When it comes to naming bands that qualify for an induction into the “Hollywood Survivors Hall Of Fame” only a selective few make the grade. One band that definitely qualifies is the Lizzie Grey led Spiders & Snakes. Spiders & Snakes was formed out of the ashes of Ultrapop at the tail end of the 1980’s and since their humble beginnings the guys have released a respectable 7 albums. But the thing that has earned the band its place among the true survivors of the Hollywood scene is the fact that they have always stuck to their musical guns (a mix of ’70’s glam rock in the vein of Alice Cooper, The Sweet and Bowie and the LA sunset Strip sound of the ’80’s). And they continue this fine tradition on their latest offering “Melodrama”.
On previous album “Hollywood Ghosts” the band chose to mainly slow things down a bit and treat us to more laid back, atmospheric tracks but this time around they’ve gone for the rockier approach. And this has resulted in one of the finest platters of this foursome since their first release “Arachnomania” back in 1990.
Opening up the disc is the title track “Melodrama” which is in fact a short intro that makes way for the big, pounding drum beat of the real first tune “Friends Like You”. The best way to describe this song is “’70’s Alice Cooper on steroids”. Every piece of this cut simply fits from the aforementioned drum beat, the guitar melody and solo to the stadium sized chorus. This fine piece of music does what every good opening tune should do and that’s go for your undivided attention. Up next is a “cover” of one of the band’s own songs “Fear Of Flying” which first appeared on their “Arachno 2” platter.
“Rock And Roll With You” is Lizzie’s way of honouring the sounds of both T.Rex and The Sweet while “The Way” is the disc’s first ballad but don’t expect a sugar-coated affair. No this a far darker tune in the vein of Alice’s “Welcome To My Nightmare”.
On the up-tempo “Shoot Me Down” bassist Phil St. Vincent steps forward to handle lead vocals and he acquits himself very nicely from this task. The guitar work of mister Grey on this track shows shades of both Ace Frehley and Mick Mars.
Continuing the disc is a rousing version of the Bay City Rollers classic “Yesterday’s Hero”, followed by the rockin’ “Kicks” that sees the band using a bit of Hammond organ to spice up their sound and the acoustic led “Another Lonely Day” (the album’s second ballad).
On “Dream Girl” the band tips its collective hat to the Thin White Duke ( part of this song is very similar to Bowie’s “All The Young Dudes”) while the piano/keyboard induced “Forever” brings the show to an end.
But the excellent sonic content isn’t the only thing that makes “Melodrama” an essential purchase. As a bonus the guys have added a DVD featuring 8 tracks shot during the band’s gig at LA’s Key Club in 2006, an interview with Lizzie and Timothy (taken from the upcoming “Hollywood Rocks!” movie) and a slide show dedicated to the band’s late bassist Leigh Lawson. Add to that beautiful artwork that catches the essence of the album’s title and you have the kind of package that is simply too good to ignore.
- Review by Rock Report
Where to start with Spiders & Snakes? Their roots go as far back as late 70's LA band Sister, a band featuring S&S frontman Lizzie Grey, Blackie Lawless of WASP and Motley Crue's Nikki Sixx. Post Sister, Nikki and Lizzie went on to form the infamous London who acted as a kinda 'rock star training school' with members of Guns n' Roses, Cinderella, WASP, Mott The Hoople and many more passing through their ranks. In the late 80's however, Lizzie left London along with their then drummer Timothy Jay to start another new band, Ultrapop, who then became Spiders & Snakes. 15 years and 7 studio albums later they release Melodrama, their eighth studio effort and include a DVD for your viewing pleasure.
Starting with the CD, a dark carnival intro gives way to a drumbeat that sounds heavily like the same one used in Hot Hot Heat's breakthrough single 'Bandages'. The track itself, "Friends Like You" has more than a slight hint of Celebrity Skin about it. "Fear of Flying", which originally appeared with different lyrics on the bands 1992 album Arachno II, has a solo and riff straight from 1986 and has a dark malevolance reminiscent of Alice Cooper's 'Wind Up Toy'. The fucked up fairytale feel continues with "Rock and Roll With You" before the ubiquitous big ballad, "The Way" which sounds like it wants to be Use Your Illusion era Guns n' Roses. It's from this point that the album goes from a good album to a great album, the first 4 tracks (5 if you include the title-tracked intro) are all good songs in their own right but are totally outshone by the rest of the album. An intermission of a short cover of "Dream A Little Dream" famously covered by 'Mama' Cass Elliot works extremely well and further serves to show the album as two very different halves. "Shoot Me Down" is a stunningly good power-pop song with vocals by bassist Phil St. Vincent. A cover of the Bay City Rollers classic "Yesterdays Hero" follows and fits well with the rest of the tracks here.
The 70's glam inspiration continues for the rest of the album with "Kicks"
and another ballad "Another Lonely Day" which works a lot better than "The Way". The Ziggy Stardust influences finally come to a head on "Dream Girl"
which contains the classic 'We Can Love, Oh Yes, We Can Love' lyric. The album naturally closes with the bittersweet "Forever", yes the album is filled with every cliché of 70's and 80's rock'n'roll but that's no bad thing. If we're honest - those are the things we love this style of music for.
The DVD includes an old short interview with Lizzie and drummer Timothy Jay which has snippets of a couple of promo videos, a slideshow of various photos and press cuttings but the main feature is a 30 minute live show recorded at the Key Club in Hollywood. Both the track played over the slideshow and the concert are presented in both 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround sound. The concert is preceded by an advert for recycling bottles and cans that the band appeared in which is pretty funny and not something I was expecting to see at all. There's 8 tracks on offer including covers of The Sweet's 'Little Willy' and Motley Crue's 'Public Enemy No.1' which of course was co-written by Lizzie and Nikki Sixx. The sound is great throughout but the video quality isn't perfect and looks like it was recorded by the club's own CCTV cameras. Pretty good gig though and the video quality certainly isn't poor enough to detract from your enjoyment.
I've been aware of Spiders & Snakes since they formed but I've never actually bothered to listen to them, there was just something about them that never interested me whenever I read about them. When I got this album to review I have to say I wasn't looking forward to having to do so but every now and then something comes along and surprises the hell outta you.
Spiders & Snakes are one such thing! This is a very good album and the inclusion of the DVD only makes the package even better. With a tour currently booked for the US and the promise of dates throughout Europe to come here's hoping they get some of the recognition that they deserve.
I'll certainly be using this album as a starting point and getting their back catalogue, I feel a bit silly for ignoring such a good band for all these years!
by John Baxter
Sometimes rock and roll dreams do come true. Just ask Timothy Yasui, a Williamsport native and member of the band Spiders and Snakes, based in Hollywood, Calif.
Yasui, the son of Dr. and Mrs. Robert Yasui, moved to Hollywood in 1987 to pursue a professional career in music, and since has appeared on more than 20 record albums.
Yasui also has received his Screen Actor’s Guild card for appearing in films, television and commercials, and will appear in an upcoming movie documentary on rock superstars Guns n’ Roses.
Spiders and Snakes consists of members Lizzie Gray, lead vocals and guitars; Yasui, drums, keyboards and percussion; and Phil St. Vincent, bass guitar and vocals.
The band recently signed a three-album recording deal with Corporate Punishment Records, and its eighth album, “Melodrama,” hit shelves Nov. 6.
Yasui took some time with the Sun-Gazette to discuss the success of Spiders and Snakes, and what he remembers from growing up in Williamsport.
Yasui began his life in music by singing in the Pine Street United Methodist Church choir through elementary school and taking piano lessons with Helen Radspinner. He later took violin lessons, as well as drum lessons from Robert Morrison.
Yasui went on to participate in several concert and marching bands in middle and high school, as well as other rock bands outside of school, adding and subtracting members as the bands progressed.
“We played around town in clubs and the high school ‘coffee house,’ proms for some local high schools and even performed live on the radio for a local music store promotion in 1978,” Yasui said.
Yasui graduated from Williamsport High School in 1979 and moved to Connecticut for eight years, receiving a bachelor’s in sociology-music from Trinity College in Hartford in 1983, followed by a master’s in marketing in 1987.
After graduation, Yasui left for Hollywood, where he studied under different instructors and did some recording sessions that eventually landed him a spot in the band London. London appeared in the 1988 Penelope Spheeris movie, “The Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years” and on VH1’s “Driven: Motley Crue” episodes.
It was at this time that Yasui met Spiders and Snakes guitarist and vocalist Gray, who founded London in 1979 with Nikki Sixx (now in Motley Crue), and Nigel Benjamin, who replaced Ian Hunter as lead singer in Mott the Hoople. The band would feature, at one time or another, Axl Rose, Slash, Izzy Stradlin, Steven Adler, Blackie Lawless and Fred Coury.
Yasui eventually left London and joined Gray, who had previously departed to form Ultra Pop, a group that already had released two successful albums.
“Ultra Pop was [Gray’s] attempt to step away from the ‘80s hair metal rage and write and sing more ‘70s English glitter rock songs,” Yasui said. “Instead of black leather jackets, spandex and the metal fashion of that era, Ultra Pop borrowed their stage image from a combination of Stanley Kubrick’s ‘Clockwork Orange’ film and the ‘Rocky Horror Picture Show.’ ”
While writing for the third Ultra Pop album in 1991, the group evolved into a heavier sound and Gray and Yasui decided to change the name to Spiders and Snakes, a line from a David Bowie song and the name of a Jim Stafford tune.
“We went from a radio pop sound to songs with more Stephen King-inspired lyrics, combined with music style emulating the darker side of Alice Cooper,” Yasui said.
Although the “grunge rock” scene struck in the early 1990s, Spiders and Snakes stuck to its “musical guns” and released “Arachnomania” in 1992 and “2000 Retro” in 1994. Yasui said the group survived the Orange County punk rock revolution in the mid to late 1990s with indie releases like “Oddities: The Glitter Years” in 1995 and “Astro Pop” in 1997.
Spiders and Snakes signed with Deadline-Cleopatra records — where Yasui now works full time — and released “London Daze.” “Hollywood Ghosts” was released in 2005, selling at Tower Records and Best Buy.
“This year we changed distributors to Koch Entertainment, who have platinum albums to their claim, so we’re hoping folks can find our CD-DVD in their local store,” Yasui said.
On “Melodrama,” Yasui said the band got serious with tracks like “Fear Of Flying,” inspired by the September 11, 2001, events. The track “The Way” was inspired by a Stephen King novel, “The Stand,” and Vincent wrote the song “Cheap Trick.”
Yasui described the studio and recording process as a lot of “blood, sweat and tears — but you hope it never ends.” It’s what a musician should live for, he said.
When Spiders and Snakes isn’t in the studio, the band is on the road playing for numerous clubs and venues in the California area.
Yasui said he enjoys the simplicity of expressing himself by playing drums and singing. When performing live, he likes playing music that he loves and with musicians that he respects and looks forward to playing with.
The fact that people enjoy the music, he said, makes it even better.
“Remember that feeling you got when you were a kid and you were outside playing football, basketball or whiffle ball in the summer with your friends until it got dark — and when it did get dark you still wanted to play? That’s exactly how drumming still feels for me to this day.”
Yasui noted that you can expect a lot from a Spiders and Snakes show. At any given show, an attendee may run into various members of bands like Marilyn Manson, Buck Cherry, Poison and Guns n’ Roses.
He added that stars like Kelsey Grammar, Christina Applegate, Alyssa Milano and Jack Black also have been known to make appearances at Spiders and Snakes shows.
Besides the chance of running into Hollywood stars, Yasui promised a night of good music from professional musicians who have been playing in the industry for a long time.
“We hope they’re just there to enjoy some live music, relax and have fun,” Yasui said. “We are and will.”
Spiders and Snakes is set to be featured this year in an upcoming documentary film, called “Hollywood Rocks,” which contains one of the last known on-camera interviews of the late Kevin DuBrow of Quiet Riot.
As Yasui’s career continues to take off and Spiders and Snakes’ fan base grows, Yasui remains modest about his success.
“Success is hard to define, but let’s just say I’m grateful to have fulfilled my dream of making record albums — and to a minor extent, some movies, TV commercials and music videos — all in Hollywood, Calif., for two decades and still counting,” Yasui said. “Not to mention the opportunity to tour this gorgeous and free country while meeting so many interesting people along the way.”
“Melodrama” is available thorugh Koch Entertainment and available at Best Buy, FYE, Virgin Records, Wal-mart, Sears and Amazon.com. All eight of the band’s albums are available at www.iTunes.com.
For more information on Spiders and Snakes, visit www.spidersandsnakes.com or www.myspace.com/spidersandsnakes.
Vocalist/guitarist Lizzie Grey got his start in the L.A. metal scene with the likes of bassist Frank Ferrana (who changed his name to Nikki Sixx and moved on to Motley Crue) and frontman Blackie Lawless (who later joined W.A.S.P.). Grey and Sixx stuck together for awhile, eventually forming London – a group with a revolving lineup that also included future members of Guns N’ Roses and Cinderella. But while his colleagues later got rich and famous, Grey remained in the underground, creating Spiders & Snakes and hanging around long enough to introduce his hybrid of hard rock and Seventies glam to a new generation of listeners.
Melodrama, the eighth album from Spiders & Snakes, fuses Frehley’s Comet with Trash-era Alice Cooper and classic Cheap Trick. Musically, there’s nothing here that you haven’t heard before — hell, the band even covers itself (“Fear of Flying”), as well as the Bay City Rollers (“Yesterday’s Hero,” featuring Oingo Boingo’s Sam "Sluggo" Phipps on sax). But it’s refreshing to hear this trio blast out tunes in 2008 that sound as if they came from another era without actually seeming to give a damn what others think. Take it or leave it, Grey seems to be saying — because either way, he’s gonna keep making music.
2) Friends Like You
3) Fear of Flying
4) Rock and Roll With You
5) The Way
6) Dream A Little Dream
7) Shoot Me Down
8) Yesterday's Hero
10) Another Lonely Day
11) Dream Girl
Bonus DVD: Live at the Key Club-2006
Added: January 17th 2008
Reviewer: Michael Popke
SPIDERS & SNAKES: "Melodrama" 8 Sansei/HeadFirst 2008
Review by Urban "Wally" Wallstrom,
24 January 2008
Where do they come up with all the monikers? Spiders & Snakes saga starts however in the late 70's (as documented in the Mötley Crue biography: The Dirt) with roots in the L.A. band 'Sister' featuring future WASP frontman Blackie Lawless, guitarist Lizzie Grey, and Nikki Sixx. The latter pair went on to form 'London' with a bunch of future Guns N Roses members and would pen down the Crue classic 'Public Enemy #1" (later featured on the Crue debut 'Too Fast For Love').
Blimey, the info-sheet is full of name dropping and remarks that date back 25+ years in time. You'd first think that Lizzie Grey went underground and didn't appear on stage again until present date. Nothing could be further from the truth though as Grey's been out there ever since... but has never found the enormous fame and fortune of his former band mates.
"Melodrama" is however their brand new studio album and it simply reeks of late 70's/early 80's Glam Rock. You'll get your dose of KISS, Bowie, Alice Cooper (check out the semi-ballads 'Rock And Roll With You' and 'The Way') as well as a cover of Bay City Rollers' "Yesterday's Hero", and pure Cheap Trick rockers in the style of "Shoot Me Down".
I must confess that I didn't expect much and ended up rather surprised by the high quality of both songwriting and production. "Friends Like You" kicks the CD into gear and without a doubt, "Melodrama" is one of Lizzie's most gloriously rock moments yet. It's music with an infectious groove and a dazzeling sense of melody that would have most mainstream rockers in shame. It's soundwise v-e-r-y much in the style of 'Bob Ezrin' and all those KISS and Alice albums of the 70's. The bonus DVD that comes with 40 minutes of live music, slide show, and interviews, are just for fun, and yes, you'll get Lizzie's version of Public Enemy No 1. - Good Stuff!!!
The history of Spiders & Snakes is more famous than their music. Guitarist Lizzie Grey formed the band London along with Nikki Sixx. In the 80's London was rock star training school for the likes of Slash, Izzy Stradlin and Fred Coury. Timothy Jay later joined London, but the two left London to form Ultrapop, which later became Spiders and Snakes.
Because of their history Spiders and Snakes has gotten lots of publicity including a strong presence in the excellent "Hollywood Rocks" book/boxset. With the latest release "Melodrama" everything comes full circle, since the opening track Fear Of Flying originally appeared on the band's 1992 release 'Arachno II'.
The album opens strongly with an instrumental title track followed by the fast paced Friends Like You. Lizzie Grey and Timothy Jay split vocals. When the two harmonize they create their own unique sound.
Spiders and Snakes builds bridge between 70´s Glam Rock and 80´s Hard Rock. Despite London giving birth to lots of 80's Rock stars, Spiders and Snakes sound is rooted in 70's Glam Rock with only a squeeze of 80's Sunset Strip Glam Metal. The emotional The Way has a special atmosphere alike 70´s theatrical rock. The Way brings resemblance of Alice Cooper "Welcome to my Nightmare" and the guitar sound is very alike that specific Cooper album.
The last half of the album looses a bit pace. The short cover version Dream A Little Dream leads to the up-tempo Cheap Trick inspired Shoot Me Down - written and sung by bassist Phil St. Vincent. Yesterday's Hero gets a bit too cheesy.
The ballad Another Lonely Day displays the soft side of Spiders and Snakes and it's among the best songs on the last part of the record. The album also ends with a ballad - Forever, which is a 70´s alike multi faced ballad.
"Melodrama" comes with a bonus DVD. Spiders and Snakes recorded live at the Key Club and also an interview with Lizzie Grey and Timothy Jay.
Spider and Snakes has often been categorized as true survivors on the Hollywood scene. The description fits and honors the band perfect. These guys are in it for the love of music.
"Melodrama" is the strongest record yet from Spiders and Snakes. Check it out!
Written by Michael
Friday, January 04, 2008