Interview with Hot Snakes

A super group of sorts, fans are bound to flock to Hot Snakes simply because two of its members – John Reis and Rick Froeberg – were members of such seminal bands as Drive Like Jehu, Rocket from the Crypt, and Pitchfork. Reis especially stays busy, still playing with Rocket from the Crypt and also releasing an album of mostly instrumental guitar-rock songs under the moniker Back Off Cupid. Joined by drummer Jason Kourkounis and bassist Gar Wood, Hot Snakes has all the energy and enthusiasm of those musicians’ earlier projects, but here the band takes on a more garage-friendly sound, blasting away with a modicum of practice and preparation time.

To be perfectly honest, Hot Snakes isn’t a full-time gig for these guys. They’ve moved on with their lives and have a variety of other activities going on. But the urge to rock never leaves the best musicians, and now Hot Snakes has released its second album, Suicide Invoice. We spoke with singer/guitarist Froeberg through e-mail about the “permanent” nature of Hot Snakes, the band’s approach (versus with his previous bands), and more. In as few words as possible, Froeberg lets us in on his secrets.

Delusions of Adequacy: How has the distance factor, and work in other bands affected how often Hot Snakes have been able to get together to work on the project?

Rick Froeberg: Pretty much how you’d expect. We’re not a full time band and we never really intended to be.

DOA: What has the addition of Gar Wood added to the band?

RF: He does it all. The best utility man in rock n’ roll. He can engineer, he plays multiple instruments, sings, he likes and enjoys playing with us, etc.

DOA: Are there many left over songs from the members other bands brought into Hot Snakes, or are they usually new to everybody?

RF: They’re new mostly.

DOA: The new album has a more direct, fuller straight ahead sound than Automatic Midnight. Was that a goal for the recording, and how do you think the band has improved?

RF: We tried to make it sound as crappy as the last one. We recorded in our own garage basically. It sounds almost like the industry standard. Go figure. Have we improved? Don’t know.

DOA: Do you feel that by trying to be minimal it just adds to the authenticness of the music, or does it sometimes just help cover stuff up?

RF: You’d have to define minimal for me.

DOA: By minimal I mean more of a DIY aesthetic, instead of a glossy sheen of other studio recording techniques.

RF: I think self awareness or lack thereof makes a bigger difference than does equipment or the money paid for the equipment in the perceived sincerity department.

DOA: How did recording in a Condo effectr the sound and attitude of the record? What was different about recording there instead of a studio?

RF: A Condo Effectr has a slightly less ringy sound than the Retomer Billiguiola, which is what we had originally intended to go with. It’s not quite what we had in mind, but it beats the usual studio drudgery.

DOA: In the past you have said you consider yourself an artist first and then a musician, so you still feel that way about yourself?

RF: Why of course!

DOA: Both are creative outlets that give freedom to express yourself, but do you think that being able to do both helps in each occasion?

RF: I think they’re part of the same process. Working in one medium can only help you in working in another. Like learning languages. Then again, you’ll probably be better at what you do if you specialize.

DOA: Is there any desire on your part to do music full time again in another band.

RF: Not at the moment. One’s enough for me.

DOA: You have done the artwork for the record you have played on. What do you try to convey through the art?

RF: Normally I try to make a record look like it will sound good. That doesn’t necessarily mean good design. I was in a hurry this time so I just went with an image I got a kick out of.

DOA: What is your idea of some of the most effective designs used on album covers for example, and what makes them unique?

RF: I’m the wrong person to ask about that. I don’t necessarily like any of them.

DOA: There is an obvious sense of humor in songs like “Gar Forgot His Insulin” and “Bye Nancy Boy” that shows the willingness the band has for fun. Is Hot Snakes sort of an outlet to not be as serious as a full time band?

RF: We’re serious.

DOA: I didn’t mean that members of the band weren’t serious about their music or playing in the band, but is Hot Snakes kind of a format that has more freedom and oppertunity to try something new that they wouldn’t in other bands?

RF: Sure. But we’ve been a one trick pony so far, right? We have the same amount of freedom as any other punk rock band. As far as the humor thing, yeah, we have a sense of humor. I think.

DOA: Is there the possibility of Hot Snakes becoming a permanent project, or will it be somthing that will happen when schedule allow it?

RF: I like ‘permanent project’. It’s all about doin’ it. At the moment we’re doin’ it. You know what I mean?

DOA: Do you think that after this record and shows to support it, do you think that you might want to get together and “do it” again?

RF: We’ll see.

DOA: Out of the bands you have recorded with – Pitchfork, Drive Like Jehu, and Hot Snakes – which has been the best experience and most fun to take part in and why?

RF: Pitchfork. It was the first time, and therefore especially exciting.

DOA: Would you consider Hot Snakes as sort of an extension of Drive Like Jehu but more stripped down and focused?

RF: Yeah kinda. For me and John it is a bit. I doubt it is for J or Gar.

DOA: Is there a fresher feeling between the band members when you can get together, since it is something new to do, instead of doing the same material over and over that would happen in other bands?

RF: Yes. We look forward to doing this. Absence make the heart grow fonder.

DOA: How did the idea for the band come about, was it kind of friends just saying “Hey let’s get together and do something” or had there been talk of it beforehand?

RF: I got involved at a later stage, but yes, that’s what happened.

DOA: Where are some of your favorite places to do shows around the country? If you had the oppertunity to do shows with another band, who would you like to share the gig with?

RF: I like Maxwell’s in Hoboken, The Casbah, The Michigan Fest thing was pretty good fun. Depends on more than the venue … it’s about who shows up, which is different every time. If we could tour with anyone we chose it would definitely be the White Apes.

DOA: Do you think not being able to play with each other frequently has made the music more difficult to come by, or does everybody know what to expect and hang loose?

RF: A little of both.

DOA: What is the goal of the music Hot Snakes put out, since everyone involved has played in many different group there seems to be some wide ranging influence taken from those other activities? There are hints of metal, hardcore punk (Black Flag, Minor Threat, etc..), early rock, and late 70’s early 80’s punk. What has been the inspiration for the music that has been created?

RF: There’s no real goal. We love rock n’ roll and we’re not getting any younger. Might as well use whatever is left in the tank.

DOA: Thanks for taking the time out to answer a few questions. Any departing nuggets of information, or personal visions you would like to divulge.

RF: Keep the ball low.