T in the Park 2014: Amazing Snakeheads interview
‘Playing live when we first started was just about war ... Total fucking chaos and destruction'
‘Playing live when we first started was just about fucking war,’ blurts singer and guitarist Dale Barclay over a phoneline from Paris, in summing up the philosophical arc of the Amazing Snakeheads across a transformative debut year. ‘It wasn’t about fucking anything other than that,’ he continues. ‘Total fucking chaos and destruction. But now I don’t know. To not be changed by something like this would be to do the music a disservice.’
The comic-book, violence-bloodied doom-wop of the Glasgow trio’s Domino Records-released first album Amphetamine Ballads, the molten intensity of their live shows, Barclay’s fiery attitude (he politely threatens to ‘fucking strangle’ the next person to compare them to the Birthday Party), all of it burns white hot. But as they tour Europe to humblingly enthusiastic receptions, they’re cooling the confrontational stance which characterised their earliest gigs – something which, it seems, only ever came from a perceived necessity to counter threat with threat.
Barclay basically never believed anyone would like them. ‘Not at all,’ he admits. ‘Didn’t think anyone would. And I didn’t want anyone to, to be honest.’ Which explains a lot about the deep, dark well from which the Snakeheads harsh, often intimidating sound is drawn, and frames Barlcay’s songwriting as the uncontainable primal scream of an artist for whom, as a younger man, the stonemason son of a stonemason, music was ‘never going to be on the radar’. ‘I just worked, that was what I was going to do,’ he says.
Journalists’ enthusiasm for discussing the Snakeheads’ working class roots is ‘getting a bit fucking mundane’, Barclay grumbles. But he concedes that his background is something which he carries with him everywhere he goes. ‘I can be in Germany and walk by a building site and think “I should be in there, getting fucking bogging”,’ he spits. ‘It can be tough on tour, but it’s never as tough as going to work in a fucking building site in winter.’