George van der Spuy, who’s mostly known as the frontman of Capetonian rock band Taxi Violence, has recently launched his career as a solo artist, under the name Crawling King Snake. Along with the announcement, he released a first single, Land of the Blind – apparently a “baptism” for the project, and a preview of a still-to-be-launched EP titled The Gospel According to George. All this is a predictable move that we’ve seen before by rock band frontmen, but there’s something fascinating about the way he’s doing it, and the imagery he uses. We asked George a few questions in an attempt to decipher Crawling King Snake.
The name itself, Crawling King Snake, derives from a classic 1941 Delta blues song, most famously adapted and recorded by John Lee Hooker, and later by The Doors.
“I wouldn’t say there is anything specific in the song that describes my solo project,” George said when I enquired, “but it is definitely influenced by delta blues and the song from where the solo project derives it name. I’ve had to ‘crawl’ my way into the music industry from a young age and pay my dues but eventually reigned ‘king’ over my craft as a musician… or at least I’d like to think so – just without the fame and fortune.”
The story goes that George started the project when he had creative energy, but the rest of his band wasn’t available to work on new material. “So I decided to just do my own thing to keep the creative juices flowing, and out of nowhere the sound of Crawling King Snake was born from my subconscious and early influences,” he says.
“After 12 years of being in a band and growing older, things change. People’s priorities change. People buy houses, get married or simply need to make more money to survive. It became frustrating for me due to this fact because I need to be creative and I feel I still have a lot to offer, so I started doing my own thing to get that creativity out.”
“There’s nothing personal going on that effects the dynamic between any of the members of Taxi, in fact we’re more inspired than ever. We just needed a break. That, accompanied with the fact that the music climate has changed a lot and rock ‘n roll isn’t as popular as it used to be.”
“Taxi Violence will always be my primary focus and I will always love my rock ‘n roll. The band is busy writing new music for a series of EPs and it is now a juggle between the two, however, I work on Taxi Violence in the evenings and Crawling King Snake in the day.”
“I don’t foresee Taxi Violence and Crawling King Snake on the same bill in a club show for instance. It confuses people to see the same vocalist on the same night. This I learned from my Goodnight Wembley days. That being said, I can see both acts on the same festival line-up but I’d have to insist the performances be on different nights.”
Crawling King Snake has some clear influence from roots blues, rock, folk, and gospel music.
I mention that the first single, Land of the Blind, addresses modern issues with a sound based on old music. George says “the idea behind Crawling King Snake is essentially to blend the old with the new. Basically putting a new spin on something old, hence the programmed drums and use of synthesisers on certain songs.”
“The goal, in a sense, is to introduce new listeners to an older form of music which isn’t so popular anymore, and hopefully they will go and explore some of the older forms of the style and become fans. The themes for the songs won’t necessarily be of old though, or at least the not too-distant past. I’m kind of feeling it out as I go.”
“The next single, for instance, is a song is almost like an apology for apartheid from the white minority, and asking forgiveness for oppressing the black majority. Not everybody will agree with this statement, and I personally have big issues with the fact that this happened in our country. It kind of ties in with the whole slave music theme too. The track is a rather upbeat head-bopper though, so hopefully that puts a positive spin on things.”
“Other songs are as simple as letting go and live in the moment.”
“The overall feel of the EP is based on the sound of gospel, slave music, swamp blues etc. I was brought up in the old NG Kerk as a child. It was very rigid and stiff and I prefer the upbeat energy and enthusiasm of the gospel singers. I have borrowed passages from the Bible in the past to use in my songs, and a lot of people don’t even know that.”
“Other than that, I sang in a choir at school and we sang some gospel songs but that’s as far as it goes. I don’t follow any specific religion and believe that most religions are more or less the same but differ from the gods they worship. In its simplest form, I believe one should just be a good person and treat others as you would want them to treat you.”
No wonder his upcoming EP is titled The Gospel According to George.
“I have about another 6 songs that are currently in the pre-production phase and simply need to be arranged properly and mixed, so I’d say the EP is about half way there. I’m taking my time, but I’d like to release early next year and don’t want to put anything out there substandard. The rest of the EP will be much in the same vein. The challenge is to keep it fresh and not all sounding the same.”
Instead of jumping into touring, George will be focusing on releasing singles (and ultimately, the EP) for now. “[But] tours and more shows are definitely in the pipeline.”
*Warning from the band: the below video is tastefully sexy, but is best suited for adult viewing only.*
But, what would his “Crawling King” status mean in relation to the proverbial “Land of the blind”… is he a one-eyed king?
He refers to one explanation of the proverb: That ‘even someone without much talent or ability is considered special by those with no talent or ability at all’.
“In that sense,” he says, “it’s better to do something than nothing. So yes, I’d be king for taking fate into my own hands.”