Yuck…it’s The King Cobra
Olympia duo love prog but remain punks
As part of a fertility rite in Burma, a woman must successfully plant a kiss on the mouth of a king cobra if she wants to bear children. If she fails, well, you can imagine what happens.
Here on the West Coast, listening to prog garage-metal two-piece The King Cobra is a rite of rock righteousness. Unsuspecting listeners must wrap their heads around sludgy riffs that bulldoze and meander, while thumping drums scurry in odd time and vocals slither through the chaos as if channeled by an occult hand.
The King Cobra was born in an Olympia, Wash., basement in 2002 after guitarist Kwo and drummer/vocalist Rachel broke from their previous bands. But it’s not the first time the two have worked together. They also co-wrote the score to Dr. Frockrocket’s Vivifying Reanimatronic Menagerie & Medicine Show, a traveling cabaret musical, which Rachel says has helped set the tone for their songwriting—"suspense, scene changes, high drama—you know, the epic stuff.”
Rachel and Kwo took a break from packing for their West Coast tour to chat with the CN&R about music, recording and Geddy Lee.
I’ve read that Rush is one of the group’s influences, which is interesting because when I first listened to your music, I thought at times Rachel’s voice sounded uncannily like Geddy Lee. The music, however, has more of a raw sound. Are you influenced more by prog or punk?
Rachel: I’d say both, but still—oooh, Geddy! I’m flattered.
Kwo: I do love Rush. But hey, we’re punks.
What influences your live performance?
Kwo: There is a great band from Durham, N.C., called Des Ark, and Aimee [singer/guitarist] is an amazing guitar player, and she is amazing to watch. I don’t know how influenced I am by it. I think I’m more inspired. But I do love playing shows. I really get into it!
What is the process of recording? Is there a specific sound in your head before you begin?
Rachel: Depends on the song, really—but I’m most interested in seeing what turns up rather than trying to preconceive everything. Magical things can happen in the studio. You know—strange epiphanies, short bursts of light and so on. Being so consumed with sounds makes the world change shape—the floor is for stomping on, gross mouth noises sound really cool, buzzing flies are awesome.
How does the weather in Olympia influence your music?
Kwo: Winter rain, the time of basement hibernation with your guitar…
What do you want to do to the people who compare you to other duos?
Rachel: Ignore them?
Kwo: I like math, but I’ve never counted us before. Two! Cool.
How did you come up with the name The King Cobra?
Rachel: Kwo came up with it. We were going to be called The Hollow Men but didn’t want to get pigeonholed as T.S. Eliot buffs or have anything to do with that awful Kevin Bacon movie. Was it Kevin Bacon? Whoever.
Kwo: Our first show was coming up and we needed a name. But I like to think of our whole name being, “Yuck, it’s The King Cobra.”