Brian Cook on the New These Arms Are Snakes Track, Russian Circles, and Pesky Botch Reunion Rumors
"I have always said "never," but I have now been instructed by the other dudes in the band to stop saying that."
Brian Cook should need no introduction. Besides being a Noisey contributor, the bassist has served time in some of the most celebrated bands in post-hardcore, like These Arms are Snakes and his current project Russian Circles, as well as one of the greatest hardcore bands in recent memory, Botch. Today the bassist drags out the dead and posthumously releases a track from the fallen These Arms are Snakes, part of a split seven-inch series with Suicide Squeeze. Stream the track below, a cover of Lost Sounds' "Energy Drink And The Long Walk Home," and order your copy via the label.
In addition, we cornered the bassist to ask him a few questions regarding the release, the end of These Arms are Snakes, Russian Circles, and that pesky question regarding Botch that he must have been asked 1000 times... except this time he gives a different answer. The results of our conversation are below.
NOISEY: Tomorrow, These Arms are Snakes releases a new split 7" with The Coathangers. Is this the last of the material for the band?
Brian Cook: For recorded material, I think this this is pretty much it. There were four songs that were part of our last recording session, we did two on a split with with Russian Circles and another with Tropics. This track was originally intended for a Minus the Bear split which, due to various reasons, didn't materialize.
In terms of further unreleased TAAS material, there is still a four song demo that we've discussed releasing. The four songs wound up on our first EP (This Is Meant To Hurt You), but the demo features different versions of the songs. We mastered it for vinyl a few years back, but i'm not sure what happened to that project.
Do you feel satisfied with the end of These Arms are Snakes?
Not really. The band ended pretty abruptly. At the time, I was already juggling Russian Circles and These Arms Are Snakes so it seemed sort of messy. In some ways, dysfunction was sort of the way of life for that band so it sort of felt right that it ended that way. Our final show was sort of unceremonious, our gear kind of crapped out and that was it. Soon after we announced our dissolution and said we'd do some set of shows but they never materialized. So it was sort of a bummer.
Moving on to Russian Circles and other projects, what plans do you have in the cards going forward?
Well, I fly out tomorrow to Seattle to play in this project Sumac with Aaron Turner and Nick from Baptists. We'll be doing our first show in Vancouver with Deafheaven. Nick/Aaron did the writing for the material, I am more of a lackey here, just playing, which suits me just fine because I'd like to keep the number of projects I have to a minimum.
As far as Russian Circles are concerned, we are doing 10 year anniversary shows in December/January and working on a new record. We haven't nailed down the details, but it is tentatively scheduled for a 2016 release via Sargent House.
One thing I have always been curious about is the perception that an instrumental band has a ceiling. Do you feel like that is the case with Russian Circles?
I think we hit a point a few years ago where we were playing 500 capacity venues, and if we got bigger than this that would be fine, but we're happy. Venues of that size are comfortable, with a good PA and sound, etc. Of course there is always room to improve, and we seem to do so in places like LA and Chicago, but of course there will always be smaller shows in places like Oklahoma city where we'll still play to smaller rooms. We're mostly interested in going to new territories… we've done Australia and Southeast Asia a few times, so we love the idea of expanding out to different places.
One of the greatest things about Russian Circles is the sort of power trio approach of the band, reminds me a bit of Rush in the sense that all of the instruments are omnipresent and RC started as a simple guitar/bass/drums band and expanded outward.
When the band started off it was a diff bass player, and Pelican was inspiration because it was metal, but it it didn't have a lot of the baggage that metal has like theatrics, etc. They just really wanted to play. As we evolved, elements like Neu and Craft started to creep into our influence. For me, recently, I was super into Genesis's 'The Lamb Lays.. blah blah'… lots of interesting instrumentation, parts in 7/8, etc.
It's funny that you say that the arrangement sounds the way it does because one of my favorite bands is the Minutemen, where each instrument is very separate but part of the whole. I think that's something that maybe I have strived towards subconsciously.
You know I have to ask. When is the Botch reunion?
Seems to be the ongoing question. I have always said "never," but I have now been instructed by the other dudes in the band to stop saying that. It's funny because as opposed to These Arms are Snakes, Botch felt like total closure; we had our final run and it was a thing that we made a conscious decision to push. The other guys in the band felt like it ended too soon, which could be the case, I don't know.
Regardless, I won't say never anymore.