As Heavy as a Metal Duo Gets
by Matt Smith
If you've never heard of Black Cobra yet then you're missing out on one of the heaviest duos in the metal world! Comprising of a guitarist/vocalist and drummer, they craft a brutal sound that can only be described as a darker version of Kyuss (see my review of their Middle East show). They have two full lengths and an EP out. I had a chance to interview Rafa, the madman behind the kit and here's how it went.
GASP: I have to say you guys were as heavy as when I saw Kyuss live back in 1992 when they opened for Danzig. Can I borrow some of your DNA so I can clone you for my band? Just kidding...but seriously watching you right up front was pretty intense, and that’s why I asked for your busted drum stick, as evidence of what a basher you are! How long have you been playing drums and who are some of your favorite drummers of past and present?
RAFA: I’ve been playing drums off and on for about 14 years. In the past five years, I’ve focused more heavily on them. As for favorite drummers, the list includes Buddy Rich, Ian Paice, and John Bonham.
GASP: A fine selection there. When I was a kid I wanted to be a rock star, specifically Randy Rhoads, but I didn’t have the patience to practice my guitar to get as good as him. Did you ever have aspirations of rock stardom and was there anyone you wanted to be when you were a kid?
RAFA: I always just had a love of playing music. When I first started, I really looked up to Iron Maiden. I just wanted to be a good musician and play music that I enjoyed listening to.
GASP: I know what you mean, and Maiden is one of my favorites from my teenage years. When you and Jason started the band did you both say to each other "let’s be a duo" or did that just happen by accident? In my opinion it gives you more control with just 2 people and more room to improvise.
RAFA: Originally it was just us jamming, not planning to be a duo, but at one point we just sort of said “forget it, let’s just be a two-piece.” It does give us more control as opposed to having more people involved.
GASP: Are many of your songs are from improvised jams?
RAFA: Some of them start out that way and are later fleshed out into full songs. The songs are written in all kinds of different ways though.
GASP: Cool. Your longest song out of all your CDs is 6 minutes which is uncharacteristic of a lot of Stoner Doom bands, do you ever envision writing an epic 10 minute Black Cobra song?
RAFA: We don’t really consider ourselves to be a stoner band, so we never approached the songwriting from that angle. If a song calls for a 10 minute jam, then we’ll go ahead and do it. We haven’t pre-meditated song lengths in the past. It’s definitely something that we’re open to though. A 10 or even 20 minute piece may come to fruition at some point.
GASP: Nice, I hope to hear one someday! I like the mellow guitar pieces in between songs as it adds dynamics to the heavier parts. Would you guys ever consider introducing different instruments to add to the sound?
RAFA: We’re definitely open to anything as long as it serves our vision of the music. But we are also concerned about replicating the sounds on the album live. You’d be cheating the people otherwise.
GASP: I hear you! I know from playing in the band WarHorse (from 1998-99/pre Southern Lord-era) that there is a satisfying feeling of playing total low end heavy music that excites a pleasure center in my brain (how’s that for psychology for ya?) and that will always attract me to this kind of music. I want to know what you think the fascination is with playing such heavy music as BC does?
RAFA: Heavy music, low end,…whatever you want to call it is always something we’ve been drawn to. It creates an emotional response for us that is unparalleled in any other medium.
GASP: I agree. I love the minimalist design of your CDs, there’s no lyrics or other regular liner note stuff. What are the lyrics about?
RAFA: The lyrics vary in subject but cover a wide range of the human experience. Things we find interesting: certain aspects of nature, wild beasts, film, humor, etc… We leave it up to the listener to decide what they hear in their experience and their reaction to the sounds of the music.
GASP: Yeah, I like that approach. You mentioned you lived with Lori from Acid King (insane band, the Zoroaster album kicks ass!) and toured with them, how did you hook up with the band and were you a fan of theirs before that?
RAFA: Lori and I have been good friends for a long time. I used to play shows with Acid King in my old band Gammera. They needed a bass player so Lori asked me if I’d be interested in playing with them and I agreed. I had been a fan of theirs for quite some time before meeting her.
GASP: Cool, she seems really cool! What has been the high point so far in your experience playing in any band, not necessarily BC?
RAFA: Traveling and playing music in foreign countries has been a very cool experience.
GASP: Yeah, I hope to do that someday. Do you guys partake in any mind expanding substances for creativity?
RAFA: Coffee. Lots of coffee.
GASP: Ahh, caffeine junkies! What is it like touring with the Sword, are they partiers?
RAFA: It was great. We had a really good time with them and enjoyed having drinks whenever we got a chance to. They’re solid.
GASP: Are there any dream tours you’d like to put together with other bands? Personally, I’d like to see you guys playing with Electric Wizard, High On Fire, and Gojira.
RAFA: Black Sabbath.
GASP: Wouldn't we all! Well, thanks for taking the time to answer my questions and hopefully we’ll see you around the Boston area again soon!
Matt (center) with Black Cobra's Rafa and Jason.