The video is patently absurd. Wrestler-turned-movie superhero John Cena, wearing Peacemaker’s ridiculous shiny bucket helmet, does a choreographed middle finger-waving, gun-pointing line dance to shouty hair metal song “Do Ya Really Wanna Taste It” along with his Peacekmaker cast mates.
It’s the opening sequence to director/creator James Gunn’s irreverent, blood-splattered HBO Max series about the DC superhero everyone loves to hate, with a soundtrack for the stilted two-step provided by a little-known Norwegian spandex band called Wig Wam. And just like Peacemaker’s rescue from ignoble superhero jail thanks to “Project Butterfly,” the left-field song choice by Gunn for the buzzy title sequence rescued the broken-up Wig Wam from a nearly fatal career death spiral.
“Three days before the Peacemaker [Jan. 13] premiere our [Scandinavian] booking agency [United Stage] dropped us from their rooster, because there was too little interest in the band,” singer Åge Sten Nilsen (aka “Glam”) tells Billboard about the low moment for the proudly anachronistic teased hair metal band. Formed in Norway in 2001, Wig Wam released four glitter-soaked, tongue-firmly-in-cheek hard rock albums before splitting in 2013 — Nilsen said they just got sick of each other — and ultimately reuniting in 2019.
“I told them, maybe they should wait a couple of days,” Nilsen says of the ask he made to their agency rep last November. “But they didn’t.” At that point, they already knew “Taste It” would be in the show’s title sequence and the band was just looking for some warm-up gigs to help prime the pump for what the singer assumed would be increased interest, thanks to the show.
Long story short: Nilsen says the combination of ongoing COVID-19 pandemic restrictions, United paring down their roster due to a dearth of live shows during lockdown and the long lay-off since the band’s last gigs in 2013 led to the agency balking at any new bookings. Fast forward to Jan. 7 of this year when Wig Wam discovered they’d been dropped from United’s roster, less than a week before Peacemaker‘s debut on HBO Max.
“First of all let me say I fully support the band. They are a true gem in the Scandinavian rock scene, and lovely guys to work with,” United’s Jan Roger Andreassen tells Billboard in an email, in which he raves about the show and the use of the song in the title sequence. “I sure hope this soundtrack will give them a whole lot of well-deserved attention beyond their original fanbase.”
Andreassen explains that not many promoters were looking to book bands in December, and because he couldn’t get the group the kinds of re-boot shows they were looking for he “asked them to go explore opportunities on their own,” removing the band from the roster on United’s website.
Now, he admits, the “timing could have been better!” And while United knew about the song placement “for some time,” they didn’t realize how prominent the plug would be. “Usually a song featured in a TV series is less important for ticket sales and concert booking than one would think,” he says, adding with a winky emoji, “This time it might be different though.”
The over-the-top, hip-swiveling “Taste It” appeared on Wig Wam’s fourth studio album, 2010’s Non Stop Rock’n Roll, and Nilsen says it’s “really the story of my life.” Written in just a few minutes by the singer and guitarist Trond “Teeny” Holter, it tells the age-old tale of striving to make it in the music biz in lyrics such as, “Make a pose, shortcut to your dreams/ Float straight to the stars on that flying thing,” before diving into the shout-along chorus: “Do ya really wanna, do ya really wanna taste it/ What’s going up must come down.”
The band, formed more than a decade after hair metal peaked, have always felt like “characters from a different age,” says Nilsen. “Just like Peacemaker, wearing his ‘costume,’ or his uniform as he calls it. We too were getting quite some reactions for wearing spandex and platform boots.”
In keeping with Gunn’s love of musical themes — like the throwback mixtapes he made for the Guardians of the Galaxy films — Peacemaker is larded with forgotten or deep-cut hair metal songs from the 1980s and 90s and little-known sleaze metal 2.0 jams, which is why “Taste It” fits right into the mix. Its tale of striving is especially apt for lost soul Peacemaker — whom Gunn has referred to as a “piece of s–t” and “world’s biggest douchebag” — a superhero intent on finding a second act and avoiding prison.
“[The song] was a comment to myself about how easy it is to lose your soul when you’re successful and everything is handed to you on a silver plate. Fame can become very destructive,” Nilsen says. (For a taste of Wig Wam’s exquisite bad taste, check out the official, cheesy-on-purpose “Taste” video from 2010, or what Nilsen’ says was an “unintentional” preview of the Peacemaker credits on Norway’s Clash of the Choirs reality show from that same year.)
The band — who released their fifth studio album, Never Say Die, last year — sent a few versions of the song when they received the request for a TV sync last year, assuming that it was, at best, for a commercial or some other low-profile project. They eventually found out it was for a TV series, and only after an offer was made did they learn it was Peacemaker. “We did not know anything about the dance and the opening sequence,” says Nilsen, who admits the band didn’t have the “slightest clue” what a Peacemaker was. “But we were really surprised and blown away when we saw it on the premiere.” Now, of course, they are super fans of the show and the whole extended Suicide Squad universe.
As for Gunn, who Nilsen calls “the king,” the singer says if he ever meets the director he will “get down on my knees, kiss his hand and thank him from the bottom of my heart for using our songs, showcasing our kind of music and simply for being the king of the comic world that he is.”
And, just like Peacemaker’s second chance, it’s all working out in the end for Wig Wam. Nilsen says a “big agent” from Spain is now handling their booking, and “their phone lines are on fire right now” — with some gigs on the horizon, including their first-ever U.S. shows. Additionally, he says the group’s streaming numbers are spiking and they’re getting requests for bookings all over the world. “Can’t wait to get over there with the boys to Wig Wam you all,” he says.
Watch the credit sequence below.