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November 29, 2006

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These Arms Are Snakes Interview
Interview with Brain Cook

These Arms Are Snakes formed a few years ago out of the ashes of Botch and Kill Sadie. They recently released a new full-length (their second for Jade Tree) called Easter. And with that album, These Arms Are Snakes totally convinced me: playing with so much passion, groove and creativity, this band reaches far beyond the mud of post-hardcore bands. They have the same angular tension as Ink & Dagger, the passion of Refused and the inventiveness of Fugazi. This interview was done through e-mail with bassist Brian Cook. Brian spent years of his life making noise with the very influential mathcore pioneers Botch.

These Arms Are Snakes is still refered to as the band that formed after the break-up of Botch and Killsadie. Is Easter the album that needs to give These Arms Are Snakes more a face of its own?

We'll probably always deal with people bringing up our past bands, and that's fine. I'm glad people still give a shit. But hopefully people will begin to realize that this band is it's own entity. Just as long as people don't expect to hear something that sounds like our old projects.

I think people do more than just "still giving a shit" about a band like Botch... You inspired hundreds of bands all over the world up until today. Now Hydra Head is doing all these Botch re-issues. How does it feel to see Botch reach a legendary status more and more?

It's flattering, but it's in the past. The funny thing is that we really struggled as a band. We'd go on tour and play to 20 or 30 people a night. Now everyone wants to play a part in that history. I wish people would realize that there are great musicians playing to 20 or 30 people in their town as we speak. Be a part of that history now, don't obsess over the past. Go see those bands. Go see us play.

Back to These Arms Are Snakes?°¦ worldwide press is really positive about Easter. Do you feel like this is the best record you've ever made as a musician?

No. I think it's one of the best, but I wouldn't claim that any record I've done tops everything else. I think it's certainly my favorite These Arms Are Snakes album though. My goal isn't to trump everything I've done in the past, but rather to make something that is representative of a time and place that won't become out-dated.

And do you believe you succeeded in reaching that goal?

I think so. I kept listening to it over and over again after we finished it. I was trying to get my bearings on it; trying to figure out if I was satisfied with it. Eventually I realized that if I was still intrigued and engaged by it after that many listenings, it must be a halfway decent record.

What was the idea behind an album title as Easter?

I've kind of given up on explaining it. It just seemed to fit. Every time I've tried to talk someone through our rationale for the name it just seems to sound like we're over-intellectualizing it. The record deals with a lot of big questions. And most of those questions stem from trying to understand why our culture behaves the way we do. Western civilization has defined itself by the Christian religion, which all stems from Easter. That's the dumbed down answer.

Ultimately These Arms Are Snakes' music is defined by western civilization as well. Do you see tradition as important when writing songs?

It's a matter of finding a balance between tradition and innovation. I hate to see bands disregard either. Traditions serve as reference points by providing a common language. Innovation keeps things interesting. Finding that balance, or deciding where you think it should be, is what defines one's music.

Isn't it time for bands, labels and everyone involved in independent music to try and break those cultural boundaries? Would you ever consider touring in countries like Afghanistan, Egypt, Teheran?

It's just not fiscally feasible for us. And on some level, I feel like it's inappropriate. I feel like those countries have their own journeys to complete. I don't like the idea of trying to impose our culture in countries that are fighting to shrug off the influence of Western values. I feel like it's almost counterproductive. I like living in a world where you can travel to new areas with different identities. It's frustrating when the cultural values of certain places are at odds with my own mindset, but I certainly don't claim to have an infallible sense of right and wrong.

You're touring Japan and Australia in 2007. Have you ever been there and what do you expect from it?

We've been to Japan and it was awesome. We were only there for 72 hours, so I'm excited to get a chance to experience more of it. Australia will be a new experience for us, and I can't wait to visit it. I've always been very curious about Australia.

Is it more rewarding to you if someone gets into These Arms Are Snakes after seeing you live on tour, or after hearing your album?

I'd be happy either way. I feel like they are pretty separate experiences, so I would just hope that people that heard the record first would appreciate the live show, and the people that see us live feel like the record appropriately captures that energy.

Thanks Brian. Really hope to see you perform in Europe soon.

Semtex Magazine