Somewhere along the way, Åge Sten Nilsen had lost himself. It was the tail end of the noughties, and the singer’s glam-rock band, Wig Wam, could look back on a stellar first decade, having represented Norway credibly at the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest and scaled the domestic circuit with their frivolous hairspray anthems and Sunset Strip-sounding alter egos.
Nilsen took the stage as Glam, along with bassist Flash (Bernt Jansen), guitarist Teeny (Trond Holter) and drummer Sporty (Øystein Andersen). But now, when Nilsen peeled off his stage clothes, the character remained. And while Glam was many things – a great showman and rafter-shaking vocalist among them – he wasn’t much of a husband.
“Living my life as this alter-ego Glam twenty-four hours a day, never being able to wind down, that can fuck up your life,” Nilsen reflects today. “It took me to a very dark situation in my private life, with my divorce. So the lyric to Do Ya Wanna Taste It is about that drug called fame and the egomania that comes with it. Are you really sure you want to taste that? Because it can eat you up.”
Nilsen knew his subject. While Wig Wam were a respected but cult concern in the UK – and virtually unknown in the States – on Norwegian soil they were favourite sons and worked hard to maintain that profile.
“Sometimes we’d play three concerts a day,” he remembers. “Private planes. Helicopters. And to keep it all going, my only solution was cognac. So every night it’d be a big bubble of cognac. That was a pretty blurry period.”
On the run-up to Wig Wam’s third album, Non Stop Rock‘N’Roll (2010), Holter presented the band with the bones of a promising tune, including the instantly memorable rabble-chant chorus that would give Do Ya Wanna Taste It its title. Nilsen realised he had the perfect canvas for his thoughts on hollow fame and its fallout, scribbling lines such as ‘poison to your mind’, ‘devil in disguise’ and ‘throw your dog the invisible bone’.
“You think that if you can just get your career going, get on that TV show, then you’ll be satisfied,” the singer explains of the lyric. “But it’s like throwing a dog an invisible bone. You can’t hold on to it. And you forget about the real stuff in the world. The ‘devil in disguise’ is fame. See what happens to all the artists on Pop Idol. Once the cameras shut off, the TV audience goes home, the press doesn’t call – life feels pretty empty. And then they start to get undressed on Instagram.”
As Wig Wam worked at Holter’s home studio in their southern-lying Norwegian home town of Halden, the song evolved from its early bluesy feel to a busier, harmony-stacked bluster.
“I started doing my Queen shows in 2007 and it really took off,” Nilsen says of his occasional sideline channelling the spirit of Freddie Mercury. “So working that much with the Queen catalogue, which I love, I was very much in that kind of playground. I wanted the song to have a lot of stuff flying around. All the choirs and call-and-answer stuff was what took the most work. We really dug the final song. We wanted to release it as a single and have a crossover hit.”
With Nilsen promoting the song via his tenure as a mentor on the Norwegian version of the Battle Of The Choirs reality TV show, Do Ya Wanna Taste It did indeed cross over, but only on home turf. The band managed a fourth album – 2012’s Wall Street – but a year later they had split to work on side projects, with Jansen recalling “resentment from time to time”, Andersen bemoaning “too much of everything”, and Holter citing a communication breakdown that left the members “walking around like zombies”.
When Wig Wam’s big reunion of 2019 coincided with the pandemic’s shuttering of the music industry, the band looked like men adrift. But they still had one iron in the fire: a request by James Gunn – director of Marvel’s acclaimed Guardians Of The Galaxy film series – to use Do Ya Wanna Taste It in the soundtrack of his TV show Peacemaker, a spin-off from The Suicide Squad.
The money was good, but Nilsen didn’t see it as a career changer. Nor, it seemed, did those within the band’s infrastructure.
“Our Norwegian booking agent threw us out just before the Peacemaker premiere,” the singer recalls. “I checked their website and our name and picture was gone.”
But when the first episode of Peacemaker aired in January 2022, the watching band members snapped bolt upright. Rather than being used merely as background music in a scene or two, Do Ya Wanna Taste It was the centrepiece of the opening credits, soundtracking a stompy dance routine by the show’s characters – and which was swiftly recreated and posted on social media by fans across the globe.
“I was like: ‘What the fuck? Are they doing a dance routine to our song?’” Nilsen gapes. “And then, suddenly, it’s in the press and on Facebook. There we were, without a proper agency or anything, and everything was exploding around us. People started doing that dance everywhere. Even in Bangladesh, y’know, hundreds of people in the streets.
“It’s hysterical. And of course, it has also brought the band attention in the US, where we’d never even played before. We’re seeing all the old songs really taking off. We’ve signed to ARM Entertainment, we’re going out on tour with Lita Ford and Dokken in the US. We’ve written thirteen songs for a new album…”
The irony is not lost on Nilsen that a song sniping at the poison of fame has pushed his band back into the spotlight. But this, he says, things will be different.
“Nowadays, I know who I am. I pause and do the important stuff, like walking the dog and making dinner for my fiancée; not staying in that egomaniac world. That image we bring on stage – I’m that character for two hours. Once the uniform is off, we’re just normal human beings. Or kind of normal, anyway.”