Interview with El Chupa Cobras
El Chupa Cobras play a wild blend of metal, punk and other assorted sounds and tones. I recently interviewed vocalist/guitarist Kenny Johnson to see find out more about this outfit and what makes them tick.
MM-Please introduce your band and tell what instruments you play.
KJ-We are El Chupa Cobras from Montgomery, Alabama. Chad Baker plays the drums. Mr. Steve Rowe plays a guitar. Vonda McLeod plays the bass, and I (Kenny Johnson) play a guitar and yell about a bunch of stuff no one cares about.Tell us a little about your history and how you formed.We started played together as the Cobras in late 2004 or early 2005. Steve and Chad played together in Babydriver for a few years. Vonda and I were in Ed Kemper Trio for about 6 years. Both bands had just split up and we were all ready to start something new.
MM-You seem to get a number of shows in your area. Is there much of a music scene in Montgomery, Alabama? Any great unsigned bands there we should know about?
KJ-There's a small, but healthy scene here. It primarily revolves around one bar, Head on the Door. It's really the only place in town for punk, metal or any odd-ball music. The bartenders Todd and Brian are great! Without those guys there would be nothing happening here.Yes there are some great bands here that nobody knows about. The Rudy Banes Breakup is great. Their shows are like live therapy sessions for the front man Rudy Banes. And the songs are excellent! Their music is a very cool take on punk and you can shake your ass to it. Banes means it man! Another great band is Man Versus Plague. Really awesome metal band. If they toured, the country would need to rebuild the Interstate system in wake of their sonic destruction. And of course, there is Last Transgression. These guys have been together for like 15 years. One of the best metal bands period. Please check them out. A friend of ours made a really great documentary about the Montgomery scene called "People Will Eat Anything". Lots of great bands. I think you can still get it through Acerbic.
MM-How did you come to get signed by Acerbic Noise Development? How has your relationship with them been so far?
KJ-Acerbic is our drummer Chad, and his wonderful wife Heather. In Alabama nepotism reigns supreme, YOW! Even if I weren't in this band
I'd give the Bakers much praise. They are doing things "right" with Acerbic. All their bands are not only great players, but cool folks too.
MM-Who came up with the band name? What was the inspiration for it?
KJ-Chad Baker named us. It's based on the Mexican goat killing creature of legend El Chupacabra. We're all suckers for dumb puns. We even screwed up grammar on purpose.
MM-Who are your musical influences?
KJ-For this band: Craw, Dazzling Killmen, Voivoid, Melvins, KISS, AC/DC, Ramones, etc…But we listen to lots of different stuff. For example I'm big into African music lately. Vonda is digging Indian music, etc. I think Chad and Steve are really big into Dub and House music. I guess it's the beats… and stuff.
MM-I believe it took a around a year in between when you started recording the new album and when it was released back earlier this year. What was the recording process liked and are you completely satisfied with the results?
KJ-It did and it's all my fault. Everyone in the band has been in and out of recording studios for years. Each time we went back and listened to our recordings we said, "Man, I wish this was different. I could have done better" Well, it was my big fat idea to not be able to do that this time so I fussed over every minor aspect of the recording. The other guys did too, but I think I started taking it to far. A few months quickly stretched in to a year. I was obsessing over it and finally had to just let it go. For example I trashed the vocals (on everything) starting over from scratch four times. Plus we had no budget and did this as we could piece-by-piece. If it weren't for the patience of Adam Vincent, who engineered the record, I'm positive the process would have lost focus. I'm extremely satisfied with the result. However, I think we need to bang it out quick and dirty next time. The only thing lost in the translation on this recording is the fury of our live set. I think a good in-and-out approach would nail that next time.
MM-What has been the reaction to your album so far?
KJ-So far all the reviews have been really positive. And for the most part the reviewers understand exactly what we are trying to do, which is be unique and difficult without falling into the math rock and Metal trap of losing sight of the song. We intentionally stick Big Rock Moments in as satire and just because it's awesome! It balances out the tricky stuff. If you get to complex you can lose sight of what this is supposed to be about, fun.
MM-You have a very different sound, how would you describe your music?
KJ-Thanks man. It's part metal, part rock, part punk, etc. It's really just a combination of all our influences and experiences. We try very hard to sound like us whatever that is. We focus on song structure and how the song flows and builds tension. Most of the stuff is very manic and feels as if it might unravel at any moment, which again is intentional. I've been calling them Nihilistic Love Songs About Physics and Babies as Played by Iron Maiden and Slayer. That or we're just a Craw cover band.
MM-Have you played much out of your home state of Alabama? What have been some of favorite shows so far?
KJ-Yes, as often as life allows. All our previous bands toured our butts off. Now we are focused on writing good songs and playing as many solid worthwhile shows as we can. Until this pays the bills we can't tour much. There are just too many crappy bands wasting peoples' time touring with their lame songs. If we're going play live the songs need stand out. I hope that is how it comes across when we play live.For now though Lafayette, LA is awesome. Memphis has been really good too.
MM-Your Myspace page says that your band consists of former members of Ed Kemper Trio, Saragashum and Babydriver. How are El Chupa Cobras different from those other bands and how is this band different those other acts?
KJ-EK3 was more post-punk type stuff. Like a Jesus Lizard you could dance too. Chad was in Saragashum, which was a bludgeoning prog-volume fest. Babydriver kicked out the rock jams. The Cobras are a blend of it all. Maybe more so a blend of our individual rock experiences than a blend the previous bands' music. For example at band practice I'll be going on and on about some overly complex pretentious idea about song structure and Steve will pull out a Super Rock Riff that makes the song work perfectly. Same for Chad and Vonda. We all filter and complement each other very well musically and as people.
MM-We have a little over half a year left to 2008. What do you hope to accomplish in the remainder of this year?
KJ-Write a new record. We're all burnt on the old stuff. A short European tour would be awesome. Hookers and drugs… that's cool too, right? Wait… Tiddies!
MM-Pick the band from each of the following pair that you prefer and tell why you picked them.
Ganon or The Devil and the Sea
The Devil and the Sea because there is room for only one Kenny in rock music. HA!
The Melvins or Voivod
I love them both, but Voivod because they're more consistent.
Clutch or Fu Manchu
Fu Manchu because they catch bigger air.
AC/DC or KISS
Vonda and Steve will disagree with me but AC/DC. Now we're talking Bon Scott only. After Bon it gets spotty. KISS made me want to be a rock star. AC/DC made me want to be a good guitar player, which is a better thing to be.
MM-Is there anything else that you would like to say about your band or music?
KJ-Give all your dirty rock 'n' roll money to our drummer and he will send you some of the best new heavy music you didn't know existed
***Thanks to Kenny for doing the interview.