Chuck Schuldiner Project

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Interview with Mathieu and Marc from Cobra (English Translation)

Cobra is a band that has a tendency to leave their audience completely dazed and confused. Formed in 1984, the band has managed to gather a reasonable cult-following thanks to their undeniable singularity in todays' metal scene; with songs like “Des lieux associatifs pour les jeunes” (tr: “Associative space for the youths”),  “Pédés et drogués” (tr: “Faggots and junkies”) or  “J’aime regarder les filles qui marchent sur des seringues (sur la plage)” (tr:”I like watching girls step on syringes (on the beach)”); perplexing tracks that have nonetheless found their audience with fans all across France. Their reputation eventually led them to unleash their zaney aesthetic and ridiculous lyrics at Le Nouveau Casino in Paris, opening up for none other than Kickback (a rather peculiar lineup contrasting the bands' weird sense of humor with the Parisian Hardcore bands' infamously ferocious reputation). Right before their Parisian show opening up for Iron Reagan, I got a chance to catch up with the bands' guitarist Mathieu along with vocalist Marc for an interview about this growing yet alienating force known as Cobra.

- For those who've yet to hear of you, could you start off by explaining what is the "Cobra spirit"?
Marc: (Pensive) The Cobra spirit is about metal first and foremost, because that's the type of music we play. It's Hard Rock/Metal/Punk music; it's energetic, brutish music for brutish people. It's something that's straightforward, that doesn't think too much...

Mathieu: ... that doesn't think at all, really. We see it as something to have fun and to feel good.

- For those who've had to chance to witness some of your previous shows, one can only be struck with surprise with regards to the peculiar image and the atmosphere surrounding your music.
Marc: That's true, but we're not too good at putting a finger on it really. It just goes off the wall. We try to maybe shock people , push things to the extreme, not only with our music. In extreme music the lyrics are usually a little... I'm going to say "consensual"... and we're basically trying to be like an overdriven guitar. We take our ideas, we put an overdrive on it and what we're left with is something completely saturated. It's just nonsense, stupidity pushed up to the max.

- Why did you choose the cobra to represent your band?
Mathieu: Basically we've known each other for quite some time and we were already playing "music" back in 1984 and at the time we though the name was awesome.

Marc: We were ... pretty young (Mathieu laughs). To give you an idea of how old we were, we actually thought of the name as being pretty appropriate, especially since at the time you had bands called "Scorpions"...

Mathieu: The fact that we were 12 years old does explain it as well.

Marc: There's also a bit of that, yeah (Mathieu laughs). It's pretty sad to have to say, looking back, that at the time it was all completely serious. At the time we thought it was super cool to call ourselves Cobra because it sounded Heavy Metal, it sounded like those bands we'd see in "Enfer Magazine" and it ended up staying. We did a bunch of other stuff under different names but we eventually came back to it because it sounded so outdated that it sounded great to us.

- So the name took on a different meaning after a while.

Marc: It did take on a new meaning yeah. Cobra reminds you of car tuning, bikers, all of these brutish things that try to be rough and tough...

Mathieu: ... without really buying into it.

Marc: There's also the cheesy ring to the name Cobra that I happen to like as well.

- So I've read that Cobra's been around since 1984, yet your first album was released in 2001, why the long gap ?
Mathieu: Like we just said, we did a bunch of other stuff when we were kids and eventually they just strayed off; we hadn't made anything concrete with that. People sold tapes at that time and so the first time we were lucky enough to get our hands on a CD burner we made an album (laughs).

Marc: Our first album basically dates back to the first CD burners and the first internet connections that allowed us to spread the word.

Mathieu: We've always recorded everything at home.

Marc: It's always been a hobby; it never really was a "real band". At first it was just a thing we did for ourselves and for our friends, which is why there's always been this "private joke" aspect to it all. There's always been the opaque side to us where you feel like there's something stupid going on but you're not sure where it's at. It often relates to the things we've experienced, things we've seen and that made us laugh, things that we then bring back up and that are completely retarded. People might think that it comes from nowhere but in reality there's always a bit of truth, some reason behind the things we say.

- Your band makes some references to France's 80s' Hard Rock and Metal Scene, namely with your song "Fils du Cobra" (Son of the Cobra) which references Malediction, Satan Jokers and Killers in its chorus : « Fils de Satan, Fils du Metal, Fils de la haine », followed by « Fils du Cobra ».
Marc: Yeah but it's not really intentional, it's not really a tribute that we make specifically to these bands, more like a tribute to that scene in general. I wouldn't go so far as to say that we're trying to recreate it but it was nice to have a scene that didn't take things too seriously and that didn't try to convey any messages... there were band that would call themselves "Sortilège" (spell) and be completely serious about it. That's sort of the outlook we have on metal; it's something very serious, people don't play it for a joke but they engage into it wholeheartedly without any shame. We don't try to intellectualize things.

- Your band exists for just about 30 years now. What is your outlook on the evolution and state of rock and metal music today?
Mathieu: I think there used to be a time when it was a shame to listen to metal. Right now it got back into the mainstream, take for example all of these guys you can see walking around with Burzum t-shirts...
- Like that guy who just stepped in 5 minutes ago to grab a beer from your fridge.
Mathieu: Yeah... (bursts out laughing). Take for example a band like Metallica; you can clearly pinpoint the time when they tried to hold on to the grunge era because metal music was uncool. It was during that time when the fact that you listened to metal meant that you really enjoyed it. There was a huge gap during that period but now ... I wouldn't go as far as to say that it has become "hip" again, but it certainly has become a part of our current musical culture again. I don't know if anything of what I'm saying is very clear right now (laugh).

- It's been 3 years since you last released an album, when can we expect some new stuff from you guys?
Mathieu: You're already going to get a 12-inch, which is already a miracle. We're really not productive when it comes to that.

Marc: It's a hobby for us, it's something we do on the side, it's certainly become harder and harder for us to find the time...

Mathieu: ... to lay something new.

Marc: In any case we don't really have a label; we don't really have any obligations. Whenever we'll decide to do something, it'll be because we feel like it, because we'll like it. We're not just going to start follow the wind, release stuff and make people laugh simply because we're getting a little more known, that's not the point.

- Your lyrics talk about drugs, satan, nihilism but you also have some socially conscious outcries towards some of societys' ills, most notably concerning the French youth of today.  What is your take on French politics and the youth of France today?
 Mathieu: I don't get it and I don't give a shit.

Marc: We don't have any opinion because we really don't care at all about social issues. We're kind of idiots in a way. Consider us as little barking poodles. We just like to yell.

- Could you name one of your favorite albums, movies and books?

Marc: I'd say... Killing is my business and business is good by Megadeth. I also listen to a lot of Black metal.

Mathieu: Lately I've been really fond of Kvelertak, first of all because its' sung in norwegian so I don't understand it at all, so at least I don't even have to try to understand anything. Performance-wise, they're just full of energy and they manage to blend together the rock n' roll and blast parts into a coherent whole. They've got this Turbonegro vibe in some of their riffs and their mixture of genres is really fun to listen to.

- In terms of Movies?

(both of them take the time to think in silence...)

Marc: ... they're all old shitty movies!

Mathieu: The problem with us is that it can be pretty much anything. It depends on the day, we can go nuts about anything (laughs). Rue Barbare and Tchao Pantin are some good examples...

Marc: All of these sordid French detective movies from the 1980s'.

- In terms of books?
Marc: Oh no! Thats' a no-no for us! (Mathieu laughs)

Mathieu: No but we.... yeah...
Marc: Speaking of which, we say you reading a book a few moments ago and we don't like that! (Mathieu bursts out laughing). We're absolutely anti-culture, especially when it comes to written culture (laughs). Zero books!

- To close this off, do you have a message for your potential readers and fans in the US?
Marc: We like Americans! To us, america is a bit like in the lyrics for Pantera...

Mathieu: ... or Mötley Crüe. We're actually going to catch their last tour in MONACO!

Marc: Americans should just stop taking shits from the snobs who criticize them. They don't need to take any advice from anybody! (laugh)

Mathieu: It's AMERICA!

Marc: More seriously though, all of the bands that blew us away back in 1983 and 1984 were American bands. Since we've kind of staying in that period, it really did leave a big mark on us: Twisted Sister, Mötley Crüe, WASP...

Interview and translation from French by Robin ONO
Thank you to the band for making this interview possible ! 


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