so simple or innocuous…
When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
“I wanted to be in a band since I was 13 or 14 years old. But when I was little, I wanted to be a scientist. I was really fascinated with palaeontology and I would collect adult books about palaeontology and learn about dinosaurs. My hero was this palaeontologist called Bob Bakker. I don’t even know why, but he was cool – he had a red beard and kind of looked like a dirty hippy, but he was just super-amped about dinosaurs. I’d watch these documentaries where he was always in the middle of nowhere digging holes and I thought that was a cool job, but I’m glad I didn’t become a palaeontologist. It’s not a sexy job and I don’t think I’d be dating my fitness model girlfriend if I was a palaeontologist. But Ross from Friends got Rachel for a while, so anything can happen!”
What happens when we die?
“I’ve been dead. I had an NDE, which stands for near-death experience, so I can tell you about that. Much of my life I was raised religious, but I didn’t really ever drink the punch. Then about 10 years ago, at the start of my recovery from drugs and alcohol, I started to develop spiritual practices like meditation and prayer, and I studied several different religions. I liked the common themes that they all had, but I’m also a big fan of the natural law and science. The best way to describe it is very George Lucas-like – how they explain the midichlorians in the Force, like lifting things up and moving things around. I think there’s one life force that inhabits all living things and we all have a separate consciousness that’s connected to the same force.
“I had this near-death experience in 2010 where I was almost killed and I had a white light experience. Which is very typical. I never knew anything about near-death experiences and then I looked up a lot of people’s because I got really interested in what I experienced. Some scientists say there’s like a DMT release before you die that causes the brain to create this really peaceful place so that you can die in peace. I had an experience like that, but my experience included contact with people that I’ve known for thousands of years – that was the one slight difference. I didn’t die and see my grandma or people I knew in this life, I went to this place where – not in physical form, but materialised in a form of energy – all these consciousnesses were there that I knew for a long time, for eons. And I felt like I was home again and then one of the beings was like, ‘You know, you don’t have to stay now’ and I realised, ‘Oh, I’m not done yet’ – as soon as I acknowledged that I had unfinished business I fell. I fell back into my body, which felt like I fell through the atmosphere and back to Earth. It was very, very strange.
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“So I can’t tell you with a certainty what exactly happens, but I choose to believe that there’s something after this. And I might be wrong, but I know that when I choose to believe I act better in life. I have less anxiety and I treat people differently based on a spiritual belief and practice. That doesn’t include rigidity – it’s malleable and it changes and undulates, but that’s my experience of when you die.”
Where’s the best place you’ve ever been?
“That’s an interesting question because there are many, but the only thing that is the same about the best places I’ve been is that I was completely in the moment when I was in those places. There’s a place in Bern, Switzerland off a fjord where I had this peaceful mediation when I was on tour over there in 2017, and it had one of the most significant impacts of a place, where I felt peaceful and safe. But it’s also been in bed with someone I’m in love with, there’s been being a 16 year-old kid and getting a puppy or going to see Pantera for the first time. There are so many different things, but when I collect all those memories, the most important memories, where I felt complete and a sense of wholeness, is because I was completely in the moment. My mind was not concerned with the past, it wasn’t worried about the future – it was just being in the moment. That’s why they call it the present, because it’s a gift. And we forget about that.”
What’s the funniest rumour you’ve ever heard about yourself?
“I don’t know! I don’t know if there are any untrue rumours. It’s like, ‘That’s true, that’s true, that’s true!’ I’ve heard weird rumours about other rock stars, but I’m not really a rock star.”
What’s your biggest fear?
“Probably dying an unfulfilled life. That at the end, when the end comes again for real, I will not have accomplished the things I wanted to accomplish. And some of them are small. Some of them are normal for normal people. And I’m actively in therapy for major, excessive childhood trauma and adult trauma, and for me one of the most difficult things in my adult life has been separating the past in order to have long-term and fulfilling relationships with trust. Because I’ve been on my own for a very long time, and even my band members, it’s taken two years of being in a band with these guys to trust that they weren’t going to quit. So that’s something that I actively have to work on, and the fear is that I won’t be able to get on the other side of these things that were done to me as kid and these circumstances that I had to survive and that at the end of my life I’ll be alone. That’s my real fear, and that’s why I work so diligently on myself to make sure that doesn’t happen.”
What’s your worst habit?
“Probably eating sugar. I work out a lot, but I’m still an addict, and it’s shifted over. I’ve been doing a lot better with it as of late, but there’s a really bad food addiction cycle where I will binge and purge on massive quantities of sugar and then shame myself about it. And the cycle of where the shame comes in is not really good for me, so I just try to take it easy and not go too crazy with the food stuff.”
Who is the most famous person in your phonebook?
“That’s a weird question! I mean, people know that I’m friends with Josh Brolin. He actually just introduced the band at our Palladium show [in Los Angeles] last month. He’s pretty famous. And I know Justin Bieber. We don’t talk, but I worked for him a couple of years ago and would live in his house. That was a weird one!”
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
“I had a lot of jobs when I was a kid, but they weren’t the worst, because it was just working for paper concert tickets and beers. I think the hardest job I ever had was when I first got sober: I was homeless and my friend’s wife got me a job working at a dog kennel, and I’d gone from touring and being in a band and being onstage to being an adult working at a dog kennel with a bunch of high school kids cleaning up shit and piss, and then sleeping on my friend’s couch.
“But I look back at that and it might have been the most humbling quote-unquote worst job ever. It was so important for the levelling of my pride in order for me to let go of certain attitudes that I had, so that I could change from the ground up – the fabric of the person that I was going to become. A lot of musicians don’t want to work – people in bands don’t want to get a job – but there’s this phrase ‘All work is honourable’ and it’s something that I’ve always said and it’s the truth. It doesn’t matter what you do, as long as you’re doing something and you’re making sure you’re taking care of yourself while you’re on your road to achieving your dreams. You have to create a sense of independence for yourself. And also, if you don’t do those struggles, when something good happens to you, you’re not going to appreciate it. And then you’re going to blow it. And I’ve watched people do that all the time. Especially in LA.”
Have you ever been kicked out of a bar?
“Pick a place! Let’s see – I got kicked out of a bar in London when I was in Divine Heresy because I was doing drugs and the guy found my drugs. I got kicked out of a bar, The Salty Dog, in Brooklyn, which is like a cop bar, because I poured out a line of cocaine on the bar table and just did a rail in front of all the cops at the bar while they were off-duty. And they were like, ‘Bro!’ and I was like, ‘What?’ I was just a very self-destructive drug addict and alcoholic. I just didn’t care. But yeah, I’ve been kicked out of a lot of places. I got thrown out of The Roxy in Hollywood. I used to work there and I got so drunk on my day off that they told me I couldn’t come there anymore! I’ve been kicked out of everywhere!”
Have you ever been in a fight?
“Yeah. I’ve been in hundreds of fights, probably. Well, not hundreds, but a lot. From the time that I was little, I’ve broken five fingers, my wrist, my skull’s been fractured twice, my nose has been broken, I’ve had to have knee surgery, I’ve been stabbed, I’ve been run over by a car, I’ve been beaten with baseball bats, I’ve had my spleen burst, I’ve had my arm broken by a crowbar. I did not grow up in Disneyland, you know what I mean?”
When was the last time you vomited?
“I don’t know! I think it was September 2018. I got pneumonia in Manchester and I was a mess. I was hospitalised for two days but we didn’t cancel the shows. We actually had Austin [Dickinson] from As Lions sing two of the shows for me so I could recuperate.”
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If you had the power to turn off the internet, would you do it?
“For everybody? Or just certain people? (laughs) Yeah, if I had the power to turn off the internet I would make it so that my girlfriend couldn’t see my Instagram, because I follow a lot of photographers and other models and she doesn’t like when I Like photos of other chicks. I’m trying to get better at it, I’ve just never been told that this was a problem, you know what I mean? But it doesn’t make her feel good, so I’m trying not to do it, but sometimes I do and she’s like, ‘You did it again!’ and I’m like, ‘I’m sorry, babe! But you’re a model, too and this is your job and you have 20,000 likes and they’re all married dudes and their wives have got to put up with you’ and she’s like, ‘It’s not the same! I’m a fitness professional. These girls are naked!’ and I’m just like ‘Oh my God….”
Why should people listen to N.A.T.I.O.N.?
“Well, the title of the album is really a nod to our fans and our friends and the people who supported us through the launch of the band. Although all of us come from different bands – and some of us come from legacy metal bands - we kind of just came onto the scene and were so widely accepted, especially in the rock genre, which is something we hadn’t been exposed to before. We made Disobey because we wanted to make a record that our 16-year-old selves would like. Going back in and recording new material after the band had been established, we really came together and made a much more mature and focused version of what Bad Wolves was on the first record.”
Bad Wolves’ new album N.A.T.I.O.N. is out October 25 via Eleven Seven Music.
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