Interview by Paul Salfen
First you’ll hear a loud guttural sound and then you’ll hear booming laughter. When you turn around, you might see Frederik Durand – aka Snails – posing for a picture with one of his fans during his “taco party” meet and greet. But the 29-year-old French Canadian DJ doesn’t limit this kind of fun to special VIPs – he’s known to take hours after every show and meet with any fan that sticks around. Whether he’s making these guttural sounds in person or on stage, the man who coined the term “Vomitstep” to describe his deep bass sound is clearly enjoying his rise to the top. His jovial nature is seen on social media and in person backstage as he pours straight alcohol – and quite a bit of it – down his friends’ throats and cheers loudly if there’s a chance they could throw up.
But the fun isn’t all with the fans or backstage – it’s in the music. Between his collaboration with Flux Pavilion, the plays by Skrillex, the festival sets at Coachella, Lollapalooza, Ultra, and EDC – and his own festival, Sluggtopia, at Red Rocks in Colorado, Durand is joyfully bringing his 150,000 watts of PK sound – and all the fun that goes along with it – across the world now.
Before his set at Southside Ballroom, he sat down to talk all things Snails.
AMFM Magazine: So what’s this we hear about expecting bass that could literally rattle us and maybe make us sick?
Snails: Oh yeah, we started working with PK, which is my favorite type of sound ever. That’s the best part of bass music ever because you can feel it. [Makes ratting bass sound: “bvvvvvvvvv”] That’s the beautiful part of it: the fans, the kids – they love it. It’s a headbanger – the name complements the music and everything.
AMFM: It’s 150,000 watts?
Snails: Some venues we cannot push it to the limit but it’s something like 100,000 on the smaller rooms but that [pointing to the main stage], you can push it to, like, 150. It’s crazy.
AMFM: Surely you’ve checked this out for yourself.
Snails: Yeah, but I have to put the mask on because most of the time they go, “Ahhhh! I see Fred. Ahhhhh!” So I just put the mask on and go see but it just complements the songs. It’s so good. It gives it power. It’s like the song is the skeleton and this gives it the beef, the flesh to it. It makes sense for that type of music.
AMFM: Of course you’ve been very active on social media – but we’ve been seeing you post photos outside of the venues, including this one – and with fans that are there, which is going the extra mile.
Snails: I feel like that’s really important to connect with the fans. I try to take at least 20 minutes minimum after the show and I’ll just go out front and say what’s up and thank you. I’ve been that person at the rail listening so when they come in and listen to the music and love it – that’s the least I can do.
AMFM: You’ve said you were a fan at the rails. What was the song that did it for you and made you want to do this?
: It was The Bloody Beetroots, when I heard their song called “Warp.” I heard that around the time of Steve Aoki and I said, “Whoa, that’s crazy!” It was more electronic than the punk/metal scene I came from and it was just so crazy that I got super into it from that point.
AMFM: I understand you have a pretty diverse set now. What can we expect?
Snails: We wanted to focus on the album so the whole album is in there. Gary, who is my inflatable snail, is in there as well so that’s super fun. And there’s a bunch of new songs from other artists that I love so that will be a part of it. So it’s pretty much a good combination of bass music that I’ve been influenced by and kind of a recap of my whole last year of music. For me it’s important to really show everything to show appreciation for what I’m doing.
AMFM: You’ve also been doing some pretty interesting collaborations with bands you grew up listening to.
Snails: Yeah, it’s crazy. I’m still mind-blown that I can just call him. Liam [Cormier] is part of a band called Cancer Bats that I’ve been listening to for, like, 10 years. When I saw him, I was like, “Yo! It’s you! We’re in the same room.” [Laughs] I was talking to him and he said, “Yo, I’m going to crash at your house for two or three days” and he came to the show I was playing in at a place in Montreal. It’s mind-blowing to see that they’re open to working on different collaborations that are the gateway from their style to my world. It was the same with From First To Last. It was a good vibe and we’re just having fun at the end of the day, you know?
AMFM: Have you learned a lot trying to marry the two genres?
Snails: Yeah, definitely. I was saying, it should be like, “dat-dat-dat-dat” and they said, “Yeah, well, this is metal and if you want it to be like that, it should be, “dat-dat-dat.” It made a good experience of that kind of construction with that kind of detail. That whole thing brought me a new perspective of building songs. That’s good that they gave me that experience because most people are good friends and they just say, “OK, that’s good. Let’s try that.”
AMFM: We’re not hearing that much hardcore or metal in EDM.
Snails: Not that much, yeah. And for me, it was needed. If I wanted to do a more metal song, I want to make sure that person has a good stamp on it. Like, “Oh, shit. This guy is legit!” not “Oh, Fred’s trying to do metal.” It was important to work with the right people that have a good stamp on that genre of music. From First To Last has been there forever and can survive so really it happened to be a really good song in the end so I’m super happy about it.
AMFM: You’ve been meeting a lot of aspiring DJs that are, like you, fans. What do you tell them about what they’re getting into because it’s a strange business?
Snails: Yes, it is a really crazy business. Even for me on my end, when I started in the business, I said, “Mom, I want to be a DJ!” and she said, “OK, well, bye-bye. It doesn’t work.” I had to finish my schooling and everything. When I started…she’s my accounting, too, so she’s like, “You need to save money so you can not work for a year.” For me, it’s a big step to do it for talent but also has to be a full-time thing. If you have five jobs, it doesn’t work – depending on what level you want to do. So I left my girlfriend, I left my friends, I left everything and sat in the studio and worked on those crazy ideas. I was thinking of the crazy branding and marketing so it all came together at the same time. I was in the direction of finding the “Snailed It” mix. I’ve always been my own art director so everything has come from my head. So I’d say think outside of the box. That’s the most important thing. Go further than being inside that box with everyone doing the same thing. If people don’t like that I call it “vomitstep,” I don’t care. It’s more about going out there and pushing it and thankfully I got it. Thank you, God…I had one chance in a million to work but it was good luck. That’s why I meet everyone and thank them for their time and support and buying a shirt. At the end of the day, I work for them. Some people can mistake that if the people outside say, “Come, talk about the music.” and you don’t, that’s your first error. It could take two hours, but I don’t care. It’s because of them I get to do what I love.
AMFM: And your mom looks after you!
Snails: Oh yeah, all of the time.
AMFM: She has to be pretty proud now that she sees you succeed.
Snails: Oh, that was the most important thing. This is the person you love most so I was like, “What if it doesn’t work? Fuck, I’m fucked!”
AMFM: Especially with a French-Canadian mom!
Snails: I know! She’s like [makes a slapping movement and sound] “After 8 months, you’re done, kid!” NO! I needed that limit. If I had 10 years to do it, I’d be like, “Well, I’m gonna fucking chill. If I was her, “I’d be like, ‘Fred, try it and if it doesn’t work, at least you tried it.’ But every show I’m thinking, “What would she think about it?”
AMFM: And now you get to enjoy your time in the sun – with tacos.
Snails: Taco party is the perfect example because my dad is Mexican – from Acapulco – so every month in high school me and my best friend would do a taco party – it was like a tradition. So it would be 5 or 10 friends and my mom would cook tacos on a Friday so I wanted to bring that experience on the road. Meet and greets can be awkward and weird like, “Hey, what’s up? Cool, thank you.” But I’m like, “You know what? Are you hungry? Let’s eat.” We can talk about where we’re from and break the ice over tacos. People love it.
AMFM: The music is called “vomitstep” but have you seen people actually get sick from it?
Snails: Yeah, it’s funny because I receive a Twitter all the time from people saying, “I know the meaning of vomitstep.” [Makes vomit noise] Holy mother! Well, if it goes to that point, yeah. Hell yeah. And people will say, “I went to the show and saw puke on the floor.” Is it a good or bad thing? I don’t know but it’s good to keep the name going. It could be disgusting but that’s why I created it. The people will love it that are as intense and passionate as me. The kids that are super passionate and do candy and the outfits are super supportive. That was my goal. I wanted to aim for the craziest people. Like me.
AMFM: You’re bending the genre a little bit. In your opinion, where is electronic music going?
Snails: There’s a lot of nonstop evolution around that movement and that’s the beauty of it. But I’m not able to say where it’s going. There’s that movement called Riddim now and people like Squnto are big in that. But who knows? We never know. But I like that mysterious thing. In my position as an artist, we don’t know what could be the next thing, so maybe I’m going to create it. So I’m going to try my best to do weird stuff and maybe I will be picked out for that next movement. It will push me to be better and crazier.
AMFM: Is there anyone you’d like to collaborate with next to further change the sound?
Snails: There’s so many of them but the door is open. If I think a long time ago, I think Led Zeppelin, The Doors – or Slayer! But they’re so big, at this point it’s like dreaming. Megadeth would be crazy. But I try to diversify so that I can always learn more and more.
AMFM: So what can we expect next? Snails: Lots of new music! I have lots of collaborations that I can put out now. I wanted to put that album out for so long. I’ve been working on stuff with Kill The Noise, Zeds Dead – and a bunch of metal bands. There’s a bunch of stuff I’m excited to put out.
For more info on Snails, check out OfficialSnails.com