Snake oil looking forward to Esterhazy show
August 19, 2019, 4:13 pm
On August 31, Esterhazy will be hosting Rockin’ the Park, featuring up-and-coming local band The Firm, party band Rock Candy, hard rock cover band Snake Oil, and legendary Prairie rockers Streetheart. Editor Kevin Weedmark spoke with Darren Moore of Snake Oil last week.
Are you on the road constantly this summer?
Our summer is pretty busy. It’s hectic.
How far do you travel to tour?
Right now we play Canada and the U.S. If we look at this summer we covered in Canada from all the way from Ottawa to Grand Forks, B.C. and in the U.S. we’ve been from California to Texas to New York and everywhere else in between. So it was a lot of flying and a lot of traveling in rented vehicles or tour buses.
How long has Snake Oil been around?
Snake Oil started kind of on a whim. I used to play in a band called Harlequin which you’re probably familiar with. Another guy who was playing with Saga and Kim Mitchell at the time gave me a shout on Facebook and we haven’t talked for a number of years and he said let’s put together something and play the stuff we want to play together on the weekends when we have some down time, so that’s where is started in 2010.
We launched Snake Oil and I went down there one night without really planning it. I put makeup and whatnot on and the rest of the band started doing it and we started garnering quite a following. Eventually one thing led to another and it kind of turned into a full-time thing. I guess we stumbled into a niche in the market. We have taken it and really honed it down to the niche.
We’re playing an homage tribute to the bands that inspired us to get to where we are. Mainly the hair rock bands of the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. We imitate them acoustically and we imitate their mannerisms and we imitate their music right to a tee. If there are sounds in the background on the album, it’s also in our show. For instance Kiss has a car revving in the background of ‘Detroit Rock City’ and we’ll have all those sounds and effects in our live stage show. It sounds exactly like the album. We have detail tailors making the clothes for us so they are to the period and the exact replicas of what the original artist wore in their prime.
Do you go through a few costume changes during the show?
Well, there are three singers in the show, two males and one female. Typically how we will do it is start with one artist and we’ll do two of their songs and switch off singers. For instance we’ll start off with Kiss and it will either be Paul Stanley or Gene Simmons coming on stage. He’ll do two songs and he leaves, then Heart will come on and do two songs and then Def Leppard will come on and do two songs and Alice Cooper will come on and do two songs, Queen, Cheap Trick, White Snake. It’s a tribute to all the artists and if you have enough time we will do up to 15-20 artists in one night.
Is this a lot of fun? It looks like you guys have fun up there.
It’s a lot of work but it’s an awful lot of fun. We have discovered a niche that we haven’t found anybody’s doing. We’ve got some people who are trying to imitate us now. It is a lot of fun and the crowd really enjoys it.
What kind of venues do you play in?
We don’t typically play any bars at all. We’ll do concert halls, soft seat theatres, casinos. There are a lot of casinos with great show rooms and great production. Festivals for sure. We do a lot of festivals in the summer. Big outdoor ones for instance we just did one with the Beach Boys, Brett Michaels, Warrant, Firehouse, Steve Augari who is a former singer with Journey, Cheap Trick, that is who we played with in B.C. this week. We are in those types of line ups. We’ve done stuff with White Snake and Night Ranger and Starship, so we’re being taken very seriously because we are playing alongside of some of these original artists.
What makes you different from other cover bands?
Well other cover bands and tribute bands are certainly not taking it to the level that we’re taking it. We’re impersonators of each artist we do. We nail them—the way they walk, the way they talk in between songs, the way they move, the way they sing and the way they sound. We even change our voices. If I’m singing either Paul Stanley from Kiss or Gene Simmons I change the tone of my voice. So we are impersonators of these artists.
Is it tough to do when you start on a song? Is there a lot of practice with the band to get it right?
Absolutely. We spend an awful lot time rehearsing getting these characters down and we will support choreography with the other players that are on the stage. We dress all the other players on the stage, drummer, base player, guitar players dressing of the era.
What are some of the bigger crowds you’ve played for?
I would have to say the biggest crowds we’ve played for this summer are anywhere between 8,000-10,000 people.
Are you musicians with your own material as well or is your whole thing doing covers with Snake Oil?
There is a game plan, a long term goal. What we are doing as we garner more fans is we try and interact with them through social media. We do have a bunch of original songs ready to go and we are in the process of recording them.
However I don’t think we will let go of imitating these other artists. It’s kind of our bread and butter. It is what the fans want to see but what this may lead into, is continuing to do what we are doing and through our story line throughout the night let the audience know that these are the artists and these are the things that influenced us to get to where we are. Then we will come out at the end of the night and play our own original music, and that makes that available to our fans, but in the same genre as the influences we just portrayed.
How would you describe your original music?
It’s right in line with the same genre of music that we are playing throughout the show. Kiss, AC/DC, Heart, influences with everything we do. It will fit right into the show perfectly.
You are taking a different approach than most bands.
Yeah we stumbled into a niche that we didn’t even recognize when we found it but with the advent of the internet you see a lot of artists nowadays they will have one or two songs and if they’re not imitating the hottest new thing often they are ignored.
It is unfortunate nowadays with the internet. People have sort of acquired a shorter attention span. By giving them snippets of all these different artists and us going out there and giving the best of the best, even with our own material, it keeps people’s attention and it moves quickly and fast whereas a lot of the newer artists are struggling trying to get people to get access to all of their material. They might jump on to one song or two songs at most but they aren’t getting discovered like these artists of the ‘80s and ‘90s did. When you would go out back in the old days you would go buy an album. You would spend your entire allowance on an album. You would spend time appreciating that and getting into the deeper side of these tracks rather then the hit that encouraged you to buy the album, but artists don’t have that luxury anymore.
What background do the band members have? Was everyone playing with other Canadian bands?
All the musicians in the band are all full-time musicians. They’ve all played with Canadian rock bands. I played with Harlequin and had a very short stint with Prism. I’ve done some original stuff in the past. I’ve had touring bands. Some of the other people in the band have toured all over the world doing their own original music. Christelle is one of them. Kurt Krusansky and Tim Sutton played with Kenny Shields in Streetheart for a number of years, so we are all full time as well as music lifers if you will.
What is the time frame you have for getting an album of your own material out?
Well we are working on material right now. It is a hectic season for us. I mean we’re always trying to get stuff done by a certain time line but I’m pretty confident we will have something available by the end of the year. We probably won’t be putting it on a CD or anything, we might put it on a stick that is available to people at shows.
Where did the name Snake Oil come from?
It kind of goes hand in hand with the whole concept of the show. Back in the day you would have a carpet bag or some sort of a sales man who went to town in a horse and carriage with his drapery hanging on it and Snake Oil signs and he would set up a soap box in the middle of town and people would come out and he would hurry, hurry and entertain them and sell his snake oil whether it worked or not. He was selling some type of a placebo that he claimed was a cure-all. Relieves all pains and ailments, and that is exactly what we do. We go out there to claim to be the real thing and relieve all their ails and pains for the two and half hours that they are with us in the show. It may be real, it may not be real.
There has often been times that we all go out and I’ll come out as Kiss and then the next person will come out as Heart and the next one will come out as Queen and the next one will be the real artist. We’ve had Dee Snyder from Twisted Sister join us on stage and he’ll come out in the middle, and the real guy comes out and does two songs and then joins us at the end of the night for an encore. We’ve also had Stephen Pearcy from Ratt come out and do the same thing. This last weekend I went up and sang with Brett Michaels from Poison on stage. Sometimes we will bring the real guy out to the shows with us depending on the size and location.
Are you looking forward to Esterhazy on the 31st?
Oh absolutely we look forward to every show. It’s the sitting around between shows that makes us a little antsy.