Return of the snake

This story warrants a lengthy history and a detailed contextualization. This story should have been written forever ago. This story is about a band and a man who has done things on stage that would make your mother cry. This is a story that should include several pictures documenting the absurdity and debauchery of a band’s 23-year existence. This is a story about Snake Out — and they are bad motherfuckers.

But don’t let the whole “bad motherfucker” thing scare you off. Len Puch, head bad motherfucker and front man for the punk-gore-psychobilly outfit, is actually one of the nicest, most genuine people one could ever meet. He’s a somewhat veiled character in D-town’s ballyhooed garage scene. But don’t bother looking; you’ll rarely see his name dropped in UK rock mags during interviews with today’s garage troubadours, and he’s not often credited for his role in the beginning stages of the Detroit gee-rage scene. But the truth is, Puch was as important a cog in the garage scene as any of the people who these days (er, last year, rather) were aggrandized on the pages of NME, Mojo and Q — he was one of the first to tread those murky waters.

Garage rock eggheads everywhere would be pleased to discover that Puch’s first record label, Wanghead With Lips, put out the very first Gories album, the now-coveted, Feral. The record was recorded in Puch’s studio (“It was really just an old barn,” he says), the aptly named Garageland. Snake Out, along with other iconoclast bands of the day — 3-D Invisibles, Elvis Hitler and Nine Pound Hammer, to name a few — made history in those four walls.

When Snake Out formed back in 1982 — with Puch, Greg Mitchell, Tim Reagan and Warn Defever — their music was entrenched in a heavy trash-and-thud rock ’n’ roll sound. Their songs had ridiculous names like “I Ain’t Gandhi,” “Fudgepacker” and “I Was Teenage Goiter” and their live performances were often equal parts performance art and music. They were known to do such things as simulating live births on stage while spraying the crowd with fake blood. “It was gross and stupid — which basically describes us,” Puch says.

One Thanksgiving show, somewhat festively, the band performed a turkey exorcism, using homemade turkeys and pea soup puke.

But faux barf and afterbirth are less a part of the show these days. When asked about Snake Out’s current status, Puch says, “It’s devolved. We just try to keep it reckless and fun. It’s never been important to do things perfectly, we can be sloppy.”

And even though it’s a little weird to approach a band that has been around for 23 years, with no real semblance of fame in their wake, and to ask them (barring bragging rights about longevity) what the point is, Puch answers the question simply: “We did quit for like 10 years — as soon as it stopped being fun. Why else do it?”

But there’s a certain moxie missing from the local scene — which instead is permeated with a “slickness” as he refers to it — that made Puch want to re-form Snake Out.

These days, the band is Puch, Anthony Yacobelli (former guitarist from Pub Life) and the ubiquitous Damian Lang (formerly of Goober and the Peas, the Detroit Cobras and many other groups).

“We are actually working on an album,” Puch says. This makes sense, even after all these years: Creation is the lifeblood of the eccentric front man. Puch, who makes a living with Speed Cult, his functional metal arts/hot rod-customizing company — is the epitome of a man who likes to make things. (The guy has a homemade roller coaster in his back yard, fer chrissakes.)

“I don’t like building things that have been built before,” Puch says. His latest project is a fiberglass jet-powered funny car. It has the engine of a T-38 Fighter jet.

Seems nothing’s too big, loud or dangerous for Snake Out. Admit it — you love that.


Saturday, Feb. 5, at the Lager House, 1254 Michigan Ave., Detroit; 313-961-4668. With the Mydols.

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