The flamboyantly named The White Skull Death Snakes Of Death formed in 2013 around a pre existing duo of Gareth ‘Winty’ Winterman (Guitar) and Dom Goodbarn (Drums), to them was added two brothers Anthony (Vocals) and Mat (bass) Thomas, the new four piece playing their first gig in December the same year. In 2016 they commented about a then up and coming gig at The Maze in Nottingham “We like playing loud, we like having a laugh. If you don’t enjoy either of those then perhaps we are not the band for you”!(1) I have to admit my own experience of seeing them live certainly bore out the first though I remember it as being pretty intense and dramatic rather than particularly amusing! (Though subsequent meetings have confirmed that they certainly do like having a laugh.)
Every now and then you see/hear a band that you struggle to pigeonhole, Forward Russia, Gnod, bands that seem to have synthesised the component parts of rock in ways that are new to you or are constructing their art using slightly different resources, The White Skull Death Snakes Of Death fall into that category. Intrigued by the combination of name, sound and a stunning live set I contacted them to see if an interview was possible and that was how we came to be sat round a table in The King Billy just outside Nottingham city centre. .
(((o))): How did the band come together? What was it that you formed around? Relationships, shared musical interests?
Gareth: Me and Dom starting doing stuff just as a two piece, drinking cans of beer and trying to make something really weird! We got one track down and that was when we realised we needed some lyrics as well and got Anthony in to sing and then Mat came in on bass to add a bit of depth. And then we all started writing stuff together.
Dom: Everybody seemed to be on the same page.
(((o))): So when did you get together?
Mat: I think it was summer 2013, I only know because I got one of those Facebook ‘This happened..’ pop ups about a year ago and I thought is it three years already!
Dom: And first gig was December 2013
(((o))): So how did the band’s name come about? Let’s be honest it’s a bit weird!
Mat: The name was there before the band was!
Gareth: It was a name that I already had in the sack, so when we started doing stuff I thought we’ll use that!
Dom: Rolls off the tongue quite easily as well haha!
Gareth: It takes up so much space on posters as well who’s not going to see it!
(((o))): Has it led to any confusion, it sounds like you should be a spoof heavy metal band!?
Mat: We’re often taken to be a cod metal band…
Gareth: It’s because there’s ‘Death’ in the name twice…
(((o))): So what sort of gigs do you pick up with a band name like The White Skull Death Snakes Of Death? Heavy metal gigs?
Anthony: We have done some metal gigs.
Gareth: We did an all dayer and we did stand out a fair bit, we’re not overly worried, if anything I like to go to a gig where there’s a range of bands, you get a bit fed up if you go to an all dayer and its all punk bands or all metal bands. I’ve had promoters say ‘You’re too different’ about us playing metal gigs
(((o))): When I was listening to you online the other day I was thinking where do you place these in a record collection? You seem somewhere near Housewives but with off kilter bits of phrasing and structure in the vocals like Talking Heads-it seems like it has punk sensibilities but constructed using different resources.
Mat: I think it’s because we’re all bringing different things to the mix and I always think Anthony vocals are a bit Steve Albini, we’ve been compared to The Fall as well.
Anthony: Someone said we sound a bit like Christian Lunch who were a band on Alternative Tentacles, I think they did one EP in around 1982, its four tracks of brilliance and we sound like that!
Mat: Gareth’s got a lot of metal influences.
Dom: And there’s a few things that cross over.
Gareth: Yeah there are loads of bands that we all like…
Mat: And we’ve all got that 90s alternative rock grounding, Sonic Youth bands like that.
Dom: My tastes are quite diverse, rock, garage rock, Suckers, Helicopters.
Anthony: We’ve never discussed it, never said ‘We want to sound like…’
Mat: We’ve never sat down and said what’s our plan in terms of sound, it just sort of happened
Gareth: I’m always pushing to play faster and faster but it doesn’t really work, these guys just sit there for hours not really doing anything and we end up with another song with a bit of a swing in it!
(((o))): And who would you cite as influences in terms of performance-live you’re a pretty intense experience?
Anthony: Again there are influences, people like Biafra, Rollins early on in Black Flag, Albini. A bit of Iggy. Nick Cave even, with The Birthday Party.
Gareth: But when we first started we were really static, we were fairly new to it and a bit overwhelmed, we didn’t discuss it but we thought we’re going to have to throw ourselves about a bit.
(((o))): When your writing your lyrics Anthony, are they based on personal experiences, or do you draw on other things like films and books?
Anthony: Mostly they’re drawn from current events, I try not to write from my own perspective but from a neutral standpoint, sometimes that might be a little bit wry or bleak.
(((o))): Do you have a shared politics that you coalesce around? Or is there a diversity of views within the band?
Anthony: I think generally we’re the same…
Gareth: We’ve never really talked about it!
Mat: We’ve been brothers for years, we’ve known Winty for years, we’ve known Dom a couple of years now and we’ve never sat down and asked what is the politic of this band, but generally we don’t fall out over politics, we fall out over stupid things!
(((o))): Right we’ll go through some tracks and you can tell us what they’re about!
‘Max’, there is a refrain that you repeat quite often and end with…
Anthony: “He is ready. He is prepared” It’s basically a story about an everyman bomber. The loner, it doesn’t matter what the beliefs are, the gender is, it’s about the motivations to do that, the mindset. “He is ready, he is prepared” to act whichever way he feels fit. About him being able to go out there and do this kind of nastiness. And the pattern, that it is usually a loner or a cell and the modus is that they act in the same way, that’s repeated.
(((o))): ‘Children of Edith’?
Anthony: Oh yeah, now that was strange! We did the music and I went away and did the words and between the two the Charlie Hebdo attack happened, so I kind of wrote it about that. And then some time later the Bataclan thing happened and it more fitted that. Again it’s looking at whats going on. The joke is I’m always writing about the news and I kind of am really! For me the boy/girl theme is redundant and a bit indulgent.
(((o))): Presumably you have to have an inflow of information to have an outflow of lyrics because you’re not evacuating you interior life?
Anthony: Yeah, continue consuming that media junk! I guess this is the first time these guys have heard what these songs are about-we don’t really talk about it.
Mat: We’ve got a song called ‘The Age’ and for a long time we thought he was singing ‘The Aids’!
Dom: It wasn’t till after a few gigs that I heard it as ‘The Age’!
Gareth: It reflects badly on us that we didn’t ask! We just thought ‘Oh he’s singing about Aids’.
Anthony: On a lighter note ‘Housewives Favourite’ takes a swipe at a certain type of man, usually middle aged, lothario. It came about because Dom was talking about ‘Lovejoy’, suavey, pervy, ‘loveable old rogue’.
(((o))): Your going into the recording studio on the 18-19 December, will there be a physical release January/February?
Mat: We’re going to see what comes out of it and that will dictate what the running order will be and whether it will be two EPs or if it all hangs together quite nicely it could be an album.
Anthony: And we’re talking about getting some out of town gigs next year and maybe going on a little tour with hopefully some physical kind of merchandise.
(((o))): Last question, what bands and writers have you been enjoying lately?
Dom: I’ve been reading a bit of H. P. Lovecraft. Music wise I’ve listening to a band called The Bronx.
Mat: I’ve been going through a bit of an Afro Funk stage, Congolese stuff. Also some old Garage stuff from the 70s.
Anthony: Reading, I tend to read a lot of nonfiction, at the moment I’m reading about the rise of the Prussian Empire. Music, there’s an American band called Flat Worms who I really like, a band called The Lovely Eggs who are great.
Gareth: I’ve been reading technical manuals for work! And I’ve been listening to an American band, Drug Church.
Photo by Matt Clixby.