SERPENTS interview

SERPENTS

www.weareserpents.cjb.net

So you started off as a more HHIG/Damad influenced 3 piece and then added a second guitarist and added more of a noisey early Swans sound. Why the change in style? Or had you always wanted to progress into that kind of sound? Any ideas of what you might do with your sound in the future?

JAMIE - Hey Ewan.I think it boiled down to necessity to be honest. When we started, we were lucky enough that as soon as a friend of ours found out we were doing a band he asked us to play with Boxed In here, and basically we had a month to get a set together.From day one we definitely wanted to go for a heavier sound and the first couple of songs reflected an embryonic version of that straight away, but in the end we only had a few weeks to get a set together, and not having enough time to fuss I brought in two songs I'd had lying around unused from other bands I'd been in, which having been written for another band reflected their sound more than something unique to us. The plan was always to drop them as soon as we had more of our own material, and we did.. Warzone was our second gig, so we were still playing them at that stage, but they were dropped soon after. I think a lot of bands start and essentially have no idea what they're going for sonically, or take a long time to work that out, whereas very quickly we realised what we did and didn't want to do. Much as we like to listen to fast shouty hardcore, it's not what comes naturally to us, we find it incredibly boring to play and we weren't interested in pursuing that style, preferring to do something of our own. As we all listen to a LOT of different music, and though we'd agreed on doing something heavier and more hypnotic we really didn't want to limit our parameters so to speak. It's taken time and a line up change but I think we're definitely confident about what we're doing now. Having Andy as a guitarist now is a godsend, he was one of the few people who I think realised we were striving for something more than by the numbers hardcore and he's added so much to the sound that i can't imagine what we'd be like without him now. The future? Well, we're in the early stages of writing new stuff and it's definitely a LOT harsher than previously, heavier, slower, more focused, far more dissonant, but also more dynamic. The key words are "Creepy" and "Dynamics". I reckon it'll sound very different from the demo songs when it's all finished.

ANDREW - Slower, Harsher, Louder, Tune down more

Liadain - If I tune down any more my instrument will be officially unplayable. However, I am working on making pick slides sound like clawed harbingers of death and destruction.

I remember the night before you played the 1in12 you were saying you were going to split up if people enjoyed your set. So do you enjoy pissing off the hardcore and punk kids? What satisfaction do you get out of knowing that most people won’t like your band?

JAMIE - I did didn't I? See, what you have to remember is that I was drunker than I'd been in a very long time when I said that, and when people spent the next day going "are you really splitting up" I felt like a twat. No, I don't really think we want to piss people off. What would be the point of that? I do enjoy the fact that certain punk/hc kids really don't get what we're doing though. It's a very conservative scene and I enjoy the fact that when we play to those people, a lot of times we're doing something radically different to what they're used to.To a degree I think the fact that when some poeple expect some sort of raging thrash band and are instead faced with this slow, crawling mass of feedback and discordance they immediately write it off because it's not in line with their idea of how "brutal" music is supposed to sound, and I'd be lying if I said the fact that it turns off people who have a really limited idea of what you can do in this scene didn't make me feel good.Some people just fucking hate it because it's not fast and catchy, some take to it really well, and some are just confused by it, and to me that's perfectly healthy.You can't please everyone, and we have no interest in playing up the lowest common denominator cliches just to keep scenesters happy.

ANDREW - I don't know about deliberately pissing people off, we just do what we do, if people dig it, cool, if not i'm sure they can find a fast band to listen to if they want. My own solo Bullets shows have had a lot of girls running out with their fingers in their ears, so i'm pretty much used to only appealing to a few (nerds).

Liadain - The last time we played, some indie guy apparently left in a hurry, declaring we were the worst band in the world. Which I think is quite unfair - what about Simply Red? But yeah, it’s not like we sit around going ‘let’s do X Y and Z because people won’t like it’ … I’d like to think we do this more for the purposes of our own detriment than anybody else’s.

Would you consider yourselves to be a hardcore band?

Jamie - The more I think about it no. I'd fucking hate that description. I love hardcore music, it's still about 75% of what I listen to, but our music now has absolutely nothing to do with that, and the bands that influence us are not hardcore bands. If we're a hardcore band it's by association as opposed to by design.

ANDREW - Not at all. I'm far too well dressed.

Liadain - Like Jamie said, by association. We operate in that network; hardcore kids put on our gigs and buy our musical produce, we play with hardcore bands in the usual hardcore venues and hardcore kids come and see us (and sometimes like us)… but we don’t play hardcore. Similarly, we’re probably all hardcore kids at heart (except maybe Andy who is probably a ‘black metal and unpleasant electronics’ kid at heart); we all grew up in the hardcore/punk scene to some degree (20 counts as grown up, right?) and even though I don’t listen to that much straight up hardcore any more, it still has a special place in my heart. But we’re still not a hardcore band per se.

With song titles like Slug Impersonator, Hearse On Fire and Flower Of Flesh & Blood I’m assuming you’re not singing about how great Toni and Guy emo haircuts are or how tough your crew are etc. So what are they about? And why so bleak?

Jamie - Okay, I guess I'll be answering this one as I write the lyrics. Prepare to be bored. This would be draft two of this answer cos I'm in the middle of work on lyrics for the new stuff now.
To be blunt, I'm trying to make people feel as an uneasy, awkward, and isolated as I possibly can with the lyrics. I've gotten into the habit of writing constantly lately, as well as lyrics I have a few different projects in mind that will probably take a long time to do properly, so I won't talk about them here.. but pretty much all my writing is similar to what I'm doing with the lyrics. At the moment I'm basically just trying to tap into the little voices everyone has in the back of their head that go against "standard" morality (whatever the fuck that is),and trying to articuate the darker side of human instincts and emotion as well as I possibly can. Usually by telling little stories.. Occasionally that involves writing things that might be "inappropriate" in some people's eyes, because as far as I'm concerned if you're really trying to get people to understand just how terrible people can be to each other, you can't really pussyfoot around these things. I imagine the lyrics on the split we're going to do might upset some people, there's one in particular which deals with domestic violence that's written from the point of view of a father killing his wife and children that unfortunately I think people are going to take the wrong way ,especially as I'm a father myself, and I presume people who know that will think it's me in the song and it very clearly isn't.. we shall see..
Just finished a new one called "The Perfect Crime" which is about a girl whose landlord pokes around her flat while she's at work. Based on something that happened to me and Una with our last landlord. A lot of the stuff comes from incidents that have happened to me first hand or people I know, and then they just get distorted into these weird little horror stories. I'm really into film directors like David Lynch, Todd Solondz, Lynne Stopkewitch, Lars Von Trier.. anything kinda weird and disturbing and tragic basically. I read a lot too, Hubert Selby Jnr is my god, there's so many books that have impacted my interest in writing and influenced me.."American Psycho" and "Maldodor" spring to mind..At the moment I'm a big fan of stuff like Dennis Cooper and Pierre Guyotat who are two guys who just use this amazingly brutal imagery in their stuff from time to time. So if you're familiar with any of that shit, you've got a pretty good idea where I'm coming from.

So how’s Ireland at the moment? Any good bands and so on? It seems the scene in Dublin is predominantly crust punk so how have you been received by ‘the kids’? And why do so many of the Dublin punks have such bad haircuts?

Jamie - The haircuts? I presume you mean the "Crust Mullet"? I don't know, but I find it hilarious when these people sit around discussing trendies when they've all spent so much time doing their hair. It worries me that so many people I know have the same haircut. Bands? Estel man. That's all you need to know.

ANDREW - I really like a band called United Bible Studies who play free/psyche-folk, they're a part of the Deserted Village collective. A kind cross between AMM and the Wicker Man soundtrack. Scientific Bong is my heart and it eats balls that they're splitting up and the Bonglets tour probably won't happen. Anyway, I'll stop now before I start name checking my friends’ bands.

Liadain - ‘The kids’ seem to quite like us actually, which is nice…I think there’s actually a lot of room for diversity in the Irish ‘scene’ (I hate that word, but it does the job), despite what the aesthetic uniformity might suggest. (We of course do not fall prey to this uniformity, consisting as we do of four people who respectively bear startling similarities to Oscar The Grouch, Jack Osborne, the girl from ‘The Ring’, and Kurt Cobain. Apparently). There are lots of good bands in Ireland; Betamax Format play awesome synthy tunes and noise; My Remorse (technical and emo-ish) and [R]evolution Of A Sun (loud, epic, hard to the core) are two excellent Cork bands; Bullets (Andy) is good, and there are lots of others that I can’t think of off the top of my head. Lots of pretty bad bands too of course, but that’s the nature of the beast.

So I believe either later this year or next year there’s a big G8 summit in Dublin. You looking forward to the big riot that’ll inevitably ensue? I know that you’ve said before that Dublin I snow really expensive and gentrified. Would some days of chaos help?

Jamie - Yes, it's really kind of these protesters arriving in our city for a weekend, destroying it, and then being able to fuck off home while the rest of us stay here and have to live in their mess.A thug is a thug, wether he wears a police uniform or a blac block uniform.Fuck riots, they achieve nothing beyond proving that the extreme left has a bad case of power envy and really doesn't care about anything beyond attracting attention.Just like the extreme right in fact.I appreciate that these people are trying to express something they feel strongly about but they're doing it on a way that imposes on other people and that's why I will never, ever support them in how they do what they do.Yes, Dublin is expensive, filthy and depressing.But where isn't?

ANDREW - I'm not a very political person, I just hope my friends don't get beat up by cops this weekend. Nothing beats their heads in like a cop, y'know?

Liadain - Jamie and I speak with one voice on this one.

Why is feedback so great?

Jamie - Because it's the only sound in the world that's irritating and soothing at the same time.

ANDREW - A continuous battle between man and machine. Just like terminator or some shit.

Liadain - It’s a good weeding-out device. Who can take it and who can’t. Or else it’s just easier than playing those ‘note’ things people keep talking about.

I know you openly admit to being influenced by Swans and Damad but what other bands have influence you either musically or ideologically?

Jamie - I really don't get all these DAMAD references Ewan. I really never had much interest in them and I certainly wouldn't describe them as an influence, so I presume one of the others is a huge Damad fan (I presume it's Liadain?).. Musically yeah, Swans definitely, along with Godflesh and Winter and Melvins. I grew up listening to death and doom metal, AmRep/Touch and Go style noise rock, industrial music, and hardcore punk so all of these things have wormed their way into my psyche. Foetus and Faith No More consistently inspire me, as do Nick Cave, Tom Waits, Morrissey and Lisa Germano. Oxbow and Wolf Eyes are a pretty massive influence at the moment. Steel Pole Bathtub. Unsane. Corrupted and Thergothon definitely. Angel Hair. Sonic Youth. Despise You and Man Is The Bastard. Kiss It Goodbye. Voivod. Birthday Party maybe, and perhaps also Savage Republic and My Bloody Valentine. How much of any of these is apparent I don't know, but not much. Non music -the stuff I mentioned in the lyrics question. Ideologically?I think we've all learned from bands we've been in previously about how we do and don't want to operate in Serpents. That's probably the biggest influence of all.. wanting to not suck!

ANDREW - I've never even heard of Damad...do they sound anything like Rapeman or Unsane? I mostly listen to American noise and hippy drone stuff, but that probably has more of an influence on my own jams than Serpents. The crippling loneliness of the first Jandek album is always an inspiration. Much darker than any doom whatever. Just a guy playing a single disonant chord for an entire album. The gloved hand in Tenenbre is a huge influence on my guitar playing. Texas Chainsaw Massacre (both the score and movie) has gotta be up there too.

Liadain - I don’t get the Damad thing either. I don’t dislike them or anything but I wouldn’t be a huge fan. My vocals aren’t a million miles away from Victoria’s I guess, but that’s about it. Anyway, influences: musically, Jamie goes ‘Do this…and scream intermittently’ and I do. That’s about as far as it goes; stuff that I like musically doesn’t really come into the picture, or we’d probably sound like the first Earth Crisis record. We are four very different people with very different musical tastes. Although we did recently realise that we all like Slint an awful lot. That’s probably literally the only band that we’d all agree on though. In wider terms, I personally would be very much influenced by bands like Fugazi and Neurosis; bands that aren’t just musically awesome but also have a strong aesthetic in their lyrics and artwork, that isn’t really influenced by anything their contemporaries are doing. Cheesy as it sounds, I guess I really look up to bands like that have a ‘vision’, and pursue that vision regardless of what’s going on around them.

Is it art?

Jamie - Well it sure as hell isn't entertainment. And it's definitely not politics. So sadly yes, I suppose it is.

Liadain - To me, any form of creative self-expression is art. Doing a zine is art. The way you choose to project yourself to the world through your clothes, hair, etc., is art. Creating music - whether it be pop music or ‘orrible noise - is art, no less than sitting down and drawing a picture. It’s all part of the same thing. And there’s your answer.

A question knicked from some rubbish zine called Jake’s Wrath. If you were able to give yourself a blow job would you spit or swallow? And a question courtesy of Smell & Quim - is sperm vegan?

Jamie - Having drunk my own piss on at least two occasions, I've taken a vow not to let any more of my own body fluids pass my lips, so no, I wouldn't.

Liadain - I would probably swallow. Sauce for the goose and all that. Then I’d go and see about getting a sex change before anybody found out and kicked me out of the Ladyfest Dublin organising group. Are sperm vegan? I don’t know…I’ve never fed any! Ba-doom tish, etc.

What’s the future plans for Serpents?

Jamie - Well, at the moment we're having a little break for the summer; I've just become a dad to a little baby girl, Liadain is in Cork for a few months, which is 200 miles away, Willie's just opened a zine/book shop, and Andy is..well.. doing whatever Andy does. So I expect we'll get back into the swing of things around Late August/Early September. The plan after that is, obviously enough, to kill everyone. Or more precisely, to just get the new material sorted. There's a lot of ideas and stuff written that has to be worked on together, but we had started work just before our break, and the tune we finished was (okay, I'm biased) the heaviest thing we've written so far. The plan is a split lp, fingers crossed, with the mighty Army of Flying Robots in late 2004, and possibly a 7" that will be one song in two parts. We're consciously going to make the these tracks the absolute harshest stuff we possibly can, another step up (or down!) from the last batch. There'll be no fast bits, no melody, just.. well, I think the word Andy used was "Creepy", so we'll go with that. But just expect total heaviness for them records, should be recording before too long, in winter.
We've all got other musical things we're doing which I won't go into here, and there's still a demo's worth of stuff from March, which I have no idea if it will ever see the light of day at this point. Drop us a line if you want one. Should be a live cdr generally available from the 1in12 gig at some point, if we ever get it back.. nudge nudge..
My immediate future involves listening to Mare and Skullflower very loud while I make some lunch. Guess that's it.. Thanks for all the support Ewan, you clearly need help, and we love you dearly. We like mail! Drop us a line at serpentshq@yahoo.ie ! And hopefully we'll be back in England next year..take care..jamie



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