Wyatt Wendels is a musician and radio DJ.
However, before turning to music and learning the drums, he studied acting at school and college. 2014 saw Wyatt return to acting when he appeared as Mr Edward Hyde in a great production of ‘Jekyll and Hyde’ at The Lion & Unicorn Theatre. It was 1990 that he began learning the drums and actually joined his first band that same year.
Two years later he had joined what he considers his first real band. At only 18 years old, he was playing gigs in and around Hollywood and LA, before returning the UK to carry on with his music studies and playing with various other bands at the time. By the mid 90’s he was a drummer for an Essex band, Baby Paint, which secured a record deal and the release of their only album, Life Jacket. After a while both emotionally and financially, Wyatt was becoming disheartened with band life so decided to explore the idea of working on the radio.
He started his professional radio career in 2000 in West Yorkshire. As is the life of any radio presenter, Wyatt moved around the country working for various stations, from late nights, drivetime to breakfast before moving to his current home on Planet Rock, on his birthday, October the 1st 2012. From then on he’s never looked back.
Whilst DJ’ing, alongside his strenuous charity work, Wyatt is still involved in music, playing the drums for various artists and bands. In September 2020, news broke that was to join Sheffield band Black Spiders taking over from drummer Si Atkinson.
With his fingers in so many pies, both off and on stage, I knew Wyatt would be perfect to chat too for Behind the Lens to get his perspective on music, concert photography and tea.
Your parents were travelling musicians, what was it like growing up within that lifestyle? It obviously it had a massive influence on you.
Surprisingly it didn’t make much difference to me as I didn’t see or acknowledge that way of life much at all. Beyond a few parties and various conversations and stories from yesteryears, it had no real bearing on me.
From Baby Paint in 2013 to now being the drummer for Black Spiders, (congratulations by the way) you’re going to be spinning so many plates in 2021! I Imagine you’re anxious about filling Si Atkinson’s shoes. Apart from Cowbell, what else do you think you will bring to the band?
Plate spinning is on the skills section of my CV! I’m honestly not anxious at all about replacing anyone. I’ve done it at every point in my career for one position or another in various industries. I just get anxious about the standards I set myself. In reality, most people think I’m either “that” radio presenter or some non-descript drummer from somewhere, so my musical expectations from them are pretty low.
I have more hair and height than my predecessor and I’m two-footed but whether any of them will put me in better stead… Time will tell I guess.
How much cowbell is too much cowbell?
More than a dozen is probably a little excessive!
Keeping in theme with the bands ‘animal’ names, what’s your animal going to be?
I don’t want one. Simply because everyone has/had one. I’m not good with bandwagons and fitting in as such. This way I can be unique!
Aerosmith is up there amongst your favourite bands. What is it about the curtain drop that flicks your switch?
It is just the drama, the theatrics and statement they make. Can’t think of anything worse than just ambling on stage and starting up cold!
They bring intrigue and excitement! “What’s behind the curtain?!” etc etc
Aerosmith have been creative with them over the years. Starting a song behind it on the Pump tour (Rats In The Cellar) The cylinder curtain around the drums covering them all for the Get A Grip tour and the multi pieced castle curtain for the later dates on the Nine Lives tour (notably the 1999 Wembley Stadium show)
What other bands are you listening to at the moment?
A lot of Black Spiders, mostly for training purposes!
I’ve so much respect for you. You’re certainly living life to the full. In 2016 you completed your first 1,100 mile Road To Rockstock on a bike for the charity CALM. Last year you completed the 2,000 mile Road to Rockstock 2, for the charity MIND. In December last year (2019), You then went on to release an all-star single which was a cover of John Farnham’s “You’re The Voice” again for the charity MIND, as well as your Cymbals of Appreciation for the UK care workers during the pandemic. Do you ever stop? What’s next?
You forgot the London Marathon in 2018, where I finished it and then went and played a gig at the Bristol Louisiana the same night!
Well to come there is at least one Black Spiders album in the next year. No idea when the live scene will begin again so it is all about the records now!
A lot more big interviews to do and a ton more Cymbals Of Appreciations to record and produce. I’m toying with the idea of doing a COA live drum marathon to raise a few quid for a mental health charity around Christmas time but we shall see if that comes to fruition.
And when the music scene returns I hope to have a Yorkshire music venue to help run and I hope this last statement dates well in the current climate!
The charities you’ve raised money for have never been so prominent than during these times. Living alone, music has always been my ‘go-to’ therapy. Do you think music has the ability to soothe the soul?
Music has the power to make and break you in equal measure. Choose your music carefully. For example, if I’m struggling like hell in the wind and rain on a bike ride with miles and miles and days to go, there are no ballads or even power ballads allowed on the playlist. None!
In regards to the recording the single, so many big names, and such a huge project. Talk us through that experience
On July 26th 2019 it was an idea while I was walking in Asda. Less than a week later two studio days were booked after I ran the idea by Toby Jepson. He loved the idea and said he’d produced and co-ordinate.
It took less than two weeks to get “the band” together, as in those that would record the track. Before that, I put the feelers out to people to see if they would be interested. Many said yes right off the bat. As soon as the recording was in my hand by September the 14th it went off around the world. Everyone’s bits had to be in by the end of October so Toby could edit and mix before going off on his own tour.
The last weekend was pretty chaotic for me as I had a Sunday deadline and the Friday and Saturday I spent trying to co-ordinate getting Alice Cooper, Lzzy Hale and Chris Robertson recorded in time, and with the US time difference, it was a couple of very late nights. Despite the people who couldn’t take part in the end (Glenn Hughes, Chad Kroeger, Phil Collen to name a few for logistical and scheduling reasons and nothing sinister) it turned out amazing and as close to perfect as I could imagine!
As a drummer, do you often think that drummers are overlooked during live shots of a show?
Not really. They often take the worst shots with some weird faces, and dodgy body part angles etc
Do you feel photographs are an important asset to any live show?
I do. The right ones can really capture a moment and be quite iconic. Even if it is several of a show…several moments in time if you will, they can really transport people.
Off the top of your head, what iconic photo(s) come to mind when you think of concert photography? ( i will find the images online if you can think of any)
The classic Freddie Mercury ones from both Live Aid and the 1986 Wembley Stadium show spring to mind.
I often think the black and white ones of Robert Plant and Led Zep at some of their big 70’s shows are generally pretty iconic. Planty with the chest out, Page and the Japanese themed clothing and all the light bulbs around the edge of the stage…
During a gig, what are your thoughts on the ‘first three songs and out’ rule for photographers? Are you aware of it?
Yes, I know of it and I never had understood it or why. Sure if you were on the stage and in the way I would get it but it just seems a rule for the sake of a rule!
Would you rather see one ‘amazing’ shot of a show or a few ‘good’ shots?
A few good ones for sure as kind of alluded to previously.
What’s your thoughts on the smartphone generation during a performance?
It doesn’t offend me personally. I can understand why people don’t like it and I struggle to see the joy in recording and uploading a shite piece of 30 second audio online, but I just live and let live where I can.
What do you think would make or break relationships between bands and photographers?
I guess a breach of trust or the age old unsolicited paparazzi-style photos
If you could open a show for any artist past or present, who would it be?
When it comes to looking at live shots, would you rather see the performance or the moments in between?
Unless there is a one off never to happen again iconic moment captured between songs like a speech, or some kind of breakdown or failure then it is always about the performance. You don’t play vinyl to listen to the crackle between songs, it is about the music performance, same with shots. It should be about what is happening not what isn’t
Working in radio, from experience I know you drink your own body weight in Tea. Talk us through your preferred method in making the perfect cup of tea.
Teabag in. Pour water in (it is optional whether sugar goes in before or after boiling water) Add a lot of milk straight away and then let the teabag dilute the milk to your preferred colour. And by colour, I mean roughly the same shade as a milky bar.
You speak a lot about your hanging baskets, cutting the grass, and taking the bin out and how these un-rock and roll aspects of home life SHOULD be rock n roll. If you had to start a petition to make one task a rock-n-roll as hell, what would it be?
Well, I haven’t had any hanging baskets since I moved house a couple of years ago, so I’m going with mowing the lawn.
The last time I did that and did it on Facebook live I offended an online presenter so much they had a big rant about how pathetic it / I was and how stupid people were for being interested in it and then blocked me!
That’s the kind of offence I want to cause people in life so public lawn mowing it is!
Lastly and most importantly, what message should we send out to bands, the crew and venues during these difficult times?
Get your house in order, batten down the hatches and prepare for the worst and how you can navigate it and come out the other side.
Adopting the brace position and just hoping for the best and telling yourself “It will be alright in the end” won’t cut it.
I know that for certain.
Take control of what you can control and do everything you can to be productive, creative and forward thinking as the landscape has changed potentially forever, so many of us need to adapt to survive the other side… Including me!