At the time my parents were renting the property, and strewn out amongst the yard were random pieces of farm equipment - old machinery and feeding troughs and what not. We lived there briefly, just before my parents bought the home they live in now, but I have memories from that summer of helping my father clean up some of the junk that littered the yard.
With the help of my brother, my father and I were able to pry loose a feeding trough that was embedded into the earth, and underneath was an image I'll never forget for the rest of my life: Snakes - hundreds of them - wound tightly together in one twisted and writhing mass.
It was a very powerful sight. And definitely one to behold.
|This image will never escape me.|
I hadn't thought about that day for a long time. Then just last week I was talking to my friend Jason Boten who was telling me about the latest project he's been working on - a new band he's formed called Nest of Snakes.
For a second, that powerful image from my childhood flashed into my head. But despite that, my first true thought was, That's a frickin' great name for a band!
Snakes is a project that Jason has had in the works for several months now. He had been playing bass in Superchief - one of the more established bands in Des Moines, before he left last November. Shortly after that he joined Tanjou, an endeavor that never really made it out of his garage, but became the foundation of what is now his latest undertaking.
"It's funny," he told me, "I kind of told myself I had to get back out within a year... and my last show with Superchief was on November 11th last year. I made it by one day!"
He is referring to a gig that they are playing this Saturday night at the Hull Avenue Tap. It will mark his first public showing in 364 days, one short of his mentioned goal. It will be the first gig for Nest of Snakes and an opportunity for them to showcase their talents to what is typically one of the rowdiest rock and roll crowds in Des Moines. Known for it's stiff drinks and cheap beer, The Hull is one of the premier live music spots in the local area, and they almost never have a cover charge. Nest of Snakes will be opening for another local band, No Good Deed and the show is free.
As a band, Nest of Snakes is a trophy case of local talent. It consists of Jason, who plays guitar and sings, Larry Enos who also plays with Sons of Walter on bass, Tom Brighton who splits his time with September on guitar and vox, and drummer Derek Deutramont who was formerly with the Albino Spiders.
Their sound is heavy but not all-encompassing. It's composed of a variety of different influences from all over the rock and roll map. The two tracks I heard brought to mind such classic acts as Deep Purple and Black Sabbath, but I also heard glimpses of early Soundgarden and Motorhead. Despite having a heavy foundation, the music is also rich with melodies, a trait that sometimes gets lost in the Des Moines metal scene.
How did Nest of Snakes come about?
Derek: Jason, Tom and I had been playing together in another project and that morphed into NOS.
Jason: Well, it was actually sort of an accident. Derek and I were playing in a band together that brought in Tom eventually. Steve Pundzak was in that mix and he came up with the name actually as a joke about the previous project and I just loved it. That band just wasn't getting off the ground and I think that had a lot to do with it starting out much more "metal" and they brought my Sabbathy- hippie ass into the mix and it just didn't quite work right. So when that ended, Tom, Derek and I did some jamming and found we worked better together as a riff-rock/desert-rock/stoner-rock (whatever you want to call it) band... but we have been VERY clear with each other that there are no boundaries and we will play what comes to us and what we like. So eventually I see this project covering a variety of styles... of course the mighty riff and glorious 1970s fuzz is probably always going to be an element.
|Nest of Snakes in the Lab. L-R: Derek, Larry, Tom, and Jason|
Photo by Brian Pottorff (click to enlarge)
In your mind, what separates from other bands in Des Moines?
Derek: I think we have a sound that's different from anyone else.
Tom: A lot of bands are still metal or folk-rooted. It can be a challenge to find diversity in local music if you do not get out and find it. This act has a more improvisational aspect to it, and no one is the wiser.
Larry: I think we're heavier than most bands I've seen, but we still have melody--something missing from a lot of heavier bands nowadays.
Jason: I think we have found our own way by not trying to sound like a particular "scene" and we don't plan on trying to be anything other than what we enjoy doing... sometimes that might mean people won't like it or won't get it, but we're much more concerned with having fun and digging what we're doing.
What IS the best way to describe your sound?
Jason: We have some elements that would put us in the desert-rock (etc.) category. Bands like Black Sabbath, Kyuss, Clutch, Fu Manchu, Queens of the Stone Age, Red Fang, etc. really influence all of us, but who knows where we'll go as we progress. We're also big fans of a variety of '70s sounds from Gordon Lightfoot to Waylon Jennings, so we really can't predict where our writing and/or possible future cover songs will lead us.
Larry: "Stoner Rock" is a common name for what we do, but you can trace the roots of our sound all the way back to early Black Sabbath, through Soundgarden, all the way up to bands like Clutch and Queens of the Stone Age.
Derek: Influences are the previous and also Primus, Parliament Funkadelic, old school punk like Dead Kennedy's, Bad Religion, Bad Brains, Fishbone.
Tell me about your first gig at the Hull on Nov. 10th.
Jason: I love the Hull. They are about the only place in town that has heavier music and doesn't do the whole "soundguy and doorguy" thing. I love having a soundguy and doorguy, but I'm a much bigger fan of ditching the cover for a bit of the bar's take and doing our own sound. I realize that isn't practical in all clubs, but I sure do like telling people they don't have to pay a cover.
Tom: It will be the christening of the act in a live setting. The first show is always special when something like this, with people who share what you love to do share your expression through performance.
|Click to enlarge|
Jason: I actually met Larry while playing in another band and we had our first real conversation at the Hull. Tom and I talked long ago about wanting the Hull to be our first show and it just worked out. We'll play about 40 minutes opening for the local band No Good Deed, so don't be late! They were kind enough to let us join their show and we're as excited to see them as to play. They are not only fantastic, they are full of some GREAT guys. I've known Kelly (guitar) since I was probably about 15 years old. Doug (guitar) and I used to work together and he is who introduced me to MP3s back in the mid '90s with a song from his band at the time, Yukon Cornelius. Jeff (bass) and I know each other through work and music. He was in bands like Squidboy and the Miltons, which were bands I used to go see at places like Hairy Mary's. Hell of a nice guy. Tim (drums) and I have talked online and crossed paths while I was in other bands and he was in other bands... we've got a lot of similar interests and I'm excited to finally really hang out with him! Rob (vocals) is a new guy to me, but listening to him sing, he's no "new guy" for sure. looking forward to meeting him, too!
What's the future of NOS? Tour?... Recording?... Anything else?
Derek: Whatever comes our way.
Jason: It's funny what is considered "touring" by some and what is just a few shows in a row. I am up for the road a bit, but not looking at any month-long tours or anything. I can see us eventually doing 5 or more nights out once in a while. It's fun and challenging to take a band on the road and I'm game if it works out for us.
Larry: Speaking only for myself, I have hopes that there will be touring and that we can spread this music far and wide: Nationally and Internationally!
Jason: We'll definitely record. I love the process and the product of recording. I've been recording since I was a kid and it's one of favorite parts of a rock band. Not sure how or where quite yet, but we'll figure it out. I've done a couple of albums in a super nice studio and I've done albums myself... not sure what's in store for us for sure, but one way or the other we'll record an album.
Would you say this is a serious venture or is it a hobby, or exactly how would you describe it?
Tom: For me, it's taking negative energy, letting the instruments say what words cannot, and with help with conducting energy from bandmates, creating a wormhole into a positive dimension, where you let go of what keeps you down, and are free for that brief duration.
Derek: We're serious about playing kick ass shows and recording kick ass music. It's more than a hobby, but it's not the most important thing on earth.
Jason: I'd say it's serious to a point. I'm not going to quit my job and sell my house or anything, but I like to work hard and love to play shows, so you sort of have to be serious enough to have fun - which means not sucking.
What's the coolest aspect of the Des Moines music scene?
Tom: Loyal fans and friends that turn out to shows when there are so many other great shows going on.
Larry: There is a sense of cooperation among most of the bands.
Jason: I love Des Moines. I grew up here and I've played in a bunch of bands in a lot of styles. I love that I have had the opportunity to pursue so many projects and find an audience for them. There are a lot of people that rag on DSM, but I love it. I love the work of promoters like Metro Concerts and First Fleet, I love the hard work of the DMMC with Little Big Fest and Gross Domestic Product (and I've played both in different bands) and of course 80-35. I hear people rag on them and it frankly makes me angry. it's a tough job and most the people I hear complain don't volunteer or only come at them with animosity. Let's all work together brothers and sisters!
Pertinent Link: Nest of Snakes on Facebook