What: Book launch for The Deadly Snakes: Real Rock and Roll Tonight
Where: Drawn & Quarterly, 211 Bernard O., Montreal — Tel: 514-279-2224
When: 7 PM
Free (wine and refreshments will be on hand to make the occasion more festive)
In the six years since their untimely break up, The Deadly Snakes’ cult status as Canada’s finest garage rock band lives on like they’ve never left us, and the truth is, they haven’t—well, not exactly. Whether it’s in André Ethier’s solo work, or drummer Andrew “Gunn” Moszynski and guitarist Chad Ross’ psych rock band Quest For Fire, the guys, for the most part, remain a visible presence in the local music scene. However, despite the many fans who egg on each former member to regroup for one night only, the truth is, we will most likely never see The Deadly Snakes play another show, and somehow that ending to their story’s a lot more fitting.
The Deadly Snakes: Real Rock and Roll Tonight is the new biography written by Montreal writer J.B. Staniforth, who interviewed the band members periodically between 2009-2012, compiling a succinct account of “their rise and gentle fall” in their 10 years playing rock and roll. This new release also marks the third installment of Invisible Publishing’s band biography series Bibliophonic. I asked J.B. Staniforth a few questions about the band and his decision to write his first book on The Deadly Snakes.
You’re a huge music fan. Of all the Canadian bands to write about, why did you choose The Deadly Snakes?
I chose to write about the Snakes because [their final record] Porcella was a hugely significant album for me–it spoke to me at a time in my life when I was lost, and I always felt I owed the band some kind of thanks for that. I also never felt they got the recognition they deserved for being the best band in the country. They recorded four albums in six years, effortlessly representing the process of growing up, before breaking up and leaving a beautiful corpse. Those records will stay beautiful forever.
After interviewing the band members for your book, did you go back and listen to the music and notice more nuances to their songs, or did their music inspire you on a different level?
Oh, absolutely. I listened to the records over and over, even when I was in Toronto interviewing the band (because I wanted to be able to ask specific questions about songs). The more I listened, the more popped out at me. There’s a lot in each of those records to explore, even the early ones (which sound deceptively simple). As André [Ethier] and Max [McCabe-Lokos] have both pointed out, the simplicity of the early Snakes is calculated–almost the product of insecurity. By contrast, on Ode to Joy and Porcella they open themselves up absolutely, sometimes breaking songs down (like “Oh My Bride” and “Mutiny and Lonesome Blues”) into something practically minimalistic, and at other times producing these ornate, elegant pieces (like “Gore Veil” and “Oh Lord, My Heart”). None of the Snakes’ records tires under repeated listening.
What mark has The Deadly Snakes left on the Canadian rock and roll scene, or conversely, what void is left in their absence?
To me, the defining factor of the Deadly Snakes is that beautiful combination of simplicity, chutzpah and regionalism. They played with a clarity and directness, deliberately without irony, that demanded they take themselves and their music seriously, and they always did it with a nod to their hometown, their lives and the things they cared about. I’d love for there to be bands from all across the country–from Swift Current, or Sault St. Marie, or Yellowknife–that represented their town as fiercely as the Snakes stood up for Toronto. Not because they loved it, but because it was where they were from and they were determined not to be something other than they were.
The book’s official launch is this Friday, December 7 at Montreal’s gorgeous Mile End bookstore, Drawn & Quarterly.
About J.B. Staniforth:
J.B. Staniforth is a writer, reporter, editor, and teacher. His reporting appears regularly in the Nation magazine (Canada), serving the Cree communities of James Bay (Eeyou Istchee); he has also published writing in Slice, N+1, and Salon. Since 2001, he has written and produced the underground zine Querencia. He lives in Montreal.