Cobra Ramone: Guns Blazing
|Cobra & Trevor|
By Walter Price
All the emotions and various images that cross your mind as that black ’67 Camaro approaches in the night. Its gnarling engine and the smell of blood thirsty high octane fuel coming from someplace up there. Do you panic or embrace with eager abandon of what is and what is to come.
Based in Vancouver, BC is the living, breathing, gritty Rock N’ Roll version of this very same scenario and her name is Cobra Ramone and she is jacked up on a blend of grit, Jack Daniels, gun powder, love/hate and Lemmy Kilmister. Driving her old soul bluesy Rock to all points Hell Yeah.
Cobra is backed by Trevor Snakedust and Pat Steward, two musicians who use deliberate tenacity and skill as Johnny did in his epic battle against the Devil to save his soul. Replacing the fiddle with organs, guitars and skins to defeat their adversaries; not sending them packing but keeping them close for perhaps, inspiration. Only this handsome trio knows the truth.
An EP The Flood (2009), A self-titled album (2012) and a new collection on the way I can safely say that it is and will be alright on the sexier, greasier, hard rhythmed side of Rock N’ Roll town.
Let’s start at the beginning, how did all this sexy, dirty blues get started for Cobra Ramone?
COBRA: I grew up listening to dirty blues and rock ‘n roll. My parents had amazing music collections: Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Jimi Hendrix, The Rolling Stones. Lots of gritty guitars, growling vocals and swanky rhythms. That’s the kind of music that stood out to me. Bluesy rock was what I always related to most. Lyrically it can be dark and sexy and tongue-in-cheek all at the same time. Once I picked up an electric guitar it all came together. Bruce Springsteen and Steve Earl are both huge influences in my songwriting as they write about some really honest, dark subject matter and I admire that.
How much of the music is band and how much is pure Cobra?
COBRA: For the first 2 records I was the primary songwriter. The past 2 years working with Trevor (Snakedust) has opened me to co-writing a lot more and our new music is much more of collaboration. Trevor is actually a really great guitar player and comes up with some amazing dirty riffs. I tend to write the lyrics because I have to really feel something in order to deliver it honestly. I think it’s really important to believe what you’re saying because other people can tell when you’re just reciting lines. Now that we have Pat on board we’ve started to work on themes and songs more as a group and I’ve learned to trust them with my vision, which i’m usually very protective of.
I’ve been digging your The Flood and Cobra Ramone releases and I couldn’t stop thinking that your voice (as in vocals, heart & soul) is probably decades older than you actually are.
COBRA: Thank you! I guess in a way those old blues and rock ‘n roll singers taught me how to sing. As far as sounding older, I guess maybe I feel music very deeply…it’s honestly what motivates my life.
Can you tell me some sorted stories on the making of those titles?
COBRA: I wrote some of the last record while living on a Venezuelan Island…it wasn’t the safest place (especially for a woman) so I suppose the frustrations of that probably bleed through in some of the songs.
“Guns Blazing” came about while I was living in Edmonton after a particularly heartless break-up and is probably one of my most angry songs. 4 hours at 3am and I wrote and recorded the entire song front to back while drinking too much jack daniels and chain-smoking. That recording is exactly what made it on the album. Obviously, our music is made with the help of all the other sordid cliche regulars: whiskey, sex, horror movies- historical helpers in song-writing.
TREVOR: Cobra is scary when she’s writing.
In your music you transition from sultry, reluctance to ‘I could kick your ass’ pretty seamlessly, is that you in day to day life as well? You also seem to walk a fine line of openness and mystery or they both really the same thing really?
COBRA: I really think it’s important to be nice and kind. People are usually surprised by how nice my band is in person and I love that. I think everyone has some rage and darkness so that’s a very real part of me and I don’t hide it well sometimes. We’re fortunate to have a less destructive way to emit those feelings through music. Sometimes i’d like to set things on fire though. We also kind of love strip-clubs. If done right, they can be very empowering places! They represent a desire and taboo and this unsayable thing that we try to get across in our music. We want strippers in seedy strip-clubs to dance to our songs and feel bad-ass while they do it.
TREVOR: Yeah boobies! We’re big nerds who love video games and dinosaurs and quantum physics. But we definitely don’t fake anything. What you see on stage is maybe our alter-egos but that’s who we are. Cobra wears leather pants to the grocery store.
Is there anything that frightens you, something you think is off limits to write about?
COBRA: I’ve always had a fascination with the apocalypse. It’s a regular theme in my writing whether as a metaphor or literally about the world ending. Trevor and I were both raised Roman Catholic which is something neither of us identify with anymore, but that idea of a religious armageddon (and a resentment of lingering “Catholic Guilt”), has stuck with me. I think there’s a really dangerous sadness and beauty in the idea of our morals and choices being the cause of a global torment. “The Flood” is pretty literal. I wanted the chorus’ to be jarring and uncomfortable and to sound like fire. “So Quiet” is very dark…a young couple committing suicide to escape an imminent apocalypse. I see the images of fires and helicopters and this beautiful innocence slipping into a big, black lake in my head every time I sing it.
TREVOR: I don’t think anything is off limits for anyone involved with creative expression. That’s what playing music and being in a band should be about. Everyone in a band has something to say and music gives us the platform to say what we want whether through lyrics or melodies or just pure emoting. I think a lot of the stuff we write about is meant to get a reaction out of people. Good, bad, happy, sad etc. If the story is engaging and creates a reaction then we’ve done our job. But I’m frightened of spiders and old people.
What can you tell me about Pat Steward, Trevor Snakedust and producer Jay Sparrow?
COBRA: Trev and I met a thousand times: a truck-stop, a small town in Mexico, a sketchy bar in Toronto…It was inevitable. I found out he played guitar and I could tell by how he talked about music and how humble he was that he was probably very talented. I asked if he wanted to jam and I immediately gave him a Hammond keyboard and said “Great. You play this now.”. Our passion for music is very equal and it’s nice to have someone I can rely on to have my back as a musician and as a good friend. He’s also a giant twisted man-child so we tour together really well. He’s ridiculous. We pretty much just laugh all the time.
Pat Steward is a legend. He has more groove in his arms and legs than anyone I’ve ever known. Our first time playing with him in rehearsal, Trev and I looked at each other afterwards just completely speechless because we knew we had found this really special thing with the 3 of us.
Jay Sparrow is also a Canadian musical legend. As a producer, he really helped shape my style and he and Mr. Smith (our engineer/ mixer/ therapist/ peacekeeper) pushed me to write and play the music I’ve always thought I couldn’t. They were very hard on me at times because they believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself.
TREVOR: Don’t lie Cobra, we met at space-camp.
There truly is a flood of take it back to basics of R&B Rock N’ Roll roots artists out & about, but you seem to it with a twist of “check this shit out, you didn’t expect that didja!”. How much fun are you having shaking things up?
COBRA: I fucking love it. I hate to bring gender into this but it’s really interesting being a female rock musician in a male dominated industry. I’m often passed over in soundchecks by other bands or sound-techs because they assume I’m a “girlfriend” of one of the band members. And then I get on stage and show them how big my balls are. It’s a great way to get me pissed off before a show. I love the “fuck you” of playing a dirty SG and grinding it out with this amazing band. I’m getting fired up just thinking about it.
TREVOR: We definitely make a conscious effort to be original and not sounds like anyone else. One of my favorite quotes and what I strive for in music came from Jeff Buckley when he said:
“When all of this music sounds like you know what you want to say, then it will have been of all worth, ever. You will be something complete unto yourself, present and unique.”
What have you found to be most annoying at your shows?
COBRA: After we get off stage I need to go hide somewhere alone for a few minutes. That 2 minute walk from the stage to a hiding place can be a little overwhelming. I’m actually a pretty big introvert so I get uncomfortable with lots of people after giving out so much on stage. But, it’s certainly not annoying in the least. It’s very gratifying to hear that we’ve moved someone or made them want to punch a wall. And what’s great is Trevor is very social and wants to talk to everyone. He remembers everyone’s names and the ladies love him.
TREVOR: All those screaming adoring fans…jeesh. Keep it down! We’re trying to rock up here!! (I love you too ladies!)
You’re working on another album, what can you let loose about it?
COBRA: It’s probably been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done. We’ve had so many bumps in the road getting it made and we love it so much that we’re ready to show it off. We’ve found a producer who “gets” it…this young guy named Sam Woywitka. He has lived a thousand lives and I think that lends feeling and heart to the production of these songs we wouldn’t have found elsewhere.
TREVOR: As it sits right now we’re aiming for a Jan 2015 release. We wrote maybe 25 songs and have narrowed that down to a 5 song ep. It’ll make your pants tighter, that’s for sure.
If your past is true, the NJ statute of limitations is only five years for car theft; have you thought about returning to NJ or is this all myth?
COBRA: I may or may not have a warrant for my arrest in 2 states. Papa Ramone doesn’t talk about New Jersey much so it’s probably better I stay away for a while.
TREVOR: The first rule of Fight Club is…
What should the world know and not get twisted about Cobra Ramone?
TREVOR: Our safe- word is “gun-slinger”.