Hot Snakes Prove That a Band With Two Drummers is Twice as Good
Hot Snakes' first two records (2000's Automatic Midnight and 2002's Suicide Invoice) feature Jason Kourkounis on drums, but the band's third release, 2004's Audit in Progress, was recorded with drummer Mario Rubalcaba, who became a permanent member for the group's final two years. So, when singer/guitarist Rick Froberg, guitarist John Reis and bassist Gar Wood decided to reunite in 2011, they had a decision to make.
Luckily for fans, the threesome opted to include both Kourkounis and Rubalcaba, allowing each drummer to perform the material he recorded. Taking a quick break mid-set to change skinsmen might sound odd, but it's not. In fact, it's fucking awesome not only because audiences get to see both versions of Hot Snakes but because Kourkounis and Rubalcaba are phenomenal drummers who deserve to be heard.
Still, having two drummers isn't the norm, which is why I spoke to Rubalcaba and Kourkounis in regards to their band's upcoming show at Alex's Bar in Long Beach on Sept. 18 to find out what they plan on doing when the other guy is on stage.
OC Weekly (Ryan Ritchie): What do you do when the other guy is playing?
Mario Rubalcaba: Probably stretching. If I had the whole set to do, then I probably wouldn't do that because you have more time to warm up as you play. I have a shorter amount of songs --I think I play seven songs total -- and the first three are total bangers, so you got to be in shape for those first three. I definitely have to be ready for it.
Jason Kourkounis: I usually watch and have a drink. It depends. There have been times when I hang out on stage, off stage, in the crowd. Sometimes I go in the dressing room because I'm too tired.
Mario, do you watch when Jason is playing? Do you look at the crowd? Or are you in your own little world?
Rubalcaba: A little bit of both. Sometimes I'm not too aware of where they're at in the set list, so I kind of peek out. It depends on the crowd, too. Sometimes I'll be at the side of the stage the whole time.
Is there ever a sense of, "Damn, I wish I was playing more?"
Rubalcaba: Not really in that kind of mentality. I mean, it would be fun to play any of the songs and I have before when I was the drummer after Jason, but at this point it's just all about fun. There's a really good vibe between Jason and myself, so it's cool. What I like about it is we have two totally different styles and I think some of the fans pick up on that.
Kourkounis: Of course, but there are far bigger problems to have. I don't want to sound like, "Aw, man. I don't want to stop."
Do you know of other bands that have both drummers play but not at the same time?
Kourkounis: Most bands would be like, "Why would we split up the money five ways when we could do it with four?" Both Mario and I have always understood that if the other dudes are like, "This is lame -- one or the other," then we'd be fine. It's been a good thing. Everyone enjoys it so we're willing to make a sacrifice. And it's kind of cool for people who like the band. If you have any interest in drumming, it's cool because you see both drummers.
Describe your style compared to the other guy.
Rubalcaba: I don't ever really think about my style much, but I guess if I had to try to separate the two...the first two Hot Snakes records had more of a direct Wipers influence where it was a little bit more straightforward. I'm a total idiot drummer. I don't pay attention to 4/4 or any of that kind of shit, but it's more in the groove. I think when we did our record, it wasn't adhering to that thing. We were just kind of doing whatever songs came up. There is definitely a different songwriting approach on that record.
Kourkounis: When John and I started doing it, we went in with the idea of having everything as stripped down as possible -- just a driving, down-stroke freak-out. No frills, nothing too flashy or anything. When I'm watching Mario play, he's going off on all these cool fills. To me, that's the biggest difference.