Interview : Cobra-fist

Image: Glenn Miller (check his work on our webcomic!)

Picture this: a warm, sunny September afternoon and you are just walking on Ecclesall Road and all of a sudden you look at the trees and yell “Hey! Is that a ninja up there?!?!?!”. You thought you saw three ninjas (with the only difference being they got palette-swapped) but now they are not there…they are.. behind you! But they are friendly ninjas, and they just saved you from a Samurai (stupid tachi-wielding melonfarmers).

We thank the trio. They call themselves Cobra-fist. The name’s origin, a mystery. The trio’s identity, an even bigger mystery. We notice they have musical instruments. One of them introduces himself as Myth and we thought it was a good idea to interview them…

Thank you very much for taking these questions, we (Tonan & Sam) hope you can take some time out from your musical callisthenics and answer them. Take it as a bonus round (like the one in Shinobi when you were throwing shurikens at flying ninjas).

1.- So, let’s go back to basics. I love your band name, but how did you find it/created it? Is there any ‘Jake Graham’ involved in this?

Haha no, but I heard he survived a roundhouse kick from Chuck Norris so he must be bad ass !

In terms of the name I think the folk-lore of the band was created well before anything else, it was a long running joke between a few bands we were in at the time, eventually the band name appeared over a mad Shambala weekend the rumour of a new amazing act called COBRA-FIST was created, playing secret gigs and rocking peoples minds, I think the thorough sticker campaign helped. It was the combination of playful drunk minds and the need for a ridiculous sounding name for an equally ridiculous fictitious band. It is part 80’s Ninja Movie, part 80’s Hair metal and part Arcade game. Every teen boys wet dream.

2.- Your tracks develop a short story inside a videogame, like your own parallel Universe. In this sense, what are your influences for making music?

Speaking for myself, I’ve always found it easier to create music in reference to popular culture, I’m not academic and have never studied the relationships of keys or classic structure and such. So I’m more comfortable with manipulating clichés or finding inspiration from things which have influenced me unconsciously through my past. Adverts, cartoons, action movies and video games. Having a recognisable theme within the band makes it so much easier to create, we know when it feels “Right”, Legend blasts out a nasty synth harmony and after a few loops its almost natural to know what to play, its the same for my bass lines, Lore‘s drums lock into the main groove then elaborates and adds madness. We have all played in large bands and its a holiday to only have 3 people playing.

3.- How did you actually find out you wanted to make music together? What was that appealing click that got you together as a band?

We were all in different bands but really good friends, we loved messing around and the over-the-topness of loud metal and 70’s rock. Over the years we have grown tired of all the ego and seriousness which goes with bands and local scenes. We always wanted to turn up to a random gig and watch a crazy loud band jump around and have a good time, rather than watch a band stand still whilst looking cool with fashionable hair cuts and expensive equipment. I’ve always believed that live music needs to effect you in some way and entertain, otherwise you may as well stay at home and listen to a better clearer recording.

In terms of playing together, the joke of the fictitious band was forced into reality when Sousa-Matt organised a fancy dress party and threw the gauntlet down for us to play a real gig, plus the theme was Pirates Vs Ninjas, so we thought “Lets do it”, sorted Ninja costumes, arranged a few practices, made a 20 minute set including a very very rare cover of “The Final countdown”and managed to empty a small living room of 30 people down to 4 (Sensei Steve remained – cheers dude) ! We were not sure whether it was the volume or awesomeness ! Probably the volume.

4.- Images or sounds. According to you, what’s the means that will endure in our minds?

Its tricky, COBRA-FIST is far from a “serious” band, we are three grown men dressed up as neon ninja ! And its obviously the thing which people will immediately engage with. But we are very conscious that just being three men dressed as Ninja would wear thin after a while, so our music and shows need to entertain and move people. We chuck ourselves around and try at every opportunity to interact with the crowd so again the visual aspect of our band is important, but we also hope that when people listen to our music at home or alone walking around the supermarket through headphones they can also engage with the “Studio-ed” version of COBRA-FIST and get something from our melodies and time signatures.

I guess the cop-out answer is we hope fans see us as a whole package, visual & audio, not one without the other. Maybe to test we should do a vox pops survey out side Marks & Spencers on Fargate, play passers bys samples of our tunes and ask them what they think….call it the Fist taste test challenge?

5.- You do have a lot of samples of martial arts flicks in your music, any particular favourite? (I’m partial to Bruce Lee’s The Way of The Dragon. Best nunchuck fight ever.

We love martial arts films, I could go on forever. Favourite is tough, I like both fantasy wire flicks and gritty realism. I’d say my overall favourite wire movie must be Crouching Tiger for the dancing tree scene, its beautiful. For straight up grit I’d go for “Thundering Mantis” in the end he takes on the spirit of the Praying Mantis and eats the bad bosses face! BOOM !

The training montage from Snake in the eagles shadow or the different chambers in 36 chambers of Shaolin with a very young Jet Li is amazing…I love the progression of different skills and every scene has something you can sample, shhhh don’t tell anyone!

6.- What does the banner at your gigs say?

It was a gift to Sensei Steve on his birthday gig, we also played with the Wet Nuns and Disco Bitch. It says “Cobra Fist” in Japanese. A lovely friend of ours kindly made it for us during the Peace in the Park festival, thanks again Jade x

7.- Do you plan to get more electronic elements in your music, like circuit bending and Nintendocore/8bit stuff?

Hell yes ! Legend (guitar/keys) has invested in a few toys recently and I have a number of new pedals. All pushing towards a glitchy/retro electronic sound ! The rawest the better, we want honest basic emotion connected to homemade early electronics.

8.- Favourite videogame? On that note, do you feel there’s a genre of musicians taking inspiration from classic videogame soundtracks instead of the usual punk / rock / blues influences?

It has to be Golden Axe, when I was young our local video shop hired out a master system with Golden Axe. After a month of pestering, my brother and I convinced our folks to hire it out for a Friday night. It was like having a amusement arcade in your front room. The magic of wedging in the black plastic block then clunking on the power button. The massive shit SEGA sign, it was awesome ! I think that was when I fell in love with video games.

We love the act Duracel, he has triggers connected to his drums which set off 8bit sequences, would love to get a bit of that in Fist. Also dig DJ Scotchegg, he plays fookin intense music from Game boys, would love to support him one day. On a similar vibe check out Sheffield resident “Harley loves music”, he plays amazing music from a nintendo DS.

I think video game and digital culture is growing as a musical influence. Our generation has grown up with it through our lives so it must influence us. Modern video games are interactive cinema and cinema has inspired musicians for generations before us.

9.- Any upcoming shows we can catch you at?

We are currently chatting to a nice promoter in Leeds and another groovy cat in Manchester. Both run crazy nights with strange acts. Plus Sensei Steve is planning something special for us.

10.- Finally, any plans to do an EP / LP anytime soon?

Our current EP seems to be doing well, “The Lost Scrolls” was written, recorded, mastered and stenciled/sprayed within a couple of months. We have 3 new tracks which we are really happy with and think they would make a sensible next release. They are currently being tweaked and recorded. We are doing our sums as we’d reaaaaally like to do something special and creative with the format. I’m not going to give away too much but all I’ll say is “collect them all” haha.

11.- No, wait, real last question, who’s the biggest arsehole in videogame history: Evil Otto (Berzerk), Sinistar (Sinistar), Pinky (The Pacman Series), Willy Lee (Double Dragon 1 and 2) or Death Adder (Golden Axe)?

Dr Robotnik is a bit of a dick I reckon, he captures cute little fluffy animals and forces them into death machines….errrr..actually that’s a bit cool !

Erm, “The Boss” From Streets of rage 2 is a bit of a wanker too, hes the only guy in the game with a gun, but then only kicks off when everyone else is beaten and then he doesn’t have the balls to go toe to toe with you !?

Over all I probably think M Bison from Street Fighter 2 is the biggest arsehole, he’s just plain annoying. The way that he tap dances on your head then flicks into your face and there’s nothing you can do about it. Then does that blue flaming torpedo. Proper cop out. Nice cloak tho !

It was then that the trio disappeared in a cloud of smoke, back to their Wu Xia ways of saving the world from the forces of evil (or from the wrong Dojo). 

Words: Sam J. Valdés López & Tonan.

Links MyspaceFacebook.WebsiteSouncloud.

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