At the beginning of the decade, Black Cobra’s Rafael Martinez was living on the West Coast, playing guitar in the volatile sludge-rock group 16, picking up bass duties in stoner-rock legends Acid King, and learning drums in a King Crimson tribute band. Guitarist Jason Landrian was equally as occupied on the other side of the nation, playing guitar in Miami sludge sleepers Cavity before moving and adjusting to a new life in New York.
They were busy with their own projects and personal lives, but after a chance discussion while visiting their parents in Miami over the holidays, the two agreed to trade riffs through the mail. “We didn’t even know we’d ever play live,” Martinez says.
The intimacy between musicians in a budding rock band is often forged in a smoky practice space full of empty beer bottles with walls covered in corroded eggshell foam and flyers, but living across the country from each other, Martinez and Landrian had to make due with coordinating ideas late at night over the phone.
“We had to wait until we had free minutes, you know?” Martinez says with a lazy Californian lilt in voice. At first, correspondence between the two was fleeting. “It was interesting because there was no schedule, no deadline for when we wanted to do things,” Martinez recalls.
It’s funny how a single serendipitous moment can change one’s perspective. The tipping point for Martinez came while strolling down Hollywood Boulevard.
“I passed a tattoo shop at random that was playing Supercollider from Cavity and it sparked something in me,” he recalls. “I sent [Landrian] 72 tracks or something ridiculous. From there we narrowed it down to 50, and then it got lower again, and eventually we used those riffs to write a bunch of other ones.”
They settled on the name Black Cobra, taken from two unrelated horror movies, and decided to get more serious about recording and playing live.
Instead of just getting together in Miami over the holidays, the two began to visit each other throughout the year, and as things intensified, Landrian packed up his giant amplifier rig and moved out west to California. Black Cobra’s 2006 debut, appropriately titled Bestial (At a Loss), is a raw slab of unadorned rock, with Landrian tackling riff after pummeling riff while Martinez pounds relentlessly on the drums.
Their next steps were to develop their live show and adopt an aggressive touring regimen. “We asked ourselves, ‘Can we do this [live as a two-piece]? We don’t know, but we’ll try it,’” Martinez recalls. It worked.