I <3 The Hot Snakes

OK, this happened a while ago (5 years) but it’s literally the greatest musical experience I’ve ever had so I thought I’d share it. In 2004, I got roped into playing a few songs at some shows with The Tremors and bit by bit over the next year I was playing the whole set with them. Heaps of fun as I got to play at Spendour & Homebake and meet some true bona fide rock stars (MC5! Deniz Tek! The D4!). This all paled into insignificance when Dan said we got The Hot Snakes support. They are pretty much my favourite band ever… so this was a big deal to me.

We rehearsed when we could (not often), Dan wrote 2 new songs for the event, and finally the day came. Wednesday night is always a bit iffy in Brisbane, and this one was no exception. Crowd turnout was above average but I suspect would of been better if the gig was on a Friday/Saturday. I walked backstage to tune my bass while Grand Fatal were playing and John “Speedo” Reis, the Swami himself, was sitting side stage smoking an awful smelling Cuban cigar. I freaked a little, nodded my head at him in acknowledgment (might of made a frightened squeaking noise in my throat…) and got out of there.

We got on and played a pretty good set. The new tunes went pretty well and rocked up our sound a bit. Bit by bit in the preceding shows I’d been slowly changing my Tremors bass sound into my Sixfthick bass sound, so it was pretty loud & crunchy. I looked side stage and the whole Hot Snakes band were watching us, which was way cool. After we got off, the ice had been broken so to speak so we got to chat with them a bit. Geoff & Dan knew Speedo from playing with Rocket From The Crypt with the ‘Hick and we got talking about how the Hot Snakes got such a cool bass sound on their albums (keyboard bass pedals) and this was the first opportunity I had to see Speedo’s cool-as-sin dragon Les Paul Custom. This thing had been heavily customised to be a stereo guitar, and sounded like God. He had it rigged so the neck pickup (a 60’s Dearmond Gold Foil from a Dearmond BobKat) went through a Vox Ac30, while the bridge pickup (the standard Gibson humbucker) went through a Marshall JCM 800. It is still the best guitar sound I’ve ever heard.

Hot Snakes got on and blew everyone away from the first note. The first 3 songs were off the new album, in the same order. I just couldn’t believe how close they sounded to the album. Rick’s voice was awesome as was his twisted guitar playing. Speedo’s playing was something else. I’d figured out a few Hot Snakes songs on guitar, but watching him, I figured I got them completely wrong. The chords were all backwards looking things that shouldn’t work but did. Plus every chord was downstroked. LAX is my favourite Hot Snakes song and they nailed it. My god it was good. That’s all I can say. I was and still am speechless 5 years later.

The band visited Tim from Tym Guitars the next day and tried out some of his equipment. They’re all guitar geeks (even Mario the drummer), so were in heaven in his shop. Speedo was really impressed with Tim’s Crestwood/Mosrite mashup guitar, and they got to talking about maybe getting a custom Tokai Hummingbird made. This guitar ended up being the Swami Scimitar, which I covered in guitarnerd last year.

The Tremors had gone to Melbourne on Thursday for the show, but I had to hang around and work until Friday, so I flew in a few hours before the gig. We were playing at the Corner, which I’d been to a few times after the Boxing Day Test matches and gotten shikkered. I headed there with my Melbourne mate Ben and went backstage to set up. The Grand fatal guys had driven from Sydney To Brisbane To Sydney To Melbourne (!) but rocked out big time. We played ok. The crowd was pretty weird, just standing there arms folded being cool.

Hot Snakes went on and again tore the crowd a new one. Elea had brought her video camera so we took turns shooting the Snakes from side stage. (I have to track down this footage one day…) She then got on stage and played keys for them to a few songs, adding that missing element from the first 2 albums . After they finished I ducked on stage and grabbed a setlist as a memento.

Back stage I started chatting to Speedo about his awesome dragon Les Paul. He said he bought it at a pawnshop for $500 with the dragon graphics already on it, and played it through most of Rockets shows in the 90’s. One show James Hetfield came backstage and said that it had belonged to a San Francisco hair metal band called Vain, and then offered to buy it off Speedo for an insane amount, which Speedo declined. Apparently the guitar was hand painted by Vain’s guitarist Danny West.

The bouncers were being bastards and wouldn’t let anyone in without a pass backstage which left my mates outside so I bailed. I had an early plane to catch anyways. Next day we arrived in Sydney and headed to North Indian Diner to feed. We then headed to the Annandale were I had the pleasure of watching the Hot Snakes sound check by myself. Speedo had left his leads somewhere so I lent him mine. The Grand Fatal guys had driven from Melbourne to Sydney overnight (crazy f*ckers!) and we all watched the Snakes go through Mystic Decade. I kept pinching myself on how good this was.

The show had sold out so we were expecting a good one. Grand Fatal went on and went apeshit. At the end the bass player’s strap had broken and he flung his bass to the ground, breaking bits off everywhere. I had been using it as my backup bass in case I broke a string, so I was now screwed if I broke one live! Gar Wood said I could use his, but he’s left handed so that wasn’t any good. We played our best set of the tour. Geoff was in good form and Cec was drumming stupendously loud. The crowd reacted better than in Melbourne. It was fun.

Hot Snakes went on and I took my position side stage. They played even more violently then the night before. At one point Speedo’s Marshall bounced up, tipped over and fell down, but he kept playing. Dan Rule from the Anno’ was standing side stage in shock. He said he’d never seen a live band like this. The crowd was going apeshit. The Snakes played Bullet Train To Vegas and then ended it with a 10 minute version of the Jehu song Luau. It just went on and on, getting bigger and bigger. They were playing past the Anno’s curfew but Dan said to keep going. To me it was like a religious experience. I honestly don’t think I’ll see another gig like that ever again.

After the gig we had some beers upstairs and it was great just to chill and talk with the guys. Rick is the loveliest dude ever. I got them to sign my John Peel CD and I left a happy man. If I’d never played another gig after that night, I would’ve been fine with it. I still haven’t topped that week.

The next day the Hot Snakes were recording a live to air at ABC Studios (this ended up being released as the live album – Thunder Down Under). As Elea’s keyboard work went so well, she got asked to record with them (!) This is pretty much the best live album ever made (well, to me anyway…)