Wolfgang Parker began as a music pioneer, releasing the first Punk-Swing album ever recorded. Hep City Swing (1998) was followed by appearances on scads of compilation discs as the Second Generation Swing movement crested. But by the time Parker and his band released their follow-up full-length, Octoboure (1999), the movement was drying up and Swing was dead—again. Unfortunately, Parker himself was in danger of sharing the same fate.
Seven years of living out his teenage fantasies of Rock 'n' Roll excess had left Parker in a dark place. Self-worth issues that had plagued his childhood had driven self-destructive behavior of epic proportions in his adulthood. An alcohol intake of twenty to thirty mixed drinks and double shots per night pushed the artist to dangerous physical limits, and transformed his personality into something he describes as "monstrous." It became clear to everyone—including him—that the death of Swing was his cue to step away.
His brief hiatus stretched into a seven year absence, spent working on personal issues and healing himself. In 2004, Wolfgang broke his exile to join his former band mates for a one-night performance to commemorate their tenth anniversary.
Then, in 2006, Parker was "discovered" by London-based Millennium Records. The label was looking to expand from its Goa Trance market into Rock 'n' Roll and they liked Parker's adventurous stylings. Despite the fact that Parker had no band, or even a bass guitar, he struck a deal and reformed the band. The new line-up included Parker's second guitarist, Alan Mauger, and newcomer Aaron Apter on drums.
Out of the blue, Parker seemed to have gotten everything right: he had landed the record deal that had eluded him throughout the 1990s, he had a great band, and he finally possessed a healthy perspective that allowed him to enjoy it. The album, Room Nineteen (2007), was a remastered compilation of previously released tracks from Hep City Swing and Octoboure, with a deluxe packaging. Room Nineteen garnered positive reviews from the European music press and management companies were calling. Then, on the day the album came out, Millennium Records went under. Drummer Arron Apter left soon after.
Original members James Oberlin (drums) and Anthony Yates (guitar) returned to the fold, but even the new dynamic couldn't halt the inevitable disintegration. The four-piece released Petty Standards (2010), an E.P. of Big Band standards that had become set list staples over a decade and a half, to little fanfare. Despite the fact that an art scene based on the band's fusion of early American Jazz and Punk had materialized during Parker's seven year absence, the Diselpunk scene proved anemic in the Mid-West and the band failed to gain traction outside of the retro scene. After a brief experimental period, the act released its swan song, The Father/The Son (2013), and disbanded after nineteen years.
In the years preceding the break up, Wolfgang actively sought artistic mediums outside of music to work through. He dabbled in photography, producing work that was published in Europe and America in indie fashion and art publications, but the process proved too intense and by the third year, Parker burned out. However, the brief foray did manage to revive his passion for visual storytelling—a yearning songwriting hadn't been able to satisfy. Wolfgang Parker set his sights on new territory: comic books.
Before the band dissolved, Parker managed to get a project funded through Kickstarter in 2010. The 200-page graphic novel for mature readers, 1888: Deklin Skurlock Investigation Casebook, Vol. I, is a product of an eight-year collaboration with illustrator John Amor, who released Judas: The Last Days (IDW) in 2015 and One Week in the Library (Image), colorist Homeros Gilani, letterer Jason Hanley, and fine artist Dan Verkys. Wolfgang describes the Jack the Ripper epic as "Gangs of New York meets the Exorcist." The book's black and white line art is due to wrap up in 2017 with coloring and lettering expected to be finished in 2018.
The success of the 1888 campaign gave Parker the confidence to try his hand at prose. He wrote the first volume of his Crime Cats series as a holiday gift for his nineteen nieces and nephews in 2014. Having never held aspirations to make art for kids, Wolfgang expected the book to serve merely as a means to remain in his relatives' lives. However, after witnessing the excitement the book generated, he reconsidered. Over one hundred and sixty book signings later, the mystery series has sold over seven thousand copies in the Columbus area alone and its accidental author and illustrator says the experience has been the most rewarding of his career so far.
But turning over a new leaf or two doesn't mean Wolfgang Parker has lost his grit. Rock 'n' Roll has been the vehicle through which Wolfgang has grown— into a graphic novelist, children's author, and ultimately into a an a better human being. For that, Parker reckons he owes Rock 'n' Roll too much to quit after it's been so good to him.
Parker has returned to music as a part of the Alternative Rock outfit, Weedhaven Laughing Academy (WLA). The band’s debut anthem, GLUE, is the product of Parker's continuing artistic partnership with Anthony Yates, Alan Mauger, and newcomer, Matt Mees (The Godz). Their second single, 2s & 5s & 3s is set to release summer of 2017.
"After twenty years of making art, WLA has given me a means to play music freely, as myself, without pretense," Parker said with a smile. "The core of WLA's music deals with conformity as force in our society. The most defining decisions every person makes—the decisions that shape their lives most profoundly—are usually made in the face of conformity. I've made some very poor decisions in my life, but I never betrayed myself and the experiences I gained as a consequence of those choices transformed me into the person and artist I am today. I'm grateful to reach this point where I'm able to connect with so many different people through music and writing."
Wolfgang Parker is currently hard at work on the fourth volume of Crime Cats, his graphic novel, 1888, and playing shows and recording with WLA.