For some musicians, playing aside their heroes and honoring others on record and stage might be enough.
But after 32 years with a power chord-geared guitar in his hands, Chris Malachowski — frontman for Buffalo punk act Wolf Tickets — still wants more. He’s played stages with the likes of genre titans Rancid and the Mighty Mighty Bosstones; he’s honed the band’s sound to emulate the likes of Social Distortion and the Clash.
Now, he leads a reworked lineup of guitarist Mike Leahy, drummer Josh Heatley, bassist Scott Mercer and keyboardist Bob Kozack that may be the band’s strongest over its 20-year run.
Malachowski wants to utilize the quintet’s unique skills and synergy to craft the most ambitious Wolf Tickets work to date. This is the plan with the band’s forthcoming album, “Death by Misadventure,” due out in April and set to unleash a more instrumentally varied outfit — but with no less the punk thrust of its predecessors.
On Feb. 16, the band will join Lucky Ones, the Abruptors and Boston’s Darkbuster (with Buffalo-born Rubend Lipkind on bass) for an 8 p.m. show in Mohawk Place (47 E. Mohawk St.).
In the lead-up to the gig, Malachowski took some time to discuss the band’s name, its respect for the late Joe Strummer, and use of the city's finest Sabres-supporting bass drum.
Question: Sure you're sick of this question, but I'll ask it again: Where does the name Wolf Tickets come from?
Answer: I got the name some 20 odd years ago from a Playboy article featuring Tom Waits. In it, he was asked what were colloquialisms or phrases he liked that were underused. "Wolf tickets" came from the American South and has a couple oddly varying interpretations.
The one I like best means that you are trying to intimidate someone without actually planning any harm, as in, "I'm passing out wolf tickets today, so keep your distance!” It can also mean boasting or bragging about something you haven’t done yet, nor are planning to do. Basically, all versions flow back to "talking smack,” as the kids say.
Q: 2014's "Street Soul" is rife with hard-driving guitars and percussion, reminiscent of early Clash, Rancid and the Bouncing Souls. Is your new material more of a progression or redirection of these elements?
A: We are all unabashed Clash fans and are particularly enamored with their exciting trajectory through punk, reggae, soul, jazz, dub and gospel. Then, you have the great post-Clash records from Big Audio Dynamite and Joe Strummer & The Mescaleros, which were complete groundbreakers. We want to branch out in similar fashion, and since we're not getting any younger, we decided now is the time.
There's nothing like firing up our old guitar-driven anthems, but at the same time, we hope to grow and challenge our fans. In the end, there will likely be a little bit of everything from here on out, held together by our shared punk-rock ethos we hope will transcend genre stereotypes.
Q: You've been a uniting force behind Buffalo's annual Joe Strummer Foundation benefit show, both as an organizer and performer. If you could play only one song from either Strummer's or the Clash's catalog, what would it be, and why?
A: There are so many possibilities that I'm going to cheat a bit here. My favorite Clash song to play is probably "White Man in Hammersmith Palais,” one of the earliest songs to incorporate punk and reggae on the same track.
My favorite Strummer song to sing is "Yalla Yalla.” I love trying to emulate that beautiful (and sometimes off-key) sincerity that comes from a man who, even in death, speaks poignantly to people's struggles as if his words were written yesterday.
Q: Finally, Wolf Tickets is a Buffalo band, one born, raised and still evolving in this city. What does that mean to you when you're here, and what does it mean to you when out on the road, representing the city?
A: Wolf Tickets have been proud over the years to support some of the greatest bands in punk and reggae here in Buffalo, including Rancid, the Street Dogs, and even reggae legend Lee "Scratch" Perry. We look forward to putting in a run or two this summer on the East Coast with a little help from some of our friends and connections.
We're anxious to get out there and do our best to show that our city is creatively energized and full of other great local bands that need to be heard. And not so subtlety, our drummer (Heatley) has the Sabres logo adorning the largest kick drum you've ever seen.
Who: Wolf Tickets, with Darkbuster, Lucky Ones and the Abruptors
When: 8 p.m. Feb. 16
Where: Mohawk Place, 47 E. Mohawk St.