INTERVIEW WITH JULIAN FISCHER AND ALEX LACROIX OF SNAKEBITE
Date: October 29, 2015
Photos: Mike Slepmann (first, fourth, fifth and sixth photos), Thorsten Brauer (second photo) and Steph Lensky (third photo)
SNAKEBITE HAVE TO BE ONE OF THE BEST NEW BANDS THAT I HAVE COME ACROSS IN THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS. WITH A KNACK FOR COMING UP WITH CATCHY AND MELODIC HARD ROCK SONGS WITHOUT SOUNDING TOO POPPY, SNAKEBITE ARE DEFINITELY A BAND TO WATCH OUT FOR. SLEAZE ROXX CAUGHT UP WITH THE BAND’S RHYTHM SECTION, NAMELY DRUMMER JUSTIN FISCHER AND BASSIST ALEX LACROIX, TO FIND OUT MORE ABOUT SNAKEBITE INCLUDING UNRELEASED MATERIAL.
Sleaze Roxx: You just recently released a video for “Live It Up.” What made you decide to go with that song because when I heard ‘Princess Of Pain’ — which I really like — I thought that there were some even better tracks on it such as “Bound To Lose” or “All Or Nothing.”
Julian Fischer: Thank you! [It’s] cool to see how everyone’s got his favorite tracks. Every review or feedback points out different highlights on that album. One reviewer even stated that your two favorites would be the weaker part. Maybe it’s just a matter of taste. I don’t know if it was the right decision. You know, we tried to make an album where every song brings something different to the table, where every song has its right to exist in the album context. Writing a whole record of hit singles is not what we wanted to accomplish. “Bound to Lose” for example, is the only song with a shuffle-feel and “All or Nothing” has this gallop-rhythm. It was a tough decision to pick “Live it Up” as the second single, because we love them all! As far as I remember, the location for the music video was the decisive factor. We discovered this original party location, which was opened in the late ’70s. Ten years later, it went downhill and all they did was switch off the lights and turn the key. It is part of a hotel now and they actually don‘t know what to do with it. But we did [laughs]. “Live it Up” seemed to be the perfect song for the location so we decided to lift that one as a single.
Sleaze Roxx: Unlike other bands that play what I will call ’80s sounding hard rock / metal, your band prides itself on tackling subjects other than the usual “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” such as positive messages against standardized and slavish lifestyles. What made and when did Snakebite decide to go that route? I ask because two of you were previously together in the band Sexx Action, which is presumably all about “sex, drugs and rock n’ roll” and I noticed that an early promotion for the band consisted of “snakes, drug and rock n’ roll.”
Julian Fischer: To us, rock ‘n’ roll is not something you just party to in your free time. Here in Germany, and I believe elsewhere, most people are living their life for others. They work the whole week, mostly in a job that doesn’t concern them, just to let it all out at the weekend, where they party hard to compensate their shit life. It’s all about safety. They are afraid of freedom, afraid to do what they really want and feel inside. When you do something, that doesn’t accord with your inner impulse, you are nothing but a machine — I really believe that. The music itself and art in general has this certain effect. You listen to it, because you want to. It’s a choice of freedom. It‘s some kind of illusion, a temporary way out of this misery. We want to provoke the breakout, the rebellion against conformity. The message is, “Do what you really want and give everything for it.” We really believe that and practice what we preach. As far as it comes to the “snakes, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” thing — we did some stickers with that slogan on it. It’s just making fun of the cliché, you know. We like to party and stuff for sure, but it kind of falls short to us as an attitude towards life and band image.
Alex Lacroix: In addition, I get the impression that a lot of bands nowadays are just highlighting the whole “sex drugs & rock n’ roll” thing, because so many others did it before. They’re like “Oh my God, we are a rock band so we gotta sing about that stuff.” I don’t think that it is satisfying as a band, to walk a road which hundreds of bands of the same genre have walked before. For sure, we will release songs which cover those themes in one way or another, but we won’t establish it as our brand or something like that.
Sleaze Roxx: Your online bio specifically states that you are distancing yourselves from comedy acts like Steel Panther. Why is that and don’t you like Steel Panther [laughs]?
Julian Fischer: I liked the first album. I thought it was funny when it first came out. But then it got over-shadowed somehow. I don’t know how it is in Canada or elsewhere, but let me describe the situation here in Germany. If you come up with classic ’80s hard rock like we do, you get two reactions: “Ah, you guys are like Steel Panther” or “I understand, you are an ’80s tribute band.” Sad thing is, most so-called “glam” or “hair metal” bands don’t want to be more than that. They either live in the past and treat hard rock as a relict with no meaning for today or try to be funny with their damn wigs [laughs]. Classic hard rock music is not a joke to us and we just want to distance ourselves from that comedy thing. Besides, to us this music is not limited to a certain past. It’s not over, just because the music industry said so in the ’90s. Good hard rock is timeless. And we don’t glorify the ’80s as some kind of lost paradise. I like many of the classic bands for sure, but I don’t want to be associated with the commercial side of ’80s music. We’d never do something just for money. Sure, it’s our goal to survive by doing music, but I don’t want to be a rockstar. I work hard for my dream and do anything possible. But keeping it real is an obligation.
Sleaze Roxx: When three of you — Julian, Nikki and Alex — first got together, you recorded an album based on songs from Nikki and Alex’s prior band Sexx Action. Unfortunately, that album was never released due to disagreements with a former Sexx Action member. Is it DJ Cladeque that is the dissenting former Sexx Action member and do you think that there will be any chance of the album ever getting released in the future?
Alex Lacroix: Well, I don’t want to start trash talking about former band members, but as DJ Cladeque is the only member of Sexx Action, who has not made it into the line-up of Snakebite, you might assume that he is the one who stood in the way.
Julian Fischer: The unmixed recordings of it are buried somewhere at home. I’m not really sure… We don’t have much interest in it. We could, because most of the material was penned by Nikki, but I’m not sure if we’d do ourselves a favor. The material is weaker than what is on ‘Princess Of Pain.’ If we ever need a bonus track or anything like that, then maybe. But our main focus is on the new stuff.
Sleaze Roxx: Eventually, Snakebite composed new songs and recorded a limited demo EP. From listening to a few songs on Youtube, it sounds like the Snakebite songs on ‘Princess Of Pain’ are more melodic and catchy than what Sexx Action had to offer. Do you agree and why?
Alex Lacroix: A big difference between Sexx Action and Snakebite is the use of two guitars instead of one. So with Snakebite, we have a broader variety of possibilities when it comes to writing songs. Also, all of us are involved in the process of songwriting, which gives us the chance to integrate a lot of different ideas.
Sleaze Roxx: When I first heard ‘Princess Of Pain,’ I thought that Nikki had a great voice that I really love. I was surprised to find out that when Nikki was a part of Sexx Action, he was simply handling lead guitar duties and only assumed the lead singer duties once in Snakebite. What made Nikki decide to take on the lead singer / frontman duties in a band?
Alex Lacroix: That’s nice. He’ll be happy about that. When we founded Snakebite, we’ve had the problem of not having a lead singer in the band. So we searched for a proper one, but it turned out, that none of the candidates we auditioned had the qualities we were looking for. Having done background vocals for Sexx Action, Nikki eventually decided to give it a shot and tried lead vocals. The other guys in the band encouraged him in doing so and eventually he ended up being the lead singer of Snakebite.
Julian Fischer: Man, I could tell you stories of these auditions [laughs]. Some of them had everything — big egos, fancy clothes and stuff — but they couldn’t sing at all or just wanted to play rockstar for a while. And some of them really got pissed. There was even one rumor going ’round that you have to be blonde to get the job, because all three of us were blonde at the time. Man, I was glad when Nikki decided to handle it. And he’s still improving. He takes lessons and practices a lot.
Sleaze Roxx: The three tracks on Snakebite’s debut EP — namely “Road To Nowhere,” “Princess Of Pain” and “We Rise” — ended up on Snakebite’s debut album ‘Princess Of Pain.’ Why is that and were the songs re-recorded for the full length album?
Julian Fischer: In fact, the EP was a demo for the debut album. It wasn’t even meant to be sold, but Maniac [Attack Records] had the idea to release it as a simple slipcase for a little money. We liked to have something physical as a teaser for the upcoming album. The demo was recorded in our rehearsal room by ourselves. The versions for “Princess Of Pain” along with the other songs, were recorded in the studio and professionally mixed and mastered by Dennis Koehne. I worked with this guy before. He’s really got some skills. He’s usually known for mixing records for Sodom, Lacuna Coil and some death metal stuff. When he asked in which direction we wanted to go with the sound, we gave him a Desmond Child production. I think it was Kane Roberts’ “Saints And Sinners.” Well, it turned out different for sure, because we have Nikki instead of Kane on the guitar and so on [laughs]. But Dennis helped us to create this typical big ’80s production, which I really like. If you want to have a listen to the demo versions, check them out on our Youtube channel. The physical demo itself is sold out.
Sleaze Roxx: The lead off single for ‘Princess Of Pain’ was “Road To Nowhere” which can also be found on the Snakebite’s self-titled 2013 debut EP. Was there any hesitation and/or debate in using a song that had already appeared on Snakebite’s prior EP to be the lead off single for ‘Princess Of Pain?’
Julian Fischer: Not really. The EP was our first ever release and most people hadn’t heard of us prior to the release of ‘Princess Of Pain.’ Well, too much people still haven’t [laughs]. But like I said, the EP was just a demo and it would have been crazy to bury such a good song on a limited demo CD. “Road to Nowhere” was in fact one of the first songs we wrote after the unreleased post-Sexx Action record and it made some impact on our early live shows, where we mainly played the old material. So there wasn’t a big debate about that.
Sleaze Roxx: When Martin joined the band as a guitar player and in between Snakebite’s EP and full length album, Alex switched to bass. Why is bassist Neill Oblivion no longer in the band and why did Alex switch from guitar to bass?
Alex Lacroix: As things sometimes go, peoples’ interests grow apart. There’s no big story behind his quitting. He just had other projects, which needed to be focused on and we had our band, which needed undivided attention. When Neill quit, the main objective was to regroup the band as fast as possible and as it turned out, it is a lot easier finding a guitarist than a bassist. And as you might know, I was a bass player in Sexx Action. With Martin, we found a capable guitarist and I switched back to bass, for the sake of the band.
Julian Fischer: I like Alex as a bassist. He’s doing a good job and I think he will stay on the bass now, no matter what happens.
Sleaze Roxx: Julian — I hope that you do not mind that I share this in this interview but you had indicated to me after I forwarded my Sleaze Roxx review of ‘Princess Of Pain’ to you that “We’re quiet[ly] confident about our release for sure…” What has been the reaction to ‘Princess Of Pain’ thus far and as an artist, can you tell when you have something really good or not?
Julian Fischer: [Laughs] Don’t get me wrong. I don’t want to sound like an arrogant fool. But yeah, I think we know the difference between a good song and complete bullshit, especially when the dust has settled a bit. And I believe you have to stand fully behind your music as an artist. I was too influenced by other opinions in the past. That is not a bad thing in general. But there are so many reviewers out there who think “Well, I never heard of them. They are just on this small indie label and there’s no gift and free stuff in the packet.” — and they skip through the songs for a minute or so. The whole rating system for music and art in general is complete bullshit to me. But then I’m really glad to receive a decent review where the guy has really listened to it, even when it’s negative. I really liked yours for sure [laughs]! And yeah, most online and print magazines praised the record for its catchiness, sound, and uncompromising “’80-ness.” Making a decent record is one thing. But as a newcomer like us, you have to attract the attention of the people somehow and nice reviews and stuff like this interview help a lot.
Sleaze Roxx: What are the chances of Snakebite touring in the United States and Canada in the future?
Alex Lacroix: Well, if there’s any chance of touring the US or Canada, we would be glad to realize that. Let’s just see what the future has to offer.
Julian Fischer: It’s not very realistic at the moment. I think we need to establish ourselves a lot more and find somebody who has the capacity and the will to support us. But sure, we’d like to!
Sleaze Roxx: What are Snakebite’s plans for the future?
Alex Lacroix: Taking over the world, I guess [laughs]. In fact, we’re in the midst of songwriting for our second full length album, which will be completed in 2016 — if everything goes as expected.
Julian Fischer: We’d like to cooperate with a label that helps us to promote the next record. There are some interesting possibilities already. And a strong partner when it comes to booking would be nice. Playing shows in support of bigger acts works good for us to attract some attention. All in all, we want to take it to the next level, you know.
Julian Fischer: I just want to let you know how much we appreciate Sleaze Roxx as an important part of the scene. Keep up the good work and thank you for your support!
Alex Lacroix: And if some of you guys out there are interested in purchasing our CD/LP or shirts, you can do so on the shop of our label. You can check it out on Youtube before. And feel free to write us a message on Facebook or wherever.
Sleaze Roxx: Last question for each of you — what are your three favorite albums of all-time and why?
Julian Fischer: Just three? There are at least ten records that changed my life [laughs]. OK, here we go. First is Enuff Z’Nuff’s ‘Animals With Human Intelligence.’ What I first saw was this ugly music video for “Fly High Michelle.” I hated their hippie image and still don’t like most of their early singles. Then I found their debut for a cheap amount. I work as a DJ at Germany’s biggest hair metal party in Cologne, called “Partymonium” and I just wanted to have a song of theirs. If somebody asks — it completely blew me away! And their second and third records are even better. The superb songwriting makes them one of the most underrated bands ever. “Mary Ann Lost Her Baby” — “Superstitious” — “Love Train”… it doesn’t get any better! My second choice is Death’s ‘Symbolic.’ I’m also much into progressive metal like Cynic, Leprous and mostly unknown bands like Serdce or Obsidian Kingdom. But it all started with Death. This one has a morbid, almost sad athmosphere. Gene Hoglans’ creative and unique drumming on this influenced me a lot.
Third choice is Stryper’s ‘No More Hell To Pay.’ They are one of the few bands that made their best record after their classic era. Maybe their faith is responsible… they didn’t party to death and took care of themselves. It’s heavy, it’s melodic, you got the typical twin guitar harmonies, killer solos and one of the best voices of all time. As far as it comes to the lyrics… today, it seems to be an obligation to either be evil and pretend to worship the devil or do funny drinking songs. Therefore, I think it’s refreshing to have a much more positive message. And I like how everybody’s pissed about them [laughs].
Alex Lacroix: My first pick is Vast’s ‘Visual Audio Sensory Theater.’ [It’s] not the one you might expect from someone who plays in this kind of band, but I simply love that record. In my opinion, it’s the greatest record of all time and I’m still not able to hear “Touched” without getting goosebumps. My next pick is Guns N’ Roses’ ‘Appetite For Destruction.’ [There is] no suprise on that one, I guess. Great Album, great tracks, great guitar work and Axl at his best. My last pick is Motley Crue’s ‘Shout At The Devil.’ Listening to this record marks the beginning of my dedication to this kind of music and was a heavy influence as I took my first steps in this whole glam/sleaze thing. I also think, that it is Motley Crue’s strongest album, so I guess, it has to be on this list.