Above 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 started.

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 that! 

JS:  Thank you very much, yeah, we are excited. 

DB:  Your latest single is “I Feel Bad.”  Talk to me about it.  Tell me about putting the song together.

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 earned it. 

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!  

DB:  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…  (laughs)

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 right approach.

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?  (laughs)

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 moment? 

DD:  It’s just the two of us out here.

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 out. 

DB:  How many songs?  Is this still an EP or is there enough for a full record? 

JS:  Oooo, that’s the most asked question! 

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!

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