The art of dying is a fascinating subject, mainly because it is shrouded in mystery.The ideas of premonition and the synchronicity attached to the concept of death are the stuff of legends within the music industry. Some people just seem to know ahead of time when their demise will occur and with the release of Snot’s 1997 debut Get Some, James Lynn Strait joined the small handful of artists who used the medium of music to exercise their precognitive demons. Clouded in foreboding darkness, the album is as potent and addictive as Heisenberg’s meth; mingling dank, curdled jazz grooves with syrupy hardcore stringwork – creating an aesthetic of intricately woven orchestrations peppered with an unmatched modern punk seediness. But despite the praise from many prominent figures within the metal/punk scene, Snot somehow only attained cult band status when a release of Get Some’s quality should have made them household names.
Before the formation of Snot, the band members paid their dues in underground bands across the United States. On the East Coast, Sonny Mayo (guitarist) was in Silence, a thrash metal ensemble. He later joined bassist John Fahnestock [aka Tumor] and drummer Jamie Miller in M.F. Pit Bulls. Mike Doling (guitarist) was in the West Coast speed metal outfit Kronix and Strait played bass in the punk band Lethal Dose. “I was strung out on heroin for about five or six years and that took over my bass playing. I got locked up for a little over a year. When I got out, I couldn’t find anybody that needed a bass player”. As a result, Lynn picked up the microphone and found his home in the band Glue. After things became unstuck for Glue shortly after, Strait and Doling united to lay the foundation for Snot. Liking the early Snot demos, Garth “GGGarth” Richardson (producer of RATM’s self titled release) helped Doling and Straight get in touch with Mayo and Tumor, resulting in both heading west to join the band. The final piece of the puzzle was complete when Mayo and Tumor talked their former Pit Bulls drummer Jamie Miller around into joining the band. After jamming for less than a year, their unique chemistry got the attention of Marvyn Mack, Geffen Records’ head of urban promotion and A&R exec Wendy Goldstein, who in turn signed them to the label for their debut release.
Great albums don’t just come out of nowhere. It takes a real professional to take the talent of an artist or band and shape and present it in the best way possible. Always on point and forever underrated, Todd Ray (aka T-Ray) was the man behind the boards for the Get Some sessions. After becoming disillusioned by the politics involved behind the production of hip hop music, in 1994 T-Ray cut his teeth on rock, producing Betty by alternative New York band Helmet. On turning his back on the hip hop scene, Ray notes “I can go in the studio with some pop/hip-hop thing, with some rapper who really doesn’t know how to write ‘cause so-and-so’s writing his rhymes for him, and be in this fake environment with A&R’s telling you “we need a club banger” – or I could be in the studio with these hard rock guys, who got the same mentality as Kool G Rap”. By the time of the Get Some recording sessions in 1996, much like the band itself, T-Ray was in a rich vein of form. Knowing that Snot’s power lay in the tension between Lynn Straits unhinged James Dean steeze and the crushing precision of the rhythm section,Ray carved out a distinctive and uncompromisingly harsh sound with Get Some, making sure the listener feels each garbled scream and low end bass in the pit of their souls.
Recorded at Long View Farm Studios in North Brookfield, Massachusetts, one of the best facets of Ray’s production is his seamless transitions in regards to genre hopping. Going from a dark jazz style verse to a volatile hardcore punk chorus (on tracks like ‘The Box’ or ‘Get Some’) could quite easily result in muddled & uneven production, but through close miking techniques on Lynn’s microphone and precision mixing, the production manages to keep the music stark and ugly whilst every fragile part of the vocal tracks sounding pristine. When asked about the recording process, Strait states “the equipment we got to record with, the Neve board and the rooms we got to record in were all incredible”. Whilst impressive, Ray used Get Some as a template for his future releases, using it as a base to improve his skills apon – which is evident when listening to his production on possibly his best work later in the year with the (hed)PE self titled.
There are obvious jazz and lounge undertones carried throughout Get Some. Strait was characterized by his innovative approach to almost scatty jazz level vocal styles – including percussive attacks and abrupt pauses witnessed on tracks like ‘Snooze Button’, ‘Stoopid’ and the title track ‘Get Some’.“ I won’t say what I do is groundbreaking, but some of it is original; there are weird patterns in my vocals, because I got to make up my style as I went along.” The instrumentals ‘Get Some O’ Deez’ and ‘Get Some Keez’ showcase techniques such as swing rhythm, improvisation and syncopation.
Snot’s compositions showcased the skill of each of its players, whom like Strait were not only talented, but characteristically unique like himself. Mayo, Doling and Fahnestock were all in high demand after the demise of Snot, carving their styles into acclaimed bands such as Amen, (hed)PE and Soulfly, and Jamie Miller proves to be the real gem within the rhythm section. Dave Grohl aside,there has never been a man with such swagger behind the drum kit. His unique approach to drumming incorporated nuggets of swing, blues, funk and hard bop. Just watch the bootleg videos of Snot scattered around on youtube for proof, Miller had a harsh, strident sound and played with an extreme intensity that has yet to be replicated.
One of the most fascinating recurring themes within the Snot dynamic is the groups obsession, whether consciously or subconsciously, with the idea of dichotomy. As mentioned, the most obvious is the music itself – taking conceptually two very different styles of music, jazz and hardcore, and creating a hybrid of both or as Lynn refers to it – “lounge core”.There is an even greater chasm in regards to the lyrical content. There are songs throughout the Get Some release (‘I Jus Lie’ and ‘My Balls’) that, while fun, reek of the kind of immature wordplay that would fit in with any Limp Bizkit release post 3 Dolla Bill. But juxtaposed to this are tales such as Snooze Button; “While you were busy fuckin’ sleepin’, You know your government was creepin, somebody left the door unlocked while you were asleep, your life was bought & sold, yes, to the highest bidder, left you in sitcom hell” – lyrics steeped in social and psychological unrest and spun with such intelligent fury that you could be mistaken to think you have put on RATM’s Evil Empire or a early Dead Kennedys release by mistake.
But more intriguing is the bands public contempt and condemnation for the music industry whilst trying to break out of the underground and achieve a level of mainstream success. Lynn notes “the more people that get to hear it—ya know, the bigger the vehicle to get the music out, the better for the band. We were never a band that was like,I don’t believe in selling out, I don’t believe there is such a thing”. It is this mindset that resulted in Snot signing to Geffen records for their debut and although the major labels can help bands become a household name, it comes at a cost. Record labels are not charity cases and their contracts are not set up with their artists interests in mind. Knowing this, Lynn had no problem nibbling at the hand that fed him throughout the Get Some release.
Refusing to mince words, Strait attacks a number of identities within the music business throughout the release, subliminally and directly. In one of Get Some’s strongest tracks ‘Unplugged’, Strait channels an almost Cobain vibe spitting “rape the hearts of us, the artists, you reap the benefits, your pockets, they get fat, while our souls bleed” perfectly underscoring the dysfunctional marriage of commerce and art that has occurred since the establishment of the recording industry. He is also joined by Theo Kogan, lead singer of all girl punk band Lunachicks to ether Brett Gurewitz, guitarist of Bad Religion and the owner of the punk music label Epitaph Records on the track ‘Mr Brett’. “Punk rock life’s been good to you , now Corporate punk’s the thing to do, obnoxiously, you raised your fee, you’ll see to it we’ll all get screwed….you’ve become what you used to hate” again highlights the uneven relationship between artist and label that Snot wintessed throughout their early career. They also address the commercial pop punk trend that crept into punk rock in the mid 1990’s (which Gurewitz helped bring to the mainstream with releases such as Offspring’s Smash record) and the opposition from those from a more traditional punk rock aesthetic stating that “there’s those of us, who keep on trying to make a living and not sound like Green Day”. When asked about the track, Lynn has downplayed the situation “it’s a punk song and punk songs have to be about talkin’ shit and he was just a candidate, he was just there”. Serious or not, ‘Mr Brett’ and ‘Unplugged’ expose the frustrating nature of the business model that the major record labels have set up, where they only promote a very small number of assessable, big hit albums or copybook imitations of a current popular artists. Apart from painting a depressing picture of the reality surrounding the group at the time, Get Some also managed to foreshadow their grim future as well.
Precognitive thoughts are a way of accessing future information that is unrelated to any existing knowledge acquired through normal means.It has been suggested by London psychiatrist J.A Barker that the precognitive experience itself unleashes a powerful psychokinetic energy, which then brings the envisioned future to pass. Whether Barker was on to something or just talking turkey, listening to various parts of Get Some it can be argued that Strait was plagued by precognitive visions.
Most will look towards the obvious track ‘Joy Ride’. Ending the track with the sound effects of a fatal car accident could just be one of those things, an eerie coincidence. But the following track ‘The Box’ is much more unnerving. Dripping in metaphors, ‘The Box’ attacks societies addiction to the box – television, computer screens – boxes of information that suck time and ultimately life out of an individual, like a drug. While poetic, studies carried out by researcher Herbert Krugman suggest that this idea in not so far fetched. He suggests that by watching television you automatically enter into an “alpha state and transfer into your right brain. The result is the internal release of the body’s own opiates, encephalons and Beta-endorphins, chemically almost identical to opium”. Again much like drugs, these boxes can influence and lead individuals down the path towards other boxes; boxes of confinement – such as jail and lastly, the tomb. “It’s just another guest on death’s best show, the influence cuts deeper than mom knows, electric waves the demon’s fly, Now could we just be, Bred to kill or die?. As a product of his environment, Strait is not immune to this addiction, he is in fact a casualty.
When prodded about his checkered past that led Strait to time in the prison cell (where he wrote the majority of Get Some’s strongest tracks – including the single ‘Stoopid’), he confesses “I had some drug related stuff and some burglary/robbery type stuff and I had illegal weapons, I had priors of some of these things and I also have a prior assault on a police officer “. This is also the subject matter for ‘Tacteo’ – the song title being Spanish slang for heroin user. Even after beating his addiction that led many in the rock world to their demise, including inspirations such as Sid Vicious, he seemed to know that death would be calling his number shortly. At various live shows (and highlighted on the Snot live album Alive!), Strait often introduced ‘The Box’ by stating to the crowd, “I was watching TV the other day, and I was in my fucking cell the other day, and I was in my coffin the other day, I was in my box”. Strait, in essence, personified the uniqueness and idiosyncrasy that was his music.
The California Highway Patrol reported that on December 11, 1998, Strait was en route from his home in Santa Barbara, Calif., to Los Angeles early Friday afternoon when he was involved in six-vehicle crash on a freeway exit ramp. According to the Los Angeles Times, Strait died instantly after his 1992 Ford Tempo was broadsided by a southbound full-size pickup truck about noon. It is appropriate and as well sad that also killed in the accident was Dobbs, Strait’s dog and the band’s mascot who adorned the cover of Get Some. It has been reported that Strait had a cocaine in his system when he died, but has not been confirmed by a valid source. The band disbanded immediately after his death but released a tribute record Strait Up in 2000 featuring friends of Lynn (and Corey Taylor) on music that was to be featured on Snot’s sophomore album . Over the years, the rhythm section have reformed for on again – off again periods with former Divine Heresy singer Tommy “Vext” Cummings handling Straits vocals to mixed reviews.
Overall, Get Some is a debut album that was well conceived, written, arranged, and performed. It merged the intellectual with the rebel kid fury, coupled complicated lounge instrumentation with a legitimate punk aesthetic. But for an album that captured all the danger, sex, and dark mystery of rock’n’roll – it seems as though it has fallen mainly on deaf ears due to being lumped (or is it limped?) in with the meroticity that comes with most peoples perception of Nu Metal. Unlike many in the genre, Snot were not afraid to embrace the ugly seedyness that surrounded them and their art, and to that end, Get Some is one of the most competent and most compelling rock releases of the 90’s. With one foot in the grave and one finger up the nasal cavity – Snot is pure nose candy.