The Wolves of Winter Hill
Dogman tells the story behind the song that gets the audiences ‘howling’
This song was ‘born’ of a comment I posted on MySpace. I wrote on my music page that: ‘Dogman was a feral child, raised by the Wolves of Winter Hill’. This sentence has an element of truth in it because, alongside my brother and four sisters, I was raised in a home after the disappearance of our mother and father before her. We initially lived together in a 'Family Group Children’s Home'. From here we could view what seemed to be me to be vast moorlands, including Winter Hill, Bronze Age sites and a Napoleonic Beacon used to warn of the invasion. We often picnicked there because it was a local tradition for thousands to go up the hills. This was especially undertaken on 'Good Friday' and on every Easter Monday when an exciting fair was held there.
I wanted to write a ‘rock song’ that would contrast against my own gentle folk melodies and that I could hear every other person with a guitar singing at open mic events. So, I had the opening line to the song and used major chords to blast out a strident melody, ‘I was raised by the Wolves of Winter Hill and shared their kill and learned to use my wits and use my skill’. I don’t know where I first used the howling but when playing a cover of ‘All along the watchtower’ [Bob Dylan] and I often howled to emphasise the line – ‘ A wild cat did howl’ . My sudden ‘howling’ at the beginning of 'Wolves' at gigs and in the album recording may have subconsciously come from that. Comments have suggested that my 'howl' is 'Bono-like' and that the song is a stadium rocker!
My epic chorus, ‘I came to sing for you and sing my songs’ , is a truism in that I have always enjoyed singing, an experience that came from being chosen for the school and church choir as a boy. The second verse, ‘I never understood, your dog-eat-dog eyes, when you’re supposed to be so civilised’, is my stab at how some wealthy (and greedy) members of society can stand by and watch other people suffering.
My original lyrics were extended and more complex than the recorded song is now. This came from ‘fine tuning’ the lyrics by playing the song for more than a year at my gigs. I currently play small venues, pubs and bars and enjoy the kind of intimacy it is possible to get with people who are live-music orientated. Some members of the audiences are even howling when I start playing the opening chords to the ‘Wolves of Winter Hill’.
Finally, Mr Smith, my studio producer, suggested Dogman should ‘twin’ with a ‘Winter Hill’ in the United States from a fun media publicity stand point. When I ‘Googled’ the place name and was first amused and then aghast to discover that the area was infamous for being associated with an Irish-American gang who, it would appear, have broken every law from First Degree Murder to kidnapping, money laundering extortion and rape. At that point it was an easy decision not to request to twin.
One of my dreams is to play live on the Later, Jools Holland Show, like so many emerging artists. However, there is so, so much music out there that I do worry how my songs will survive. However, I know that one Dogman song played on BBC Radio 2 in the UK or on a leading American radio station – maybe playing ‘Wolves’ and you never know.....