interview by Guitar Doug
photos by RJB PHOTO
The Spittin' Cobras was formed only in 2008, but is already packing them in at Seattle Rock clubs with catchy and complicated guitar riffs, straight forward drums, and Bon Scott influenced vocals. The group is a formation of members of Murdock, a very popular Seattle rock band, and Jules Hodgson, guitarist and Co-Producer of the band KMFDM. Obviously, this line-up already has built a following that has made The Spittin' Cobras one of the most popular bands for clubs to book to ensure a draw.
Seattle rock bands with flashy lead guitarist are becoming more and more popular over the last couple years, and luckily when this band was coming together, Jules Hodgson just happened to be looking for a second group to focus on. Neon Nights, Mos Generator, The Boss Martians and other groups featuring impressive lead guitarists are setting a level of guitar playing these days that new bands know they need to keep up with to be competitive. Technical playing is making a major comeback and it's not uncommon to see much of the audience at many rock shows are guitarists and other rock Seattle musicians, who are there to check out the competition.
Once again, lead guitar is being brought out front and center in Seattle rock bands, and without a player who can hold his own against other top players around town, a band has a major problem. You can play with all the feeling and emotion you like, but if you don't have the chops to back it up these days, your pretty much dead in the water. Unless, of course, you happen to be forming an EMO band.
Nobody cares about feeling right now in the rock clubs. They want to see people who can play their instruments well and have technical knowledge that can translate into ground-breaking rock. Especially when it comes to lead guitar. The same can be said for drummers. Nobody cares about drum machines or playing with "finesse" any more. They want to see more heavy or technical drummers like Jim Laws from The Valley, Shawn Johnson of Mos Generator, Troy of Drown Mary, and many others who do more than keep 4/4 time.
Jules Hodgson is without question, a Seattle rock musician and guitarist that nobody can say is without musical credentials. He was born in England where he was considered a child musical prodigy, and formally trained in piano. Through years of run in with authorities, and being thrown out of prestigious English schools for his antics, music was a constant, and his musical training has been the center of his life. Today, Jules has a formal musical education and an impressive academic background that he never brags about or even mentions unless asked.
His natural ear for music has also led him into producing and opening his own studio where he Co-Produces the music of the internationally known Industrial group KMFDM. Jules studio is called Black Lab and is open to everyone from a new band to a nationally known group looking for quality production. His skill with production pays the bills and is hard to argue with, but Jules is first and foremost a musician, player and performer.
After the last KMFDM album was finished, he was going through playing withdrawal and started looking for others who wanted to jam or possibly form a group, now that his album work with KMFDM was done and no tour was scheduled for the immediate future.
When on duty as a musician he is deadly serious. Off duty Jules is another story all together and is easily one of the funniest people I know. I mean, the man could literally write comedy if he ever lost interest in music, which you will understand after reading his interview below. Off stage, Jules is endlessly cracking jokes in a dry English sense of humor, where you are never sure if he is putting you on or actually having a serious conversation. He prefers one on one conversation over speaking with crowds, but get him into one and you will hear tour tales that are hard to believe, a life in music that is every kids dream, and some of the zaniest and funniest things you have heard come out of a person's mouth. Below is my interview with Jules Hodgson, who told me a couple days ago "Write anything you like Mate. Just be sure to mention my show at King Cobra on Halloween, will ya?"
So, there you go Jules. I will be at that show and also at The Seattle Sinner Magazine 6 year anniversary party the same night at The Noc Noc. Congratulations Chuck and Terri for 6 years of raising hell here in Seattle. I will be bouncing back and fourth Halloween night between the events, and you should too.
What news do you have about The Spittin' Cobras?
So far we've been lucky enough to get some pretty decent shows under our belts and that seems to be continuing. We just confirmed for Halloween at the King Cobra. We're going to be shooting a video at some point in the near future and are midway through recording a whole bunch of stuff in my studio. I've just started fishing around for someone to put out our first record and have a couple of leads, so all in all things are looking pretty good.
How did this band come about exactly?
I'd been thinking about putting another band together with Andy and Steve from KMFDM. The idea was to do something that was just straight ahead butt-rock n roll. No synths and no click tracks!
At the time, Nils from Dragstrip Riot was living with them, so he became the obvious choice for bass duties. Myself and Andy bashed out the instrumental of "10,000 Broken Bodies" in an evening at my studio and we rehearsed that one song as a band a couple of days later. After that I put out an add on Craigslist looking for a singer. It was worded, as best I can remember:
Singer needed for rock n roll band.
Bonn Scott, Lemmy, Joe Strummer.
No kids, no Emo whiners.
Pretty much the first person to get back to me was Alx. He told me he was the singer for Murdock who I wasn't familiar with, but I knew I'd heard the name somewhere. So, I rang Andy to quiz him about Murdock. Just so happened that Nils was blasting the Murdock CD from his room as Andy picked up the phone. That's how I got working with Alx.
Andy moved out of town a few weeks later, leading to the whole thing basically grinding to a halt before it ever got going. A couple of months later, Alx called saying he'd been playing with Jake and Brandon from Murdock again, and asked me if I was down to jam with them.
We met up at Evolution studios in Bellevue for our first jam. I played the guys the recording of "10,000 broken bodies" a couple of times in the van, and then we went into the studio and launched into it. The rest, as they say, is history.
What exactly is happening with KMFDM, for fans of your other band?
We're working on a new KMFDM album which will be out at some point next year. 2009 also happens to be the bands' 25th anniversary, so we're going to be touring extensively throughout the US, Europe and the rest of the world. It'll have been three years since we played in the US, so we're all looking forward to getting back out there.
We've just starting putting various legs of touring together, so I can't tell you exactly when the US stuff will be, but my guess would be fall 2009.
Your a veteran rocker now. What's one the craziest memories from tour that you think about to this day. I mean, do you have any cool "Led Zeppelin with the shark and groupie" type stories?
How can I be a veteran when I'm only 23? I have been party to some pretty down right dirty debauched tour craziness, but I'll go with an event that will hopefully amuse.
I'm going to take you to Japan... I was on tour with Pig there in 2000 and had gotten together with a couple of Tokyo's finest floozies. They basically followed us everywhere, as did many a young lassie. Ahhh... the bad old days! Normally I'd end up with one and Andy with the other, but this particular night I had 'em both to myself. Andy was more than likely ploughing pastures new.
When you put an alcoholic Brit in a booze soaked culture such as Japan, there can only be one result, and needless to say, I'd been throwing 'em back like I was part of the Olympic liquor drinking team. As any hardened booze hound and road warrior knows, this can lead to some pretty messy moments in the lavatorial department.
Back at the hotel, I was rolling around under the covers with these two birds and having a smashing time. Suddenly, the urge to fart hit me, and without thinking as to the state of my internal workings, I gratified myself with what should have been an amusing expulsion of air. Unfortunately what was supposed to be gas took liquid form and gushed out under the covers. My drunken observations told me they hadn't yet noticed. So, I decided the best course of action was to sleep on it. I told the gals I needed to get some shut eye, and they obliged by snuggling up either side of me, unaware of the puddle that was now working it's way into the fabric of one of the nicer Tokyo hotel beds.
When I awoke they were gone, and I never found out if they discovered what was lurking 'neath the duvet. All I know, is that a couple of days later I had a repeat of the evening with the same lassies (minus the diorhea) and they never mentioned a thing. Truly loyal fans, or that or they didn't know the English words for "You dirty bastard! You crapped the bed!"
I know you to be a partier while out on the town. Is partying all part of the Rock n Roll lifestyle, and what's your stance on partying while performing live?
I have never considered the question of whether partying is essential. Angus Young doesn't drink at all, which to me indicates that it's not. Each to their own. I never play drunk or even tipsy. I usually have one or two beers before doing a show, but any more than that and my coordination is shot.
I've seen some guitarists who can down a crate of booze and still play flawlessly but that's not me. I am too proud of the music I make with The Spittin' Cobras and KMFDM to fuck a show up by being drunk. After we're done, it's a different story... By enjoying a drink, it often leads you into situations you would not normally get into. Therein lies both the benefits and drawbacks.
I also think that after a while you realize you're not indestructible and years of partying do take their toll (Paul Raven R.I.P). His death got to me, and has made me at least think about slowing down a touch. As a result, I tend not to drink at home very much anymore, which is a poor remedy 'cos it means I end up going out more often!
I suppose the artists that choose to quit taking their substance of choice, did so through necessity rather than because it seemed like a fun thing to do. So, I'm not going to say that what they have done since that change was any better or worse. Image plays a huge part in marketing music and once an artist has gotten that "Party" image, that will usually stay with them throughout their career, whether they quit or not, if they choose to go on portraying that side to the public.