Snakes Alive for Cinema Prague

After almost a decade in hiding, Perth’s Cinema Prague get back on the touring trail next month ahead of new album Snakes Alive, due for release early next year. There’s also a new-look lineup, with original vocalist and guitarist Georgie K and Tim Lowe (drums) now joined by bassist Roy Martinez in the absence of Rex ‘Hossi’ Horan. We caught up with Georgie K to get the latest.

The album’s been a long time coming, what’s taken you so long?

Well actually, the album has been sitting there in a state of near completion since 1998. What happened was after returning from our Idiots Crusade world tour we hastily documented the band’s most recent songs at Poons Head Recording Studio with Rob Grant. We knew back then that there would be a bit of a break for us because Rex was about to return to London to live with his now wife Uli. There was a ‘half’ plan for me and Tim to return later but as it turned out we decided to stay in Perth and attempt to change our career paths. Tim studied engineering and I did architecture. The joke was if Rex took up Town Planning, we could get the band back together.

Anyway, the recording was done in two days and captured some pretty fiery performances due in part to the tightness of the band at the time and of course that we all hated each other. Also the recording was pretty true to what we’d been playing live and we all felt that it was our best work to date. We really didn’t want to release it at a point when we couldn’t follow it up with a tour plus we were funding it ourselves and simply we’d blown all our BM (colloquial for band money) on the ‘Crusade’. We’ve tried to get Rex back from England over the years but he has become so entrenched over there that it would’ve been impossible for him to take a couple of months out to rehearse back to the level that it takes to do a Prague show. So we are continuing without Rex and have headhunted Roy Martinez. He’s amazing!

I guess the catalyst for the release now was that I am/was planning on moving to Melbourne and Tim and I decided to finish the project before I left. But as it’s unfolding it’s becoming very tempting to continue the band because it’s such great fun and we have about three albums worth of unrecorded material.

What else has happened in the years since the last album?

Back to school! Musically nothing happened within the Prague camp – it was basically put on ice until now. Tim and I have been playing music though. Tim plays with Petanque and Roly Skender and I’ve been playing with Disgraceland which was great fun. We did obscure-ish Elvis tunes in the style of Black Sabbath meets Blondie. It was a good experience for me because the songs were a lot looser than Prague and I could really cut sick on the guitar because I wasn’t the lead singer. I also started my own band, Rice, which I was really happy with. Tim was also in Rice along with Carl Jensen. In a way, Rice was a continuation of Prague and probably sounds like what Prague would have sounded like had we not stopped when we did. The interesting thing is that the new Prague is now a continuation of Rice which is really cool.

Where did the title come from? Is this some sort of product placement by Allen’s lollies?

Snakes Alive is the title of one of the tracks on the album and to me the song represents us at our most leery and typifies what we were on about. The title is rhyming slang for five – snakes alive – five. The song’s time signature is five. So we took that and wrote the lyrics about a snake that gets stung by a bee. For me as a songwriter I feel like I totally nailed it with Snakes Alive. Probably out of the 50 or so songs I’ve written I reckon that I’ve nailed it maybe five or six times. Not saying I’m not happy with how they’ve turned out but to get that touch down is a great feeling. Just for the record I’m very particular and pedantic about every song and when I’m writing them they feel like the best thing I’ve ever written but then you move on.

No. Cinema Prague does not accept any requests by companies to advertise their products. So the fact that I use Gibson guitars and Marshall amplifiers and drink Coopers Red and eat Cheezels and get my car repaired by Markich Motors, Bayswater (tell –  “em George sent you!) should not be taken as advertisement.

What lollies are you most likely to name the next album after?

Well, I’ve always been a fan of the bananas. I think I like them more that real bananas. I like milk bottles and musk sticks too. Oh, and jelly beans as well. Sadly it would be ridiculous to name our CDs after lollies. I would love our next album to be a revisit to the early early early days (1986-88) and record all our high school efforts. There are some killer tunes that were never recorded and got superseded very quickly as we progressed in those early days. The title for that album will be ‘Old Prague’. It will definitely satisfy the juvenile within. We also have heaps of tunes from the more modern era that were never waxed.

Is the new album a sign of things to come? Is this version 2.0 or is it one last reprise before putting it to bed?

This is, as you say, version 2.0. Actually it could be a more advanced version because we’ve had such a long and evolving history. There’s a little bit of a ‘see what happens’ attitude but I actually don’t like that attitude. I think you’ve got expect to go all the way. I guess the only thing that could stop us is if people stopped coming to gigs and buying our CDs. This sounds a bit weird but as a songwriter I find it very difficult to write if there are no people to write for. For me this is the context from which I work and the audience reaction helps shape the songs and the set. It’s funny but you can really feel when people’s attention drops off or when you are being captivating. So in a way, the people of Perth and Australia can claim some influence on our sound. We love our fans. They are the best and make me so proud.

At this stage we would like to release Snakes Alive early next year and do a national tour. Tim and I have a bet going – he’s going to try to organise a European tour and I’m trying to organise a US tour. Whichever one shapes up the best wins the prize.

How is the band dynamic with the addition of Roy?

Finding a suitable bass player has been one of the reasons why it’s taken so long for this to happen but in saying that, involving Roy was always (for me) obvious. Rex has left some big shoes to fill and not even considering “feel” and “vibe” the job involves technical ability and jazz, funk, rock and punk influences. Luckily, the energy created by the three of us is potent and it feels like Roy has been in the band for much longer that three months. Roy has worked out Rex’s parts and used them as a starting point from which to mutate. He’s adding his own flavour and character to the bass and interestingly Tim and I are playing differently with Roy too. That’s a good sign. So, the sound has changed somewhat. Also, we’ve taken this as a bit of an opportunity to edit the songs too. There were so many bits in our tunes that were designed to show off or have a solo or try to be smart arses and they were actually poisoning the song. So we’ve streamlined the songs and made them more essential and potent.

How do you think long-time fans will respond to the new material and new lineup?

I know we have the blessing of everyone to do this show and we’re all going to have a great time. It feels like there’s a lot of interest surrounding the show and everyone wants it to be a great success. At this stage there is no new material only newer material but that’s what we want. This gig is kind of like a refresher course for the die-hards and an introduction for the new and curious. There are heaps of youngins that either have caught us at an all-age show or heard things about us. It’s really endearing and humbling (I hate that expression) to learn of how we’ve become part of the folklore of Perth and have a bit of a mythical presence. But now’s the time to prove what we’re capable of and get things really cranked up.

A lot has changed in Perth music since your last release, have you had to think about exposing younger music fans to your music for the first time?

We’re really looking forward to playing to an entirely new generation of people. I’m not sure how relevant our stuff is these days, only time can tell really but in terms of local cultural history I think there’s curiosity amongst the young. Apart from a little bit of re-gigging of the tunes we’re going to deliver a Prague show that we would have done in the ‘90s. We’re sticking to our guns and are trying to make it the very best gig – ever!

Cinema Prague plat Club Capitol in Perth on September 1 with gigs scheduled for Melbourne later that month, details TBC. Snakes Alive is pencilled in for release in January 2008.