Snakes - Doing The Grind
By Dave Schwartz
After years spent grinding in the
ever-dimming lights of Hollywood, vocalist Johnny Skulls and
guitarist Dax Dabs opened their eyes and realized what so many
never do: ”why the f*ck are we trying to do it THEIR way?” At
that moment, what once felt so distorted and lacking in its
luster was now crystal clear. And with nothing but the open road
and their own volition staring back at them, the two joined
forces after years of friendship and returned to where it all
In 2019, the duo found their way back
home to Boston and began working relentlessly on a new project:
Above Snakes. They would soon partner with producer Kile Odell
(Fozzy, Through Fire, Awake At Last) and in the summer of 2020,
the band released their debut track “Adrenaline,” which quickly
earned Spotify placements from the likes of Loudwire and
Hopeless Records. “Adrenaline” was soon followed by their next
single “Never Alone,” and a massive placement on the Rock Hard
playlist on Spotify.
Following the release of their latest
single “I Feel Bad,” Above Snakes has returned to the studio
with Kile Odell to complete their debut record.
Unfortunately, what started out as a
scheduled ZOOM interview quickly resolved to just audio with
both Johnny Skulls and Dax Dabs. Check Out the interview!
DB: Well, first of all,
congratulations. You’ve released a bunch of singles since
last July – three singles. The first was
“Adrenaline” (Jul 16, 2020), and then “Never Alone” (Nov 26,
2020) and finally the latest single, “I Feel Bad” (Feb 19,
2021). They have done quite well. Congratulations on
JS: Thank you very much, yeah, we
DB: Your latest single is “I Feel
Bad.” Talk to me about it. Tell me about putting the
JS: Yeah, the song talks about my
past self. Can I succeed at where I want to be with all of
my being and my dark past pulling me down? I got that
tongue-in-cheek line in the chorus where I say, ‘I feel bad for
you’ as if I’m talking to myself in the mirror but, do I really
feel bad for myself? Because without my past
experiences and bullshit and everything, I wouldn’t be the
person I am today. I would never want to go back on that.
I just want to move forward and still succeed.
DB: That’s a very poignant
statement. Not everyone realizes that no matter where you
are in the world, where they are at in their lives, they’ve
JS: Exactly. And for the
video, we have this warehouse and so we decided to build the set
ourselves. We got big foam walls and built them up 16 feet
high. It was almost like a little SNL set! And then
we got at it.
DB: That DIY experience is
amazing. It can be so much fun and so much work but it
paid off in the end. That video looks great.
DD: Thanks so much.
JS: Yeah, it’s a lot of work but
it’s hard to get your vision to come across without doing it
yourself. Sometimes it can get twisted and not where you
want it to be, the more people involved.
DB: I completely agree with your
statement. It can be a challenge to hold onto the vision
that is yours. You’re in Nashville, in the studio right
now. You are working on your new EP or maybe it has
evolved into a full-blown album. Tell me about what’s
going on in the studio.
DD: Yeah, we are back into the
studio with Kile Odell (producer – Fozzy, Through Fire, Awake At
Last) who we did the previous three songs with. We’re at
East Iris Studios which used to be the legendary House of Blues
studios. It’s been out here for years. We’re doing
as many songs as we can, working from about 10 a.m. to 2 a.m.
every day. We are doing the grind and getting some heavy,
catchy songs out to the world hopefully.
DB: Sometimes artist find
themselves at a location, recording an album, just because that
is the way this business works. That’s where the producer
is or whatever. Other times, a location is picked because
it is inspirational. Nashville can be a very influential
city. Has any of it rubbed off on you?
DD: Yeah, the weather here is
definitely a little better than Boston. We left snow and stuff
and it’s been 60-65 here so we can wear shorts and stuff.
(laughs) It’s been great. We haven’t been downtown too
much but we are at a pretty legendary spot so this is awesome.
DB: That’s very cool. So, in
doing research for this interview, I found a statement from a
previous interview. You talked a little bit about your
influences. You mentioned Korn and Metallica, Papa Roach,
Five Finger Death Punch, Limp Bizkit and Blink 182. That’s
a pretty diverse spectrum as far as influences. Can you
talk a little bit about how those fit into your music? In
other words, ‘We take our attitude from… We take our
musical foundation from…’
JS: We definitely take our
attitude from the Limp Bizkit side, and a lot of hip hop too.
I like Eminem and Biggie, too. That’s the stuff I grew up
on. And all those bands – KORN, Metallica, GNR, Motley
Crue… They all just got that attitude. Those bands
helped me with all the rage as a young guy. That’s the
stuff I wanted. I grew up being a drummer. So, when
I got the opportunity to do this it was like, this is the style
of music and let’s get going. We’re gonna rock it!
You’re doing a great job, you really are. I know that the
two of you have been working toward this project, not
necessarily on this project, for a long time. You have
been writing and then there was your escape from Los Angeles…
JS: Exactly. It’s been a
while in the making. Me and Dax met years back, 10 plus
years back. Like I said, I played drums and we were out
and did a full tour and after just sort of split paths and did
our own thing. I ended up out in LA and had an extra room
and so I said – yo, why don’t you come out here? Have a
change of scenery and get going with some stuff. So, we
were playing in different bands out there and becoming sick of
it. We didn’t want to do that anymore. We wanted to
do it for ourselves. That’s when the whole idea of Above
Snakes started. And we thought that if we were going to do
this, go back to our roots and fully commit, we felt like we
needed to be in Boston to do that. We both moved back,
started writing, started working with Kile and put three singles
out during a pandemic.
DB: Los Angeles is a right of
passage for so many bands. There is no shortage of bands
that show up in LA with a dream, hoping to stand out and make
it, only to discover that LA has no shortage of bands. In
my opinion, I think the Boston area has been great for music.
So, I am happy that you chose to return home, to your roots, to
make things work on your own terms. I think that’s the
JS: Home is where the heart is
but, like you said, growing up watching all those bands on the
Sunset Strip – Motley Crue and GNR – man, I need to experience
that. But then you get out there and it’s just not that
anymore! (laughs) We were there for 5 years and it was a
great time but 5 years felt like 15 and it was enough, ya know?
DB: It sounds like there’s a song
in there someplace! (laughs) You have been very fortunate
getting so many views on YouTube and Spotify. You are
building a strong fanbase. Are you surprised by the
response so far?
DD: Definitely. It’s
exciting to see and very motivating. We were honored to
have been included on that Rock Hard play list and the YouTube
views are going pretty well too.
JS: Yeah, it’s great to see our
band name along with all these that we admire, have grown up on
and look up too. We’re just writing music that we like and
hope other people like it. A bunch of people seem to be on
the same page as us.
DB: You are obviously making
things work. So, Johnny, you stepped out from behind the
drums to take center stage. I suspect that was a
significant change for you. Talk a little bit about that
change of perspective as far as being in front with the mic
versus in the back, hammering away at the drums.
JS: It’s definitely very
different. You can be in the back and still be very
aggressive. But my biggest issue was trying to get my
vision across. I’m very visual and have had a vision but
it was hard trying to tell people that vision and make them see
it the same way. I learned that I had to get to the front
so I could drive this train. Unfortunately, we haven’t
been able to play live much due to the pandemic but we’re eager
to get out there.
DB: So, connecting the EP with
playing live, is it just the two of you in Nashville at the
DD: It’s just the two of us out
JS: Yeah, we have the band but
they are back home. It’s a little tight down here with the
Covid situation. But we got some bangers! Very
heavy. Nice and catchy. We’re excited to get them
DB: How many songs? Is this
still an EP or is there enough for a full record?
JS: Oooo, that’s the most asked
DD: We might be coming back to
Nashville in a few months.
JS: We were originally going to
put the three singles on the album, work them into the it.
But now were not sure. We’re deciding if this is going to
be an EP or a full record. We’re working on the songs and
making sure the right ones go on the record.
DB: With regards to touring, it’s
beginning to look like this Covid log jam is opening up.
There is talk of tours again, maybe at the end of this year.
Do you guys see that same opportunity, hoping to hit the road at
the end of this year?
DD: Yes, if we get an opportunity
to tour, we’ll definitely be there for sure.
JS: We’re just hoping for the best
and that things get back to normal.
I want to thank Johnny Skulls and Dax
Dabs for sharing a moment during their recording schedule.
Follow them on all the socials and checkout the new record when
it’s finally completed!